January 1st, 2016 - Hebrews 6:13-20 - Faith & Endurance
This week marked our first Sunday worship service in 2017. Pastor John took the opportunity to read from Hebrews 6:13-20. He talked about how the Jewish churches at that time were working hard to love people and witness to their faith in Jesus. However, some of the people who had come to their churches and heard the truth were starting to fall away. Despite the fact that the Jewish churches were probably tired and maybe a little frustrated, this part of the letter to the Hebrews, encouraged them to continue to love people both in their faith community and in their neighborhood--promising that God would remember what they've done.
The writer of Hebrews explained that when the churches continued to love, they would keep themselves from becoming "spiritually dull and indifferent." If you're feeling apathetic (like you don't care), get involved and make the choice to love and you will see that it becomes the cure for indifference. Additionally, the text indicated that continuing to love would be following in the footsteps of Abraham, a mighty man of God from generations past. It was his "faith and endurance" that allowed Abraham to witness the promises of God as they came true.
Pastor John explained that God does not and can not lie. That truth makes it so that we should be extremely confident in His greatest promise--the hope that is found in what Jesus has done to breakdown the barrier and allow us access to the presence of God. That hope then becomes an anchor which helps us to remain steady through the winds and the waves of this life.
Therefore, Pastor John encouraged us, in 2017, to be a people of faith and endurance (trusting in God patiently and continuing to work hard to love well). By doing this, it will allow us to be a part of seeing the fulfillment of the promises that God has for us and our church in the West End.
His big idea was, Being full of faith and endurance allows us to see God's promises come true.
November 20th, 2016 - 1 Peter 2:1-10 - Access to God through Faith
In Pastor Pierce's final sermon, he exhorted the church to remember that through what Jesus Christ has done, we all have direct access to God through faith.
July 31st, 2016 - Romans 6:1-14 - Baptized into Christ
Pastor John began by explaining that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are resurrected to new life inside. He continued by reading Romans 6:1-14 and describing how the Apostle Paul used baptism as a way of understanding the revival in our souls. He explained that Paul wanted to address the question of whether or not people should continue to sin, since they had God's grace anyways? He responded by saying, "no way," insisting that believers understand that when they were saved, they were "baptized into Christ Jesus." There is tremendous importance in this statement. It means a few things, firstly that We Join Jesus in Death. This unity in being crucified and buried represents the reality that in joining Jesus, our old selves were killed and lay dead. However, it doesn't just mean that we lay there dead or half-dead. It means that you no longer associate with who you used to be. It means that the hold that sin had on you is broken. Once, you could not defeat sin, but now you can. God has freed you from the slavery of sin. Secondly, We Join Jesus in Resurrection. This means that we breathe new life and now are a different person, welcomed into the family of God. It means that we are now empowered to live a life full of abundance in the fellowship with Christ. He asked us to consider whether or not we have repented and beliefed in Jesus Christ? Because, it is only when we do that our old selves die and we are raised to new life. He also asked Christians if any of us are living with judgement still attached to us? He asked if we are still living as though we were slaves to sin. He implored us to stand up and see that the chains are already broken and that the door is wide open. Step out and be free. You are not who you used to be anymore. You are now a child of God, liberated to run with Him. Pastor John's big idea was Being in Christ sets you free from who you used to be.
June 26th, 2016 - Zechariah 7:1-10 - Following Jesus for Real
This week Pastor John examined a passage from the prophet Zechariah. He began by asking the question, What does it truly mean to follow God? He explained that sometimes we can get caught up in thinking that following God is about the traditions and the religious practices that are part of the “church routine.” When we fall into this type of thinking, we often lose touch with the core elements of our faith—the central aspects to following Christ.
As we read the passage in Zechariah, Pastor John explained that at the time that it was written, the people of Israel were coming back to their homeland after 70 years of exile in Babylon. He noted that groups of people were going back to their old neighborhoods—many of them had never even been there. One particular group returned to the territory known as Bethel. As they began to settle, they decided to go to the religious leaders (Zechariah included) to see how they needed to practice their faith, primarily, if they still needed to fast regularly. Pastor John explained that they were really just appeasing the religious authorities, like politicians often do.
God responded, through Zechariah, by asking questions and reminding the people of what He had said in the past. The questions pointed the fact that fasting and celebrating and really all religious practices should be done to worship God. Pastor John emphasized that a core element of our faith is loving God. He then looked at the prophets reminder of what God had already said, ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ (vs. 9-10). Pastor John noted that all of these instructions point to one central theme, loving people.
The message concluded with a reminder to put first things first; love God and love people. Pastor John offered some practical examples of how to accomplish the core of our Christian faith and then reminded us of the fact that anyone who knows the good they ought to do, but does nothing, sins. His big idea was, Following Jesus means Loving God and Loving People.