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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Abundant Grace (1 Timothy 1.12-17)


Sermon by: Robert Austell; January 28, 2018 - 1 Timothy 1:12-17

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 



::: Scripture and Music ::
Come Ye Sinners (Indelible Grace, Matthew Smith)
Merciful God (Getty/Townend)
Choir: Amazing Grace (arr. Courtney)
Fiddle Tune Medley (feat. Chris Orr)
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (ST. DENIO)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

Last week we started a series on God’s grace. We looked at a passage from 2 Corinthians 12 that says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is perfected in weakness.” I’ve been pondering that all week; have you? It’s one of those almost weekly examples of my preaching to myself first. I so much want to fix things, fix situations, be perfect and smart and strong. And here I am in the midst of flu season, sadness over Kathy leaving, and overall just kind of running low, being told that God showing up in human weakness isn’t the back-up plan, but THE plan. And I picked that passage two months ago. God must have known we needed to hear that.

As part of looking at that passage last week I touched on today’s topic, noting that not only did God show up in Paul’s weakness with grace, but God also chose Paul in grace. Paul had not only not been a believer in Jesus, he had been the enemy of Jesus. And yet God pursued him, called him, forgave him, and used him. And Paul recounts the wonder of that in today’s text from 1 Timothy.

Formerly (v.13)

Paul was a bad man. He was sincere and believed in his cause, but he was a bad man. In his own words, he was formerly a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” (v. 13) He hunted Christians, rounded them up, and allowed and arranged for them to be killed. Do you know that about him? One of the accounts of that is in the book of Acts, at the end of chapter 7 and going on into chapter 8. As Stephen, one of the first followers of Christ to be put to death, was stoned to death, witnesses of the stoning laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. (7:58) Chapter 8 goes on to tell Saul’s story, beginning with “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting [Stephen] to death.” (8:1) Saul would later take the name Paul after meeting the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

And Saul/Paul is not a one-off story in scripture. He is not the token redemption story in a room full of saints and righteous. Moses, whom God used to speak God’s message to the King of Egypt, had grown up in that Egyptian household but fled the country because of attacking and killing an Egyptian man. David, who became the greatest king of God’s people until Christ returned, was an adulterer and murderer whom God reclaimed and redeemed. And the stories go on and on of God sometimes reaching those furthest from Him and using them in the greatest service to him.

There is a word for that – actually two words: mercy and grace.

Mercy and Grace (vv.13-14,16)

I heard a definition for mercy and grace long ago from my pastor when I lived in Nashville and those definitions have continued to be helpful for me. Mercy is when God does not give us what we do deserve. Grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve. Paul received both from God. He was shown mercy because God did not give him the judgment he deserved for persecuting and executing Christians. In other words, God let him live and forgave him. But God’s mercy leads to grace. The grace for Paul – God giving him what he didn’t deserve – was a place in God’s work and Kingdom. And it was precisely into the area of disobedience he had formerly engaged. God called Paul to spread the news of Jesus Christ far and wide, and empowered him to do so.

Paul says two things about mercy in this passage. He says in verse 13 that God showed him mercy because of his ignorance and unbelief. Elsewhere Paul writes that ignorance and unbelief are no excuse, so I don’t think Paul is making an excuse here. Rather the mercy is that God came to him IN his ignorance and unbelief not with judgment (mercy), but in a way leading to knowledge and belief (grace). Then in verse 16 Paul clarifies and adds, “For this reason I found mercy, so that… Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe.” The mercy God showed Paul wasn’t just for Paul’s sake, but shaped Paul into a living example of God at work.

Of grace, Paul says in verse 14, “and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Abundance is a key part of grace, for grace is characterized by more than is expected or needed or deserved. It is the over-the-top expression of Christ’s faith and love for humanity.

But here’s the thing about most of us. We distance ourselves from mercy and grace because we distance ourselves from understanding our sin. Our standard for sin is: “I am not as bad as THAT guy.” I try to live a pretty good life, be nice to people, I don’t murder, embezzle, or whatever other thing counts as “real sin.” But Jesus was clear: our standard of righteousness isn’t my wacky neighbor or that mean kid at school or criminals we see on the evening news. Our standard of righteousness is God himself, the perfect love and obedience of Christ, the pure burning truth of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever heard “Amazing Grace” – you know, that “saved a wretch like me,” and thought, “I’m no wretch.” If you and I and the majority of humanity are no wretch, then God’s grace is not amazing and Jesus’ death was very mis-placed. The song “Amazing Grace” should leave us weeping with amazement and gratitude, not issuing internal disclaimers of just how much of that grace stuff applies to me.

Think about the two messages from Paul – last week and this week. Where is God most known and shown? Paul says that it is in our weakness and in our sin. Should we sin and create weakness so God can show off? Paul repeatedly says “no way” throughout his writing. But neither should we hide our weakness and sin from God, ourselves, or others if that is precisely where God’s mercy and grace most brightly shine.

Trustworthy Statement (v.15)

In verse 15, in the midst of all this testimony and teaching, Paul says “This is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance…” He does that a number of times in his various writings and that fascinates me. I think it’s like in a sermon when I say, “If you don’t hear anything else today, listen to this.” And here’s what Paul says here: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” The only reason the second part of that is important is if you operated under the illusion that God only uses strong and perfect people. Paul – arguably one of the most effective followers of Christ ever – wants you to know that he believes he needs God’s mercy and grace more than anyone. I feel the same and I’d put myself in that line – I need the mercy and grace of God desperately, every day.

So don’t miss the first and main part of that trustworthy statement: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Do you ever think about why Jesus came? It wasn’t to teach us to be good, though he certainly taught us what God desires. It wasn’t to restore God’s people to political power, though those were the charges leveled against him at his execution. He came into the world to rescue those turned away from God. He came to show and to embody God’s mercy: that you and I might not get what we deserve from God if our lives were to be held up to the pure and perfect light of God’s holiness. And he came to show and to embody God’s grace: not just rescuing us, but inviting us to a life of service and purpose and participation in the life and work God is doing.

That’s grace and truth (from our banner) together: rescued and invited, delivered and desired.

Doxology (v.17)

Sometimes a writer will put a doxology, an outburst of praise, at the end of a letter as a kind of final word: “Let’s praise God!” But one appears here in verse 17, in the middle of the first chapter and not even at the end of that. What I think is going on here is not a formal ending to a letter, but something more spontaneous. I believe Paul is so moved by telling the story of God’s extreme mercy and grace in his life that he just can’t help offering praise.

Sometimes at the end of “Amazing Grace” I’ve heard a verse that is all “Praise God” over and over. It’s like that – but probably unplanned. So moved by the story and the reality of God’s grace, it is sometimes the only adequate thing left to do. So Paul exclaims: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!”

That’s the effect of understanding our weakness and sin. It’s not to be ground into the dust, but gives the true and right depth to the meaning of God’s mercy and grace. And when we glimpse that, there is nothing left but “Praise God; praise God!” Amen.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sufficient Grace (2 Corinthians 12.7-10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; January 21, 2018 - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 



::: Scripture and Music ::
It is Well (Bethel Music: DiMarco, Spafford/Bliss)
All in All (Jernigan)
CHOIR: Sing to the Lord a New Song (Haydn/Hopson)
My Faith Looks Up to Thee (OLIVET)
CHOIR: God Go Before You (Hopp)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

Today we are starting a new series on grace. And let me tell you what steered me towards that topic. This past Fall our theme was the Body (of Christ) and we looked at how each of us fits in and to one another as followers of Christ and as the Church. There was a lot of focus on obedience, stewardship of ourselves, and following Christ. Then in Advent we looked at Jesus’ relatives and how they listened and paid attention to what God was doing, and they responded with obedience and faith. And I had folks express two things: appreciation for the call to pay attention to God and put God’s will and Word first in life. The other thing was a mixture of intimidation, sense of unworthiness or failure, and guilt. And I know that is not God’s intent for you, His beloved children. Just as a good parent wants the best for their children, a parent is full of understanding, forgiveness, and second and third chances when those loved little ones mess up or fall short. It’s a both/and kind of thing, with parenting as well as with God. I think it is no accident that Jesus gave us the name ‘Abba’ for God, to evoke that parenting imagery, to help us understand both the high calling and the deep and wide embrace of grace.

So, grace. I think it will be a good and encouraging follow up to the true messages from this past Fall. See over on the wall of the sanctuary? (the “truth and grace” banner) We always need to hear and hold those together. So over the next few weeks I want to look at some different passages that I hope will help us understand and accept God’s loving grace towards us as we continue trying to listen, obey, and follow.

Weakness (vv.9-10)

I’m going to start at the end today. There the Apostle Paul mentions ‘weaknesses.’ In general, weakness is not seen as a good thing. Whether it is little boys (or grown ones) being told to “man up” or women recognizing their many strengths despite multiple centuries and cultures calling them the “weaker sex” there seems to be a consensus that being weak isn’t good. I’ve also heard the critique of Christianity or religion, in general, as being a crutch for the emotionally or intellectually weak.

And yet Paul overturns that thinking altogether in this passage, not only ending with saying he will “boast about his weakness” because of what Christ is doing with it, but also saying that he is “well content with weaknesses” (plural!), concluding that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v.10) Even MORE radical than those conclusions is his starting place, which sees a particular weakness that he calls his “thorn in the flesh” as a kind of gift from God that kept him from exalting himself.

It all cuts against what we’ve been taught, but it is such a hopeful and healing message for us to hear and receive.

A Thorn in the Flesh (v.7)

So what is this “thorn in the flesh” in verse 7? Well, we don’t know. Paul doesn’t say, though he has plenty to say about it. He sees this particular thing as given to him to keep him from exalting himself. He acknowledged that he was at high risk for self-aggrandizement because of the “surpassing greatness of the revelations” – the message given to him about Christ and his encounter with the risen Christ. The image of a thorn is vivid as well – something from outside that doesn’t kill, but is painful, relentless, and limiting. I picture the lion with a thorn in its paw, unable to walk, unable to function as king of the jungle. (There’s an old fable about that and the small creature that pulled the thorn out.) And Paul adds a second metaphor (it’s probably not a literal thorn or splinter in his foot): he calls it a “messenger of Satan” that torments him. Again, probably not a demonic spirit, but something that makes him question his worth and calling and purpose.

Paul broadens the thorn out to be ‘weakness’ and then broadens even more (for our sakes) to include “weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties.” (v.10) Got any of those going on?

And here’s an even harder thing: Paul “implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.” And God did not take it away! That’s one of the hardest things, right? If it’s hurting me… as if it’s from Satan himself, and I pray in faith, why would God NOT help me out? But that’s not entirely right… God DID help Paul out, even responding in words or spirit. It just wasn’t the answer or help Paul wanted or anticipated at first (or second or third). Rather, God’s help was this: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (v.9)

That, beloved, is worth chewing on and returning to time and time again. It’s not quick or easy to grasp or experience, but it is truer than true – it’s Gospel “Good News” Truth. God’s grace is sufficient for you, even if the thing making you weak has you twisted around, limping, and helpless in your own strength, imploring God for an answer that never seems to come. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

Sufficient Grace (v.9)

And here’s why: God’s power is perfected in weakness. Not in weakness in and of itself, but in weakness that trusts and makes room and welcomes the power of God into the midst of it. It makes me think of a scene in the Gospels when Jesus’ disciples notice a blind man. It’s something often considered a weakness in our culture, and all the more so in that ancient culture. And they start asking questions: Who sinned – him? His parents? What did he do to deserve that? And Jesus’ response?... “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-7) And Jesus healed the man when he trusted Jesus’ instruction to go wash his eyes in a certain place.

Paul’s teaching here and Jesus response to his disciples relocates our question from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What is God doing?” Paul says that it precisely those places where we are most weak, at the end of our strength, that God not only shows up, but shines. In fact that may be where God is most evident to us and to others – probably because when I’m all strong and together, I tend to be in focus rather than God.

And so Paul is able to boast (v.9), not because now he has won the gold medal in godly suffering, but because God’s power and grace are highlighted. Indeed, to turn his thorn or weakness into something to brag about would truly miss the point; rather, he has recognized that it has caused him to move out of the way that Christ might be even more clearly seen.

And so Paul is able to be “well content” (v.10) with various kinds of challenge and weakness, because they point him to Christ and because Christ is seen in him. And so Paul is able to conclude, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (v.10) not because human Paul is suddenly healed or delivered or strong, but because Christ IN HIM is strong. You might have expected him to say “when I am weak, HE is strong” but it is precisely the grace and love of God that God sets up residence IN us rather than apart from us. It’s not “look at those pitiful human creatures and then look at me, God” but it is God showing up and working through and in weak human beings that is what is so amazing about grace.

Are you struggling? Are you afraid? Are you ashamed? Are you hurting? Are you hiding?

God’s grace is sufficient for you.

That’s not just a line; that’s Gospel Good-News Truth. Keep saying it and praying it and chewing on it until it sinks in and you see it.

God’s grace is sufficient for you. God’s grace is sufficient for you. God’s grace is sufficient for you. Amen.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Share the Love (1 John 4.7-21)


Sermon by: Robert Austell; January 14, 2018 - 1 John 4:7-21

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 



::: Scripture and Music ::
Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service (from the Sacred Harp)
Here is Love (Lowry/Rees)
O Church Arise (Getty/Townend)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

Typically, I would recommend the audio over the written version, but I think I'd recommend the written manuscript this week.  :)

Today we are starting a new series on grace. And let me tell you what steered me towards that topic. This past Fall our theme was the Body (of Christ) and we looked at how each of us fits in and to one another as followers of Christ and as the Church. There was a lot of focus on obedience, stewardship of ourselves, and following Christ. Then in Advent we looked at Jesus’ relatives and how they listened and paid attention to what God was doing, and they responded with obedience and faith. And I had folks express two things: appreciation for the call to pay attention to God and put God’s will and Word first in life. The other thing was a mixture of intimidation, sense of unworthiness or failure, and guilt. And I know that is not God’s intent for you, His beloved children. Just as a good parent wants the best for their children, a parent is full of understanding, forgiveness, and second and third chances when those loved little ones mess up or fall short. It’s a both/and kind of thing, with parenting as well as with God. I think it is no accident that Jesus gave us the name ‘Abba’ for God, to evoke that parenting imagery, to help us understand both the high calling and the deep and wide embrace of grace.

So, grace. I think it will be a good and encouraging follow up to the true messages of the Fall. See over on the wall of the sanctuary? (the “truth and grace” banner) We always need to hear and hold those together. So over the next few weeks I want to look at some different passages that I hope will help us understand and accept God’s loving grace towards us as we continue trying to listen, obey, and follow. Today we are looking at a particular kind of grace – that is the mirroring kind of grace found in blessing one another. In the old covenant with Abraham, God tells Abraham he is blessing him so he will be a blessing to the nations. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “forgive as we forgive others.” Blessing others is extending the grace God has shown us towards others, extending the love God has shown us towards others. And that sharing of love as a blessing is what 1 John is talking about in our text this morning.

Saying and Doing

We all know what it feels like to be told what to do. And right here off the bat is one of those sayings. You may have even heard a parent (or preacher) say it to you: “Love each other.” And because parents and preachers and all of us are human, it’s easy to fill in the second part of the saying, “Do as I say… (but not as you do).” But God is not like us. What God SAYS and DOES lines up. And that’s exactly what John unfolds for us in this passage. He starts with this commandment – love each other – but he grounds it not in power and duty, but in the DOINGS of God.

There are a lot of verses in our text today, but there is a relatively straightforward logic to the verses that I want to walk you through. I’d like to do that and then end with a tangible experience and expression of this teaching that I think will bless you.

Here’s the basic sequence of what John is saying:

Let us love one another. (v.7)
Here’s why and how that works. (vv.7-10)
So if that’s all true, then I’ll remind you: let us love one another. (v.11)
You might wonder how you see and experience God’s love: ABIDING w/God. (vv. 12-15)
It also results in confidence and does not produce fear. (vv.16-18)
So again: let us love each other truly and authentically. (vv.19-20)
Once more: love like you’ve been loved. (v.21)


Let’s walk through that. I’ll have the verses on the screen, but you may also find it helpful to follow along in your Bibles and even make notes in the margin.

Living Loved with God

v. 7 – The Main Message: Let us love one another.

The main message is right there in verse 7 and it is: “Let us love one another.” It is also not inconsequential that John addresses his readers as ‘beloved.’ That one word really captures the whole message and I’ll return to it at the end to summarize the whole text. But even without that, note that John includes himself in the command: Let US love one another. It’s not just a “you do this” but a “let’s do this together.”

vv.7-10 – Here’s why and how that works.

Verses 7-10 explain why and then how we are to “love one another.” First there are two positive and one negative explanations as to WHY. Positively, “love is from God” and “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (v.7) Love is a gift from God and it’s one that also helps identify us as belonging to God and is evidence that we know God. It’s kind of like if one of my children does something very Austell-like. Particularly if you know Heather and me or see us together with our children, you might quickly deduce that they have inherited genetic traits from us and have grown up in the particular environment of our home. I won’t call anyone out by suggesting what those traits might be. But it’s the same way with God. Both in the imago Dei (image of God) stamped on our humanity and in the environment of being adopted sons and daughters through Christ, we are bound to demonstrate our belonging and our closeness to God when we love, because as John will tell us in v. 8, God is not just loving, He IS love – the author, source, and giver of true Love.

In that same next verse 8, we also read the negative WHY we are to love. It is because the one who does not love does not know God, or at the very least acts against both the nature and nurture that God’s children should bear. In fact, John will return to this family imagery a little bit later when he introduces the term ABIDE, which means to make a home with.

As to the HOW it works to love one another, John tells us in verse 9 that the love of God was manifested – made known and shown – in us BY THIS: that God sent His son into the world that we might live through Him. In other words, we know how to love one another because God showed us how to do that. And he did that by sending Jesus among us. Verse 10 elaborates and says that love is known and shown IN THIS: not in our love for God, but in God’s loving action toward us, specifically in making propitiation for our sin. That’s the fancy theological way of saying God showed us grace: doing what we could not do in order to restore our relationship. That’s forgiveness, mercy, love, and grace – undeserved and offered freely.

The answer to why and how we can love each other is simply this: God showed us how, not just in a lesson, but by actually loving us. That’s how we know love and how we know how to show love.

v.11 – So if that’s all true, then I’ll remind you: let us love one another.

So, like a good preacher, John revisits his main idea. He says that if you are tracking with all that – if all that rings true – then remember, the point is this challenge to love one another. It’s not just to increase your head knowledge about love or even about God; rather it is about doing, about loving like God loves. He says it simply, “If God so loved us, beloved, we also ought to love one another.” (v. 11)

vv.12-15 – You might wonder how you see and experience God’s love: ABIDING w/God.

What comes next is like the answer to an unspoken question. And it’s a good question. It’s like John anticipated how our minds work. And this is a familiar question to me. People often ask me, “How can I experience God?” All this talk about loving because God has loved us, but where is God? How do I see Him? How do I FEEL this love? Especially if it’s supposed to be the basis of my own love for others…

This is the question John answers starting in verse 12. He says, “No one has seen God at any time” but he continues… “if we love one another, God ABIDES in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (v. 12) And I add in parentheses: “and will be seen or experienced.” In other words, if the invisible truth is that we love because God has loved us, then when we love, we make visible the invisible truth. That’s when God abides or makes a home with us and His love is perfected or made known in and through us. Does that seem crazy? Here’s an analogy. Physics tells us that air resistance is sufficient to hold aloft an airplane with the right speed, weight, and wing structure. We are able to fly because of the invisible qualities of air. When we choose to fly, we make that invisible truth visible because we see the plane aloft riding on the ‘invisible’ air. It’s like that with God’s love. God may be invisible to us, but the reality of His love makes our love possible. And when we love, we make visible the reality of His love for us.

John continues with some more examples. We know and experience God making a home with and in us BY THIS: because of His Spirit. (v. 13) That’s the Spirit of God that scripture says dwells within us and alongside us. In John 3, Jesus says the Spirit is invisible like the wind, but we can see and feel the effects of wind when we see leaves and branches moving because of its influence. So it is with us. So John says here that not only does our loving other make visible the invisible God, but our experience and testimony of Jesus also makes God’s love visible. Remember… God showed his love by sending Jesus into the world for our sin. When we believe and confess that – when we ‘testify’ to it, we also make God’s love visible.

vv.16-18 – It also results in confidence and does not produce fear.

John says there is also very tangible evidence of making a home or abiding together with God. That evidence is known BY THIS: we have confidence and we do not fear. (vv. 17-18) That confidence doesn’t come from our perfect behavior or from a false confidence, but because we know that God loves us. And again, we know that because of the one God has sent: Jesus. It’s not a boastful or prideful confidence, but it is the kind that is set free from fear of judgment and failure. This is the essence of the grace we are going to talk about for the next month or so. We are commanded to live and love like those who belong to God. But our imperfection and our failure is covered by the love of God in Christ. It is not a license to do whatever we want and flaunt our freedom. But it is the assurance that the measure of our belonging is our love for God, but God’s love for us. And if you can truly ABIDE in that, it is the most freeing thing in heaven or on earth.

vv.19-20 – So again: let us love each other truly and authentically.

So, in verse 19, John repeats the main message: “We love.” But he includes the how, the why, and the reason we can love: “because God first loved us.” (v.19) And he includes a practical example of how to do this truly and authentically. It’s more than the words, “I love God.” If we hate another person, we are not displaying the nature of nurture of God. We are not abiding and we are not living in truth. And John makes a claim that rings very true: “the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (v.20) If we truly are making our home with God, it transforms everything. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes or slip up. But neither does it mean intentionally and wantonly refusing to love, forgive, or show grace to another person.

v.21 – Once more: love like you’ve been loved.

And finally, preacher John makes his point for the fourth and final time in our text for today: “This commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (v.21) Said more simply: love like you’ve been loved. It is as simple as that. It is also as hard as that, because God has loved you really well. But that love is also patient and kind and forgiving, so don’t wallow in guilt or failure, but in confidence. This IS who you are as a child of God. And God lives in you and has made a home in you. You can do it!

Beloved!

I wanted to end with the word “Beloved,” which John uses a number of times in this text. Once you’ve worked through this passage you realize that it contains the whole gist of what is being said here. John is exhorting his readers to love as God has loved them. But he’s also modeling that whole dynamic by calling them “Beloved.” He is acknowledging (and identifying them) that they are loved by God and also by him (John). He is, himself, loving as God has loved. In the church I attended for several years right after college, my pastor called the congregation, “Beloved,” and it was always so special and affirming. I believed him! I heard God’s love for me as well as his love as my pastor. And that’s what John is doing here.

Love, because God has first loved you and abides with you. Love because God has shown you His love through Jesus, His son. Love, because in doing so you make visible and tangible the love of God for those whom you love. Love, because in Christ that’s who you are and what you are meant to do and be. Amen.

We are going to conclude this sermon with a very special “blessing” from Kathy Larson and the arts ministry at Good Shepherd. I’ll let her tell you about that and I think you’ll see how this is a variation on calling you “Beloved” – and one that you can then share with others in your life.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Roots and Fruits (Hebrews 12.7-15)

Sermon by: Jason Hinton; January 7, 2018 - Hebrews 12:7-15

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 



::: Scripture and Music ::
Light the Fire Again (Doerksen)
Jesus, All for Jesus (Robin Mark)
Take Time to be Holy (HOLINESS)

**Special Guest Musician: Mark Kroos**

Video from Mark's YouTube page