The cross of Christ turns the wisdom of man upside down. Victory is won by giving up life, not taking it. Shame is removed by God identifying with the shamed and dying a shameful death. God leads through shame to glory and honor. And to some this is pure folly. But to those who believe, it is the power of God. The message of the cross is indiscriminate. It is offered to all, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or pedigree. Therefore, the gospel creates a new diverse people, united by the gospel. And everyone who responds to the gospel with belief, does so because of the sheer mercy and grace of God. Therefore, there is no room for boasting in ourselves. All our boasting must be in the kindness of God.
This week we begin a new sermon series in the book of First Corinthians. The letter to the church at Corinth is an appeal to a divided church to return to unity in and around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like in so many churches today, factions and divisions arose which set parts of the body against other parts. Paul uses his apostolic authority and wisdom to restore them to being of one mind and one accord. Paul teaches that when the church looks to its author and Savior, Jesus and unites themselves in the message and work of the cross, they will experience sweet harmony and like-mindedness, making them even more fruitful in God's Kingdom.
This morning is Sanctity of Life Sunday. A Sunday in which we recognize the innate dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is utterly unique, set apart and resplendent with glory and dignity because of whose image we bear. And horrifically, never before has our humanity been attacked, assaulted and denied in so many ways. There is an arsenal of weapons unleashed to attack human dignity at every stage of life, from the moment of conception to the moment we take our last breath. And God's people, the church is called and equipped to be a redemptive community that works to establish the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the gospel AND actively working to overthrow injustice and stop oppression wherever it is found.
The 50th anniversary of King’s tragic death marks an opportunity for Christians to reflect on the state of racial unity in the culture and in the church. Indeed much progress has been made and yet, we have so far to go. Racial reconciliation and racial harmony are necessary fruit of the gospel. We are called as a church to be a visible congregation, indeed family and body of Christ living in racial harmony at the center of the city. As believers in Christ we are called to ethnic, racial unity and we are equipped by God for unity. Jesus Christ has torn down the wall of hostility between us and made us one new race, citizens of Heaven, the household of God.
This Sunday we conclude our series in the book of Proverbs. The goal of the book is to instruct us in how to live wisely, skillfully in a broken world. And one of the ways it has done that is by setting before us the contrast of the life, character and behavior of the wise man and foolish man. As Christians, we seek to live wisely according to the Word of the Lord through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The grace of God has appeared in Christ Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit trains us to renounce ungodliness and the flesh and walk by the Spirit. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way we exercise self-control.
We gather this morning on the dawn of a new year. No doubt all of us possess goals, desires, aspirations for the new year. And how shall they be achieved? How will our desires for 2018, our goals be accomplished? Certainly not through laziness. Nothing we desire, nothing great we want, will be achieved or accomplished through idleness, through laziness and do nothingness. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished by remaining idle. No, we must work. If we would have a fruitful, indeed, joyful 2018, we must work diligently. One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is hard work, hard work contrasted with laziness and slothfulness. Work is a glorious thing. If you are starting to grow lazy, let Proverbs call you back to the joy of productivity. Laziness, idleness does not offer us greater joy. God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make that we might change the present and alter the future.
The Christmas season is distinguished by the joy it brings. Christmas is about good news of great joy coming to unworthy people. It is about joy, happiness and satisfaction brought to us, won for us in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Christmas is cause for rejoicing!
For the third week of Advent, we focus our attention on the love of God as revealed to us in John 3:16. If there is a verse that summarizes the New Testament, it is John 3:16. For it is here that we learn that the love of God is limitless and active, embracing all mankind. In love, God gave the best, his Son. His Son was not given for one group of people or one nation, He was given so that all, without distinction, without exception, who believe in him might be rescued from destruction and have eternal life.
We all yearn for peace and yet peace often eludes us. Peace eludes us because we turn to the wrong things to find peace. We misunderstand what peace is. Peace isn't the absence of conflict or noise; peace isn’t found in individual stillness. Rather, true peace is found in the wholeness of relationship with the God who made us. True peace is being reconciled unto God and dwelling in his presence under His reign forever. And that is what the incarnation of God in Christ is about: establishing true peace in us as we are reconciled to God through Christ.
We all need hope. Without hope we despair. So we will instinctively seek out people or things to hope in, a relationship, our health, job security, but eventually, all of these things will fail us. None of them can stand up under the crushing weight of our hope. Our God is a God of hope. A God who keeps his Word, a God who is trustworthy and powerful, fully capable to accomplish all He has said He will do. And the incarnation of Jesus is proof of this. Through Jesus, the promises of God come to fruition. And it is by believing in Jesus and his resurrection that we can have hope, hope that can withstand any earthly trial or affliction.