Monthly Archives: March, 2015

Can’t Win

Have you ever felt that you just can’t win for losing? That no matter what you do, why you do it or when you do it, you fail to come out ahead. Certainly there are many things in life that can get to us, can discourage and even defeat us. But the Bible teaches us that when we believe in Jesus we are victorious. How do we reconcile these two truths? Simple, we read John 16:33. Jesus says “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Two truths reconciled. In Jesus we have peace; in the world we will have trouble. The peace we have in Jesus wins out because he has overcome the world. The real trick is learning to live in that truth. To live as if our King and Saviour has already overcome and made us overcomers. 

Sermon Big Idea:
Those who overcome are promised eternity with Jesus in Paradise.

Sermon Points:

  • John 1:1-5 Jesus is the light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome him.
  • Because Jesus is victorious, we are victorious through him. (Revelation 5:9-10)
  • Jesus tells us to take heart because he has overcome. Take heart means “Cheer up!”
  • In this world of trouble, we sometimes need something to help us “cheer up” to see the bright side, to remind us that we are overcomers.
  • Jesus’ letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 have promises for us that help us “take heart” when things seem bleak.
  • Revelation 2:1 – displays Jesus as the one who holds the church in his hand, but who also walks among the churches, meaning he is present and active (how encouraging!)
  • Revelation 2:2-4 – Jesus is pleased with the Ephesian church because of their labour, their endurance and their commitment to the truth.
  • Revelation 2:5-6 – Jesus is displeased because the church has lost its “fine flush of enthusiastic love”, for Jesus and for one another.
  • Revelation 2:7 – Jesus promises the right to eat of the tree of life which is in God’s paradise to those who overcome.
  • We lost the right to eat from the tree when Adam and Even rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.
  • Jesus redeemed that right when he lived and died obediently, and he gives that right to us.
  • Paradise is the place where we will share perfect fellowship and communion with God, where we will once again walk with God in the cool of the evening.
  • What is Jesus promising here? Life forever in the presence and in the company of our Lord.

Follow-up questions:
Take some time pondering, meditating on this promise. How would God use this to encourage you, to help you “take heart”. Is there something claiming victory over you in your life that God wants to free you from? Take some time to ask the Holy Spirit to show you these things.

Questions for families with small children:
Spend time with your child talking about paradise, about heaven. Ask them what their picture of heaven is, and what they think it will be like to be there. Their answer may surprise and encourage you!


Have you ever taken a moment to consider what the Bible means when it talks about Christians as “those who overcome”? It’s all over the place in the Bible. Some verses talk about us as being victorious, others talk about what we are victorious over, and still others talk about how we are victorious. On Sunday, we began a journey through that very topic.

The one thing that is critical to understand as we begin this journey together is this: our victory is a stated fact. It is a stated fact because it has been given to us by Jesus. It is his victory, but it is a victory that he shares with us. Because of that truth, we can live and breathe in the words of Romans 8:37 “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

nikao. It is a Greek word that appears 28 times in the New Testament, and it means “to overcome” or “be victorious”; and it is used quite a few of those 28 times to talk about Christians.

While we will talk about Jesus as the victor, I wonder how many of us have come to the firm and absolute conclusion that

Sermon Big Idea:
Because Jesus was victorious in his life, his death and his resurrection, and is victorious still, those who believe in him are “overcomers” as well.

Sermon Points:

  • ύπερνικάω (hupernikao).
    • ύπερ (huper) means more, over and above, super
    • νικάω (nikao) means to overcome, to conquer.
  • those who believe in Jesus are “super-conquerors”.
  • This word talks about someone who has not just won or defeated an adversary, but has done so in such a way that there is no question of their superiority or their right to the victory.
  • We come from a heritage of overcomers (Joshua/Jericho, David/Goliath, Moses/Pharaoh)
  • We are overcomers (Luke 10:19, 1 John 5:4-5)
  • Romans 8:35-39 Paul reiterates that NOTHING can overcome us, not even death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
  • It is Jesus’ victory that has been given to us (Psalm 20:6, 1 John 4:4)
  • Revelation 12:11 says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, but that we also continue overcoming through the word of our testimony, by living victoriously for Jesus.
  • A spiritual battle still rages around us, a battle we are expected to participate in, a battle that we CAN participate in because we are overcomers in Christ.
  • It can be a hard fight, a discouraging fight, a never-ending fight.
  • We must remember that we are victorious because Jesus is already victorious.

Follow-up questions:
Are there any areas in your life that you feel “beaten” in? Ask God to help you understand how you can be victorious even in those areas.

Questions for families with small children:
Talk to your children about the images of Jesus as a warrior, as God being our shield and deliverer. Ask them how that image of Jesus makes them feel?

Fan or Follower: Worth It?

When we gathered on Sunday, it was to finish up our journey through the question: Are you a follower of Jesus or merely a fan? A fan, just to remind you, is “an enthusiastic admirer”. A fan has the poster on the wall, knows all the stats and cheers from the sidelines.

The only way to know the difference between being a fan and being a follower is to discover what Jesus says a follower looks like. That, really, has been the whole point of this journey. We want to discover what Jesus defines being a follower as, and then see how we measure up.

Principles of following:
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission. 8) Following Jesus is costly. 9) A follower becomes more like Jesus as they follow him.

Sermon Big Idea:
Following Jesus is worth the hardship and the costs that following might bring.

Sermon Points:

  • Jesus defines what it means to be a follower, not you or I.
  • It is not about how we compare to other people, it is not about denominational measures, or family heritage or Biblical knowledge.
  • Jesus’ definition is not easy! But is it worth it?
  • God wants to transform our lives, in giving us new lives. (Romans 6:1-4)
  • New zoe (spiritual) life.
  • Before we knew Christ we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1)
  • Abundant (overflowing quality of life that Jesus came to give), spiritual life (John 10:10)
  • We have to be convinced that this new life in Christ is enough. We have to learn contentment (Philippians 4:12-13)
  • What does following Jesus supply? (Psalm 23)
    • Contentment (vs 1)
    • Rest (vs 2)
    • Guidance (vs 3)
    • Safety (vs 4)
    • Provision (vs 5)
    • A home (vs 6)
  • Can God really provide these things? YES. His proof is in his power displayed in Jesus’ resurrection. His proof is the victory we have been given through Jesus.

Follow-up questions:
Take some time to answer the question “Are you a follower?” in light of how Jesus defines that relationship?

Questions for families with small children:
Pick one or two of the principles of following and talk to your children about how you can be living them out in your family life.

Are you a follower?

What good is it…

In Luke 9:25, Jesus asks his disciples a very pointed question. He asks: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” That’s the NIV translation. The Living Bible puts it this way: “and what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?” Jesus asks this question on the tail end of one of the many times that he talks about the cost of following him. Luke 9 specifically talks about two of those costs: taking up your cross daily to follow Jesus and losing our life for Jesus’ sake in order to find life. 

By asking this question, Jesus cuts to the very heart of the issue we humans have when considering the costs of following Jesus: is it worth it? Is having Jesus interfere with our lives worth it? Is following Jesus on mission worth it? Is becoming more like Jesus worth it? Is sharing our faith journey with other followers worth the inherent risk that comes with close relationships? Is being a slave to Jesus worth the cost of our independence?

It would seem much more fulfilling, much more beneficial and much more “rewarding” to chase after the things that provide us with more immediate and earthly benefits. Good jobs, good standing with friends/family, financial comfort, a nice home, a reliable car, etc. But Jesus puts all of those things in a much different light with this question. If you were to gain the whole world, everything this life has to offer (and certainly our world now has far more on offer than the world of Jesus’ day did), for the fleeting time that we spend on this world but at the cost of your very self and your eternal soul, is that worth it? Is the stuff of this world worth the cost of your values, your ethics, your personality, your self-respect?

I would challenge our thinking in a different way in this matter as well. When we consider the cost of following Jesus (and perhaps consider the costs too high), I would propose that we are making the automatic assumption that there are no or very few rewards that come with the following. That following Jesus is nothing but a one-way street of sacrifice, slavery, sorrow and loneliness, that is all about costs flowing from us to Jesus, that there is no return from Jesus to us.

Of course there is the immediate response to that assumption, that Jesus has already put out more than we ever will in terms of cost when he lived and died for us. But if we put that assumption aside and consider it closely, Biblically, I think we will find that indeed there are rewards and benefits to us, in the here and now, when we follow Jesus.

It is those benefits that we are going to explore this week as we wrap up the sermon series Fan or Follower.

See you Sunday.

Fan or Follower: Transformation follow-up

Have you ever been in one of those moments in life when you are face-to-face with the consequences of your character (not your actions, your character), and you think: “Man, I wish I could be someone else.” Or have you ever wished that a part of you was different. Perhaps your anger gets the best of you, or your perfectionism causes a rift with a co-worker. Or maybe you’re lazy attitude causes you to miss out on a life-changing opportunity. Or maybe you just plain old don’t like who you are in one particular moment.

Maybe I’m the only one who finds himself disappointed in, well, himself (although I doubt that to be the case). When we met on Sunday, we talked about how God desires to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Let me be clear in saying that God desires this because he is disappointed in us or finds us wanting. That is not the case at all. He desires this for us because we are at our best when we are being like Jesus. Philip is most like Philip when there is more of Jesus present. I know that may seem like an odd thing to say, but I believe it to be true.

Remember, God created humanity in his own image. That image was broken when Adam and Eve rebelled against (disobeyed) God. That image remained broken, until Jesus was born and redeemed the image, remade the image of humanity. So now, as a new creation (as Paul calls us), I follow after the image of Jesus, which is in fact the real image of me that God desires. I hope you can follow that bit of convoluted logic.

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission. 8) Following Jesus is costly.

Sermon Big Idea:
A follower is transformed to be more like Jesus as they follow him.

Sermon Points:

  • I am learning to be more like Jesus in my attitudes, behaviours and character.
  • We are all being made into the image of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:8).
  • Romans 8:29 we are being conformed into the image of Jesus.
  • Transformed is the process by which we become more like Jesus.
  • Being conformed to Jesus’ image is the end result/goal/product.
  • Sanctification is what this whole process is called.
  • 1 Peter 1:2 sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: he accomplishes the process by which we are made into Jesus’ image.
  • BUT we must participate in the process; we cannot simply go about our lives waiting for the Spirit to get it done!
  • In transforming us, Jesus will interfere with our lives!
  • Transform what? 1) Heart (passions, love, empathy, emotions, anger, lusts, compassion, etc); 2) Mind (Philippians 4:8-9); 3) Life (2 Peter 1:3-9, our lives need to reflect Jesus!)
  • Why does God want to do this? Because we are all images of a broken humanity and God sent Jesus to fix what was broken (Matthew 9:12-13)
  • What motivates this on God’s part? Love. God loves you enough to meet you wherever you are at, but he love you too much to leave you there.
  • Visit to watch a Skit Guys video about this topic called “God’s Chisel”.

Follow-up questions:
When was the last time you considered, really considered, areas of your life that God might want to remodel? What bothers you most about yourself? How can you ask the Holy Spirit to help you work on that area? Is there something habitual in your life that you know is not Christ honouring? When was the last time you prayed/confessed/asked the Holy Spirit to work on that in your life?

Questions for families with small children:
For those brave enough, take a minute to ask your child/children what they wish could/would be different about you (scary right). Prompt them to respond honestly with no fear of reprisal. Whatever they have to say, invite them to pray with you about that thing, that the Holy Spirit would help you work on that area of your life. This is a great opportunity to model humility and openness to God’s transformation in your life to your children!

Are you a follower?

Fan or Follower: Transformation

I have made the point on  a couple of occasions that Christianity is not a religion. To some of you, that statement may seem a bit off, even a bit heretical. But I assure you, you will find no scriptural support for the view that Christianity is a religion. Religion is a man-made construct, the forms and rituals in which we express beliefs, traditions or dogmas. From the time of early Hebrew worship, God struggled to help his people understand that their worship of him was not about ritual; it is about the state, the humbleness and the motivations of their heart.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Psalm 51:16-17 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Again and again through scripture, God tells us that his delight is not in sacrifices, but in a heart and mind that are more and more aligning themselves with God’s ways. Obedience to God’s law, meekness in light of God’s majesty, praise in light of God’s glory. Those are the things that are pleasing to God.

The New Testament makes this even clearer. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3;18)

So Christianity is not a religion, it is a life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ. I asked this question in my sermon two weeks ago: “If you are not fishing, are you really following?” in reference to Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew, that he would make them fish for people. That if we are following Jesus then we are following him on mission. I think I could just as easily say that if you are following Jesus then you must be more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

Galatians 5 outlines for us the fruit of the Spirit, fruit that should be more and more evident as we follow Jesus more deeply. Paul proclaims, in Ephesians 4:17-24, that we are to put off the old ways of life and put on the new life that is made in the likeness of God.

Our faith is a transformative faith, not an empty religion. A follower is constantly striving for less of themselves, and more of Christ.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Yourself or Christ.

Fan or Follower: The Cost

The familiar saying goes: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” While the source of this old adage is rather obscure, it has been around a good long time and has a fairly clear meaning: it is impossible to get anything for nothing.

There is some danger in applying this statement to anything Christian, because in many ways our faith is built upon the idea of God’s free gift of salvation to all who believe. I would never say anything to counter this. God gives salvation, redemption and eternal life to all who come to him in humility and repentance. However, to take that free gift of salvation and turn it into a free ride to heaven is indeed something we must be careful of.

While our invitation to join God’s family is open to everyone and our acceptance into that family does indeed come free of charge, there is a very definite understanding that there are expectations placed on us as we enter into that family. There are costs involved when it comes to following Jesus. Those costs come, mainly in denying ourselves and living out God’s plan for our lives instead of our own.

Even the very nature of our Christian faith, that it is a transformative faith, is costly. When Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the newcreation has come: The old has gone, thenew is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17), he is speaking of a cost. It is not easy to deny your old self in the everyday of life, it requires sacrifice. It requires that we “by the Spirit…put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission.

Sermon Big Idea:
Following Jesus is costly.

Sermon Points:

  • All of the “principles of following” work together to define what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • All of the principles are costly in one way or another.
  • Jesus makes no secret about the fact that following him is costly (Mark 10:16-23, 37-39, Luke 9:57-62)
  • Following Jesus costs us our comfort: we are not a home here on earth, we are foreigners (1 Peter 1:17 & 2:11, see also John 15:18-19, Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:13-16)
  • What should the slogan be for followers of Jesus? Come and die.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ““When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
  • Die to yourself, your dreams, your plans, your comforts, your priorities.
  • Luke 14:25-33 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of following him.
  • It seems like a lot! G.K. Chesterton wrote: “It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • What makes the cost worthwhile? Grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.
  • The only real response to God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ is for us to give up everything in service to him.
  • Consider Isaac Watt’s words from the last verse of “When I survey the wonderous cross”: Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
  • Is the cost of following greater or less than the cost God paid to save you?

Follow-up questions:
Take a moment to look at the principles of following that we have looked at so far and think about what each one might cost you as a follower. Are you prepared for those costs?

Questions for families with small children:
Take some time talking with your children about how much things cost and whether the cost is worth what you get out of it. Talk about that concept in connection to God and the price he paid for us.

Are you a follower?