January 10, 2021 Service
Experiencing the World Changer In Us
- Experiencing the World Changer in UsIn some ways, this has seemed to me the longest week I have experienced in years. From the Capitol of the United States we have witnessed events that many of us thought would be impossible or out of the question in our land—an insurrection against our Congress of elected public servants.It has for me been troubling—maybe I should say distressing—as it seems there has been an attack on the foundations of our Republic. It looked almost like the beginnings of a civil war—and we are reminded that there is nothing civil about war.You and I have been part of the story in one way or another. This is the land of our hopes and dreams and has offered us some measure of security and prosperity, in different measure, however, based upon the color of our skin or our language or ethnic identity.In our world and our nation, our state and our counties, in our cities and neighborhoods, we need the healing power and presence of God in the lives and hearts and minds of our leaders and our population.In this week, political and social challenges are only a small part of the story. For in the past seven days, more than 25,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.For me, that is about 20 times the total population of the town that I grew up in. Just yesterday, more than 3 times as many people died from the pandemic in the United States compared to the total number of people as lived in my home town of Rainier, Oregon when I was growing up in the middle of the last century.If I bring it down to the state level, in California the average number of deaths per day would have completely wiped out my home town every 3 days. It only took one week for as many to die from Covid-19 in Los Angeles County as the total population of the home town I remember. When I last lived in Ranier, Oregon, the population sign on the outskirts of town read 1204.Is there any doubt that we need more of God than ever before in our lifetimes? Now, I was born white in a family with a college education Oregon, so I have known mostly privilege; my experience is not like all of you. But I know that I need God in my life. And more of God than ever.After a week like this, which has incited fear, anger, and despair, driving many to prayer but most to blame, I was relieved when God led me to worship songs of hope and peace. So now its time to look back to scripture to find how God wants to be at work in our lives.We all need a fresh experience with the World-Changer, Jesus Christ, through the fulness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So lets look again at the experience of the coming of God and grace for all people.>>>The Gospel of Mark begins with the announcement ofJohn the Baptizer…who came as the promised messenger of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi. A voice in the wilderness of culture, religion and politics, a voice of God crying out through the prophet and forerunner of the Messiah.>>>John the Baptizer, whom we find out in Luke’s Gospel was a cousin of Jesus, is one who is...A Voice For ReformationWe will catch his coming on the scene in Mark 1:4.4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.John’s message was basically, “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” In some ways like some cartoonish images we have in our memories of a bedraggled man on a street corner with a sign that says “The End is Near.”John comes as a reformer, calling his fellow Jews to turn back to God. The message is short and sweet in our record; we don’t have a whole sermon of John anywhere.But to preach “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, John’s message first pointed people to realize and face the reality of sin in their lives. As one writer in a Christian magazine said a couple years ago, in order to get people saved, you first have to get them lost—people need to admit that they are sinners.Only then will repentance happen. That’s the reality for us today as well. Most of us are so self-satisfied, or so culturally bound to our ideas of religion and spirituality that we do not see the sin in our own lives, so don’t or won’t see the need to repent. But we can’t be saved if we don’t know we have sinned. That’s the first step.The second step is to be sorry for our sins against God and against one another. Again, we struggle with that because we are mostly self-indulgent, self-satisfied and self-righteous. We have good reasons for our positions or our behavior, so we think. We learn how to overlook the sins in ourselves. We rationalize our behavior, or point to others who obviously need forgiveness more than we do.>>>John’s milieu was not so different, because people have not changed much in thousands of years, only our settings have changed. We are all in need of . . .A Revival At The River5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.It’s Not About John7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”John knew that his message wasn’t about him. Even though it sounds like, in the Gospels, John was the hottest ticket in town, as “all of Judea and Jerusalem” were being baptized by him, John knew his successor was on the horizon.But even more, John knew that he would be followed by the mighty one; it wasn’t John that was so important. Before the one to come, he was barely the lowest form of a servant. Humbly, John proclaimed that his part, regardless of his popularity, was a very small part of the story of salvation.People could come to John to be baptized upon their repentance, and they trusted God to forgive them according to Old testament promises. But something more was coming: the One who could offer the Life-Changing Holy Spirit.>>>That’s when Jesus showed up. And in Mark, there is very little about the conversation of the encounter of . . .Jesus and JohnBecause Mark wants the get the story moving, he only says,9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.But this wasn’t your everyday baptism or the experience John had with others. When John baptized Jesus, the heavens opened and...The Spirit Rests on Jesus10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.Then the voice comes from heaven as...The God the Father Blesses the Son10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”The record of Jesus’ baptism is the important background to the change of focus for new believers in Ephesus. It is part of the pattern of people who believed in Jesus but did not know the “rest of the Story.”An Incomplete GospelIn the early days of the church, that wasn’t so unusual. Look at the ministry of Apollos of Alexandra who is ministering at Corinth when Paul takes off for Ephesus. Apollos used to be an evangelist who taught about Jesus and his teachings but still hadn’t been taught the fulness of the Gospel. He first shows up in Ephesus. He taught baptism for forgiveness that John taught. But not baptism in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.Here’s what the Bibles says about it in . . .25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.Although Apollos shows up in Ephesus before Paul did, God had already placed Priscilla and Aquila there to move him to a deeper understanding. God’s got this.Paul Comes to Ephesus1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.So, Paul was back on his mission after re-charging from Antioch in Syria, Paul came to Ephesus and ran into some believers in Jesus. This was the very beginning of the Christian Church in Ephesus. But they were living without the power of the Holy Spirit to change them from the insideThe work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is what turns reformation into transformation. But Paul found in Ephesus.Missing the Power of the Trinity2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”Repentance is Not Everything4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.The Spirit Brings New Power6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.What We Need Now is GodNot a political salvation but a spiritual one. Not our independent sense of rightness but our communal sense of neediness.We need God.God the FatherGod the SonGod the Holy SpiritBecause we need renewal, we need forgiving, and we need empowering to move forward in God’s holiness instead of our human preferences.
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