Sermon of the Week: “Loyalty and Love” by Pastor Lindell Cooley

Each week I’ll be posting a sermon of the week. The featured sermon will be one that has spoken volumes and given me inspiration, comfort, and good hard look at something God is trying to show me through His word.

This week’s featured sermon is “Loyalty and Love” by Pastor Lindell Cooley from Grace Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sacred: Part 3: Growth and Maturity

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 (ESV)

“All in favor of impeaching J. J. Parker as the senior pastor of Nickel Grove Free Will Baptist Church say Aye.”

A chorus of ‘ayes’ and it was done.  23-year-old J. J. Parker was no longer the pastor of the small church that had voted him in a little under a year ago. What was the reason? Was it financial infidelity? Was it sexual promiscuity? Did he preach heresy? Did he have a hidden problem with drugs or alcohol? No. Even worse. He voluntarily paid for the church to have new carpet. Not even a new carpet color, just new carpet. And when he moved the pews back, he forgot put Brother Taylor’s pew back in the third row. This wasn’t just any pew. This was a pew that Brother Taylor had placed there in memory of his father who had been a deacon at this church for 32 years. This careless act of forgetting to place that pew back in the third row had gotten him voted out just as quickly as he was voted in.

This story is based on true events that happen in churches all across the country all the time. Why does this happen? Why can’t a church keep a pastor for more than a year or two at a time? Immaturity. That’s all it boils down to. People are immature in their faith and they begin to identify themselves with a person or a movement other than Christ. It’s okay to be fans of some theologians or follow some movements to see what God is doing through them, but it’s never okay to place your faith in that person or movement because they can fail.

Churches often place their identity with a pastor that catered to their every whim and did things exactly the way they wanted them to be done and as a result they handicapped that church and left them to wallow in their immaturity when it came time for them to leave that pastoral position. This is a disadvantage not only to the congregation, but to the new incoming pastor that has to clean up the mess that the old pastor left behind.

What Paul addresses in this passage is maturity and growth. He is writing to them a second time (1st Corinthians is actually the second letter to the Corinthians because the first letter was never recovered, thus 2nd Corinthians is actually the third letter), and he’s not perfect people by any means, but he is expecting a people that have grown since the last time he wrote to them. He’s thoroughly disappointed.

Parents, imagine you’ve potty-trained your baby. They are now independently going to the bathroom on their own. Then one day you’re in the living room and your child is play with his/her toys and you see that familiar look on their face and that all too familiar odor creeps into the room. After once going to the bathroom on their own. They’ve pooped their pants. This is no accident. This is a regression back to days gone by when making the effort to go to the bathroom was even an issue and someone else could clean up the mess. This is exactly what Paul is feeling at this point when the Corinthians are exhibiting immaturity and lack of growth.

Ultimately, what is happening is that these people are attaching their faith to a person rather than putting their faith in Christ.

“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:4 (ESV)

The Corinthians are forgetting that guys like Apollos and Paul had to be trained in godliness just like they are being trained in godliness (Acts 18:24-28). We idolize people instead of worshiping, loving, and receiving instruction from Jesus. In the end, when we truly submit to God’s Spirit we allow Him make us mature and grow us in the beauty of His holiness.

Sacred: Part 2: Fellowship

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)

In this series, I’m going to use 1 Corinthians to cover some basic things that we can’t afford to forget as Christians.. In the first two posts I made in the series, I discussed who Jesus is and why it’s important to know and believe His deity and humanity.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at Fellowship. The word for “fellowship”, in the Greek is koinōnia it literally means to be “in intimate community and participation”. This would be like a tightly knit group of people that have a strong common bond. When Paul talks about the importance of fellowship and unity, he makes it clear that you can’t have true fellowship with each other unless you first have fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship With Christ
In verse 9, he says that we are called into the fellowship of God’s son. What does this mean for us? It means simply that we have intimacy with Jesus. We are to walk so closely to Him that our hearts break over what makes His heart break. If you truly love someone, you’re torn to pieces when you see them suffer. Our hearts should be broken over the injustice in the world. Our hearts should be broken over those that reject the love of God. That’s only a tiny fragment of what it means to have intimacy with Christ.

Let’s take a look at the writings of John for a minute:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3 (ESV)

John is writing to three people groups, Believers, Judaizers that claim to be believers, and Gnostics who claim to be believers. The big issue with the Gnostics is that they believed that Jesus could not have been fully a human being. What the Judaizers couldn’t understand is how God could be human. The Judaizers also believed that the resurrection was a hoax created by the apostles.  John is immediately starting off His letter addressing the issue by tell them that we have touched Him, we have heard Him, and we have seen Him. There is no way this could be an illusion. If it was, then it was an illusion shared by over 500 men (1 Corinthians 15:5). 

If we want to go deep, we’ll break this down, Lots of people saw Jesus without ever hearing what He had to say. Still, there’s a great number of people who heard what He had to say, but never got to touch Him. There are very few instances where people got to touch Him while He was on Earth, but now that He’s at the right hand of the Father anybody can come before the throne of grace and touch Him. In the words of a pastor friend of mine, “That’ll preach.”

In John 20, Mary can’t touch Him because He hadn’t ascended (John 20:17). Yet, when Thomas sees Him, Jesus tells Thomas to do more than touch Him. He tells Thomas to thrust his hands through the scars (John 20:27). The difference is that Mary didn’t need to touch Him to believe, Thomas did. A touch from Jesus is always available when we need it.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

We touch Him because we have fellowship with Him. We have fellowship with Him because Jesus tore down the veil of separation between God and man with His blood.

Because God made a way of fellowship with Him, we can have fellowship with each other.

Fellowship With One Another

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Throughout the rest of chapter 1 and then on up into chapter 3, Paul addresses the issue of divisions. In verses 11-17, Paul talks about how people were dividing over who they were baptized by or by what teachings they followed. Christians were picking and choosing their favorite theologian and dividing over it. Then you had this fourth group of people that said, “We don’t care about theology, we just cared about Jesus”, hence the “I of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 1:12. These are the same arrogant people that think being “non-denominational” makes them special because they’re not actually apart of a denomination. Regardless, that’s a different rant for a different time.

Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun, we have the same problems today that the Corinthians were having then. We start allowing ourselves to be students of Calvin, Wesley, Luther, or others and we allow trivial theological differences to divide us.

In the words of Mark Driscoll, “It’s okay to disagree, it’s sin to divide.”

As a matter of fact in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul implies that dividing over trivial things like that is a sign of spiritual immaturity. So, here’s what I want your big take away to be from this post: Jesus died to make a way for you to have fellowship with Him and with others. It’s stupid to divide over trivial things when Jesus is so much bigger than your differences and He is the best common denominator you can have with someone.

Be blessed today!

Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church: His Humanity

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” – 1 John 1:1-4 (NRSV)

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (KJV)

In my last post in this series, we started talking about Christ and His proclamation of His deity. Just as a short review, covered parts of John 8 and talked about how Jesus directly referred to Himself as “I AM”. John 8 and many other passages of Scripture affirm the deity of Christ as well as numerous Church fathers and the Creeds of the early such as the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made. “

In this post what we will attempt to cover is the humanity of Christ which is just as important as affirming the deity of Christ. If we make the mistake affirming Christ’s deity and not His humanity, then we commit the Gnostic heresy of believing that Jesus was some supernatural angelic figure that had no human qualities. This would be described as the early Church heresy of Docetism that taught that Christ only appeared to be human. This teaching as well as the teaching of Apollinarianism (the teaching that claims that Christ had a human body, but not a human mind or will. If this view were true then Christ could not redeem the human mind or will, only the the body. But Christ did not die for only certain aspects of humanity.) stood in stark contrast to the Biblical concept of te incarnation. Jesus died to restore all the aspects of humanity, which is why we can have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2), a new spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and a new body (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

An awesome theologian, J.I. Packer once said:

“But in fact the real mystery, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us… lies not in the Good Friday message of the atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.” 

Here’s the thing, if you read the Bible and claim to believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then you can’t deny Christ’s humanity. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He experienced pain, He experience happiness and joy at celebrations with friends and family. Not only is He just as much God as His Father in Heaven, but He was just as much human as we are. 100% man. 100% God.

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Saint Augustine of Hippo

As a result of being fully human, Jesus can fully restore all aspects of our human nature. Jesus made all of this possible by the blood of His cross, and He rose victorious over sin, hell, and the grave. Allow these last two passages of Scripture to resonate in your heart as you consider the humanity and deity of Christ.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NRSV)

 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV)

Regeneration: A New Creature in Christ

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

I know this is supposed to be a more theological blog, but I just want to be personal for a minute. God amazes me. The changes that He is making in my life are incredible. I’ve been learning to just submit my problems into the hands of God and allowing Him to change me through them. For a long time I struggled with some unhealthy habits and I would pray and pray and pray some more and never get answer and nothing would change. Finally, one day, I was laying in bed and I said, “God, I give it up to you. You can have it.” That was all it took. I didn’t feel different. I didn’t look different. I just took a deep breath, prayed that short prayer, and I noticed that over time everything was better. I didn’t have those unhealthy habits anymore and God has performed and is still performing a radical change in my life.

Regeneration, in biological terms, is defined as replacing lost or damaged genes, organs, or tissue. In the Fall of Mankind (Genesis 3), we lost our relationship with God, but in Christ, we can have a restored relationship with God. Look at this passage in Romans.

     Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
– Romans 5:12-21 (ESV)

When Adam sinned against God it sent the human race ever spiraling toward the darkness of eternal punishment, but when Christ came and died in our place for our sin, He made an open display of His love toward humanity to show them that there is a better way and they can be regenerated through His blood. I’m so thankful for mercy and grace. I hope this has been a blessing to you today!

Please enjoy this beautiful song about Salvation.

Resources to Look At:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/adam-christ-and-justification-part-1 – Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 1 – John Piper

The Just Truth About Injustice: Part 1

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
– James 1:27 (ESV)

One of things we get used to in this world is the reality of injustice. Most people don’t treat the rich and the poor equally. They tend to show favoritism based on social status or acceptance in society. Most people tend to have a high school mentality. They form cliques and have popularity contests and they shun the less fortunate and socially outcast. In witnessing all of these things, and maybe even being victims of these acts of unfairness, we might feel discouraged and it would be easy fall into negative cynicism and anger but we must hold to the truth that God is and we must keep working to address oppressive injustices that we see in the world.

One of the first things the Church did after receiving the Holy Spirit was give to those who were in need (Acts 2:42-47). They weren’t giving pocket change in a Salvation Army bucket so can get the guy to quit ringing his bell at them. They were giving away deeds to houses. They were giving away deeds to land. They were giving away things that we would consider to be the finer things in life.

The apostles were promoting at Christ-powered lifestyle that drove men to give away their possessions for a purpose greater than themselves. They died to their own desires and wants, and gave from the love of their hearts. They witnessed those who were homeless, hungry, and lame, and they knew that something had to be done. By showing kindness to these victims of circumstance, they were able to win souls to Christ as God added them to the Kingdom (Acts 2:47).

Can you imagine the kind of positive effect the Church could have on our sin-stricken world if we would just allow the Holy Spirit to empower us and inspire us to do service and correct the injustices that we see in the world?

The Transcendence of God

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?Who knows enough to give him advice?And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

I’ve been given the privilege by God and my church to teach the adult Sunday School class temporarily for the next few weeks and this week’s lesson is over the transcendence of God. As I began studying for the lesson, I began see all over again how fascinating and how awesome that the God we serve really is. I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on this lesson.

Last week, we started learning about who God is. We learned that God is a Spirit and we learned is active. Not only is He active, but He is actively provisional, always willing and able to care for His children. We also learned that He is a person that identifies Himself with a name, through actions, and personal relationship with His people (Exodus 3:13-15; Matthew 6:30-33; John 8:58).

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘transcendence’ as ‘existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe’.

As we look at the transcendence of God, I want to grasp that God has no limitations. Let that soak in for a minute.

We serve a no limits God!

God is not limited by time and space.
God is not limited by the physics.
God is not limited by circumstance or trouble.

God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Omnipresence means that God is not limited to geography. He is everywhere at all times.
Omniscience means that God is not limited to a human mindset. He knows everything in the past, present, and, future.
Omnipotence means that God is not limited by frailty. He is all-powerful.

When we truly understand that the God we serve is unlimited in anything and everything, I believe that will be the beginning to our minds opening up to praying big and thinking big.

So many times we face circumstances that our out of control and we feel powerless and hopeless but, we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God that is able to help us in our time of need. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrews 4:15, 16:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                          – Hebrews 4:15, 16 (NKJV)

We can come boldly before God’s throne and ask of Him anything and I believe He will hear and help us!