Obey God by First Seeking His Kingdom

(Summary of sermon from July 16, 2023) 

How seriously do we take the Word of God? Do we trust it? The Word of God, our Bible, is not a novel or merely a history book, although it contains some history. The Bible is a book to be obeyed. The answer to that question – “How seriously do we take the Word of God” – is found in our level of obedience to the Word. I want us to look today at how the early church heard the Word and then acted on it. They are our model for hearing and obeying the Word of God.

Let’s turn to Matthew 6:27-34 = “25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

This passage is very encouraging. How so? Because it lets us know that we can seek first the Kingdom of God . . . because Father knows. He knows all that we need, and He is willing to meet our needs, leaving us free to seek first His Kingdom. Consider how much faith that grass has . . . none . . . yet God clothes the grass. If He does that, will He not much more take care of our needs? Yes, He will! These same words of Jesus from Matthew are words that the early church knew. Did they obey them? Let’s go to Acts to find one example.

Acts 2:40: “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

They early church took Jesus at His Word! They couldn’t get enough of fellowship, prayer and study. Meeting together on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening was not enough for them. They met daily. The early church exemplified obedience to the Lord. They were seeking first the Kingdom of God. They were obeying the Word of God by making God’s Kingdom their priority, as Matthew Chapter 6 says. They were even selling some of their goods and possessions to help needy saints.

Now let’s go back to Matthew Ch. 6. What should we do with this passage? We should obey it. We should honor God by not being anxious. We should not invest our thoughts in worry, but we must invest the best of us into the Kingdom of God. This is not easy, and we might argue here with the Bible . . . “This is my life. I have to eat. I have to have clothes. I have to worry about these things.” But if we make that argument, we are forgetting something . . . that Father knows all! He knows our needs. That’s what V. 32 of Matthew Chapter 6 declares: “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

Since our Heavenly Father knows we need these things, He will provide them as we seek first His Kingdom. That is His promise, and that is so important, for we cannot fix our thoughts on the Heavenly Kingdom if our minds are filled with anxiety about this earthly kingdom. But when we invest the best of our thoughts, the best of our minds, to seeking first the Kingdom of God, then God pledges to take care of all the other things we need. It is then we are free to use our thoughts and our energy and our talents for the most important thing – living as sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God.

What does living as sons and daughters of the Kingdom look like? We saw an example of that in Acts 2 . . . 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” That is what we should do: meet together to hear the Word of God, to fellowship, to help one another, and to pray. Doing those things makes God’s Kingdom the priority of our lives. So how do we make this transition in focus . . . to not worrying about this life so that we can invest our thoughts first on the Kingdom?   By talking with God.

Philippians 4:6-7 states, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The Solution is Simple . . . Pray and let God worry about our needs. This may be tough for some of us to accept, but God is much more capable of taking care of us than we are. He has all the resources required to meet the needs of every human being. We don’t, but He does. As V. 27 of Matthew Chapter 6 tells us, we can’t even add one cubit to our height by worrying. We are very limited. But God is very powerful and able. Our Father knows our other needs, and He will take care of them. Let’s obey the words of Jesus from Matthew Chapter 6 and seek His Kingdom first. To do so shows our trust in His Word.  

Kevin Williamson is the pastor at Crossgate Bible Church. 

Love One Another

(Summary of Sermon from July 9, 2023)

John 21:15-17 . . . 15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

In this dialogue with Peter, Jesus uses two different Greek words for love (agapao and phileo), which indicate slightly different levels of commitment.

But I don’t want to focus on that here. Instead, let’s look at why Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him. Jesus wanted Peter to commit to feeding “His sheep,” meaning He wanted Peter to care for the church.

The church of Christ, which is now spread all over in the earth, is Jesus’ idea. We gather at the church to be edified and equipped so that we may go and be witnesses for Christ in the world.

As members of the body of Christ, we are called to love and care for each other as Christ cares for us. His greatest expression of love for us is what He did on The Cross.

As a result of our love for Jesus, we love each other. It is not some superficial love but a deep concern for the welfare of each other. Jesus gives more description of this love in Matthew 5. . .43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

We typically have no warm feelings toward enemies. Most of the time we want revenge on our enemies – but Jesus said love even them! To love your enemy takes a deliberate steering of your will. It means pushing aside our feelings to obey this command. If we are to love our enemies this way, how much more should the church care for its own.

God demonstrated for us how to love our enemies and each other, even when there are differences among us. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans Chapter 5 . . .
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

More than sinners, we were God’s enemies; we are ungodly, yet He loved us. That’s our example.  

Love one another.

Kevin Williamson is the pastor at Crossgate Bible Church.

God Gives the Ungodly Good Things

(Summary of Sermon from June 18, 2023)

By Kevin Williamson
Let's start today in Galatians Chapter 3, Verse 5: "Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — 
just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (NKJV)

What do you need from God? What are you asking God for? Well, V. 5 that we just read puts an emphasis on spiritual things. It says God supplies the Spirit to you. That means He doesn’t just supply it one time, but He nourishes us with the Holy Spirit. Spiritual blessings like the Galatians experienced are greater than natural things, because all natural things have a short shelf life. Natural blessings are needed and good, so we thank God for them, but all men get natural blessings, even unbelievers. That’s according to Acts Chapter 17, which notes that God gives to all people their breath, life and all things.

But followers of Christ are to first seek and enjoy heavenly things. Colossians Chapter 3 adds this: (1) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  (2) Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

So, the initial thing we must consider when we are asking God for things is . . . “are we asking for the most important things?”

Now why did God save and give the Holy Spirit and work miracles among the Galatians? Why did He give them these spiritual blessings that you can’t buy at the market? Was it because they obeyed the Jewish rules, called the Law? No! It was because they believed the redeeming message they heard about Jesus? 

But the pure Good News of Jesus first heard by the Galatians was soon corrupted by false teachers. The false teachers reached way back into the Old Testament and said Christians must follow the Law of Moses. The Law was given by God to Moses, those teachers argued, so it had to be good. But then Paul countered their argument by reaching even further back into the Old Testament to give them the example of Abraham. That’s what Vv. 6-7 are about that we read.

So, the blessings the Galatians received and the blessings we receive today are not given due to our merit, but by the grace of God.

Let’s look at Verse 16 of Galatians 3 to see “what” Abraham believed: 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 
18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 
19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”

It’s clear what Abraham believed. He believed the promises of God that would eventually come through the Seed (the Messiah Jesus).  And V. 17 shows us that the false teachers were wrong. The Law does not supersede the promises. The promises were given not to Abraham because he kept some law, but they were given to hime because he believed what God said.

So why was the Law even given, since it seems to complicate things? Because sin had already complicated things . . . sin had become between God and man. So God gave the Law to point out to us what needed to be fixed spiritually. Did the Law do its job? Yes! The Law is very efficient in pointing out our sins. The Law loudly proclaims this about all of our sin, “That is a transgression of righteousness.” Such a proclamation demolishes our faith.

Now here is the great contrast between Paul and the false teachers. The false teachers were saying, “You need the Law.” That brought condemnation. But Paul was declaring, “You need the gospel.” The gospel produces faith. In other words, the promises of God came by faith way back then, and they still come by faith today!

Now why does the preaching about Jesus build faith? Because the gospel tells us that His perfection has become our perfection! That is what Paul preached. And that is what the Galatians believed. That is what we believe!  Let’s look at Galatians 3:8 again to notice what happens when we believe.

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (NKJV)

Blessed . . . that's what we are when we believe. The Apostle Paul argued in several places in the New Testament that it was not just law-abiding Jews that God intended to bless, but He desired to bless all nations (Gentiles) because of JesusDo you know what a Gentile is? Someone not of the Jewish faith – someone back then not privileged to know the God of the Bible through the word of the Law. In other words, a pagan that didn't deserve to be blessed. That’s what we all were before our new birth. We were pagans not deserving of the goodness of God. Some of us were very good pagans! Some of you could sin better than others.  You can say, “I may not have a college degree, but I had a master’s degree in sinning." But there is good news: Do you know what God does for a pagan who believes in Jesus, to someone who has a master’s degree in sinning?  He saves her and blesses her!!

Now let’s go to Romans Chapter 4 for our final passage:
1What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 
just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (NKJV)

One way of describing God’s righteousness is “the value of the rightness of God.” That’s what has been added to our life account – the value of the rightness of God. No amount of money can purchase that. This is so exhilarating because on Judgement Day there will be no sin on your account; instead, there will be “God’s rightness” there.  Knowing that makes today a good day!!

Human Effort Cannot Please God

(Summary of Sermon from June 11, 2023)

By Kevin Williamson
Galatians 3:1(NLT) “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?

I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

That is not the way anyone prefers to be greeted . . . as foolish.  “Oh, foolish Galatians,” Paul states in V. 1. Then again in V. 3 he adds: “How foolish can you be?”

But the Galatians were foolish, and there are some foolish believers today. Believers can be foolish in both belief and in behavior. The Galatians were acting foolish because they thought that a person could be saved or made perfect by adding to the finished work of Christ. Paul said someone has “cast an evil spell on you” – someone has “bewitched” you, says the King James Version.

The Galatians had come under the “charm” of false teachers. They were so fascinated by these false teachers that they had lost their clear understanding about Jesus. Even though they had not been there in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, their understanding about Jesus had been like a picture, because Paul had preached the death and resurrection of Jesus so clearly that it was like a photo. But then someone had “cast a spell,” like evil magic, on the Galatians. This evil spell, or bewitching, convinced them to add the requirements of the Law of Moses to the finished work of Jesus for salvation and for holy living.

Now, why would a believer act foolishly and try to add something to the salvation that Christ had already finished? Let’s consider two things to answer this question:
1) Not knowing our Bible well enough to identify false teaching, or
2) It can be pride.

The Galatians did not have the completed New Testament canon like we have today, but they did have direct teaching from the apostles. But they were acting contrary to that teaching. Attending church to hear the Word of God preached and personal Bible study helps us to know God’s Word well enough today that we don’t fall into error.
     Let’s look closer at the second thing – pride – by taking another look at V. 3: “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort (KJV “the flesh)?”

See that . . . your own human effort. Humans think they have something to offer God to ensure their salvation. But no work of the flesh can cause God to accept us. Jesus said this in John 6:63 “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort (KJV “the flesh”) accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The late Dr. Derek Prince, who was a Greek scholar and taught at Cambridge University, offered this in a sermon: “Keeping the law appeals to human pride. All of us would like to be just a little more righteous than our neighbor. It gives us something to boast about.”

I believe he nailed it. Pride destroys the working of grace in a person’s life, because grace involves “favor” from God to us through Christ. But pride rushes in and says, “I can do some good things to impress God.” But you cannot please God with efforts apart from His grace. If you try to please God with your self-efforts, you are bewitched, and bewitching can seem so spiritual. It is enchanting. And that’s why Paul was so harsh with the Galatians (who were Christians). He was trying to shake them out of the spell.
What was the spell? Trying to please God apart from faith in Christ. Look with me at what I Corinthians 1 says about pleasing God: 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 
31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (NLT)

That’s very plain about Who makes us pleasing to God. Jesus. He is the One we boast in.

Now when Paul says the Galatians, or any Christians today, are not to follow the Law, what part of the Law is he referring to? Circumcision and other religious ceremonies of the Law.  We get this from Galatians 5: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.”
. . . . . . skip down to V. 11 “Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. 12 I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

See, this makes sense of what we said last week.
We said last week that circumcision and the other observances of the Law, like the feasts and the festivals, went away when Jesus died, but the morality of the Law remains. It remains through love of others. 

So how is all this applicable to us today, because it’s very unlikely that anyone has pressured you lately to be circumcised? Here’s how: You need to be aware of any religious requirement that anyone tries to impose on you for salvation or for sanctification, if this requirement does not fall under the umbrella of loving your neighbor as yourself. And here are two symptoms that will alert you that the requirement is not under the umbrella of love:

1) Your peace and joy will disappear;
Your faith to receive from God will crash.

Why so? Because religious requirements not under the umbrella of love takes our focus off of Jesus and put it on self. That won’t work, because self will always fail at some point. Instead, we please God by trusting in His Son . . . because The Son is God’s Wisdom, His Plan. Remember that from I Corinthians 1?

In closing, let’s look back again at Galatians 5:1 . . . “So Christ has truly set us free.” Aren’t you thankful for freedom from the Law and from sin through Christ? Because of that dual freedom, we can serve God with our hearts. 

Holiness lived out through believers 

(Summary of Sermon from Sunday, June 4, 2023)
By Pastor Kevin Williamson

Let’s start today in Galatians Chapter 2, Verses 15-21:
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 

16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 
18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 
21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

The Scripture here lays out a wonderful idea for us to consider . . . Because Christ lives in us, we can live for God in our flesh.” The proposal here is not that we live for God once we die and get to heaven, but that Christ lives out His character through us today. This idea of Christ living out His life through us has a name.

It’s called holiness.
Holiness is sometimes wrongly defined.
It is often misunderstood.
But it remains very relevant.
Holiness is simply the practical outworking of who you are as a believer.

This idea of holiness is important, for Hebrews Ch. 12 elevates it by saying this: 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

The Apostle Peter adds this in his first epistle, I Peter Chapter 1: 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Now notice that two verses that I just shared with you came from the New Testament. Many Christians wrongly have the mental conception that holiness is for Old Testament saints, not for us who live under the grace covenant. Holiness is for all covenants and generations, because God is holy. Not only is God holy, but He, as we just read in Hebrews and I Peter, expects His sons and daughters to be holy.

Let’s go to Matthew Ch. 5 to see Jesus’s relationship to holiness.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 
20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Law of Moses, which Jesus was referring to in this passage, was God’s expectations of the nation of Israel written down.
From Verses 17-18 we see that Jesus is the Great Fulfiller.  How so? Because what no other human being had ever been able to do, Jesus did. Jesus was able to obey the Law perfectly. Now let me add this: Some people spell "sin" F-U-N, but that is not accurate. God spells out plainly in His Word the things that are wrong and what He expects of us. We don’t have to guess. That's what the Law of Moses was . . . it was God's declaration of what was right and wrong for the nation of Israel. 

Do you wonder how Jesus, as a man, was able to do what no other person had ever been able to do – fullfil the Law?  He was able to do so because His spirit, His nature, was the very nature of God.
You see, all other human beings, from their childhood, have and follow inclinations to disobey God in different forms and degrees. Soon after children are born, they start to “act out” their nature. We don’t have to teach children to lie, for instance. They naturally know how.
But Jesus was perfectly predisposed to obey The Father. We see this predisposition about Jesus in I Peter 2:22-23: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

Do you see that?  When Jesus suffered wrong – and He suffered wrong more than any other human being – He did not retaliate but trusted The Father completely. How was Jesus able to do that? By His godly character and the conquering power of the Holy Spirit on the inside of Him. That was His nature.

Now, still considering what we read in Matthew Chapter 5, when Jesus fulfilled the Law, what happened? Here is some of what took place:
  • The ceremonial requirements that governed Israel's relationship to were abolished.
  • The bloody animal sacrifices were no longer necessary.
  • They, and we, were exonerated from the Law’s condemnation. Jesus took the judgement for you.
But what did not happen, and this is very important, was the abolishment of the moral standards of God. When Jesus died on the Cross, rose again, and introduced the Covenant of Grace, the holiness of God did not vanish. Holiness is His character. Holiness is just as much a part of the character of God as love is. 

We want holiness, because holiness is good for us. Holiness is the opposite of murder and lying and stealing and immorality. Holiness ensures that we are treated lovingly and fairly. That’s why we should desire holiness, and we should act out toward others the holiness of God. Remember, part of God’s holiness is His moral standards.

So now that we understand that God’s expectations of humanity did not vanish with the fulfilling of the Law, let’s unveil what did change:  our motivation and ability to please God.

Here’s how: Jesus pleased God on our behalf by paying the penalty of the Law for us. Secondly, because Jesus made us acceptable before The Father, The Father now sends the Holy Spirit into the lives of those who receive Christ. That is greatly helpful to us, for the Holy Spirit shares the character and conquering power of Jesus inside us. In other words, we have His inclinations inside us now, and we have His Spirit to aid us in living according to those inclinations. So now, instead of trying to please God by keeping an external code of rules (The Law), we please God by living in harmony with the desire of the Spirit of His Son on the inside of us!

Now let’s remember what we read in our opening passage from Galatians Chapter 2. In Verses 19-20 we read that we died to the Law so that we might do what? So that we might live to God. How do we do that? V. 20 tells us: by faith in Christ, who lives in us.

So today, with the Spirit of the living Christ on the inside of us, “We don’t live to please ourselves, but we live to please God.  Pleasing God is called . . . are you ready, holiness.  See, holiness is not just some religious term. It’s pleasing the One who gives us hope and peace and joy and life!

Continuing Passion of Christ

By Kevin Williamson
April 5, 2021

Easter Sunday 2021 (or Resurrection Sunday as I prefer to call it) has just passed. Christians around the world celebrated the “Passion of Christ” and His resurrection.  We remembered His final days of earthly ministry and sacrifice – the fact that He suffered and died so that our sins might be forgiven. We are forever grateful for His ultimate sacrifice on Calvary and that He came forth from the grave to live forevermore.

The death of Jesus would not have been necessary, had it not been the Heavenly Father’s will to redeem us from our sin and reconcile us to Himself. Yet it was God’s will that we be ransomed from sin and eternal death, so the man Christ Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on that cross. There were not enough Roman soldiers in the world to nail Him to the Cross, if Jesus had not been willing to go there. But He was willing. He submitted to the Father’s will and took the shame and punishment for our sins.

Jesus’s atonement for our sins was concluded when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished” and then later was raised from the dead. However, in a sense His passion for us did not end there. His passion for us continues to this day. He is now our great high priest who intercedes on our behalf – He prays for us.  We see this in Hebrews 7:25, where the Bible says He always lives to make intercession for us. Romans 8:29 (NKJV) notes this:  “29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  So, because it is God’s will that believers be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, there can be no doubt that part of Jesus’s intercession is that such conformity is accomplished. He has a desire, a continuing passion, for us to be changed to be more like Him.

1 Peter 1:13-17 (NKJV) gives us further instructions along this line of thinking.  “13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”   This passage tells us to put our minds in “constant preparation” for obedience to God, to focus our hope on the return of Christ, to refrain from any intoxicating things that inhibit such focus, and to pattern our lives after the paradigm established by Jesus. We are not to live like those who do not know Christ as Savior.

Such godly living is the desire of God for us . . . it is the never ceasing passion of Christ for us!  As born again children of God, we have the privilege of living differently, of pleasing God in our conduct by the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us. It’s important to recognize that a “saving faith is a conforming faith.” True faith in the finished work of Christ always involves the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and in the Spirit’s ongoing refashioning of our lives so that we increasingly reflect the character of our Savior.

Following the Pattern from Heaven

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 22, 2021

We often hear in church that “God has a plan for your life.” It’s true. So what is that plan? Romans 8:29-30 unfolds part of the plan for us: “28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (NKJV). There is a lot packed into those two verses, but let’s keep the focus on a single point today . . . the point of being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

That’s very plain, yet what a tremendous goal it is! God wants us to become less of what we are and more of what Jesus is. God’s goal for us is similar to what He shared with Moses when He gave Israel’s leader instructions about building the tabernacle for His Presence to dwell in. “8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” – Exodus 25:8-9 (NKJV).

God did not want Moses to gather the finest Jewish architects and engineers to design the tabernacle. He simply wanted Moses to build it by the pattern He showed him. The pattern was of heavenly origins, from the mind of God, and had future ramifications that Moses was not aware of. Moses obeyed. He built and furnished the tabernacle just as God commanded.

The man Christ Jesus also obeyed the Heavenly Father when He lived on the earth. The Bible says this about Jesus’s obedience: “19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” – John 5:19 (NKJV).  Jesus witnessed the pattern from heaven, the Father’s plan, and followed it. Part of that plan was that Jesus would suffer here as no other person has ever suffered. Jesus did it. He suffered here so that He might appear there in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).

Today He still appears in heaven in a glorified human body to intercede for us as our great high priest. But He also lives inside of believers by His Spirit (Galatians 4:6-7) so that His power might help us reflect His beauty and majesty through our thoughts, words, and actions. It’s a daily change, and we sometimes stumble along the way as we attempt to conform to the plan of heaven, but the plan of God remains . . . that we replicate Christ in the world in which we live. He is the One we pattern our lives after.

Pastor's Corner

A Clean Conscience 

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 11, 2021
How much would you pay for a clear conscience? Probably as much as you could afford, because no matter how much wealth or influence you enjoy in this life, a scarred conscience diminishes every measure of enjoyment. In our March 10 blog entry, we learned that nearly everything under the Jewish Old Testament sacrificial system was cleansed with the blood of animals. Those things included the tabernacle, the Book of the Law, and the instruments used in Jewish religious ceremonies. According to Hebrews 9:13, this sprinkling with the blood was for “the purifying of the flesh.” It had significance in the Old Testament sacrificial economy of Israel, but one thing it could not do was purify the conscience of the worshipers.

The offering of Christ was different. His blood was much more precious and powerful than the blood of innocent animals. The sheep, calves and goats were deemed innocent, and thus used as a sacrifice for humans, because the animals never violated a commandment of God. Why? Because there was no commandment directly from God to the animals to violate. Thus, they were innocent. But Jesus, as a man, was born as a Jew under the Law of Moses. Galatians 4:4-5 tells us this: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

There were commandments that directly applied to Jesus and every other Jewish citizen. Jesus, with the pristine nature of God inside Him, met every expectation of The Law and thus became eligible to be the vicarious sacrifice for the rest of humanity. His blood did more than purify ceremonial vessels and the flesh – His blood has the efficacy to cleanse the human conscience of its contamination. That’s wonderful news for us, because the conscience is our inner sanctum, part of the temple of the heart where we meet with God. However, because the human conscience has been so violated by sin since The Fall, men and women have attempted to escape from their own inner temple. They don’t want to meet God there, because they know they are guilty. The inner temple of every human being is defiled with guilt and remorse. Using the analogy of a human civil or criminal court, when a person is found factually guilty then they anticipate with anxiety what their punishment will be. They know they have to pay a fine or go to prison or both. Waiting for the judge to issue the final verdict creates very anguishing moments inside the defendant’s mind. Well, in a similar way anxiety violates the human conscience because each of us knows we have committed infractions against the moral law of God. We know we are guilty, and remorse fills our hearts.

Remorse can be a very distressing emotion. It ruins everything. It is impossible to thoroughly enjoy family, friends, job, hobbies, and all of life when distress is seated on the throne of your heart. Distress irritates you, gnaws at your mind, and robs you of peace and joy. It causes us to abhor “down time,” for that is when the distress of conscience shouts the loudest. So, to alleviate the distress inside us, we occupy every moment we can with music, TV, social media, and any other activity that helps drown out the internal voice of guilt. We avoid “down time” by attempting to fill every moment with something . . . anything that will deafen the annoying voice of our conscience and give us rest. The absurdity of this approach is that constant physical or emotional activity never produces rest. Instead, fatigue is the eventual result.

One of the gifts we receive from trusting King Jesus is rest. Hebrews 9:13-14 records this: “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Did you get that? The blood of Jesus carries such potency that it is able to purify the inside of you. The failures and conduct of your past (your dead works) is erased from your record in the Court of Heaven. Hebrews 8 tells us so: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

This new covenant was introduced first to Israel by Christ and later to the rest of us (the Gentiles) primarily through the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. Now, knowing that our sins have been fully paid for by a sacrifice that has eternal value, we can live liberated and peaceful lives in service to our God. A born again believer abiding in a relationship with the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit has no reason to house guilt or remorse in his or her conscience, because the priceless blood of Jesus has made the believer innocent in God’s Court. That is what the Bible teaches. When the conscience of a believer abiding in Christ tries to persuade otherwise, the believer must accept the Word of God over his or her own conscience. Part of faith is believing God over your own feelings.

The Precious Blood of Jesus

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 10, 2021

Jesus is so unique, precious, and powerful! There is no one else like Him, because He is the God-Man, the one who came to earth as God in a human body for the purpose of redeeming us from our sins. The ransom He paid for our freedom is of infinite value, as no amount of currency in an earthly or heavenly economy could ever pay Him back for the blood He shed . . . it was the blood of God flowing from a human body. We know that because of what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in I Timothy 3:16 (NKJV): “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.”

 A ransom, as you likely know, is an amount demanded for the release of a prisoner. From the Bible narrative we can ascertain that God was not interested in an exchange of money or any other earthly goods as the payment to redeem man from his sinful position; instead, God was looking for something much more valuable than gold, silver, precious stones, or any other earthly asset in order to lift humanity from its fallen state of rebellion. It would take the blood of a man – a perfect Man – to restore humanity to its uncorrupted relationship with God, the kind of relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before their disastrous choice (Genesis 3:1-21).  For many years, humanity’s sin was excused, but not expunged, by the blood of animals sacrificed under the covenant instructions God gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Hebrews 9:18-22 says it like this: “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

That passage from Hebrews 9 has a very clear message:  there is no remission (which means forgiveness) of sin without the shedding of blood. But the blood of animals could not fully pay the redemptive price required of humanity. That is why Jesus, who is God in the flesh, arrived in the tiny nation of Israel some 2,000 years ago. He came then to shed His blood as the payment for our sins. His payment has eternal benefits for those who trust in His finished work, but it also delivers tremendous blessings to us now, as we live on this earth. We will look at some of those blessings in the next entry.