Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone

Sola scriptura  On Scripture Alone

Do you own a bible?  Do you read the bible you own?

Who or what is the final authority in your life?  You know,  The one thing that you won’t or can’t argue with?  If you were a fan of “Rumpole of the Bailey”, a British Television series about a lawyer named Horace Rumpole than you’d know he privately referred to his wife Hilda as "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

My Grandfather Guptill used to say “Beware of the man who says he’s boss of his home, if he’ll lie about that he’ll lie about anything.”

But beyond your spouse or your parents who or what is the final authority in your life?

500 years ago, a priest by the name of Martin Luther decided that for him the final authority would be the word of God and not the pope or the church.

Martin Luther wrote “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”

You may have noticed that in my messages I use a lot of scriptures and that is because through the years I have come to understanding that nothing that I or anyone else has to say has the potential eternal consequences of God's word.

You don’t come to church on Sunday Morning to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill you come to hear from the Bible, the word of God the Holy Scriptures, so I don’t want to take the time you have entrusted me with to let you know what I think.

For all practical purposes that was the beginning of what would ultimately be called the “Protestant Reformation” and the birth of the protestant church.

This is week two of our Old Foundation series.  2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and we are looking at the foundation that our church was ultimately built on.

These are called the 5 solas.  Solas being the Latin Word for “Alone” or “Only”.  And so, last week we began with Sola Fide, or By Faith Alone.  And I spoke about how we need faith to begin our Christian Journey, to Live our Christian Journey and to finish our Christian Journey.

And that statement of faith came from Luther’s certainty of the truth of Romans 1:17 The Righteous shall live by faith.

Luther had come to the point that he declared that the final authority for what he believed and how he defined his faith wouldn’t be the church, or church tradition or the Pope it would be the scriptures.  And that would become known as “Sola Scriptura” or “By Scripture Alone”.

Now that didn’t mean that Luther and the other reformers were saying that the Bible was the only authority in the church. Rather, they meant that the Bible was the only infallible authority in the church.

They didn’t necessarily feel that traditions were the problem but that unbiblical traditions were the problem.  And so they would measure all authority and teaching by the scriptures. And some of those teachings that they found didn’t measure up were celibacy of the priests, authority of the pope, the sinlessness of Mary or the reality of purgatory.

In 1517 bibles had primarily been translated from the original Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the language of scholars.  But Luther felt that everyone should have the opportunity to hear God speak on their own, and not simply through the church and her priests.

And so he translated the Greek and Hebrew text into German.  We are told that he would often make trips into the market place to hear how common people were speaking and the words they were using.   He wanted to place the word of God in the hands of everyday people.

We live in a world that wants to say there are no absolutes and that what you believe to be true is as valid as what I believe to be true.  Sola Scriptura would say that all of our truths need to be laid against and measured against the truth of scripture.

Which takes us to the scripture that was read for us earlier.  This summer if you were lucky enough you would have heard Pastor Stefan preach on this passage and here we are again.

And I would be naïve to think that everyone agrees with me on the validity or the value of this book. A number of years ago I was asked to take part in a debate on CBC radio concerning the Oxford translation of the Bible.

This particular translation worked very hard at trying to offend nobody. So they were very gender unspecific.  Now I understand some of that, he and her become they, mankind becomes humanity or should that simply be hu-people-y.  I can even concede a little bit on us becoming Son’s of God becoming Children of God, although socially and culturally speaking, 2000 years ago being someone’s son was a whole lot different than simply being someone’s child and was understood as such.

But the translation kept going, it removed any mention of the Jewish leaders asking for Christ to be crucified instead it was simply the religious leaders. Because it didn’t want to be anti-Semitic.  But historically it wasn’t just any religious leaders who demanding the execution of Christ it was the Jewish religious leaders.

That’s not to put any blame of Jews who live today that is simply the historic reality.  To deny that is akin to just referring to the authors of the holocaust as political leaders and not mentioning that they were German political leaders.

In the Oxford translation, the right hand of God was no longer the preferred place to be because that would imply that left was wrong or bad.  The parable of the blind guides was left out because it was offensive to blind people, you get the gist.  And I was asked to debate another pastor who thought the Oxford translation was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And I challenged her saying that regardless of how you viewed the Bible it was wrong to take that much liberty with it.  If it was the word of God how could you make such radical changes, if it was just a historical document how could you justify tampering with it or if it was only great literature we wouldn’t change the wording of Shakespeare’s plays simply to make them more appealing for today.

But to her the Bible was just a book, a good book but just a book never the less.  And I couldn’t fathom how a pastor, a minister could view the word of God as just a book.  What did she say when she stood up on Sunday Morning?  What could she possibly offer her congregation if it wasn’t from the word of God?

And so in the scripture that was read this morning Paul is writing to a young pastor by the name of Timothy and what we have here is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed to the congregation in the Ephesian church it was addressed to the pastor of the Ephesian church. We are reading someone else’s mail.

Paul is in prison in Rome facing execution and he’s writing to Timothy in the city of Ephesus, which is in what we now call Turkey.

These are very close to the last words that Timothy would ever have from his friend and mentor and Paul was writing to encourage Timothy and to remind him of his calling.

And part of what Paul reminds Timothy of is his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a foundation established on the scriptures.  And that goes back to the promise we are given in Proverbs 22:6 Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.  In other words parents do your best when they are little and hope for the best when they grow up.  And Timothy had that heritage, it would appear that his Mother Eunice and his Grandmother Lois were followers of Christ and that they had brought Timothy up in the faith.

Now understand that these ladies came to their faith through a Jewish background and so that is how Timothy would have been raised. The scriptures that he would have been taught would have been the Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament, because for Timothy the New Testament was still a work in progress.

Historians tell us that at a time when 90% of the world’s population was illiterate, that every Jewish boy over the age of five was learning to read.  And while most of us do our best to struggle though with one language, Timothy was undoubtedly learning in both Hebrew the language of his people, and Greek which was the language of the marketplace.

On His first day of school Eunice would have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of how sweet learning was and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey and told Him, “The study of God's word is sweeter.”  But Timothy’s education in the scripture would have begun long before that, in his own home.
But what are some of the things about the scriptures that Timothy and we by default are reminded of here in regards to God’s word.  2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
First of all we are told that The Scriptures are Inspired by God  This is the crux of the entire sermon.  If you can’t believe that this book was inspired by God then what good is it for you?  It’s not just another self-help book, it’s not just another book on morality, it’s not just another “Good Book”.  This is the word of God.

And it’s not enough to say “Well I believe that parts of the Bible are inspired.”  What parts?  The parts that you agree with?  The parts that make you feel good but don’t make you feel guilty?  Do you get your pick of the Ten Commandments, so you’ll pick do not murder and do not steal but skip lying and adultery.  This book is either the word of God or it’s not and if it’s not then why waste your time with it?

We hear the word inspired tossed around a lot these days, artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, and interior decorators are inspired.  But does that mean the same as the bible being inspired by God?  No.  In most cases when we speak about someone being inspired it means they are very creative, that they are able to draw some special inspiration from within themselves or from their Muse.

But the thought of the original language in saying the scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant God and breathed, God breathed the scriptures into being.  As a matter of fact if you were to read 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version it begins by saying All Scripture is God breathed.   You have 40 different human authors who put pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book, and we believe that they were inspired by God in what they wrote.

23 years ago I was introduced to the son of one of our Wesleyan Pastors in Australia, and I was told he played the trumpet.  (show video clip)

His name is James Morrison and he opened the Olympics in Sydney Australia.  The music he plays is created with his breath.  The trumpet is just tool, it’s what turns his breath into a recognizable sound.

When he plays the trombone, it is still the breath of James Morrison, but it sounds different.

In the same way the breath of God is played through various human writers in the Bible, same breath but we hear it in different ways.

So Moses writes different than David, who writes different than Amos who writes different than Jonah, who writes different than Matthew.  But the initial inspiration or breath is from the same source.

So it’s inspired, but why?  Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of God just to have a good book to read?  And it is great reading, there is mystery and intrigue and romance and betrayal, poetry and songs, inspiration, philosophy and theology all wrapped up in this book we call the Bible. No it’s not just a good read there needs to be a purpose to our reading.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.

The Scriptures Teach us What is True   There has to come a time when we ask: What is truth?  Is it something that is defined by politicians?  God help us if it is.  Or do we leave it up to nine appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and by default what morality is?  Can truth change?

Ten years ago, I was in a public meeting over the same sex marriage issue, by the way I am opposed to same sex marriage as is the Wesleyan Church, in case you needed clarification on that. I was in the meeting and asked Geoff Regan what protection was in place for me as a clergy if I was asked to perform a same sex marriage.  To which Mr. Regan insured me that I was protected by the Supreme Court Ruling.  And so I asked if the Supreme Court ever changed its mind.  And he said it did.  Not much protection, but the point being is that truth is not supposed to change.

Jesus promised in John 8:32 Jesus said “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  But how can the truth set you free if the truth is ever changing and what is true today isn’t true tomorrow?  Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” And we are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The truth is the same yesterday, today and forever and this is where you find it.
So what else is the bible good for? 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  The Scriptures Make Us Realize What Is Wrong in Our Lives.  It’s not enough that we get our creed from the bible we also need to go to it for our conduct.  It’s is the source of both our belief and our behaviour. It should make a difference in how we live.  And if it doesn’t then there something wrong.  Christians are referred to as being born again, having a new beginning and being new creations.  That would signify new behaviour, how we act, how we live, what we do.

Throughout the Bible our behaviour is not taught to be a way to our salvation, as a matter of fact in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  So our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but our behaviour is dependent on our salvation.  Does that make sense?  No, ok.  You don’t become a Christian because of what you do, but when you become a Christian that determines what you do, there are specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t do.  And they are found in the book.  We are not left without guidance.

True story, this is too good to make up and while I’ve told it before it’s too good not to repeat.  I was talking to a friend of mine one day and he was telling me about how he became a Christian.  No church background, a friend of his introduced him to Jesus, he had just started attending church.  His friend gave him a bible and he starts to read it.  At the time, he was living with his girlfriend and one night they are lying in bed, he’s reading his bible and comes to a word he doesn’t understand.  So he turns to his girlfriend and says “What’s fornication?” Now if’n you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside of marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.

So he asks his girlfriend “what is fornication?”  and she replies “That’s what we do.”

The scriptures tell us what is wrong.  But more then that let’s keep reading  2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.

The Scriptures Straighten Us Out, So the next morning Bill moves out, if they were fornicating and fornicating was wrong then he knew that he should stop fornicating.  Pretty simple right?  So what’s the problem?  And maybe that’s the reason we don’t read the bible, because we don’t want to find out what we are doing wrong and what we should do about that behaviour.

When people talk about being accepting of people they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness.  They remind us of the woman caught in adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone if they were without sin.  And then people tell us how we should be like that accepting and forgiving of people regardless of what they do or how they behave.  What they forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had left.  Do you remember?  Sure he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no more.”   In other words stop doing what is wrong.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!  Not only is there a new life but the old life is gone.

And finally 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  The Scriptures Teach Us to Do What Is Right.   Sometimes people say that the Bible is full of Don’ts but there are actually more dos in the bible then there are don’t so if you spend all your time doing the dos you won’t have time to do the don’ts.  If you want some place to start try Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.  So I’ll tell you what, work on those nine and when you get them down pat let me know and I’ll find you some more.

Here’s the secret if you want to know what’s in this book then you have to read it.  It can’t just sit there.  If you don’t have a bible I would recommend the New Living Translation or the New International Version.  And if you don’t have one and would like a copy just let me know, we have some really nice NIVs available.

So let’s go back to the questions I asked at the beginning:  Do you own a bible?  Do you read it?

Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38 years of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England.  During the time he was there the church grew to over 5,000 in attendance and he became known around the world for his preaching and this was before the interwebby thing.  And Spurgeon once said “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers.”  I hope that’s not true of you, let’s pray.

Monday, January 2, 2017

I am Resolved

Well it’s 2017, who would have thunk it.  And I would suspect that there have been a pile of New Year’s resolutions made in the past 11 hours and if the truth was known there have probably been a pile of New Year’s resolutions broken in the past 11 hours.

We have probably all verbally or silently, publicly or privately resolved to do something different this year than we did last year.  Some will finally decide to give up the demon tabbacy, other’s myself included have decided to do battle with a more acceptable vice and that is food.

For many years I resolved to lose weight and then I discovered that I wasn’t overweight I was under tall, and so I changed my resolution to getting taller.  And while you think I’ve lost weight, I’m actually just 7 inches taller than I used to be. 

So what are your resolutions for 2017?  Big, little, practical, impractical, what have you decided to change about your life in the next twelve months?  On December 31st of this year will you be the same person you are now? A better person? Or a worse person?  Will you have won a victory over some area of your life or will you have gone down to defeat? 

I want to go on record right now as saying I believe you can do it.  And I know that you are sitting there thinking “But Denn you don’t even know what I’m struggling with.”  You’re right, I don’t, but I know my God and I know that he can give you victory.  Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are a partner in faith with the Almighty God? 

Do you remember what Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37?  That’s right, Nothing is Impossible for God. Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.”  And if no thing is impossible with God then all things will be possible with God.
When Paul wrote his letter to the early believers in Philippi this is what he told them  Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It doesn’t say “I can do some things” or “I can do the easy things” or “I can do certain things.”
What the word of God says is “I can do everything.”
Perhaps as we step into a new year you need to apply those words to your particular situation.  Perhaps you need to write your goals down this way 
“I can quit smoking, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can lose weight, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can stop being negative, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can learn to love the unlovable, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can become a stronger Christian, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
You know there are a lot of things in life that are impossible, there are a lot of things in this life that you will never be able to accomplish by yourself, but when God is your partner there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

Each year we resolve to be better parents, better spouses, to give up this and start that but how about making a commitment to walking deeper with God?  To becoming better and stronger Christians? 

Perhaps by December 2017 it could be said of you as Paul said of the believers in the city of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. 

And so, Paul begins this statement with these words: You excel in so many ways:  Paul is writing to the believers in the city of Corinth, which was located in what we now know as Greece.

And even though the letter was written specifically to the believers in that church 2000 years ago, because God in his infinite wisdom included it in what we now call the New Testament it applies to us today. 

Paul has just finished a litany of praise for the churches in Macedonia which were just north of Corinth.  He talks about how even though they were going through some tough times they were still joyful, that even though they were poor that they were very generous.  He tells about what great people and terrific Christians they were. And I’m sure that those reading the letter were yeah, yeah, yeah.  Macedonians this and Macedonians that.  Have you ever been in a situation like that? Standing and listening to how great somebody else is. Feels great, doesn’t it?

It’s probably a character flaw of mine, because as much as I like to hear positive things about people when it drags on and on inside I’m thinking “Yeah whatever.”  And here’s Paul laying it on with a trowel about how good the churches in Macedonia are. “Wow guys you would really like them they are a great bunch of Christians, you couldn’t help but love these Macedonians.”  And probably the Corinthians are thinking, “yeah, right I’m sure.”

It was in 1988, I had just performed a funeral for a church member the day before and I was out for coffee and ran into a friend of mine from the church, he sat down and ordered a coffee and said “You did a good job yesterday on the funeral” I thanked him and then he added, “Let me tell you about the best funeral sermon I ever heard.” And before he starts he realizes what he just said and quickly adds “you probably don’t want to hear about it.” He was right.

Well it would appear that Paul suddenly realizes that he’s been going on and on and he switches gears and says: You excel in so many ways. What a compliment, the word that Paul uses here in the original language literally means to super excel or to excel to the point of flowing over.  We’re not talking about almost enough or even barely enough or a bare minimum instead Paul is talking about having so much that you are unable to contain it and it runs over the top.

When Christ promised the believers in John 10:10 that we would have life and have it abundantly  he used the same root word that Paul uses for excel. Here were Christians who didn’t want just enough to get by, they wanted it all and they more than excelled in what they had.  Is your Christian walk one of fullness or do you feel like your spiritual gas tank is permanently on empty? 

One of my bad habits is running my car on empty.  I think it’s a throw back to my student days when it was a necessity, “yeah put in 2 bucks and check the oil would you.”  Can any of you actually remember seriously buying two dollars’ worth of gas let alone having someone else pump it for you?   And all the time my gas gauge is on empty I wonder: “Am I going to make it or will I run out of gas? Just one more errand and then I’ll go get gas, if I can make it.”

But when you are running on empty you’re never really comfortable, never really sure that you will have enough to last you. When your spiritually gas tank is on empty you never really have the joy you are supposed to have as a Christian. You are never really convinced that you are where you are supposed to be spiritually.

But after the car has been tanked up and I’ve given a little bit of my forty dollars to the service station owner, and a little bit of my forty dollars to Esso and a little bit of my forty dollars to some prince in the middle east or Alberta. and a whole lot of my forty dollars to Mr. Trudea and Mr. McNeil I don’t have to be concerned about running out of gas because my tank is full. 

Now the neat thing about filling your spiritual tank is that God comes to you.  And so in 2017 my aim is to excel, no to super excel in spiritual qualities.  I want so much of the Lord that I’m like the old lady who said “I can’t hold much but I can overflow plenty.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. 

I am Resolved to Excel in My Faith

The first thing that Paul said the believers in Corinth excelled in was their Faith.  Now in the New Testament faith is used to mean one of two things.  The faith that I most often preach about is faith the way that it’s defined in Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 

And I love to preach on a seeing faith, of a believing faith of dreaming God given dreams and believing in faith that no matter how big those dreams might be that they can be accomplished through our God.

That is the first type of faith that is commonly mentioned in the New Testament, but that isn’t how Paul was using the word faith here.  Instead Paul was using the Greek word Pistis which referred to a conviction of religious truth.  It is simply the depth of belief that you have in what you believe. 

Paul was saying “You excel in the belief of your salvation and the truth of the Gospel.”  We would say that these people were well grounded in their faith.  When I was a teenager my parents made sure that I was well grounded several times, but that has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. We Need to Excel in our Faith.

After I graduated from Bible College Angela and I moved to New York and one morning after a major windstorm we looked out our back window and there was a great big spruce tree laying across our back yard.  Now when that tree was standing it was tall, strong and majestic.  It looked like nothing could knock it down. But when it had fallen down you could see that the roots were only about six inches under the surface in a sandy soil.  The tree hadn’t been grounded well and the only reason it had stood so long was that the wind had never hit it from that direction before.  But the day the wind blew hard enough and blew in the right direction down came the tree.

Christians aren’t always grounded deep enough, some people put their faith in the good things that happen to them as a Christian.  “Why since I have been a Christian everything has been just peachy keen. My marriage has improved, I got promoted, my children always behave and never talk back and we have more money then we’ll ever need and Jesus is a wonderful God because he has made our life wonderful.” 

And then one of your children arrives home and informs you that you’re going to be a Grammy or Grampy and you haven’t even gotten used to being a daddy or mommy yet and another kid winds up in jail, you lose your job and end up in the hospital and now things aren’t wonderful anymore and you start to question the reality of God.

Or you have your roots set in Jesus Christ because Denn Guptill preaches that you should and you have the utmost faith in Denn Guptill and what he says.  And then he runs off with all the money in the building fund and buys himself a motorcycle, a really used motorcycle there’s not much in the building fund right now, and your faith is shattered.

It bugs me when a scandal happens with a major church figure and someone says “My faith has been destroyed.” If that’s all it took to destroy your faith then you didn’t have that much to destroy. You ever talk to backsliders, you know someone who used to serve God but doesn’t now.  And they usually can pinpoint at what moment they walked away from God, and often it’s because a Christian disappointed them in some way.

That big old tree stood in our back yard for a lot of years before the wind blew just hard enough from the right direction. If you roots are shallow then Satan knows how the wind needs to blow to bring your faith crashing down.  The old hymn says “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”

Apparently some people have a belief in God but not the faith to back it up.   R. Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller said “Faith is much better than belief.  Belief is when someone else does the thinking.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.   I am Resolved to Excel in My Speech

The second thing that Paul commends the Corinthians for excelling in is in their speech Now there’s one thing most of us don’t lack in and that’s words.  But that isn’t what Paul is talking about here, and he’s not saying they have good preachers.  What Paul is talking about here is not the quantity of speech it is their purity of speech. 

It is a speech that builds up and doesn’t tear down, it is a speech that is full of love and encouragement, not jealousy or maliciousness. Controlling our tongues is probably one of the most difficult things that most of us endeavour to do, and it is probably a commendable resolution for 2017.  Listen to what James the brother of Christ writes in his letter James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 

How many people here have ever said something they later regretted? I have and there are people in this world that I will never be able to minister to because of something I’ve said.  And I will be held accountable for that.  James goes on to write James 3:10-11 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!   Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 

You can’t stand and sing “10,000 Reasons” and then go home and talk about what a dummy the preacher is. You can’t testify to the wonderful love of Jesus in your life and go home and run your spouse or children down.  We need to heed the advice of Mark Twain who said “Keep your words sweet because you never know when you might have to eat them.”

The scriptures tell us that everything should be done in love, it could very well say let everything be said in love.   As a matter of fact it does in Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
 When you excel in speech does it make people better or bitter? Do your words draw people closer to God or push them further from God?  It’s your choice.

2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.  The third thing that Paul commends these believers for was their knowledge.  The knowledge that Paul speaks of here is head knowledge, something acquired something learnt.  These people were knowledgeable about their faith.

I am Resolved to Excel in My Knowledge Our greatest failing as evangelicals is a lack of sound biblical knowledge.  If I was giving a course in Remedial Nuclear and Molecular Physics and you only came to half the lectures and never opened the text outside of class what type of mark do you think you would get? You would fail.

Most of us will be in serious trouble if God pops a surprise Biblical Knowledge quiz on us when we get to heaven.  And I know that some of you are thinking, “But Denn Bible study comes hard for me.” I’ve got news for you; Bible study comes hard for me too and if the rest of this bunch was honest you’d find out that it comes hard for most people. 

And I’m pretty sure that anyone who has an education especially a post-secondary education would concur that there is very little in this life that we don’t have to work at learning.

I went to college with a fellow who was asked to leave Bethany in his second term because of his grade point average. At college a 4.0 was an A, a 3.0 was a B, a 2.0 was a C.  Just to stay you needed a 2.0 and in the ministerial program you needed at least 3.0 in your major courses This fellow was from Louisiana and I asked a friend of his where’d Vance go, and this was his response.  “Vance, Vance, Vance’s grade point average couldn’t have got him arrested for drunken driving.”  I said “So what’s he doing now?” and he replied “He’s a fuel injection for Exxon” “Really” “Yeah he’s pumping gas”

Now Vance wasn’t a dummy but he wasn’t willing to do the work to get the knowledge. I saw some talented young men and women leave college because they thought that if God had called them to the ministry then he should unscrew the top of their heads, pour the knowledge in, screw it back on and turn them loose on the world.  

Well, God called me into the ministry and there were times that I was wading around waist deep in Systematic theology that I wished he had called me to be a fuel injection specialist.  Gaining knowledge may not be easy but it is essential.  Nobody can learn for you except you.  God doesn’t expect you to have a doctorate in theology and biblical knowledge but he does expect you to learn to the very best of your abilities and talents.

It’s unfortunate that Christians are like everyone else in the world 5% think, 15% think they think and 80% would rather die than think. In 2017 let’s make every effort to excel in knowledge.

2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.  The next thing that Paul talks about is Their Enthusiasm In some translations the word that is used is diligence and earnestness and they probably capture better the intent of the original language. 

Christianity was not a game to these believers; they didn’t go to church because it was the right thing to do or they were afraid of what people would think if they didn’t.  By embracing the claims of Christianity, the early believers were forfeiting their right to worldly happiness. Their work, their homes, their belongings, even their families and lives could be demanded of them by the Roman Authorities because of their alliance to Christ.  I am Resolved to Excel in My Diligence

Maybe the reason we sometimes fail to be as diligent as we ought to be in our Christian life is that our faith cost so little.  If we could no longer claim what we give to the church as a tax deduction we’d cry persecution but there are still countries in the world where believers lose their freedom and their lives just for being Christians.  In 2017 let us be resolved to become more earnest in our faith.

2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving I am Resolved to Excel in My Love 

And finally Paul thanks the Corinthians for their love.  The word that Paul uses here for love is the Greek word Agape which means an unconditional love.   God doesn’t want us to love people because they deserve it he just wants us to love them.

If God had waited until we deserved his love before he sent His Son, we’d still be waiting.  And the scriptures are filled with admonitions for us to love .

John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.  

1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.  

1 John 2:9-10 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.
So in 2017 let us resolve to overflow with Faith, pure speech, knowledge, diligence and love.