Great 2018 Journey for Gateway Youth!

Another fantastic year for the Journey as we focused on our theme “Seriously Christian.” Our hope for each of our students is to understand the Gospel and the hope we have in the finished work of Christ. Then, in response to that, understand how our lives should be a reflection of taking that seriously.

This year, we utilized break out sessions for students to pursue specific topics they were hoping to learn more about and the response was fantastic. While I am sure they would all say they love it when Adam does all the teaching for long periods of time after not sleeping all night, they sure loved the smaller group settings and hearing from a variety of different adult leaders.

We were blessed to attend Beulah Beach this year for the first time and a local worship pastor friend (Bob) of Adam’s was able to volunteer his time to lead some wonderful worship and prayer times with the students. On Saturday, Bob and his wife, Chrissy, led one of our breakout sessions to share about Christian Dating and what God has taught them in their relationship and marriage.

A main passage we studied together comes from Galatians 4:1-12. Paul reminds us of what God has done for us by adopting us as His own children through the work of Christ. And therefore, why are we living according to the ways of the world as if we weren’t the children of God?!

We challenged the students to live as if they are God’s children. And, if they have never responded in faith to what Christ has done on behalf of those God has called to not wait to talk to their leaders and family. One of the students who attended the Journey has recently made a profession of faith in response to what God has been doing in their life!!

We are so grateful for all of the parents and volunteers who make it possible for us to share the Gospel with the kids in our community. God has invited us to participate in the work He is doing to call people to repentance and faith, and we are blessed beyond measure to serve alongside of our families here at Gateway. Thank you for entrusting your kids to us!

Songs for the Weekend

Worship our great God this week through the songs for the weekend at Gateway.

N Main

Breaking Through - Jeremy Riddle
Nothing But The Blood - Citizens & Saints
God Is Able - Hillsong
Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill
O Come To the Altar - Elevation Worship

CR9

Greatly To Be Praised - Citizens & Saints
King of My Heart - Bethel Music
Is He Worthy - Andrew Peterson
Oh God - Citizens & Saints
Come To Me - Village

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Songs for the Weekend

Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the songs for the weekend at your campus. Then, you can sing loudly and joyfully with your brothers and sisters as we worship our great King.

CR9

Open Up The Heavens - Meredith Andrews
Here Is Love - Matt Redman
Is He Worthy - Andrew Peterson
O Come to the Altar - Elevation Worship
Lord, I Need You - Matt Maher

N Main

One Thing Remains - Kristian Stanfill
All the Poor and Powerless - All Sons & Daughters
Death Was Arrested - North Point
Doxology - David Crowder
With Everything - Hillsong Worship

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Gateway Christmas Tea 2018

This year’s Gateway Christmas Tea was held on Saturday, December 1st. Sixty-four Gateway ladies volunteered to be a table hostess. Each hostess set their table of eight with beautiful China, lovely Christmas décor, thoughtful favors and perfectly folded cloth napkins. Each of the 734 ladies were served by 52 Gateway men, dressed in shirts and ties. The tea was hot, the lunch was delicious and the desserts satisfied any sweet tooth. Findlay First Edition show choir impressed every hostess and guest as they presented their Christmas show on stage. All of these things were beautiful and lovely. However, bigger than the details remained the true reason for the season. The reason we all gathered. Jesus. Emily Hanson and Shannan Rebold used their spiritual gifts to share the gospel in a way that used hymns, communal worship and drama. Their message, centered on Jesus, was one of hope and joy and peace. It is our prayer that each lady left with her cup empty of tea yet full of truth as we celebrate Jesus this Christmas season.


Where Is the God of Justice? Q&A

How can you “exhaust” a sovereign, predestining God?

By disobeying Him. The Bible teaches two truths that we like to put at odds with one another. First, God is sovereign (in control of all things) and second, our obedience matters. Continual disobedience on our part will eventually exhaust God's patience and will result in judgment. Thankfully, God is being patient with us, giving us all time to repent, turn to Christ in faith, and follow Him in obedience.

Who said the quote you referenced: “How dare we find entertaining something Christ had to die for?”

John MacArthur

Prayer Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Prayer
TEXT: Multiple (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 1-6-19

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this evening. And one thing I always want you to know — is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

And tonight — we’re going to focus on prayer. Not so much how to pray — we’ve looked at that before — and I’d encourage you to go watch our ACTS series — which focused solely on how to pray — if that’s of interest to you. Tonight, we’re going to focus on the “who” of prayer. Who’s supposed to be praying for who around here at Gateway? And I want that to be clear — we’re taking a look at prayer in the church. This isn’t an “all encompassing everything you need to know about prayer” in one sermon deal. We’re looking at prayer in the church. Who’s supposed to be praying for who in this congregation?

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

And we’re going to be in quite a few different places in our Bible — so if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Romans chapter 15. We’ll begin in Romans chapter 15.

And as you’re finding our first text, let me tell you where we’re headed and what the rest of this sermon is going to be like. We’re going to look at three different praying relationships we each are part of here at Gateway. Three different answers to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who around here?

And we’re going to look at some different Bible passages on prayer that show us the importance of these different prayer relationships and then we’re going to pray. This may be the most that you’ve prayed in a worship service in some time — and — yes — we’re all going to be praying. But don’t worry — I’ll give you examples of what to pray. And I understand that we’ve got kids with us — so parents — this is an opportunity for you to teach your kids who they should be praying for and how to pray — using the examples I give you.

PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTORS

So here’s the first answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?

You must pray for your pastors. You must pray for your pastors. Paul writes these words to Christians in Rome.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” (Romans 15:30-32 ESV)

Now I know that Paul wasn’t the pastor of the church in Rome — at this point he’d never visited these Christians — but Paul is a leader in the early church and he’s asking the Christians in Rome to be praying to God on his behalf. And he makes requests like this all the time.

To the Christians in Philippi he writes, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b-20 ESV)

Paul wrote these words while in prison. Back in his day, you never knew what the end result would be when you went to jail — release or death? So Paul asks the Philippians to pray on his behalf that he would be delivered — released — from prison. But even while in prison, Paul wants to be unashamed of the gospel and knows that through their prayers — and the help of the Spirit of Jesus — that he will be given the courage he needs to honor Christ no matter what happens.

Similarly, to the church in Ephesus Paul writes, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20 ESV)

Paul’s just finished a great passage on spiritual warfare and putting on the armor of God. But he ends this section of his letter by mentioning the power and necessity of prayer. He’s in prison — again — and asks the Christians in Ephesus to pray that he’d be given the exact words to speak — words declaring the gospel message — and that he would say those words with great boldness.

Then — to the Thessalonians — Paul gets right to the point. “Brothers, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25 ESV)

Paul — an apostle — a leader in the early Christian church — a man whose story is told on the pages of the Bible — is a man that needed others to pray for him. And — like Paul — your pastors — myself, Ben, the elders of Gateway — we need you to pray for us.

So how can you pray for us? First, let me say that I know that many of you do faithfully pray for me — and for us — your pastors. Thank you.

  • We’re healthier pastors and leaders because of your prayers.

  • I preach better sermons because of your prayers.

  • We lead you more faithfully because of your prayers.

But for those who don’t know how to pray for your pastors, here’s a great place to begin — the Bible. There are many passages on the life of a pastor. One is found in First Timothy. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (that’s another word for elder), he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

Looking at this list of pastoral qualifications, we find much to be praying for on behalf of Gateway’s pastors. Pray that we would be above reproach — that doesn’t mean “not sinful” — it means something like “free from sinful addictions.” Pray that we would be faithful husbands. Sober-minded. That we’d practice self-control. You can read through the qualifications and see many ways to be praying for us — and you can do this with many passages in the Bible.

But enough talk about prayer. Let’s pray.

A PRAYER FOR YOUR PASTORS

First things first. If you’re a current elder of Gateway Church, I’d ask that you and your spouse — your kids can come to — if you so dare — come down to the front of the stage. I want the congregation to be able to see you, know who their elders are, have faces in mind as they pray for you.

And as they come forward, on the screen you will see a prayer that you can use during this time.

SAY THEIR NAMES (ELDER/SPOUSE/KIDS)

So let’s spend some time in silence — praying for the leaders of Gateway Church.

WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)

Gracious and holy God, I pray for pastor ______. I pray that he would model in a special way the sort of Christian life that you have called all of us to live. We pray for your hand of deliverance when he encounters those who would try to obscure your gospel and turn him away from your true Word. Keep him focused on the truth that is revealed in Jesus Christ so that he may proclaim it boldly, even when the things going on in his life might be weighing on him and feel as heavy as chains. By your Holy Spirit, we ask that you gather up our prayers and use them to strengthen pastor ______ to resist sinful habits and behaviors and to help him embody the kindness, leadership, teaching, and oversight that you require of your servants. We know and trust that ______ has been called by you to lead Gateway Church, and we will continue to pray for him and walk with him as he seeks to do your will. We ask these things as his brothers and sisters in Christ — as his family who loves him, Amen.

Amen. Elders — you and your families — can be seated.

YOUR PASTORS PRAYING FOR YOU

Here’s the second answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?

Your pastors must pray for you. Your pastors must pray for you.

Now this isn’t a shocker, is it? I’m thankful for the many of you I get to pray for after worship services each weekend. I’ve prayed for marriages, for wayward children, for engagements, for bodies to be healed. You’ve told me of tumors having disappeared after we prayed together — of knees not being broken — as the doctor had diagnosed. I’ve spent hours in the hospital with you as God answered our prayers through the hands of surgeons — and I’m praying for many of you who are still waiting for God to answer our prayers.

What are some ways that the pastors are to pray for you? We’re to be praying for you to be in harmony — to have unity — with one another. Paul writes, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 ESV)

We’re to be praying that your love for one another would grow — as would — your knowledge and discernment. To the Philippians, Paul writes, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)

Just before his request for them to pray for him, Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)

Your pastors are to be praying for your sanctification — that you would be growing in your holiness and Christ-likeness. And we pray for you — with great hope — because we pray knowing that God is capable in accomplishing this in you.

To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

Finally, coming to your elders for prayer to be healed is commended in the Bible. James — the brother of Jesus — writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15 ESV)

Physical, emotional, relational, mental, spiritual — your pastors are to be praying for you to be healed and you’re to be coming to us for prayer.

Many ways that we — your pastors and elders — are called to pray for you.

A PRAYER FOR THE CONGREGATION

A few minutes ago you spent time praying for your pastors. For the next few minutes, your pastors are going to pray for you. I’m going to ask the elders to find a section of the congregation to pray for. And then I’ll conclude this time with a prayer for you.

WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)

Gracious Father, I pray for the people of Gateway. I pray that when conflict and disagreements arise, You would instill in them the same mind — the mind of Christ. I pray that wherever there is division, You would create unity out of disunity, fellowship out of individualism, and harmony out of disharmony. In all of this, I ask that You would give each and every person in this church a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know all that awaits them in Jesus. Let them know that You will never let go or give up on them, and that Your love for us is deeper than we imagine.

For those who are feeling hopeless, tired, or discouraged about all that’s going on in their life, turn them toward You, Lord, and root them in Your love. I ask that those who are struggling with ailments — physical, relational, emotional, mental, spiritual — that You would heal them in Your power and grace. I ask these things in the confidence of knowing that You are a God who answers prayers. Amen.

PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER

Now the third — and final — answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?

You must pray for one another. You must pray for one another.

Let’s be practical and then we’ll get to the Bible. Two very practical things. First, every week — ad nauseum — we mention during the announcements that we’ve got these things called Connect Cards. And on the back of the Connect Card is a place where you can write down prayer requests. And this is important, because we’ve got a faithful team of men and women who pray for you every week. Yes, the pastors and staff pray for these prayer requests — but so do your fellow congregation members. So please fill out the connect cards with things we can be praying for.

Second, every week — also ad nauseum — we mention that we’ve got prayer teams who are available to pray for you during our weekend worship services. And rarely does anyone take them up on the offer. Now I mentioned earlier that I pray for people every week — but — and please don’t take this as “Josh doesn’t want to pray for me” — because that’s what some of you are going to hear — but that’s not what I’m saying — the prayer teams are just as capable — and qualified — to pray for you as I am. Don’t look at me as some kind of pope-like, “Josh has got a special direct line to Jesus when he prays that others don’t have” or something weird like that. I will pray for you — how about we all say that out loud so there’s no confusion — on the count of three I want everyone to say — Josh will pray for me if I ask him to — one, two three — “Josh will pray for me if I ask him.”

OK. But just know that sometimes I’ve got a prayer line three, four, sometimes five or more deep after a worship service. And our prayer teams are going to start helping me out by pulling you out of line and praying for you. We want you to trust that the people in this congregation are just as called and qualified to pray for you as I am.

Here are some passages to back all of this up. The next few verses in the James passage — about pastors praying for your healing — say this. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours (that means “he was a regularly guy”), and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:16-18 ESV)

You are to be praying for one another.

Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)

Paul then goes on to list a bunch of different kinds of people that the Christians in Ephesus are to be praying for. But surely, “all people” includes praying for one another. You are to be praying for each other.

But what kinds of things should you be praying for when you pray for one another?

Paul also writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)

Now Paul is praying here, but what he’s praying for is something you can have in mind while praying for each other.

  • You partner in the gospel with one another through the ministry of Gateway Church.

  • You gather and worship God together as a choir of voices each weekend.

  • You see spiritual growth in one another in our Life Groups.

  • You experience the Spirit’s gifts through one another as you serve each other.

  • And you go with one another — again as partners in gospel ministry — to places all around the world.

  • You see and experience the good work that God has begun in each other and can pray — with certainty — that He will finish the work He has began.

Other ways to pray for one another. You can pray for each other to have hope and comfort in God. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV)

Or that they will have peace. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV)

Just read the Bible with an eye looking for ways to be praying for one another.

A PRAYER FOR ONE ANOTHER

You’ve prayed for your pastors. Your pastors have prayed for you. And now it’s time for you to pray for one another. On the screen is a prayer you can use during the next few minutes as we silently pray for one another.

WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)

Gracious Father, we pray for one another here at Gateway Church. We know that you have called us to pray for one another, and we recognize that prayer has great power, so we pray that if someone here is ill, either physically or spiritually, that you would heal them. We know that you have made us partners in the gospel, and we pray that you would complete the good work in us that you began. God, encourage the people of this congregation, give them hope, strengthen them in all that they say and do. In all of this, Lord, give them peace to know that you are God and that you are with them. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Amen.

GOOD NEWS FOR ALL OF US

Now I want to end, by sharing two pieces of really great news for all of us. First, if you think that you’re not that great at praying — if you feel inadequate — if you feel like maybe you won’t ever say the right words or pray the right way — well here’s some great news: The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we pray.

Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)

If you feel weak at prayer — if you don’t even know where to begin or what to be praying for — know that God’s Spirit prays on your behalf and God hears — and answers — the Spirit’s prayers because the Spirit always prays according to the Father’s will.

A second bit of great news about prayer for us is this: Jesus is praying for us.

In John’s gospel, Jesus prays these words. “I do not ask for these only (His twelve disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (those who follow Jesus but are not one of the twelve disciples — that includes us — Jesus prays...), 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26 ESV)

That should amaze you. Jesus prayed for you in the Bible and He’s praying for us right now. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer — He makes our prayers infinitely better — and Jesus is praying for us — that’s a pretty awesome prayer team praying for us.

And at the risk of someone sending me a text about “putting words in Jesus’ mouth” or something — I want to conclude by putting on the screen a prayer that I can imagine Jesus praying for us — for Gateway. As you read this prayer, may you receive it as if Jesus is praying these words for all of us.

JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE WHILE PRAYER SLIDE IS ON SCREEN

Father, I pray for the faithful disciples of Gateway Church, that they would come together as one as we are one. I pray that they would be drawn deeper into the triune life and know more intimately what You are like and who they are in the light of the truth of your word. I pray that their witness would move others in the world to believe in me. In all of this, I pray that Gateway Church would show the world the powerful saving work that has been accomplished through my life, death, and resurrection. May they know that I love them, and that I have loved them unconditionally before the foundation of the world. Amen.

COMMUNION

And how did Jesus demonstrate His unconditional love for us? Through His sacrifice on the cross — which is what we gather around the Lord’s Table to remember, spiritually feast on, and celebrate the hope of His promised return.

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)

And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of His return in glory. In this supper God declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself finished on the cross. (Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75, 80)

Come, therefore, all of you who are truly sorry for your sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, have confessed His name, and who desire to live in obedience to Him. Come eagerly and joyfully, with assurance of faith, for Christ, our risen Lord, invites you as guests to His table. (Adapted from Psalter Hymnal, p. 975) Let’s pray.

Father, we give you thanks for Your Son, Jesus. For His willing obedience and suffering during His life on earth, and especially for His giving up of His body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through His blood. May Your perfect love drive out fear. Fill our minds with Your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at Your right hand interceding for us. Enable us to offer up ourselves in service to Christ and to all Your children. Let no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service, and unite us with each other through Your Spirit so that we may continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Hear us now through our Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying,

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)

Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth — in my life — in this church — as it is in heaven. As we prepare to take communion — and give to the benevolence offering — Father — we pray — “Your will be done.”

At this time, those who will be serving us can take their places. You will come by rows to be blessed with the bread and cup, which you will immediately eat and drink. There are baskets available for you to put your empty cups in before you head back to your seat.

If you’re unable to come forward, please raise your hand — when the ushers dismiss your row — and someone will serve you in your seat after the others have come forward.

So come — let’s feast on God’s grace together.

PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom, You have made all things and You sustain them by Your power. You formed us in Your image, setting us in this world to love and serve You, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against You — refusing to trust and obey You — You did not reject us, but still claimed us as Your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of Your great love for us, You sent Your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, You call us sons and daughters. And in response, we now praise You in song together. Amen.

BENEDICTION

Gateway, may we go praying with and for one another. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.


Aren't All Religions The Same? Manuscript

Evil Title Slide.png

SERMON TITLE: Aren’t All Religions the Same?
TEXT: Matthew 19:16-30; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 1-5/6-19

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

We’re in week two of our series that we’re calling Evil. Just about a year ago, we took some time to look at topics that are divisive in our country. It turned out to be a pretty popular series and so we thought we’d return to a similar kind of series this year.

And we’re calling this series “Evil” because there’s a dangerous tendency to call things good that God has said are evil. Where we blur the lines between good and evil, acquire a taste for evil, and even allow evil practices to become acceptable. And this is just as true for the church as it is anywhere else — so we want to look at the ways we’re exhausting God by calling good — what He’s said is evil. And what it means to experience the justice of God as we do these things.

That’s the imagery in the opening video. Evil things that were called good by some. Some of those evil things were done by the church. Evil things people did while thinking they were pleasing God.

And the idea behind this series is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi who wrote these words.

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?" (And then the prophet gives some examples of the evil going on in his day.) "Then I (that’s God speaking...then I) will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 2:17; 3:5 ESV)

And these two verses are guiding us in this series. Last week, we looked at God’s justice and we saw how it has both a retributive and a liberating side. There’s the side of justice we usually think of — judgment — punishment — getting what you deserve — and then there’s the unexpected freeing — liberating — side of God’s justice. And we’re taking these two sides of God’s justice and seeing how they apply to the different groups that Malachi mentions.

Next week, we’ll look at how God’s justice applies to the foreigners among us — that’s what the word sojourner means. Pastor Ben is going to help us see how God’s justice applies in this area of life. Then in two weeks, Pastor Ben will help us explore how God’s justice and sanctity of life come together.

Then I’ll help us connect God’s justice to lying — or swearing falsely. Then we’ll wrap up this series, by looking at God’s justice for the adulterer. And odds are this will either be the least or highest attended weekend in a long time because — this topic — is a wee bit prickly. But I’m praying especially for this week as I want us all to see how God offers freedom for the adulterer — we won’t ignore God’s judgment for the unrepentant — but my hope is that many who walk in shame because of this sin will find the freedom that Christ offers.

And today we’re going to look at God’s justice and how it applies to the different religions in the world. So let’s turn to our passages for today.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

If you have your Bible, please turn with me to Matthew 19. We’ll be looking at verses 16-30. And then you’ll want to find 1 Corinthians 15 — as we’ll be looking at some verses there as well.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT

Here are the words found in Matthew 19. Beginning in verse 16.

“And behold, a man came up to him (him being Jesus), saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18 He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20 The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27 Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" 28 Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:16-30 ESV)

And now turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. We’ll begin in verse 1. First Corinthians chapter 15 — verse 1.

The apostle Paul writes. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ESV)

SERMON INTRODUCTION

There’s a quote — by a Christian theologian — that says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The theologian was Augustine who was born in North Africa in 354AD. His mother was a Christian and his father a pagan. Augustine was a notoriously rebellious teenager who lived with his girlfriend, joined what was basically an ancient cult, and ran away from his mother and her faith.

He went on to become a brilliant teacher of public speaking and was living the life he always wanted. No sin was to great for him as he tried to find pleasure in all that the world could offer. But in the words of U2, he “still [hadn’t] found what [he was] looking for.” (U2, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Dublin: Island, 1987), https://www.u2.com/index/home.)

After spending some time listening to the preaching of the Bishop of Milan — a man named Ambrose — Augustine turned away from his secular career and became a monk. And his earlier quote shows us that he came to realize that all of the stuff that he thought would make him happy — from all the sex a man could want, to having a prestigious job, to “trying out” a new and exciting spirituality — he realized — after become a Christian — that those things wouldn’t satisfy him. He realized that the only way for his longing heart to be put at ease was to find satisfaction, joy, love, and peace in God

And like Augustine, many of us have recognized this same kind of longing. We feel it with each waking moment, but our temptation is to try and appease this longing with things that don’t last — money, material possessions, relationships, sex, even spiritual experiences that we think offer a way to God, but ultimately fall short and end in disappointment.

And it’s in this longing to find fulfillment that many have turned to any number of religions. Now there are a few ways you may view religion. I’ve heard these views from non-Christians and from people who claim to be a Christian. But — what we find in the two views we’ll be looking at — is a blurring of the lines between what God has said is good and evil — these views are a way that we exhaust God by ignoring what He’s said is right and wrong — what’s good and evil — when it comes to spiritual faith.

First, you may view all religions as being the same and having equal value and worth. You see all religions as basically trying to grasp at the same divine truth and — so instead of dividing over religion — you wish that people would embrace all religions for the uniqueness and beauty each brings as a way of experiencing spiritual things.

An example that’s been used, is that all religions are like blind men touching an elephant. The first blind man put out his hand and touched the side of the elephant. “How smooth! An elephant is like a wall,” he said. The second blind man put out his hand and touched the elephant’s trunk. “How round! An elephant is like a snake.” The third blind man touched the tusk of the elephant. “How sharp! An elephant is like a spear.” The fourth blind man touched the leg of the elephant. “How tall! An elephant is like a tree.” The fifth blind man touched the ear of the elephant. “How wide! An elephant is like a fan.” The sixth blind man put out his hand and touched the tail of the elephant. “How thin! An elephant is like a rope.”

All of the blind men are touching the same elephant — but they’re all limited in their understanding of what the elephant actually is. And that’s religions — for you — all grasping a part of spiritual truth but none of them understanding all of it. And if only they’d all listen to one another they’d have a better understanding of the spiritual truth they’re all trying to grab hold of. Maybe that’s your view of religion.

A second approach to religion is the opposite. Instead of being good, you view all religions as damaging and destructive. You think we’d be better off if all religions were rejected. Maybe you believe that there’s no ultimate spiritual truth — and so — you think religions are comprised of superstitious — maybe even irrational people — and things would be better off if these people would get a clue.

Two different attitudes towards religion. Now there are some things that I appreciate about both of these views. First — for those who say that “all religions are the same” — what I can appreciate is that often this idea comes out of a deep longing for people to get along — even with all of their differences. You long for peace and you see how religion can be divisive and so — in an effort to find peace — you want to show how religions are more alike than dislike one another.

And — as hard as this may be for you to believe — I even have appreciation for folks who hold the second view — the view where religions are damaging and should be avoided. For many who hold this view — their skepticism is based on religious movements that have required full obedience — they’ve seen how religions have used people — brainwashed them — controlled unsuspecting folks. And that’s evil. I’m thankful that there are people — even unbelievers — who hold religious leaders and organizations accountable for how they treat people.

But both of these views have some things I disagree with. For example, to say that “all religions are the same” actually denies the uniqueness of the various religious traditions. And often people who make these claims do so without listening to the people who practice the religions. You see, most devotees of the major religions would not say that all religions are the same. People who practice the major religions in the world know that many of their central claims are quite exclusive and contradict the claims of other religions.

For example, the heart of Islam isn’t the prophet Muhammad — which is what most people think — the heart of Islam are the revelations he said he received. The first words spoken in the ear of a Muslim infant are: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” That shows us the significance of Muhammad’s revelations — his messages. To deny his messages would mean that you have a significant disagreement with the Muslim faith.

And guess what? Other religions deny Muhammad’s revelations. Muhammad believed he was receiving words from the Creator of all things — yet Buddhism doesn’t believe in a creator God. In fact — this may surprise you — Buddhists don’t worship Buddha — Buddha isn’t a god. Buddhism is a religion focused on wisdom, enlightenment, and compassion. It has some gods, but they’re not nearly as important as in other religions.

Like — say — Hinduism — a religion that has 33 million gods. Islam has one god, Buddhism doesn’t make a big deal about gods, and then Hinduism has 33 million gods. And Hinduism teaches that the “ultimate cause of suffering is people’s ignorance of the Self,” which Hinduism teaches is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect, and eternal.” (Mary Pat Fisher, Living Religions, ed. Dickson Musslewhite (Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011), 80.) The self — not God — is all knowing, all powerful, present everywhere, perfect, and eternal.

Then there’s the Jewish faith. They have much in common with Christianity up until we get to Jesus — He kind of drew a line in the sand — a line that many Jews have refused to step over. Jews are waiting for their Messiah to come — Christianity claims the Messiah has come — His name is Jesus.

And then there’s the Christian faith. Central to it is Jesus Christ. His life, His death, His resurrection, His divinity and humanity. To Muslims, Jesus was a great prophet, but not god. To Jews, Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. Even among the religions that believe in one god — there’s no agreement about Jesus.

So with all of these differences — all of these very distinct beliefs and teachings — their different views on Jesus being one — how can you say that all religions are essentially the same?

And to the person who’s skeptical of religion — or believes that the world would be better off without religion — well — if this is you — I think you may have overlooked the significance that religion has done for good — especially Christianity. The ways in which the Christian faith has helped to shape the world we live in for the better. For example, how many hospitals have a name that comes from the Christian faith? So whether or not you agree with the truth about Jesus, it’s hard to avoid the fact that much good has been — and continues to be done — in His name.

THE RELIGIONS OF OUR WORKS

But something that all religions — but one — do have in common is this: Ultimately, getting into Heaven, eternity, nirvana, eternal bliss — call it whatever you like — all but one religion believes that you have to work to get there. That’s what the story from the gospel of Matthew is about.

A rich young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to be sure that he has eternal life. He wants to know how to get to Heaven. And Jesus asks him about his obedience to the commandments. This is the standard for a lot of people when it comes to getting into Heaven. “I’m a good person. Here are the good things I’ve done and here’s a list of the bad things I haven’t done. For instance, I haven’t murdered anyone.”

I was meeting with some staff and we were talking about this and I said to them, “When someone says — ‘I’m a good person; I haven’t murdered anyone’ — I want to say, ‘Well welcome to the club, buddy. In the history of mankind the majority of people have never murdered anyone. Not murdering doesn’t make you all that particularly special.’”

But this rich young man doesn’t realize that it’s easy to deceive oneself about your true inner desires. That’s what Jesus shows him when He basically tells the guy, “Well you’ve almost got this whole eternal life thing figured out. Just two things left for you to do and Heaven is yours. Sell everything you own and follow Me.” What a test. “You say you’re a good person — well let’s see — because surely a good person would be willing to give up all the treasures of the world in order to show how good, and noble, and God centered they are.”

But the guy doesn’t do it. His heart loves money — more than it loves God. And that shows us that the young man — though he may never have murdered anyone — had broken the first commandment — to have no other gods in his life but the one true God. Money was his god.

That’s the thing about working your way to Heaven. You can’t slip up once or you’re done for. James said, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” (James 2:10-11 ESV)

James says, “You want to talk about works and earning your way to Heaven? OK. If you break one commandment — you’ve broken them all. Game over.” Now this is so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning, but do you know the ninth commandment? It’s about not lying. Game over for all of us.

Paul takes it one step further when he writes, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 ESV)

Even if you somehow deceive yourself into thinking you’re doing a pretty swell job at obeying the law — that your works are out of this world — well guess what? No one will be justified by the works they do. Justified means to be declared not guilty — to be justified means that you’re declared to be — by God — worthy of Heaven and His presence for all eternity. And no one will receive that news based on what they do.

But this is what most people think of when they think of religion. And this is what most people think will get them into Heaven — even many who claim to be a Christian. They think of religion as a bunch of rules — things to do and not do. And usually you have to do a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do and you’re not supposed to do all of the fun stuff you want to do. That’s religion — that’s how you work your way to Heaven — no fun — whatsoever.

But then — in the name of being irreligious — some people make up all kinds of new rules that sway the “I’m going to Heaven when I die” scale in their favor.

  • You know, where the command to not lie isn’t really that big of a deal. I mean, “Who doesn’t lie?”

  • So we’ll scratch that one off the list — but keep don’t murder on the list — because most of us pass that one.

  • Scratch off anything about not being greedy — because we love our money and stuff — but put on the list something about not being a University of Michigan fan — that’ll earn some points with God for sure.

  • Doesn’t it all sound ridiculous? But why do so many of us believe that what we do is what will get us into Heaven?

  • And I know that your list may or may not include the things I just said — but don’t be deceived — your list is just as ridiculous.

And if Jesus came to you today — like He did to that rich young man — He’d ask you to give up the very thing that’s keeping you from really following Him. And — listen — I say this because I love you and your eternity is too important for me to not say the hard things in love — the very thing Jesus is asking you to give up is the very thing that He knows will lead you straight to Hell.

  • For the young man, it was his money. For some of us, it’s money.

  • For others, it’s shacking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • For others it’s what we watch on our screens.

  • For others, it’s how we use our time.

If you asked Jesus what you needed to do to get to Heaven — what would He tell you to give up?

THE RELIGION OF JESUS’ WORK

But only those who know it’s not what they do that gives them eternal life — are the ones who are willing to give up all things for Jesus. Because there is another option — a truly different kind of religion — one not based on our works — but based on Someone else’s work. A religion that’s utterly unique when compared to all of the other religions of the world. And that’s the religion of true Christianity — true faith in Jesus. It’s what Paul writes about to the Corinthians.

What Paul says was of first importance is the work that Jesus accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection.

  • A work where He obeyed all of God’s commandments during His life — not breaking even one of them.

  • A work of paying the debt for the sins of those whose works always come up short.

  • A work of substituting His death on a cross for the eternal death we deserve for breaking God’s commands.

  • Jesus’ work is a perfect work. A complete work. An “it is finished” work.

And Jesus says to us, “If you believe in the work I’ve done for you — the work that I’ve accomplished on your behalf — a work of rescuing people who realize that their works will never earn them Heaven because the admission price is too high for them to pay and their works earn to little compared to the price of admission. But I’ve paid the price for their admission into Heaven. And the ticket — that I earned with my blood — I now give to them as a gift.”

“But,” Jesus says, “know that the ticket is costly in two ways. First, it cost me My life — My life was the cost of your admission into Heaven — that’s the first cost. And second, it’ll cost you your life too. For when I pay for your sins, you are now mine. And this shouldn’t frighten you — for I am good — I’m your friend — I’m the one who willing died for you because I love you. This shouldn’t frighten you — this should free you — release you — liberate you — so that you’re willing to give up all things for Me because I gave up all things for you.”

JUSTICE FOR ALL

And here’s the good news for people of all religions. Here’s good news for the person who thinks that all religions are the same and for the person who’s skeptical of religion. Here’s good news for all of us.

Jesus doesn’t discriminate who He receives into His family. Anyone — no matter what their religious upbringing, their race, their gender, their nationality — anyone — through faith in Jesus — can be made right with God.

That — as we’ve been seeing — God’s liberating justice is possible for all kinds of people — even for people of all religions — if they turn to Christ in faith. Because God’s liberating justice sets captives free from working their way to Heaven.

  • From trying to earn their way into Heaven.

  • From thinking that some day they’ll measure up to a standard that they gave up on when they broke their first commandment.

  • That God delights in pouring out His liberating — freeing — justice on those who believe in His Son who appeased the retributive justice of God on their behalf.

And know — dear friends — that if Jesus did not appease God’s retributive justice on your behalf — then God will pour it out on you for all eternity. Your sin debt must be paid in full. And I’m pleading with you — Jesus is pleading with you — to receive His gift of paying your debt in full. Turn to Him in faith. Give your life to Him. He is good. He can be trusted. He will do you no harm.

CONCLUSION

Are all religions the same? Not even close. Only one offers the eternal hope that Jesus has made possible. That’s what Augustine discovered after searching for years to fill the void in his life that only Jesus could fill. And filling that void is what so many are still searching for in other religions, in stuff, in sex, in things that are sure to disappoint. Maybe that’s you. But know that what you’re searching for isn’t hidden — it’s right before you. His name is Jesus. And He’s here today — ready for you to receive the gift of eternal life that He’s offering you through faith in the work He’s done on your behalf. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

God of justice, help many who are here today to receive the gift of eternal life that Jesus has made possible through His perfect work on their behalf. Help us all to give up the notion that we can work our way to Heaven. The price of admission is to high for our works to pay the cost.

But the amazing — wonderful — awe inspiring — news of the Christian faith is that You have done for us what we can’t do for ourselves. You sent Your Son — Jesus — to come and live the life of perfect works that we’ve failed to live. To suffer the punishment of Your retributive justice on the cross — so that we might experience Your liberating justice. For Jesus came to set us captives free. Free from Satan, sin, death, and Hell. Free from trying to work our way to Heaven. Freedom from trying to fill the longings of our heart in things that are sure to disappoint.

Spirit, help us to be honest with ourselves — even those of us who claim to be Christians. Help us to see if we’re believing solely in the work of Christ for our eternal hope — or if we’re trying to earn our eternity by our works. For only through faith in Christ alone will anyone experience everlasting joy with You forever. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: THOSE WHO WANT JESUS TO FILL THE VOID IN THEIR DESIRES)

May you go trusting in the perfect work that Jesus has done for you. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.


Let God Use The Word To Work In You

You would be shocked by the number of Bibles in homes in America. We have free access to the Word, and we can own it and read it publicly without fear of persecution. But the problem is many Bibles sit on a shelf gathering dust. I once visited a shut-in back in Indiana. As we talked, I spotted a large family bible on the table. I asked the woman whose Bible it was and how long she had owned it. Before she could answer, her grandson spoke up and says “That thing was buried in the back room and that's the first time I've seen it and I’m ten.” She was so embarrassed. I told her it was okay. I then encouraged her to use it since she had made an effort to find it and get it out. That encounter has stuck with me for years. I was convicted in my own heart to be more intentional about reading my Bible. The truth is God wants to say something but it is up to us to give Him a voice by opening His Word. Check out this article “The Word Does The Work” by David Platt as he shares more about how important God’s Word is for us.


Where Is the God Of Justice? Manuscript

Evil.png

SERMON TITLE: Where is the God of Justice?
TEXT: Malachi 2:17-3:5 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 12-29/30-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And we’re starting a new series this week. Just about a year ago, we took a few weeks to look at some topics that were — and still are — dividing our country. It turned out to be a series more popular than I anticipated and so we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit some similar themes as we’re about to begin a new year together.

And we’re calling this series “Evil” — as there’s a dangerous tendency to call things good that God has said are evil. Where we blur the lines between good and evil, acquire a taste for evil, and even allow evil practices to become acceptable. And this is just as true for the church as it is anywhere else — so we want to look at some ways that we’re exhausting God by calling good — things He’s said are evil. And what it means to experience the justice of God as we do these things.

That’s what the imagery in the video you just saw was showing. Evil things — that some called good. Evil things even done under the umbrella of the church. Evil things that people did for God thinking their actions pleased Him.

And the idea behind this series is found in our text for today — which is Malachi chapter 2 — verse 17 — through chapter 3 — verse 5.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

So if you have your Bible please turn with me to the Old Testament book of Malachi — chapter 2. We’ll begin in verse 17 and read through verse 5 of chapter 3.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT

Hopefully you’ve found the book of Malachi. Here are the words found in Malachi chapter 2. Beginning in verse 17.

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?" 1 Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 2:17-3:5 ESV)

SERMON INTRODUCTION

“Where is the God of justice?” I wonder how many of us have asked this question or something like it? Maybe you’re not so sure about the whole “God part” so you’ve just asked, “Where’s justice?”

We wake up each morning — check the news on our phones — some of us still unfold an actual paper — but regardless of how we get the news — I don’t know about you — but most days I feel like I’m better off avoiding the news altogether as it just seems to be one story after another after another about evil and injustice happening in our world.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And that sounds great and all — but sometimes it’s hard to see any kind of arc bending towards justice when you take a look around us. I mean — forget the trajectory of the world for a moment and just look at the trajectory of our country — what is going on?

Doesn’t it make you sick that we’ve got more and more women sharing stories of abuse? Abuse in Hollywood and in the church! We’ve got racists spewing out words of hate in our country. We’ve got unborn children being murdered in the womb. We’ve got families sleeping on the streets. There’s hopelessness all around us — physical hopelessness, emotional hopelessness, relational hopelessness, spiritual hopelessness — it’s all around us. So much for this being a Happy New Year’s message!

And in seeing all of these injustices — it makes a lot of sense — that out of fear or despair — that we’d cry out “Where is justice?” Or even, “God, where are you in the midst of all of this?” But we’ve got to be careful.

A few months ago, Robert Bowers opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh — killing 11 people. Later, multiple social media posts by Bowers showed that he hated Jewish people. He was taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries during his exchange with the police.

Now working in the hospital was a Jewish trauma nurse who saw Bowers being wheeled into the emergency room. As a child, this nurse was often singled out because of his Jewish faith. Students would write, “Die Jew. Love, Hitler,” on paper and stuff the notes into his locker in high school. So this nurse sees Bowers being brought into his ER all while yelling, “Death to all Jews!”

OK — so — timeout. What’s the “just” thing to do in this scenario? Imagine that this guy’s being wheeled into the ER that you work in. He’s injured, but he’s being escorted by police because he just murdered 11 people of your faith? What’s the just thing for this nurse to do? What’s justice look like here? What would you do?

Now some of us — if we’re honest — if we were the nurse — we’d go take a smoke break — I don’t even smoke, but suddenly I’ve got the urge to start a bad habit just so I don’t have to take care of this guy — justice. Some of us would be more honest and be like, “Let him die” and walk away. I mean — that’s justice, right — eye for an eye and all? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate “getting what he deserves?”

But the nurse didn’t do that. The nurse said, “I chose to show him empathy.” And the nurse took care of a man who had just murdered people of his own faith.

OK — question. What is it about the way we think of justice — especially here in the US — that makes it so hard for us to think about justice in any way other than “getting what you deserve”? Because the nurse showing the guy empathy doesn’t sit well with us does it? It doesn’t feel like justice does it — the murderer getting treated for his wounds? Is justice always vengeful — is that all that justice is?

Now — if it is — it may be easy to blame God for not doing something to right all of the wrongs we see — but if justice is always “getting what you deserve” then we may be setting ourselves up for a very unhappy ever after. Because most of us — dare I say all of us — ignore the ways in which we contribute to the injustices in our world — we’ve justified the reasons why we call things good that God has called evil. We have no idea how we’ve set the scales of justice against us — if justice is always about getting what you deserve.

And — as bad as that scenario is for us — do you want to know an even worse place to be? The place where you’ve exhausted God’s patience — where — after all of this blame shifting and accusing God — and saying “Why haven’t you done something about all of these bad things that are going on” — after all of that — you find yourself at the end of God’s patience and at the beginning of His just — “I’m going to give you what you deserve” — judgment.

EXHAUSTING GOD (2:17)

That’s how our passage begins. “You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?"” (Malachi 2:17 ESV)

Now let’s get an idea of what’s going on in this Old Testament book. The book of Malachi is set up like a courtroom. In the beginning, the nation of Israel is the prosecutor and do you know who’s the defendant? God is. The nation of Israel is putting God on trial and — just so you know — that never goes well.

So what are their accusations against God?

  • They say He doesn’t love them.

  • That He’s not being a just God — He’s being unjust.

  • They accuse Him of not fulfilling His covenantal responsibilities — of breaking His promises to them.

And then — and the people really don’t have any say in the matter — God flips the scenario and puts Israel on trial. God’s like — “I’m done with your accusations against me. So let’s do this — it’s my turn.” Again — it’s never a good spot to be in where God’s like, “I’m done. Let’s do this.” — that’s not gonna end well for you.

And with the roles reversed — God is found innocent and guess who’s guilty? Israel is. The verdict is read. And though they’re guilty — we learn something about God’s justice that should surprise us. But we’ll get to that surprise in a moment.

And our verse — verse 17 — is right at the end of Israel’s accusations — this verse is the moment when God’s going to turn everything against them. This is the moment that none of us want to experience — where God is done — where He’s exhausted with us — where He is ready to serve us justice.

So how did they exhaust God — how do we exhaust God? First, we say that evil is good and that He approves of the evil.

Now it’s easy to do what we constantly see the Israelites in the Old Testament do — and that’s this: Evil is always out there. It’s in those people — it’s never in here — evil’s never among us. Evil is somebody else’s problem — not ours — definitely not mine.

You see, God had given the Israelites clear instructions as to what is good and what is evil. He’s told them plainly that evil isn’t to be tolerated — it’s not to be welcomed — and it’s definitely not to be celebrated. Yet God’s people — let me say that again — God’s people are being found guilty of calling things that God has said are evil — good. And then they go even farther and say that God delights in those who do evil.

So let’s pause and talk about us — by us — I mean us Jesus followers. So if that’s not you — you’re off the hook here — I want to talk to us Christians like Malachi was talking to God’s people in his day. So if you’re not a Christian, sit back, get some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Christian — what has God called evil that you’re calling good? Now stop. Because you’re already thinking about someone else — so stop that. Don’t let this be some abstract — “let me point the finger at someone else and not wrestle with how I do this” — kind of thing. Ask yourself, “What am I calling good that God has said is evil?”

Doesn’t the question itself make you sick? If you have any sensitivity — at all — to God’s Spirit — I don’t know how it can’t make you sick because you know there’s evil junk that you approve of and you both hate it — and are attracted to it — all at the same time.

I remember a pastor saying — and this shook me to my spiritual core — because a lot of the time I don’t agree with the guy — but I heard him say, “How dare we find entertaining something Christ had to die for.” And — at first I was all like, “Legalism.” And then the more I thought about it, I was like, “That’s not legalism; that’s brutally convicting.”

I don’t even have to get all that specific, do I? I don’t have to say this book is good and this one’s bad. This show’s good and this one’s bad. I don’t have to do any of that because if you have God’s Spirit in you He’s already bringing to mind some things you find entertaining that’s wicked and evil. What do you find entertaining that Christ had to die for?
Sexual immorality? Murder? Hate? Taking the Lord’s name in vain? Racism? Abuse? Poverty? What evil has scratched your “I need to be entertained” itch?

And then we say that God’s delighted in all of this — delighted in us — how sick are we?

  • We have this way about us where we’re so desperate to justify our evil behavior that we lie to ourselves and say that God’s shifted His moral compass to match ours.

  • Where we don’t have to change — what we do, what we value, what we approve of, what we call good and evil — “you don’t worry about any of that stuff because God loves you just the way that you are. I bet He’ll even change His standards for you — that’s how much He’s in love with you. So don’t worry about a thing — God loves you.” Doesn’t it all sound crazy stupid?

  • Now God does love you, but don’t confuse His love for you as agreement with your definition of what’s right and wrong — of what’s good and evil. Our definitions are to align with His — not His with ours.

The second way we exhaust God is by questioning His character — by asking “where is the God of justice?” So we entertain ourselves with injustice and evil and then ask God why He’s not doing something about this whole mess. We don’t even connect how our behaviors — with the evil and injustices happening in our country. Something else is to blame — not us — so why not blame God for not doing anything about it, right? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Now questioning God isn’t unusual in the Old Testament. In the book of psalms questions are asked like, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” (Psalm 89:49 ESV)

God, where’s Your love — cause I don’t feel it. I’m not experiencing it. I’m not sure where it’s gone, but it’s MIA right now. That’s a pretty bold question to ask.

We find, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a ESV)

God why have you left me? Abandoned me? Rejected me? I thought You were supposed to be faithful?

Let’s be honest — those are some pretty radical accusations against God.

But what’s so disturbing about our question — where is the God of justice — is that now we’re questioning God’s moral character. There’s an accusation — in this question — about whether or not God is morally corrupt. “Maybe You’re not so pure — so holy — so good — after all?” That’s hinted at in our question.

And after accusing Him — of approving people who do things that He’s clearly said are evil — after we blur the lines between good and evil — we then question His character! We even question His existence — “well if this is what’s going on in the world the only conclusion I can come up with is that God must not exist.” That’s what some people think.

But as CS Lewis said, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing the universe with when I called it unjust?” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2000), 38.)

But most don’t think as deeply as Lewis did. Most of us just say “this is good and this is evil” without any standard to compare to. And — because of evil in the world — many people throw out the idea of God all together. But here’s the thing: If God doesn’t exist — calling evil things good and good things evil — doesn’t even matter. Who cares? Why get so angry over things you think are wrong? Everyone should do whatever they want — if there’s no God — there’s no judgment — so why should we care about justice?

SUMMARY OF POINT 1

That was the state of people in Malachi’s day — and I think you can see how we’re not much different. Which leaves us with a question. Not “where is the God of justice” but “what is justice?” And if we keep reading, we find some clues about justice — we see that it’s coming — God isn’t idle or aloof — justice is coming — but it’s coming with a surprise.

THE COMING JUST ONE (3:1-4)

Let’s read in chapter 3. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4 ESV)

Now it’s easy to miss — here — but the coming of justice — the coming of the just one — shows us something incredible about justice. When we think of justice we usually think of someone who’s done wrong and deserves condemnation — some kind of penalty — they deserve to be judged — we say “they deserve justice.” But that’s only one part of what justice is — the retributive side of justice.

The other side of justice is the liberative side. An example would be justice for the person in slavery when they’re set free. Justice for the orphan when they’re adopted into a family. Justice for the victim when their story is finally heard and believed.

One author has said this about God’s justice. “It is not uncommon to find God acting in the Old Testament to liberate those who have been held captive irrespective of whether they actually deserve that liberation, in which case the criteria for so acting are not found in the merit or demerit of that constituency but in the character — the gracious “rightness” — of God himself. In these settings, God is effecting the release of his people from imprisonment by an act of ‘judgment...’”( Douglas A. Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 661)

Here’s what’s being said.

  • Though — as we saw earlier — we put God on trial.

  • Though we say that evil is good and that God’s delighted with the evil things we say are good.

What we see — in these verses — is that though we deserve justice in the way we usually think — we deserve judgment — we should be “getting what we deserve for being so wicked” — you’d think that we’d find everyone being promised death in these verses — or the mention of destruction — or even hell here in these verses — but what we find — to our surprise — is that God sends someone who refines the people. He makes them clean. He purifies the offerings the priests bring so they’re acceptable before God — and not only acceptable — but pleasing to Him. The people get — not retributive justice — they experience liberating justice. And here’s the real shocker — they don’t deserve it!

But there’s another question asked here — but this time the question’s for us — not for God — and it’s this question: “who can endure the day of his coming” — the day of the coming just one?

  • What’s being asked is “how do you know if you’re going to experience the retributive justice of God or the liberating justice of God?

  • How do you know if you’ll experience justice that leads to judgment or justice that leads to freedom?”

  • When you stand before God, what kind of justice is coming your way?

  • Which side of the justice coin will you receive? Is there anyway to know with certainty which justice is coming your way?

The answer is yes. And the way of experiencing God’s liberating justice is through the liberating work of Jesus.

CHRIST CONNECTION

For it’s through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we find freedom from our enslavement to sin — freedom from our enslavement to calling evil things good — even freedom from our enslavement to questioning God’s moral character. Jesus came to set captives free from Satan, sin, death, and Hell. He came to cleanse His people of their sin — to make them sparkle like a bride on her wedding day in a spotless white gown.

In the gospels, you find Jesus telling people to be watchful — to be prepared — for His return. He tells them it will be unexpected that — like in the days of Noah — people will be going about life with their plans as usual on the day of His return. But on that day, there will be a refining. A refining — not just of God’s people — but of all creation. A day of justice — both of the retributive and liberating kind. Those who haven’t put their faith in Christ will experience the retributive justice of God and those who have put their faith in Christ experience the freedom of God’s liberating justice as they experience the chains of sin and sorrow and death and mortality all release their hold on them — forever.

And this coming day will be the ultimate act of God’s justice. While Jesus was here on earth, He showed us that God is a just God. He showed compassion and mercy to those society had excluded — the lepers, women, the poor, and children. Jesus challenged unjust social practices in His day. He rejected the idea of ethnic superiority when He talked with a woman in Samaria. He gave dignity to those considered as second class citizens. He befriended those with addictions and those who sold their bodies for money.

Jesus advocated for the oppressed. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, cast out demons, and even showed compassion towards those who said things like, “I believe you can do this, but help me to really believe.” Jesus showed many the liberating justice of God.

But know that Jesus confronted the powerful — whose power was money, or spiritual authority, or political — Jesus didn’t care. He confronted those who used their power to call evil good. He opposed those who thought God was on their side when they were ignoring God altogether. He confronted injustice wherever He found it. Jesus showed many the retributive justice of God.

SUMMARY OF POINT 2

So what does this tell us? It tells us that to speak of justice and yet — reject Jesus — is to dismiss the just one. And when it comes to God’s justice — and the Day of God’s justice that’s before every one of us — what makes for a “healthy” fear towards that day is to look to it with an assurance because of God’s grace as revealed to us in Jesus — who died for us while we were still sinners. When you look to the Day of God’s judgment with confidence in knowing that — through faith in Jesus — that day is bringing to you the fulfillment of God’s liberating justice because Jesus took God’s retributive justice for you on the cross.

POINT 3 — Where We’re Headed (3:5)

Which is the justice we see in our last verse.

“"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:5 ESV)

Not all will experience the liberating justice of God. Some will experience the swift judgment of God on the day of Christ’s return.

And what we’re going to do — in the rest of this series — is look at these different groups that are mentioned in this last verse and show how the gospel is the only answer that ends in freedom for people on the Day of Judgment.

We’re going to look at sorcerers — well kind of — we’re going to look at other religions. How does God’s justice relate to all of the religions in our world? How do people of other religions discover the liberating justice we’ve been talking about? We’ll look at that next week.

In two weeks — we’ll look at God’s justice and the foreigners among us — that’s what the word sojourner means. Pastor Ben is going to help us see how God’s justice applies in this area of life.

Then Pastor Ben will help us explore how God’s justice applies to how we treat workers.

I’ll help us connect what the Bible has to say about God’s justice with lying — swearing falsely.

Then we’ll wrap up this series, by looking at God’s justice for the adulterer. And listen — I know some of you are already marking your calendars so you miss that weekend — cause you’ve got stuff hidden in your life that you don’t want God to speak into — but I am praying especially for this week in the series as I want us all to see how God’s justice applies here — because there is freedom for the adulterer — we won’t ignore God’s judgment for the unrepentant — but my hope is that many who walk in shame because of this sin will find the freedom that Christ offers.

So that’s where we’re headed over the next few weeks.

CONCLUSION

God is just. We may question His justice. We may question His existence. We may question His ways. But what I hope we’ll see in this series, is that there’s much more to God’s justice than what we may first think. He is a just judge — but He’s also a liberating rescuer. God sent His Son to set captives free and I hope that freedom is what many of us will find as we explore God’s justice together. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your justice. It is more rich and complex than we give it credit. Your justice isn’t just about You giving people what they deserve — there’s a sweetness to Your justice as well — a freedom offered through it — a liberating power that sets captives free. Thank you for the freedom You offer to all of us through the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. Help us to walk in the freedom He’s made possible. Calling good what You have called good. Calling evil what You have called evil. And not confusing the two. Help us to be people concerned with justice in our world because we worship a God who is just. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go, walking in the liberating justice that Jesus is offering to you. Amen.

God loves you. And I love you too. You are sent.


Songs for the Weekend

Check out the songs for the weekend at Gateway. There are a few newer ones, so you can search them on YouTube and familiarize yourself with them. See you this weekend at Gateway Church!

CR9

O Come To The Altar - Elevation Worship
His Mercy Is More - Sovereign Grace
Is He Worthy - Andrew Peterson
Great Are You Lord - All Songs & Daughters
All Glory Be To Christ - Kings Kaleidoscope

N Main

Greatly To Be Praised - Citizens & Saints
The Greatness of Our God - Hillsong Worship
10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) - Chris Tomlin
Resurrection Power - Chris Tomlin

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

RightNow Media

We hope you have had a chance to create your free account with RightNow Media which gives you access to thousands of video resources to help you with parenting, marriage, discipleship and more! Our Kidway Team is excited about this resource because there are so many great children’s videos available on RightNow media. Here’s what Martha Davis, our preschool director at CR9 has to say about it….

In the midst of folding laundry, doing dishes, coordinating everyone's schedules, and making sure everyone is clothed, fed, and homework is done, it is easy to forget what our purpose is as parents. It is easy to ask ourselves if we are "doing it right" or if we raising up "good" children.

As our family has been using RightNow Media for a couple of months now, I can tell you that the pressure of wondering if I am "doing it right" has reduced (although, if I am completely honest, I still ask myself this from time to time). Incorporating the use of RightNow Media during our bedtime routine has been such a blessing! The excitement on my children’s faces when they watch an episode of "Theo Presents" or "Hermie and Friends" is awesome. But knowing that they are hearing the word of God through these episodes and are growing deeper in their relationship with Christ is even more amazing!

There are many other resources available on RightNow media as well. Check them out today!

Go Tell It On The Mountain Manuscript

Carols Series Title.png

SERMON TITLE: Go Tell it on the Mountain (Love)
TEXT: 1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 12-22/23-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — I want you to know that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And this Christmas season we’ve been looking at some Christmas carols and allowing them to be our guide as we head towards Christmas Day together. And each week we’ve talked about how the Christmas season can be a very busy time of the year — making it easy to miss the beauty of the season — the season of Advent — when we anticipate the birth of our Savior.

So to help us all slow down during this important season of our faith — we've created these cards as a free resource to help you walk through the weekly themes of Advent. On the front is a piece of artwork that corresponds with the sermon being preached. And on the back you’ll find various resources you can use throughout your week to help you focus on the coming of Jesus this Advent season. We hope this resource will be a blessing to you.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

And the Christmas carol we’re using as our guide today is the carol Go Tell it on the Mountain — which — to be honest — was pretty tricky to connect to our Advent theme of love — the Advent theme for this weekend. And the reason for the difficulty is because Go Tell it on the Mountain doesn’t have the word love in its lyrics — talk about a preaching conundrum. But thankfully — in the music world there’s this thing called a medley — where you put different songs together — and the version of Go Tell it on the Mountain we’re singing this weekend — at both of our campuses — is a medley of our Christmas carol with the song This is Amazing Grace — which has a line in its chorus that says “this is amazing love.” So after some twists and turns — our conundrum is solved — as we’ve found our way from Go Tell it on the Mountain to our Advent theme of love.

So now that you know the hoops I jumped through to put this sermon together, how about we turn to our passage.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

If you have your Bible please turn with me to 1 John chapter 4. We’ll be looking at verses 9 and 10 together today.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT

Here are the words found in 1 John chapter 4. Beginning in verse 9.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

CAROL BACKGROUND

Now each week, I’ve shared some history about the carol that’s being used as our guide. And our carol for this week — Go Tell It on the Mountain — comes from the rich tradition of African American spirituals from our own country — the US.

According to tradition, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” originated with the Fisk Jubilee Singers — they were a traveling college choir. No one’s really certain who wrote the song, but we know it was made popular by John Wesley Work — who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — and John Wesley Work was a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. What we don’t know — is whether he wrote our carol — or if he discovered the song after it’d been written by someone else — that part of our carol’s story has been lost in history. (C. Michael Hawn, “History of Hymns: Go, Tell It On the Mountain,” Discipleship Ministries: United Methodist Church, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-go-tell-it-on-the-mountain, accessed on October 13, 2018.)

The carol was first published in 1909 (Jane Schroeder, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” First Things, December 3, 2015, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/09/go-tell-it-on-the-mountain, accessed on October 13, 2018.) but would be edited — reworked a bit — and then published again by Work’s son — John Wesley Work III (Hawn, “History of Hymns: Go, Tell It On the Mountain.”). And even with the “mysterious — lost in history stuff” — regarding its authorship — the significance of “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” is unquestioned. One author has said...

“The song had come from the fields of the South, born from the inspiration of a slave's Christmas, and it was unique in that, of the hundreds of Negro spirituals the Work family saved from extinction, few had been written about Christmas. Most of the spirituals had centered on earthly pain and suffering, and the joy and happiness that only heaven seemed to offer. [But] “Go ,Tell it on the Mountain” was a triumphant piece that embraced the wonder of lowly shepherds touched by God at the very first Christmas.” (Hawn, “History of Hymns: Go, Tell It On the Mountain.”)

I love that last sentence. If you know the Christmas story, whether it be Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men — even the angels — there’s a constant thread of being in awe of — being in wonder of what God was doing in sending His Son to be born as a baby on that first Christmas morning. The Christmas story is a story full of wonder. And the Bible records that those involved in the first Christmas responded to the amazing love God — as displayed in the birth of Jesus — with wonder and amazement.

THE LOVE OF GOD

And that’s what we see in verses 9 and 10 of our passage — we see God’s love — and it’s a love that should amaze us. John writes, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

I can’t think of many people who don’t like the idea of love. We live in a day and age where love is still highly valued. Even those who don’t claim to have any kind of religious faith would say that love is an ideal that all people should pursue. They may not view love as anything more than an emotion or feeling — but it’s still important.

Yet — something all to evident — is how we come up with all kinds of reasons to not love certain kinds of people. Yet in spite of our inconsistencies — love — in some sense — is still valued.

Now a danger — in our day — is how love is often thought of — by many people — to mean something like “unconditionally accepting someone else’s behavior, values, and lifestyle.” To love someone — we’re told — means you have to accept they way they live — their lifestyle — to love means to not judge or disagree with what they do or how they live — that’s love — we’re told.

Another danger is how people believe you can love someone even though you may never actually do something for them — except maybe like their Facebook or Instagram post. We’ve seemed to have redefined love to mean something that doesn’t require much of us.

I’m off of social media now — a great decision — by the way — but I remember seeing posts about someone in need — seeing something about money being raised for a certain cause — and I remember seeing all kinds of people sharing and liking the post — and I kept thinking, “But I wonder if anyone’s actually giving to the need?” I remember people talking to me as if liking the post was the same thing as contributing towards meeting the need. What a strange way to love others. Unfortunately, social media isn’t the only place where our love for one another is lacking.

For example, many of us have church experience — and maybe your experience wasn’t great — but it’s Christmastime — so you’re back to give church a try again — by the way — I’m glad you’re here today. But your experience in the church has jaded your view of love.

Maybe you were part of an unloving church. You heard all kinds of sermons about God’s love and then you saw people do some of the most unloving things — inside the church! And this has made it hard for you to not only trust Christians — when they say they love you — but even to trust God’s love for you.

Others of us may be new to the Christian faith — or maybe you consider yourself to be a spiritual person — not necessarily a Christian — but a commonly held view is that love between you and God — is just that — solely a thing between you and God. And this has led a lot of people to misunderstand the point of church — or the importance being part of a local church. I mean, why does it really matter whether or not you’re part of a church — can’t it just be “me, myself, and God?” But — as we’ll see — there’s more to love than just your relationship with God.

And all kinds of things can affect our view of what it means to be loved by God.

  • Maybe — and it was some sorry timing being just before Christmas and all — but maybe the doctor just gave you news you never wanted to hear.

  • Or maybe this is your first Christmas without your spouse — or your mom or dad — maybe even a child.

  • Maybe your employer let you know that after the new year the company will be downsizing and you’re going to be out of a job.

As much as we want a holly, jolly Christmas — that’s not always what life gives us.

So what happens to our understanding of love — and our relationship with God — when life gives us stuff we’d rather return to the store — like the clothes you know you’re going to return the day after Christmas so you can get something you’ll actually wear?

So how about some good news? In the midst of all of this — every year — we have an opportunity during this season — to be reminded of God’s love for us.

  • That God doesn’t love us in some sort of “He tolerates and accepts us” kind of way.

  • His love isn’t tainted with ulterior motives like that bad church experience you may have had.

  • God doesn’t love us in a way that’s all about “me, myself, and Him” — His love is much bigger than that.

  • And — if you want a reason to be in awe and in wonder of God sending His Son to be born — the kind of awe and wonder that we read about in the Christmas story — you must see that God’s love for you came at the cost of incredible suffering on His part.

That’s what we see in these two verses. God has proven He loves us — how? Well He manifested His love — He showed us His love — the word means God “revealed to us — He made known to us” — His love — how? We find our answer in verse 9: He sent His Son into our world.

So get this — be amazed at this — wonder at this. Jesus is not only the invisible God made visible — He is that — but Jesus is also proof of the love of God made visible. People can define God’s love however they want — but it’s probably a good idea to listen to God’s Word on the matter. God says, “You want to know what my love is like? I’ve shown you. I’ve shown you my love in Jesus.”

That’s what we celebrate every Christmas — that God sent His Son into our world. God sent His Son to show us His love for us. But notice — in verses 9 and 10 — that our being loved came at a great price. God sent Jesus so that we might — in response to being loved — live — but our living came at the expense of Jesus’ death. That’s what the words “sent to be the propitiation for our sins” means.

So what does that fancy word — propitiation — mean? Before I answer, let me remind you of something you agree with. We didn’t read it, but it’s found back in verse 8. Verse 8 says, “God is love.” You love that, right? You agree with that, don’t you? God is love — do a little dance — get out the party poppers and noise makers — throw some confetti in the air — God is love — great news!

Now the word propitiation also tells us something about God — but you might not be as quick to agree with this as you were to agree that God is love — but I hope you will agree. Jesus was sent to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means to “placate someone who is angry.” (Gary M. Burge, Letters of John, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 86.)

OK — so the only reason Jesus would need to be sent as the propitiation for our sins is if someone was angry with us. And who was angry with us? God, right? But we don’t like an angry God. And we definitely don’t like the idea of God being angry with us. Maybe God is angry with really bad people, but God being angry with me? Or my child? Or your grandma who makes the best Christmas cookies ever? Is God really angry with people you know — maybe even angry with you?

But notice how these two connect. In His love for us, God sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. In His love for us, God — though rightfully angry with us — sent Jesus to come and appease His anger — or wrath — towards us.

So here’s a rather strange — but truthful — thought. No anger — no love. If God wasn’t angry with us — then there’s no Christmas holiday where we celebrate God’s love for us in sending His Son. This means it’s inconsistent to say you believe in God’s love if you deny His anger. God wouldn’t have needed to show us His love — in sending Jesus — if He wasn’t angry with us. And what makes God’s love so amazing is that He acted on His love despite being angry with us.

And how did Jesus appease God’s anger towards us? In love, Jesus gave His life on the cross for our sins so that God’s anger towards us would be poured out on Him in our place. Now that’s a costly love. That’s a love to be in awe of. That’s a love worth responding to.

RESPONDING TO GOD’S LOVE

So how are we to respond to God’s love? What does it mean to live having been loved by God?

First, we’re to believe that God loves us. Do you believe that God loves you? Not just accepts you — or tolerates you — but that He loves you and has demonstrated His love for you by sending Jesus to live and die for your sins. Do you believe that God loves you with an unconditional — yes you’ve got junk and God knows all about it — but He loves you even with all of that junk kind of love? A love that’s infinitely wide and infinitely long and infinitely high and infinitely deep. A love that — one biblical writer describes as — “too great to understand fully.” Ephesians 3:19a (NLT)

What an encouragement that is — that God’s love is too great to fully understand. Why is that so encouraging? Because with as puny as my brain is — and as fickle as my heart is to trust — man can my heart doubt — but in spite of my puny brain and fickle heart God’s love blows my weaknesses and insecurities out of the water — and even that doesn’t begin to describe the infinite — amazing — love that God has shown for us in His Son. It’s more like our weaknesses and sin — our insecurities and lack of trust — have been buried in the depths of Hell and — through faith in Christ — we’ve been blasted into the Heavenly Kingdom of God where Jesus is reigning as King at this very moment.

Do you trust in God’s love for you? That Jesus died for your sins? That Jesus came to our world willingly — because He loves you? Responding to God’s love begins by believing that Jesus died for your sins.

Second, in response to God’s love — we’re to love Him in return. Jesus was once asked what was the most important commandment in all of the Bible. His response, “To love God.” We love God in response to His love for us. The Bible makes it clear — the only acceptable response to God’s love for us is to love Him in return.

So what does that look like? It begins by wanting to know who He is. And we know who God is by reading and studying the Bible.

Do you love God? I’m always confused when someone says “Yes, I love God” but then have no time for God’s Word. I don’t care if you read it, listen to it, or whatever — but — and you know this — if you love someone you want to hear from them. The soldier deployed cherishes every letter they get from loved ones back home — as do they when they get letters from the soldier. The same should be true of everyone who loves God. I mean — think about it — do you view God as being uninterested in your words to Him?

I think most of us — when we pray — regardless of how often we pray — we don’t view God as being uninterested in our words — otherwise — why pray? We expect that — at that moment — God’s listening. But this is a two way relationship. So what about us listening to God through His Word? How dare we expect God to hear our prayers when we don’t open up our ears to His Word to us — that’s not a very loving response.

Not only that, but what does it say when — instead of listening to God through His Word — we decide to tell God who He is? How awesome is it to listen to someone tell you how to do your job who doesn’t have a clue how to actually do your job? It’s not awesome is it? But how refreshing is it to have someone love you by listening to you?

Recently I got my first speeding ticket — ever. I didn’t even get pulled over — it was a police officer using technology through a camera system. Somewhere on I75 — near Toledo — I apparently missed a change from 60 miles per hour to 50. So — fun times — I got my first ticket.

And when the ticket came in the mail, I’m looking at it thinking, “Why did you let this happen? Why weren’t you paying attention while you were driving? You always pay attention to things like this. How could you be so stupid and not see the speed limit change? And now you’ve got to tell Emily about this.” Now I know that’s not what everyone would think — I’ve got my own set of issues — some of you would be like “Yes! This is the cheapest speeding ticket I’ve ever gotten!” — but not me.

And so I tell my wife. And do you know how she responded? She said, “These things happen. I know you’re already being harder on yourself than you need to be. You made it to 40 years old without getting a single ticket. You’re driving record’s still way better than mine. Pay it and move on.” And do you know what? I felt loved.

When Jesus got asked the question about the most important commandment, right after saying “loving God” was the most important, He quickly followed up with a second commandment that needs to be high on our list of priorities — it’s what my wife showed me.

And that’s how we’re to respond to God’s love for us by loving others. Jesus told His followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Our love for one another — which is a response to God’s love for us — is visible proof to an unbelieving world that our faith is genuine. Yet how often do people — who say they follow Jesus — completely isolate themselves from being able to love other followers of Jesus? And — listen — I know the church can be messy — it’s full of messed up, sinful, hypocrites, who aren’t quick to admit that they’re messed up, sinful, or a hypocrite. But that’s who Jesus came to save.

Jesus didn’t come to save good people. Jesus didn’t leave Heaven and come to Earth to rescue people who’d figured out how to clean up their act. The Son of God didn’t take on human flesh and be born as a baby — to grow up and die on a cross — for people who were sinless. He came for sinners. Not sinners in a hypothetical sense. Not hypocrites in a “it’s the right thing to say, but not what I really believe about myself.” Jesus came for “I’m messed up and — if you think I’m bad — you don’t know the half of how awful I really am.” Jesus came for people who know — they’re not just bad — they’re eternally damnable.

And — amazingly — Jesus came to love them. And in loving them — in loving you — if that’s you — Jesus tells you to go and love others.

  • “Go and tell them about my love for them.

  • Go and tell them about my love for the world.

  • Go tell them about my birth — about the night when some shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks and the heavens opened up and were filled with a choir of angels who were singing about my birth.

  • Go and tell them that I have come — bringing salvation and hope and joy and peace and love to my creation.”

  • “Go and tell them about me and my love. A love that’s unlike any love they’ve ever experienced.

  • In a world based on conditional love, I offer them unconditional love.

  • In a society that says you have to earn love, I offer them an unearned love.

  • I give them a love they don’t deserve and I give it to them as a gift.

  • I give them myself — in love — so they might find their true self in me.”

CONCLUSION

That’s what Christmas is about. Beyond the trees and lights, the stockings and the presents — Christmas is about God’s love for you and for me — His love for all people. A love that changes everything when you receive it as the gift that it is. Because — for the first time in your life — when you receive the gift — you know what it means to be loved as you look to the One who gave His life for you. And — in response — you think — but more importantly — you live knowing, “If God so loves me like this, then nothing else in life even begins to compare to what it means that I am loved by God.”

And that’s the best Christmas gift to ever receive. The love of God for you. The love of God for me. The love of God for all people — the people whom He wants us to go and tell that Jesus Christ — the Savior of the world — has been born. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your amazing love for us. Your love for us that we don’t deserve. Your love for us that we often doubt. Your love for us that we often take advantage of — is an amazing love. Help us — Spirit — to respond to Your love for us by loving You in return. Help us to respond to Your love for us by loving one another. And help us to respond to Your love for us by going and telling the world that Jesus Christ was born so they might experience Your love — which changes everything.

Jesus, that’s my prayer for those who are listening who have yet to receive the gift of Your love for them. Draw them to You right now. Soften their defenses, break down their walls, help them to trust that You love them. Give them the gift of faith, so they receive Your love — Your amazing love — and begin to live the life that You’ve made possible. We pray all of these things in Your name. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go in awe and wonder because of God’s for you. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.


Songs for the Weekend

Christmas is almost here and we have been humming a lot of those popular Christmas carols we hear in the stores this time of year. Take some time this week to add these songs to your Christmas playlist and sing them to our Savior as we prepare for the celebration of our Savior’s birth.

N Main

Go Tell It On The Mountain/This Is Amazing Grace
Lord I Need You - Matt Maher
Hallelujah What A Savior - Austin Stone Worship
Great Are You Lord - All Sons & Daughters
Joy To the World - Chris Tomlin

CR9

What Child Is This - Chris Tomlin
He Has Come For Us - Meredith Andrews
Love Changes Everything - Red Rocks Worship
God With Us- All Sons & Daughters
Christ Be All Around Me - All Sons & Daughters
Go Tell It On The Mountain/This Is Amazing Grace

Check out more Christmas songs on our Gateway Advent playlist.

Volunteer Spotlight: Greeters

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At Gateway, one of our values is serving. Randy and Kathy MacDonald serve as greeters at our CR9 campus and are happy to share with us what they enjoy about greeting.

How long have you attended Gateway?...been a volunteer in Gateway’s greeter ministry?

Attended for five years.  Been a volunteer for four years.

In what capacity do you volunteer?

Coordinating Greeters, service projects with life group, VBS

Why did you initially volunteer to serve as a greeter?

Before moving to Findlay five years ago, we were part of the Greeter team at the church we attended in Defiance, Ohio.  We heard there were openings for greeters and since we enjoy meeting and welcoming people, it was a good fit for us as a couple.  First impressions are very important to people when they come into a church.  We want to be part of the team that makes them feel like family the moment they walk in the door.

What do you enjoy most about serving?

We always receive back more than we put into it.  We’ve been blessed by wonderful friendships with people we’ve met or served alongside.  

What do you enjoy doing when you are not serving at Gateway?

We enjoy spending time with our family, attending sporting events, and traveling. Randy loves hunting, fishing, golfing and being outdoors.  In addition to loving her role as a daycare provider during the school year for her grandson, Carter McKibben, Kathy is active in Bible Study Fellowship, Reaching Women, and volunteers at the hospital gift shop.

What would you say to someone who has been feeling a tug to serve, but who hasn’t taken the plunge yet?

Find an area of servant ministry that sounds like it fits your personality, gifts and/or talents. Ask what the task entails.  Shadow someone who is currently serving in that ministry.  

O Come, O Come Emmanuel Manuscript

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SERMON TITLE: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
TEXT: Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 12-15/16-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And this Christmas season we’re taking a few Christmas carols and letting them be our guide as we head toward Christmas Day. And Christmas can be a season where our lives get super busy and it’s easy to miss the beauty of this season — the season of Advent.

So — to help us all slow down and reflect on this important season of our faith — we've created these cards as a free resource to help you walk through the weekly themes of Advent. On the front is a piece of original artwork that corresponds with the sermon being preached that week. And on the back you’ll find various resources you can use to help focus on the coming of Jesus this Advent season. We hope this resource will be a blessing to you.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

And the Christmas carol we’re using as our guide today is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Now — if you know the carol — you know that there’s a word repeated again and again — and that word is “rejoice.” “Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.”

Rejoice — have joy — why? Because Emmanuel is coming. “God with us” is coming. The Savior is coming. A reason to rejoice — like nothing else — Jesus is coming. That’s what we’re going to look at today.

And I love the word joy. It’s my wife’s middle name. We like the word so much that it’s our daughter’s middle name as well. And as I’ve shared before, my life mission statement is to “glorify God by making disciples who find their joy in Jesus.” And that’s really key — that our joy — for it to have any lasting value — our joy must be in Jesus.

And it seems like everything is against our joy being in Jesus — even as we head towards the Christmas holiday — which is kind of crazy when you think about it. The holiday where we celebrate — when we sing “rejoice, rejoice” — the holiday when we celebrate that our Savior is born — has become the holiday where so many people try to find their joy in anything other than the child born to save them.

But today — and hopefully for the rest of our days — I want us to look to the joy that only Jesus provides. Because He offers all of us everlasting joy — a true reason to rejoice this Christmas — and always.

So let’s turn to our passage for today.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

If you have your Bible please turn with me to Philippians chapter 4. We’ll be looking at one verse — verse 4 — which I know sounds crazy if you’re a regular here at Gateway — only one verse — is Josh feeling OK this week? I’m feeling great — so go ahead and find Philippians chapter 4 verse 4 — but know that we’ll be taking a look at a few other verses before we get there.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT

Here are the words found in Philippians chapter 4 verse 4.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

CAROL BACKGROUND

Since “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is setting our theme for today — like in previous weeks — I thought it’d be helpful to learn a little about the carol and how it connects to the birth of Jesus and our theme of joy. So — for starters — here’s something wild about our carol: We have no idea when it was written or first sung — isn’t that crazy? This carol just kind of slow fades into history.

We can tell that the words were being sung by the 9th century — but there are some who think the words in our carol go back as far as the 6th century. So this is an old, old song we sing each Christmas.

The words were originally in Latin and were used by monks. They were originally part of a 7-verse antiphon series used for Advent. “Well don’t you sound all fancy, Pastor Josh” — what does that mean? An antiphon was a small verse chanted or sung. So think of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” — as originally being part of a medley of chants — used by monks — and they sang one chant — or one verse — per day during the week leading up to Christmas Eve. (Frank Colquhoun, Hymns That Live: Their Meaning & Message (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1981), 17–24; Ian C. Bradley, ed., The Book of Hymns (Woodstock, N.Y: Overlook Press, 1989), 305–7.)

Now each verse centered on a title of Christ that comes from the Old Testament — and there’s deep theology in these words — which I really appreciate. Here are the verses of the medley that eventually became the carol we sing today. Each verse starts with an “O” which was meant to convey a longing for Christ to come. (http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/the-o-antiphons-of-advent.cfm)

Verse 1 — O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Verse 2 — O Adonai — meaning O Leader — of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!

Verse 3 — O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!

Verse 4 — O Key of David, open the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!

Verse 5 — O Radiant Dawn — or O Dayspring — or O Bright and Morning Star — three different translations — O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Verse 6 — O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Verse 7 — O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!

O Wisdom, O Adonai — a Hebrew name for God — O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of all Nations, and O Emmanuel.

So — to recap.

The words in our carol were possibly written as early as the 6th century — definitely by the 9th century.

And — sometime around the 12th century — a monk did some editing — rewriting the carol a bit — and narrowed the verses down to five and made it into a hymn.

And though originally Emmanuel was the last verse — after it took on this new form — O Emmanuel found itself at the beginning — and now in the title — of the carol.

The words were translated into English by John Henry Newman in 1836. And the melody we sing was added in 1854. And years later the carol went back to having seven verses just like it originally began.

Now what I love about this carol is how it’s filled with all of these great titles for Jesus that are found in the Old Testament. For instance, the title of Emmanuel comes from Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Now a little trivia fact for you. Why do we see Emmanuel start with the letter “I” sometimes and the letter “E” at other times? Well the spelling that begins with an “I” is based on the Hebrew form of the word and the spelling that begins with an “E” is based on the Greek form of the word. Take that Jeopardy! — now back to more important matters.

O Root of Jesse comes from Isaiah 11:10, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples — of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.”

O Dayspring, which means dawn or sunrise, comes from Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise (so the sun shall rise) with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

O Key of David is found in Isaiah 22:22. which says, “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” And that verse is quoted in Revelation 3:7. “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 'The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

And, O Adonai — O Lord of Might — has many connections throughout the Old Testament. For example, it’s the name for God found in Exodus 3:15. “God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

And in Philippians we read, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Now we don’t have time to look at all of the titles — but know — that our carol is full of Old Testament prophecies pointing to who the coming Savior would be — what He would be like — and what He would accomplish. And the New Testament tells us that the promised Savior comes as a baby born to a young virgin — a baby who is both fully God and fully man — which is the reason why we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” every year — for Emmanuel means God with us.

And in response to Jesus coming and fulfilling all of these promises, our carol over and over and over again tells us to rejoice — which is what I hope all of us will do today as we explore the joy that’s offered to us in Jesus.

REJOICE!

And that’s the first word I want us to look at in our verse. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

This word — rejoice or joy — is found both in the Old and New Testaments. About the word — when found in the Old Testament — scholars (Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1964), 363–69) say that the reasons for being joyful include “God and his saving acts,” “concrete demonstrations of salvation,” “God’s law,” “the reward for faithfulness to the Law,” events like “weddings,” and even the corporate joy of God’s people as it relates to the “temple and ritual practices.” You can find these descriptions of joy — all of these different reasons to be joyful — in the writings of Moses, in the psalms, and in the prophets.

An example is found in Isaiah 35:10, where we read “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” A rescue will take place — God’s people will be saved — and those who are rescued will experience an everlasting joy.

Later in Isaiah we read, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: "Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame...But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” (Isaiah 65:13, 18 ESV)

The people of God will rejoice forever in the city of God — a city full of joy. Yet the enemies of God will be put to shame — they will find themselves in a place where joy isn’t found.

In the New Testament the word we translate as rejoice — or joy — is actually a secular word that the New Testament authors sort of hijacked and turned into a spiritual word. It originally was a common greeting — kind of like something you’d say as you make a toast with your glass before you drink (Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. II (Zondervan, 1981), 356–61.). But it became an important word in the New Testament as this secular word is used 133 times in the New Testament. And the word joy is used a lot in the birth narratives of Jesus.

In Matthew’s gospel, the wise men are said to be filled with joy when they saw the sign of the Messiah — the star. When they find Jesus, do you remember what they do? They bow down and worship and give Jesus gifts. They’d traveled a long way to find Jesus and had been anticipating the moment of being in His presence for some time. So — when they finally find Him — what do you think they were filled with? If the star — a sign leading them to the one they’re looking for — if the star gave them joy — actually being in the presence of the Messiah would give them nothing less than joy.

In Luke’s gospel, joy is mentioned in the stories about the birth of Jesus. Joy’s mentioned in the story of John the Baptist’s birth. His parents are told that the reason joy would surround their son was not so much due to his miraculous birth — which it was — they were old and had no children when they were promised a son. The joy wasn’t going to be based on John’s prominence as a prophet — even though he would be a great prophet. No the reason that joy would surround their son is because John would be the one who announces that the promised Messiah had come. John had been marked to prepare the way for the One who would come and be the joy for all people.

And when Jesus was born, Luke tells us that an angel came to a group of shepherds and told them not to be afraid, but to have joy. Why? “The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10, NLT)

SUMMARY OF POINT 1

The emphasis — in both Matthew and Luke — is that Jesus is the great joy that’s come for all people. So the goal of the Christian faith — the purpose of the gospel — in some sense — is to help people find the joy they’re searching for — the joy they’re frantic to find — is a joy that’s only found in Jesus.

IN THE LORD

Which leads us back to our verse because there we’re told to...

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

We’re to rejoice — or have joy — in the Lord.

But think of all of the places where we try to find joy. Some try to find joy in temporary things. Their lives revolve around them getting whatever it is they think will give them joy. Could be possessions or money. A certain career or having the ideal family. People try to find joy in whatever they think will give them comfort or security. They try to find joy in temporary things all while being oblivious to the fact that none of these things can give them real and lasting joy.

Some turn to religion to find joy — they think joy is to be found in what they do for God. They think if they pray enough, or read their Bible enough, or if they volunteer enough, or give enough money to the church that God will give them joy. But that’s not how joy works either. We don’t do things for God so that He owes us something — even to be joyful. Doing things for God — so He owes you joy — is just as frivolous as doing things for God so He owes you anything else — it doesn’t work.

But what we see in Paul’s words — is that real, lasting — filling that void in your life joy — can be found. And we see where it’s to be found in the words “in the Lord.”

Now this phrase — in the Lord — can be understood in a few different ways. One author has said that the phrase can mean “in the will, purpose, or power of the Lord,” it can mean “because of the Lord,” it can mean “because you are in the Lord,” or it can mean to have “Christ as [the] object of [your] worship.” (Mark J. Keown and H. Wayne House, Philippians, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 332.)

And here are my thoughts on all of those possibilities — yes! Yes we’re to rejoice because of the will of the Lord. God’s will is perfect and if you are in Christ — if you believe in Him — God is working out His will perfectly for your eternal good. So rejoice...in the Lord!

We’re to rejoice because of the purpose of the Lord. God has made His purposes clear to us in His Word. What is He doing? Why is He doing it? What’s His end goal? What’s our part to play in God’s purpose for all things? These questions are all answered in the Bible and their answers give us a reason to rejoice. So rejoice...in the Lord!

We’re to rejoice because of the power of the Lord. God is all-powerful. He has no equal. There’s nothing too hard for Him. God can do all things according to His character — right Kidway folks? All reasons to rejoice because this means that the friend or family member who you grieve over because they hate Jesus — or maybe are indifferent to Him — well guess what? They’re no match for God’s saving power. There is no sinner so powerful that saving them is a task to difficult for God. What a reason to rejoice. So rejoice...in the Lord!

We’re to rejoice because of the Lord — because of who Jesus is and all that He’s done on our behalf.

We’re to rejoice because we’re in the Lord. To be in the Lord means to put your faith in Jesus and — in doing so — the Bible says your old, rebellious, “I’m against God” self has died with Christ on the cross and as Christ was raised from the dead you were raised with Him as a new, obedient, “I’m for God” person. And being in Christ, when God looks to you He sees you — but He sees you enveloped in Christ — surrounded by Christ — absorbed in all that Christ is — so that He sees a new, radically transformed you that you don’t even yet begin to comprehend or appreciate.

And we’re to rejoice because of who we worship. We worship an amazing Savior. We worship a compassionate, patient, unconditionally loving God. We worship an “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” kind of Savior.

As George Mueller — the great orphan caretaker of England — would say, “The first, great, and primary business...everyday was to have my soul happy in the Lord.” ( Tony Merida et al., Exalting Jesus in Philippians, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference, 2016), 171.) The guy cared for over 10,000 orphans during his life, yet his primary business — every single day — was to be happy — or joyful — in Jesus.

Or as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them...They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books, Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality, 1st HarperCollins ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 176.)

If you want to be showered with joy — get close to the joy giver.

SUMMARY OF POINT 2

Where does your joy come from — what gives you joy?

Most people think you get joy when you get what you desire. But real joy comes when you realize what you deserve — and that you didn’t get it. True joy’s found when you realize that you deserve eternal judgment but — instead — have been given the gift of salvation through faith in Christ — that truth should give you great joy.

Joy isn’t about getting what you want; it’s about all you have in Jesus. ( Merida et al., Exalting Jesus in Philippians, 172.)

ALWAYS

And when you look at all that you have in Jesus you will...

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

Now the meaning here — in the word “always” — is the idea of “rejoicing at all times” not “constantly rejoicing.” (Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Revised., Word Biblical Themes (Waco, TX: Word, 2004), 244.) Meaning the idea isn’t “are you rejoicing now? What about now? What about now? Now? What about now? Are you rejoicing right now?” That’s not what Paul means.

Paul means can you rejoice in all circumstances? For instance, this letter was likely written from prison. So, Paul’s own circumstances sets the tone for what he means by being joyful — or rejoicing — always. It’s possible — and necessary — to rejoice in all circumstances. And only if your joy is in Jesus will you be able to rejoice in all circumstances.

Rejoice while in prison? Only if Jesus is where your joy is found.

Rejoice with cancer? Only if your joy is in Jesus and not in being cancer free.

Rejoice when she left me? Only if Jesus is the sole source of your joy.

Rejoice when I didn’t get into any of the colleges I applied to? Only if Jesus is your joy.

Biblical joy is so different from everything we’re taught to believe about joy. Our culture tells us that we can only have joy when everything is going great. When the world is crumbling — or our wishes and wants are not being fulfilled — then you don’t have to be joyful — at least that’s what we’re told. Culture also tells us that our longings and desires — what we think will give us joy — are beyond our control — they’re just natural. What we want is what we want. What we think will give us joy is what we’re to go and explore and see if we can find our happiness. We’re told that our circumstances are key to our joy.

Now — in a real sense our joy is circumstantial — and we really don’t have control over our circumstances. Sometimes the innocent find themselves in prison. No one volunteers for cancer — or for your wife to walk out on you and the kids — or to get a rejection letter from every college you applied to. And there’s really not any way to avoid being influenced by your circumstances — life can be brutally shocking — it can suck all of the air out of your lungs in a second with news you never imagined you’d be hearing. And our culture has a good read on our longings and desires — they do come from deep within us. But what our culture is unwilling to admit is that our hearts are deceitful — our hearts are always seeking to control us — and that our hearts are not to be trusted.

Yet here’s where the Christian faith gives us comfort not found in what we hear from culture. The Christian faith teaches us that true joy isn’t the product of random circumstances. Joy based on our circumstances won’t ever be stable — it’ll always be shifting — like an unsafe bridge that you’re trying to cross — you keep waiting for it to give out and eventually it does — joy based on our ever changing wants and desires is like chasing after the wind — or even worse — you finally get what you’ve been desiring only to find yourself feeling even more empty than when you were chasing after it.

CHRIST CONNECTION

But if our joy is based — not on a temporary circumstance — but on something that has eternal consequences — then the joy we find because of that circumstance will itself be everlasting. And what the Christian faith teaches is that the only source of joy that will satisfy us forever — is the joy that God offers to us in His Son when we turn to Jesus as our Messiah — as our Savior and Lord.

And when Jesus is your Messiah, your joy doesn’t come and go like the waves of the ocean or like a gust of wind — because your joy is no longer based on your wants and desires but is based on Jesus who is a Rock, a Foundation, who is steady and secure in all situations. And your longings and desires — which are deeply ingrained within you — are not so deep that they’re outside of the power and Spirit of God. And in turning to Jesus, your longings and desires are changed by the power and Spirit of God as you put your hope and trust in Emmanuel. And you find that your desires are being changed and aligned with God’s perfect plan.

And then your longings — and my longings — being empowered by God and influenced by the Holy Spirit — are no longer a source of frustration — but are a source of hope and purpose — as our longings and desires become a reason to rejoice because they’re in line with the One who is our joy.

CONCLUSION

And so Paul concludes by saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

Jesus has come. The long expected — anticipated — we’ve been waiting for you — Messiah has come. The King of all nations has come. The Bright and Morning Star has come. The Key of David has come. The Branch of Jesse has come. The Lord of Might has come. The Wisdom from on High has come. Emmanuel has come.

And He will come again — Jesus will return. It’s been promised and God doesn’t break His promises. And our response to this Good News — like Paul — is to rejoice. We’re to rejoice because our Savior has come and is coming again. We rejoice because Jesus’ promised return is the circumstance that is determining the trajectory of our eternity. Rejoice because — through faith in Christ — you are in Him — you have hope in Him — you have peace through Him — you are loved by Him — you have found joy in Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord always — I will say it again — rejoice.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help us to be joyful people. May our joy be based on the circumstance of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and promised return of our Messiah — of our Lord and Savior — Jesus Christ. That is a foundation for our joy that is unshakeable. Though the waves of life may come crashing against us, our faith stands secure on the Rock.

Father, for those who are here today looking for joy — give them the joy they’ve been searching for — but haven’t been able find — the joy found in Your Son. May their hearts be given new life, may their spirits be awakened by Your Spirit, may their desires be Your desires, and their purpose in life align with Your purpose for them.

And for all of us — Father, Son, and Spirit — may we trust in Your promises to us. That Emmanuel has come and is coming again. May we fix our eyes on our Savior and King who has promised to return to rescue His people from this dark and broken world — who will return and make all things new — and in returning will give us an all new indescribable joy as we experience His presence forever. O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go rejoicing in the Lord...always. Amen.

God loves you. And I love you too. You are sent.