From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - October 27, 2021

Dear Friends,

What would it look like for you to believe that you are justified by faith in Jesus? How would it change your life to live as if God has fully accepted you as if you had lived the life Jesus lived and died the death Jesus died? As the writer to the Hebrews says, “By a single offering (Jesus’ death on the cross) He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” 

Listen to Hebrews 10:14 again, from the New Living Translation: “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”

Jesus’ death has us declared perfect. We aren’t actually perfect. No Christian is on this side of heaven. But we are being changed. We are being made holy. We are in process of becoming what God has already declared us to be in Christ.

What would it look like to believe that? 

1 – I’m set free to fail – Consider this wisdom from Richard Lovelace (seminary professor and author). See where you find yourself in his description:

“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification, although below the surface of their lives they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theological commitment to [the doctrine of justification], but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance, or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know how to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Martin Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.”

Many of us know what it feels like to rely on our sanctification [our current success at keeping Jesus’ commands] in order to feel justified, like my goodness gets me on God’s good side. Internally, we are set up to live every day on shifting sand. If I do well, I’ve got something to boast about. If I’m not doing well, then I’ve got that fear that God’s going to punish me, like I’m always in trouble. 

 Justification by faith in Christ alone – sets me free to start each day, knowing I am accepted by God in Christ, whether I succeed or fail in the coming hours. We can get off the performance treadmill. Jesus’ performance was perfect for you. 

2 – Start Boasting about Grace
Pay attention to the places you work hard to justify yourself, where you pride yourself. Where do you boast? Every day we are looking for ways to feel that I’m ok. And often that leads to me feeling much more ok than those around me. 

I’m ok and more ok that that other person because I don’t __________________.

Parenting Okness – I’m a good parent because my kid doesn’t play video games, never eats sugar and is not a bully.  This sets me up to get my sense of Okness from how well my children are doing.

Political Okness – A big one these days. I’m ok because I’m accepted by those who agree with me politically. I can boast about who I voted for. Those who voted differently. They are NOT ok. 

I picked only two things, but the options are limitless. Because we are always looking to justify ourselves by what we do. It’s the default mode of every human heart. 

But God, in the only courtroom that matters, you are justified by faith in Christ only. It’s a gift of grace, not of works, so that no one may boast! When we stop boasting in our performance, and stop obsessing about our okness, we are set free to love those who are not ok. Which according to Paul in Romans 3 is every human being. Even me.

Two Prayer Items:
1 – Stan Trestick will be having surgery at the end of the week. Pray for his recovery and peace during the process.

2 – Pat Turner requested prayer for a family friend, Jeff Elison. At only 45, this self-employed husband and father of 3, suffered a heart attack. He’s looking at a long recovery. There’s a lot of turmoil and anxiety about the  future. 

Sunday School – 9:00am – Join us as we meditate on Jesus’s commands to abide in the vine from John 15:1-17.

Worship – 10:15am – Genesis 2:1-3 – “God Rested”

              We are finishing up the first account of creation, looking at the 7th day, when God rested. I know I’ve read Genesis 2:1-3 several times. God rested. My initial response is, “Ok, What’s the big deal?” 

Start here: How is your relationship with your work? Do you know how to stop? To really stop. To turn off your brain. To rest. The stereotype is that we work really hard to get that boat that we never have time to enjoy. 

See the good news of God’s rest yet? Right in the beginning, written to the recently freed slaves of Israel, God is declaring that human beings are more than their work. We live in God’s world, where He provides in such a way that we are set free to rest. And if we are made in His image, we are to rule like He rules. And we ought not to expect others to work 24-7. We can give the cattle, the fields, the computer, the email, the hustle a rest. Because God rested. 

There’s more. So I will see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Nate Thompson
www.hopechurch.us

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Following Jesus Together - October 14, 2021

Dear Friends,

For the next couple of weeks Pastor Jim will be working through Romans 3 and 4, teaching about the essential and life-changing doctrine of justification by faith. So let’s start thinking about it now.

Martin Luther (German 16th century monk) famously said something like this: “The doctrine or teaching by which the church stands or falls is justification. It’s so wonderful and important that this doctrine cannot be studied enough or too deeply.”

We haven’t said what justification is yet. But let’why this doctrine matters so much to the Christian life:

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was an influential Welsh Bible teacher and pastor in London for 30 years, starting in 1939, during World War II. He said that lots of people would come into his office for counseling and pastoral care. And he would ask, “Are you a Christian?” Often their reply was, “I’m trying.”

Jones would fire back, “Well, which is it? There is no trying to be a Christian. You either are or you are not.”

To use the language of the Bible, “You are either in the kingdom of light or enslaved in the kingdom of darkness. You are either justified by God or you are condemned by God.”

“I’m trying” on the surface sounds humble, like I haven’t arrived yet. To which we can say, “Join the club! No one in the church has arrived. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” 
But “I’m trying” reveals a heart that still believes I have to do more to get God to accept me. 
“I’m trying” forgets Jesus words in John 3:16-18, that whoever believes in Him, is not condemned.” Go look it up!
“I’m trying” doesn’t yet understand what it means to be justified by God’s grace as a gift. (Romans 3:23-25)
“I’m trying” corrupts Christianity into another form of good advice rather than what the Bible says Christianity is: good news. 

So we need a continue rediscovery of this doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. This gift puts to death the “I’m trying” forms of Christianity. What is justification by faith alone? It’s answering the question of how am I accepted by God? 

I’ll leave you to meditate on the words of the Heidelberg Catechism question 60, which sums up the Bible’s teaching beautifully: How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments,
have never kept any of them, 
and am still inclined to all evil, 
yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me 
the perfect satisfaction, 
righteousness, 
and holiness of Christ. 
He grants these to me 
as if I had never had nor committed any sin,
and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, 
if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

All the Scripture references can be found here: http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/lords-days/23.html

What does God see when He looks at you in Christ? Blameless, holy, beloved, obedient just as Jesus is. Because we are justified God treats us as if we had never sinned and have perfectly obeyed. Justification by faith is the anchor, the one-time, forever, act of His free grace. 

Try it this week – ask someone what they think Christianity is about? Perhaps you will have an opportunity to explain the wonder of being justified by grace alone. 

See the “I’m trying” nailed to Jesus’ cross who said, “It is finished.”

9:00am – Sunday School – Come and see how Jesus was troubled in heart so we may not be. We are looking at John 14:1-6 together.

10:15am – Pastor Jim is teaching through Romans 3:21-31 – “By Faith Alone”

See you Sunday! Grace and peace,
Nate

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