August 24, 2014 [Philippians 4]

"Guardian of Peace"
[Philippians 4]
Pastor Brendon Wu

The sermon is entitled, “Guardian of Peace”, referring to Christ who is the one and only true guardian that can guard that peace for us. The passage we are looking at today is at the tail of Philippians – a letter written by Paul from a prison cell. He’s in prison because he loved Jesus so much and he did everything he could to teach and tell about Jesus. So when he is writing this letter, I just want us to see how much hope and how much joy there is. Pastor Kenny talked last week about how the dominant theme of Philippians is joy. Paul keeps saying – rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.

Citizenship in Heaven
In Philippians 4:1 it says, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” In order to really understand Paul here, we must understand what he said previous to this. Before this Paul was saying in Philippians 3:17-20, Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Paul is saying we have a new citizenship. And this place we call home is not earth but heaven. And because our citizenship is in heaven, we are waiting for Jesus Christ to return. Because we don’t belong to this world, we shouldn’t be living and acting according to the rules of this world. And Paul was really getting into that by sharing his resume. He had more passion than anyone else in the Jewish leadership. He had so much passion and loved God so much, he went out and
persecuted the church. How much righteousness did he have? Under the law, he was blameless. He had perfect character. He was really the best of all that he did. But despite all this, this wasn’t where he found joy. So he got rid of all that in exchange for having Jesus in his life and knowing Jesus.

True joy
At the tail end of his letter, he’s getting more into specifics. That’s why he says – “Therefore, my brothers,[a] whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” There are always going to be people in the world that seem to have joy, have happiness. I think a lot of times when we look at them, we wonder why our life doesn’t look like theirs. They seem really well to do. They seem really rich. Whether we are in middle school, high school, college, mid 20’s, older and so on – a lot of times we look at the world around us and feel like we are not doing something right. We aren’t getting grades everyone seems to be getting. People have nice cars. People are buying houses. We wonder – maybe these are the things we should be caring about. Maybe those are the things that will make us happy. But Paul is saying is that, that’s not what makes him happy. And that’s not what makes God happy.

Verse 1 points out so specifically, the only way we can have true joy. There is a big difference between joy and happiness. All of us are familiar with happiness. I’m very familiar with happiness. Being a person that experiences different emotions, some days your just happy. Some days you’re not happy. Some days you’re hoping something will go well. Maybe it’s a date. Maybe it’s an exam. Maybe it’s time you are spending with friends. But it just doesn’t go well. In terms of our heart and our feelings, we don’t feel that happy. Happy is very temporary. It’s something we try to hold onto. We try to grasp and hang onto that good feeling. But from the Bible and what Paul is sharing, there is something called joy that is greater than happiness. Joy comes to us from heaven. Joy comes to us from Jesus Christ because no matter what we ever go through, Jesus Christ vows to love us. And He never changes – past, present, future. And the fact that Jesus Christ loved Paul and loves us so much that He would go to the lengths of dying for us on the cross – when I read that, I am really challenged and really encouraged. Just thinking about different circumstances, even when I screw up and when I have a bad day – if that’s how Jesus Christ loves me, when wow! That’s an amazing joy. It doesn’t matter what happens in our day-to-day circumstances. The eternal fact is that Jesus Christ loves us. And as Paul is nearing the end of his life, he sees how Christ loves and long for him. How Christ views Paul as His joy and in a sense – His crown. And as Paul sees how Christ loves him, Paul can’t help but just love other people and wanting to have that same joy in Christ with other people. So in verse 1, take a note at the fact that what Paul calls his joy and his crown is the Philippians. His brothers and sisters. His friends. He’s not claiming anything else except for the relationship that he has with his brothers and sisters as his ultimate treasure. His joy and his crown.

I think it’s so amazing that what God promises is - Himself. A lot times I think that when we come to church, we have different expectations. I don’t know why all of us might be here at church this morning. But what I do know from my length of time here at this church is that if you are looking for money, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking for a fun time - yes, we do have a lot of fun in our church, but even that fun time alone, its not going to be everything we ever looked for. Maybe that’s why church is disappointing to us a lot of times. If we are looking for quick, easy solutions to our daily life problems, it’s just not going to happen. Our church can’t solve all the problems of the world. But one thing that Paul says and that we know is that – when we stand firm in the Lord, that’s where we find our joy.

Stand firm in the Lord
At our church, there are relationships that are hard. There are relationships that get really real sometimes. There are conflicts that we have. And as I am listening to myself, I can’t help but think how hard these things are. Why would anyone want to come to church? But doesn’t that look more like reality? The fact that we go through hard times. The fact that we go through hardships together. And yet we come to this church because there is a God that loves us and wants to go through all these things with us. And that’s a God that we can plant our life in. Paul is saying that – after everything that he has written about Christ, are we ready to stand firm in the Lord? Are we ready stand firm and know that the best things God gives us is Himself and our friends. So that was point number 1 – is Jesus Christ and the church our joy and crown?

In scripture it says that all of us who are in Christ will kneel before Christ, will fall flat on our faces and heaven will be worshiping Him just amazed and marveling at who Christ is. In Revelations, it says that we will offer up our crowns to Christ. The word, “crown”, is used. I think when I first thought about that for myself, it really freaked me out. It made me think about where my heart was. It made me think about what I was spending my time with. I just want to ask to same question with you guys. At the end of your life, when you’re there with Christ, what kind of crown are you going to give Christ? What will you declare before Him? “God, I worked so hard at this job and look how much money I made and gave to the church. Look at how many promotions I had. Look at all these amazing things I did at my job. And God I did it to glorify you. Here’s my crown God. Are you impressed?” Or will we look at God and say, “God, I tried to be the most loving person, the most patient person. I am to be the most forgiving person. God look at how I tried to be like Christ. Here is my crown. Does that impress you?” God is not satisfied with our righteousness or with any of the riches that we attain in this world. But where God wants us to be satisfied, is in the Lord. God is not looking for us to stand firm in being a good husband. Or stand firm in being a good student. Or standing firm in whatever our work is. But what Paul says to find our joy and make our crown is Jesus Christ and one another.

Reconciliation and agreeing in the Lord
Paul knows that is so important so he goes into the some specifics, talking about two ladies Euodia and Syntyche. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” When I thought about this at first, I imagined two old ladies just fighting. But when I looked at what Paul was really getting at and what he was really saying was, Euodia and Syntyche, these women labored side by side with me. These women were in the same church and same family of God with me. Why are they fighting with each other? Why is Christian on Christian crime? And what Paul wanted them to do was to resolve that relationship and to reconcile. They are both wrong. Notice how it doesn’t say, “Oh, Syntyche is right. Or Euodia is right”. And we don’t even really know what they are arguing about. But what Paul says is, it doesn’t matter. It matters that at the end of the day, they end up in the Lord together. They agree in the Lord. One of the things I appreciate so much in our church is that through good counseling, if I get into an argument with somebody, it’s never like – I’m right, you’re wrong. You need to hear how I’m right and then give me an apology and that’s how we mend defenses. But scripture teaches is that Euodia and Syntyche are both wrong. Only God is right. Meaning, when we look at these verses, Paul is asking his true companion to help these women reconcile. Paul is asking the church to help them reconcile. And the way that the church helps them reconcile isn’t to take sides or anything.

Usually when a guy and a girl get into an argument, guys take the guy’s side and girls take the girl’s side. But what we’ve been taught to do through scripture is to defend the other side. Say things like, “Wow, that’s brutal. But you guys should talk it out, talk it out like this”. We introduce reconciliation. Guys defend the girl and the relationship. Girls defend the guy and the relationship. And what Paul is saying is that, there might be guys that back you up and always agree with you. But at our church, we don’t agree with people just for the sake of agreeing with them and backing them up. But we agree in the Lord. And that’s what Paul loves so much. If we want real peace in our relationships, it’s not by beating up the other side and having peace our way. But instead what Jesus Christ wants to do is guard the relationship. Guard the real crown. It’s not us ourselves. But the real crown and the real joy is the relationship that we are meant to have with Christ and with each other. That’s how relationships last for an eternity.

Paul says, these women “labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life”. That really stuck with me – “whose names are in the book of life”. We can’t treat our relationships here like we do at home. At home, I felt like my dad didn’t really care so I didn’t bother to get to know him. I felt like my mom was a nuisance so I shut her out completely and give her a nasty attitude. But real relationships and real friends – real crowns last for an eternity. Our names are actually in the book of life. The book of life is God’s understanding and God’s knowledge of every single person that He has a relationship with. They’re bound for eternity because Jesus Christ died an eternal suffering and death for us. In the words of my sister in Christ, Angi, a lot of times she will say to me, “Hi, isn’t it nice? We’re stuck for eternity. Isn’t it cool?” At first, I was caught off guard but then I realized, it is pretty cool.

I want to end with the approach we have to guarding our peace and reconciling the relationships that we have. Paul says we have to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” We can actually reach our hand and find Him. It’s not like God is hiding Himself from us. The word of God is right here. The church is right here. God is at hand. We can reach out our hand and find Him. I don’t know how many times I had a really bad conflict with somebody and we would argue for two hours with our words. In that conversation, I just felt so hopeless and so defeated at the end. But what I realized at the end of the conversation is that a lot of times I thought I was being reasonable but I wasn’t. The reason why I was so down and depressed after the conversation was because there was no mention of the cross. There was no mention of Christ. There was no mention of God. Jesus Christ who wants nothing more than to reconcile His relationship with us and our relationships with one another. This is not to say that at the end of every conversation, you have to have joy and shake hands. It’s not that fake kind of thing where we have to pretend that we love each other. But what Paul really looks at is, do we know that Jesus Christ loves us even in this moment where the relationship, the conflict is so hard. We might not be feeling the happiness but it’s joy that we still have. We can still rejoice. We see a relationship that’s broken, and most people would become depressed and run away from it. But because we see the cross, even more than the brokenness, because we see the cross, we can still have joy. We have still rejoice. “God, I got into this horrible argument. I got into this horrible thing. There is no peace in my heart. Only anxiety. But God thank you so much that even after all this, you still love me. And you still love this relationship. In fact, you died for this relationship. And you rose again to defend this relationship. And because of that God, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What Paul doesn’t promise, and what God doesn’t promise is a full understanding of how everything works. It’s not like that. There’s a peace of God that surpasses all understanding. What Paul teaches and what God is showing here is that God cares about everything. Every relationship that we have. There is a peace that we can have. It doesn’t make sense according to us and how we envision things and how we personally want things to go. But when we submit to God, and we care more about how God reconciles relationships rather than how we think relationships should go, there’s a peace that finally settles into the picture. “God, I know my relationships with my dad, my mom, my friends, or even the relationship I have with you just seems so not what I thought it would be. But God, thank you. Thank you that I can pray to you. Thank you that I can make my requests be known to you. Thank you, God”.

What I love what Paul says is that – it’s not like we make a request and then God has to do that request. And then we thank Him. But even the fact that we can pray to God because of Christ - Christ listens to us, Christ cares for us personally and through one another. The only way that this was possible was because there is a person that who took our actual anxiety. Took our actual unrest. The night before Jesus Christ died on the cross, he was actually going through anxiety. He was going through unrest. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he knew what was coming. That He was going to die on the cross and be separated from God for the very first time. Imagine if you were about to lose the one person that you’ve known so long and that you’re so close with the next day. The night before, you just wouldn’t be able to take it. During those moments from the Garden, leading up to the cross, there was no peace. No peace between Christ and God. To the point where even when Christ was on the cross, He said “God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? Why have you forsaken me?” To Jesus Christ, the most precious thing was His relationship with God. Jesus wasn’t thinking about other things. Other crowns and other joys. But that crown and joy that He had with God. And when Jesus Christ said, “My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?” There was no reply from God. God heard nothing of what Jesus was saying there. But because of the fact that Christ underwent that and was completely cut off in His relationship from God – Christ not only knows what it’s like a lot of times to be cut off from our relationship with God and with other people, and the kind of anxiety or nervousness that comes out of that. But Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. And when He came back to life, the first thing that He did was to go to His disciples. If I was resurrected from the dead, I would be like “I need some food. I need a shower. I want to see my family first.” But no. When Christ was resurrected from the dead, He was so full of joy because of the resurrection. He overcame the greatest unrest possible. To be cut off from God. And when He resurrected with the new found peace and freedom that He had, He went to His disciples and spent forty days, forty nights with them. Just loving the word of God and forming a church. That was the world’s first church. That’s why we have a church.

Out of all this, if there is one thing we focus on – it’s the fact our relationships matter so much. With God. And with one another. There’s no greater joy that we can truly have. If we are avoiding repentance. If we are avoiding reconciliation. That might be what we are doing but that’s not what God wants. And Christ loves us and cares about us so much that He gave up His life so that we can have a reconciled relationship with God and with one another.

August 20, 2014

“The Final Instruction”
[Philippians 3]
Pastor Kenny Lee

The reason I titled this sermon the “Final Instruction” is because if you read the start of Philippians 3 Paul says, “1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Why is the word finally important? Last week the word therefore was significant. My wife and I have a date night every Wednesday. Right before we go out, the kids are there, and I tell them, “Be good. Listen to your babysitters. Do these things.” When we leave, the important things are said. It is no different back then compared to now. What’s important to Paul as he is in jail? What’s important to him is Christianity 101- the fact that we have a relationship with Jesus. Paul does a wonderful job of talking about the cross. What should be the effects of it? What should be our ultimate action because of the cross? Rejoicing. I’m not talking about a frivolous joy. It’s a joy that comes from a purpose. The difference between joyfulness and happiness is that happiness is something you can obtain. For example, flowers make me happy so I grow flowers. Joy is something that grabs onto you. What makes you joyful? What is the ultimate joy in your life? If that joy is just you, there isn’t that much joy. What has a hold of you? In 1 John 4:10 it says, 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.” Our joy has a hold of us. Upon realizing that Jesus loves you so much, rejoice and have joy. This leads me to the question. Are you joyful? Is there joy in your life? Do you proclaim yourself to be a Christian? That’s a valid question because Christianity 101 is the fact that there’s joy. I don’t want you to go throughout your life only experiencing happiness. There should be joy and contentment. Of course, there’s sorrow in Paul’s life. He is in jail. He is not delusion. Yet, he sees the purpose of God and has joy. Do you have a purpose?

The second thing is that you should be careful. Paul knows that this is a battle. Is Christianity hard for you? It should be a struggle. In your theology is God the center? Or is he more like a genie to you? That can be assessed by your prayer life. If your prayers are all about what God can give you, then you view him more like a genie. What do we look out for? “2Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3For we are the circumcision, who worship by the spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” We tend to put confidence in the flesh. Our personalities develop that way. If you are a good-looking type of guy or a good-looking gal, you accentuate the good looks because you want to hide the flaws. Let’s just say you have a great personality, but your looks aren’t that great. Then you develop your personality even more. As we grow up, we figure out our strengths and weaknesses. Those people who are good at studying happen to study a lot more. They do really well because that is all they do. Those people who aren’t good at studying, but are good at sports, focus their energy on sports instead. Their personalities develop around that. We accentuate our good and hide what we think we lack. We put a confidence in the flesh. Paul says you’re not supposed to do that. Paul presses it further by using himself as an example by saying, 4 though I myself have every reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
Paul knows it. He is not bragging here, but he is telling it like it is. Paul worked really hard. He was a true Israelite. He descended from a good tribe. In Korea, it’s such a small country but they make such a big deal out of what “Lee” you are. Back in Paul’s day it was the same thing. Not only that, Paul was a Pharisee. He knew all of God’s law. He was a zealous Pharisee to the point he persecuted the church because he followed God’s law so much. Paul was perfect according to these standards.

Today’s equivalent would be saying that you are one of John F. Kennedy’s grandsons and that you attended an elitist high school and graduated from Harvard. You studied law and became a US Justice. You know what Paul says about all of that? He calls it rubbish. All of that hindered him from coming to Jesus. It worked against him. “8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” Anything that kept Paul away from Christ was rubbish. “10That I may know him and the power of his resurrection that I may share his suffering becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” That means he guarded his relationship with Jesus Christ. He knew what was important. Does Jesus Christ matter in your life? The majority of this congregation is younger than me. I’m 43 and middle aged. That means maybe I have 43 years to live; that’s not long. It feels like yesterday was my 21st birthday. A lot of you guys are in your 20’s and 30’s. You have lived 25 percent of your life. Do you remember the first 20 years of your life? Did it have any purpose? I am saying you don’t have time. What’s important to you? Jesus Christ should matter.

12Not that I have already attained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” We try to hide our imperfections so that we can appear perfect. That’s why we have so many insecurities. We are afraid people will see these imperfections and see us as we truly are. The great news is that God knows you’re not perfect. You don’t have to put up a façade. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Every one of us here has something in common: the fact that we are all sinners and have no leg to stand on. That’s why I have no reason to judge you. Are you a redeemed sinner? Has Christ redeemed you? That’s what matters. If so do you have joy? If so, do you put confidence in yourself because you shouldn’t. Look out. It’s a battle. There are people who don’t want you to believe in Christ, but believe what they believe. You can here it in their talk. They want you to agree with them and that’s it. I don’t want you to agree with me. I want you to agree with Scripture. I don’t want you to be on my team. I want you to be on God’s team. Hopefully I am on God’s team. I say something that comes directly from my brain; I don’t want you to listen. If I say something that comes out of Scripture, both you and I need to obey. It is either you’re on God’s team or you’re not. That’s at the center. Paul recognizes he’s not perfect. He’s an apostle and writes scripture. He does not try to hide himself. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Don’t give up. That’s why God gives us the church so that we can press on. Are you pressing on?

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” My wife often asks me questions about our sons like, “Do you even care about their academic welfare? Do you even care about their hygiene?” Of course I do, I don’t want them to be at the bottom of the barrel or to smell. Above all of that, you know what I care about? I told her, “I want my children to have the relationship I have with Jesus. I love him so much that I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have him. He became so real in my life that I don’t know what I would do. I want for my two children to have a relationship with Jesus. This relationship with Jesus does not come from me. It comes from Christ alone. That’s all I care about.” My thoughts are the same about you. You could be the greatest doctor in the world. I’d rather be a beggar who knows and loves Jesus than a world-class surgeon who doesn’t know Jesus. Christ is that important. I will welcome a person who loves Jesus. He has to matter in your life. Christ should matter because of what he did. The Bible says that Satan had a bullet aimed right at you with your name on it. Satan has no qualms with pulling that trigger and shooting you in the head. Jesus Christ, on the cross took that bullet for you. Do you believe it? If your best friend died for you on the spot, that would change your life. What about Jesus the Son of God? Does that change your life? Who is Christ to you? If the thought of Jesus Christ dying for you doesn’t somehow move you then you have problems. Rejoice. That has to bring joy in your life. That is what brings purpose in your life. Look out there are people who want to take your joy away. Don’t let them do that. Love Jesus. Love God.

Jesus says to Peter, one of his disciples in Luke 21:15-17, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me.’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.” Jesus is telling Peter to love the church. I think one of the ways we see how much we love Jesus is how much we love one another. I pray at CCC that we would love one another and be united with love for one another.

July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014
“Mediating Peace”
[Philemon 1]
Pastor Kenny Lee

As we enter into the new building, I want to talk to you about something that is close to my heart. It is something that I think God wants our church to hear. Nothing ruins a church more then bad relationships or no relationships. It tears apart a church. Culturally, the reason why many Korean folks do not like Korean churches is because church splits are extremely common. “I am sick of it pastor. I’m sick of church splits.”  Church splits happen because there is no reconciliation. Christianity is about reconciliation. It is the reason why Jesus Christ came down to earth. We weren’t reconciled with God due to our sin. Jesus Christ had to pay 100 percent of everything so that he could reconcile with us. Now we are called to reconcile as well.

[[There is no greater book than filet mignon. Just kidding, Philemon.]]

Paul writes to a dear brother Philemon from a prison in Rome. While in prison, Paul meets a guy named Onesimus from Colosse. Paul knew Philemon was from Colosse. Come to find out Onesimus is a run away slave whose master was Philemon. Before we get started I want clarify certain things about slavery back then. When we think about slavery, we think about the Civil War. Slavery was different in Biblical times. They didn’t have a robust banking system in those days. As a result when you wanted to do business and take out a loan, you would borrow money from the local rich man. In this case, it was Philemon. Onesimus borrows money from Philemon and cannot pay Philemon back.  In order to pay Philemon back, Onesimus had to become his endured servant until his debt was fully paid off. Once his debt is paid, he is free. Onesimus must have been treated unfairly or thought he was treated unfairly because he runs away without paying Philemon back. Onesimus happens to meet Paul in prison. What are the chances? That is a miracle in itself. Long story short, Onesimus starts talking with Paul and believing in Christ. Paul used Onesimus to spread the gospel, probably to write letters to other churches.

Paul writes a letter to Philemon; the letter is not just to Philemon. Paul knows that this bondservant and his master need to reconcile. Onesimus has become a new creation and now they need to reconcile. Who does Paul write to? “1To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house…” He is writing to everyone: Philemon, Apphia -probably Philemon’s wife, Archippus- a pastor, and the whole church. It is matter of Philemon and Onesimus, but the whole church is involved. Reconciliation may be about two people, but it involves the church. When two people don’t get along it is not just about those two people. You think it will be solved if they just ‘talk it out.’  It affects the whole church. Paul knows that and writes to the whole church.

Paul is an apostle. What an apostle means is that he has perfect theology. He is able to write Scripture. He writes almost half of the New Testament. The man has authority. He has more authority than I do. I read and regurgitate what he says. That is my job. Paul doesn’t use his authority with Philemon. He can, but he doesn’t. He starts off by saying, “4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Paul is thankful to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church. He remembers them in his prayers and hears amazing things about them. He is interested in seeing how they are doing. He desires that they grow. He is almost like a Dad towards his son. “I thank God for my son. I remember him in my prayers. I hear the amazing things that you’re doing.”  Paul’s joy was Philemon’s success. Paul’s joy was that the church and Philemon were doing well. 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”  Apostle Paul doesn’t command them to reconcile but says, “8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you- I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus.” He would rather talk and relate to them then command them.

He goes on through this argument. He is a wonderful arguer and says, “10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”  He is saying, “Do you know once we accept Christ you are born again?” Born again means you are born into a new family. He calls Onesimus his child. He acknowledges that Onesimus was a thief in the past, but wants Philemon to see that Onesimus has become born again. He writes exercising a play on words, “11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.}”  Onesimus means useful. Paul is saying that Onesimus is living up to his name. Let me ask you. What’s your name? What’s your identity? Do you call yourself a Christian? Are you living up to your name? Or are you living up to the name of being a good dad, a good worker, etc? That’s useless. The only thing that matters is that you are a Christian. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be given unto you.” I know that may sound cliché, but only God is good. What God cares about is reconciliation.

Paul sends Onesimus back. “12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”  Paul could have given all the reasons in the world to keep Onesimus. “He is doing amazing work for God.”  He doesn’t use that argument. I am tempted every day to use that excuse. “Honey, I am doing the work of God. You got to leave me alone. The dishes will get done somehow.” “You want me to give other people rides? No, I have to do the work of God.” You can’t use that as an excuse. “I can’t reconcile with you because I have to go to church.” I prefer you not go to church and reconcile. That’s how valuable a person is to God.

Reconciliation wasn’t just important for Philemon and Onesimus, but it was necessary for the church. Are you guys not reconciled with a person in the church? You know that you are destroying the church? I am talking about full reconciliation. “16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother- especially to me, but how much more to you both in the flesh and in the Lord.”  Can you imagine if somebody stole a whole boatload of money or embarrassed you in front of everyone? I don’t want you to hang onto that bitterness. If he comes to you I want you to forgive him and to love him. I want you to love him like you love someone so dear to your heart. Paul doesn’t say to just forgive. In verse 18, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”  We are apt to saying, “You just got to forgive.” We can’t say that. Paul is acknowledging the hurt that Onesimus caused Philemon, and is telling Philemon that he himself will pay for it. Paul is willing to be Philemon’s slave until Onesimus’ debt is paid off.

How does Paul do that? Paul sees Onesimus truly as his son. Paul is able to pay someone else’s sin. Somebody has to pay for all sin. Let me give you an example. Just say I go to your house and completely destroy your nice, new lamp. I go leaving the broken lamp. There is one person who is not able to study because they are studying in the dark. I offer to give you my functional lamp, and take the broken one from you. Somebody is paying for the price of the broken lamp. Somebody has to pay the price of sin. We have this weird sense of justice, and say things aren’t fair. “That person owes me and hurt me. That person needs to pay!” Apostle Paul realized that there is so much sin he has done. You know that yourself. If I came up to and told you that you were a sinner you would agree. Maybe some of you would get defensive, but deep down you know that you are. We sin against each other. Jesus Christ loves us so much that he identifies himself with us. Each time we sin against one other he hurts. In other words, when you sin it goes directly against Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ says to give him all those broken lamps, all those sins. He takes them on himself. At the cost of himself, he gives a new lamp, a new life to us. He took all of that. Paul knows that. Paul is saying that because Jesus Christ forgave all his sins he is able to forgive. If somebody died for you to save your life, could you risk your life for another? Yeah, you could do that. Jesus Christ took all your sins away. Could you forgive the sins of someone else? That is what Paul is saying. Paul is telling Philemon to forgive because Philemon knows the extent to which Christ saved him. And if Philemon cannot forgive Onesimus, Paul will take on his debt because he knows what Christ has done. I pray as we go into the new church that we are people whom continually seek reconciliation. We submit to God’s authority. We submit to Scripture. That is why Paul is writing to Philemon. He is telling Philemon to submit to apostolic authority and seek reconciliation. If you truly know the gospel, you will see at its heart is reconciliation.

July 13, 2014

Jude 1: 1-25
Pastor Kenny Lee

I want to talk you about the church since we are moving into a new building in two weeks. Our church is experiencing growth, which is wonderful. I say that with some hesitation because in my heart of hearts I don’t really care about how many people come in. I care about forming relationship. I am interested in raising up disciples. I am crazy about getting to know you guys more. I pray that as our church grows we never loose sight of that. This week and next week we will be talking about Scripture’s convictions about the church. I thought long and hard, I talked with Pastor Kwon and Pastor Brendon, and I did some praying about what we need. This led me to Jude.

Who is Jude? He is the half brother of Jesus. “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” We know James is the half-brother of Jesus, so that makes Jude one of the brothers of Jesus. Does Jude have something to say? Yes! He is desperate. He writes with a sense of urgency. I’d like to examine his urgency. Jude 1:3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude would love to talk about salvation and he would love to talk about how God loves us. He would love to focus only on these pleasant things. “You wanna go hang out, yeah? Let’s talk about sports! Let’s talk about shopping! That would be great.” Trust me I would love to talk about those things. I have hung out with you guys and talked about that stuff. But, there are things urgent that you need to hear. There are subjects that need to be talked about like hell, insecurity, death, and everything leading up to these things. I’m afraid we cannot avoid these issues. If we did, I wouldn’t be doing my job. Same thing with Jude, if he does not talk about this he wouldn’t be doing his job as a Christian. Not me just as a pastor, not Jude as one of the apostles, just as Christians we wouldn’t be doing our job.

What’s the urgency? “4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Certain people are coming to the church, including the leadership of the church, and are perverting the grace of God into sensuality. Back in those days and even now we hear, “There is freedom in Christ. We don’t have to keep up with those ten laws. God saved us once and for all. Jesus Christ died for all our sins- past, present, and future. It’s all right. We can do whatever we want.” Jude is asking, “Is that the reason Jesus Christ died?” These people who are infiltrating the church are perverting the grace of God into whatever they want. They were denying Jesus Christ. In other words, they were using Jesus Christ, and weren’t submitting under the teaching of Jesus Christ. They were taking advantage of God’s grace and setting aside God’s authority- picking and choosing whatever they like. Jude is talking about the leaders, but this applies to you too. You need to listen. You need to wake up. Jude is telling you that. I don’t care where you are in your spiritual walk. If you don’t have a spiritual walk, then you have issues. If you don’t have a spiritual walk I’d like to ask, why are you here? You’re not here because everything is going right in your life. The only reason why you are is because there is something not right in your life. “Oh well, my mom and dad forced me.” Yeah, there’s something not right because your mom and dad forced you to come. There is a reason why you’re here. For that reason alone, listen. I’m telling you, I’m not speaking out of my own authority. Just to prove it to you look at these words with me. Why is Jude talking to everyone here? If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus Christ is your Savior and saved you. Jude is reminding you, “5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day- 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, served as example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Why does Jude write something like this? Even though you come to church, doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. Your salvation has nothing to do with whether your mom or dad is on church leadership. Just because you’re a pastor that doesn’t mean you’re saved. There are many pastors and church members in this world that are not going to make it. Don’t assume that. Jude is talking about this. Right now this is #realtalk. 

What are the marks of these kinds of people? There has to be some tell tale signs. Jude gives them. In verse 8, “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” In our culture we see that as a reality. “I had a dream about you yesterday. Are you okay? God gave me a dream telling me you shouldn’t do this or that.” They go by their emotions and feelings. They somehow think that their feelings and emotions are okay. Don’t get me wrong emotions are not bad. God gave you these emotions. I’m an emotional guy. If I see a sad tale I might water up a little bit here and there. If you are led by your emotions and they guide your thoughts and actions, that’s not good. You hang out with your buddy 24/7 and it feels good, but it just ain’t good for you. Staying up late watching Youtube, it’s pretty pleasurable for some, but it ain’t good the next day when you have to go to school. They think that this flesh belongs to them somehow. If you are a Christian that means Jesus Christ owns you. Wake up! A lot of young people have pursuits of being a professional. I hope you get what you want. I would love to see your face then, because you’ll notice that it will be a bitter disappointment. Yesterday I saw a TED talk of this guy who wanted to tell you about your purpose in life. He graduated from Yale and had just gone to a 20th annual reunion. He had talked to his classmates and 80 percent of them were unhappy. All his classmates had their first career, second career, multiple houses, the perfect spouse, etc. At the end of it those classmates said, “I’m past midlife and I’m unhappy.” These people rely on their dreams and defile the flesh. They reject authority. They somehow think they know. They reject people God has placed in their life. They are contending with the devil. Eventually what happens is that they blaspheme God Himself, the ultimate authority. David Helm in his book says, “The message is clear when we succumb to the temptation of this world we find ourselves living however we like. We reject authority. We hate being told what to do. We won’t obey.” Look, I can’t force you to do anything. I’m a pastor. My job is to bless you, but I can’t bless you until you allow it.

C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters writes about a senior demon talking to a junior demon. Uncle Screwtape talks to the younger demon and says, “Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one. The gentle slopes, softer underfoot, without sudden turning, without milestone, without signpost… you’re affectionate Uncle Screwtape.” Do you know what that means? C.S. Lewis is saying the path to hell is very gradual. “It’s okay you don’t have to come to church on Sunday.” “You can skip Bible study.” “Yeah, those people are mean, you’re right.” “You don’t have to try, relax.” “You don’t feel like going, it’s just one Bible study.” These kinds of thoughts are infectious. That’s the reason why Jude writes this letter. These people are dangerous. We are dangerous!  In verse 12, “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead uprooted.” We have love feasts every week. A love feast is fellowship. Jude is saying that these people are “hidden reefs”. When a ship hits a bunch of reefs, they catch the ship and put holes into it taking down the whole ship. He also describes them as “waterless clouds.” What’s so bad about waterless clouds? If you lived in the Sahara Dessert a waterless cloud would be the worst. You see the cloud in the sky, but in the end it is useless. You’re still looking for rain. These people are useless. They are like fruitless trees. Jude is reminding them that these people are in their midst. They are bold in their teaching. They are only concerned about themselves.

Jude is saying that they will be judge. I get a little scared when I see that. Jude is talking about leaders. I really think Jude is talking about Christians, because all Christians are leaders. Do you know that? All Christians are called to disciple. You are included in this. Listen! In verse 14 it says that God will judge, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  Who are these people? They are grumblers. They are never satisfied. They complain all the time. They are malcontent. I know around this time people are coming to your mind. Get that out of your head. The person I want you to see is your face. Take a selfie. I want you to picture yourself. “16following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouth boasters..” “Oh Look at me, I’m smart and amazing.” Stop doing that. Can we do that for you? Can you let the church brag about you? They show favoritism. In other words, they form cliques. You know why? They are so insecure. They have to feed themselves somehow. It’s so prominent that we have movies about it, Mean Girls. They have a genre of this because it’s so prominent. Their insecurities make them boast about themselves. Jude tells you to remember, “17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  He is telling us to listen and remember the words of Scripture, the words of God. Lean not on your own understanding or emotions. Here is the way it doesn’t work. In the world, our emotions, dreams, and desires lead our actions, which forms our thinking. Scripture tells you to look at what God wants you to do and think about it. “God loves me so much that he would send his one and only Son to die for me.” You see how emotional that can be. What if somebody loved you so much that he would die for you? That has to cause some kind of emotion. It is your thinking about God and what He has done that causes your emotions to overflow and act. It is the very opposite of what the world tells you to do. Obey the word of the Lord. Stop leaning on your own thinking. God places leaders and people over your life. 

In verse 18, “They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” That’s not a surprise. God knows that there will be scoffers who do what they want. He knows what they will chase after. Does that describe you? Probably. Because of that I’m telling you they are divisions. There are people who are for God and are against God. “19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” Yet, Jude says this, “20But you, beloved building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; save other by snatching them out of the fire; to other show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” In one word this all means to work. I understand in our theological position, in our reformed theology of “once saved always saved”, we might think we don’t have to do anything. That’s not what Jude is saying. He is saying to work towards your salvation. I am 43 years old. I hit middle-aged. I can’t believe it. I feel like I was 20 yesterday. I have lived half of my life. It goes quick. You think you are going to stay young? Most of y’all lived a quarter of your life and you don’t even remember it. Judgment is coming quickly. Wake up! You have to work. But Jude is saying “beloved build yourselves up.” It’s an urgent plea.

My dear beloved CCC, build yourselves up, keep yourselves in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You see those action words. Faith requires action. Obey. Build. Keep yourselves. Wait. Be patient. Have Mercy. We read “have mercy on those who doubt” and think we should all be nice, and become so tolerant to a fault. There are times when you have mercy. They are times when you look at a person and snatch them up because they are doing something so harmful for them. They are times when you show mercy with fear. “You better do it because you’re going to hell. You better obey because judgment is coming.” You even hate the garments stained by the flesh. How do we gage that? You have to know them and build a relationship with them. That takes love and wisdom.

I don’t want to leave you with just this and Jude doesn’t either. Jude redeems his status as the nice guy by saying one of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture, “24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” He ends with a glorious word. Do you know that Jesus is able to keep you from stumbling? He is the Christ. He will present us to God as blameless. He will do that with great joy. How is Jesus Christ able to do this? When you have a relationship with Christ, you know that he died for you? He didn’t die for everyone. He died for you by name. He elected you by name. Come back. Are you ruled by Him? If you believe, you’ll submit and trust. He will keep you from stumbling. He will present you as blameless. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to His authority.