In the first of a series of sermons on "How to Share Your Faith in the World Around You" we look at deep and meaningful demonstrations, both in the actions of Jesus and in the parables that He taught. In other words, this is "Jesus style evangelism", and since the purpose of Christ is to "seek and save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10), the significance in His example is even greater. Zaccheaeus was a tax collector for the Romans, and the Romans over-taxed the Jews. So the Jews double-hated a Jew who collected taxes for the Romans. When Jesus was speaking, Zaccheaeus, a short man, climbed a sycamore tree wanting to see Him. There, Jesus shared a parable about a master who was leaving his house to travel, and entrusted his property to his servants, according to their abilities. They were each given money to work with. Two of those servants were faithful and productive and one of them was not. What makes the one who wasn't productive has a significant meaning that is profoundly prevalent to us today. Join us as Pastor Troy Billow reveals what that meaning is.
Peter ends his letter to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor addressing the seriousness of spiritual warfare. While we have this great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we are instructed to lead by example, be humble, and love other people, among other things. After all, God encourages, equips, exalts, and enables, so as a Servant, these things will radiate in His people. But it's not an easy thing to do, particularly as Satan wants that power and aura extinguished, and the best way to do that is to get people to doubt God's Word and as such, discourage them from acting and applying it in their lives. Peter characterizes Satan as a "roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." A lion is about 600 lbs of pure muscle, and if one goes after you, you don't stand a chance. So Satan tempts, appealing to the flesh in order to make you weak so you can't stand strong. God uses the power of His word (as Jesus Himself effectively demonstrated by application), which was how He persevered without failing once. The fact that the world is broken the way it is by sin, shame, disease, and death, goes to show you which people choose the most. The question is; which one are you putting your stock in? Added to this message, is more Christmas music and an advent reading and prayer.
Paul turns his focus now on addressing the elders of the church. To be an elder takes commitment, responsibility, service as overseers, and being examples (not lords- like the Roman government did). Service in this capacity should be delivered willingly and eagerly, to be powerful, effective, and relevant as true representatives of Jesus Christ. Pastor Troy also connects Christmas to Peter's letter to the elders and shares a very interesting experience with a stranger who visited this church. Also featured this week is some powerful Christmas music performances.
Peter shifts his focus to believers (which is true for all time) going through strange times, encountering strange reactions from people, and experiencing strange, evil offenses against them. He basically says, not to think of strange things that are happening to you as "strange". Christians experience alienation (at best) persecution (torture, murder, wrongful slander), and are shut out, shut down, demeaned, "cancelled" and ostracized (at worst). Peter is saying that if you experience these things, think of the future glory to get you through the pain and suffering. Peter ended up being a strong example of this in action, as the Romans took him away to crucify him. God's people, should they be different from the world (which is due to a change of direction in one's life) will encounter opposition, but at the same time, will experience maturity, completion, and wholeness in their life with Christ. We also open the Christmas season with an advent reading and Christmas music.
Living Faith's own Thom Espinos brings the message on the selfish young man who wanted his inheritance from his father, and then squandered it all by wild living and constant partying. But when the money completely ran out, what came next? What happened to the son who was at the end of himself? He couldn't make it on his own merit and he had tom come home. In this message, Thom shares his testimony in how he connects to this son when he ran away from God, only to later experience God's reaching out with open arms to Him. This story and Thom's testimony inspired Thom to sing the powerful song "When God Ran" which Thom also sings to compliment this thought-provoking message.
The return of Christ is rapidly approaching. The end of all things is at hand. Peter tried to prepare people for this event in his lifetime, but it is even more so today, than ever before. What Peter teaches to prepare for the end times is this; be most serious and watchful in your prayers, acting out the love of Christ to others, listening to the Holy Spirit, listening to other perspectives, and hearing each other out. In other words, be serious about being there for people and radiating the love and power that Christ instilled within you. What does serious mean? It means be sober-minded, watchful, and careful in executing these actions, because when the church carries out their identity in Christ, God will bless them. Pastor Troy Billow explains in deeper detail what all of this means and why this is so important especially for the time we are living in today.
Peter has been addressing all of the areas of our lives that affect us abroad and up front (government, the workplace, the home, our relationships with our spouses & each other as a community). He even zeroes in to our attitude. But here, Peter is going to speak to our hearts and to our sin. While so many continue to go the way that allows them to indulge in their favorite sins, God calls His people to a life of holy living and once again sets the example. And yet to accomplish this, self sacrifice is required. Peter stresses the importance of arming yourself (a military term), "soldiering up" with Christ, and the more you do this, and the more you sacrifice, the more the sin nature will become less powerful in your life and just "drop off". See the power of how this works as Pastor Troy Billow explains from experience the positive effect that following Christ in this area has impacted him, and will impact you when you apply it.
In this passage, Peter zeroes in on the coming judgment that will come upon the earth. Much like the worldwide flood (recorded in Genesis 7), which Peter, just like Jesus conveyed as a similar model for the end times, God's grace is going to last so long before time is up, and judgment "rains down on the earth". God makes this judgment known because there is more judgment coming, so it is wise to be both in good standing and revitalized in spirit through Jesus Christ.
Peter now moves to the Lordship of Christ in these passages. What that means is putting Christ on the throne of one's heart. Peter had to learn to revere Christ as Lord of his heart, whereas he didn't before. If you are truly connected to Christ, and you respect, honor, and love Him you will act like you believe it, talk like you believe it, and it will show.