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First - let me say

HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2014  - We welcome you!

There - now that that is done, let me travel back in time a few days to last Sunday.

When you read the title of this post you probably said: Aren't we done with Christmas yet? - almost - I promise - at least here.

I had the privilege of preaching in my home church - Pascack Bible Church, in Hillsdale, NJ last Sunday, December 29, 2013 (I know - sounds like ancient history, doesn't it?)

Anyway - it was the last sermon in a series our Pastor, Chet Klope, walked us through this advent season, and I thought I would share it with you here.

Here is the link on our Church website to the audio of the sermon, and a place you can download it so you can take me for a walk as part of your New Years Resolution to move more.

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Angels From The Realms of Glory

Ben NelsonSpeaker: Ben Nelson
Series: The Songs We Sing As part of our Advent sermon series, “The Songs We Sing”, Elder Ben Nelson unpacks the deep meaning behind the powerful carol, Angels From The Realms Of Glory, including two lesser known verses.
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Below, for those of you who would rather read than listen is my sermon prep notes - the audio is pretty close, but this is not exactly a transcript.Once again - Let's walk together in blessing in 2014!
Ben

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Come and Worship 

Christmas is over. 

This year it seemed like a long haul, what with the Christmas commercials staring in September. Yes – September

No big surprise that yesterday my girls saw Valentine’s decorations in the Mall.

Many have eaten way to much. There was one 7-day stretch where I ate at 7 holiday meals/buffets, and believe me the 7 days were not the only things stretching.

Many have spent way too much.

I’m tired of the Christmas commercials.
I’m tired of the Christmas music playing in every store.
I’m tired of the ever-present Santas.
I’m tired of the elf watching my every move.
I’m tired of red and green.
I’m tired of the pine needles littering my living spaces.
If I hear one more rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas” I think I might be sick.

So today when you walked into the sanctuary and the usher handed you a bulletin with yet another Christmas carol sermon… well, I get it. OK?

What I am defiantly not sick of is the story of the incarnation.

Paul captured its essence in one of my favorite passages in the Bible.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

Jesus is God. He always has been God.
There was never a day when He was not God.

But Paul tells us here He emptied Himself.

He took off His kingly robes

He set aside His omnis – Omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.

He did not lose them, He simply took them off, set them aside for a time. They still belonged to Him, and He still had access to them. There were times in His ministry when He slipped back into them.

On the mount of transfiguration recorded in Matthew and Mark He slipped back into some of His heavenly garments and Peter, James, John, Elijah, and Moses got a glimpse of His deity – His majesty – His glory.

In the garden of Gethsemane, as Judas and those who came to arrest Him approached, there was one moment when He stood up to “greet” them.

Do you remember how it went down? Jesus, out of the predawn mist asks the oncoming army, “Whom do you seek?”

The leader of the mob sent to arrest him called out “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus spoke again and the strangest thing happened. He said “I AM” and all six hundred of the soldiers, the high priests and temple guards – everyone – fell to the ground.

He clearly never stopped being God. But the scripture tells us He humbled himself.

  • He took off His royal robes and put on swaddling clothes.
  • He stepped down from His kingly throne and lay down in a manger.
  • The same mouth that uttered the words “Light Be” and exploded the universe into motion, now cooed and dr00led and spit up on His mama’s shoulder.
  • The same mind that informed Solomon would soon sit and learn from the Spiritual leaders as a young boy in Jerusalem.
  • The Captain of the Lord’s army, who lead Joshua into battle against Jericho, would soon be taken captive by a Roman cohort.
  • The same lungs that breathed breath into the dust of the ground and called forth Adam, would heave with the words, ‘it is finished’ and then be still for three days.
  • The same Christ, this same Jesus, who condescended to put on flesh, would again put on immortality, and ascended into heaven.
  • This same Jesus who talked baby talk and ate baby food will one day judge all men dead and alive.
  • This same Jesus who was mocked and scorned and crucified is the One before whom every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess.

And that is what I love about Christmas.

One thing that strikes me in the Christmas story is the worship of this King of Kings when He does not appear to deserve or even desire worship. And I am not just talking about doting parents and grand parents. The story of the incarnation is full of folks who stopped what they were doing and worshiped this tiny king in a tiny town outside Jerusalem.

The carol we are considering this morning walks us right through the list of worshippers in a beautiful progression.

Angels 

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

So it is a quiet night over Bethlehem. Smarter folks than I say it could not have been winter. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it happened on the day of some ancient Jewish feast. Perhaps Pentecost. The original feast of Pentecost or Shavu'ot – the feast of weeks.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no proof for this, and of course this is the day God chose to fulfill the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But to the Jews it was the celebration of the day the Law was given. It was the day the Word became “stone.” What better day for the Word to become flesh.

Anyway, an angel shows up and starts talking to some shepherds. Next the sky is full of angels. (I wonder if it would have looked like a new star in the sky from far off in the east!– hmmm)

You see the angels, who had an inkling of what was actually happening, came from all over the earth. I wonder if every angel in creation came to see this great unveiling of God in flesh.

The angels have come to worship the newborn king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Shepherds

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:

Why shepherds?

Why not fishermen?

Why not tax collectors?

After all, that’s who Jesus picked when He was picking disciples. I don’t think there was a single shepherd in the whole flock.

But that night God sent the angels to tell shepherds.

Perhaps it was because they were the lowest of the low.
Perhaps it was because they were the most down trodden.
Or maybe it was because a thousand years earlier there was a shepherd boy who sat in these same fields under the these same stars and talked to God.
Perhaps it was because a millennium earlier Israel had a shepherd savior when they were faced with a giant problem.

I don’t know why God picked shepherds, but I know what the shepherds did.

They left their flocks and ran to worship Jesus.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Wisemen

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.

Again we must tweak the traditional Christmas story with what the Bible says. These “wise men” may not have shown up on the scene for up to two years, and for the record, we really don’t know how many came, just that the gifts listed were three, gold for His royalty, incense to depict the intercession He would make for us, and myrrh for the death He would die.

I know the Christmas cards have them arriving while Jesus was still in the stable, but the Bible tells us they came to “the house.”

One of the reasons I think it may have been as much as two years later is that after quizzing these magi, Herod had all the male children, two years of age and younger slaughtered based on the time these sages indicated.

Can you imagine this brutality? This is a part of the Christmas story we would like to forget, but it is not forgotten. Herod’s holocaust against the children of Bethlehem is recorded for all eternity.

Matthew 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

How did these sages, from far off lands, know a king had been born to the Jews?

Well, this word Magi is not a word that the Jews would have used to describe anyone in their world. It seems to have had Babylonian origins and so many scholars believe these “wise men” were not from the Far East – aka the Orient – but rather they were from Babylon.

Babylon was the land of Israel’s captivity, and it was in Babylon where Daniel and his crew Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ascended from slavery to positions of honor, and Daniel in particular was given authority among the magicians and soothsayers.

It seems credible to me that Daniel would have told those in his circle of the promised Messiah. It was after all his great hope of deliverance.

So, these wise men, sages, soothsayers, whatever make their way from Babylon to Bethlehem and there they worship this child king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Saints

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

Next we come to Simeon and Anna.

Simeon was an old man who lived in Jerusalem, and had been told by the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see the Lord’s Christ.

When Jesus enters the temple on His eighth day to be consecrated, in accordance with Jewish law, Simeon speaks a wonderful prophecy over the child.

Anna was a widow who had been serving in the temple for decades, and now was eighty-four years old. As soon as she laid eyes on the child she began to rejoice and spread the news of the Messiah’s birth to everyone she saw.

These saints worship the child king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

This is where our hymnal stops, but there is more to this carol. We will look at two more verses to bring it home.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

You see, without Christ, this Messiah, this Savior, we are doomed to the hopelessness of life in slavery to sin, and the endless pain and suffering, the darkness and anguish of an eternal hell and separation from the One who so dearly loved us.

The solution?

Repentance

Repentance has a really bad reputation these days

What do you think of when you think of repentance?

Do you think of men in sandwich boards crying in the streets: the End is near!
Do you think of people weeping at an altar.
Do you think of guilty feelings.
Do you think of failure.
Perhaps you conjure up remembrances of childhood punishment.

Maybe you feel like repentance is nothing but an endless, useless saying “I’m sorry” to God and then getting up and falling right back into the same sin.

But in reality:

True repentance connects you with the mercy that paid the price God's justice demanded, and breaks the chains of sin.

Repentance is one of the greatest gifts ever offered by our Wonderful Lord.

Repentance – true repentance is a gift with a promise.

God gives repentance, and if we will accept this gift and walk through repentance from start to finish, in the end, we will have victory and freedom from that sin. The reason we continually fall back into the same sins, is that we never fully repent.

We just feel sorry

and guilty,

and go back for more.

Paul describes repentance in 2 Cor 7:10-11

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. –2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV

So then repentance breaks the endless cycle of sin and guilt and gives us the ability to live free and worship Him.

There is a moment when we begin this process with God. We come to Him with realization of our sin and our separation from Him. We see the doom of our current course, and turn toward Him.

The day of our salvation is the day we stand [or kneel] before Him and declare our need for forgiveness and our willingness to follow Him wherever He might lead.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:

And so we have come full circle.

There will come a day, when not only those of us who choose to worship, but all creation, above and below will bow their knee. Remember where we started:

at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Phil 2:10-11

And so I close with an invitation to you

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Don’t be one of those who bows only when there is no choice.

Join the angels, shepherds, sages, Simeon and Anna, and all those who call on the name of Jesus today in bowing your knee to Him.

It’s no mistake that you are reading this today. God is offering you the opportunity to bow before the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is offering repentance and salvation to you today.

Did your spirit jump when I said you could be free from that sin that keeps you chained? That was God offering you the gift of repentance, and the promise of freedom.

Do you wonder about where you will spend eternity today? Do you have a longing, a stirring right now within you to have relationship with Jesus?

Today is your day. Today is the day of salvation. Don’t wait one more minute. Don’t resist this opportunity.

Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ the Newborn King.

Last Sunday, August 4th 2013, I had the privilege of preaching at Pascack Bible Church, in Hillsdale, NJ. We have been working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians and I was asked to cover verses 1 – 34.

I blogged through the first 11 verses which talk about the gospel, but have been silent about the rest. I thought I would share some of my notes on the next portion of the passage over the next couple days.

As I prepared, there were a number of wonderful ‘ah ha’s that came my way – God is so merciful and always willing to teach if we are willing to dig in and listen. He provides food for the hungry – Hallelujah!

The first sermon, called “The Gospel According to Paul” can be heard or downloaded here. I will post this weeks as soon as it is available for any of you who prefer audio. But the content will not be the same, since these are more or less notes and ponderings some of which got left beside my big comfy writing chair and did not make it into the sermon.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by

See you soon.

Ben

A couple weeks ago, I posed a questions about what "vain faith" was, and i wanted to come back to it and bring some resolution.

I wanted to circle back and touch it one more time. I was not happy with where it all landed last time, and have a bit more light on it now. It was one of those - Oh - that makes sense moments for me, and i just thought i would share it with you.

Here is the main verse I was puzzling over:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

What I had missed was this verse a bit farther down the page.:

 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:13-14

Now in my study, I have found many who want to make the first reference one of working hard so your faith is not ignored in the grand scheme of things, but when i read this second part, i see that the "unless you believed in vain" in verse 2 is a foreshadowing of his argument in vs 14 where he comes right out and says: If Christ is not raised from the dead then your faith is vain.

Vain faith is faith that is placed in something that is worthless. Vain faith is misplaced faith or misplaced trust.

Faith in Christ is a gift of God - every man is dealt a measure of faith by God, as we are told in Romans 12:3

So how could faith that God has given in the first place, when it is place in Christ, the most secure foundations, ever be vain?

It could not.

If your life shows no fruit after a period of time, the question is not whether you have vain faith, but rather, do you have faith in Christ at all.

So - there you go.

What do you think?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. I should be back to the pen (well - keys) next week. Thanks to you all for coming by and checking out my parade of favorites this week.

Ben

 

 

Pascack Bible Church PascackBible.org

As I said last week, I preached last Sunday and will preach again next Sunday, August 4th, at Pascack Bible Church, 181 Piermont Ave, Hillsdale NJ.

If you would like to listen to, or download the sermon from July 28 entitled "The Gospel According to Paul" taken from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. You can find it here.

If you can make it this week, I would love to see you there, and meet you in person. I will be preaching on the Resurection from 1 Corinthians 15:12-34.

For info about the Church including directions, you can go to the Church Web Site - PascackBible.org.

Ben NelsonHave a great weekend.

Ben

 

Yesterday we looked at the fact that Paul preached the gospel to the folks at Corinth. The gospel is not simply transferred by good deeds and pure motives, it must be preached.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

The Gospel Received

The second thing we notice is that the gospel must be received.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (power KJV) to become children (sons KJV) of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. ~ John 1:11-13

Verse 11 always makes me sad. Jesus came to God’s own people, the ones He had chosen, and lavished His love and attention on for centuries. He came to His own, and they did not receive Him.

But hallelujah, the offer has been opened up to us all.

And the statement made by John here is clear. To as many as receive Him. How many? As many are receive Him.

And the promise here, that accompanies this gospel, this good news, is that we have the right to be called the sons of God. He is willing and able to adopt every single person on earth who receives Him.

Those who receive, stand

The next piece to this “how” puzzle is that those who received the gospel preached to them now stand.

It is interesting to me that Paul does not talk about standing ON but IN.

We love to sing about standing on the solid rock (well, at least I do!) But this is not Paul’s first time to use the idea of standing IN.

Two places come to mind. The first is Romans 5

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. ~ Romans 5:1-2

I see this as walking through a door of faith into a room of grace, where I now stand.

Another place we stand is in prayer – check this out from Ephesians

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. ~ Ephesians 6:13

Lest we think all this standing is our doing – don’t forget just three verses up the page Paul reminds us:

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. ~ Ephesians 6:10

Today, if you have never received  - today can be your day. Open your heart up to the Lord Jesus. Acknowledge to Him that there is nothing in you worthy of His attention, but that you give yourself to Him heart, soul, mind and strength. He will come in, and make His home with you. He loves you with an everlasting love, and when you receive Him, that love begins pouring out on you in ways you would never have anticipated.

Next if you do know the Lord – Stand firm, in grace, in prayer, in faith, in love.

Ben NelsonMore tomorrow

See you then

Ben

The Preacher

I have been pondering 1 Corinthians 15 for a while, and would love to work through some of it here in this wonderful forum. So I am taking a break from Matthew and going to poke around here in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 for a bit. Here goes:

Paul is going to define the gospel for us in this passage. This is actually to my knowledge the only place in the Bible where it comes right out and says, “This is the gospel.” For me, that is cause to sit up and take notice.

Before we get to the gospel itself, let’s look at the delivery method:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

1)    The gospel was preached
2)    The gospel was received
3)    Those who receive stand
4)    Those who receive are saved
5)    Those who receive hold fast

Let’s take each of these one by one.

The gospel preached

There are those who quote Francis of Assisi as having said:

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. ~ Francis of Assisi

We love this. Friendship evangelism. And you know what? As groundwork, to earn the right to speak into people’s lives, it is often the right choice. We like to quote Jesus’ own words for this one:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35

Please notice here, however, Jesus did not say, “by this all will become my disciples,” but that they will know where you stand.

Our love for one another, and for the lost are integral parts of our Christian walk and testimony, but they do not replace the preaching of the gospel.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 10.

“WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher? ~ Romans 10:13-15

Check this out:

it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:21

And of course from our passage today:

The gospel which I preached to you, ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1

This is what Jesus did, and what the taught the disciples to do.

And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. ~ Matthew 10:7-8

God has chosen preaching as the vehicle to deliver this wonderful commodity. It can not actually be caught rather than taught. As we will see in the next day or so, there are words involved in the gospel, so it cannot be passed on wordlessly.

What is Preaching?

There are actually two words for preach in the New Testament. The more common is the word “kēryssō,” which means to proclaim with authority. This is the word used when we are commissioned by Jesus at the end of Him ministry to:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. ~ Mark 16:15

But that is not the word used here in 1 Corinthians 15. The funny thing is that the word for preach here, is virtually the same word as gospel.

The word for gospel or good news in the Greek is “euaggelion,” while the word for preached is “euaggelizō.” It is as though Paul good-newsed them with the gospel, if you get what I mean.

It is not unlike the way we use “evangelize” today.

The evangelicals evangelized those who had never heard the “eveangel” (gospel/good news)

Here this: None of the love and good deeds, kind words, smiles and random kindnesses are wasted, or go unrewarded. They are just not the gospel.

So here is the question for the day:

Have you good-newsed anyone lately?

[Please don't take this word as a condemnation of where you have been. I only ask that you open your spiritual antennae to the Holy Spirit today and look for divine appointments. Listen for the words which He will give you. That is the only basis on which we can preach - the words He puts in our mouth - deal?]

Ben NelsonMore tomorrow

See you then,

Ben

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