Christian Fellowship Church's Sermons

Advent - 2018
Love in the Darkness
December 09, 2018 - Phil Schaefer
John 3: 16-17, Luke 10: 25-37, Romans 5: 6-8
The Advent season is when we are invited to live with our deeper, less comfortable selves. To sit uncomfortably with our angry self, our unbelieving self, our unloving self, our self that is not in control. It is meant to get us out of our own personal goals, our life lived on our terms, our life as we want to control it.We love to throw the word love around in our songs and movies and language. I love my car, house, dog, cat, boyfriend. I love my church. But for love to be love, it must cost us something. Love means we are giving ourselves away. Love takes big chunks out of you that you don’t get back. Love costs your life.What God has done for us has cost him everything – his reputation, his authority, his identity. And most personally – it cost the extreme suffering and death of His Son. The baby in the manger was sent on a mission - John 3:17Love - Agape love - is not a feeling; it is being for others. It is not an emotion; it is a costly serving. It is not passive; it is active. It seeks the good of others; it loses sight of itself. It always believes and has hope for the other. You may feel weak, but agape love gives you a strength beyond yourself; for it is a love that comes from another realm.Agape is victorious over all the forces arrayed against it.The parable of the Good Samaritan is about rightly identifying your neighbor. "Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asks Jesus seeking to justify himself. Luke 10: 25-37Agape love is more than just saying God loves everybody. In fact, God does love everybody, but the everybody for us has to have a name, a face, an encounter attached to it or it lacks any depth of love.Romans 5: 6-8 Paul’s words – ‘Christ died for the ungodly’ has a bite in it. Who are the ungodly? I am, and you are.In verse 8 – ‘But God demonstrates His own love.’ - But God! To understand this agape love of God is to throw yourself on the mercy of God. O God, I cannot love like this, but you can through me. Agape is unattainable by human effort. It is the work of God in us.Someone this week told me: ‘Fear is a principality. It wants to control us, dominate us, disable us.' Then they said – ‘Fear is tempting us to partner with it. But we are not to partner with fear. We are to partner with faith.’ 'Fear will crush us, but faith will deliver us.’ Perfect love casts out all fear.Agape lovers are burden bearers. They are ‘enter-the-fray people’. They may feel weak, but they give strength.Jesus came to lead us into an altogether unknown way of loving. This love comes from another sphere, not of this world. It is the breaking in of God’s love that transforms the human heart.1 Peter 1 – "Grace and peace be multiplied to you…to you who are kept by the power of God for salvation…in this salvation you greatly rejoice though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved (distressed) by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested (purified) by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, who having not seen you love…and believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory."Beloved, we shall come through this time. God is deepening our love. He is purifying our faith. He is creating strength in us out of our weakness. We are not in control, but He is.Let us follow His leading.
Advent Biblically Understood
December 02, 2018 - Phil Schaefer
Malachi 4: 5-6, Matthew 1:1
Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent. Advent in the liturgical calendar of the church is the season of preparing for the coming of the Lord. But Advent, Biblically understood, is not about Christmas preparations, decorations, or parties. Advent, Biblically understood, is about absence, darkness, and silence. Advent, Biblically understood, is about having a sense of the wrath of God; about facing our sin and our judgment.Isaiah 64:5-7 – You are indeed angry, for we have sinned – in these ways we have continued; and we need to be saved, or -In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our "righteousnesses" are like filthy rags…for you have hidden Your face from us and have consumed us because of our iniquities. The prophetic cry in Isaiah 64:1 is – ‘O, that you would rend the heavens and come down!Wrath is God’s absence. Wrath is God not intervening in man’s willfulness. Wrath is God leaving humanity on its own. Wrath is a sense of the absence of any goodness, righteousness, justice, love, mercy, compassion, or purpose. Wrath is to look into the heart of darkness of humanity left to itself.At Advent, we do not look away from wrath, we look directly at it.Christmas is diminished, stripped of its substance if we are not willing to take a fearless inventory of the darkness. Thus, Advent, Biblically understood, begins in darkness. For as long as mankind has had a sense of sin there has been a cry - ‘O come, O come, Immanuel!’Now you may say, ‘Phil, it’s Christmas. It’s a time to feel good and escape from reality, of decorations, and festivity.’But as Christians – especially because Christmas is Christian – we have to correctly engage the Biblical story that leads us into the deepest longing of the human heart. We cannot grasp what God has done for us until we have had a personal and honest sense of the hopelessness of our condition.Isaiah 9:2 – ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death upon them a light has shined.’ (death as a shadow always over them)Advent, Biblically understood, re-orders our perspective on this world. By this I mean darkness will always be darkness. Darkness does not get converted. We get converted. We see things differently.John 1:5 – ‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it - Could not grasp it - Could not overcome it - but we do. John 1: 7-8It doesn’t mean we spend the next 4 weeks all gloomy. It does mean we step above this world – see it in its pain and futility - understanding this is the reality of a world without hope if there is no savior.It is to be confronted by the ugliness and pain of what took place here yesterday. But these headlines are every day.Advent brings us into a story that says the Bible has the final word – the word that sums up all things in Christ.This story is the story that confronts and overcomes all the stories we get from our news feeds. This world cannot save itself.To make it very practical for us. - I get myself into this setting every Sunday because I need to orient myself to the world of Scripture. - I need to do it so that when an unbelieving person wants to know what orients my life I can say I gather with a people every week and we, together, orient ourselves to the God of the Bible.If someone without a hope asks me what is my hope, I will not only tell them my hope is Jesus Christ, I will tell them my hope is found in this Church – a place of people who know they are sinners but who have found forgiveness, and hope, and joy.Let me remind us, we still have Good News to proclaim. In this present darkness, we have seen a great light.The Bible that we read – this Advent, Christmas, Easter story that we tell – it must be told again and again and again. It must be told before an unbelieving and sin-filled world.Into this world, a Savior has come. It is Christ the Lord. ‘Fall on your knees, O hear the angels voices, O God-ordained night, when Christ comes.’We are called by the Lord to be Advent people preparing the way of the Lord.