Christian Fellowship Church's Sermons

Advent - 2018
Hear the Bells Toll - Death Is Dying
December 24, 2018 - Clay Spencer
1 John 3:8, Genesis 3:17-19, Genesis 3:16, Genesis 3:14-15, John 1:29-31, 1 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 6:23
Watch our Christmas Eve sermon from Pastor Clay!
Advent People Are People of Hope
December 23, 2018 - Phil Schaefer
Luke 1: 10-20, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1, Philippians 2:5, 1 Corinthians 15: 22-28
In a good story – a great book – I don’t want it to end. I want the tale to go on. Even when I have finished a book, I am both satisfied and wanting more. I want to pick up another book, or even start the book over again. I don’t say to that great story – ‘Entertain me.’ I say to it – ‘Pull me in.' Grip my heart, my imagination, my conscience, my emotions, and my deepest yearnings. The Bible story does all that. In Luke 1:10-20, I am reading the birth of Jesus accounts which are found in Matthew and in Luke. But I am also reading Revelation alongside those accounts of Jesus’ coming. I am not doing this to get more knowledge of the birth of Jesus story – I know the story – I am doing it to revive my imagination to bring me into the Divine Imagination of God as He reveals Himself through His only begotten Son. The God of the Bible is an interactive God. He sends, brings, speaks, provokes, and awakens not just our conscience but also our imagination. People are being pulled into God’s revelation of Himself. That’s how the Bible demands to be read. In other words, the Bible wants to be read as a story. If you are engrossed in a 'whopping' good story, you aren’t stopping to ask every minute, "What does this mean? Did this really happen? Why did this happen?" Or even: "Do I believe this?" You are meant to be swept along in the direction that the storyteller carries you. And the storyteller is God Himself. For this reason, Bible reading should begin very early in life, and classic children’s literature should be read along with it. If you’re reading a classic fairy tale to a child, you don’t stop every few paragraphs to say, "This is what this means," or, "This is what you are supposed to learn," or, "This is what you are supposed to do now." Stories have a power of their own, and the Bible which is one expansive story – the greatest story ever told – has a power uniquely its own. Luke 1:20 - "my words which will be fulfilled in their own time." The Advent word for today is Hope. But hope in what? For Christians, it is a hope in a promise. Hope and promise are future words. Hope and promise are not words that linger in the past. Advent means ‘coming’. Advent is not just about the 1st coming of Jesus; it is also about His second coming. Advent is the season between the times – the waiting and longing coming of the Lord. At Advent, we look both backward and forward. He is saving us into His future. He is saving us into our future. It is more than saving us from our past. God is bringing us onto the side of His future. God is on the move. He is acting on our behalf.God is out ahead of us. He is moving toward us even if we are not moving toward Him. His promise to us is not empty. Christmas is not a break in our routine. It is a break in the universe. If we don’t see this, we will just sentimentalize and neutralize Christmas. In that baby lies the only hope for mankind – the only hope for me. Romans 10:11 – For the Scripture says,"Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." He brings a promise – a word of hope for us. This is not a human promise that may or may not be kept. This is not a human wish. This is God saying as part of the Biblical – the God – story, "I am coming now. Here, at this point in time, in this manner, into the story of this world and into the story that I am writing, and you will behold and marvel at my ways." This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. Hebrews 6:19 For all the promises of God are Yes, and Amen in Christ Jesus to the glory of God through us.
The Gift of a Message
December 16, 2018 - Phil Schaefer
Luke 1: 26-35
Let’s talk about angels for a moment. Angel means messenger – God’s messenger. A being who arrives in our midst directly from the presence of ultimate cosmic authority and undiluted power. That is hard – really, impossible - for us to comprehend. In ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Clarence is the hapless angel trying to earn his wings. I love the story - Jimmy Stewart - His sacrifices and sense that he is unappreciated. But let’s be crystal clear: Biblical angels are nothing like Clarence. The angel is frightening because he comes from the immediate presence of God to earth. This is how you can know if you have been in the presence of an angel – you are terrified, overwhelmed, undone, feel very small. The angel of God brings news. He is telling Mary that God is breaking into this world order with power and authority from another sphere altogether. Ultimately, everything we believe - our hope, our love, our very existence depends on this. This world cannot save itself. It is hopelessly lost. It cannot be healed. We sit under Powers too strong for us to overcome. But the angelic proclamation is not within this sphere at all. It is an announcement of an in-breaking event from somewhere else. It comes from a kingdom which is without end. All other kingdoms will have their end. This one does not. Mankind is mostly trying to bring Christ down so we can make sense of Him. Even we his followers work hard to get Him to fit our mold. Jesus is not a creature created. He is not man created. This is the mystery of Christmas: Jesus is the Incarnation of the Creator God Himself. It was and still is a profound and unfathomable mystery. In Revelation 1:13 – when John encounters the ascended Christ: His head and His hair were like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters; He had in his right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead. This child in the manger is this One. John is trying to describe the indescribable. We will never be fully able to wrap our minds around the God who lives in unapproachable holiness, unapproachable light, unapproachable beauty, goodness, purity, and love.We can only embrace the un-embraceable. We can only grasp this by faith thru grace. And in this season, we have the gift of a message. The message of the angel is that the Course of human History is now being reversed by the only One Who has the Power to reverse it. This is the gift of the message: God has made His Move. And His Throne and His Kingdom will be established forever by the only power in heaven or earth that is able to do such a thing. ‘and of his kingdom, there will be no end’ – the angel declares. He has given the gift of Himself for us. He has stepped into the world of Adam – the source of sin, death, and condemnation. And He is establishing the world of Christ - the source of Righteousness and Eternal Life. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We need to hear a message from somewhere, someone, someplace beyond the realities of this harsh world - and we have! Not just a message, but a move. God stepped into our world, into our failure, heartbreak, tears, uncertainties, shame, guilt, fears, and death. God has entered our sphere and has planted a kingdom that has no end; where sadness will be turned to joy; sin will be vanquished by righteousness, and death will be overcome by resurrection. But God has not entered our sphere via propositions, or formulas. He has entered via a story. The story gives meaning to everything around us. God is weaving a story that will tie all the pieces together. We are all living in a redemption story. Where are you in this story? Are you one of the redeemed? Do you know this God who has come to deliver you from all your sin and give you eternal life? Do you know that God is on your side?
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 3:17 Love - 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: 25-37 Agape 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: 7-8 It 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.