Category: Sermon Summary

5 Ways to Overcome the World

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“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”
1 John 5:4 (ESV)

Ok, admittedly this blog’s title is click-bait (but aren’t all titles?).  In any case, I also admit these kinds of titles appeal to something in me that wants five easy steps.  I like principles and techniques, especially when they are condensed to catchy phrases in a bulleted list.

When John says that we overcome the world, like Pavlov’s dog, I salivate for a to-do list.

Tell me how to overcome!  Boil it down for me.  Give it to me in scannable, bite-size pieces. I don’t have time to read a whole blog post, especially because I need to scan another blog post on 7 ways to write a better blog post.

Look, tips and principles are not wrong.  In fact, there are biblical principles that are good and true.  However, blogs, books, and sermons that primarily “principalize” the bible miss the message of the bible.

So, since I like lists (especially lists with bullets), here’s a list on how we miss the message of the bible if we principalize 1 John 5:4:

 8 things we miss if we “principalize” overcoming the world:

  • We miss that it’s not even us that does the overcoming in the first place.  Jesus is the one who overcomes the world.
  • We miss that we contributed nothing to this victory.  Just like a baby contributes nothing to its birth, we contribute nothing to our birth into God’s family.  And because we are God’s children, all that belongs to the Son belongs to us, including Jesus’ victory.
  • We miss that it’s not our muscular, robust faith that got us this victory.  It’s our faith in Christ’s perfect obedience and death that gets us this victory.  Now, his victory is our victory.
  • We miss that life in Christ is a posture of rest because Christ accomplished the to-do list, not us.  It is finished.
  • We miss that overcoming the world means we are saved from a worldliness that believes and behaves that this world is all that there is.
  • We miss seeing the beautiful hope we have that the day is coming when we overcome the world finally and completely as citizens of the new heaven/new earth.
  • We miss that in spite of the world’s attempts to kill, criminalize, and/or marginalize Christianity, the Church will survive.  All countries and kingdoms will fall, but God’s people will be the ones to remain.  And it has nothing to do with our adherence to tips and principles, and it has everything to do with God’s grace, power, and faithfulness to help his people persevere to the end.
  • We miss that God’s commands to love him and to love our neighbor is God’s invitation to enjoy our victory in Christ right now, at this very moment.

Reducing the bible to tips and principals boils out the amazing acts of God to rescue and redeem his people from slavery to sin, and to graciously and faithfully care for and sustain his people in this life as he leads them to their final resting place in the new heaven/new earth.

At its core, principalizing the bible makes the bible all about us and what we’re supposed to do rather than the bible being all about God and what he has done.

And while these lists are catchy and increase blog traffic, they ultimately drop our gaze onto ourselves and subtly appeal to our inner Pharisee to trust in our ability to implement tips and techniques.

Of course, there are instructions and commands given to us in the bible.  But these are not principles and keys that unlock a more victorious life.  Instead, God’s commands are how he graciously guides us to live in the victory that we already have.

So, when we read that we have overcome the world, we shouldn’t be looking for how-to’s, we should be believing and declaring that it is done!  In Christ, the how has been done. You are unhitched from the anchor of principalized to-do lists.  It is finished.

Lists produce exhaustion.
The gospel gives you rest.

This is Good News.



How to test the spirits

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“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (ESV)

At Grace City Church we are preaching through the book of 1 John.  Here are some thoughts from this past Sunday’s message on “Testing the spirits”:

  • False prophets and false teachers are not only an ancient problem; they exist today.
  • We test the spirits by examining what is being said, not how it’s being said.  Listen to the content of the message not the style of the message.  Humor, story-telling, voice inflection are part of oratory, but that’s not what is primary.


Grace and good works?



Sermon Summary | 06.21.15

(Gratefully, these summaries are faithfully written by someone else, thus, the third-person POV.)

Pastor Mike began this message by giving a roadmap of where we are in this series. Today we are concluding the portion of our series titled, “He Will: The Work of the Holy Spirit” where we have been in the book of Acts, examining what the work of the Holy Spirit is. Starting next week, we’ll continue on in the book of Acts, focusing on the work of the Holy Spirit in building and multiplying his church in a series titled, “He Will: The Church Built and Multiplied”.

The passage from this past Sunday’s message is Acts 9:32-43:

[32] Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. [33] There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. [34] And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. [35] And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Dorcas Restored to Life [36] Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. [37] In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. [38] Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” [39] So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. [40] But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. [41] And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. [42] And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. [43] And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

These two stories are back-to-back, and as we look at them together, we can learn much about God and us. First, as we look at the similarities, we see that both stories have a person who was once well but was in need of healing. In both stories, it is Peter who heals. In both stories many believe and turn to the Lord.

Next, we can look at the differences. Tabitha is a girl who is full of good works, caring for widows who could not support themselves. Aeneas, on the other hand, has been paralyzed for 8 years, and has done no good works.

When we look at these two stories together, we are reminded that God’s grace is a gift. It is never deserved. It is never earned. As soon as we think that grace is given to those who deserve it, it is no longer grace, no longer a gift.

Pastor Mike shared an example of this. If he gave his wife Julie a vacuum cleaner and said, “honey, because of all your hard work, you deserve this vacuum cleaner, so it is yours”, then it would not be a gift. It would not be grace, because she would be getting this vacuum cleaner because she earned it.

Pastor Mike shared a quote about grace by Paul Zahl: “God’s grace is a love that has nothing to do with you the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so called gifts. It reflects a decision apart of the giver and negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold Grace is one way love.”

Pastor Mike talked about how it may be difficult for you to see God’s grace in your life. Maybe things are not going as planned. Maybe you feel like you do not have the strength to go on. It is in these moments that our biggest need is not for a physical miracle in our lives, but for us to once again look to Christ and see God’s grace towards us. Pastor Mike mentioned that in these two stories, the conclusion is always that people turned to the Lord and believed. The true miracle is the fact that people were able to see God’s goodness, God’s grace towards them in Christ.

As we examine this book of Acts, we see that the work of the Holy Spirit is to witness this gospel to us. The Holy Spirit’s job is to shine the light on Jesus Christ. As He shines the light on Christ, we see once again that God’s grace means that no situation is too low, too gross, or too sinful for the long-reach of God’s one-way-love.

Pastor Mike emphasized that the miracle in these two stories are the many who saw the goodness of God towards them in Christ. If the emphasis was on the physical miracle, then why didn’t Peter raise more people from the dead? There is a room full of widows who’s husbands are dead. It is because that was not the emphasis. That was not the point. The emphasis was on God’s one-way-love towards people who were seeing it for the first time.

When we see and believe this gospel once again, when we are given faith to believe in Christ and what He has done for us, we are set free. The Holy Spirit reminds us once again that all conditions of the law were met in Christ. We no longer obey to get love and acceptance from God. We obey because we have been given love and acceptance from God. Our obedience is no longer for God to get, it is for others because we have.

Your spouse will never complete you. Your job will never complete you. Your friends will never complete you. Your children or your possessions will never complete you. The only thing that will ever complete you is what God gives through Christ: God’s 100% acceptance and love for you. When we see this, believe this, and receive this, we are free to love and serve others.

Pastor Mike shared an example of what this looks like. Imagine if you went out to lunch and got stuffed at a buffet. You come back to work, and someone offers you a plate lunch. You’re so stuffed that you cannot eat another bite. What do you do? You give it away. You don’t get mad if someone takes the best piece of Kalbi. You don’t just offer the old Mandoo on the bottom of the plate. You give the best because you are full.

It is when we are full in Christ, when the Holy Spirit bears witness to the gospel once again, that we give to others. Because we are satisfied, we are free to give and serve and love. So the gospel frees us from the need to work for love and acceptance, and now we are free to love others.

The gospel also frees us from wondering if our good works are good enough. See, when our work is done in faith, all work is good, no matter how big or small. On the other hand, when our trust is in the work itself, then we become concerned with the results, and are always worried if our work is good enough.

Pastor Mike asked the question, “have you ever done something for someone and they didn’t respond with gratitude? For example, have you ever let someone cut in front of you in traffic, and they didn’t throw the shaka, so you got upset?” See, when we do good works because of the expected result, we are trusting in the good work itself. We are looking to the good work itself to give us what we already have been given through Christ – God’s 100% love and acceptance.

In Christ, the work itself is good, regardless of the result. This should free us and help us tremendously. For example, take evangelism. The good work is proclaiming the gospel. The results are up to God. It is no longer about whether or not we get recognition or whether or not we get the right response anymore.

Pastor Mike closed by saying that the highest and best work is for us to have is faith in God’s favor and acceptance of us at all times. He turned to John 6:29 where Jesus says that the best work is to look to Christ and believe. Martin Luther says that it is from this work of believing the gospel, that all good works precede. Faith must be the captain or master workman in all work because without faith, our good works become idolatry. Our good works become the thing which we look to for salvation, the thing we look to for love, for acceptance. Our good works become the thing we worship.

So today, as with every other day, let us participate in the highest and best good work that we could do as Christians, the work most pleasing to God, the work of looking to Christ, believing the good news of the gospel, and receiving God’s grace, His one-way love towards us.