Hello Project Ezra! I’m glad you are reading this, and am praying that many of you will be able to participate in our reading this week. As with last week’s reading, I am attempting to focus more on balancing the presentation between conviction of sin, fear of death and hell, and the hope of mercy and grace through Christ. It’s a tough balancing act, with a lot to consider. It’s easy to see why so many people lean either all the way toward “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” or toward “You’re going to hell, you wicked sinner!” Both have elements of truth, but both ultimately betray the gospel by drawing distinctions or giving emphasis in places the Bible does not.
I believe we honor and glorify God most when we handle His word rightly, and preach the whole gospel message in a way that makes sense to people. Of course, many will still reject it, but it is not our responsibility to pressure people into making a decision through either love or fear. Our job is to preach the word as clearly and faithfully as possible, and to leave the rest up to God. So please pray for me, and for your other Ezra brothers and sisters, that we will handle God’s word well, and honor Him as we do. Perhaps, by His grace, we may see some come to repentance and faith this weekend.
All for His glory,
All for His glory,
INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND THE PROJECT
We stand here today/tonight because we have a hope. We would like to share that hope with you.
Common wisdom and modern culture will try to rob you of that hope.
They will tell you we are born by accident, live by accident, and will die by accident.
But we are here to tell you that there is hope, and there is a purpose for life.
That purpose is to serve and to glorify the holy God who created you.
And our hope is in the promise made by God to our fathers; the resurrection of the dead.
Today we will be reading from Acts 26, where the apostle Paul shares His hope
We pray that you will stay and listen while we share God’s word
READ ACTS 26
This is the hope of a man who, by earthly standards, had nothing to gain and everything to lose by following Christ.
Prior to his conversion, he had everything he could have hoped for. He had power, influence, prestige, a great deal of respect in the religious community, and what he thought was a holy mission and purpose.
But this Saul, who became Paul, said that He counted it all loss for the sake of Christ
Phil 3:7-8 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
He counted all other things as rubbish, garbage, because he knew that everything of this world was temporary.
All things of this world will pass away, and one day, so will we.
If our hope is only in this world, why not grab for everything we can while we are here?
1 Cor 15:32 says “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Because in truth, we all know there is a God, and that we will be accountable to Him someday.
All of us have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. We were created to give God glory, and we have failed.
We have failed every time we have told a lie, and thus dishonored the God who’s word is truth
We have fallen short of His glory when we have stolen or coveted, and been ungrateful for all the good things God has given us, in our greed and selfishness wanting more.
We have dishonored Him when we have looked with lust at those who God has not given to us, tarnishing the purity that is meant to reflect our relationship with Him.
And we have sinned by creating a god in our own image, one who will look at the failures above, and turn a blind eye to them.
Where we have hoped to run our own lives, make our own rules, and rule our own kingdoms, all we have really done is fool ourselves into believing a lie that has made us enemies of our creator.
God is our sovereign ruler, and we have broken His law through our sins, our moral crimes
Like any good judge, God will see that justice is satisfied, and we all deserve His justice.
If we depend on ourselves, and on our own goodness, to save us, then that punishment will be carried out in a place called hell.
There we will experience eternal terror and pain as we are separated from all God’s goodness and mercy, and spend eternity under the weight of His wrath.
Justice will be served. The debt will be paid. And this is what we all know we deserve.
But there is an escape, and in this escape is our hope.
Outside of the truth of the Bible, the truth of God’s grace through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have no hope.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But our hope is true, and our future is sure. Paul knew this through personal experience, as well as through the witness of God’s word, and so do we.
We hope in a God who spoke the world into existence from nothing, yet who humbled Himself and took on human flesh.
We hope in Jesus Christ, the God-man, who walked the earth for about 33 years, living the only perfect life that has ever been lived.
We know He was persecuted, arrested and convicted of crimes He was not guilty of, that
He was sentenced to die on a cross, and that He was crucified outside Jerusalem.
But before His death He had given His followers hope, a hope they did not understand. He prophesied that He would die, and rise from the dead three days later.
And three days later He did rise, proving His power over sin and death and proving who He was, and He is now seated at the right hand of the father.
And now our eternal hope is in turning from our sin and trusting in Him
The Bible says He is our advocate with the Father, and the only mediator between God and men.
By His sacrifice, which paid the price for sin once and for all, our hope is realized.
With our debt paid through His shed blood, the innocent taking on the sins of the guilty, justice is satisfied and we can go free.
Only Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Only He died for our sin and rose for our justification. Only He still lives to be our intercessor with God, our Great high priest. So only through Him can we be saved.
So turn and trust today. Take your eyes off your sin, and fix them on Christ, trusting in Him alone.
Turn to Christ and live! And then go, and share that hope with others.