John 15:12-14, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you."
Greater love has no one than this...... than one lay down his life for his friends. This passage should thrill and amaze us! Jesus is saying that there is no greater love then when someone lays down his life for his friends. Jesus, the God-man has done this!
Jesus, the one who is from eternity, the one who holds all things in the palm of His sovereign and majestic hands, Jesus the God of all creation, Jesus the holy one has decided to lay down His life...... and for who? For His friends! And who are His friends? His church.
If you are a Christian, then Jesus has laid down His life for you and you are now called a friend of God in that He is a friend of sinners. This is stunning! The great king of all things has decided to lay down His life for you on the cross. He decided to come to this earth in a humble way and live the perfect life that we could not, and even die the death that we deserved, even death on a cross.
There is no human wisdom or comprehension that can describe or rationalize this. Why? Because it is a love that the world who doesn't know Christ can fathom. Love that is 100% self-sacrificial is a love that is from God.
What this means for the Christian is that to love the church with this kind of self-sacrificing kind of love is what we are called to. Jesus is calling His bride (the church) to love like He has loved us. Actually, this passage is telling us that this is a command. This is a non-negotiable! Christians must love other Christians. Jesus said that the world will know that Christians are His by their love for one another just two chapters earlier in the gospel of John.
In Jesus' eyes there is no such a thing as the "lone ranger" Christian. Why? Because a Christian cannot live out this passage while abstaining from fellowship with one another in the church. This commandment is for the church in light of the work of the head of the church, Jesus Christ.
If you have not joined up with a gospel-centered church as of yet and you claim Jesus Christ.....I encourage you to commit yourself to finding a group of brothers and sisters to join with in local expression of the body of Christ. I encourage you to live out this command here.
Jesus has done greater things than we can imagine. What He has done will be celebrated for an eternity. Join together now for this celebration of the work of Christ.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Psalm 117, "Praise the Lord, all nations; laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!"
During this busy time of year as we gear up for the Christmas season we can't help but feel overwhelmed at times. The family gatherings, the present buying and exchanging, hanging the lights, getting a Christmas tree and so on can cause an added amount of stress to the already far to busy lives of many Americans.
Therefore, I encourage you to sit back and praise the Lord. I am not here to chastise you to do everything you can to not be so busy or to cut things out of your life, although that may be what is needed. No, instead I simply encourage you to read/memorize and proclaim the words of Psalm 117 out loud all month long.
Even if you feel to busy and overwhelmed, there is always time to praise God. There is always time to reflect on His great lovingkindness, there is always time to exalt the one who is from everlasting. I encourage you to not let another Christmas season go by without praising God. Not just for what He has given you and for your family......but for Him! For who He is, praise Him for His holiness and His righteous judgement's. Praise Him for His longsuffering, praise Him for His mercy. Praise the Lord all peoples!
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. And whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit."
For more on this passage you can listen the sermon on this website dated November 25th
Nahum 1:6-7 "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken up by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him."
Who can stand before the Lord? The answer is no one on their own merits. The wrath of the Lord is compared to fire here in this passage. It is cleansing and draws out all of the impurities as fire. God's wrath is perfect, it is righteous, it is pure and without error. Believe it or not this is a good thing. It means that our Lord is just and that He rules perfectly. We all know what happens when someone rules without being perfect. But it is also concerning for us, since no human can stand before a holy God who is right to judge according to the standard of His Law.
Therefore, the rest of this verse is what we can cling to for hope. He is good, He is in fact the source of all that is good. He is a refuge for those who trust Him. The wonderful thing about putting all of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ is that the wrath of God is satisfied in Him. As Jesus hung on that cross, the Father poured out His perfect and divine wrath on His own Son in the place of His people. This means that His people will never have to face His righteous wrath, but instead they receive only grace. His people know nothing of curses, only blessings. And this is all because God chose to bless sinners! How majestic is God? He truly is good. He is a stronghold to cling to and a refuge to dwell in.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 "Therefore, we are ambassador's for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
For more on this passage you can listen the sermon on this website dated September 23rd.
Lamentations 3:22-24 "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him."
This passage of Scripture is amazing for so many reasons. That word (amazing) is thrown around in our day and age, but it really should be reserved for the Lord and His work. This passage is an amazing description of the Lord and His beauty and glory. It is a wonderful description of where the only hope can be found. It is also amazing to think about the fact that the prophet Jeremiah is even writing this.
For 20+ years this man who is the mouthpiece of the God of the universe has continually preached and pleaded with people to turn from their evil ways and turn back to the only God. He continued to stand before a wicked and calloused people proclaiming the coming calamities that they were going to endure if they did not stop worshiping false gods. He pleaded with them for years and all that he ever received from the people was persecution. All that he ever heard from the people was grumbling and a continual rejection of the God of mercy.
It is simply amazing that this is the same man who is writing these words here in Lamentations. This can only be because the words that he is writing are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. In verse 18 he says ....my strength has perished and so has my hope from the Lord. This man was in torment from what he has endured.
But then he remembers where his only hope lies. He recalls to mind his afflictions but at that same moment he recalls to mind the sure promises of a faithful God. In verse 21 he says that he recalls to mind the promises of the Lord and he once again has hope.
You can almost see it as he then is lifted up and encouraged with the love of the Lord as he dwells on the mercy of God. He thinks of the Lord's lovingkindnesses and how they never go away. Each and every human that has ever lived has moments and times of being loving and kind. But no human other than Christ Himself can claim to always be loving and kind. Unceasing kindness, and unceasing love towards His people. God's compassion's cannot fail. His compassion is without end. God will forever be pouring out the richness of His compassion's out on His people in His presence!!!
Each morning His compassion is new, therefore Jeremiah can say, "great is Your faithfulness!" He then says that the Lord is His portion. He has suffered for years, but his one comfort is to know that the Lord is his portion. Jeremiah realizes that he is lacking nothing. Why? Because God is loving and kind, because God is faithful, because God is compassionate, because God is where we find our hope. Not in our circumstances, nor our situations in life.
The Lord is our portion, He is our hope. He is our only hope. And by hope, this kind of hope is an assurance not just a wish. Jeremiah recalls to mind the beauty of the mercy of God and he is refreshed because it renews his mind in His only hope. No matter what is going on in your life......find hope in the compassionate, loving, kind, faithful, and sure hope, Jesus Christ! If He is your portion, then your life will be full to overflowing of real hope, real hope in a sure foundation.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Isaiah 6:3-5 “And one called out to another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Isaiah the prophet of the Lord was allowed to have a glimpse of the glory of God on the throne through a vision. It was a magnificent sight for him to behold. He was God’s mouthpiece at a time of rebellion against the Lord by the chosen Israelite's. For many years they had refused to purge the “high places” and altars of pagan worship from their midst. Isaiah’s continual task was to call the people to repentance by the Word of the Lord because of His great mercy.
One day Isaiah gets a vision of the throne and he describes for us the best that he possibly could what he saw. He saw amazing creations of God called angels. The Seraphim were a magnificent sight to behold with their six wings that worked together to do the Lord’s will. Isaiah even gets the chance to hear them speak and they called out to one another. But they do not call out to one another in the same way we usually speak to one another on a day to day basis. They are not just chatting together around the throne. They call out to one another with praise to the Lord. They say something that they joyfully can’t help but say, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The highest praise that they could utter was reserved for God.
And it says that the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the smoke filled the temple. The scene is majestic, it is like nothing Isaiah had ever seen or even thought about before. And so what is his response to the majesty of the Lord and His creations? Does he ask questions about the smoke and the earthquake? Does he look at the angles in amazement? Does he ask to be given something? No, he simply recognizes the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. He realizes something that most people will never come to grips with on this earth. That God is holy in every way, and that man is NOT. He is actually the opposite, listen to what Isaiah says….
Woe is me, for I am ruined! In the Old Testament a woe is a curse. Isaiah recognizes how utterly sinful and insignificant he is in light of the power and majesty of the King on the throne. He says I am ruined. He is undone, he sees the purity of God and just says he is ruined, his life will never be the same. He can never again look at himself or others in the same way. He has experienced the holiness of God at least in part and he says that all of humanity is unclean, himself included.
This is all just because he had the opportunity to see the King, the Lord of hosts and the glory of the throne. By realizing that God is holy, his life is radically transformed! This is my prayer for Valley Community Church, it is my prayer for the people of Skagit county, it is my prayer for the people in the state of Washington, and it is my prayer for our country. That we would see a great gospel renewal or revival in our great nation. Simply because people encountered the holiness of God. That by the gift of the Holy Spirit through the spread of the gospel by His people, many thousands would be transformed to newness of life at the thought of our depravity in light of His holiness. I pray that we would see how insignificant we are as creations and that instead we would see how magnificent God is as the Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
Galatians 2:20-21 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly.”
2 Timothy 3:14-17 “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
The apostle Paul’s words here to Timothy and the church still ring true for us today. In the beginning of the 3rd chapter of 2nd Timothy, Paul is speaking of the difficult times that will come for the believer while he is on this earth. Paul lists out many sinful behaviors, from self-love, to being lovers of money, arrogance, disobedience, unholy, malicious gossips, being haters of good, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. These people that Paul is speaking of are people that he says in verses 7 and 8 are never able to come to the truth and actually oppose the truth. He goes on to say in verse 12 that these are the kind of people that will persecute anyone who desires to live godly lives, they are evil men and they are going to go from bad to worse.
All of that is leading Paul to this climax and end of the 3rd chapter. He says to Timothy and to us today, “you, however, continue in the things that you have learned and become convinced of….” What is it that we have learned and become convinced of? If you are a Christian, then you have learned and become convinced of the gospel message. You have become convinced in your mind that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is the Son of God and that He has come to the earth, lived a perfect life, and suffered and bled on the cross taking the sins of others onto Himself. And that He rose again three days later and is seated at the right hand of the Father this very moment.
Verse 15 goes on to tell us that this can all be found in the Old Testament. Paul is telling Timothy to never forget the Messiah that he grew up reading about in the sacred writings, the Old Testament, has come. And that this is the way that we can have wisdom enough to come to a saving faith. This is still true today! In both the Old and New Testaments, we see Jesus Christ being put forth as the Redeemer and the only way unto salvation. Remember what Paul also says in the book of Romans? Chapter 10 verse 17 tells us that faith comes through hearing and that hearing comes through the Word of God.
It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit works to change our hearts. Salvation comes through hearing the Word of God. God works by His Spirit, through His Word, to regenerate a soul from death unto life. Paul is telling us here that we can never forget God’s Word, no matter what comes down the line.
How do we know this to be true? How can we be confident that God’s Word is that vital to us?
Verse 16 tells us that it is all inspired by God or “breathed out” by Him. Human authors wrote with their pens, but it was under the inspiration of the Spirit that they wrote. It is God’s very Word to us both Old and New Testaments. And it is profitable for many things. It is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. When Paul says that it is profitable for teaching here, he is speaking of content. It has the ability to teach us content, or doctrine. It all starts with doctrine, it all starts with a right understanding of who God is, who we are, and what He has done, and what we are to do. Paul tells Timothy that the Word of God when properly read and handled will teach right doctrine, it will teach truth, real truth!
Next he says that it is profitable for reproof or another word that is used in some other translations is rebuke. This is a word that means that the Word of God when read by faith is confrontational. To both our sinfulness and our errors in understanding truth. When we read the Bible, it will challenge us to live lives that are standing for truth. Which leads us to the third one, correction. Once we are humble enough to read the Word of God and admit when our lives need to change because of the rebuke, it has everything we need to be corrected. It will correct us and put us on the right path. The path of being trained in righteousness. Once we have studied the Word, understood it correctly, have been rebuked by it and transformed by the correcting power of the Spirit through the Word, we can then live righteously. Then we are being trained in righteousness by the Word of God.
Then we have the final verse of the chapter where Paul gives us the reason for it all. He says “so that…” So that, we will be adequate and equipped. What he is saying by that is that we would be adequate for the work that God has called us to. The Greek word for this is “artios,”which literally means to be fitted, that we would be fitted for this work. Through the truth of the Word of God, by the power of the Spirit working though that Word, we would then be fully fitted and equipped to then do what He is calling us to do. Perform good works as we live out the faith that has been entrusted to us as we cling to the salvation that has come through the hearing of the Word and regeneration of the Spirit. All because of the path made by Christ in the cross.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Revelation 19:5-6 “And a voice came from the throne, saying, give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great. Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”
This passage of Scripture is the last in the line of a four-fold Hallelujah in this chapter. John the apostle and author of the book of Revelation begins by telling us in detail what he sees and hears from many who are near the throne of God. The first Hallelujah is a response to the salvation and glory and power of God because of His righteous judgements. Verse 2 says that He has judged wickedness and has avenged the blood of the saints.
Verse 3 says that they respond once again in praise at the greatness and majesty of the God of the universe as the smoke of His defeated opponents rise. At the same time that the multitude is rejoicing the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fall down before the throne and worship God for this victory, they also shout out Hallelujah’s to the King.
Then in our memory passage we see the forth Hallelujah. This response to the greatness and righteousness of God is sparked by a voice from the throne that says to give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.
The response is great, John says that it sounds like many waters rushing or mighty peals of thunder. And what are they saying? Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns. That is a glimpse of the beauty of Heaven. That is what Christians have to look forward to. Can you imagine hearing this shout of praise to the King? It will be glorious to be there alongside of one another doing this for eternity. Each Hallelujah will be better than the previous one. Each moment in the presence of the Savior will cause us to rejoice anew as we relish Him for who He is. Our thoughts of ourselves will fade into the background and we will be thrilled beyond earthly comprehension to just look upon the Savior and recognize His righteous judgements and His power and majesty.
We will forever be awestruck as we look to His throne, we will want to do nothing else than shout out Hallelujah as we see the greatness of the King of kings. But this should begin singing Hallelujah’s today, as we look to the salvation of the Christ and His cross. Let Hallelujah’s be on your lips each day and you will be resounding with the voices of heaven.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The book of Romans is a treasure to Christians that speaks of the grace and mercy of our Lord. In it Paul spends a lot of time helping us to see that it is by justification alone that we are saved, meaning that salvation depends entirely on God. To be justified by God the Father means that righteousness has been imputed to us. It has been credited to us because of the work that was done by Christ on the cross. Martin Luther recognized this truth that is found time and again in the book of Romans and found this book to be the most important work in the New Testament. He new that the book of Romans reveals to us the very heart of the gospel and he said that “this letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament.”
And the heart of the letter that caused him and many thousands of others to treasure this work is the emphasis that Paul places on justification. In Luther’s time, there was the thought by the Catholic church that righteousness for Christians (that is truly necessary for salvation) was “imparted,” teaching that God makes us righteous by giving us the ability to obey the laws that God had made. Justification on the other hand, which is what Paul was teaching in his letter to the Romans, was instead the knowledge that God imputes righteousness to us. It is credited to our account, by the work of Christ.
We can never fully be what we are declared by the Father to be, while here on this earth. That is grace! Knowing this frees us from the bondage that comes from not being “good enough.” It frees us as well to live out our obedience to Him knowing that God is the one who justifies and therefore we can then with free hearts respond by growing in our walk with Him and doing good works that spurn out of faith.
Which brings us to our memory passage for the month of May. Paul spends most of the book of Romans teaching and reminding us of the good news of Jesus Christ and then tells us what our role is or what our response should be as Christians. In this passage, he is telling us to live out our faith. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, meaning that whatever we do in this life it should be to the glory of God. It should be done with a worshipful heart. We should also live as Christ in the world to all who are around us, but we should not live as the world lives. Sure we are to eat the same kinds of foods, live in the same kinds of houses and so on. But we are not to live as the world lives who are in opposition to the Lord. Our perspective should be the Lord’s perspective, our minds should be as Christ’s. In this way, we should worship Christ!
It is absolutely essential for Christians to obey the commands of the Lord that are found in His Word. And this months memory passage give us some of those commands. Not that obedience equals salvation, but obedience reveals faith, a saving faith. So as you study and memorize this passage of Scripture never forget that Christ has paid it all and if you are a Christian, meaning that you have repented of your sins and confess Jesus as the Lord of your life, then you are declared righteous by the Father. Therefore, live out the salvation that has been freely bestowed upon you, by living a life of worship to God as you conform to His image instead of the world’s.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Hebrews 1:1-3 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high……
This months memory passage is a wonderful passage that speaks of the glory of Christ and the way in which God still speaks to His people. It begins by speaking of the way in which God related to His people during the time of the Old Testament. He spoke through certain men that were called prophets to communicate to His people. We know this to be true if we open up the pages of our Bibles and read the Old Testament. All that was spoken of in what Jesus called the law and the prophets was spoken by God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to His people.
But in these last days…..Meaning since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He speaks to us through Him. We have everything we need, laid out before us in the Bible. Which records the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The complete and sufficient Word of God that we call the Bible not only records for us what we need to know about Christ, it also reveals to us the path unto salvation and from there tells us how we are to live in light of the work of Christ and the grace that has been bestowed upon all of those who call Him their Lord.
The Bible is complete, sufficient, necessary, and clear. Nothing needs to (or can) be added, just like nothing needs to be added to the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. His work is sufficient and so is His Word. If you want to hear from God as a Christian, then open up the Bible and hear what the God of the universe has said to us. We do not need to hear from God in another way, because He now speaks to us in His Son.
This passage also reveals to us who Christ is. It says that He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature. Meaning that Jesus is God and He reveals to us what God is like. The radiance of God was revealed to a handful of people on earth as we read in the Bible. Back in the ancient times, we read that God revealed a glimpse of Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33). In the New Testament we read that Jesus unveiled a glimpse of God’s glory on the Mt. of transfiguration (Mark 9). And the author of Hebrews reaffirms this truth, that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. He reveals the glory of God to us. And He will do this for all of eternity with His people in heaven. One day all who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be in the presence of the glory of God. We will be in the presence of Jesus, the exact representation of God Himself. We will be awestruck at the radiance of the Holy One!
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘but the righteous man shall live by faith.’”
For many Christians this is a familiar passage of Scripture. It speaks of the good news that all Christians cling to. That is why Paul says that he is not ashamed of it. He cherishes it, he loves it, he can’t wait to speak of the glories of this good news to all mankind because he knows the immense riches that are to be found by all who believe.
Paul wrote the book of Romans to encourage the church in Rome and to be a help in their walk with the Lord. Paul was not a direct part of starting the church in Rome, in fact, no one really knows how it got started. But nonetheless, Paul hears of this church and decides to write them a letter since he is not able to get there himself at this time to encourage them on in the faith.
The first chapter of the book of Romans begins like most of Paul’s other letters, by a greeting and a description of what Christ has done in his life. He then speaks of the inheritance that believers have through the work done by Christ on the cross. In verse 8 he begins to tell them of the way that he is petitioning God on their behalf beginning with thanksgiving for their faith. And after his prayer he tells them how much he longs to see them and how he can’t wait to personally come and encourage them.
Then, he gives them the reason why he feels as though he needs to get there to be with them. Verse 15 says that he is eager to get there so that he may preach the gospel or good news. He can’t wait to proclaim to them the incomparable riches that are found in the good news of Jesus Christ.
There are two things to point out when looking at this memory passage: The first one is rather obvious! As Christians we are to be bold and courageous in our proclamation of the gospel. We can never be ashamed to share this wonderful news to all people and at any time. No matter what the consequences are, we cannot hold back in giving those around us the greatest news that can ever fall upon our ears. There is nothing that we can say that is more important to anyone than to tell them that Jesus came to earth to die for their sins if they would just turn from their sins and confess Jesus to be the Lord of their lives.
The other significant thing that we need to take note of is that Paul understands that he is writing this to a Christian church, full of Christians. He is telling them that he desires to come to preach the gospel to them. As Christians, we will never ”get past” the gospel. The gospel will inform our lives for our whole lives. It is not just the entry point into Christianity, it is so much more than that. This is why when we gather as Christians on a Sunday morning for worship, the gospel should always be proclaimed. From the pulpit and in all other elements of the service as well. The good news of Jesus is what we first believe, guaranteeing us of our salvation, but it also informs every decision that we make on a daily basis.
The gospel influences how we raise our children, how we live our lives for His glory, what our thoughts go to when speaking with people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, it influences how we spend money, how we treat our body, it tells us to live out our faith with other Christians in a church and on and on. The good news that Jesus came and died for the sins of His people affects our whole lives for our whole life. Never be ashamed of this good news! Embrace it, live out your faith and always be ready to give an account for the faith that you have.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Titus 3:3-7 “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This is one of the passages in God’s Word that we can look at and get a grasp of what the gospel is. This passage begins by speaking of the condition that all of humanity is in without Christ and His salvation. This is very difficult to hear for most people, but it is true! And that is why Christians speak so often and so fondly of the grace of God. Only by understanding who we were, can we then be brought to our knees before the Lord when thinking of His grace that has been poured out on us in Christ.
This passage begins by saying that all have been foolish. Meaning that we have lived our lives in disobedience, deceiving ourselves in our passions and lusts of the world and the flesh. We have hated others because we have been so focused on our own selfish desires. That is the epitome of foolishness. This is hard to hear because Paul the author of the book of Titus is stating that all humans are foolish without knowledge of Christ as their Savior. He is saying man’s wisdom only leads to self-indulging pleasures that are harmful for our souls. We are all in the same boat!
Then comes one of the greatest statements that the Bible makes, something that is refreshing in the midst of hopelessness. The words “but when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared……” When you see the words “but God” in Scripture, most of the time you can be sure that good news for humanity will soon be followed. And that is the case here! The kindness and love of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. He came as fully God and fully man to be an atonement for the sin that was mentioned in verse 3.
Through His work on the cross, through His mercy, He provided a way for us to be saved from our rebellion. After Jesus resurrected from the grave and ascended on high to the right hand of the Father, He sent the promised one, the Holy Spirit. Verse 5 of Titus 3 says that He saved us according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. This is how our salvation from our rebellion and foolishness comes about. Through the work of the Son of God on the cross, by the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts, thereby causing us to respond to this mercy with repentance and faith.
So in this New Year, think of the work that has been done by Jesus on the cross, recognize that it was by His mercy that He came and washed you and made you new, giving you a heart that loves God. And that as verse 7 says, we have been justified (declared righteous) by His grace and therefore have been given an inheritance of eternal life as heirs in the Kingdom of God. Never forget who you were because it will help you to remember how great a salvation you have been given if you are a child of God.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are the sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
This is a wonderful passage of Scripture to memorize during this wonderful time of year, when we as Christians focus on the birth of our Savior. It begins by speaking of “the fullness of the time.” Here Paul is speaking of what the Old Testament prophets had long foretold, that a Messiah would come. The whole of the Old Testament points to this Savior who was to come. And here Paul says that this time has now come. In the book of Mark we see that Jesus Himself proclaims that the time is fulfilled. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the earlier prophecies about a coming Messiah and King that would redeem a people for Himself.
This is why a passage like this is so glorious, Jesus has come and He has come to redeem people and adopt them as sons (or daughters) into His Kingdom. This is the beauty and glory of Christmas. The incarnation of the Son of God has resulted in the way of salvation for those who repent and believe. And for those that believe, He has sent His Spirit into their hearts, thereby giving Christians new hearts, hearts that love God.
Those that believe in the story of the birth of the Savior, those that believe He lived a sinless life, those that believe that He died on the cross taking their place and punishment that they deserved, will have eternal life in the presence of their Savior and King.
Christians love this time of year because it speaks of immense joy, it speaks of the salvation to come, it speaks of the fact that they have been given new hearts that love God, and it speaks of the freedom from the bondage of sin and rebellion against a holy God through the work that was done that started 2000+ years ago in a manger.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you.”
This passage is one of the most beloved sections of Scripture for Christians and it has been for many, many years. There are numerous reasons that those who have a love for God and His Word have clung to this passage. It reminds us first that there is joy in the Lord. It reminds us that we can go to Him for anything and everything. It reminds us that He will shower us with His peace and will guard us from all of our troubles as we go to Him in prayer. It reminds us to reflect on the things of Christ as we go throughout this journey while here on the earth. And it leaves us with an encouraging way to live our lives, “The things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you.” It truly is a wonderful passage of Scripture!
But I think that due to the wonderfully encouraging truths that are found in it, we can lose sight of the other vital aspects of this passage. As humans we like to hear the comforting and encouraging comments and have a natural tendency to shy away from what we see as, “commands from the Lord!” This passage is extremely encouraging as I just mentioned, but it is also full of the commands of the Lord spoken through His servant Paul.
It begins with a command that is given twice in one verse, “rejoice, again I say rejoice.” This is not just a suggestion or something we should do when things are going well. This is a command from the Lord that is to reveal to the world who we are as believers. No matter what happens in this life, we are to always rejoice. That doesn’t mean we will always be happy, but that even in times of sorrow we will be found rejoicing in the Lord, because of what He has done on behalf of us through the blood of His Son. There is always something to rejoice about when you think of your eternal position in Christ as a Christian. Through our ability to rejoice in all circumstances our “gentle spirit” will be known to all.
Then Paul goes on to say that we are to go to God in prayer with thanksgiving in all things and to not be anxious. This is another command of the Lord’s here in this passage that tells us what our prayer life is to look like. We are to go to God confident and full of assurance. We are to go to Him with thanksgiving knowing that He is the God of all comfort and that He will graciously supply us with the peace of Christ. This peace and lack of anxiety will add a natural benefit to our lives as believers, our hearts and minds will be protected in all that we do, especially when we go to God in prayer.
Then Paul leaves us with another set of commands. He gives us a list of things that our minds are to dwell on. Paul gives us this list knowing that when our lives are set on the excellencies of Christ, then we will live out what our minds are set on. We will fulfill these commands if our hearts are set on Christ and His Word. What is true? God’s Word! What is honorable? Christ, in all His ways before the Father on our behalf! What is right? The laws of the Lord! What is pure? The spotless lamb of God! What is lovely? The way the Master relates to His bride!
This passage is incredibly encouraging for the Christian to know that he has a God to rejoice in, a God to seek in prayer, and a God who represents all of the qualities listed out here. But this passage is also a challenge for the Christian to be rejoicing no matter the circumstances, to go to God confident and not anxious because of who God is, it challenges us to rest in His peace in the face of trials with thanksgiving in our hearts, and it challenges us to have our minds set on God and His attributes, instead of what the world has to offer.
This passage is a comfort and a challenge to us, but more importantly if we are reading and reflecting on it rightly, we will see more of Christ and be amazed all the more at who He is and what He has done.
Join us this month in memorizing this passage and allowing it to permeate deep down in your heart and mind, and ”may the God of peace be with you.”
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Psalm 119:159-163 “Consider how I love your precepts; revive me O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness. The sum of Your word is truth and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your words. I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil. I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law.”
It is truly a wonderful thing to be able to have God’s Word. In this the longest chapter of the Bible we see the beauty and glory of the Word of God. We also see the gift that it is that we have it to live by. The Psalmist gives us some beautifully written words about the Law of the Lord. He says that “the sum of Your word is truth and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” If you want to learn truth, if you have ever wanted to live by truth, then you will go to God’s Word. It is the only source that humanity has for truth. Everyone wants to hear true statements, everyone wants to be led by truth. Well good news, this Psalmist shows us where it is and how to live by it.
This passage also states that God’s Word is everlasting, it will never pass away. God is an unchanging God, which is why His written Word will never pass away nor fail. It is why the Psalmist says that He stands in awe of the Word of the Lord. He rejoices at it, he sees it as a treasure like a great spoil, and he ends by saying that he loves God’s Word.
If you want to live your life by truth, if you want to be revived on a daily basis, if you want to live by everlasting and righteous instruction, if you want to live a joyful life filled with reverence and love, then you will find yourself reading and studying the source for it all, the Bible! God’s Word is without error, it is sufficient for all of life, it is complete (nothing needs to be or can be added to it), and it is absolute and objective truth for all people for all times.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forever.”
As you read Psalm 121 this song of ascents, what does it cause you to think about? What thoughts or ideas come to mind?
One of the things that should come to our minds is, “does my life reflect this song?” A more general question to ponder when reflecting this Psalm is “what does a healthy me look like?”
This Psalm starts out by showing us that we are very needy. We NEED help, we are utterly dependent. We cannot take a firm footed step without our helper. The Lord is our helper, keeper, covering from the elements, and our protector from evil. He and He alone will keep and guard our souls forever.
So, if all of those aforementioned things are true of God, how does that play out in everyday life? It plays out in the gospel of Jesus Christ and lived out in a covenant community of believers (i.e. Valley Community Church). Jesus is our help from our every step to our every thought, Jesus keeps us until He comes to take us home, and Jesus protects us from the snares of the devil. The good news for mankind is that Jesus is our substitutionary atonement, but that is not the end of the good news. We are being kept until that glorious day. Jesus left us with a helper (The Holy Spirit) to keep us and sanctify us. When we read this Psalm, remember that it has been fulfilled in Christ. The reason that we can read this Psalm and hold fast to its truths is because we have Christ.
So what does a healthy you look like? It looks like a person that reads this Psalm and is moved by its power in their life. A healthy you would read this passage and feel relief that God is your help. A healthy you would see verse 5 (He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber) and walk humbly yet boldly before the Lord as you seek to minister God’s Word to all those in your life. A healthy you would sing this song of ascents with thankfulness in your heart, recognizing your deep need for Him and His faithfulness and lovingkindness to you.
Brothers and sisters when we live a life that realizes that true health comes from our dependence on the Lord and our confidence in what He has done, that life will be a healthy life indeed.
Pastor Brian Hardesty
Valley Community Church Burlington