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Good Shepherd is a "neighborhood church" in South Charlotte (NC) with a deep love for scripture, people, and the arts. This is a super-friendly group of ordinary people who follow after an extraordinary God. Check out the website at gspc.net for a look. We'd love to hear from you!

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Sermons (Charlotte, NC‪)‬ Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church - Rev. Robert Austell

    • Religion & Spirituality
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Good Shepherd is a "neighborhood church" in South Charlotte (NC) with a deep love for scripture, people, and the arts. This is a super-friendly group of ordinary people who follow after an extraordinary God. Check out the website at gspc.net for a look. We'd love to hear from you!

    New Selves

    New Selves

    TEXT: Colossians 3:1-3,8-14



    On Easter we talked about the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus. Not only does God forgive us our sins because Jesus died (Good Friday), but God raises us to new life with the risen Jesus. We are spending this month looking at what it means to be “raised with purpose” with Jesus.



    Last week we talked about the new identities God gives us when we believe and follow Jesus. I summarized that in three ways:



    LIVING STONES: In Christ there is salvation and new life/identity for all who believe and follow in obedienceNEW IDENTITIES: In Christ you are part of a community of faith, both in this local church and through God’s church in all times and placesPURPOSE: In Christ we are called to be a faithful community, reaching out through word and deed to serve and bless our neighbors, community, and world



    Today we are going to look a what it means to “live out” those identities, to live as our “new selves” in Christ. In each case we have to choose to live out the new. Like the man on the mat whom Jesus healed (John 5) we have choose to “pick up our mat and walk” in this new life. We have to choose a new mindset, a daily renewal that Paul describes getting spiritually dressed for the day, and new behavior.



    Mindset (vv.1-3)



    1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.



    First, a new mindset. Verses 1-3 begin “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ….”  And we have, so what follows becomes a command, an invitation, a possibility for us to choose: “Keep seeking the things above… set your mind on the things above….” (vv.1b-2) That is, set your mind on Christ himself, for he is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on God’s will and God’s purpose, on Christ’s character and Christ’s mission. Set your mind on these things, not on the “things on earth.” Now, there is an old saying that sometimes Christians are “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” It would be a problem if that is what this passage described. But it’s contrasting God’s character, mission, and purpose with a fallen and sinful world. The later verses will help make that distinction. But God’s mission and purpose is all about this world: bringing the Kingdom of God into this world. So this is not a call to remove ourselves from the world or to ignore it. Indeed, Jesus prayer for his followers and us in John 17 makes clear that he intends us to live, love, and serve out IN the world. This passage, rather, is making the other distinction he made in that John 17 prayer, that we keep ourselves from becoming OF this world – so identified with it’s sinful values that we become indistinguishable from it. Seeking the mind of mission of Christ will not take us OUT OF the world nor allow us to become OF the world, but will send us INTO it.



    Verse 3 gives some explanation of how God enables us to choose this new mindset. It is because we have died and been raised – Good Friday and Easter – and now our life is ‘hidden’ or held safe with Christ in Heaven. Our salvation and our identity – our healing if you want to think of the man on the mat – is accomplished and secure. What remains is what we are going to do with that – how we are going to think and live.



    Old vs. New (vv.8-11)



    8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, s

    New Identities

    New Identities

    TEXT: 1 Peter 2:4-12; Isaiah 28:16-17a; Psalm 118:22-23



    “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)



    Jesus liked telling stories to teach the truth.



    He continued, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you whom he is like:” (v.47)



    The one who listen and does is like someone building a house who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock. When the storm and flood came, the house stood firm because it had been built on the rock. (v.48)



    The one who hears Jesus’ teaching and doesn’t follow it (whether or not calling Jesus ‘Lord’) is like someone building a house on the ground without any foundation. When the storm and flood came, the house collapsed and the ruin of the house was great. (v.49)



    Peter used similar imagery to describe what God was doing through Jesus Christ. And we are part of that story that I want to look at with you today.



    Jesus the Cornerstone of it All (1 Peter 2:4-8)



    Psalm 118 describes a stone that was rejected by humanity, but chosen and used by God to become the “chief cornerstone” of what the Lord was doing. The prophet Isaiah picks up that same image of a cornerstone that God has chosen for the foundation, going on to describe the nature and purpose of what God would do with that structure. It would be built on faith in God’s work and purpose. It would be “measured out” with God’s justice and righteousness.



    Peter picks up on this same imagery in writing his letter that we are looking at this morning. He quotes these passages from Psalm 118 and from Isaiah 28 (used in our Call to Worship) and elaborates with building imagery to describe further the nature and purpose of God’s great work in Jesus Christ.



    First is Jesus. As in those Old Testament passages, he is the cornerstone of what God is doing. (v.4) Jesus is not only cornerstone, but also described as a “living stone.” Peter is kind of blurring the lines of imagery here to make clear that God wasn’t just building another Temple or physical building, but a living, breathing human structure with Christ as both the first and the most important part. He goes on then to say that those who believe in Christ are also living stones and part of this living structure God is building. One of its chief purposes is “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (v.5) But Peter will go on in the coming verses to make clear that this is not the only purpose.



    He also takes a moment to say that belief is essential. Those who disbelieve will not find a foundation upon which to build and organize their lives; rather, they will find Jesus offensive and scandalous and will trip over who he was and what he taught. But – pay attention here – belief in Jesus is not just saying “Lord, Lord,” as in Jesus’ own story of the builders. It is obedience to the Word, to the teaching. Peter names this in verse 8 when he describes those who stumble because they are disobedient to the word. You can’t accept Jesus and reject his teaching. You can’t say you believe and not also follow. It is the combination of faith and obedience that describes what it means to be a “living stone.”



    New Identities (1 Peter 2:9-12)



    Peter has started with this building image to help us understand God’s design and purpose for us. But now that he is on the topic of that design and purpose – our IDENTITY in Christ – the names and descriptions of our new identities overflow! Let me briefly go through each one. When you believe in the one God has sent and follow Jesus and God’s Word through Jesus, God gives you a new name, an actual new identity. This is not an exhaustive list; there are many others in scripture, but it’s a meaningful list.



    Living Stones – We’ve already touched on this. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “dead wood.” This is quite the opposite. You are part of God’s building material, being built

    Mission

    Mission

    TEXT: Matthew 28:16-20



    Last Sunday – Easter Sunday – we talked about the significance of the resurrection. Like a tuned instrument ready to play, we have been saved in order to LIVE in newness of life, following and serving Jesus Christ in the world. Over the next few weeks we are going to look at different examples and explanations of how we are to live this new life in Christ. Today we are looking at our “mission” as given in what is known as the “Great Commission” at the end of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry.



    Gathering to Worship (v. 16)



    Jump down to verse 16.  The eleven disciples (remember, Judas is gone) proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain Jesus had designated.  Listen to what comes next: “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him…”  I want to note two things there.  First as much as you may hear me talk about mission and neighbors and the world; it can’t happen without gathering for worship.  In order to share Christ, we must know Christ; and in order to know him, we must recognize him for who he is and worship God the Father through Jesus the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  So just before the most famous mission passage in the Bible, we see the disciples gathered around Jesus to worship him. 



    But also note this: they went to where Jesus had directed them and worshiped him there!  That is not to say that we cannot worship God right here in this room; it is also not to say that we must go find Jesus out in the woods somewhere.  It is to say that we must always have before us the question, “What is God doing and where is He doing it?”  In our case, I believe God is doing much right here in our neighborhood and there is every reason in the world to expect and hope to meet God as we gather here as well as to expect and hope God to lead us out of here as we go.  Let me also note that this is the more positive gathering-where-Jesus-is story in the Bible.  Apparently the disciples were, at first, hiding out in a room because they feared those who had killed Jesus.  And so in the Gospel of John you also can read of Jesus coming to them where they were.  That is a huge part of the Good News story of Jesus.  He does come to us where we are.  But he also goes before us and invites us to meet him there.  The danger is in not looking and listening for what God is doing and demanding that Jesus always meet us on our own terms.



    And those of you who are observant and read ahead will have noticed one other fascinating thing in this verse.  Yes, when they saw Him, they worshiped Him.  But keep reading in verse 17: “…but some were doubtful.”  There, on a mountain with the no-longer-dead Jesus right with them, some were doubtful!  And Matthew doesn’t linger there or go into any other detail.  Maybe that’s his nod to the story of Thomas, which is described more in the Gospel of John.  Or maybe he is just being honest that it took a while for some to be convinced.  But I appreciate Matthew including that detail.  It is okay to be gathered for worship among followers of Jesus and still have doubts.  It doesn’t say that they didn’t worship or that they didn’t hear or follow the Great Commission; it’s just an acknowledgement that some struggled in the midst of it all.  I find that comforting and hope you do as well.



    Sent to Make Disciples (v. 19)



    There are whole sermons waiting to be preached just on the Great Commission itself, which technically is contained in verses 19-20.  I’ve even preached a few of those before.  But I’ll just focus on one particular thing today and that is making disciples.  All of what is there is super-important.  We must go; we must make disciples; baptizing stands in for a number of things including training, repentance, incorporation into the faith community; and teaching obedience is also key and relates to teaching God’s Word.  But here’s something you may not know: the only command in

    Raised!

    Raised!

    TEXT: Matthew 28:1-10



    If you ask the average Christian what the most significant day in the life of the church is, most will say Christmas or Easter. And you might even get a lively debate over why one is more important than the other. And yet, in my experience the two things that are held up as “most important” are the birth of Jesus (INCARNATION) and the sacrificial death of Jesus (ATONEMENT/JUSTIFICATION). I happily say both are important and central to God’s story in Jesus Christ.



    Other than ON Easter, what I don’t ever hear people talking about is the importance of the RESURRECTION of Jesus. We might say Easter is so important, but what we often are thinking about is Easter weekend and the crucifixion on Good Friday in particular.



    Ultimately, my goal today is not to assign any kind of relative importance to the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. They are all of greatest importance. What I want to do is try to explain and illustrate why the resurrection is important and the difference it can and should make in our day-to-day lives.



    Good Friday: Saving Death



    Good Friday and the cross are certainly crucial to understanding and Christianity and salvation. In fact, our word ‘crucial’ comes from the crucifixion; it is a central, foundational, of-greatest-importance thing. On the cross Jesus took the sin of the world onto himself. He took your and my sin, disobedience, unrighteousness, and ungodliness and exchanged his goodness, obedience, rightness, and godliness. In Christ and because of his saving death, your sins and my sins are forgiven! That’s the Gospel, literally “Good News.”



    One way I’ve illustrated this before is with a guitar. Any guitarist (or instrumentalist) will tell you that instruments go out of tune. It’s in their nature. Age and environment and physics mean that every instrument is always de-tuning. Human beings are like that. Our imperfections, our surroundings, and our own choices are constantly at work to de-tune our lives. God is like that musician or master-tuner who brings us into alignment, into tune with His holy will. Devices like the tuner on my guitar are kind of like God’s Word, the Bible, showing us what that right tuning is. [I tune my guitar as I’m saying all this.]



    In fact, one of my favorite hymns uses the phrase, “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” This isn’t a complete illustration of what Jesus’ death means for us, but it is a helpful one. On the cross God has set us right!



    In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains the importance of Christ’s death in this way:



    “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death… that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for the one who has died [with Christ] is freed (acquitted) from sin.” (Romans 6:4,6-7, selected)



    Jesus died so that our sins might be acquitted, forgiven and set right with God. And then they laid him in the tomb. [I put my guitar back in it’s case and close the case.]



    Easter: New Life



    But what of Easter? If our sins are forgiven on the cross and we are made right with God, why is Easter so important?



    I just read part of those verses from Romans 6. Between those ellipses Paul also speaks of what Christ’s resurrection means for us:



    “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would not longer be slaves to sin; for the one who has died [with Christ] is freed (acquitted) from sin.” (vv.4-7)



    Through faith in Jesus Christ we are not just joine

    Expectations

    Expectations

    TEXT: Joel 3:1-2; Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:24-29



    Today is Palm Sunday, the day that kicks of “Holy Week” and in which we read and remember Jesus’ so-called “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. I say so-called because it was triumphal, but mainly because the crowd didn’t quite get it right about what the Messiah would do and because the week ended in Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. And yet we are also finishing up our time in Joel. Someone rightly asked me this week how Joel tied in to Paul Sunday. It does! We’ll look at that, at the false expectations, and at the promises Jesus did fulfill in obedience to God.



    What I want to challenge you to listen for and think about is how your own expectations for God might lead you in a direction away from the reality of what God is actually doing in the world and in your life. And consider how you might re-align your expectations with what God does say He will do.



    Just a quick recap of the first two chapters of Joel that we’ve looked at over the past five weeks or so. Set about 600 years before Jesus, God’s people endured a locust plague, a drought, some fires, and an invading army. Joel’s message to them was three-fold: lament, repent, and live in hope. These are good prescriptions for us as well when we suffer or face significant challenges or loss. Lament involves being truthful about the situation and grieving the loss or what has happened. But it’s more than grief; it is bringing that grief to the Lord. Repentance is turning freshly to the Lord. And the hope that Joel holds out is the “Day of the Lord” – the time, future to him, in which the Lord would set things right and judge the evil, injustice, and sin of the world.



    We talked some last week about how Jesus announced the beginning of the Day of the Lord with his own ministry. He would say, “The Kingdom is here… it is in your midst… the time is now…” But he also held out a future completion of that Day of hope. Scripture teaches that we are living IN that Day, having seen it begin in Christ and waiting for it to finish with his return. In the meantime, we follow after Jesus and God blesses us with His Spirit to be a part of inviting people to the Lord and living out the love of God in this world.



    Expectations (Joel 3:1-2; Matthew 21)



    All that brings us to Palm Sunday. The people of Joel’s day heard what he had to say and did lament and repent. They believed and hoped in God that there would be a Day of the Lord when things would be set right. And the verses we heard today from Joel 3:1-2 spell out another one of those signs to mark when the day was coming:



    1 “For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land. 



    Do you know what the people of Jesus’ day wanted? The Roman Empire had over-run the known world, providing protection and roads and peace, but at a high cost. Rome took the fortunes of her subjects, taxing them heavily to fund the army and the empire. The lands was divvied up and ruled by Roman governors. And the Jewish people longed to rule themselves again. They longed for the days of King David. And much of their hope and expectation was bound up in an interpretation of the coming of God’s anointed – the Messiah – to accomplish this independence and rule.



    Joel mentions where this will happen: in the valley of Jehoshaphat. This is understood to be the valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem before you go up the hill to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. Joel said to look out for signs in the skies and on the ground and then look right around Jerusalem for this thing to happen.



    On the day of what we call Palm Sunday Jesus had

    Deliverance and Restoration

    Deliverance and Restoration

    TEXT: Joel 2:18-27; Acts 3:18-21



    What is the result of repentance, of turning back to the Lord?



    We have spent several weeks in the Old Testament book of Joel, written to God’s people after a terrible series of plagues and calamities. I was drawn to Joel as I pondered the series of calamities we and the world has faced in the past several years, from COVID to extreme cultural polarization to racial injustice to war in Ukraine that is impacting the whole world. And while there are points of disconnect, too, God’s Word to His people seem timely for us as well: LAMENT what has been lost and REPENT by turning freshly to the Lord. And that process leads us to and gives us good reason to HOPE in the Lord, even in the middle of all that’s going on. That’s the general arc of this series and the book of Joel. Lament, repent, and discover hope.



    Last week we left off with the news of a third calamity (or fourth if you count fires separately from the drought). Either the locusts were returning or an invading army was on the way. And God urges His people even more strongly to lament and to repent – all together from the priests to the leaders to the nursing babies. Let all turn freshly back toward the Lord!



    Today we pick up with where that is headed. Without that lament and repentance, the next plague was certain to be worse than the last, kind of like the plagues God sent on Pharaoh and Egypt. But lament and repent and there would be a different outcome because (as we were reminded last week), God is merciful and compassionate, desiring blessing not cursing. So the Day of the Lord, the other big theme in Joel, could go both ways. It could be a terrible day of judgment on those who reject God or it could be a day of hope and restoration for those who, even now, would turn back to God.



    That’s where we pick up today in Joel 2:18… with a picture of the hope that comes with repentance.



    Hope not Fear (vv.18-24)



    Verse 18 starts with ‘then’ – that’s after lament and repentance, THEN…   Well, I should add it’s after lament and repentance AND because of God’s steadfast love and compassion (HESED), THEN…



    v.18 – THEN the Lord will be zealous for His land – that’s the Promised Land, given but later taken away because God’s people rejected the Lord. But God had also promised it to Abraham. So the Lord’s zeal for His promise does not fade.



    v.19 – THEN the Lord will have pity and answer and send new grain, wine, and oil. Remember how devastated the crops were by the locusts and the drought? One day it will be restored.



    v.20 – THEN the Lord will remove the northern army (this happened when the Persian army repelled the Babylonians who had invaded and occupied Israel).



    v.22 – THEN the livestock, the pastures, the vineyard, the fruit and fig trees… it will all again flourish. Rain will again come and bring life back. (v.23)



    Remember how bleak things were after the locust plague? After the drought and fires? After a year of COVID? After two years? After divorce? After conflict and fall-out? When you are in the midst of something it can be hard to see or even imagine the other side of it. It is so much easier to fear than to hope. But the Lord tells His people to lament and turn back freshly to Him, and to hope in the Lord’s HESED-goodness and mercy.



    Restoration (vv.25-27)



    The next verse (v.25) is one of the most encouraging and heartening verses I know. It is one more THEN statement: “Then I will make up to you for the years that the locusts have eaten.” It actually goes through the full description, as in chapter one, of the different kinds or stages of locusts. Each stage and each loss is part of this statement.



    Have you ever felt like you have “lost years” because of some ordeal? I have. Rather than the adage of two steps forward and one step back, sometimes it just feels like ten steps back or simply being knocked on your backside. We can lose time,

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