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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
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

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!

    God’s Story

    God’s Story

    TEXT: Psalm 150; John 1.1-4; Matthew 5.17; Jeremiah 29.11; Luke 4.18-21; Ephesians 4.1-6FULL SERVICE VIDEO w/sharing time (LINK)



    I want to do something different this morning for the sermon. I decided that I wanted to reflect on what I’ve seen God do at and through all of you during my time here. I want to remind you of your story, at least as seen from my vantage point. And ultimately I want to tell God’s story as I’ve been blessed to witness it. So I’ve chosen a number of scriptures this morning because each of them reminds me of chapters of that story in this place.



    Jesus and Scripture (Jn 1:1-4; Mt 5:17)



    Back in the late Fall of 2001 three men showed up to worship at First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, NC. That wasn’t suspicious at all, nor was the one who kept saying “Amen” loudly during the service. That was George Houston, David Butler (Matt’s dad), and Melvin Graham (Billy’s brother). Long story short, we talked and they invited me to visit Charlotte to talk to the search committee that included Angela Hinton and the chair, Quay Youngblood.



    I only start this far back in the story because my conversations with them highlight a foundational truth about Good Shepherd that was what drew me here in the first place. It became clear that they loved Jesus and God’s Word and they wanted a pastor who did too. I asked them if that described the elders and the congregation of the church and they assured me, yes, it did. I asked about some of my interests around music and worship and they said as long as I taught and followed the scriptures and served Jesus I could do whatever I wanted and the congregation would enthusiastically participate. It seemed too good to be true, but I believed them and trusted the Lord’s leading, and it indeed did prove to be true then and on through to today.



    The beginning of the Gospel of John calls Jesus the Word of God and makes it clear that the Incarnate Word that is testified to in the written Word bring light and life to the World. Later, once Jesus began teaching, he made it clear that he wasn’t doing away with the Hebrew scripture, but was in fact fulfilling and explaining it to us. This is our core and it at the heart of God’s story: the Word made flesh, come to dwell among us in grace and truth.



    Worship and Music (Psalm 150)



    Worship and Music were at the front of my mind and heart when I first came to Good Shepherd. They still are, but it was one of the places I first focused. We introduced a praise team and hired Cathy Youngblood a few months later. I was also in the middle of my studies on worship and music and developed an approach to worship that used all the musical tools available us to proclaim God’s worth and explicate the scriptures I was preaching on. We’ve continued and expanded that approach on through to the music ministry under Eric VanderHeide today.



    While there are many, many scriptures that relate to this, I can’t think of a clearer one than Psalm 150 which we used for our Call to Worship today. The Psalm exhorts us to praise God everywhere, with every instrument, with all our life and breath. And as I think back on those first five years or so I see us diving deep into worship and music in a way that has continued to blossom in our worship life together.



    So many talented musicians – and other kinds of artists – have found a home here, whether short-term or long-term. It has truly been glorious to see the range of ways people have offered artistic gifts to the Lord and blessed all of us in leading us into worship in so many different ways.



    People marvel that a church our size generates so much artistic worship and witness. But it is never a “look at us” kind of thing, but a “look at God” kind of thing. That brings me such joy as I know it does the Lord.



    Lighthouse and Searchlight (Jeremiah 29)



    As I reflect back on it, I believe all that heartfelt and intentional focus on worship led us out int

    Power and Purpose

    Power and Purpose

    Service Video (link)TEXT: Acts 2:1-13,37-39



    Last week I noted that we often focus on two of the significant parts of what God did in Jesus Christ: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. Jesus was God come among us and he died for us and our salvation.



    In the past seven weeks or so we have focused on two more significant parts of what God did in Christ, though these two get less attention, and often less understanding: the Resurrection and the Ascension. But those are the two things that have to do with our lives now, defining our identity and new life in Christ.



    Today – Pentecost Sunday – we focus on one more very significant act of God, one promised by Jesus as he ascended. Last week we heard his final words to his followers, that he would send his Spirit to empower his followers to be witnesses of God and what God has done in Christ. And that is exactly what happened on Pentecost. In today’s text we see three human responses to that power and witness. Like those disciples, God empowers us to bear witness in the world. And people still have responses today like those all those years ago.



    POWER (vv. 1-13)



    First, in verses 1-13, in response to the power of the Holy Spirit, displayed through “tongues of fire” and hearing the disciples speak in multiple languages, there are two distinct responses.




    Amazed and astonished (vv. 7-12) – Many of those present on the day of Pentecost heard the Galilean Jews speaking in their own language. A long list of nationalities is included in the passage. We read in v. 7 that some “were amazed and astonished” and continued “in amazement and great perplexity.” They asked each other what it all meant. I’d call this a holy curiosity.





    Doubtful, even mocking (v. 13) – Others were neither amazed or astonished, rationalizing and writing it off to drunkenness on the part of the disciples. Some pressed even further and made fun of the disciples.




    I’ve seen both reactions. I’ve had both reactions. We see something we don’t understand and we have to decide between the natural and the supernatural explanation. And some of us are probably more open to mystery and miracle than others, which is understandable. Having said that, to descend into outright mockery of the divine or of faith is another thing altogether. I’ve come to realize that making fun of God or followers of God usually is a cover for something else that is often between that person and God.



    Nonetheless, what occurs to me, especially knowing what is coming, is that there is no shortage of God’s power here in this passage, and yet it is not at this point that people respond in faith. I’ve often heard – and thought myself – that if God would just unleash a few good tangible and measurable miracles, that many would believe. But this makes me question that. Probably it would just scare us and the best we’d manage is to either write it off or to be amazed without understanding.



    And this is where the way that God has arranged things begins to make more sense to me. Why is it that God chooses to involve us in witnessing to His power? It is because we respond to story; we respond to incarnation – to fleshed-out reality. The WITNESS is an integral part of belief and it is how we participate in what God is doing in the world.



    WITNESS (vv. 37-39)




    Believing, pierced to the heart (v. 37) – So after Peter shares the story of Jesus, we read that those present were “pierced to the heart.”




    In our scripture reading, Peter’s message is just referenced as ‘this’ – “Now when they heard this” (v. 37). What Peter had done in verses 14-36 was what Jesus told him to do: he gave witness. Here are the Cliffs notes to Peter’s sermon: Peter talked about God’s promise to send his Spirit. He talked about God’s plan to send Jesus into the world. He talked about history and hopes and the great themes and stories of incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

    Ascension

    Ascension

    SERVICE VIDEO (link)TEXT: Acts 1:4-11



    Today we recognize a very important event that happened only a few weeks after the resurrection of Jesus; actually, 40 days to be precise. Did you guess Pentecost??  No…. that’s 10 days later – we’ll celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost next Sunday.  It’s the Ascension.  When Jesus appeared to Mary on Easter morning (John 20:17) he said, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  Well this is it – Jesus ascends… he goes up into Heaven to be with God the Father.



    So what’s important about the Ascension of Jesus? It’s not as big a deal as the “biggies” is it?




    Incarnation: Jesus’ birth and God’s putting-on of human flesh to live among us



    Crucifixion: Jesus’ death, which atoned for our sin and “made right with God” all who believe



    Resurrection: Jesus’ victory over death, which we now share through faith in him




    I’ll admit that for most of my life I’ve just thought the Ascension was Jesus’ “trip back to Heaven” – that’s it, end of story.  But there’s so much more! And this isn’t just a random excursion into an obscure theological area: it has everything to do with God’s power and purpose that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.



    The Ascension Narrative (Acts 1)



    So let’s start with the narrative – the account of Jesus’ Ascension.  It’s short and sweet and it’s there in Acts 1, and the actual Ascension is only one verse long.  After speaking to his followers, Jesus “was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (v. 9) That’s about it.  As you can imagine, they just stood and stared, “gazing intently into the sky while He was going.” (v. 10) But what else can we get from the context here?



    We have two main pieces of information: what Jesus said before he left and what the angel messengers said after he left.



    Before leaving, Jesus final words had to do with the promise of the Holy Spirit, which would come to empower his followers to be witnesses far and near.  This was in contrast to their question of “restoring the kingdom to Israel.”  Instead, Jesus taught (as he had always taught), God’s Kingdom was not of this world. He had frequently made that point through miraculous and supernatural signs and he was about to demonstrate that with one last miraculous sign: his Ascension into the heavens.  I will also simply note for now the very close connection between the promise and work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ Ascension. More on that later!



    After he left, two “men in white clothing” appeared and the basic content of their message signaled that Jesus would one day return in the same manner as his leaving. (v. 11) But what does it all mean?!



    The Meaning of the Ascension



    Let me mention several benefits of Jesus’ Ascension to the believer, and you will see these outlined in the confession of faith we’ll use later in the service.  You can also see the scripture referenced there on the back of the bulletin.  There are at least four benefits of the Ascension for those who believe. 



    1. A Heavenly Advocate



    One of the important realities of Jesus being at the right hand of the Father is that Jesus took our humanity with him.  He is our advocate, and our righteous one at that.  Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is not only the one who died, but is the one who was raised and is at the right hand of God, and is the one “who also intercedes for us.”  That is why we pray “in Jesus’ name,” because he is our representative, our advocate, our intercessor.  It is as if Jesus tacks on to our every prayer, “…and this prayer is from Sarah, the one I love, the one I died for, the one who I have made a place for with us; listen to her!”  Can you imagine having such an advocate, because you do!



    But that verse from Romans goes even beyond that.  As one who intercedes for us, Jesus

    New Life

    New Life

    TEXT: Romans 6:1-14SERVICE VIDEO (link)



    Since Easter we’ve been talking about why the Resurrection of Jesus matters. Today we are going to look at Romans 6 and talk about the “New Life,” trying to understand better what that new life in Christ means, what it looks like, and how we can more fully live in it. I am hoping we can better understand the implications that Jesus was raised from the dead FOR US. What are the implications of the “for us?”



    Life Looks Different: a new reality



    The first thing to say is that because of Jesus Christ life looks different! He makes a difference in one’s life. If life with Christ and life without Christ look no different, then we have missed something crucial about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he is doing even now. We could talk about that in a number of ways, but the place Paul picks up in chapter six of his letter to the Romans has to do with sin. One answer we still sometimes hear today is that sin doesn’t matter because God’s grace abounds! God has forgiven it all and we shouldn’t get wrapped up in naming sin, judging sin, or paying much attention to sin, because God will forgive it. But Paul nips that in the bud, asking “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Paul’s response is: “May it never be!” While we do continue to sin, we should also struggle against it. And what follows is an explanation of how we are to live in Christ, particularly with regard to sin.



    After Paul’s “May it never be!” he goes on to ask two more questions that will set up what follows. The first question is: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The second is related to it: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Both are rhetorical, meaning the point is not just coming up with the answer, but understanding the answer and why Paul asked the question. What Paul is trying to remind us of with these questions is our new reality because of Good Friday and Easter. Jesus did not need to die and be raised for his own sake; it was FOR US.



    Paul describes those who trust in Jesus Christ as those who have “died to sin” and are “baptized into Jesus’ death.” Those are not conditions of Jesus’s work; you don’t have to stop sinning for Jesus to die for you. No, these are the RESULTS of Jesus’ work. Because Jesus died, we have died to sin. That is one of things baptism signifies; that we are marked by his action. That’s what Paul wants you to understand with his two questions. You have died to sin because you belong to Jesus and he died to sin… don’t you know it? Paul then offers a series of illustrations to help us understand resurrection life.



    First Picture: United in Baptism (vv. 4-7)



    Paul’s first illustration or picture is that in baptism we have been buried into death and raised to newness of life. (v. 4) Clearly, this is not literal, as we have not been physically buried. But we are joined to Christ in faith, signified through baptism, by God’s gracious love toward us. And so when Christ was crucified, our debt was joined to him; our “body of sin” was joined to him and put to death (v. 6). And when he was buried, our debt and the consequence of sin was complete. When God raised Jesus from the dead in victory OVER sin and death, we too were raised (still joined to him), but no longer under the curse of sin and death.



    Let me try to illustrate. I completed the tax forms for our family a few months ago. If the IRS were to send Heather a tax bill next week that said she owes taxes on our family income, she could respond legitimately by saying, “How shall I who have paid my taxes still owe taxes?” Now she did not do the Austell family taxes or send them anything, but listen to this second question while you are looking at verse 3. “Do you not know that all of us who wear this wedding ring can file jointly?” Now I reali

    On the Road

    On the Road

    TEXT: Luke 24:13-35SERVICE VIDEO (link)



    Picture two people with real interest in the things of God. Nick grew up in and around the people of God, learning the scriptures, hearing the stories of old and how God desires for His people to live. He is the kind of person that brings his family to church and makes sure his children participate in the youth program. Tom got involved later in life, but eagerly participates in everything that’s going on. He’s the kind of person that attends Sunday school every week (even at 8:30!) and sings enthusiastically in church.



    Each of them has a complaint, though. Nick is worn out from being thoroughly religious and just doesn’t find meaning or fulfillment in all the religious commitments. Tom, on the other hand, is excited about all the activities in which he participates, but isn’t sure he believes the message.



    Are these two people unusual? I don’t think so… I think most of us can relate to one or both of them. And to be honest, they are kind of two sides of the same coin.



    Knowing Without Seeing



    Two people walked away from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday. They were not Nick and Tom, but they had a lot in common with them. The two walkers had been involved in the recent events during the week of Passover. They saw Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and were deeply saddened by his death. They had even heard that morning that his body was now missing. And they were deep in conversation about all that had happened.



    Then a stranger walks up alongside them and involves himself in their conversation. He wants to know what they are discussing. They can’t believe that the stranger hasn’t heard about the recent events in Jerusalem. The stranger asks them to tell him about these things. So, with downcast faces, the two travelers describe Jesus of Nazareth.



    “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed…” they say. “We had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”



    They knew about Jesus. They knew something of the prophecies about a savior – a Messiah. They knew about the empty tomb. But these two travelers did not SEE Jesus for who he was. They didn’t see God’s “vision” for humanity. And so, even with Jesus himself standing there before them, they didn’t see.



    In many ways, their problem was Nick’s problem. They knew the teaching of scripture and knew that Jesus was a great teacher and religious figure, but they didn’t see God’s “vision” for us. Like Nick, they would probably bring their families to church (or synagogue), knowing that the children would learn good values. They would be faithful people, believing that God rewards good behavior and clean living. They would know that God wants something of us and they would strive to gain God’s blessing and approval. They would even realize that others who followed Jesus would think well of them for being devoted followers. But, perhaps like Nick, they would eventually wear out. Perhaps that is why they found themselves leaving Jerusalem rather than staying with the disciples. Perhaps their hopes had not been fulfilled and they just needed a break.



    In a phrase, the travelers, along with Nick, KNEW WITHOUT SEEING. They have some knowledge and experience, but they lack the vision of God’s purpose and will – the ability to see what God is doing in the world. And without that, religion becomes a wearisome exercise.



    Seeing Without Knowing



    Our two travelers were also not unlike our friend Tom. And we might describe Tom’s problem as the opposite of Nick’s. Tom was struggling with SEEING WITHOUT KNOWING. And the two travelers demonstrated this limitation as well.



    In literal terms, they “saw” Jesus there, but they just didn’t KNOW who he was. They even welcomed him into their conversation and asked him to stay when he began to leave them. They saw that he was a teacher when he opened the scripture to them, and they saw him break the bread as they ate together.

    The Main Attraction

    The Main Attraction

    SERVICE VIDEO (link)TEXT: Luke 24:1-8; Romans 1:1-7



    Easter Sunday – April 9, 2023



    A few weeks ago I talked about story of Lazarus as a “preview of coming attractions.” In Lazarus Jesus demonstrated the power of God over death and Jesus declared to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Well today we are no longer watching the previews; we have come to the main attraction. Jesus, dead and buried, was raised on the third day – on THIS day – to life.



    Every Easter I like to make this point – and today is no exception – that Easter is not when Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world. That was Friday, and that’s why we call it Good Friday! And that is so important. Because Jesus died for us, our sins are forgiven and we can be reconciled to God. But that’s not the end. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Easter is the rest of the story, the next chapter, the “so what” of it all. In Romans 6:4 the Apostle Paul writes:



    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.



    Paul wrote Romans to share the Good News about Jesus Christ and his Resurrection. In the opening verses of Romans, which was our second scripture reading today, Paul identifies himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus, set apart for the gospel or Good News of God. I want to look at these verses with you because they present in short form why the Resurrection is Good News and what it means for those who trust in Jesus Christ.



    What is the Good News? à Jesus is the Son of God! (v.4)



    Paul understands himself to be a servant of Jesus, called as an apostle. That means that he is a man on a mission, and that mission is sharing the Good News (gospel). That’s his purpose in writing this letter to the Romans and it’s his life-purpose. So I want to ask, “What is this Good News?” Even in these introductory verses, Paul has quite a bit to say about it, noting that Jesus was PROMISED and PRESENTED as the Son of God.



    Promised! (vv.2-3)



    2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures3 concerning His Son, born of a descendant of David according to the flesh



    First, Jesus was promised… through the prophets in the holy Scriptures (v.2). We’ve noted that Jesus fulfilled numerous scriptures written about the Messiah, from the healing and freeing of people captive to spiritual, emotional, and physical maladies to symbolic acts like riding the donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And by no means least among the promises in the Hebrew scriptures of our Old Testament are the promise that the Messiah would be born from David’s line. And so two of the Gospels trace this lineage from David to Jesus.



    The Good News God “promised beforehand” was that He would send the Messiah to usher in the Kingdom and declare peace. And up until Jesus’ death, more and more people in Jerusalem and the surrounding area were believing that Jesus was that Messiah, so much so that he was perceived as a threat to the religious and secular powers of the day. But short of resurrection, all that seemed like it had failed. He had been killed, put down before he became too much of a threat.



    Presented! (v.4)



    4 who was declared the Son of Godwith power by the resurrection from the deadaccording to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord



    It’s this next part that has to do with today and resurrection. In verse 4 Paul writes that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” That word declared can also mean demonstrated or even ‘presented.’ It was the Resurrection that showed Jesus to be who he said he was, who scriptures promised he would be. It was the power of God on display. If you were here two weeks ago when we talked about Lazarus, we noted that raising him from the dead was the demonstration of God’s power in a pub

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