Sermon Archive

Especially in times of suffering, the church family is responsible to make sure that no one in the family "fails to obtain the grace of God" (Heb. 12:15; cf. 4:14-16). For the original recipients of Hebrews this was particularly acute on account of the persecution they were suffering. Failure to obtain God's grace would spiral into bitterness; bitterness into spiritual contempt and spiritual contempt into defection back into Judaism (12:15-16).

Esau traded away the covenant and material blessings of his birthright for a bowl of soup. Consumed by hunger, he made a tragic decision. He remained Isaac's son, but received far less than what he might have. Consumed by bitterness, hurting believers are at risk of making a similarly tragic decision.

The church family needs to do all that it can to help strugglers obtain the grace of God lest they spiral past the point of no return as did Esau.

Direct download: 2015-0628_hebrews_nelson.mp3
Category:Hebrews -- posted at: 10:45am PDT

Direct download: 2015-0627_kathryn_thomsen.mp3
Category:Special -- posted at: 11:00am PDT

We were running stride for stride when we hit the sand dune. By the time we came out of the dune my opponent had dropped back 40 yards and in the half mile to the finish line was unable to recover. That day, as a high school freshman cross country runner, I came to value more deeply my coaches and the training they required of us. In a workout earlier that week our coaches had us run sprint repeats across that sand dune. It was an incredibly hard workout; I distinctly remember tasting blood from my throat through the last several sprints. But the results on race day made the pain of that workout worthwhile.

We are running the race of faith (Heb. 12:1-2). Our race includes pain and suffering at many levels and in many ways. That is why we must run with patient endurance. And the key to patient endurance is attitude. The point of my running story is that my attitude changed. My attitude prior was not bad. But on that day my belief in the value of our workouts and my commitment to endure the pain of our workouts increased. Rather than thinking, "Oh no, what are they going to make us do today?" my attitude became "Bring it on, let's do this!"

In Hebrews 12:3-11 the Preacher speaks to the attitude of the Hebrew Christians towards their suffering. Whether they become bitter or better will be determined by their attitude towards the suffering which God was allowing them to suffer. The key word in 12:3-11 is discipline. It refers not to punishment nor church discipline but to child rearing. A better word would be training. The Preacher has in mind the parenting process by which a child is brought to maturity. As any good father (and mother) trains his children so also God trains His children.

In 12:3-11 the Preacher shifts from the metaphor of a race to child rearing. Just as a good Father requires hard things of his son in order to bring him to maturity, so God uses suffering/persecution to bring His children to maturity. Though some of us may not have had a father or a good father, we can relate to the comparison through a good coach or teacher who required hard things of us in order to bring us to maturity.

Direct download: 2015-0621_hebrews_nelson.mp3
Category:Hebrews -- posted at: 10:45am PDT

For those of us who do not care for running it probably seems fitting that the Greek term for a foot race is agon from which we derive the term agony. We have a number of marathoners in our church family and they know all about the agony of the race. They are a different breed of human being; much to be admired.

In Hebrews 12 the Preacher likens the life of faith to running a race which I'm sure our marathoners would agree is an apt comparison. Both take discipline, both require endurance of pain and fatigue, both have experiences of intense joy and satisfaction and both are run in hope of reaching the finish line.

Some of those to whom the Preacher wrote were tempted to drop out of the race and return to Judaism. The Preacher's purpose was to strengthen and encourage these Hebrew Christians to continue to run the race with endurance because those who endure inherit the promises of God.

Direct download: 2015-0614_nelson_hebrews.mp3
Category:Hebrews -- posted at: 10:45am PDT

Why is it that on the Sunday mornings we take a tiny piece of bread and a tiny cup of juice we call it the Lord’s Supper? It’s not even a snack much less a supper!

But from the beginning the Lord’s Supper was a supper. Jesus was eating the Passover meal with His disciples when He broke the bread and gave the cup to His disciples (Matt. 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23). The early church celebrated the Lord's Supper as a shared meal (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20-22, 33-34). In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 indicates that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated weekly by the entire church family as a part of the meeting of the church.

From 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 I want to make a case for re-establishing the Lord’s Supper as a shared meal here at Grace Church. As I will explain later, this will not replace but supplement our Sunday morning observance of the Lord’s Supper.

As we turn to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 we realize quickly that it is a stern corrective for abuses that were taking place at the Lord’s Supper meal in Corinth. In fact, Paul reveals that these abuses were the reason the Lord had disciplined church members with both sickness and premature death (11:30)! The value Jesus places on the Lord’s Supper is a compelling reason for us to restore it to a shared meal.

Paul confronts two problems. First, the union of believers one with another was being violated.

Direct download: 2015-0607_nelson_special.mp3
Category:Special -- posted at: 10:45am PDT