Posts Tagged "Matt Ragain"

Honor Part Duex – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Mar 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Honor Part Duex – Pastor Matt Ragain

This past Sunday I spoke on how we tend to seek honor from others.  Receiving honor is not a bad thing, in fact it can be incredibly encouraging and it’s often a real gift.  The dark side to honor, however, is when we find life from it.   If our hearts are bent toward the honor we receive from others, we will spend our lives working to make ourselves worthy of honor.

Jesus teaches about honor in the parable of the wedding feast.  But he doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to say that when you give a dinner you aren’t to invite all those individuals who are expected to return the honor, but you are to invite those who cannot hope to return the honor.  Rather than inviting the rich and wealthy, we are to invite the poor, crippled and lame.  Why?  These individuals cannot hope to repay you.  The poor the cripple and the lame are exactly the type that cannot give back what has been given to them.

This parable is, in part, an illustration of us.  If God were to throw a party, into which category would we fall? Would we be the friends and rich neighbors?  Or, would we be the poor, crippled and lame?  The friends and rich neighbors would be expected to return the favor.  How can we return any favor to God?  We can’t.  We would certainly fall into the category of poor, crippled and lame.  This is our category because we cannot earn God’s favor.

This parable is also our calling.  We are to live like God.  We are to surround ourselves and befriend those who cannot hope to give us anything in return.  We are to mimic what God has already done for us.  We are to give freely to those who cannot reciprocate.  Yet, how many of our relationships are based on the idea of reciprocation?

Question: What kind of expectations do you have for friends?   What happens when they do not meet your expectations?

Read More

Enemies – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Enemies – Pastor Matt

We have been talking a lot about love at Immanuel.  In Matthew 5, Jesus gives us the ultimate command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  Presumably, Jesus is not talking about people that you simply do not like; nor is he talking about relationships within the church.  He is talking about enemies that would like to see you ruined, destroyed or worse.

How are we supposed to love people like that?  One clue is verse 45 of the same chapter.  Jesus says, “(God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  In other words, God’s love for humans is indiscriminate.  His love is such that it highlights our limitations to love.  For instance, if I were in God’s place and I was aware of the hearts of all men, I would certainly want to bless the good guys with rain and hurt the bad guys with some type of acid rain.

But God doesn’t do that.  Why?  Because I’m pretty sure we’d all get the acid rain.  Who really deserves the love of God?  If my enemies don’t deserve God’s love than I certainly don’t.

The book of Romans talks about enemies too.  But in this case, we are the enemies.  It says that we were once God’s enemies; and in spite of this, he sent his son to die for us.  So if God loved us, even though we were his enemies, what should be our response to our enemies?  Love!  It’s the kind of love that wants the enemies’ good just as much as the good of those for whom we are affectionate.

God’s love falls on our enemies just as much as it falls on us.  And the only reason we are no longer considered his enemies is because of his love.

Read More

God’s Love Expressed- Pastor Matt

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

God’s Love Expressed- Pastor Matt

The Bible has much to say about moms and dads.  It mostly says that we are to honor our parents and to listen to their teaching (Proverbs 6:20, 21).   In fact, our parents are so important that the 5th commandment regards how we treat them—right before the commandment to not murder (Exodus 20).

How we treat our parents is incredibly important in the eyes of God.  Leviticus 20:9 says that if anyone curses their father or mother they are to be put to death—Wow!

Let’s agree on one thing: God wants us to treat our parents well even when they aren’t looking or don’t deserve it.

Why?

God’s expression of love comes most clearly through the love of our parents.  Take our mothers for example.  In general, the clearest example of compassion is our mothers.  The clearest example of being perpetually on our side is our mothers.  The clearest example of self-sacrifice is our mothers.  The clearest example of love never-ending is our mothers.  The list goes on.

God wants us to honor our mothers and fathers, because they show us what God is like.  It is through our parents that God gives us our most basic love needs.

Mother’s Day is not just about our moms.  It’s about what God is showing us through our moms.  Our Mothers are God’s way of saying he has unlimited compassion on us, he is perpetually on our side, he sacrificed his Son for us and his love is never-ending.  Let’s honor our moms as the living expression of God’s perfect love.

Read More

Sinless – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Sinless – Pastor Matt

I have been having a lot of conversations lately about the meaning of sin.  I sense that there is a general feeling of helplessness when it comes to sin.  The rational goes something like this: Christ took away my sin at the cross, I accept his good work, I still find myself sinning, I try extra hard to stop sinning, I am unsuccessful, I start to lose hope, I start to believe things will never be different, and finally I make peace with my sin.

The biggest challenge we have as Christians is knowing what it means to be born again.  Jesus says in John 3, that we must be born again.  Jesus doesn’t say, “it would be nice if you were born again.”  He says, “you must be born again.”  Being born again denotes a newness of life.  It means breaking away from our old self and becoming a new person.

Here’s the problem: how can we be born again and yet still struggle with sin?  How can we be new and yet struggle in our oldness?

Part of the problem is how we view being born again.  Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus simply took away any sin I might have in the future? Barring a few exceptions, Jesus doesn’t work like that.  If Jesus were simply there to take away all temptation to sin, then what would be the purpose of a community of believers?  We wouldn’t need each other at all.  We could become fully self-actualized individuals who never struggle with sin.

In my sinful heart, I admit, that sounds pretty good.  It’s certainly more convenient, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t have to be accountable to anyone.  I could be all on my own without the difficulty and inconvenience of other people.  I suspect that most of us want that on some level.

But maybe one of the primary ways that shows we are born again is that we enter into committed relationships based upon the life of Jesus Christ (even when it is inconvenient).  And perhaps, it is specifically through those relationships that we become born again.

If God truly designed the church as the way we become more and more like Jesus, it now becomes priority, not only as a place of fellowship, but as a means to become holy like Jesus.

I feel frustrated for friends and family who desire to stop sinning, yet they have zero connection to a community of believers.  It’s kind of like saying “I want the all the benefits of being married but I want to still live alone.”  We want all the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, yet we don’t want to enter into relationships that would move us in the direction of holiness.

Read More

PHP – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

PHP – Pastor Matt

There was a time in my life when I really wanted to be good.     I was in High School and I remember thinking it’s now time for me to start living the way Jesus wants me to live.   Without getting into specifics, I wanted to become a perfect holy person…a PHP.

So I tried.  I was improving, but there were still things that I needed to work on.  So, I tried harder.  Then things weren’t improving; and you might guess that I felt quite a bit of shame  in my inability to be a PHP.  Now looking back, there were two things I misunderstood about my faith.  The first is that I can’t make myself Holy, only God does that: Romans 3:22.  The second is that my motivations were totally selfish.

I made the mistake of thinking my actions towards holiness were noble; however, my actions towards holiness were nothing but me trying to become my own Lord.  Sure, it sounds good that we want to beat ourselves up to become more like Christ.  But the reality is, when we achieve our own holiness, what we have isn’t holy, it’s an idol.

Galatians 3:3 asks, “after beginning by means of the Sprit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

Paul is asking why do we think that our salvation comes through the Sprit, but our holiness comes through our work?  The reality is that both salvation and holiness come as a free gift of grace.  We are unable to become holy as much as we are unable to save ourselves.  Truly, both are products of the work of the Spirit.

This is where guilt and shame come from.  They come from the idea that we have to somehow become a PHP.  And if we don’t, than God is mightily unpleased with us.   This is the alternative: righteousness comes freely from God, salvation comes freely from God, power comes freely from God, and even the process of becoming a PHP comes freely from God.

 

Read More