Constant Devotion to Christ

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:8-9).

Our devotion to Jesus should be so precious to us! Unlike Peter, who had personally seen Jesus, we did not witness Christ’s transfiguration. The vast majority of believers who read through Peter’s account have never seen Christ, yet still by God’s grace, He opened our eyes to love Christ, have faith in Christ, and rejoice in Christ. Peter even marveled at this. This could also be cross-referenced to Jesus’ word to Thomas in John 20:29. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. We should be immensely thankful to our heavenly Father for opening our eyes to the truth of the Gospel even though we lived thousands of years after Jesus’s journey on earth. It is truly through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone that we  are  able to experience the inexpressible joy Peter was able to taste through following his Rabbi, personal Savior, and Lord on earth. 

Peter also showed us that our faith and joy in Christ are interconnected with our love for Christ. The soul that loves Christ cannot help but believe in Him, and the soul that believes cannot help but love Christ. When our heart loves Christ, His commandments are not burdensome (I John 5:3). His commandments are reasonable, and it’s easy for us to love Christ because we strive to be holy as our God in Heaven is holy (I Peter 1:16).  When we fill our thoughts with Scripture, we come to understand Christ’s truth, nature, and character more deeply; as a result, our ability to love Christ also increases. God gives us a new heart to love our Lord with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might (Deut 6:5). Even when times are hard, Scripture shows us that God will not only give us the ability to love Him, but also to believe in Him and suffer for Him (Philippians 1:29). As promised in Scripture, God is faithful, and He will give us the strength to endure these trials if we look to Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). 

As we continue to trust and love Christ, our heart should naturally rejoice!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus ( I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We should rejoice in Christ at all times — when life is hard or when life goes smoothly. We should remind ourselves daily of the Gospel. We should rejoice and praise our Heavenly Father for giving us Christ who suffered a human death on earth by lowering his divine position for us sinners. We should be thankful to God for giving us salvation, the outcome of our love, faith, and suffering in Christ. Without Christ, our life is meaningless. Without Christ, we would still be enslaved to sin and be in eternal enmity with our Heavenly Father. So, allow our devotion to Christ be the priority of our life because He is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him! As we step in 2021, let us be drawn to Christ with full confidence (Heb 4:16)! By fixing our eyes upon Jesus because we love Jesus more than anything in the world, we should actively fight sin, be a light in the world to this crooked generation (Philippians 2:15), but not be of this world, engaging in its distractions. We can love and trust Christ more by always searching truth in Scripture, actively learning about His character and nature. We can confidently go to Christ for our burdens in prayer, knowing that He deals gently with sinners because He has a gentle and lowly heart (Matthew 11:28). May we all make our devotion to Christ so precious this year  that our time on earth may bring our God the most glory!

12.11.2020 Fall 2020 Week Ten

Shao Wang

Trusting an Almighty God

If 2020 had a theme, uncertainty would definitely be a front runner. With a timely message from the passage of Genesis 3:1-7, Isaias reminded us of the consequences of not trusting God. Taking a deeper look into the fall of Adam and Eve reveals the serpent’s techniques as he leads Eve towards disobedience. 

The serpent begins his deceit through the doubting of God’s Word. Covered in verses 1 through 4, the serpent misquotes God, which leads to Eve misconstruing the commandment that God clearly explained in Gen. 2:17. With Eve lacking accuracy in God’s Word, the serpent continues his attack on God, this time through the doubting of the creator’s character. In verse 5, Satan poses the idea that God is a deceiver himself, withholding godly knowledge from Adam and Eve. As the spiral of doubt continues, verse 6 describes Eve losing trust in God’s wisdom and leaning on her human intelligence to decide on what is suitable for her consumption. The doubting of God’s Word, character, and wisdom all come together as Eve partakes in the fruit with her husband. Although Eve was deceived, Adam fully disobeyed God’s commands and in doing so, cursed mankind.  

As Christians, we must always be wary of losing our trust in God. Life will be difficult at times, and God’s faithfulness will seem fleeting, but we can hold fast to the fact that God disposed of all doubt in his Word, character, and wisdom through the life and death of Jesus Christ. God fulfilled numerous prophecies and cemented the inerrancy of scripture through Christ. (Isaiah 53:5-12 is one of many) Additionally, the solution for the salvation of sinners showcases the wisdom and character of God. The gospel being an answer that only God could accomplish while staying constant in his justice and his mercy.  

Trust in God is a key component of life for every Christian. As we see the consequences of Eve’s loss of trust in God’s Word, wisdom, and character, let us take heed of her mistakes and strive for wholehearted commitment with God. We can do so by first seeking the truth through scripture. God’s word contains not only his very clear commandments, but also the showcasing of his perfect wisdom and character. Secondly let us always keep in mind the gospel, and trust that the God who sacrificed his son for the sake of sinners will be eternally working all things for our good.   

12.4.2020 Fall 2020 Week Nine

Mark Kaneshiro

Convinced of Contentment

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8)

Friends, this is a verse that we often repeat—but when we do, are we fully convinced of our contentment in the Lord? Can we say confidently that we have given up all our worldly desires and have turned to God alone for our source of everlasting joy? 

Isaias’s message on Micah 2:1-5 was a timely reminder that the sin of covetousness should not be taken lightly. What is covetousness? A lack of contentment in God paired with an insatiable desire to be pleased with something (or someone) that does not belong to us. “You shall not covet,” says the Lord (Exodus 20:17). But these oppressors in Israel have not only blatantly disobeyed God’s command; they have twisted their very legal system so as to make their wicked actions just in the eyes of the law. They have orchestrated opportunities to abuse, seize, and steal for their personal gain. They thirst for satisfaction in land and inheritance, having forgotten their Maker and Master––the only One able to quench that thirst.

Just like all wickedness, God is absolutely intolerant of covetousness (Isaiah 10:1-2; Ephesians 5:5). It robs Him of rightful worship and mocks His sovereignty and provision over His people. And Micah shows us that just like all wickedness, God’s judgment is upon that sin. God has a plan, too—a plan of disaster that will humiliate His people. A day is coming where God will give land to the Assyrians (a pagan people!), and the men of Israel “will have none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the LORD.” As the rich oppressors took from the poor, so God will take back that which He gave as judgment on the nation.

We look at this passage and praise God for His righteousness and justice, but how foolish of us to think that we are any better than these ruthless oppressors! All of us are guilty of wanting what belongs to someone else, and when we covet, we are saying to God that He is not worthy of our utmost praise and worship. We are displaying our discontentment with God and all that He has given us.

But God did not send His only Son to die for us to be dissatisfied with Him.

God could take away all our material possessions, even our very lives––and that would not contradict His righteousness, simply because we are wretched sinners who deserve death. Yet He has kept us alive––and not only that, He has offered us eternal life, a life that infinitely surpasses that of our lives on earth. What reason do we have not to give thanks to Him who has set us free from the chains of death? What reason do we have to be discontent? What reason do we have to covet the fleeting pleasures of this world?

We have none. God has given us all we need through His Son.

The gospel has revealed to us the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it has lured our hearts away from temporary things and has left us enthralled by Him instead––we must live in a way that reflects this! Let us give thanks; let us sing praise; let us be fully convinced that absolutely nothing should rob us of the joy we have in our God who redeemed us.

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

11.25.2020 Fall 2020 Week Seven

Christine Grace Pamplona

Does God Punish Sin

The events of 2020 have brought the concept of “justice” to the forefront of our public conversation. With all the different voices in our culture trying to define justice these days, it is important for us as Christians to turn to the Bible for our definition of justice. Austin’s message on Micah 1:10-16 this Friday helped us to understand the concept of justice from a biblical perspective. In this passage, the prophet Micah lists the various judgments that God is going to send on the people of Judah for their disobedience to His commandments. Before diving into the passage Austin showed us three categories of the Biblical idea of justice as outlined by the old, dead theologian Charles Hodge. The first category, rectoral justice, is the idea that all justice —the very idea of what is right and what is wrong — comes from God (Romans 1:32). The second category of justice, distributive justice, based on Romans 2:7-8, is the idea that God will judge each person according to what he or she has done. This justice can either be retributive, punishing people for their sin, or remunerative, rewarding each person according to his or her righteousness. Finally, because all people are sinners, the only way any person can receive remunerative justice is through redemptive justice  in which, through placing one’s faith in Christ, their sin is transferred to Christ and Christ’s righteousness is transferred to that person. In the passage we studied on Friday, the prophet Micah is proclaiming that God will exact his retributive justice on the cities of Judah. The prophecy is presented as a poem  with  wordplays on the name of each  city to describe the kind of judgment that will take place there. For example, the city of Shaphir, whose name means beauty, will be made naked and ashamed.

The kind of justice described in this passage does not sit comfortably with a lot of people, including myself at times. It is important to remember, however that all of us deserve the same kind of just judgment described in this passage. Because God is perfectly holy and has set the standard of right and wrong, we all deserve God’s retributive justice, to face His wrath for eternity. Instead,  in His love, God sent his Son to live a perfect life and take the right penalty for our sins so that if we believe, our sin is transferred to Christ and his perfect righteousness is transferred to us.

The idea of God’s justice should first make us thankful for our salvation because God, through the death of his Son, saved us from the judgment we justly deserve. Second, God’s justice should provide us with a sense of urgency to bring the gospel to a lost and dying world. More important than fixing any temporal ill in this world, more important than any social cause we may support is the need to get the gospel to those who, in their sin, are heading for God’s judgment. 

11.13.2020 Fall 2020 Week Six

Bobby Hekel

God’s Judgment and a Prophet’s Compassion

This sermon by Pastor Austin Duncan covered Micah 1:2-9. God pronounces judgment on Israel and Judah for their disobedience and sinfulness against Him. The first two verses focus on how God is sovereign above the heavens and earth, yet still comes down to meet His people where they are. Verses 3 and 4 cover the judgment that no longer feels distant when the Lord comes which is terrifying for sinners like us. Micah’s message shocked the Israelites because they thought that God was pronouncing judgment on their enemies- Assyria and Babylon. However, God was declaring judgment on the Israelites due to their unfaithfulness and corrupt worship. Pastor Duncan emphasized that the judgment first begins in the house of God. Verses 8 to 9 illustrate how Micah responded to the coming judgment. The prophet weeped, understanding that God’s people deserved judgment. The ultimate model of compassion is Christ, and when we reflect on the incoming judgment that the world will face, we should be in tears like Micah and Jesus. 

This message is particularly applicable to us sinners today, because we know that the sinful world will soon be facing God’s wrath. As the tumultuous year of 2020 comes to a close, we are reminded of how fallen the world is by the many events that occurred and are currently happening. It is all too easy for Christians to look forward to the coming judgment of non-believers and think that the world deserves punishment. However, Pastor Duncan’s point about how the house of God will be judged first resonated deeply with me. The judgment of a perfect and holy God is terrifying, and even though we are sinners saved by grace, we still deserve the Lord’s judgment. We are no better than those who reject the Gospel; it is God in His mercy who chose to save us. Therefore, the coming judgment on the world should sadden us, just like how Micah and Christ cried.  

From this passage, I am reminded to guard my heart against judgment and pride in my attitude towards non-believers. There is no reason for us as Christians to be judgmental or prideful, since we are sinners prone to wrongdoing also. Instead, just like how Micah was in tears for the Israelites and how Christ showed compassion towards everyone, we should be mourning for the world. Ultimately, we are also sinners who deserve God’s wrath, and as we go about our daily lives, we should be saddened when thinking about judgment. Likewise, we should constantly reflect on what a blessing it is to be saved and adopted into God’s family instead of facing His wrath because Christ paid it all for us. 

11.6.2020 Fall 2020 Week Five

Samantha Kan

Who is Like the Lord Our God?

This past Friday, Austin preached on Micah 1:1, particularly focusing on the details of who Micah was, where he was proclaiming God’s Word, and who he was proclaiming to. We learned about the history and geography of Israel and Judah and learned how it was applicable to the book of Micah. We also looked at the structure of the book of Micah and how there was a common theme of judgment with subsequent hope, repeating in three sections of the book. All in all, it was a quick overview of the circumstances surrounding Micah when he wrote this book which we will be studying this year.

The main highlight of Austin’s sermon was related to Micah’s name which means “Who is Like the Lord Our God?” Austin discussed how Micah was preaching to the Israelites whose responsibility was to strive to be like God, holy in all His ways. But in their sin, they had forgotten their purpose. So then came Micah who was named “who is like the Lord our God”. Micah’s name reminds Israel of their whole reason for being. 

But who IS like the Lord, our God? Is there anyone who can match the mercy, love, and compassion that the Lord has so bountifully bestowed upon us? Can we even understand how great His divine attributes are? Austin argues that we cannot even come close to comprehending just how great God’s hope is for us without first understanding God’s judgment and our sin. In our daily lives, we need to be constantly reflecting upon our sinful nature in order for us to fully understand and apply God’s love in our lives. 

10.30.2020 Fall 2020 Week Four

Timothy Ho

Nothing Minor about Micah

Micah is not a common book we hear from on a regular Friday night. Typically, the book is regarded as mysterious and sometimes the passages may seem irrelevant to today’s 21st century. However, as we take a closer look at the book, the mysteriousness begins to fade away, and a clearer vision of God’s profound lessons and messages is seen. The invaluable treasures found in this minor prophet — the relatable sufferings of Micah in his generation, the overtones of judgment and salvation traced throughout the book, and the promise and foreshadowing of Jesus Christ — points us to God’s faithful character, encouraging our hearts to hope and ponder deeply on the profound words spoken ages ago in Micah. 

What I love about the overview of Micah is the display of God’s steadfast faithfulness to His people. He doesn’t leave us alone in our chaotic state of injustice, human governance, lovelessness, greed, treatment of the poor, and so much more, but gives us guidance through the lessons of Micah. I am reminded that this book is a provision and grace from God, who cares deeply about our own personal struggles with the chaotic society around us. Secondly, the overtones of judgment and salvation traced throughout the book reveal God’s faithful plan to judge the wicked and save sinners for the glory of His name. He gives a glimpse of God’s redemptive plan by foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus Christ, which now, centuries later, we can see God’s faithfulness in bringing this plan into fruition. This display of God’s faithfulness gives me faith and perseverance to press on in this world — whether it would be enduring the implications of the pandemic or reaching out to maintain deep fellowship — because I have hope that our faithful God is still in the process of fulfilling the promises He has made in His Word and to His children. 

As a response to God’s faithfulness displayed in Micah, we can wholeheartedly pursue loving one another deeply, persevering in a chaotic world, and forbearing in faith as we live on in this life. His steadfast character and His promise to trample sin gives us the hope to cling to as we navigate the ups and downs of life’s trials and joys. Much of this has reminded me of the verses founded in Hebrews 10: 23-25:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

10.23.2020 Fall 2020 Week Three

Nicole Lam

What is Most Worshipful to God?

It’s a question frequently asked in the church today; in a world where churchgoers dispute the sanctity of traditional versus contemporary worship services, much attention is drawn to our manner of worship. But whether there’s an organ or an electric guitar, a hymnal or a giant screen, true worship is a reflection of the Christian life, not the medium through which it occurs. A heart that honors and obeys God will worship in truth no matter the circumstance. A heart that lacks such honor and obedience will worship falsely. The argument over what is considered “false” rages on, yet the foundation of false worship has nothing to do with music, style, instruments, etc. False worship is rooted in the heart, manifested in religiosity, and ultimately rejected by our God who deserves nothing less than the utmost praise, honor, and glory. 

“God seeks true worshippers who honor and obey Him.” This concise yet profound statement speaks volumes on both the character of God and the life of the Christian. The LORD desires that both our internal affections and external actions be directed toward Him. And the two go hand in hand. A heart that truly honors God will yield a life of obedience to Him. A life that displays obedience to God is evidence of a heart that honors Him. The heart informs our worship, our obedience proves it. I often think about obedience in terms of a rigid dichotomy of whether or not I fall into sin. Do I sin or do I obey? Do I follow or do I forsake His commands? My gauge on obedience is centered on the observed aspects of my life, on how well I exercise discipline and self-control. And this isn’t necessarily bad; sin must be fought fervently, commands must be followed diligently. But perhaps these are the questions I should be asking myself in times of temptation: Does my heart aim to honor the LORD? Do I desire a clean heart? Do I love the LORD with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Because if the answer is a sincere, resounding yes, then the natural posture of my life will be that of obedience. Obedience becomes not an exercise in willpower, but an act of worship. 

There are several ways we can respond to this, the most practical one being confronting the places of our life where we are not worshipping the LORD, and seeking to honor Him in those areas. In doing so we should strive to obey, and strive to grow in our fear and knowledge of God so that we may better honor Him. But overall, these truths about false worship (the root, the religiosity, and the rejection) should point us to true worship, worship stemming from a heart that longs, that faints for God. Our God is so inexplicably worthy of true, earnest, heartfelt worship. In meditating upon the very nature of God, His divine glory, His splendor and majesty, His mercy, His kindness, His holiness, His perfect judgement and abounding love, in understanding the depth of my sin and the severity of my rebellion against Him, the wrath I deserve yet will not endure because my Savior suffered, bled, and died in my place, what else can I do but fall down on my knees and worship the One who has so lovingly saved me? May the wonders of the gospel guide our hearts in true worship.

10.16.2020 Fall 2020 Week Two

Ethan Peng

John 17: The King’s Last Will and Testament

In John Chapter 17, Jesus presents such comforting truths for His people. My prayer is that God would increase our love for and our worship of Him as we see His compassionate and tender care for His sheep demonstrated in His words and in His prayer. Before His death, Jesus prayed for those who are His and belong to Him. He asked for unity centered upon truth and the gospel (vv. 20-23). He spoke of a future glory for those in Christ to look forward to and to hope in (vv. 20,24). And finally, He assures us with an eternal security that we can always rejoice in (vv. 25-26).

Firstly, I am in awe because of His prayer on our behalf (Psalms 144:4). It is a great comfort to see how Christ interceded in prayer and to know that He continually intercedes on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus prayed for unity, a oneness, with God and fellow believers. Despite our many differences and the abundant diversity present in the church, we are to be and can be unified because of Christ. It is Christ and the profound truth of the gospel that binds us in unity. The trinity depicts this beautifully and “shows us that you can have a profound real, organic unity with diversity, so that the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are working in complete union in our salvation. The Father appoints. The Son accomplished. The Spirit applies. We encounter God as fully God in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. And yet, their divine work is neither interchangeable nor redundant.” Similarly the members of the church are many and God uses the variety of gifts and ministries of the members to edify and build up the church for God’s glory. Paul writes, “For the body does not consist of one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). Our unity in Christ is a testimony to the world of the power of the transformative work of the gospel. We also see Christ’s tender heart towards us in verse 24. His very heart is drawn to us in spite of our sinfulness and He longs for us to be with Him, to see and share in His glory (Phil. 3:20, Rom. 8:17). He cares for us with incomparable love and kindness and compassion. We concluded the study of this passage by contemplating the eternal security we have in Christ. Verse 26 calls attention to God’s work of salvation. We can do nothing to attain salvation and we are saved by grace through faith. We can do nothing apart from Him and it is only God who can cultivate in us a heart that loves and obeys Him (John 15:5). The same Jesus that saves us is holding on to us and it is a consoling truth that He promises the continuing indwelling of Christ and His love. Paul writes in Philippians, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

We are to display our unity and be characterized by our love for one another in spite of our differences (John 13:35). I am so thankful and constantly encouraged by GOCers’ love for one another and their eagerness to serve one another by various means such as meeting someone’s needs or by simply cooking them a meal as an act of kindness and love. We need to strive for unity and be bound in love for God and for one another so that God is glorified. We should be emboldened by Christ’s heart and ministry and strive to love like Him.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8) and our salvation is secure in Christ who completed the work of redemption on the cross so that those who believe that He died and rose again might inherit eternal life. Praise God for Christ, His life, His death and His resurrection and that we can rest in the glorious truth of the gospel.  May we rest in these wonderful and consoling truths and be faithful to love one another and share the glorious truth of the gospel with others until we see Christ face to face in all His glory.

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:19-25 (NASB)

10.2.2020 Fall 2020 Week One

Catrina Velarde