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The Work of the Holy Spirit

I’d like to think that we’re a friendly church, and so I imagine when most of you arrived here today, you were greeted by a smiling face and the question that starts off near every single small-talk conversation that you’ve ever had. And that question is: How are you?

Sometimes there is some variation in the wording of the question – sometimes it’s ”How’s it going?” or “How was your week?” or “How was work?”

But the main thrust of the question is all the same. Really we’re inviting the other person to describe their recent experiences in life. 

And how do most people answer the question “How are you?” 

“Good”.

That’s the typical answer: “I’m good – how are you?” That’s not always the truthful answer, but that’s the standard answer that most people give and what most people expect. Occasionally, however, you’ll meet someone who actually tells you the truth – and most often in those cases, it’s not “I’m good”. It’s usually “I’m not good at all, let me tell you about my terrible life….”

And I don’t bring this all up to convince you to be more or less brutally honest in your small-talk conversations – but I do want you to truthfully consider the question: How are you?

Really. How are you? If you had to describe your life as you reflect on your last week or your last few months or even your last few years – how would you describe it? Is your life mundane? Exciting? Painful? Discouraging? Challenging? And I’m sure there are moments of all those things – but overall, how would you describe your life?

How would you finish this sentence? My life is _______________.

Hard? Easy? Crazy? Pointless? Amazing? How would you describe your life?

Well, Jesus once said – in John 10:10…

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Freedom from Sin

Last week we asked the question: “What Good is the Gospel?” When we think about sharing the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ with others, exactly what good is it that we sharing with them?

And I think most of us would quickly point to an eternity in heaven with Jesus as the first and most obvious answer to that question. After all, having the hope that when we die, we won’t be eternally condemned as we deserve, but rather, we have the assurance of eternal life with our Creator – that’s some pretty significant good!

But what if there is even more than that? What if our salvation is more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card? What if there is some significant ‘good’ to be had right here and now – BEFORE we die and see Jesus face-to-face?

Well, actually, that’s just what the Bible teaches! According to the Bible, eternal life doesn’t begin when we die – it starts right from the moment when we accept Jesus as our Saviour. The Gospel brings about a radical life-change immediately. We don’t have until wait to get to heaven before we experience the goodness of the Gospel!

And so last week, we did just a quick overview of just four incredible benefits of the Gospel. And I won’t rehash them all today, but just in point form, here are the four things we looked at.

#1. Jesus’ death paid the price for our sin

#2. Death and sin are both defeated.

#3. God lives within us.

#4. Our lives have meaning and purpose.

Now of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of the goodness of the Gospel – this is just a sampling! And we’re going to dig into these benefits over the next few weeks to see just how good they really are and how they can radically transform our lives right here and now.

So I am really excited to spend the next few weeks with you examining the question: What Good is the Gospel? And I trust that as we look at all this, we will be reminded all over again of why the Gospel is such good news!

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Not Just a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

As most of you know, we have a good number of serious board game fanatics in our congregation – and I think I would probably count as one of them. I don’t know exactly how many table games we have at home, but I know we have over 50 anyway.

But my family has always play a lot of board games. When I was a kid, games like Sorry and the Farming Game and Stock Ticker were all favourites at our house. We spent a lot of hours playing those games. And Stock Ticker was one of those games that didn’t have a definite ending, so my brothers and I would often play the same continuous game of Stock Ticker for a week or more – pausing for meals and chores and sleeping, and whatever else… We’d pull out the 2 litre bottles of root beer, and we’d settle in for hours and hours of playing stock ticker!

And of course, we’d also play – probably the most famous board game of all time – monopoly! Now I know that board games aren’t everybody’s thing – but I’m guessing that just about everyone here has played at least one game of monopoly at some point in their life. Is there anyone here who has never played a single game of monopoly?

Well, monopoly is so famous that even if you haven’t played the game – you can probably quote some of the cards you’d draw in the game.

For example – let’s see if you can finish the phrase: There’s one card that says, “Go directly to _______, do not pass ______. Do not collect __________.

Or how about this one – this one’s probably the most famous of all: Get out of Jail, __________.

The “get out of jail free” card was the card that everybody wanted. Everybody wanted the option to exit that jail in the corner of the board without paying the fine… And hopefully, have a chance to land on free parking.

But you know, even though this was probably the most coveted card in the game, it wasn’t really all that valuable. The cost to get out of jail was only $50, so it wasn’t really a big deal. I mean, $50 was something, but it was hardly a game changer! It’s not like it would really make a difference as to who would ultimately win the game.

Now if the parker brothers had really wanted to make a valuable card, they could had made the “Get out of jail free” card come with some extra benefits. Maybe like giving you a bonus $1000 each time you passed “Go” or maybe a free hotel on each of your properties. Or maybe let you send your opponents to jail at will. If the “Get out of jail free” card could do all that, well, THAT would be a game changer! But then, I guess then the focus of the game would likely change to be all about getting that card, instead of playing the rest of the game… So I guess the Parker Brother’s knew what they were doing…

But I bring this all up, because I think a lot of people treat Christianity like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. For a lot of people, if you asked them why they became a Christian, they would say it was because they wanted to go to heaven. 

And of course, that’s not bad reason. I know I am certainly looking forward to one day being with Jesus in Heaven. But is that really all there is to our Salvation? Is Christianity really just the $50 get out of jail free card so that we can escape hell and make it to heaven one day?

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True Repentance

This morning we are going finally wrap up our story of Joseph! It’s been quite a journey to get here, but we’ve finally made it. Last week, we ended right at the climax of the story – with Joseph’s brothers sure that all was lost and this would be the end of them…

But just in case you missed last week, let me give you a super quick summary of how we got to where we are.

Joseph is the second youngest among 12 brothers. He was the favourite of his father – but hated by all his older half-brothers. So much so, that one day when he was 17 years old, they sold him as a slave and he was taken to Egypt. To cover their tracks, they dipped Joseph’s special coat of many colours in blood, so that their father would believe that he had been killed by wild animals. But in reality, Joseph was alive and well in Egypt. He started off as a slave to a man named Potiphar, but Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of a crime he didn’t commit and Joseph ended up in prison.

In prison, Joseph used his God-given gift of being able to interpret dreams to explain the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and his chief baker. This experience is what eventually got Joseph out of prison, as he was called on by Pharaoh a few years later to interpret one of his dreams.

And this really was the turning point for Joseph. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream was that God was sending 7 years of great prosperity to Egypt – but they would be followed by 7 years of terrible famine. In order to prepare for that famine, Joseph recommended that someone should collect massive amounts of grain for the next seven years so there would be enough to survive the upcoming 7 years of famine. Seeing Joseph’s obvious and God-given wisdom, Pharaoh decided to give Joseph that exact job – giving him authority over the entire land of Egypt.

Well, several years later, when the famine began ravaging Egypt and the surrounding area, Joseph’s older brother’s all came to Egypt to buy grain – since Egypt seemed to be the only place that still had plenty!

But unbenownst to them, Joseph was the one from whom they would have to buy that grain. Now then they arrived, they didn’t recognize him (as this was 20 years since they had last seen him) – but he recognized them and put a plan in motion to put his brothers through the wringer to find out what kind of men they had become. 

After accusing them of being spies and throwing them in prison, he demanded that they prove their innocence by bringing back their youngest brother from Canaan to Egypt.  Joseph’s younger, and only full-brother, Benjamin, had become his father’s new favourite since Joseph had disappear, and so Benjamin had stayed home with his father.

So with Benjamin not being with the brothers, perhaps Joseph wondered if they had sold him as a slave too, or if they had even killed him. So perhaps this was one way for Joseph to find out. We don’t really know Joseph’s full motivations, but either way, Joseph’s command was that the brothers bring Benjamin back with them to Egypt or they would not be able to buy grain from him again.

And since Joseph was pretty much the only guy in the world selling grain at that time, they really didn’t have much of a choice.

As an additional guarantee that they would return, Joseph kept one of the brothers (Simeon) as his prisoner, while the other brother’s took food home for their starving families. Now remember that Joseph has done all this as the governor of Egypt – his brothers never had clue who he really was. They just chalked all this trouble up as God punishing them for what they had done to Joseph years ago.

So they returned home with the food (but without Simeon) and under the strict instructions not show up again unless their brother Benjamin was with them. Of course, Jacob was very much opposed to sending Benjamin to Egypt. With Joseph gone, and Simeon gone, he simply didn’t want to risk losing another son – especially not his favourite son! But when their food ran out, he really had no choice.

So after much delay and much moaning and complaining by Jacob, the brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin. And true to his word, upon seeing Benjamin, Joseph released Simeon, gave them food for their families, and even enjoyed a meal with them. (Again, doing this all as the governor of Egypt – never telling them who he really was.)

But then as one final test, as he sent them on their way home, he secretly planted his personal silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Once they had barely left the city, he sent his household manager to run after them and stop them and accuse them of stealing Joseph’s cup. What would happen next would truly be the test of his brothers’ character.

And that’s about where we left off last week. I’ll begin today by reading the last few verses that we read last week, so there will be a tiny bit of over lap, but I think these verses are important to set the stage for today. So we’ll begin at Genesis chapter 44 – verse 6.

6 When the palace manager caught up with the men, he spoke to them as he had been instructed.

7 “What are you talking about?” the brothers responded. “We are your servants and would never do such a thing! 8 Didn’t we return the money we found in our sacks? We brought it back all the way from the land of Canaan. Why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man die. And all the rest of us, my lord, will be your slaves.”

10 “That’s fair,” the man replied. “But only the one who stole the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go free.”

11 They all quickly took their sacks from the backs of their donkeys and opened them. 12 The palace manager searched the brothers’ sacks, from the oldest to the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack! 13 When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothing in despair. Then they loaded their donkeys again and returned to the city. Genesis 44:6-13

Now we didn’t really get into this last week, but I’m pretty impressed at how shrewed Joseph was in orchestrating this whole situation for his brothers. This really was a perfect way to test their character to see if anything had changed from when they faced a very similar situation some 20 years ago.

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Living in Fear

We have been taking an in-depth look at the life of Joseph throughout the summer. And it’s taken us a little while to get through it all… there’s a lot of information to cover – and a lot of good lessons to be learned from Joseph and from his family. However, we are nearing the end, and today, we’ll cover a lot of ground – probably about a chapter & a half.

Now even if you haven’t been with us for the last little while, I’m going to assume that most of you have heard at least the Sunday School version of Joseph’s story – so I’m not going to recap things from the very beginning, but I will just quickly help you get your bearings for where we are today.

Because of a wide-spread famine, Joseph’s brothers have just come to Egypt to buy food, but unknown to them, Joseph (whom they had sold into slavery many years before) had risen to be the second-in-command over all of Egypt – and it was from him that they would have to buy grain. 

Of course, they didn’t recognize him, (it had been about 20 years since they saw him last) but he certainly recognized them and instead of immediately revealing his identity, he decided to take advantage of this opportunity and put them to the test. We don’t fully know his motivations for why he decided to test his brothers, but we kinda assume it was to see what kind of men they had become in the years since they had sold him as a slave. Were they still heartless and cruel (men who would plot to kill their own brother) – or had they changed?

So to find out, this is what he did. First of all, he accused them of being spies and threw them all in prison for three days. (What youngest sibling hasn’t wanted to do that to their older brothers at some pointing their life….?) 

After those three days, he brought them out and told them that he would continue to hold one of them (Simeon) as his prisoner, while the other brothers were to take food home for their starving families. In order to prove their innocence and to prove their story of all being brothers from one family, they would have to bring their youngest brother back to Egypt with them when they returned the next time – or else Simeon would remain in prison and the brothers would not be allowed to buy any more grain in Egypt.

And Joseph comes across as being very harsh with them, but we can tell that he still cared very much about his family – as he sent them home with both the grain they bought for their families, as well as secretly giving them all their money back.

But of course, the brothers had not idea about this money – but when they discovered this it on their way home, they concluded that God was trying to frame them as thieves as punishment for what they had done to Joseph years ago and they were totally terrified about what would happen if the Egyptians though they were not only spies, but thieves too!

When they finally arrived home, and told their father, Jacob, about what had happened and what the governor had said, and Jacob certainly wasn’t happy either – as he had no intentions whatsoever of letting his youngest son Benjamin go with the rest of the brothers to Egypt. You see, Benjamin was Jacob’s favorite son, and he would not allow him to be put in any sort of risky situation.

And that’s about where we left off last time. Simeon is in prison, the famine is still devastating the land, and the food is very limited. But the brothers don’t dare go back to Egypt without Benjamin – and Jacob is absolutely refusing to let Benjamin go. It seem like they’re at a bit of an impasse – but something’s got to give! So we’re going to continue reading today in Genesis chapter 43, verse 1 to see how this all pans out.

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Believing Lies

After a two-week break, today we are getting back to our story of Joseph. We began looking at the life of Joseph back in May, so we’ve already covered a large portion of his story. By this point, we’ve worked through most of the Sunday school stories that are usually associated with Joseph. 

We’ve talked about how he was his dad’s favourite and how he had that beautiful coat of many colours that gave him special status far above his brothers.

We’ve talked about how his brothers hated him and how they sold him as a slave into Egypt when he was just 17 years old.

We’ve talked about how, even as a slave, he prospered in the home of his Egyptian master, Potiphar, and rose to to be the head of the whole house. We also talked about how he stood up for what was right when he refused to sleep with Potiphar’s wife and ended up being falsely accused and thrown into prison because of that.

We also talked about his dreams. You’ll remember that he had those dreams way back before his brother’s sold him as a slave – dreams that seemed to indicate that one day he would rule over his entire family.

But not only did Jospeh have these dreams about his future, he also also interpreted the dreams of others. While he was in the prison in Egypt, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and his chief baker. Both of those interpretations came true – the baker was executed and the cup-bearer returned to work for Pharaoh – just as Joseph had predicted.

And it was through that cup-bearer that Joseph was called on to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. You’ll recall how God had warned Pharaoh through dreams of cows and grain that there would be 7 years of great prosperity in Egypt, but afterwards, that prosperity would be followed by 7 years of terrible famine.

Of course, when Joseph explained to Pharaoh what his dreams meant, Pharaoh recognized Joseph’s God-given wisdom and He put Joseph in charge of the entire land of Egypt – giving him full authority to collect grain throughout Egypt during the 7 good years and then to distribute it to everyone during the 7 bad years.

And that almost brings us to where we left off. Just before we ended last time, we saw Joseph’s brothers actually come to Egypt to buy food – because they were facing the same famine as everyone else. Of course, they had no idea that Jospeh was alive – let alone that he was the 2nd most powerful man in all of Egypt and they had to buy food from him!

So when they showed up, they didn’t recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized them. Taking advantage of the situation, Joseph decided to put them to the test to see what kind of men his brothers had become in the 20 years since they had sold him as a slave. So he accused them of being spies and he threw them all in prison for three days. After those three days, he told them that one of them had to remain in prison while the others could go home and take food back for their families. But they had to return with their younger brother, Benjamin, to prove that they were not spies, and that their story about having a younger brother at home with their father was indeed true.

So we ended last time with Joseph sending his 9 brothers home, still with no idea that they had been dealing with their long lost brother Joseph, and with a strict warning not to return to Egypt unless they had their younger brother, Benjamin, with them. 

So off they went, with Simeon left behind in prison. Joseph supplied them with food and supplies for the journey. He also secretly returned the money that they had paid for everything – and snuck it back into their sacks of grain.

And that’s just where we’ll pick it up today. The 9 brothers have just started their journey home and we read in Genesis chapter 42, verse 27….

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