Nobleton Community Church
January 7, 2024
text:  I Corinthians 16: 1-9
Reverend Paul V Lehmann

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letcher Tarkington spoke for most of us when she said: “I wish that there was some wonderful place called “The Land of Beginning Again,” where all our mistakes and all of our heartaches and all of our poor, selfish greed could be dropped like a shabby coat at the door, and never put it on again.”

Our desire as children of God should be to do better in the future than we have in the past. Jesus The new year presents us with the opportunity of finding a “Land of Beginning Again.” We will be using a new calendar, and we will be facing new challenges and new responsibilities, but we are deceiving ourselves if we believe that the new year will be completely different from the old year, unless God intervenes. For we will be confronted with many of the struggles, problems, and heartaches we knew during the past year. We soon fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions.

When we talk about “doors of opportunity,” we must realize that the opening of doors is all God’s responsibility. We just need to be ready to walk through them when he does it. In Acts 19:1 we read that Apollos who had been working with Paul, had gone to Corinth. A little further from where Carol read this morning, –in verse 12 we see that Paul was urging Apollos, to go to Corinth, but he was unwillingly —but Paul tells them he will go when he has the opportunity. Some have felt that Apollos was strong willed and that he wasn’t going to go to Corinth, just because Paul told him to go. I believe though, that there might be another reason. Apollos was willing to obey God whenever, and wherever he would tell him to go. For some reason it wasn’t in God’s timing for him to go then, but when the door was open —he went.

The important thing to realize is; God’s timing is not ours—and when he finally opens the door we must be ready to walk through it by being prepared, and then obey.

Jeannene and I have seen this to be true many times in our lives, but there were two significant times when God’s timing and ours didn’t seem to coincide. Yet in the long run, his timing was perfect of course. Our first ministry in Boma, Dem. Rep of the Congo, I was principle of a high school, and taught Phys. Ed., built an outdoor basketball court and started a basketball team. We had a Bible Study in our home for these players. At the end of our first four year term, 34 young people had given their lives to Christ. But we were feeling led to go to the Capitol City for our next term and help with the newly started church planting efforts. However God had other plans, and when we came back after a year of speaking in churches in the States, we were assigned once again to Boma. I couldn’t understand how the Lord and I “got our wires crossed” so much. Nevertheless it was all in the Lord’s timing. I led Theological Education by Extension Classes, and   was involved with a tent meeting outreach, which resulted with having discipleship classes for 76 converts that lived in our section of the city, and through this a church was planted. Everything that I was involved with, was what I would be doing in Kinshasa. After one year we were able to transfer to the capitol.

While we may have a deep inward desire to “begin again” realistically we should recognize that our present position is really our door of opportunity for significant achievement and worthwhile service. Paul recognized in verse 9 of our text that; “a great door for effective service” was open to him in Ephesus. Instead of running away from difficulty, he said, “but I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost”…then he adds, “and there are many adversaries.”

In spite of difficulties, disappointments, and outright opposition, the apostle Paul determined that he would seize this opportunity for significant service and do whatever was necessary to be done at the moment. The Greek word for open here, means—wide open—not just a little, or a crack, but the door was wide open.

This pagan city of Ephesus resisted his preaching in the past—but now, they were receptive to the gospel, and the three years that Paul stayed and preached there were very fruitful, and the church he planted became one of the greatest churches in church history. In the book of Revelation chapter 2 where Ephesus is the first church that Jesus is talking to John about, we read that they have worked hard, and persevered, and they don’t tolerate wicked people. They endured hardships for the name of Jesus, and they didn’t grow weary. But then he says in verses 4 and 5: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your ‘lampstand’ from its place” That is—their position of prominence. This isn’t a position that is recognized by other people and other churches but rather a position that God gave them. That’s what makes this so necessary that they repent and restore their first love for the Lord. Probably also for each other, because when our love for the Lord fails, we begin to say things against each other. In the KJV, the old English word is “backbite.” That’s what dogs do when they fight. What a terrible state to be in.

Now the danger for us today is to be commended like the church at Ephesus, and then begin to fall and lose the love that we once had for the Lord. This leads to not responding to the opportunities that he gives us. Sometimes that means that we sort of, “rest on our laurels” from the past, or we may think about what opportunities “might” open up in the future. But we need to recognize that the past has gone for good, and the future dreams will not become a reality unless we take advantage of the opportunities that God gives us TODAY.

Today is our day of opportunity for effective service. In John 9:4 Jesus explains; “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.” Then in II Corinthians 6;2 we read; “…In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, in this present time. Not sometime in the future. It is absolutely necessary to recognize the importance of the present, in contrast to the past or the future.”

It is foolish to rely on what we might have done in the past, or to weep over lost opportunities. It is also just as foolish to just wait for the future to happen. The only thing we can be certain of is the present. Does this mean that we don’t think about or plan for the future? No—not at all—we should plan and set goals and consider what we should do TODAY, in order to accomplish what God has laid on our heart to do.

In Proverbs 10:9 we are told; “in their hearts, humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps.” Back in verse 3 we read; that we should submit or commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Some translations say, “He will bless them.”

The last part of verse 9 of our text shows us though that Paul was confronted with many adversaries. There are many, who oppose him,

He was opposed by the Jewish leaders who violently disagree with his ideas about the kingdom of God. Paul believed that the Kingdom of God was wide enough and large enough to include the Gentiles. He believed that the love of God was all-inclusive and that God was just as concerned about redeeming the Gentiles as he was the sons of Abraham. In preaching salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, he was confronted with violent opposition that led to his imprisonment and eventually to his death. In spite of his external opposition from religious leaders, Paul continued his faithful service.

Paul experienced hostile opposition from the pagans whose financial security was threatened by the conversion of those who contributed to their business in Ephesus. Those who profited because of the temple of Diana were agitated to the extent that they rioted (Acts 19:23-29).

Jesus was confronted with many adversaries. On one occasion even Christ’s family sought to dissuade him from the direction in which his life was pointing. At the beginning of his ministry, he was violently opposed by the Devil, who sought to tempt him to deny his redemptive purpose. There were times during Jesus’ ministry when even the disciples opposed him. When Jesus predicted his death n Matthew 16:21-22, we see that; “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” He just didn’t understand the redemptive purpose, that Jesus was born to die for mankind. Of course it was all in God’s timing.

Once when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, he attended the synagogue and he was asked to read the Scriptures. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and verses 18-21. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he ended by saying: “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The people were so enraged by his message that they tried to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). We read though that; “He walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Almost from the beginning of his ministry he experienced hostility and opposition on the part of the religious establishment who saw him as a threat to the laws and traditions as they interpreted them. They also added things to the law and they demanded that the people follow these, but they themselves didn’t. (Sounds like our politicians, doesn’t it?)  Anyway this conflict eventually led to his death.

We may worry about external opposition, but perhaps our greatest danger will be the internal hindrances that keep us from doing God’s will for our lives. This is true of our individual spiritual lives, but also collectively for our church, this body of Christ. These inward adversaries can be conquered only as we enter the doorways of opportunity for WORSHIP, STUDY, AND PRAYER in which we let God work within us so that his will might be accomplished through us.

Each of us has a built-in tendency because of sin, to avoid obligations, burdens, or difficulties. It is natural unfortunately, to be selfish and self-centered. Unless we are alert and determined to do otherwise and give ourselves over to the filling and the control of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to live carnal lives, and we will find ourselves drifting through this coming year, adding days to our lives instead of filling those days with significance and meaning.  

We must seize our opportunities for service. In the Old Testament in the account of creation, Eve didn’t seize the opportunity to obey and serve the Creator God, and Adam didn’t support her against the enemy Satan, who continues to deceive us, like he did them. Cain their son then, killed his brother Abel, because he didn’t seize the opportunity to obey and worship the Lord with all of his heart. When we hate our brothers and sisters in Christ, or when we hate anyone, it is the same as if we have killed them, or at the very least, wanted to kill them. In Matt. 5: 21-22 we read that; “we are told -do not murder because that person is subject to judgement, but Jesus said that the person who is angry with a brother or sister is also subject to judgement. In I John 2:9 we read; “You claim to live in the light, but you are living in darkness. “Walk by faith and not live in darkness.”  I John 3:15 tells us; “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. “

The door of faith is open.  Paul rejoiced that God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). He was delighted that Gentiles could trust God and walk by faith and enjoy his favor.

To each of us is given the privilege of walking by faith (Prove. 3:5-6) to walk by faith is to enjoy the presence of God as Enoch did and Abraham and all the others listed in that great faith chapter 11 of Hebrews.

When we trust in Christ alone the door to divine sonship is open to all who will receive Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. (John 1:12) “To as many as received Him, and believed in His name, He gave the (power) or the  right to be called the sons of God. Most of you here this morning have already seized the opportunity to enter this door (the door of salvation). We can rejoice that the door is still open for others to enter. Some have declined to enter this doo and consequently remain in the darkness of spiritual destitution outside of the family of God. Don’t be that person. If you have not received Jesus Christ by inviting Him into your life, you can do so this morning.

The door to Christian witnessing is openPaul speaks of a door being open to preach the gospel in the city of Troas. The door will be open for us to announce the good news of God’s love in our community during the coming year. We, like the apostle Paul, should be praying that God would open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. (Col. 4:3) and he adds “for which I am in chains.” In verses 4-5 he says; “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Jesus said, “I am the door; if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door to forgiveness, He is the door into new life, eternal like, the very life of God. He is the door to new spiritual power and energy. He is the door to hope for the future as we seek to live lives of significant achievement and service. He is the door to the eternal home of God at the end of our life.

On this first Sunday of the New Year, let each of us determine that we will be alert to seize every opportunity for worship and service to our God and to those about us. By so doing we will discover that we have already found the “land of beginning again.”

The enemy will try his best to keep you from stepping through the gigantic doors of opportunity God desires to open for you. Satan is afraid of what will happen when “his” territory is invaded by someone fully equipped with a full arsenal of spiritual weapons! So know this; God will open doors for you—but He needs you to make a determined decision that you will walk through them, no matter the opposition, with the help of His Holy Spirit. By opening the door, God has already done His part, which would have been impossible without his assistance. Now He beckons you to come dressed in the whole armor of God and in the power of His Word—and then proceed through that effectual door into new territory this year. It may look like enemies are everywhere, but it is simply a fact that the devil and his forces flee and collapse when they are subjected to a show of strong faith!.

God doesn’t open a door for you to walk through so you can fail

He is with you every step of the way.

Your situation may look frightful, but think about this: If God has supernaturally opened a new door for you—-a door that’s never before been opened—-He is not beckoning you to walk through it so you can fail. He is with you every step of the way, and He will empower you to defeat every foe and bring Him glory in that new territory that is yours to possess in Jesus’ name!

At the last Passover Supper, Jesus knew very well how the disciples were going to feel after he was betrayed. He knew they would feel like all was lost, and that they were alone. The power that they were going to receive because of what he would accomplish on the cross, would be greater than anything they had ever experienced before.  That’s why He told them in I Cor. 11:23-25 that every time they eat the bread and drink from the cup— to do it remembrance of Him.