Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV)
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Declaration of Independence is the statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain, regarded themselves as thirteen newly independent sovereign states, and no longer under British rule. Instead they formed a new nation—the United States of America. John Adams was a leader in pushing for independence, which was passed on July 2 with no opposing vote cast. A committee of five had already drafted the formal declaration, to be ready when Congress voted on independence. The term “Declaration of Independence” is not used in the document itself. John Adams persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which Congress would edit to produce the final version. The Declaration was ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The next day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” But Independence Day is actually celebrated on July 4, the date that the Declaration of Independence was approved.
So this weekend we celebrate our countries’s Declaration of Independence.
We will celebrate the Fourth of July.
We will celebrate our Independence Day.
In a sense we celebrate our birthday.
Now for years I thought this day was about ribs, potato salad, and fireworks. But the date is really significant in our country’s history. It is the day that we declared that we did not need to be under the rule of Great Britain. That we were free to be our own country. We wanted our freedom and we took it! So today we are one of the greatest nations in the world. And in the greatest nation in the world slaves were not free until June 19,1865. Two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That is why we celebrated Juneteenth a few weeks ago. And in the greatest nation in the world we still have problems.
We are still battling racism.
We are still battling bigotry.
We are still battling discrimination.
We are still battling hatred.
We are still battling poverty.
We are still battling police brutality.
We are still battling inequality.
We are still battling racial injustice.
We are still battling voter suppression.
And we may not be happy with everything that is going on in our nation, but I don’t think we’d want to be anywhere else either. Because here we are free. We enjoy the luxury of freedom. We can go where we want to go. Do what we want to do. Marry who we want to marry. And worship any God we want to worship. That is the idea anyway. The American dream. Wow, when you think about it. That kind of freedom can be scary. But with that freedom we are free to choose. And today I choose to be totally dependent on God.
With all that is going on in my life I need to depend on God.
With all the darkness in the world.
With all hell breaking loose in my life.
With the rise of racial unrest in our nation.
With the uncertainty that COVID -19 has brought.
With all the madness going on in Washington DC.
With a friend and colleague going through the wringer because of a FB post.
With the true colors of friends and loved one beginning to show.
So today I am making a declaration of dependence. Today is my dependence day. As a matter of fact, every day is my dependence day because every day I am depending on God. Because I cannot do this thing called life on my own. So for the month of July we will be talking about our dependence day. Because everyday we should be depending on God. There are at least four things that I would like to share with in the month of July that we depend on God for. And the first thing that we depend on God for is His forgiveness.
Shall we look at the text. First let’s look at the passage in The Gospel according to John the disciple whom Jesus loved. In this chapter of John Jesus is talking to his disciples. He is basically telling them that he is the vine and his father is the gardener. And the gardener is going to cut off every branch that does not bear fruit. He reassures the disciples that as long as you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing. In other words, you need me. You must depend on me, and if you depend on me I will never leave you or forsake you. We can do nothing without God. Does anybody believe that this morning? You see I tried it on my own…
Now in Colossians 1:13-14 Paul is addressing the Christian Church in Colossae. He tells them how thankful he is for each and everyone of them and how grateful he is that they have heard the Gospel story. He expressed to them how him and Timothy had not stopped praying for them since he heard that they believed. He wanted to reassure them of their faith and reminded them that God has rescued them from the dominion of darkness and brought them into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Paul wanted them to know that because you believe. Because of your faith in God you have been rescued from the darkness and brought into the kingdom of the son. You have been redeemed. Your sins have been forgiven. Your sins have been forgiven. I don’t know about you, but knowing that my sins are forgiven gives me a freeing feeling that I just cannot explain. It is like a huge weight that is lifted off of my life. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? So as we thread the needle between these two scriptures we can see that we can do nothing without God, we depend on God, and one of the things that we depend on God for is His forgiveness.
One rainy afternoon I was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick.
Suddenly, my son Matthew spoke up from his relaxed position in the front seat. “Mom, I’m thinking of something.” This announcement usually meant he had been pondering some fact for a while and was now ready to expound all that his seven-year-old mind had discovered. I was eager to hear.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“The rain,” he began, “is like sin and the windshield wipers are like God, wiping our sins away.”
After the chill bumps raced up my arms I was able to respond. “That’s really good, Matthew.”
Then my curiosity broke in. How far would this little boy take this revelation? So I asked… “Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming? What does that tell you?”
Matthew didn’t hesitate one moment with his answer: “We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us.”
I will always remember this whenever I turn my wipers on. Isn’t it comforting to know that God does keep forgiving us?
Is there anybody in the room excited about the fact that God keeps on forgiving us.
No matter what we’ve done God forgives us.
No matter how many times we’ve done it.
No matter how many times we mess up.
No matter how many mistakes we make.
No matter how many times we relapse.
No matter how many times we fall off the wagon.
No matter how many times we go back where we should not go.
No matter how many times we back slide.
No matter how many times we disappoint Him.
It does not matter, God will always forgive us, because God will always love us. And this forgiveness does three things for us.
The first thing God’s forgivenesses does for us is give us freedom. Which is such an appropriate point the day after we celebrated Independence Day! God’s forgiveness gives us freedom. Remember how free you felt the first time you left home and you were on your own. It was you against the world and you were ready to take it all on. Well the freedom that we receive from God’s forgiveness is so much more liberating. That is why we love to sing that old song.
I am free praise the lord I’m free, I’m no longer bound.
No more change holding me.
My soul is resting. It’s just a blessing.
Praise the Lord, hallelujah I’m free.
Anybody free this afternoon.
Here are three things that we are free from.
We are free from our former selves.
You are a new creation, the old has passed and the new has come.
You are free from the person you used to be.
You are free from the things that you used to do.
You don’t have to be that person anymore.
You don’t have to do those things anymore.
That is a beautiful thing! Let me be a little transparent for a moment. The old Brian was a no good, dirty, rotten scoundrel, that would try to get over on anyone that I could. I was always on a hustle. I was always looking to take advantage of a situation or circumstance, but thank God that he looked beyond my faults and saw my needs. That he took me and made something beautiful out of my life. We are free from our former selves.
So we are free from our former selves and we are free from the facade.
We don’t have to put on a show anymore.
We don’t have to fake it til we make it.
We don’t have to act like we have it altogether.
What are you saying Pastor Brian?
I am saying that we can be vulnerable.
We can be open.
We can let people in.
We can let people help us.
We can let people see us hurting.
We don’t have to front like we have it all under control.
That’s what we used to call it when I was growing up.
We called it fronting or putting on a front when you were trying to be something you’re not.
Like trying to be tough when you’re weak.
Like trying to be cool when you’re a nerd.
Like trying to be hard when you’re soft.
Like trying to be sophisticated when you can’t even spell sophisticated.
Like trying to act good when you know you’re bad.
I thank God that we are free from the facade.
So we are free from our former selves, we are free from the facade and we are free from fretting. And fretting is just another way of saying worrying. We don’t have to worry. As a matter of fact this is what the Bible says about worrying in Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. I cannot say it any better then the word of God. What in the world are you worried about? We are free from fretting!
The first thing that God’s forgiveness gives us is freedom and the second thing that forgiveness gives us is a Fresh Start. How many people in the room will be honest and testify that you are thankful for your fresh start. Things got pretty bad out there. When you were, when we were out there doing our own thing. Things got a little bit out of control. We made some terrible, horrible, regrettable mistakes. That put us in some compromising positions. We were in some unbelievable situations and circumstances so thank God for your fresh start. Here are three things that you can do with your fresh start.
Since you have your fresh start your can begin to Formulate. What in the world are you talking about. Just give me a minute and I’ll explain. You have a fresh start. So what are you going to do with it. You need to formulate. You need to make a plan. You need to set some goals and objectives for your life and plan out how you are going to reach those goals and objectives. It is not going to happen overnight, but if you are committed to the plan, and place the plan in God hands, as a matter of fact, don’t even make the plan without consulting God first. That way you can make sure that your plan is in alignment with God’s plan for your life. That’s the problem that most of us have. We make plans without consulting God. We make plans without even considering God’s point of view. We make plans that are not consistent with God’s plan for our lives. That is why people say that we make plans and God laughs. Our fresh start allows us to formulate.
So our fresh start allows us to formulate and then our fresh start allows us to Facilitate. This is when we put the plan into action. It is so great to write a plan. The Bible even tells us to write the vision and make it plain. But the plan will do us no good if we do not put it into action. Why else would James say that faith with our works is dead. You had the faith to make the plan. Now have the faith to put the plan in motion. This is going to require some action on your part. Don’t just make the plan and put it on the shelf. As a matter of fact, someone in the room has a plan already, and you put it on the shelf. God told me to tell you to get that plan off the shelf. Dust it off and put that plan into action. It’s not over. You still have time. It’s not too late.
To start that business
To go to school
To get out of debt
To buy that house
To get that car
To answer your call
To write that book
To write that song
To write that grant
To start that program
To get involved
It’s not to late. Our fresh start allows us to facilitate.
Our fresh start allows us to formulate. Our fresh start allows us to facilitate. And our fresh start allows us to Fascinate. This is what I love about God. He forgives us. Gives us freedom. Freedom from our former selves, the facade, and fretting. He gives us a fresh start by allowing us the formulate and facilitate which give us the ability to fascinate everyone around us. Because when we become all that God has called us to be. When we formulate and facilitate with God on our side this is going to fascinate the world around you. And they are going to ask and even wonder how in the world could this happen to you, and that’s when you lift your hands, shout hallelujah and give God all the glory which leads me to the third thing that God’s forgiveness does for us.
The first thing that forgiveness gives us is freedom. The second thing that forgiveness gives us is a fresh start and the third thing that forgiveness gives us is a Fruitful ministry. And I don’t know about you but I want a fruitful ministry. I do not want to be one of the branches that is cut from the vine and thrown into the the fire. I want to be fruitful. Back in biblical times if a tree did not bear fruit within in three years they cut it down and threw it in the fire.
I am not trying to be an unfruitful tree.
I don’t want to preach just so people can hear me talk and tell me how much they enjoyed the sermon.
I want souls saved and lives to be changed.
I want to be fruitful.
I just don’t want to stand in front of my students and entertain them.
I want them to be better readers, writers, and mathematicians because of the time I spent with them.
I want to be fruitful.
But I don’t want to be fruitful for me, I want to be fruitful for God. Here is how we make a fruit ministry.
We make a fruitful ministry by Framing it around God. God must be the focus of the ministry. Think about it! When you put a frame around a photograph or a beautiful piece of art, no matter how wonderfully crafted the frame is, the frame is not the focal point the photograph or the art work is. You don’t want the frame outshining the picture. If that’s the case why even bother putting anything in the frame. You could just hang up the empty frame. You have to keep the main thing the main thing and God is the main thing in any ministry. Take it from me, I have made the mistake of creating a ministry around me, and the moment I left the ministry the ministry died, because it became Brian’s ministry instead of God’s ministry and I will never make that mistake again. So how can you avoid that? First you make Jesus the focus of the ministry. Then you build a team around you with the same mindset, that this is about God and not about us. Then you train up one, two, or three people to take your place or fill in the gap when you’re not there. The ministry should be able to operate in your absence. A fruitful ministry must be framed around God.
A fruitful ministry must be framed around God, and a fruitful ministry must include Fostering relationships. Everything in this world is built on relationships. Whether those relationships are good or bad. But in order to have a fruitful ministry you must be willing to foster relationships. This means that you will have to put others needs before your own. This means that you have to think about others before you make decisions. This means that you have to genuinely care about other people. Because as John Maxwell says, no one cares what you know until they know that you care. And when you foster relationships in your ministry to the point that everyone is on the same page, on one accord with a leader they know cares there are no limits to the success of the ministry. It will bear fruit. A fruitful ministry must foster relationships.
So a fruitful ministry must be framed around God, it must include fostering relationships, and it must include Fulfilling your call. Because if you are not operating in your gift and doing what God has called you to do you are wasting your time and the time of everyone around you. God did not forgive you, free you, give you a fresh start so that you could be unfruitful in a ministry that he did not call you to. So make sure that whatever you are doing, that you are doing it because that is where God has called you to be. And if you don’t know just ask him, and he will tell you! But I am pretty sure that you already know what God wants you to do. So be like Nike and just do it.
Called to teach!
Called to preach!
Called to dance!
Called to usher!
Called to organize!
Called to give!
Called to clean!
Called to cook!
Called to sing!
Called to play an instrument!
Called to lead!
Whatever it is that God called you to do, Just do it!
In order to have a fruitful ministry you must be fulfilling your call.
So I am making my declaration of dependence on God today!
And the first thing that I am dependent on is his forgiveness.
His forgiveness gives us freedom.
His forgiveness gives us a fresh start.
His forgiveness gives us a fruitful ministry.
Today is our dependence day.
And everyday is our dependence day because everyday we depend on God.
Give God praise for our independence.
Now, Give God praise for your dependence.
I don’t no about you, but I depend on God.
I depend on the Immanuel.
I depend on the Savior.
I depend on Jesus.
I depend on Yahweh.
I depend on El Elyon.
I depend on Jehovah.
I depend on Jesus Christos.
I depend on Adonai.
I depend on the balm of Gilead.
I depend on the rose of Sharon.
I depend on the bright and morning star.
I depend on the the friend that sticks closer than a brother.
I depend fountain on living water.
I depend on the God of all comfort.
I depend on the God of all grace.
I depend on the God of hope.
I depend on the God of peace.
I depend on the God of my life.
I depend on my God, the great I am that I am.
I depend on the father.
I depend on the son.
I depend on the Holy Spirit.
And that’s why I sing….
I need the oh I need the, every hour I need the.
Oh bless me now my savior, I come too the.