This is the sermon from the Friday Morning Worship at the 2012 Biennial Convention
By Rev. Dick Mattila
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When I attended seminary in the early 1980s, Jim Jensen and I would jog around Lake Alice and memorize Scripture verses. One of the verses was Romans 15:13 (ESV), “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
This verse and Ephesians 3:20 have become favorites of mine, verses that have forever changed my life. Both verses use the Greek word dunamis. In Ephesians 3:20 the verb form is used:
“Now to him who is able (dunamis) to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power (dunamis) that is at work within us…”
This is written to people who possess this power that is already at work in them, and at work in a way that is far in excess of anything they could request in their prayers or could ever imagine.
By the power…. dunamis… this Greek word carries the idea of power, ability, potential and capacity. Paul tells us it can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. In Ephesians 1:19 he says this incomparably great power (dunamis) is for us who believe.
I was asked to speak at the CLB Convention on “Delivered”—to be set free, to be emancipated, to be loosed, unchained… pardoned.
Being delivered is all about the power to be freed, to be loosed, to be cleansed. In their book Rumors of God, Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson tell the story of Catherine and Rebecca.
Catherine grew up on a steady diet of Bible Study and small group experiences, going to church every week. She was actively involved in the children’s ministry and found great community in the student ministries. By the time she reached her twenties, however, she felt disillusioned. After two decades of throwing herself into the Christian subculture and trying to grow spiritually, her faith seemed stagnant—she sensed there was something more to following Jesus.
She was bored, uninspired, and disappointed with her faith experience. She was in a rut. So she started to search for something else.
She trained to be a make-up artist and begin to work in the modeling and entertainment industry in Chicago. This life-style was hip, fast-paced, and fascinating.
One day an older lady from her church invited her to join a team headed to Costa Rica to serve women who were trying to break out of prostitution. They would train the women with alternative life and career skills so they would have new options for employment. Catherine could teach them how to apply makeup in an attractive manner.
During her three months in Costa Rica she experienced something new: Loving, serving, and believing in these women. It was the most alive she had ever felt. She saw a whole new way to experience life in Christ.
When she returned to Chicago she did some research and again found a most unusual way of serving women. At a strip club in the city, she worked backstage applying the women’s makeup before they went out to perform.
As she selflessly loved these women, she started to build relationships with them. She decided to offer sermons on CDs from her church. No pressure. She would just bring a box of CDs and set it backstage for anyone to borrow and then return for others to use.
Months later a woman named Rebecca began to show interest in the CD box. She finally asked Catherine if she could borrow the whole box. Later, Catherine asked if she would like to attend church with her.
“Would I be allowed in?” asked Rebecca.
“Of course you would. We would love to have you.”
When Rebecca came with Catherine to church the pastor met with them in the lobby and they sat at table and talked.
“So you’re the pastor?” Rebecca asked
“Yeah, I am.”
She looked him right in the eye and asked, “Do you know what I do?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Catherine is trying to tell me that God loves people like me. People who…..um, do what I do.”
Tears welled up in her eyes, spilled over her long eyelashes, and started running down her cheeks.
“Yes, Rebecca. God loves you deeply,” the pastor responded.
“How can this be?” She asked. “I don’t understand how God can love me. I don’t even love myself.”
The Pastor responded, “Rebecca, Jesus came to take away our sin and shame and replace it with grace and mercy. That is the good news—that is God’s message.”
That day Rebecca received forgiveness of her sins. The power of the blood of Christ cleansed her and gave her new life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17–21).
Today Rebecca works with Catherine in ministering to liberate other women from depravity, exploitation and pain.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
Hebrews 9:11-15 tells us that the blood of Christ is unique, powerful and unmatched. Ultimately it has the power to remove sin and cleanse the conscience and free the soul from sinful bondage.
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14).
This is hope delivered!
Rev. Dick Mattila serves as senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Ferndale, WA.
Visit Cornerstone Community Church online at www.cornerstoneferndale.com