A snowy morning greeted our congregation as they stepped out the door to head to Gospel Light Bible Baptist Church for Sunday morning service. For their troubles, they were treated to the warm and inspiring musical performance of the Giardino family. Michael on piano and Julia with her violin were joined by Lori, Ross, Leah and Lydia in singing, “Before the Throne of God Above”. Pastor Vince Giardino, being as inspired by the singing as the rest of us, said the “music prepares us”. He used the metaphor of “dark, rich, black soil so that the seed can take hold.”“He will challenge you”, Pastor Giardino said as he invited Brother Vince Massa, Pastor of Landmark Baptist Church in Stamfort, CT, to the pulpit. Brother Massa prayed that the Lord would give us a “heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear” (Deut 29:4).
We at Gospel Light have learned by now that Brother Massa is an excellent story teller:
- His first was about a preacher who came across a man in a street looking up at the sky and snapping his fingers. Upon inquiring as to why, the man said he was trying to keep away wild elephants. The preacher explained that there are no elephants within 300 miles. The man responded, “I know it, I am doing a great job aren’t I.”
- Bro. Massa’s second story involved a man who had found a genie in a bottle. His first two wishes were for a new Rolls Royce and a billion dollars. His third wish was to be irresistible to women. The genie proceeded to turn him into a box of chocolates.
The key verses we were given for the sermon was 1 John 3:2-10. This chapter of scripture, Brother Massa explained, would help us to “know some things”:
- In verse 2, we “know” that, when God appears, “we shall be like him”, i.e. like Christ.
- In verse 5, we “know” that Christ “was manifested to take away our sins”.
- In verse 14, we “know” that “we have passed from death unto life”, having eternal life.
- In verse 15, we “know” that “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer”. A Christian cannot be a murderer.
- In verse 19, we “know” that “we are of the truth”. “God said it!”, Bro. Massa emphasized.
- In verse 24, we “know” that Christ “abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us”.
Brother Massa also taught how 1 John 3 helps us to “understand some things”:
- In verse 4, we understand that “sin is the transgression of the law”. “We are all sinners, big time!”, Bro. Massa exclaimed. Referring to Rev 21:8 to show the consequences of idolatry, he warned that if we put ourselves before God, we are in fact committing idolatry. He taught how sin can first appear to have a “docile nature” but will soon “pounce on you and kill you”.
- In verse 8, we understand that “the Son of God was manifested” so that “he might destroy the works of the devil”. “Christ went to the cross to bare your sins and mine and deposit them in hell”, Bro. Massa reminded us. Read Hebrews 2:14.
- We were told another story, not for entertainment, but as a lesson. The story was about school children in an Appalachian community many years ago. The teacher had the children create their own rules of behavior and punishments. After admitting to steeling another boy’s lunch, a young boy faced “10 licks with a hickory stick”. The boy who’s lunch was stolen forgave the young boy and said “let it be me” who takes the punishment. “Christ is in this story”, Brother Massa said – forgiveness and salvation. We were exhorted to “turn to Jesus in faith”; becoming children of God is salvation.
- In verse 16, we understand that “because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”. Bro. Massa advised that “we ought to surrender our lives – it doesn’t have to be martyrdom.”
Brother Massa concluded with the story about the Apostle Peter in Acts 10:9-15. Peter had said, “Not so, Lord.” Brother Massa explained that “the three words don’t go together”. We need to either choose “not so” or “Lord”. “Cross out the two or cross out the one”, he said.