Sermon notes from 9/18/16 – “Our Filthy Rags”

“OUR FILTHY RAGS”                                   Isaiah 64:1-9

 INTRO – When is the last time you were just worn slap out?

  • Maybe you worked in your yard all day yesterday, or at your deer camp all weekend getting it ready for deer season.
  • Maybe it was a long day at work this week that just never seemed to let up.
  • Maybe your kids were sick & you had to take care of them.
  • Maybe there was a project at school that consumed all of your time & energy.

There are lots of ways that we expend large amounts of energy trying to accomplish some goal or finish some task. And hard work is an important quality for all of us to have. Thomas Edison put it plainly when he said, “There is no substitute for hard work.”

But there’s one thing that millions upon millions of people all over the world do that completely wears them out. And the sad thing is that they will never accomplish what they’re working for.

That thing that they’re working for: They’re working for their salvation. They’re working to try & make themselves right w/ God, to try & get in His good graces, to try & earn a place in heaven.

The OT prophet Isaiah was called to bring God’s message of repentance to the people of the nation of Judah. They had gone through times of revival & times of rebellion. There were times that they were walking w/ God & responding to His leadership, & there were times that they were walking away from God & rebelling against His leadership. There were times that they stumbled around in a state of spiritual deafness & blindness – Isa. 42:6-7 – “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

The weight of the sins of the people was heavy, as sin always is. Isa. 43:24 – “But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.”

That’s what sin always does. It ALWAYS weighs us down. It ALWAYS brings weariness into our lives. There have been so many people that I’ve talked to & counseled with who found themselves mired in the quicksand of sin. The signs of spiritual, emotional, relational, & physical weariness are all over them as they struggle w/ sin & its consequences. You can see it in their eyes, in their countenance, in their body language, & hear it in their voice.

3 elements I want us to look at today in this passage:

 

Our Pitiful Reality – v. 6 – The book of Isaiah has been called the Romans of the OT. The NT book of Romans is known to be the book in the NT that shapes our doctrine & theology more than any other book. Isaiah has that same distinction in the OT. It is chocked full of deep spiritual truth. Paul made it clear in Romans that we are all great sinners who are in need of a great Savior.

  • Romans 3:9-18, 23 (v. 15-17 are quotes from Isa. 59:7-8)

Isaiah makes that same truth clear in v. 6 in Isa. 64 when he gives us the “3 ‘Alls’” of our pitiful reality:

  • We are all unclean
  • All our righteous acts are as filthy rags
  • We are all shriveled up like a leaf blowing in the wind

 

We don’t like to see that about ourselves. We don’t like to be told that about ourselves. And we certainly don’t like to believe that about ourselves. But it’s the plain truth of Scripture: The pitiful reality of our lives is that we are all sinners. The infection of sin has spread to everyone everywhere. There is no one who is immune or has been able to avoid it. Isaiah is making it clear to the people that this is not a problem that has been brought upon them by an outside force. It is a heart problem that causes every person to be unable to avoid that which is sinful. It has so pervaded our lives that even our righteous acts are like filthy contaminated rags that a woman would use during her time of the month. It’s horrible. It ‘s so much more than just a slight or harmless mistake that probably doesn’t even need to be confessed. No, it is a condition of the heart that adversely affects every area of our life. One commentator said, “Sin is a dark and destructive act that makes a person an enemy of God.[1]

Look at the descriptiveness that the 2nd part of v. 6 shows us. Sin will shrivel up all of our lives like a dead leaf. Why does a leaf die? B/c it’s lost its source of nutrients, either from disease or blight, or by being separated from the tree itself. And then when that happens, the winds will pick that leaf up & blow it away. That is our pitiful reality. The blight of sin shrivels up our lives, keeping us from the source of nutrients that we find in Christ alone, causing us to be a vile disgrace. And then, to make matters worse, our sins don’t stop there but blow us away like a hurricane-force wind, farther & farther away from the Lord. As someone once said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, & cost you more than you want to pay.”

 

Our Poor Response – v. 7 – Verse 7 goes on to show our poor response to our pitiful reality. Sin blinds us to who we really are & what is the actual state of our lives. The enemy, who is a liar & the father of lies, whispers to us that we aren’t all that bad; that there are so many other people who are worse than we are; that we can live any way we want to live, do anything we want to do, b/c, after all, it’s our life, so we have the right to do w/ it whatever we choose to do. Pride seeps into our thinking & keeps us from truly acknowledging how desperately wicked our lives truly are. So instead of calling out to God in confession & repentance, no one calls on His name. No one makes any effort to take hold of God for the help that only He can bring. We think we are smart enough to fix our own problems, or strong enough to make it w/out God. So many people try so many other avenues to try & find peace & contentment in their lives before they ever turn to God.

Because our poor response is to not call out to God, it seems that God has hidden His face from us. We are always looking to place the blame on someone else, even on God Himself. The truth is that He has already told us this in Isa. 59:1-2: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

 

Our Possible Restoration – v. 8-9 – So far, this sermon has been pretty heavy, showing us the truth of our pitiful reality – we are all sinners, all shriveled up, all dead, all blown away by the winds of our sin. We’ve also seen how poor our response is to our sinfulness. We don’t call on God, but instead try to cover up our sins, or minimize them, or try to ignore them. It’s a tremendously sad situation!

But, I want to end this sermon on some good news. I want you to understand the possibility of our restoration. And that restoration will only come in the hands of God. And that restoration only happens when we willing yield our lives completely to Him, like the clay in the hands of the potter. “Just as the clay finds its highest purpose when it remains pliable in the hands of the potter, so our lives fulfill their highest purpose when we let our Potter have His way with us.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/potter-and-clay.html)

In 1902, Adelaide A. Pollard, a hymn writer, was hoping to go to Africa as a missionary but found herself unable to raise the needed funds to make the journey. Greatly discouraged, she attended a prayer service one evening and as she sat there, she overheard an elderly woman say “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your own way with our lives.” The elderly woman inspired Pollard and…upon her return home that evening, wrote all four stanzas of the hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” before retiring for the night.

 

1 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after thy will,

while I am waiting, yielded and still.

 

2 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Search me and try me, Master today!

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,

As in thy presence humbly I bow.

 

3 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Wounded and weary, help me I pray!

Power, all power, surely is thine!

Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

 

4 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway.

Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me!

[1] Smith, G. (2009). Isaiah 40-66 (Vol. 15B, p. 690). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 9/11/16 -“All for His Glory”

“ALL FOR HIS GLORY”                    Ps. 86:11-13; 1 Cor. 10:31

INTRO – There’s not a first responder in here from any agency that doesn’t love what they do most of the time.

  • Sure, there are those times when we get frustrated or discouraged – recent attacks on LEO’s prime example.
  • There are those times when we find ourselves nearly overwhelmed w/ the scope & magnitude of the tragedies we deal with – We all remember where we were & what we felt as we saw 343 NY firefighters killed on 9/11, along w/ 23 NYPD officers & 23 Port Authority police officers – The recent wreck on I-55 that left 3 people dead – those calls we talk about for years after they happen.
  • There are those times when we see the raw depravity of humanity through crime, abuse, the disintegration of families, & suffering of innocent victims.

 

But, through it all, we continue to respond when the pager goes off or the dispatcher calls. Why do we do it? Other than for all the money we are making… (Ha!):

  • Invest in our community – make it a better place to live
  • Impact lives of others – nearly every time we respond to a call, we are encountering people in a crisis situation
  • Intense experiences – The experience of going into a situation that most people are getting out of is pretty intense.

 

But there’s a bigger reason & a greater purpose for doing what we do – to glorify God. And this principle doesn’t just apply to the first responders who are present today; it applies to all of us.

 

The more we learn about God, the more we will want to praise Him – v. 11a – God is an amazing being! There’s no way that we will ever be able to fully get our brain around how amazing & magnificent He truly is. There are not enough words in all the languages & dialects in the entire world to be able to completely express the greatness of our God. Here are a few verses to help us think about Him & His greatness:

  • Jeremiah 10:6 – “There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.”
  • 1 Chronicles 16:25 – “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods.”
  • Psalm 47:2 – “For the LORD Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earth.”
  • Psalm 47:7 – “…God is the King of all the earth…”
  • Isaiah 108:4 – “For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the skies.”
  • Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,…”

 

A God this magnificent, this massive, & this majestic is worthy of our attention & our affections. The more we learn about Him, the more we will want to praise Him, & that’s not just coming to church & singing songs of praise, but praising Him all the time in every aspect of our lives.

We need to give a portion of our time to learn more about Him, & to grow in our understanding of Him & how He works. And, friends, this isn’t just an academic pursuit. We aren’t studying Him in the same way that we are studying to pass an EMT exam, or to ace a course in new criminal investigation procedures, or a training module in vehicle extrication methods. Those courses & classes will make us better in our chosen fields of work.

But studying God’s works & ways through studying His Word will change our lives for all eternity. We will “walk in His truth” (v. 11). Why? Because His Word is a living Word that tells us about a loving God who wants to have a lifetime relationship w/ us.

  • We will discover that we are all sinners.
  • We will find out that we have an amazing Savior.
  • We will learn that, if we will trust in Christ alone, He will give us the gift of salvation.

 

No matter how bad things are, God is always worthy of praise – v. 12 – There are some words & phrases that we need to take note of in v. 12:

  • “…with all my heart” – If you’re doing something w/ all of your heart, that means you’re doing it w/ passion & purpose. It means that it is something that is extremely important to you. That’s one of the things that drives first responders to do what we do: we do it w/ all of our heart.
  • “forever” – literally means “long duration, always.” It means that you’re going to keep doing this as long as you possibly can, no matter what else is happening in your life.

 

Sometimes, when things are going south in our lives, we start blaming God instead of praising God. Statements like, “I don’t deserve this, God,” or, “This isn’t fair, God,” start surfacing in our minds & seeping from our lips. We allow the pain to poison our lives. And when we are under pressure, that poison can come flooding out like acid that hurts & burns our families, our friends, & our coworkers. We find ourselves pushing away from God instead of praying to God. Praising God is the farthest thing from our minds.

And, yet, praise is one of the meds that God prescribes for the pain in our lives. Even one small word of praise can help us get a new perspective on what God may be doing in the midst of our pain & our struggles b/c for that one, small moment, our focus is off of ourselves & on the One who loves us w/ an everlasting love. Isa. 25:4a – “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm, & a shade from the heat.” When we praise Him we focus more on his provision than our poverty, more on His protection than our predicament, more on His shelter than the storm, & more on His help than the heat. Our trust in Him grows when we get to the place where we can say that in the hard times, the down times, the tough times, the scary times, the painful times, the confusing times, I still will praise God no matter what.

 

“Do it all to the glory of God.” – 1 Cor. 10:31 – Through the power of advertising, the Nike company made the slogan, “Just do it,” a common, household phrase. That slogan was introduced in 1988 as a part of an ad campaign that was targeted to anyone of any walk of life & any level of fitness. Nike’s idea worked as millions of people bought their shoes, hoping to achieve some level of greatness like the people who had been featured in the ads.

I want to tell you something: If you want to experience true, lasting, ETERNAL greatness, then make a commitment today that you are going do everything you do all for the glory of God! Doesn’t have anything to do w/ what brand of shoes you wear, how much money you make, or how many influential people you know. Has everything to do w/ a true commitment to Jesus Christ & a true passion to live for Him every day of your life. The less you exalt yourself & the more you exalt Him, the greater He becomes in your life, & the more awesome your life will be! John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Some of the most enduring words from the 9/11 tragedy were the 2 words spoken by Todd Beamer before he & some other passengers tried to take over the cockpit of UA Flight 93 before it crashed into a field outside of Shanksville, PA. Those words: “Let’s roll.” He was saying, “It’s time to man up, take action, & change the direction of this flight.”

And that’s how we bring this message to a close: It’s time to take action & change the direction of our lives.

  • “I COMMIT!” Make a commitment or a recommitment to live your life all for the glory of God!
  • “I REPENT!” Repent of something in your life that has prevented you from living your life for the glory of God.
  • “I BELIEVE!” Place your faith in Christ & change the eternal direction of your life

Sermon notes from 9/4/16 – “Jesus Made It All”

“JESUS MADE IT ALL”                                 John 1:1-5

 INTRO – What do you think about when you hear the name “Jesus”?

  • A little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes & lying in a manger.
  • A man who has been beaten & bruised, hanging on a cross.
  • A great teacher or a great healer
  • The Messiah, The Savior of the world
  • The Son of God
  • The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright & Morning Star, the fairest of 10,000 to my soul…”
  • I love the song that we sing named “Your Great Name”
    • “Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and man, You are high and lifted up, & all the world will praise Your great name.”

Of course, all of these things about Jesus are true. They’re all biblically-based truths about Him. He is all of these things & so much more. As John 1:14 tells us, He’s the “Word made flesh & made His dwelling among us.”

These first 5 verses of the Gospel of John are INCREDIBLY important to our doctrine & theology of Jesus, “the Word.” They are full of meaning & truth. They tell us so much about who He is, what He has done, & why we must believe on Him, place our faith in Him, & worship Him alone. These verses set Him apart in a divinely unique way.

  • They speak of His divinity
  • They speak of His deity
  • They speak of His transcendence, which means that He is above all things, He surpasses all things, & that He is not dependent upon anything or anyone in creation.
  • They speak of His truth & His trustworthiness.

These verses separate Him from all other gods, & set Him apart from all other saviors. They are foundational verses in our faith system, teaching us unchangeable truths about Him. Billy Graham wrote:

“No personality in history stands above Jesus Christ. Agnostics and atheists have found fault with Christian ideas, but they can never find fault with the Person of Jesus Christ. They have found fault with Christians, but not with Christ. Jesus of Nazareth transcends methods, ideas, and followers. He stands at the turning point of time. Men everywhere must bow to His superiority. Since Christianity is Christ, those who wish to be a Christian must accept and follow Him as a Person. He and He alone is able to meet every need of the human race.” (https://billygraham.org/devotion/jesus-is-transcendent/)

There are 3 foundational truths about Jesus that I want us to focus on this morning:

JESUS IS THE ETERNAL GOD – v. 1-2 – Christian, settle in your minds & in your hearts that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, 100% God & 100% man. Don’t worry if you can’t completely understand that, b/c you never will this side of heaven. Establish in your heart right now that the Bible is the perfectly true Word of God, & since it says that Jesus is God, then HE IS GOD!

Baptist Faith and Message: II. God. “There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”

  1. God the Son (Baptist Faith and Message)

“Christ is the eternal Son of God…He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission.”

This truth sets us apart from other world religions & cults.

  • Islam – “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity” : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son…”
  • Mormonism – Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115; Mormon Doctrine, p. 547). Mormons believe Jesus is a god, but that any human can also become a god (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345–354). (http://www.gotquestions.org/Mormons.html)
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses – Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being… Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the inanimate power of God. (http://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovahs-Witnesses.html). They believe that Jesus was only a perfect man, but not God.
  • Even Roman Catholicism – Exalts Mary to the level of being a co-redeemer w/ Jesus Christ. John MacArthur spoke on this heresy & shares that Catholic doctrine teaches that “[Mary] became a co-redeemer with Christ in His suffering on the cross, and is now a co-mediator alongside Him in heaven—essentially an alternative avenue of access to God. She replaces the Holy Spirit in bestowing aid and comfort to believers. In effect, she becomes an additional member of the Trinity.” (http://www.gty.org/blog/B130227/exposing-the-heresies-of-the-catholic-church-mary-worship)

None of these beliefs are true, not Islam, not Mormons, not JW’s, not Catholics. There is only 1 God & Savior Jesus Christ. When He came to earth, He came to show us who God is & what God is like – that He is eternal, that He is personal, that He is powerful, that He is perfect, & that He is personable, approachable, & knowable. The words & deeds of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry were the very words & deeds of God.

JESUS IS THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS – v. 3 – Do you ever think about Jesus being the Creator of all things? He is. Jesus made it all.

  • Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven & on earth, visible & invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him & for Him.”

Just as God the Father has existed before all time, so Jesus has existed before all time. And as such, Jesus was present & active in the creation of all things. One commentator said it this way: “Jesus was the source of power in the original physical creation and in the spiritual creation by which people are brought to new life in Christ.”[1]

We need to expand & deepen our understanding & appreciation for who Jesus is & what He has done. He’s not some 90-lb. weakling who got sand kicked in His face. No, He’s the Creator who, along w/ the Father & the Spirit, spoke the universe into existence & flung the galaxies into their place in the cosmos. When God said, “Let US make man in OUR image,” He’s wasn’t talking about the angels. He was talking about the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Russell M. Grigg of Creation Ministries International: “Jesus Christ is the Creator God. Not only does Scripture affirm it, but during His earthly life and ministry He did the very things we would expect the Creator God to do. He did them in the way that we would expect the Creator God to do them—by His word of authority and the exercise of His will. And the doing of them displayed His glory.” (http://creation.com/is-jesus-christ-the-creator-god)

JESUS IS THE LIGHT & LIFE – v. 4-5 – As the eternal God & as the Creator God, Jesus not only made light & life, He IS light & life.

Sin brings darkness.

  • The darkness of despair – The word despair means “loss of hope.” So many in our world today have no hope. You may be in the darkness of despair right now.
  • The darkness of doubt – Our beliefs are being bombarded constantly these days. Christianity is under attack in ways most of us have never seen before. The result is that many people are wandering in a dark place of doubt.
  • The darkness of disaster – The direction of so many people’s lives is headed toward disaster. And this disaster is not the result of a storm or floods or fire, but the result of sin as tons of people turn their backs on God.
  • The darkness of death – Sin brings death. Death is separation. Physical death occurs when our soul is separated from our body. But a million times worse than physical death is spiritual death, which occurs when our soul is separated from God.

But into the darkness shines the light of Jesus. And His light brings life! This is one of the main messages of John’s Gospel. And it’s the message that we must shout from the rooftops!

  • John 3:16
  • John 3:36
  • John 4:14
  • John 5:24
  • John 6:35
  • John 6:47
  • John 10:10
  • John 10:28
  • John 11:25-26
  • John 14:6
  • John 20:30-31

 

OUR ONLY RESPONSE TO JESUS – THE ETERNAL GOD, THE MAKER OF ALL, & THE LIGHT & LIFE?

SURRENDER!

[1] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 8). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 8/28/16 – “Developing Devoted Disciples”

“DEVELOPING DEVOTED DISCIPLES”                  2 Tim. 2:2

INVITE YOUR ONE!

INTRO – 20 years ago, became a firefighter. When I got on the FD, I looked like all the other firefighters except for one thing – the orange vest. Identified me as a probie firefighter who couldn’t do anything other than watch – observe the other firefighters, & learn from them. Had to meet w/ my training officer every week. Take written tests. Do hands-on drills over & over again – how to catch a hydrant – how to roll up a hose – how to re-rack the hose on the fire engine – how to spray water – how to stop spraying water (no “water hammer”) – be able to know where everything was on the fire engine (get whatever chief or commander wanted from truck w/out having to go all around the truck opening every compartment) – how to put on turnout gear & an air pack – how to talk on the radio – even the correct way to write down address of the call on the map on the wall if I was the first one to the fire station.

But, at the end of the probationary period, I passed the written tests, passed the hands-on tests, & was then considered qualified to fight a fire. Turned in my orange vest, received my red light, & was welcomed into the department, ready to serve the community when the need arose.

Pretty good picture of the discipleship process that we see in 2 Tim. 2:2. In teaching Timothy, Paul told him to take the things that he had seen in Paul & heard from Paul & pass them on to other reliable leaders who would then teach others. You see, discipleship is not a program; it’s a process.

  • Its foundation is the Gospel.
  • Its framework is relationships.
  • And its fruit is disciples reproducing disciples.

It’s not a cold, lifeless experience where a pupil learns some information from a teacher & regurgitates the information back in exam form & then does nothing else w/ that information. No, discipleship is a vibrant process that involves a Christ-follower teaching Biblical truths to another person, with the goal that that person will come to know Christ, grow in that relationship, & then invest in another person.

  • It’s more than just praying a prayer for salvation – though that’s essential.
  • It’s more than reading your Bible, praying, & having your quiet time – though that’s essential.
  • It’s more than being a church member – though that’s essential.

To BE the Church that God wants us to be, & to BUILD the Church that God wants us to build, we must be developing devoted disciples wherever we can & whenever we can. That means

  • KNOWING the Gospel
  • LIVING out the Gospel
  • SHARING the Gospel
  • TEACHING others the Gospel
  • REPEATING this process over & over again as long as we are alive.

Why is this process so important? Because PEOPLE are our greatest resource. Not buildings or budgets or programs, but people. We need to invest in PEOPLE – children, youth, & adults. E.M Bounds: “Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.” Our main priority must be to invest in PEOPLE as we develop devoted disciples. One way that’s happening in our church is in our youth ministry.

  • Student Journal
  • Prayer Challenge for Parents

Oswald Sanders: “[Discipleship] training cannot be done on a mass scale. It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time. Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced only one by one, because someone has taken the pains to disciple, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger.” Let’s take a look at the components of investment in the discipleship process that we find in 2 Tim. 2:2.

HEARING – “And the things you have HEARD me say…” – Much of our Gospel learning & growth comes through hearing it.

  • Romans 10:14 – “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
  • I would say that this verse tells us that it’s pretty important that we HEAR the Gospel!

The “hearing” that Paul is teaching Timothy about here is more than just listening to someone preach, teach, or witness. It is hearing & comprehending & responding & conforming to the biblical truth that is being presented. It’s the kind of hearing that James was talking about when he said in James 1:22, “Be doers of the Word, & not hearers only…”

SAYING – “And the things you have heard me SAY…” – Every Christ-follower needs to be able to put into words what the Lord has done in their life. Part of our growth in maturity in our walk w/ Christ is being able to just talk about the Lord. Doesn’t mean that you have to be a preacher, or a LG teacher, or a biblical scholar who can translate Greek & Hebrew, or someone has all the answers to all the questions.

But it does mean that we all need to say something that’s worth listening to. And that something that’s worth listening to is Someone, & His name is Jesus. And no matter who you are, you’ve got something incredibly important to say IF Jesus has changed your life!

ENTRUSTING – “…entrust to reliable men…” – What does it mean to “entrust” something to someone?

  • First, it means that the thing you’re entrusting has great value to you. You’re not too worried about entrusting someone w/ a $1 bill that you pull out of your wallet. But you’re very concerned about knowing that your retirement account is being managed by an expert. You’re not really worried about an airliner that you see taking off from the airport, unless your kids or grandkids are on that plane b/c you’ve entrusted something of great value to the care & abilities of that pilot.
  • Secondly, if you entrust something of great value to someone, then it means that you trust that person. It means that, somehow, they have proven themselves to be trustworthy.

So, what’s the item of great value that we are entrusting to “reliable” men & women? Look at 1:14 – That “good deposit” is the truths of the Gospel, the life-changing, life-altering foundational truths of the Good News of Jesus Christ! We guard it, & when we pass it on to others, we are to make sure that they are “reliable” followers of Jesus. One commentator put it this way: “In his assignment to entrust the gospel to other people, Timothy needed to observe in these believers the quality of adherence to God’s truth. Reliability and trustworthiness in remaining true to the gospel were prerequisites.[1]  It’s a picture of the relay runners that we just saw in the Olympics. The only way they can compete is if they trust the next person on the team, the one to whom they’re going to hand the baton as they race toward the finish line. Both runners have to do their part in order for them to be successful.

The Gospel is the most valuable treasure the world has ever known! Be serious about learning it. Be faithful in living it. Be careful in entrusting it to those who are reliable.

TEACHING – “…qualified to teach others.” – If you’re sick, you go to a doctor. If your car is broken down, you go to a mechanic. If you’ve got a legal problem, you go to a lawyer. Why? B/c they’re all qualified to work in those areas.

If someone has a question about Jesus or about the Gospel, they should go to a Christian. “Wait a minute, Jon. They should go to a preacher or a SS teacher.” That may be true if they have some complicated questions or concerns. But what if they have questions about basic biblical principles of living the Christian life. Would they think about coming to you, not b/c you’re a preacher or a great Bible scholar, but simply b/c they know that you’re a Christian? Would you be qualified to instruct them about Jesus? Are you qualified to instruct & teach someone in the basic principles of living the Christian life?

  • How to be saved?
  • Why we should be baptized?
  • How to pray?
  • How to read the Bible?
  • Why it’s important to be a member of a church?

“Our goal is not to get comfortable with the pleasures of this world. Our goal is not to fix all the problems in America. Our goal is to understand that heaven is our home and as a pilgrim here on earth, our pursuit is to be a growing disciple that helps others become a disciple and then helps them be a growing disciple as well who are equipped to make more disciples.” (Randy Smith)

REPEATING – We keep going & going until we cross the finish line.

Matt. 28:19-20 – Greek – “as you go” or “as you are going”

“…we should be carrying out the Great Commission – making disciples, baptizing them into the family, and teaching them to obey the Word – wherever we are, and no matter what else we are doing.” (http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/worldview/20051-as-you-go)

[1] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 280–281). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 7/31/16 – “Spiritual Gifts: We’ve Got Them – Let’s Use Them!”

“SPIRITUAL GIFTS: WE’VE GOT THEM – LET’S USE THEM!”

Rom. 12:4-8

 INTRO – One of the joys of being a parent is giving gifts to your kids. Love to see the excitement on their faces. Love to see the joy it brings to them. Like this pic right here: (Rach, Reese, & Russ in trunk of car)

Our God is the same way. He loves to give gifts to His kids! Look at these verses:

  • James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
  • Luke 11:13 – “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
  • Rom 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • Eph. 2:8 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
  • Rom. 11:29 – “…God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.”

Think about all that God has given to us & continues to give to us:

  • Acts 2:38 – The Holy Spirit
  • Numbers 6:26 – Peace
  • Isa. 40:29 – Strength to the weary
  • Ezek. 36:26 – A new heart & a new spirit
  • Matt. 6:11 – Our daily bread
  • John 6:63 – Life
  • 1 Cor. 15:57 – Victory over sin & death
  • Eph. 4:7 – Grace

That last one is where I want us to focus our attention today, b/c the spiritual gifts that you & I have are “grace gifts.” In Rom. 12:6, we see that we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. Greek word for “gifts” is “charisma.” Greek word for “grace” is “charis.” You can’t have the gifts w/out the grace. What’s the definition of “grace”? God giving to us that which we do not deserve. John Gill, biblical scholar in 1700’s said, “…all these gifts are not the effects of nature, the fruits of human power, diligence, and industry, but flow from the grace of God, who dispenses them when, where, and to whom he pleases in a free and sovereign manner; and therefore to be acknowledged as such, and used to his glory, and for the good of his church and people.” So, let’s remember that all of these gifts are gifts of God’s grace toward us. None of us is better than anyone else b/c of the gifts we possess. None of us will be in better standing w/ God b/c of the gifts we possess. They are gifts of His grace. We don’t deserve them. We haven’t earned them. He has given them to us when He gave us the gift of our salvation.

So, let’s answer this question about these gifts of grace: What are we supposed to do w/ them? How are we supposed to use them? Let’s use the word “GRACE” as an acrostic & answer this question.

Grow – This is really a foundational truth in our understanding of spiritual gifts. God’s desire for His children is that we grow in spiritual maturity. All of us who know Christ should be striving to know Him more, to obey Him more fully, to trust Him deeper, & to love Him more. Stagnation is an unwelcome condition in the Christian life, but it is inevitable if we stop striving to grow in our spiritual life. Someone once said, “Decay starts where growth stops.”

God has given us spiritual gifts in order to facilitate our spiritual growth. This growth happens in 2 ways:

  1. When I exercise my spiritual gifts, it strengthens my walk w/ Christ. Just as physical exercise builds up our physical strength, so the exercising of our spiritual gifts builds up our spiritual strength. It teaches me more about who Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is, how He works in my life, & what He will do in & through me when I use my spiritual gifts. That is what spiritual growth is all about.
  2. When YOU exercise YOUR spiritual gifts, it helps me grow. You who have the gift of teaching help me grow. You who have the gift of exhortation & encouragement help me grow. You who have the gift of giving help me grow.

Every gift helps someone grow in some way in the Body of Christ. That’s why EVERY gift is important!

Reach – Let’s be reminded that Paul said in v. 4-5 that, even though we are many different members & have different gifts, we are all still a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. He also said in 1 Cor. 12:7 that the gifts were given for the common good. He also said in Eph. 4 that the gifts were given to equip God’s people to do His work so that the Body would grow & work properly.

So, when we are EACH using our gifts we are helping the WHOLE Body of Christ reach its biblical purpose.

  • We are helping it reach its purpose of evangelism.
  • We are helping it reach its purpose of discipleship.
  • We are helping it reach its purpose of ministry.
  • We are helping it reach its purpose of worship.
  • We are helping it reach its purpose of fellowship & community.

Advance – There’s no doubt or debate about the commission that Jesus has given to us, His Church. Matt. 28:19-20 – Say it w/ me: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” THIS is how we advance His Kingdom in our world – by making disciples of all nations. THIS is the answer to EVERY problem that our nation is facing. THIS is the way to keep marriages from falling apart. THIS is how we reach out to & help those who are struggling w/ homosexuality, w/ drug & alcohol abuse, w/ pornography, w/ racial prejudice, w/ anger & bitterness & divisiveness. We MUST advance HIS Kingdom into our lost & dying world, starting right here in our own community. Col. 1:12-14 says that “…the Father…has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” When we exercise our spiritual gifts in the Church, we are helping to advance His Kingdom of Light into the dominion of darkness.

  • We are advancing His love into this world of hate.
  • We are advancing His life into this world of death.
  • We are advancing His Truth into this world of lies.

Care – What does it mean to truly care for someone? It means that you are deeply concerned about their condition & are willing to do whatever it takes to meet their needs to the very best of your ability. We see this happening all the time in many different ways in the Church:

  • Life Groups caring for & rallying around those in their groups who are sick & in need.
  • Women’s Ministry & Men’s Ministry providing caring help to church members.
  • Deacons doing their ministry of care w/in the church FAMILY.
  • Mission Byram, Lunch4Christ, & Country Oaks showing loving care to those they minister to.

God has given us our grace gifts to do this. It’s not just for the pastor & staff to do; it’s for ALL of the members of the Body to do. God gives us grace so that we might show grace to those in need. Our gifts empower us & enable us to care for each other in the FAMILY of God!

Edify – Finally, our gifts edify the Church. What does the word “edify” mean? It means “to benefit or uplift; to build up.” A Christ-follower should NEVER do anything that will damage or tear down the Church, in other words, we should NEVER do anything that will damage or tear down a brother or sister in Christ. Listen to these verses:

  • Rom. 14:19 – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
  • Rom. 15:2 – “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.”
  • 1 Cor. 8:1b – “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
  • Eph. 4:11-12 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
  • 1 Thess. 5:11 – “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Sermon Notes from 7/24/16 – “Spiritual Gifts: The Gift Lists”

“SPIRITUAL GIFTS: THE GIFT LISTS”

Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28-30; Eph. 4:11

 INTRO – Today, we are going to jump straight into our texts b/c there’s a lot that we need to cover today. So, keep your Bible open, grab your pen & note sheet or journal or your notes app on your phone & let’s go.

First, a couple of quotes to remind us of what we are focusing on right now in the arena of spiritual gifts:

John MacArthur: “A spiritual gift is a supernaturally designed ability granted to every believer by which the Holy Spirit ministers to the body of Christ. A spiritual gift cannot be earned, pursued or worked up. It is merely ‘received’ through the grace of God.”

Adrian Rogers: “What a tragedy to fail to understand that you have a spiritual gift. If you want real joy and fulfillment in your Christian life, I will tell you how to have it. Get right with God, then discover, develop, and put to work your spiritual gifts.”

 

Drs. MacArthur & Rogers both help us understand the importance of discovering our God-given grace gifts & putting them to work in the Church, the Body of Christ. They come to every believer as undeserved gifts from God. An important part of our maturing process as Christ-followers is the discovery, development, & deliberate usage of our gifts in serving God through His Church.

With these background statements, let’s move into looking at the specific gifts that are found in the Bible. As I was studying for this sermon, I found a “Spiritual Gifts Table” that is extremely helpful in understanding the different gifts & where they operate within the Church. This table was developed by Jeff Carver, a church planter/pastor in California, & can be found at spiritualgiftstest.com. Carver gave 4 categories for the different gifts, which I’m going to use as we look at the gifts:

 

SERVING GIFTS: Serving Gifts are characterized by their role in the church to manage, serve and build up the body of Christ in practical and loving ways. In this category, we find 6 possible gifts:

AdministrationKubernesis – to rule or govern or direct. Those w/ this gift are able to help direct & organize & execute the work of the church in different areas of ministry.

Leadership – Closely related to gift of administration, but this gift is more people-oriented, whereas the gift of administration is more task-oriented. Many pastors possess this gift. It’s a more “visionary” gift, & not as concerned about the “nuts & bolts” aspects of ministry.

Exhortation – Also known as the gift of encouragement. The Greek word is parakaleo, & refers to someone who comes alongside another to help them & challenge them to keep moving upward & onward. It literally means to “beg, plead, comfort, urge.”

Mercy – A person w/ this gift is someone who is able to be extremely patient & compassionate toward those who are suffering. This person will stay w/ someone all the way through their time of suffering until their burden is lifted.

Giving – Those w/ this gift love having the opportunity to share w/ others & provide the financial means for ministry to move forward, both in the church in a corporate way, & also in individuals’ lives. They are grateful when someone shares a need w/ them, & are joyful in the chance to meet this need.

Serving or Ministering – There are 2 different words associated w/ this gift. Both words refer to those believers who just love to help out, serving & ministering in obscurity so that the work of the church can move forward. They are committed to the spread of the Gospel, & are willing to fill any gaps so that the Gospel can go forth as much as possible.

 

FOUNDATION GIFTS: The Foundation Gifts are those which were fundamental to the establishment of the church. Those with these gifts are needed for planting new churches and ministries today. The 5 gifts in this category are apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastoring, & teaching.

Apostleship – The office of “apostle” is no longer in operation, but the gift of “apostleship” is. Here’s the difference:

  • Apostle refers to the 12 original apostles & the Apostle Paul who were specifically & personally called by Jesus to do His work of laying the foundation for the establishment of the Church. To be an apostle, a man had to be an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, & experience a specific call by the Lord. They were empowered to perform miraculous signs & wonders.
  • But the gift of apostleship is active today through those who have a missionary heart to go & plant new churches & ministries in places where there is no work. It’s a radical gift, many times a risky gift, a gift that reaches out & raises up new leaders, new pastors, & new missionaries.

Prophecy – This is a very unique gift in which a believer receives a message from God & is called upon to deliver that message. It may be a message of exhortation, encouragement, discipline, correction, comfort, or prediction of future events. A person w/ this gift will always test their words against the Scriptures to make sure that they are in line w/ the Bible. And they expect those to whom they deliver their message to do the same.

Evangelism – While all believers are called to share the Gospel, some are gifted w/ a deep burden for the lost & will go out of their way to share the Gospel w/ them. They have the ability to do so in a very effective way as they develop relationships w/ those who are lost w/ very little fear of rejection or ridicule.

Pastor – Literally, “shepherd, overseer.” Called & gifted to protect the flock, care for the flock, teach & preach the Word to the flock, & to guide the flock to complete the mission of God for the flock.

Teaching – The teachers in the church are gifted w/ the ability to spend large quantities of time in the Word, & then explain, communicate, & instill the truth of the Word into the lives of others. They love their place in helping make sure the Church is “the pillar & foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

 

REVELATORY GIFTS – Revelatory Gifts are those in which The Lord imparts or reveals information to be used to guide, warn, correct and encourage the church while bringing glory to Himself.

Wisdom – The person w/ the gift of wisdom has a deep understanding of God’s Word & the commands for holiness in the Bible. When this person exercises this gift, they speak into the life of another believer or into a situation w/ the desire to see God’s people live lives of worship & holiness.

Discernment – God gives this gift to some in the church to discern & distinguish between the work of God, Satan, the world, & the flesh in certain situations & circumstances. It is a gift that is needed to keep the church from drifting toward ungodly & unbiblical teachings & practices.

Knowledge – This gift is closely related to the gift of wisdom. The person w/ this gift has a strong, working knowledge of the Word of God, usually having large quantities of it committed to memory. As the Spirit leads them, they’re able to relate the Scriptures & the Gospel to every situation, & how it informs every decision a Christian makes.

Interpretation of Tongues – Simply put, the person w/ this gift is able to supernaturally interpret what someone w/ the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is saying. The goal of this is always to glorify God, & encourage & build up the church, not the person speaking in tongues, or the one interpreting.

 

MANIFESTATION OR MIRACULOUS GIFTS – These are overtly supernatural and display the power and presence of The Lord among His people. They serve as evidence of the authority of God over all things. 

Tongues – This gift is probably the most understood & most abused of all the gifts. Time does not permit me to expound as much on this as I would like, but suffice it to say that I believe this gift is still operational today. It is a beautiful gift that is experienced when a person glorifies God through the speaking of a prayer or word of praise to God in a language that is unknown to the speaker. It may be an actual earthly language, or it may be a heavenly language that is unknown to anyone. This gift may be practiced in private in a time of personal prayer, or it may be practiced in a public worship service. But the only way it can be used in a public way is if there is someone who has the gift of interpretation. Otherwise, the person w/ the gift of tongues should keep quiet.

Faith – This is not saving faith, but a supernatural ability to trust in God’s promises & provisions, no matter what the circumstances may look like. George Muller seemed to have the gift of faith in this way.

Healing – This gift is used to bring physical healing to those in need of it in order to reveal the heart of God to them. It, like every other gift, operates under the sovereignty of God. In other words, there is no guarantee that the person w/ this gift will always be able to bring healing to those in need of healing. It takes a great amount of faith, knowing that if God chooses not to heal the person physically at that time, then He has a better purpose & plan for allowing them to go through the suffering.

Miracles – Literally means, the “workings of powers.” Seems to indicate that these gifts were diverse not permanently available at the will of the one who is gifted in this way, but instead were given at different times & circumstances. The one who has these gifts always points to Jesus & never to themselves when God uses them in some miraculous way. They are deep prayer warriors, deeply humble, & deeply sensitive to how God wants to use them.

 

CONCLUSION – Back to part of Adrian Rogers’ quote from beginning of sermon:

“Get right with God, then discover, develop, and put to work your spiritual gifts.”

Sermon notes from 7/17/16 – “Spiritual Gifts: The Big Picture”

“SPIRITUAL GIFTS: THE BIG PICTURE”              1 Cor. 12:1-7

INTRO – There are a LOT of things that we find ourselves concerned about these days. In fact, we’ve become so concerned about some of the things that are grabbing headlines these days that we are finding ourselves greatly out of focus on the things that truly matter in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the threads on Facebook & Twitter, or on the incessant 24-hour a day newscasts w/ all the bad headlines & news, that we end up saying things we shouldn’t say as Christ-followers, doing things we shouldn’t do, driven by our fear & our disgust at things that we simply cannot change.

Church – Listen! The days in which we are living are difficult days & call for deep, abiding, strong, unshakable faith in the Lord & in the unchanging truth of His Word. None of the events that we are watching unfold in front of us should surprise or alarm us if we know what the Word of God says.

  • 12:12 – “[The devil] is filled w/ fury b/c he knows his time is short.”
  • 2 Peter 3:3 – “…you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing & following their own evil desires.”
  • 2 Tim. 3:1-5

So in the midst of all the craziness that’s happening – & will continue to happen – let’s make sure that we keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s stay focused on the things that God is concerned about in our lives. There are 4 things that I believe He is concerned about, things that He will always be concerned about, no matter what’s going on in our world:

 

OUR SALVATION – GOD LOVES THE WORLD & DESIRES FOR ALL PEOPLE TO HAVE AN ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP W/ HIM. That truth will never change. He loves the world & sent His one & only Son into the world to be the one & only Savior of the world.

This singular truth cuts through all the rhetoric of our day. It cuts through all the headlines that scream out at us. It cuts through all the protest signs. It cuts through all the harsh, hate-filled Facebook posts. As Christ-followers, we must remember that He loves every person that we see in every news report, on every TV show & movie, in every restaurant we eat in, in every car we pass, every home we pass, every hospital we pass, every prison we pass. And He loves every person in this room right now, & He is concerned about your salvation. Are YOU saved today?

OUR SIN – He is concerned about our sin b/c He knows that our sin short-circuits His plans for our lives.

  • Our sin grieves the Spirit of God. Eph. 4:30 – “…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
  • Our sin quenches the work of the Spirit of God – 1 Thess. 5:19 – “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Grieving & quenching the Spirit of God in our lives happen when we sin in any way, whether in word or deed or thought. And when He is grieved & quenched, our spiritual lives suffer greatly. We are hindered in our ability to live a godly, holy life b/c we can’t hear Him like we need to; we can’t sense His leadership like we need to; & we can’t serve Him like we are called to. Which leads to next concern:

OUR SERVICE – Not a single Christian has ever been saved & then not expected to serve God is some way. There is no Christian anywhere in the world, at any time in history, who has not been given some assignment to serve God in some capacity. Simply put: We are saved to serve. Some serve in very public ways; some in very private ways. Some serve on the front of the stage for all to see; some serve behind the scenes where hardly anyone sees. But the only thing that matters is our faithful obedience to whatever God has called us to do. I love how Joshua challenged the people of God w/ these powerful words from Joshua 24 – & they have such powerful application for our lives today!

  • Joshua 24:14-15 – “Now fear the Lord & serve Him w/ all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River & in Egypt, & serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me & my house, we will serve the Lord.”

OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS – God is concerned about our spiritual gifts. Here are some reasons why:

  • Our gifts are gifts from God – When you give someone a gift, you want to make sure that they know what to do w/ it. Doesn’t do any good to give someone a toaster if they take it outside & try to mow the grass w/ it. God gave us our gifts. V. 4,5, & 6 tell us that there are different gifts that will be used in different ways, but the same God gave us these gifts.
  • Our gifts must point to Jesus – If they don’t, then they’re not of God. There was a lot of abuse of spiritual gifts going on in the Corinthian church, especially the gift of tongues. People who had that gift were exercising it in an ungodly way, being prideful that they had that gift when others didn’t. There’s no place for pride in exercising our spiritual gifts. I love what one writer said about spiritual gifts: “Spiritual gifts exalt the Giver of the gift, not the receiver of the gift” (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-body-building-1-corinthians-12). As Paul said in v. 3, when we are speaking by the Spirit of God, using the gifts He’s given us, we will say, “Jesus is Lord.” We will point to Him alone, & not to ourselves.
  • Our gifts benefit the Church – Paul was speaking to the Church at Corinth here when he said in v. 1, “Now, about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant…” This was a message to the whole church b/c spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of the whole church. He makes this even clearer in v. 7 when he says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The gifts are individual – “Now to EACH ONE” – but the benefits are for the whole Church – “…for the common good.” John Piper: “A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.” The Greek word here for “common” is sympheron, & it means “to bring together.” What English word does sympheron sound like? Symphony. What’s a symphony? It’s a collection of different musical instruments that make beautiful music when they are all on the same page, all praying the same song, all played together in harmony. What an awesome picture of the church when our spiritual gifts are being used together in harmony!
    • Our spiritual gifts help us to all be on the same page. – Understanding
    • Our spiritual gifts help us to all be playing the same song. – Mission
    • Our spiritual gifts help us to all be in harmony w/ one another. – Unity

 

CONCLUSION – 2012 movie “The Avengers” – Story of a group of superheroes that banded together to battle an evil force that was bent on world domination. The only problem was, these superheroes had a hard time banding. For about the first half of the movie, they were each caught up in their own agendas. They squabbled. They backbit. They distrusted each other’s motives. As a result, the whole was actually far less than the sum of its parts. And the bad guy was smart enough to anticipate all of this. He actually counted on their lack of unity in order to accomplish his diabolical plan. He almost won, because the Avengers failed to realize that it took all of them, each using his or her own gifts, in order to defeat the enemy.

At one point, when it looks as though the team has fallen apart, Agent Nick Fury says to them, “The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could.”

The funny thing is, with the exception of that “fight the battles we never could” part, that pretty much could describe God’s plan for His church.

(James Jackson, http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-body-building-1-corinthians-12)

Sermon notes from 7/3/16 – “How to Live as a Christian in the USA”

“HOW TO LIVE AS A CHRISTIAN IN THE USA”  2 Tim. 4:1-5

 INTRO – Sermoncentral video – Ronald Reagan: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we are a nation gone under.” I wonder sometimes if we have gotten to that point in our nation now.

Franklin Graham continues to crisscross our nation with the Decision America Tour, leading massive prayer gatherings at every state capitol in the nation. On March 29, he stood on the steps of the Utah state capitol in Salt Lake City & said, “America is being lost. Our nation is in great trouble, & it’s in trouble b/c we have taken our eyes off God.”

We can’t expect those who don’t know Christ to put their eyes on God. I don’t care how many times we say “In God We Trust,” & “One Nation Under God.” Mama always said that you’ve got to let lost people act like lost people.

But, what about us? What about the Church? What about those of us who DO know Christ as our Savior? What can we do to show that we truly do trust in God? What can we do to help our nation truly become a nation under God’s rule & reign? How are we to live as Christians in the United States of America? While there are a whole lot of things that have changed in our nation, there are some things that have not changed for us Christians. And, the one thing that will NEVER change is the Word of God! And THAT’S where we find our instructions & get our marching orders for how to live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ in a nation that is moving farther & farther away from Him. Paul charged Timothy with some very specific directives. That means that he warned him about these things, & reminded him of his responsibilities as a Christ-follower. It was almost like a general giving his final commands to his troops. Let’s look at this passage & discover…

3 things that every Christian in the USA is charged to do:

Evangelize – v. 2 – NAMB tells us that there are 259 million people in the US & Canada who do not have a personal relationship w/ Jesus Christ. So, obviously, the Church still has a lot of work to do. Clayton Jennings is preaching his heart out nearly every night in venues all across our nation & seeing thousands of people come to faith in Christ. There’s a young evangelist named CT Townsend who is started a revival meeting at a church in Burlington, NC, 8 weeks ago. They’re still going! Have moved to a big tent outdoors. Thousands are coming – over 500 have prayed to receive Christ! Franklin Graham is working hard to call the church to repentance & action. Praise God for what these men are doing!

But those guys are just 3 men in a nation of millions of people. And while they are passionately preaching the Gospel all across our land, they can’t do it all.

EVERY Christian in the United States of America has got to commit or recommit himself/herself to being a witness for the Lord Jesus. EVERY Christian needs to faithfully, regularly, obediently “preach the Word.” The word for “preach” in v. 2 means “to announce publicly; to proclaim w/ the goal to persuade; to urge; to warn to comply.” It’s not a word that is just reserved for those of us who are vocational ministers; it’s for every Christ-follower. It’s the job of EVERY Christian in the USA to preach the Gospel & evangelize the lost.

It’s time for EVERY Christian in the USA to quit some things & start sharing the Gospel:

  • Quit giving in to the enemy’s lies that you can’t do this
  • Quit giving in to the thought that “Nobody is going to want to listen to me b/c I don’t have a flashy testimony.”
  • Quit giving in to fear of rejection & ridicule
  • Quit giving in to complacency & just plain old laziness, or that it’s just not convenient – “Be prepared in season…”
  • Quit giving in to the thought that someone else will do it
  • Quit giving in to an unwillingness to even try to learn how to share your faith
  • Quit giving in to the false idea that we don’t need to witness to people b/c we won’t have the opportunity to disciple them
  • Quit giving in to the belief that we don’t need to evangelize people b/c they’re going to come into a relationship w/ Jesus whether we witness to them or not

Everyone has their place in the Body of Christ. We are going to talk more in depth about that over the next few weeks when I preach on spiritual gifts. But, sometimes, we use that as a reason to not witness & evangelize the lost. “Well, I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” “I’m more of a teacher.” “I’m more into discipleship than evangelism.” Truth is that, while everyone DOES have their place in the Body, everyone in the Body has the responsibility to evangelize.

Expect – v. 3-4 – Whether people want to hear it or not, or believe it or not, Truth demands a response. When we are preaching & sharing the truth of the Gospel, it causes the hearers to make a decision about what they are going to do w/ what they’ve heard. Excuses are removed; opinions don’t matter; truth demands either obedience or defiance.

We can expect that there will be some joyous times when people respond to the Gospel in obedience & faith & truly trust Christ alone to save them. Had the privilege of leading a 30 yr-old young lady to Christ just this past week. We also saw about 10 kids in VBS pray to receive Christ. Every fisherman knows that you’ve got to go fishing if you expect to catch fish. Fish in different ponds & lakes. Use different rods, lines, lures, & baits. Sometimes fish from the bank, sometimes off a pier, sometimes in boat. So we can expect that when we keep fishing, we will surely catch some fish.

But Paul makes it clear in these verses that we can expect some other experiences as we share the Gospel in our world. People in our society have a great appetite for error instead of truth. So when we share the Gospel, we can expect these things:

  • Expect resistance – v. 3a – “The time will come when people will not put up w/ sound doctrine…”
  • Expect rejection – v. 3b – “…Instead…”
  • Expect rebellion – v. 4

Isa. 30:9-11 – “…these people are [rebellious people] who refuse to pay attention to the Lord’s instructions. They tell the seers, ‘Stop seeing visions!’ They tell the prophets, ‘Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’” (NLT)

Endure – v. 5 – “But, you…” – When you are faced w/ those who are resisting, rejecting, & rebelling, “keep your head in all situations.” Stay alert to false teaching, wrong beliefs, & evil forces.

And, endure! Withstand the troubles that WILL come & WILL increase. Persecution, hard times, & difficulties are going to come. Look at 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3; 3:12.

“What we really need—and what God really wants—is endurance. Enduring means you do not think anything is more important than your faith, and no one more significant than Christ. Fix your eyes on him. Keep running. To the end.[1]

The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.

Our goal as Christians in the USA is to endure all the way to the end, to finish our race w/ the torch of our faith & the flame of the Gospel still burning brightly in our lives.

[1] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 317). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 6/26/16 – “Adulthood: Mature & Maturing”

“ADULTHOOD: MATURE & MATURING”             Eph. 4:1-16

 INTRO – Clayton Jennings video: “When I Became a Man” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHSOQdyNNXg)

Clayton’s spoken word is a challenge to us to continuing moving forward in spiritual maturity. There’s a great temptation to be complacent in our progress in spiritual growth after we accept Christ. We get saved, we’re fired up for a while, we are passionately serving God, then the fire begins to cool some, maybe getting to the point that it is just a smoldering ember that’s barely glowing. It just becomes so easy to neglect our walk w/ Christ.

  • The busyness of our lives works against us
  • The stress of our lives works against us
  • The pressures of our lives work against us
  • The fears in our lives work against us
  • And, of course, Satan is working against us!

This means that we are going to have to stay vigilant in our pursuit of the things of God if we are going to progress in our faith, pressing on from the moment of our spiritual birth, through infancy & childhood, battling through the struggles of spiritual adolescence, & moving into a maturing walk w/ Christ. This should be our goal b/c it is definitely God’s will for us.

When Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian Christians, this is what he had in mind. His intention in writing this letter was that all those believers who truly wanted to grow in Christ would receive this letter. The aim of this letter is to equip a maturing church. And that’s should be the aim of a strong NT church today. That’s why our purpose statement here at CWBC states that we are Developing Devoted Disciples.

As we look at Eph. 4, we see some features of those who are mature & maturing in their walk w/ Christ:

They are striving to live a life worthy of their calling – v. 1-3 – Our lives are a living billboard. Our conduct advertises what we truly believe about Jesus Christ & our relationship to Him. We can talk all day long about how much we love the Lord & how committed we are to Him & living the Christian life. But, the proof of our lives is seen in how we live every day.

Those who are maturing in their faith are deeply concerned that they are walking worthy of their calling. And the calling that Paul is speaking about is not a calling to vocational ministry, but the calling upon each of our lives to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. We are called to be a “prisoner for the Lord.” Doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in a literal prison, as Paul was when he wrote this. But it means that we are willingly held captive by the love of Christ. In fact, the literal translation of this phrase would be a “prisoner IN the Lord.” As a prisoner is totally under the control by his captors, we are to be totally under the control of the Lord Jesus. Paul had given up his freedom for the cause of Christ & for the Gospel. You & I are called to do the same thing. We are not free to live any way we want to live, but we are held captive to the wonderful, life-changing Gospel & the Word of God. And when our hearts & lives are taken captive by the Lord Jesus, we will strive to live out the character traits we see in v. 2-3.

 

They are strong in their faith – v. 4-6, 14a – The 2016 Olympics will begin on Aug. 5 in Rio. Hundreds of talented athletes will descend upon that city & try to win the gold medal in their sport. But their quest for gold began long before they arrive in Rio in a few weeks.

You have athletes like Dartanyon Crockett who grew up in the slums of Cleveland, OH. Legally blind due to a degenerative condition from birth, Crockett will compete in the Paralympics & try to win the gold medal in judo. His mom died when he was 8 yrs. old, & his alcoholic father couldn’t provide for him, which meant that Crockett was mostly homeless & survived on school lunches. His best friend & sparring partner lost his legs when hit by a train. Crockett would carry him on his back up & down the stairs at their high school b/c there was no elevator. Quoted in an interview: “I will win gold in Rio; I have no doubt about that,” he said. “I still have the want.” It’s that kind of strength & single-minded focus that will carry him into & through the Paralympic games.

Those who are mature & maturing in their faith have that kind of strength & single-minded devotion, too. But, the difference is that they understand that their strength comes from the Lord & His Spirit that is within them. The Psalmist said it this way in Ps. 121:1-2 – “I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven & earth” (ESV). Heb. word for “help” means “strength.”

The strength of the mature & maturing Christian comes from the Lord & our single-minded laser-like devotion to Him. Look how many times in 3 verses Paul uses the word “one” – “one body…Spirit…hope…Lord…faith…baptism…God & Father of all…” These truths form the foundation for our faith system, our doctrine & theology. The mature & maturing Christians are those who hold to these truths w/ a Spirit-empowered tenacity. They study them, they think about them, they wrestle w/ them, & they live them out. B/c of that, they are “no longer infants” (v. 14a). Gk word actually means, “childish, infantile, babyish.” They’re strong in the Lord & in their faith! They’re spiritual marathon runners, spiritual judo wrestlers, spiritual Olympians, running the race to win the prize of the upward calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). And their spiritual strength leads to the next trait:

 

They are steady in the storms – v. 14b-15 – You can’t be steady in the storms of this life if you’re not strong in your faith. And the storms that Paul is referring to here are probably not the storms you & I normally think about. Usually we think about the storms that we face that come in the form of the troubles, trials, & tribulations in this life – sickness, disease, death, financial struggles, relationship battles, emotional pain, etc.

The storms that Paul is talking about that we, as Christians, ARE facing RIGHT NOW are the waves & winds of wrong beliefs & false teachings & doctrines that are being spewed out from all directions in our society right now. Our faith is being challenged today in ways none of us have ever experienced. It’s as if we are standing in the middle of an arena or coliseum, & the stands are filled w/ thousands of people who are all screaming at us at the same time.

  • “You’re wrong on the transgender bathroom issue, on homosexuals, on gay marriage, on abortion! You’ve got to change your beliefs & accept the changes in our society. It’s the law now, so you may as well just give in.”
  • “You’ve got to stop trying to convert Muslims & Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses to your Jesus. Your Jesus is not the only way to get to heaven, so quit trying to convert everybody you see. You’re being so judgmental! What business is it of yours if I believe in Allah, or believe that God used to be a man on another planet, or believe that Jesus was only a perfect man, not God in flesh?”
  • “You’re not nearly as intelligent as those of us who are atheists & agnostics. You’ll never win an argument w/ us.”
  • “You’re so old-fashioned in your beliefs b/c there’s nothing wrong w/ people living together before they get married, or having sex before they get married, or getting a divorce, so quit holding your Bible up as having all the answers.”
  • “Racial issues are never going to be solved by this Gospel stuff you keep talking about! Don’t you know that Black Lives Matter!”…or those screaming the opposite of that viewpoint… “My confederate flag matters & my rights are more important than all that stuff you say you believe!”

When all of these competing voices begin to grow, those who are mature & maturing in their faith will be able to remain steady. We are different from the world. Our belief system is different than the world’s system. We are called to live differently, even as the waves get higher & the winds blow harder. Russell Moore, a native Mississippian, & the head of the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission of the SBC, said this: “The world system around us, the cultural matrix we inhabit, is alien to the kingdom of God—with different priorities, different strategies, and a different vision of the future. If we don’t see that we are walking a narrow and counter-intuitive road, we will have nothing distinctive to say because we will have forgotten who we are…Forgetting who we are and forgetting our mission can leave us particularly vulnerable to false teaching that doesn’t sound false because it comes from ‘our side.’” (http://www.russellmoore.com/2016/06/21/politics-cant-drive-the-gospel/)

 

They are strengthening the Body through their service – v. 16 – Look at that last phrase in v. 16 – “…as each part does its work.” This is how the Body of Christ – the Church – is strengthened. It’s when “EACH PART” does its work. Let me share w/ you what that looks like: THAD’S BLOG.

(http://thaddaniels.theworldrace.org/post/soccer-with-messi-taught-me-about-the-body)

 

“Adolescent Issues” – Sermon notes from 6/19/16

“ADOLESCENT ISSUES”                                           2 Tim. 2:22

 INTRO – Youtube video – Happy Father’s Day! We are in a day in which the need for strong, mature, Godly men & fathers is at a critical stage. From the suburbs to the inner city to the rural areas, spiritual maturity among men & dads is desperately needed. A.W. Tozer – “The most critical need of the church at this moment is men, bold men, free men. The church must seek, in prayer and much humility, the coming again of men made of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made.” There’s a huge need for true, Biblical masculinity that is so much more than machismo that is measured by how big our manly toys are, how many guns we own, & how much we can bench press. Listen to this lengthy, but powerful description of biblical masculinity from a Christian woman’s perspective:

 

“The masculinity I appreciate as a wife is of far greater value than wealth-earning power. It’s a masculinity that is unashamed of the gospel, which is the power of God (Romans 1:16). The unashamed masculinity I enjoy in my home leaves a legacy that is more enduring than prolific fertility. It’s masculinity that fervently loves others from a heart that has been born again, born not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable. True masculinity is reborn through the living and abiding word of God. The unashamed masculinity I love to follow in my home is far more impressive than macho pride. It’s masculinity that is willing to take the painful shrapnel in the battle against his own sin, rather than run from sin and hide in the comfort of silence. It is a masculinity that willingly exposes its life to the iron-sharpening-iron of open and honest male accountability relationships. The unashamed masculinity that guards the hearts in my home puts away rash, cutting words that pierce like a sword. My husband’s Christ-honoring masculinity understands the power of words, and he uses words to bring healing to me and our children. The unashamed masculinity I cherish in my home is such that fixes its eyes on Jesus and turns its eyes away from all the vain things of this world that hold a potent charm over other men. My husband’s Christ-honoring masculinity flees from promises whispered by a hiss. The unashamed masculinity I need in my home is concerned that others find their delight in God. Nothing quite says, “I love you” to me than when my husband is willing to humbly stand up to the things I pursue that obstruct my everlasting joy in God. His loving masculinity reassures me of Christ’s atonement made on my behalf, and of the privilege I have to boldly approach the throne of grace. Unashamed masculinity has less to do with how many horses a man owns, or how fast he can run. Unashamed masculinity is about what a man does with the gospel. Where can you see this unashamed masculinity? You see it whenever a man has peered into the empty tomb and found new motivation to lay down his own life to spread the gospel into the souqs of Casablanca, into the office spaces in Dallas, into the cafes in Geneva, into the shantytowns of Mumbai, into the barrios of Sao Paulo, and into the universities of Toronto. (Gloria Furman, A Celebration of Biblical Masculinity, May 18, 2012)

 

Which means that this series of messages on “Growing Strong in the Christian Life” in which we are looking at the stages of spiritual growth & maturity is extremely important today, not just for men & fathers, but for all of us.

Don’t let the title of today’s sermon fool you or confuse you. The adolescent issues that we are going to consider today are not directed at the teenagers who are here today. We are going to think about some of the issues that we have to face when we are in the stage of our spiritual lives that could be called our “spiritual adolescence.” The word “adolescence” itself is from a Latin word that means “to grow up.” From a purely physiological standpoint, adolescence is generally the timeframe from the onset of puberty to legal adulthood. Scholars in different fields of study have found it difficult to pinpoint a precise definition of adolescence. But within all of those perspectives, it is viewed as that transitional period between childhood & adulthood, whose cultural purpose is to prepare children for adult roles & responsibilities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolescence).

So when we consider what we are calling “spiritual adolescence,” we are considering a part of our spiritual growth that is marked by transition, & marked by preparation to begin taking on more mature roles of spiritual responsibility. Let’s look at some of the components of this stage.

 

This stage has some REAL CONCERNS – When Paul addressed his spiritual son, Timothy, he warned him to “flee from the evil desires of youth.” Almost identical to the warning he gave him in 1 Tim. 6:11. Obvious that Paul was deeply concerned about Timothy falling prey to come of the things that concerned Paul about “the evil desires of youth,” or “youthful lusts.”

What are these “evil desires of youth” that Paul was talking about? While our first thoughts might be some sort of sexual immorality – premarital sex, cohabitation, homosexuality, bisexuality, pornography, & things like that – that is probably not what Paul was referring to. Certainly those are concerns of adolescence. Most adolescents these days have much more lenient views on these issues than previous generations. The Church has to become more conversant & less hostile to those who have these views. We don’t need to change what we are saying, but we may need to change the way we are saying it if we want to be able to touch this younger generation.

But, based on the context of these verses, Paul was warning Timothy to avoid firing off intolerant, hotheaded, half-cocked responses to critics & those who want to quarrel. That definitely doesn’t do much to keep the lines of communication open w/ nonbelievers, or provide opportunities to engage our world w/ the love of Christ & the life-changing Gospel. Immature adolescents can be impatient, hard-headed, & say things they shouldn’t say before thinking it through, & do things they shouldn’t do before thinking it through.

Those kinds of things can certainly happen in our spiritual lives. We can have some pretty adolescent tendencies if we aren’t careful to stay faithful in our intake of & obedience to God’s Word, faithful in prayer, & faithful to the Body of Christ.

 

This stage also has some REAL CONTRASTS. As we look back at 2 Tim. 2:22, we see some contrasts in what Paul was encouraging Timothy to do:

First Contrast: “Flee” contrasted w/ “Pursue.” Gk word for “flee” means to “run away, escape, avoid danger, avoid, elude.” Gk word for “pursue” means to “follow in haste, press forward, to do something w/ an intense effort toward a goal.”

Second Contrast: “Evil desires of youth” contrasted w/ “righteousness, faith, love, & peace.” Already seen that Paul was reminding Timothy to avoid immature response to others through impatience, partiality, intolerance, & self-assertion. He contrasts that w/ the opposite attitudes that Timothy needed to go after:

  • “righteousness” – to be in a right relationship w/ God which keeps us from these evil desires.
  • “faith” – our foundational beliefs that inform & shape our lives
  • “love” – agape’ – unconditional love for God that moves us to love others
  • “peace” – harmony in our relationships w/ others.

 

But, there’s the opportunity for REAL CONSECRATION in this stage. To consecrate something means to set it apart for service, to dedicate & devote it for a Godly purpose.

  • Exodus 29:43-46 – “…[the Tent of Meeting] will be consecrated by my glory. So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting & the altar & will consecrate Aaron & his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites & be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”
  • Leviticus 20:7 – God said to Moses, “Consecrate yourselves & be holy, b/c I am the Lord your God.”

Consecration & holiness are the same thing. To live a holy life is to live a life that is set apart for the Lord, to serve Him, to be different from the world for the glory of God. And this is exactly what we as Christ-followers are called to live. Our lives are to be set apart for the purpose of worshiping & serving God.

  • 1 Peter 1:13-17 – “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (NLT)

This adolescent stage of transition & change can be an awesome opportunity to make some serious, life-changing decisions to live out the rest of our days as a fully devoted follower of Christ. This is one of the main reasons that our youth ministry is SO IMPORTANT! Truly life-changing, direction-altering decisions are made during this years of upheaval & transition.

But it’s not just for the teenagers. It’s for all of us! Holiness is not just behavior modification through willpower; it’s a heart transformation that leads to a lifestyle that glorifies God through the power of the Holy Spirit. The moments of questions, challenges, upheavals & struggles in our lives are tremendous opportunities for us to submit ourselves to God in a fresh, new way.