Sermon notes from 11/27/16 – “U-Turn”

“U-TURN”                                          Matt. 4:12-17

 INTRO – Wabush is a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada. It was completely isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only on one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave—by turning around.

Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out–a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, there’s no way out of town. We are stuck, trapped in that town called Sin if we willingly choose not to get on the road that God has provided.

The Greek word here for “repent” is metanoeo, & it means to change one’s life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness[1]. It’s a word that most folks don’t want to hear. Most of the time, when they see it, it’s on a sign like this: (slide). Or when they hear it, it’s from a street preacher standing on a street corner. It is unbelievable what happens when you tell someone that they need to repent, that they have to change their way of life, their way of thinking, their perspective & their beliefs. I’ve watched numerous videos of street preachers all over the United States. Many times, they are assaulted, arrested, spit on, screamed at, pushed around, & abused. Watched one this week where a very mild-mannered preacher was standing on a sidewalk in Houston, TX, during a Gay Pride event. A very aggressive homosexual man stood in his face for 15 solid minutes & screamed at him, w/ every other word being the vilest, most offensive profanity you’ve ever heard, accompanied by some of the lewdest, most obscene gestures you’ve ever seen. Why? All b/c the preacher was simply preaching the same word that Jesus used here – REPENT. Granted, I don’t always agree w/ the street preacher’s methodology, although this preacher was staying incredibly calm as he continued to just consistently & sincerely preach the Gospel. But the point is that the message of the word REPENT is extremely offensive to those who are mired in sin. It simply means turn away from sin & turn to God. And it’s for lost people AND for saved people!

So what is the U-turn of repentance?

 

It’s a U-turn out of darkness – v. 16a – We are now officially in the Christmas season. Thanksgiving has happened, Black Friday has happened, & we are 4 days away from December this Thu. In fact, on Thu. evening at 6:00, the THS choir will be having their Christmas program here in our worship center. Invite you to come & welcome folks into our church. Great way to touch our community, & a great way to usher in the Christmas season.

These words we find in v. 16 are from one of the prophetic passages in Isaiah that foretold the coming Messiah. Let’s read them together. Turn to Isa. 9:2-7 (pg. 481 in the pew Bible).

God’s chosen people, Israel, were in trouble. They had turned away from God & are the “people living in darkness” that Isaiah talked about. Look at how Isaiah describes them in Isa. 8:21-22. When you turn to the darkness of disobedience, your life will definitely be characterized by distress & anguish.

Jesus came as the Messiah for all people, starting w/ the Jews. He came as the “Light of the world” as He said in John 8:12. He came to lead people out of darkness, out of disobedience, & out of distress, & into the light of spiritual freedom that ONLY He can bring.

Let’s think about this: WHAT HAPPENS IN DARKNESS?

  • Injury
  • Danger
  • Confusion
  • Lostness

But eventually, our eyes grow accustomed to the dark & it doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Same true w/ sin – we eventually grow accustomed to it. In fact, Jesus said in John 3:19 that men loved darkness better than light b/c their deeds were evil. In spite of the inherent dangers in the darkness, people would rather stay there than come into the light. They don’t want their deeds exposed. They don’t want the reality of their sinfulness exposed. They don’t want to have to take an honest look at their own lives & see the putrid garbage that is there. That’s one of the reasons that people recoil so much when someone tells them that they need to repent. In their spiritual ignorance & rebellion, they love the darkness & want to stay there.

 

It’s a U-turn out of death – v. 16b – Sin = death. The Bible is very clear about this. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, we see that sin brought death into the world. When Adam & Eve sinned, their sinless innocence died; their perfect fellowship w/ God died; their pain-free life died; an animal died to cover their nakedness. Soon after that, death came into their family when their son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel.

  • Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death…”
  • John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
  • Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
  • James 1:15 – Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death.”

Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson: “We were all involved in guilt; none of us could plead, ‘not guilty.’ Being guilty, we lay under a sentence of death.”

Sin always brings death! But, thank God, when we repent, that U-turn leads us out of death into life.

 

It’s a U-turn out of drought (revival) – Drought – something USED to be alive, but b/c of a lack of water, it is drying up & withering away. Deer hunters’ food plots aren’t coming up. Went to TN at what was supposed to be peak time for color. Trees had gone from green to brown. MS & others states are suffering from severe drought conditions. Drought conditions threaten way of life for many people. Great danger of devastating fires in these conditions. So many bad things can happen during drought conditions.

Spiritually, all of us can experience, & HAVE experienced times of spiritual drought – those times of spiritual dryness when our passion for the Lord is running low & our commitment to Him & His work is faltering. Our heart feel like it’s filled w/ lead weights. Our spirit feels empty. Our soul feels like there are tumbleweeds blowing through it b/c it’s so dry.

David had times of spiritual drought:

  • Psalm 13:1 – “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
  • Psalm 63:1 – “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry & weary land where there is no water.”
  • Other psalmist wrote in Ps. 42:3 – “My tears have been my food day & night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’”

What causes the spiritual drought conditions in our lives? Let me offer a few for your consideration:

  • Unchecked lust
  • Love of money & material possessions
  • Pride & arrogance
  • Gossip
  • Deep-seated bitterness
  • Inconsistent or nonexistent quiet time
  • Inconsistent or nonexistent service to God
  • Living a no-risk life – in other words, a no-faith life

Jesus’ remedy for spiritual drought? Matt. 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary & heavy-laden, & I will give you rest.”

[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sermon notes – 11/20/16 – “Thanks Be to God!”

“THANKS BE TO GOD!”                              2 Cor. 9:15

 INTRO – Everybody get out phone. Think of one person that you are thankful for & send them a text right now. Got that person in mind? Go!

Aren’t you thankful for Thanksgiving? Aren’t you thankful that we have so much for which to be thankful? We, as children of God, ought to be the most thankful, thanks-filled people in the world. I love what one writer said: “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’” (William Ward)

The title of the sermon today is, “Thanks Be to God.” I simply want us to spend this time together around the Word of God, pondering, meditating on, & rejoicing in some of the things that we can be thankful for as children of God. Certainly, we could spend the entire day & on into tomorrow just naming things that we are thankful for, &, even then, we wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. But, let’s get going this morning & focus on 5 important items that should cause us to say, “Thanks be to God!”

 

Thanks Be to God…

 

…for His Provision – Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth was written in the midst of a difficult season in Paul’s relationship w/ the Corinthians. Some false teachers had begun infiltrating the church, & the only way they could get a foothold in the church was to attempt to discredit Paul. So they viciously attacked his credibility & character to try to persuade people to turn away from Paul & from the true Gospel that he had preached to them, & turn to the false gospel they were attempting to spread. How many of you know that sometimes, the only way folks can build themselves up is to tear others down? Essentially, that’s what was going on here.

One would think that it would be hard to find anything to be thankful for in a time like this. But, Paul’s God was much bigger than these difficult circumstances, & certainly much bigger than these puny false teachers. God was still at work in the hearts of the Christ-followers in Corinth, & many of them had rejected the false teachers, repented of their rebellion against Paul, & were supporting him in his mission work. And Paul gave thanks to God for His provision through the Corinthian believers – v. 11-12.

 

Friends, can I tell you that our God is a providing God?

  • His provisions are plenteous – Ps. 50:10 tells us that God owns that cattle on a thousand hills – EVERYTHING in all creation belongs to Him, meaning His provisions are eternally plenteous!
  • His provisions are promised – This verse means SO much to me – Phil. 4:19 – “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Daddy: “The Lord will provide.”
  • His provisions are purposeful – to cause us to trust Him more & more. To increase our faith in Him. – Prov. 3:5-6

 

…for Participation in His Work – If there was anything that Paul was thankful for, it was that Jesus had saved him & given him the unbelievable, undeserved, unmerited privilege of participating in the work of the Gospel.

In Acts 9, Paul, whose name was Saul at that time, encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. When he met Jesus, he was on his way to persecute Christians. After he met Jesus, he was on his way to proclaim the Gospel. Paul never got over the amazing fact that Jesus had saved him. And he never got over the amazing privilege that he got to share the Gospel, even when he was persecuted b/c of it, & even when it eventually cost him his life. Think about what Paul was saying in v. 15, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” There just aren’t enough words to say thank you to God for the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone. It’s an inexpressible, incomprehensible, incredible gift that is given to anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior & Lord.

And b/c that gift is so great, our response should be to gladly, obediently participate in the work of spreading the Gospel. Thanks be to God that He allows us to do this!

  • Matthew 28:19-20
  • Acts 1:8
  • 2 Timothy 2:2

 

…for His Promises – My goodness! Where do we start w/ this? Paul definitely understood the power of the promises of God in the life of the Christ-follower. Just look at all these promises! Listen to these promises from some of Paul’s letter:

  • Already mentioned one powerful promise from God – Philippians 4:19. How about Philippians 4:13
  • Romans 10:9, 13
  • 1 Cor. 15:51-52
  • 2 Cor. 5:17
  • Galatians 5:16; 6:9
  • Ephesians 1:13-14; 3:20
  • Philippians 4:7
  • Colossians 1:13-14
  • 1 Thess. 5:9
  • 2 Thess. 1:9 – “[Those who don’t know Christ] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord & from the glory of His might.”
  • 1 Tim. 2:5-6
  • 2 Tim. 1:7
  • Titus 2:11

Thanks be to God for ALL of these promises that are made to US, His children! They appear to us in the Word of God; they have been appropriated to us by the blood of Christ; & they are applied to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

…for the Possibilities – WOW! When you seriously consider the faithful provision of God for His children, & the joy of participating w/ Him in His work of salvation, & the incredible promises that He makes just here in the letters of Paul (not to mention all the rest of Scripture, you can begin to see the possibilities that we have RIGHT NOW b/c of who He is & what He has said & done. As Jesus said in Matt. 19:26, “With God, all things are possible.”

Do we really believe that today? Have we become so jaded w/ all the trouble in our lives & in our world today that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God? Have we let the enemy steal our joy to the point that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God? Have we drifted so far away from God that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God?

Then let’s move to the last “thanks be to God” item:

 

…for Prayer – Not just any prayer, but earth-shaking, life-altering powerful prayer! Prayer that is filled w/ faith, filled w/ the Spirit, filled w/ passion, filled w/ fervency, filled w/ truth. Urgent prayer! Desperate prayer! Intentional prayer! Focused prayer! When God’s people get serious about praying, things happen as God begins to move. E.M. Bounds: “Prayer is God’s plan to supply man’s great & continuous need w/ God’s great & continuous abundance.” Billy Graham: “Prayer is the rope that pulls God & man together. But, it doesn’t pull God down to us: It pulls us up to Him.”

Have Deacons stand all across worship center to lead small group prayer time.

  • Look at the worship communicator. See that budget deficit? How many of you believe that God can take care of that if we pray about it? So, let’s do it! Let’s stop right now & all pray about that specific need in our church.
  • Look at this worship center. See the empty pews? How many of you believe that God can fill this place up if we pray about it? So let’s do it! Let’s stop right now & all pray about that specific need in our church.
  • NOW: Look at your life? See the deficits in YOUR life? See the emptiness in YOUR life? How many of you believe that God can take care of your deficits & fill your emptiness if we pray about it? So, let’s do it!

Sermon notes from 10/2/16 – “It’s Not MY Righteousness”

“IT’S NOT MY RIGHTEOUSNESS”                          Phil. 3:7-11

 INTRO – Let me start this morning by jumping right into this passage. Philippians is an awesome little book in the NT. It’s a letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian believers to encourage them in their walk w/ Christ, to challenge them to be a unified body of believers, & to thank them for their generosity in providing a monetary gift in support of his ministry. He was in prison in Rome when he wrote this little letter, probably somewhere around AD 60.

Right here in the middle of the letter, he issued a stern warning to them to “look out for the dogs…the evildoers…for those who mutilate the flesh” (v. 2). The people that he was referring to were false teachers, Jews who taught that salvation came through keeping the requirements of the Law, symbolized by circumcision, which is what he was referring to w/ the mutilation of the flesh comment. Calling them “dogs” was an especially strong comment. Dogs were not viewed in the same way in their world as they are in our world. You would never see this or this or this in that day & time (slides). Dogs were hated & for Paul to call them dogs was to say that they were a ravenous pack of religious scavengers.

These false teachers were pompously emphasizing all their religious accomplishments & credentials. It was all about THEIR righteousness, or, at least, their ATTEMPTS at being righteous. Their confidence was in their “flesh” (v. 3) & in their legalistic keeping of the Law. Paul took just a minute to make it clear that if anyone had bragging rights & confidence in their flesh, he did! He had it all – circumcised according to the Law, born in the tribe of Benjamin, a devout Pharisee, & a faithful adherent to the OT Law. Paul was the man when it came to Jewish Law requirements!

“BUT” – When Jesus came into his life, everything changed b/c Jesus is in the transformation business! Let me give you 4 quick points about this transformation that happened in Paul’s life:

 

The Greatness – v. 7-8a – There is simply nothing better or greater than knowing Jesus! Everything that Paul COULD have rightly bragged about, he put in the loss column. There was simply nothing that can compare w/ knowing “Christ Jesus my Lord.” Not just knowing facts, but knowing Him personally, intimately, passionately. Wesley when he got saved: “Feel like such a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!” The surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus means that, no matter what the circumstances of your life are, having Him in your life makes all the difference!

  • Vicki’s cousin, David Smith. Diagnosed w/ cancer. Began to ravage his body. Evident that he was not going to be alive much longer. His goal was to make sure that every person who came into that hospital room heard about Christ before he breathed his last breath.

 

The Garbage – v. 8b – Paul takes it up a notch here in the next part of v. 8. Not only are all those religious accomplishments in the loss column, he said that they are nothing more than garbage. Or to put it more literally & more graphically, he considered them to be “skubalon,” or dung, or human excrement. Yes, that’s right – Paul said that all of his accomplishments were nothing more than a pile of stinking ________ – you fill in the blank. When you compare all the “good” things we try to do w/ the “great” thing of knowing Jesus, our good stuff just stinks!

 

The Gain – v. 8b-9 – Against that explicit backdrop, Paul exclaims that he has let all of that old stuff go so that he might “gain Christ & be found in Him.” The greatest gain anyone can incur is the gain of the knowing Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord. The greatest place that anyone can be is to “IN” Christ. Our salvation is not based on our performance; it’s based on His promised gift of eternal life! Let me illustrate it this way: Take a single piece of paper & a book. Open the book up & place the piece of paper right in the middle of the book, then close the book. The paper represents your life & the book is Jesus. You’re not just close to Jesus, or beside Jesus. You are “in” Christ. That’s what salvation is. When you close that book w/ the paper in it, you can’t see the paper – you can only see the book. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you; He sees Christ. He doesn’t see YOUR righteousness; He sees Christ’s righteousness!

Let’s take the truth of “righteousness” apart a little bit right here. There are 2 facets of righteousness that are important for us to know:

 

EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We ARE righteous.” – To be righteous simply means to be right w/ God. That doesn’t come by our good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone for our salvation. On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness, so that one day, when we stand before the Lord, He will not see our sin, but only the perfect, holy righteousness of Christ! As the sermon title says, “It’s Not MY Righteousness!” When we place our faith in Christ alone for our salvation, we are MADE righteous, & it’s an everlasting righteousness! His righteousness is credited to us, imputed to us, placed on our account by the grace of God. We are accepted by God as righteousness, not based on what WE have done, but based on what CHRIST has done FOR us!

  • 2 Cor. 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • (Baptism robe) God wraps us in the robe of His righteousness – Isa. 61:10 – “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation & draped me in a robe of righteousness.” (NLT) And that robe will never come off!

 

EVERYDAY RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We LIVE righteously.” – As a result of our being MADE everlastingly righteous w/ the righteousness of Christ, our lives will reflect that righteousness in how we live. In other words, His everlasting righteousness will be seen in our everyday righteousness.

  • 1 John 3:7 – “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”
  • 1 John 3:10 – “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

When I put this robe on, it usually means that I’m about to baptize someone. That’s the purpose of this robe. I wouldn’t go play football in it, or wear it to go deer hunting. I wear it for a reason.

Listen: You & wear Christ’s righteousness for a reason – 2 to be exact:

  • The preeminent reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is to MAKE us right w/ God.
  • The practical reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is so that we might show Him to the world. As 1 Peter 2:9 says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (AMP)

Which leads to the final point:

 

The Growth – v. 10-11 – Paul’s desire was to “know Christ…becoming like Him in His death…” The Christian life is a life of progressing in knowing Christ, in becoming more & more like Him. When you are “IN” Him, you’ll want to know Him & become more like Him. Look at how Paul continued this thought in v. 12-14. If you don’t have a passion for that in your life, you may not truly be “in” Him. You may not be saved. Or if you are saved, you’re not in fellowship w/ Him like you should be or could be.

The goal of our life as a Christ-follower is simple: to grow to be more like Jesus. I want to BECOME more like Him. I’m not there yet, but I want to become more like Him. John Newton, the pastor who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace” in the 1700’s, said this: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

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)