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  • Rom. 11:29 – “…God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.”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.

“When I Was a Child…” – Sermon notes from 6/12/16

“WHEN I WAS A CHILD…”             1 Cor. 13:11; 1 John 3:1-3

 INTRO – There are several different places in Scripture where we are referred to as “children” in our eternal relationship to God, our Father:

  • Deuteronomy 14:1 – “You are children of the Lord your God…”
  • John 1:12 – “Yet to all who received, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
  • Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself testifies w/ our spirit that we are God’s children…”
  • Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, & live a life of love, just as Christ loved us & gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering & sacrifice to God.”
  • Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…”
  • 1 John 3:1-2
  • 1 John 3:10 – “This is how we know who the children of God are & who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
  • 1 John 5:19 – “We know that we are children of God, & the whole world lies under the control of the evil one.”

All of us who are born again are children of God, no matter what stage of maturity we are in. Someone once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on” (Carl Sandburg). It is such a privilege & honor to be a child of God. It’s a gift of His grace that none of us should ever take lightly. Whether we’ve been a child of God for a week or for 40 years, it should be something that we rejoice in every day. In fact, the longer we are saved, the more we come to understand what a gift it truly is. As the old hymn says, “Every day w/ Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”

Only those who are born again are God’s children. Some people like to say, “All of us are God’s children.” That’s simply not true. We are all God’s CREATION, but only those who are born again are His children. God’s creation knows ABOUT God; God’s children KNOW God personally & intimately.

What do we mean when we refer to the “childhood” stage of the Christian life? While all of us who are Christ-followers are children of God, those who are in the childhood stage are those who have progressed further than the infancy stage that we talked about last week. God never intends for His children to remain as spiritual babies in the infancy stage of life. Immaturity in our faith is simply NOT God’s will for our lives. He expects us to continue to progress & mature in our Christian lives, growing up in our faith, becoming strong, mature believers. We know that we will never get to the place of total maturity in our spiritual lives. In fact, one of the evidences of spiritual maturity is an ever-deepening understanding & appreciation of our complete dependence upon the Lord. But, we also realize that, as long as we are alive, we need to be growing stronger & deeper in our faith, striving to be complete in our walk w/ Christ. The childhood stage is that stage of wonder & discovery in our walk w/ Christ as we begin to mature.

In our physical lives, the time span between infancy & mature adulthood is a matter of decades. A baby doesn’t become an adult overnight, or over the course of a few days, weeks, or months. It’s a process of gradual growth. In fact, if a child matures too fast, it can be dangerous, or even fatal. Medical condition called progeria, is an abnormality that is characterized by premature & rapid aging. Child in their teen years looks like an elderly person. Most progeria patients don’t live past their teen years.

Some Christians suffer from a spiritual progeria – they look more mature than they are in their spiritual lives. May attend church regularly, may be in a Life Group, may serve in some capacity in the church. From the outside, it looks as though they’re mature. But inwardly, they’re still stuck in an immature childish state. And, like a child, when they’re put under pressure, their response is going to be an immature response. They may lash out. They may revert back into a pattern of sin. They may go into a state of denial. Spiritual growth & maturity is an inside-out growth process. In our spiritual lives, the growth process is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is true that at the very moment you are born again, you are adopted into the family of God w/ all the rights, privileges, & inheritance of any other member of the family of God. In other words, the 7 yr.-old boy who gets saved at VBS this month is just as saved as the 70 yr.-old man who has been a Christian for over 60 years.

  • Both have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
  • Both have been raised up w/ Christ & seated w/ Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6).
  • Both of them have an eternal inheritance that is being kept in heaven for them (1 Pet. 1:4).
  • Both are completely saved, completely secure, completely safe in the grip of God where no one can snatch them out (John 10:28-29).
  • Both of them need to be maturing & growing in their relationship w/ the Lord.

 

As a believer grows in his/her walk w/ Christ, they enter into this childhood stage. Paul said in 1 Cor. 13, that when he was a child, he “talked like a child, thought like a child, & reasoned like a child.” There’s nothing wrong w/ being a child & being childlike in our faith. It’s an important stage in our spiritual growth. Jesus said in Mt. 18:3 – “I tell you the truth, unless you change & become like little children, you will never enter the k’dom of heaven.” But Paul clearly said in 1 Cor. 13:11, “…When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Childlikeness is accepted in the Christian life – Childishness is not.

Specifics of this stage:

Beginning to grow in spiritual understanding – As the child of God begins to move out of the infancy stage, taking in more & more milk & nourishment of the word of God, the Holy Spirit continues to do His work of teaching & revealing the truths of God.

Beginning to appreciate the love of the Father more – One of the absolute foundational truths that all of us need to know is that God loves us. One pastor said this: “The one thing that the Bible emphasizes more than us loving God and people is that God loves us. He loves us first and most. God isn’t in heaven plucking a daisy saying, “I love you” when you obey and “I love you not” when you sin. He cannot not love you.” (http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/151028-10-things-a-new-christian-should-know-to-grow.html)

  • 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this…”
  • 1 John 4:19 – “We love b/c He 1st loved us.”

Beginning to realize significance of the FAMILY of God – As Christians begin to grow in their faith, they begin to realize that there is more to the Church than just a building where they gather to worship. Having the family of God around them to encourage & walk w/ them as they take baby steps in their faith is so important & so wonderful.

 

Struggles of this stage:

Vulnerability – Temptations abound for all of us, no matter what stage of maturity we are in. But the vulnerability level for Christians in the childhood stage is extremely high.

Naiveté – “Wow! I can’t wait to be around all those Christians. It’s going to be so wonderful b/c then I won’t have to deal w/any mess.”

Discouragement when comparing to others – This is a very effective tactic of the enemy.

 

Strengths of this stage:

Spontaneity – What’s some of the crazy things you did as a kid that you would never consider doing as an adult? FB poll yesterday! Wow!

Willing to take risks – Peter walking on water – David facing Goliath – The disciples leaving their jobs & families to follow Jesus –

Simplicity of faith – While the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us to have “childlike faith” in those exact words, we do see Jesus speaking to this in Matt. 18. “A humble, unpretentious faith could rightly be called a “childlike faith.” When Jesus wanted to bless the children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14–15). How does a child receive a gift? With openness, honesty, and unbridled joy. That type of happy authenticity should be a hallmark of our faith as we receive God’s gift in Christ.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/childlike-faith.html)

 

Childlike faith is:

  • Humble faith
  • Honest faith
  • Taking God at His Word
  • Powerful faith

“The cross looks bright tonight.”

One night recently, my friend, Tomm, & I were hanging out at the pavilion behind our church, just enjoying some good Christian fellowship & prayer time. At the back of our church’s property, there is a large white cross situated on a wood-line about 200 yards or so from the pavilion where we were seated. The cross was constructed by one of our church members, who painted it in reflective white paint, & installed solar-charged lights on it that cause it to be illuminated when the sun goes down. So, as it gets darker, the cross gets brighter.

As Tomm & I sat at the pavilion, I suddenly realized how bright the cross was against the trees at the back of the field. I tried to take a picture of it with my phone, but the long distance, compounded by the darkness didn’t make for a very clear shot. But you get an idea of what we saw.Cross pic

At that point, I made a simple statement: “Boy, the cross looks bright tonight.” But, as soon as I said it, Tomm & I both paused, quietly realizing the implications of those 6 little words.

The thing that made the cross so bright was the depth of the darkness that surrounded it. And how true that is in our world today!

As our world continues to be enveloped in the darkness of sin, the only thing that can dispel that darkness is the message of the cross – that Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world, the only answer for our problem of sin, the only cure for our deadly disease of sin, the only Master over the slavery of sin, the only way out of the trap of sin. This message is a message of Good News. It’s a message of life change. It’s a message of overwhelming love, overwhelming mercy, overwhelming grace, given by a God who is overwhelmingly concerned with His glory being the focus of our lives. Driven by His love for us, God sent His one-&-only, one-of-a-kind Son to come into this dark world & bring the light of the Gospel to us through His own life, death, & resurrection (Ephesians 2:4-5).

So, Christ-follower, don’t lose heart! It’s so easy for us to let the weight of the darkness bring a heaviness & discouragement to our faith. But, remember that the darker our world gets, the brighter the cross shines! And that bright cross ALWAYS points to JESUS, the Light of the world!

Question: How bright is the cross shining in YOUR life?

 

(Thanks for building & donating the cross, Larry!)

Sermon Notes from 5/29/16 – “Never Forget!”

“NEVER FORGET!”                                      Philippians 1:3

 INTRO – America is in trouble. There’s no doubt about that, no debate about that, no denying that. Everywhere you look, there are signs of decay & decline in morality & purity. So many of the things that made our nation great are either going away or they’re gone completely.

  • Marriages & families are disintegrating.
  • Biblical values are ridiculed & Christians are being ostracized more & more in every arena of our society – the political arena, the business arena, the education arena, the sports arena, & others.
  • Entire denominations that, at one time were filled w/ evangelistic passion & fervor, are now succumbing to unbiblical beliefs regarding homosexuality & bisexuality.
  • Freedom is being trampled.
  • The government is in shambles.
  • The upcoming Presidential election is frightening, to say the least.
  • Racism is growing.
  • Islam is growing.
  • Violence is growing.
  • Abuse of all kinds is growing.
  • Addictions of all kinds are growing.
  • Immorality of all kinds is growing.
    • Who would have ever thought that we would actually have discussions about whether or not we ought to let boys & men use the ladies room, & girls & women use the men’s room? Who would have ever thought that our government – the government of the USA – “one nation under God” – would have ever sent down a memo to all public schools to let students choose which restroom & locker room they felt most comfortable in?
  • And while all of those things are growing, church attendance is declining.
    • Thom Rainer gave 7 reasons why churches are in decline:
      • “Cultural Christians” no longer see the need to attend church. Church attendance no longer seen as necessary for acceptance in the community.
      • Church members attending less frequently. 30 yrs ago, a committed church member attended 3 times a week. Now we consider someone an active church member if they attend 3 times a month.
      • Expectations are lower for church members. If we expect little of church members, that’s exactly what we’ll get.
      • Insufficient emphasis on groups.
      • Inward focus. “Me” focused instead of “them” focused. “Me” focused churches are on the way to decline.
      • No clearly defined discipleship process.
      • No strategic plans for multiple campuses or multiple venues.

(http://thomrainer.com/2015/07/seven-key-reasons-your-church-attendance-may-be-declining/)

Our nation’s decline is inextricably linked to the decline of our churches in America. Both go hand in hand. We need to be deeply concerned about both. Freedom is never free, whether it’s our freedom as American citizens, or our spiritual freedom as children of God. A huge price had to be paid for our freedom. And throughout the 240 years of our nation’s existence, there have been men & women who have fought for & died for the freedoms that we enjoy right now – freedoms that are now under attack & are slowly being taken away from us. Memorial Day is a time for us to remember those who gave the greatest sacrifice defending our freedom – their very lives. We must never forget them. We must not let our children & our grandchildren forget them. We need to teach our children & grandchildren that there have been some truly evil people in the world who’ve done terrible things to others, & that many men & women in our nation’s military forces did the right thing & went to stop those evil people.

  • They went to stop Hitler & the Nazis, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Isis, Al-Qaeda, & other enemies of freedom.
  • And thousands of them didn’t come back home alive. And as Paul said when he wrote to the Philippians, we need to thank God every time we remember them, every time we see an American flag, every time we sing the national anthem, every time we pass a service person in an airport, or a restaurant, or grocery store.

As important as our military forces are to our nation’s freedom & security, they are not the answer to all the struggles & problems we are facing as a nation. The answers are found, as we look further into Phil. 1.

THE LIFELINE OF PRAYER – v. 4, 9-11 – Paul helped start this church in Philippi when he led a woman named Lydia to faith in Christ. She opened her home up to him & Silas & the church was probably born out of the group that met there. Philippi was also the place where the jailer & his family came to know Christ after Paul & Silas kept him from killing himself & witnessed to him in the jail.

So Paul had deep feelings for this church family. He had had some wonderful experiences with them & see God do some cool things in their midst. But here he is, stuck in prison in Rome, thanks to Nero, longing to see them again. And yet, he can still touch them in a powerful way through the amazing gift of prayer.

Prayer is our lifeline. It keeps us connected to God & it keeps us connected to others. It brings joy to our lives when we lift others up in prayer (v. 4). It changes us as it changes others lives when we pray. Look at what Paul prayed for the Philippian believers:

  • That their love would abound more & more in knowledge & insight (v. 9);
  • That the would be able to discern what it best (v. 10a);
  • That they would live pure & blameless lives until Jesus returns (v. 10b);
  • That they will be filled w/ the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ (v. 11)

God has ordained prayer as one of His means of bringing about His will on earth. And since it’s His will that people be saved & their lives dedicated to Him, we definitely need to be praying for our nation, that those who are lost will turn to Him, that those who are saved will live sold-out lives to Him, that the Church will wake up from its slumber & get busy spreading the Gospel in every neighborhood, every town, every city, every county, every state, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, from the eastern seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. We need to be praying for our nation!

THE LIFE-CHANGING GOSPEL – v. 5,7 – Paul was so thankful for the partnership of the Philippians in the spread of the Gospel. They had supported him financially & through their prayers, & it meant the world to him. They & he knew w/our a shadow of a doubt that the Gospel is the ONLY thing that will truly change someone’s life! That’s why Paul was willing to be “in chains” for the Gospel. That’s why he tenaciously defended the Gospel. That’s why he confirmed & verified that the Gospel is true; that it is the message of the love of God for a lost & dying world. And this is the ONLY message that will change our nation’s course, one life at a time.

  • FAITH
  • Mission Byram
  • Country Oaks
  • Southside Terrace
  • Evangelism bracelets
  • New Orleans
  • Montana
  • VBS

We can keep griping & complaining about all the troubles in our nation right now – crime in Jackson, drugs, government leaders we don’t like, gay marriage, the bathroom issue, abortion, how these folks or those folks are the reason things are so bad, how we wish we could go back to the “good old days.” We can post all the posts on FB we want to that bash this person or that person, or this political party or that political party, or this group or that group, & think that we have really done something & put them in their place. Only problem is – I don’t find Jesus telling us to do that. What I DO find Him telling us to do is to go & make disciples, to be His witnesses in Jerusalem…, to partner up w/ others who love the Lord & take the Gospel into our community & our nation. I’m not saying that we lie down & let others run over us & run down our Savior. But what I am simply saying is this: TELL OTHERS ABOUT JESUS, CHURCH – PERIOD! Get out there & do it! Quit letting the Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses outdo us! They’re telling lies & spreading a false Gospel while we are sitting in our recliners on our iPhones posting more anti-Obama & anti-Hillary memes – & lost people are continually going to hell! Only the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ will change our nation! And the only way it gets out there is if you & I take it out there!

THE LIFE CONNECTIONS IN THE CHURCH – v. 4, 8 – Can’t you feel the love that Paul had for his brothers & sisters in the Philippian Church? He longed to see them again, to fellowship w/ them, to share the deep love that only brothers & sisters in Christ can share.

There is something powerful about the life connections that happen within the Church. That’s one of the reasons why mission trips are so wonderful. Deep connections made w/ your fellow brothers & sisters in Christ as you labor together for the Gospel. But don’t have to go to Honduras or other foreign country. Labor together right here for the Gospel in many different ways.

And, even if our nation continues to decline & eventually implodes, the “gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church! We must stand together, on the Gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, covered in the blood of Jesus Christ, for the glory of God!

“It’s Not a Salvation Issue”

There are 2 essential spiritual disciplines that every Christ-follower needs to practice on a consistent basis: Bible intake & prayer. One of the things that’s important when we are reading the Bible each day is that we make sure that we get the CONTEXT of the verses. Here’s a statement about that from a good article I found (I encourage you to read the whole article, too):

● “Context. You can answer 75 percent of your questions about a passage when you read the text. Reading the text involves looking at the near context (the verse immediately before and after) as well as the far context (the paragraph or the chapter that precedes and/or follows the passage you’re studying).” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/tips/3-simple-steps-for-studying-the-bible.html)

For instance, in a reading plan that our church is doing right now called READ-PRAY-OBEY, the verses for today are Matthew 10:32-33.  These are pretty familiar words of Jesus that say, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”  Let’s think about those verses in context. We see that the context is that of Jesus sending out His 12 disciples to do His work, & the fact that they were going to experience persecution & difficulty in their lives as they served Him. We have to keep that in mind as we are interpreting these verses.

The context tells us that Jesus is not talking about a person’s salvation here. I’ve heard pastors & evangelists (I hope I haven’t said it!) use these verses to say something like, “You need to walk that aisle & come down here & be saved, b/c Jesus said, ‘Whoever denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father,’ & you don’t want Jesus to do that to YOU! So walk that aisle so He won’t deny you before the Father.”

That’s NOT what Jesus is talking about here. If He was saying that our salvation hinges on our confessing Him before men & not denying Him, then I guess Peter didn’t make it to heaven! (Remember Peter denying Jesus 3 times during Jesus’ arrest & trial?) Jesus was saying that if our confession (homologeo – to say the same thing; to agree) of Him is true & strong, then we will confess Him before others, even when the persecution is strong – i.e., our walk will match our talk.

  • We will show to others that we are His disciples, just as these guys in this passage were showing that they were His disciples (remember – CONTEXT!).
  • We won’t be afraid b/c He has already said that we don’t need to fear b/c our Father will take care of us.
  • We won’t be ashamed of Him & draw back from telling others about Him when we have the opportunity.
  • It’s an issue of discipleship & rewards, not salvation & eternal life. We are saved & receive the gift of eternal life when we believe on Christ alone for our salvation (there are a TON of verses that speak to that truth!). We receive our rewards in heaven for living for Him, confessing & acknowledging Him before men as much as possible.

David Nasser once said, “Every moment, every word, every choice is a deposit either heavenly or earthly.” When we are faithfully living for Christ out of our love for Him & our desire to honor & glorify Him, we are making some serious deposits in our heavenly rewards account!