Sermon notes from 11/26/17 – “Give Thanks for These Things”

“GIVE THANKS FOR THESE THINGS”                 Ps. 130:1-5

INTRO – How many of you ate turkey sometime this past week? How many of you didn’t? 91% of Americans have turkey for Dinner. A bunch of them have Butterball Turkeys. They have an online help page. Here are some of the entries on that page:

  • A woman in her seventies, cooking T’giving dinner for the first time, called for help b/c her mother said it was about time she learned how to prepare the T’giving meal.
  • A proud gentleman called to tell the staff how he wrapped his turkey in a towel, laid it in the floor and stomped on it to break the bones so it would fit in his pan.
  • Another gentleman called to tell the operator he cut his turkey in half with a chain saw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey.
  • A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat. After a conversation with a Talk-Line operator, it became apparent that the woman’s turkey was lying upside down.
  • One mom called in and told the Help Line operator about how her little girl had asked if they could slow-roast the turkey for three or four days because she liked how it made the house smell. The experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line told her that the turkey should only stay in the oven for a few hours and that it wasn’t a good idea to leave it cooking four days!
  • After discovering a turkey from 1969 in his dad’s freezer, a man called the Talk-Line at Butterball to ask about the best way to cook the 30+ year-old bird. Although the Talk-Line staffer recommended the open roasting pan method to cook most turkeys, but this time she suggested that the first step was to purchase a fresher fowl!
  • When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller: “What state is your turkey in” (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”

Today, I want us to think a little more about the importance of thankfulness in the life of a Christ-follower. In my big Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which is based on the KJV & which nearly every pastor & Bible teacher uses, I found this:

  • “thank” – 27 times
  • “thanked” – 3 times
  • “thankful” – 3 times
  • “thankfulness” – 1 time
  • “thanking” – 1 time
  • “thanks” – 72 times
  • “thanksgiving” – 28 times
  • “thanksgivings” – 2 times
  • “thankworthy” – 1 time

That’s at least 138 times that some form of a term for gratitude is used in Scripture. It just reminds us that there are SO many reasons for us to be thankful! Think about it: I preached on it last week; Pastor Joel Ekugwum preached on it Tue. night at Community T’giving Service; I’m preaching on it again today; & we STILL aren’t even scratching the surface of all the reasons we have as the people of God for being thankful. Let’s focus on 5 today from Psalm 130:1-5. Let’s read it in the NLT.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

We can certainly give thanks for these things:

 

Give thanks that God helps us in our despair – v. 1 – There are a multitude of things that can bring about despair in our lives.

  • Sickness
  • Death
  • Losses of all types

But the context of this Psalm is the despair that is caused by the sin in our lives. Whether you are still lost in your sin or are a saved child of God, sin will always bring us to a place of deep despair – ALWAYS! That despair is what drives us to God b/c:

  • He’s the only one who can take it away
  • He’s the only one who has a solution for it
  • He’s the only one who can rescue us when we are drowning in a sea of despair

We hear the despair in the prophet Isaiah’s voice when he got a glimpse of the holiness of God.

  • Isaiah 6:5 – “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 

We hear the despair in Nehemiah’s voice when he heard about the destruction of the walls around Jerusalem which was the consequences of sin.

  • Nehemiah 1:4-7 – When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.”

We hear the despair in Paul’s voice when he recognizes the sin in his own life.

  • Romans 7 – “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am!”

 

Give thanks that God hears us & pays attention to us – v. 2 – There’s nothing that WE can do about the despair that sin brings into our lives. WE have no remedy for it. WE are powerless against it. WE will be defeated by it. Oh, we TRY to fix it in any number of ways.

  • Try to ignore it
  • Pretend like it doesn’t affect us or apply to us
  • Attempt to replace it or cover it up
  • Just put on our fake smiles & our masks & come on to church

And yet, the despair of our sin continues to weigh us down, robbing us of joy, stealing our sleep, confusing our minds, & seeping into the lives of those around us, infecting them like a horrible virus.

Our ONLY hope is to cry out to the Lord, to the Forgiver of our sins & the Restorer of our lives. Someone once said, “Everyone prays, but very few cry.” No matter what you’ve done or how deep your guilt & despair is, cry out to the Lord. Be thankful that you can.

 

Give thanks that God does not keep a record of our sins – v. 3 – Back when I was youth minister at FBC, Brookhaven, I actually was put in jail for an expired DL. People have asked me since then, “So, do you have a record now?” I can assure you that I don’t.

But those who have committed crimes do have records. And those records follow them their entire lives, affecting their lives & the lives of their families in many different ways.

We can be thankful today that our God does not keep a record of our sins. If He did, then none of us could survive. None of us would have any hope of getting to heaven. If He did keep a record & if you started this day w/ a clean record, by the end of this day – or even by right now – you would already be guilty of a multitude of sins & the sentence of eternal death would already be pronounced against you.

Child of God, rejoice today & be thankful today that our God does not keep a record of our sins! The slate has been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus.

But to the one who is here today & is not saved, not a child of God, has never been born again, has never accepted Christ as their personal Lord & Savior, YOUR record of sin still stands! Every one of your sins is STILL on your record. God DOES still have your record of all of your sins. And the ONLY way to have the record wiped clean is to REPENT of your sins, to turn away from them, & come to Jesus to be saved today! Which leads to the next thing to be thankful for…

 

Give thanks that God forgives us of our sins – v. 4 – God offers forgiveness! What an offer! It’s an offer you must not refuse! He can & He will forgive us of all of our sins, casting them into the depths of the sea, remembering them no more.

And the Psalmist says that this forgiveness leads to fear. That sounds sort of strange. But listen to how one pastor explains it:

“It seems to me that when you stand before God, convicted and condemned, with the rope around your neck, and God pardons your sins, you then weep for joy, hate the evil which you’ve been forgiven, and live to the honor of the Redeemer by whose blood you’ve been cleansed. You fear God because you know that He had every reason to condemn you, but He did not. You do not fear His punishment now (1 John 4:18), but you do fear Him because you know that He rightly could have cast your body and soul into hell for all eternity (Matt. 10:28). His forgiveness does not make you flippant about your sin.” (Steven J. Cole, https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-130-out-depths)

The fear comes in when we realize what COULD have happened if we had not turned to Him in repentance. The fear comes in when we realize that it is only by His GRACE that we are saved & forgiven. If you don’t have this sense of fear, you probably aren’t saved. If you are flippant about your sin, you probably aren’t saved. If you don’t hate sin whenever it rears its ugly head in your life, you probably aren’t saved. If you’re not truly thankful that God forgives you of your sins, you’re not saved!

 

Give thanks that God gives us hope in His Word – v. 5 – We are thankful that we can count on the Lord. He will come through for us. He will forgive us when we turn to Him in brokenness & repentance. He will save us & set us free from the despair of our sin. And how do we know this? B/c of the unchanging, unalterable promises of His Word. We are thankful for His promises found in His Word.

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Sermon notes from 11/16/17 – “How to Say Thanks”

“HOW TO SAY THANKS”           Eph. 5:20

 INTRO – Tim sing, “My Tribute”

 Sounds you hear in church:

  • When you hear the preacher say something you really like, you say, “Amen!”
  • Get up & fellowship w/ each other – “Happy Thanksgiving!”
  • Gather in small groups around room – Someone pray a prayer of Thanksgiving out loud (start playing piano)
  • Sing “How Great is Our God”
  • Gunshots

 

HOW CAN WE SAY “THANKS” WHEN THE SOUNDS OF THE WORLD INVADE THE CHURCH?

  • With our LIPS
  • With our LIFE
  • With our LOVE – Love God, love Others, love Enemies

 

WE SAY “THANKS” BY GIVING THANKS: Giving thanks is the grateful acknowledgment of the blessings that God has given to us.

  • Involves recognizing & accepting His blessings.
    • Lee Cope beach house – It was an unexpected blessing from God for Lee to gift a week at their beach house to Vicki & me for my sabbatical.

WE NEED TO GIVE THANKS (Eph. 5:20):

 ALL THE TIME – “always”

  • Pray w/out ceasing – Ought to give thanks to God w/out ceasing
  • Covers every situation
    • Before situation on basis of promises
    • During situation
      • Paul in prison when writing this letter
    • After situation is over

 

IN ALL THINGS – “for everything”

  • Covers things which appear to be good or bad
    • Easy to be grateful for good things
    • Hard to be grateful for the bad things
      • Can’t see obvious evidence of God’s hand & God’s plan in midst of bad things
      • Building our trust – Deepening our faith & dependence on Him – Making us more like Jesus
    • Think about Daddy & his battle w/ Alzheimer’s
      • Called Mama at 6AM on Dec. 20 – “Daddy died peacefully around 3:00.”
      • Laid back down in bed beside Vicki. All I could say was, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.”

 

TO THE AUTHOR OF OUR SALVATION – “God, the Father”

  • Salvation is God’s plan. He set it in place before the foundation of the world.
    • He’s the source of everything
      • Blesses us w/ every good thing – (James 1:17 – “Every good & perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”)
      • Allows the bad things – (James 1:2-3 – “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”)
    • The BEST thing He’s ever done for us is sending Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins.
      • Hebrews 5:9 tells us that Jesus is the “author salvation to all who obey Him.”
        • Obey Him today & let Him be the author of YOUR salvation! Let Him write HIS story in YOUR life!
        • Come to Him & be saved today!
        • Call out to Him right now & be saved!

 

IN THE AUTHORITY OF Jesus – “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

  • Recognizing His place in all we have.
  • Recognizing that without Him we have nothing.
  • Recognizing that all spiritual blessings come from Him.
    • The REAL blessings in our lives
    • Those UNCHANGING blessings in our lives
      • Our salvation
      • Our security in Him
      • Our safe place reserved for us in heaven

 

CONCLUSION – So that’s HOW we give thanks – all the time; in all things; to the Author of our salvation; & in the authority of the name of Jesus.

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Sermon notes from 10/29/17 – “Developing Devoted Disciples”

“DEVELOPING DEVOTED DISCIPLES”           Luke 14:25-35

 INTRO – Imagine w/ me a young man who walks into a military recruiting office to join up. The reason he wanted to join us was b/c he thought military uniforms were cool & he wanted to wear one. But when he talks w/ the recruiter, he finds out:

  • Have to go through intense boot camp
  • Hard physical training & exercise
  • Have to submit to superior officers
  • Go to war – Put life on the line
  • Live in hostile territory in harsh conditions
  • Be separated from family for long periods of time
  • May get captured by enemy
  • May get injured
  • May get killed

“Oh, I don’t want to sign up for all of that. I just want the uniform.”

 

How many people want to be a Christian just b/c they want to “wear the uniform” of eternal life? They just want to go to heaven. Want to get their “fire insurance” paid up.

  • Don’t want to be committed to the Church – “Don’t like those people down there…full of hypocrites…they hurt my feelings one time…don’t do things the way I think they should be done…”
  • Don’t want anyone holding them accountable in their walk w/ Christ
  • Don’t want to get up earlier than they normally do in order to spend time in Bible reading & prayer
  • Don’t want to give at least 10% of their income to the Lord’s work
  • Don’t want to be inconvenienced or give up personal time to serve the Lord – don’t want to give up my vacation time to go on mission trip or chaperone a youth trip; give up my Saturday morning to work at Mission Byram or Lunch 4 Christ; give up my Sunday night to host a Bible study in my home
  • Don’t want to give up going to “big church” in order to work in the nursery once or twice a year
  • Don’t want to be expected to invite anyone to church or tell anyone about Jesus

“Oh, I didn’t know any of that was expected of a Christian. I just wanted to wear ‘the uniform.’ I just want to go to heaven.”

v. 25 – “Now great crowds accompanied Him,” & in those great crowds, there were many of these types of followers. People who had a superficial commitment to Jesus. People who were just following to see what they could get out of Him. People who were just looking out for themselves & their own interests.

Article in magazine last week – “100 Fastest Growing Churches in America.” Peruse through list of churches. Fastest growing church last year – Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, OH – Avg. attendance – 28,386. Added 5,928 people last year. Largest church in country last year – Church of the Highlands in Birmingham – over 40,000 in attendance. Added 2,225 people last year.

Many times we evaluate success by numbers. Nothing wrong w/ big churches. We want more people in church. Don’t like to see empty seats & pews. Pastors of large churches are the ones who get their books published & get the invitations to preach all over the place. Nothing necessarily wrong w/ wanting more people in church. Lots of lost people all around us who need Jesus.

But Jesus wasn’t necessarily worried about having big crowds of disciples. He was worried about having big commitment from His disciples. Someone once said, “Salvation is both absolutely free and yet it costs you your very life. You receive it freely at no expense to you, but once you receive it, you have just committed everything you are and have to Jesus Christ.” (https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-70-cost-discipleship-luke-1425-35)

Let me give you 3 things to consider about what it means to be a truly devoted disciple of Jesus. A disciple will:

 

CARRY HIS CROSS – v. 25-27 – Luke 9:23 – “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.’” What does it mean to carry our cross?

What it DOESN’T mean: It doesn’t mean that our cross is some undue, inconvenient burden that we have in our life – a bad job, a difficult relationship, a sickness – “Well, that’s just my cross to bear.” Not what Jesus meant.

To the first century person, the cross meant only one thing: death in the most humiliating, painful way imaginable. When Jesus turned to the throngs of people & said that they would need to bear a cross, their minds would have been flooded w/ images of criminals hanging from Roman crosses along the roads. They would have thought of blood running down beaten & bruised bodies. They would have thought of the sounds of people groaning & crying out in agony & pain. They would not have thought about a gold piece of jewelry hanging from someone’s necklace. They would have thought about death.

Those who truly want to follow Christ must realize that it is a call to die. We must die to our own selfish desires & live for His desires for our lives. We must be willing to sacrifice our comfort & conveniences to live for Him. We must be willing to suffer for Him & b/c of our commitment to Him. Following Him will mean that your friendships may die, your reputation may die, your job/business may die, your family relationships may die, YOU may die. That’s what Jesus meant when He said we would need to carry our own cross if we are going to follow Him.

A disciple will also:

 

COUNT THE COST – v. 28-32 – An extremely critical part of our growth in being a disciple of Jesus is a deepening understanding of what it truly costs to follow Christ. This is part of our sanctification process as we mature in our faith. We accept Christ as our Savior & Lord & begin this incredible journey of faith w/ Him. As we walk w/ Him, our faith deepens, our understanding deepens, our spiritual comprehension deepens, & the depth of our commitment & dedication to Him deepens. We count the cost of what it means to be His disciple. Some folks count the cost at the beginning of their journey & sell out completely to the Lord when they are saved. Others count the cost after they’ve already begun the journey. I think this is why many people make a “rededication” of their life – they made a true faith commitment to the Lord at an earlier time in their life, trusting the Lord as much as they know how & w/ as much knowledge as they have at that time. But as they grow in their walk & spiritual maturity, they begin to see what it truly means to count the cost & follow Christ, & realize the need to rededicate their life the Him. Some make a “public rededication” of their life; others do in the privacy of their own personal quiet time or in a time of prayer & commitment on their own. But, whenever it happens, ALL of us as Christ-followers, if we are going to truly follow Christ as His disciple, we must count the cost, like the man building a tower in v. 28-30, or the king going off to war in v. 31-32.

 

COMMIT COMPLETELY – v. 33 – Jesus puts a strong exclamation point on His teaching here w/ this statement: “Any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

The word for “renounce” means “to say goodbye, or bid farewell.” Jesus brought His teaching here to a dramatic conclusion to separate those who wanted to truly follow Him from those who were just curious thrill-seekers. One commentator put it like this:

 

“‘We must live in this world as though the soul was already in heaven and the body moldering in the grave’ (St. Francis de Sales). There was much unreasoning; possibly not a little sentimental enthusiasm, among the people who crowded round Jesus in these last months of his work. The stern, uncompromising picture of what ought to be the life of his real followers was painted especially with a view of getting rid of these useless, purposeless enthusiasts. The way of the cross, which he was about to tread, was no pathway for such light-hearted triflers.”[1]

These are tough, convicting, penetrating words for you & me to consider today. Which of us in this place today has truly made & is presently truly living w/ this level of commitment to Christ? Who among us can say today that we are ready to renounce all of our possessions, dreams, & plans & follow Christ? Who among us would say goodbye to:

  • Our wives/husbands?
  • Our kids/grandkids?
  • Our homes?
  • Our bank accounts/retirement accounts that we’ve worked so hard to build up for the future?
  • Our education plans, our business plans, our family plans, our retirement plans?

As Christ-followers, we must wrestle w/ these questions. If we are really honest, we really don’t think they apply to us. We really don’t think that Jesus really requires this. We really don’t think this would happen to us. That’s for the missionaries, the people who live under real persecution, people who are the real radicals. They’re hard questions, uncomfortable questions, & we may not like the answers that we give to these questions. But this is all part of the growth & maturity process in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I like the way one man tells the story of the pearl of great price. A man sees this pearl and says to the merchant, “I want this pearl. How much is it?”

The seller says, “It’s very expensive.” “How much?” “A lot!” “Well, do you think I could buy it?” the man asks.

“Oh, yes,” says the merchant, “everyone can buy it.”

“But I thought you said it was very expensive.” “I did.” “Well, how much?” “Everything you have,” says the seller.

“All right, I’ll buy it.” “Okay, what do you have?”

“Well, I have $10,000 in the bank.” “Good, $10,000. What else?” “That’s all I have.” “Nothing more?” “Well, I have a few dollars more in my pocket.” “How much?” “Let’s see … $100.” “That’s mine, too,” says the seller.

“What else do you have?” “That’s all, nothing else.” “Where do you live?” the seller asks. “In my house. Yes, I own a home.” The seller writes down, “house.” “It’s mine.”

“Where do you expect me to sleep—in my camper?” “Oh, you have a camper, do you? That, too. What else” “Am I supposed to sleep in my car?” “Oh, you have a car?” “Yes, I own two of them.” “They’re mine now.”

“Look, you’ve taken my money, my house, my camper, and my cars. Where is my family going to live?” “So, you have a family?” “Yes, I have a wife and three kids.” “They’re mine now.”

Suddenly the seller exclaims, “Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too! Everything becomes mine—wife, children, house, money, cars, and you, too.” Then he goes on, “Now, listen, I will allow you to use all these things for the time being. But don’t forget that they’re all mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them, you must give them up, because I am now the owner.” (Adapted from The Disciple [Creation House], pp. 34-35.)

 

The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a life of COMPLETE COMMITMENT!

CONCLUSION: The end result of the life of a disciple is eternal life. It begins the moment we give our lives to Christ. He gives us His abundant life, a life of purpose, meaning, & direction. It’s not a life free from pain, difficulty, hardship, & extreme sacrifice. But it IS a life that is the ONLY life to live! It’s the ONLY life that leads to spending eternity in heaven one day.

So where are YOU today in your walk w/ Christ?

  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to count the cost.
  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to realize that you’re falling short in your commitment
  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to realize that you’re not saved & you want to begin a relationship w/ Jesus.

[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 28). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

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Sermon notes from 10/15/17 – “Snatch Them Out of the Fire!”

“SNATCH THEM OUT OF THE FIRE!”        Jude

INTRO – FIRE – Good or bad. Helpful or harmful. Delightful or destructive.

  • Sit around campfire or firepit
  • Or see your home or business go up in flames – California wildfires
  • Warmth that is pleasant. Or heat that is painful.

Pretty obvious here that the writer Jude is not talking about the pleasant experience of sitting around a crackling campfire, but is referring to a terrible fire that no one would want to go through. He’s talking about the fires of hell – a VERY REAL PLACE WHERE LOST PEOPLE GO WHEN THEY DIE! Rev. 20:15 – “…if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” If you need to be saved, call out to the Lord RIGHT NOW before it’s too late!

In this little letter, Jude is issuing a warning to the church to keep their eyes open for the infiltration of false teachers & enemies into the church. In other words, they were apostates, or those who once gave some indication that they knew Christ, but have since abandoned their faith, which means that they never really had any faith in the first place. The definition of “apostasy” is “a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/apostasy.html) John Stott: “The essence of apostasy is changing sides from that of the crucified to that of the crucifier.” There was & is great danger lurking around in our world from all sorts of folks who are perverting the truth of God’s Word. There are actually apostate preachers who do not believe in God or in the basic foundational truths of the Bible, &, yet, they are still serving Christian churches in our nation. We need to be aware of this danger & be ready to stand against it.

God takes apostasy very seriously, so much so that every NT book w/ the exception of Philemon warns about false teachers & teachings. So how do we deal w/ such rampant apostasy & rejection of the Christian faith? Here are some principles for us to follow:

 

Contend for the faith – v. 3

  • Greek word: agonizomai – “agony”
  • Struggle for
  • Fight for

Jude originally wanted to write a pleasant, encouraging pastor letter to the church – “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation.” But he wasn’t able to do that due to the “certain people” who had “crept in unnoticed” (v. 4). His letter of comfort to the people of God turned into a call to battle for the people of God. They had to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

What is this “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”?

When Jude said “THE faith,” he’s talking about the known & received body of truth about Jesus Christ & the salvation that comes only through Him as the Perfect Son of God. He’s talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been preached & taught from the Day of Pentecost up to this very moment.

  • It’s a delivered faith – In other words, it’s not something that we manufactured or came up w/ on our own. It’s been passed on from generation to generation.
  • It’s a defined faith – It is unchangeable, definitely & eternally defined by the unchanging center of our faith; & that center is Jesus Christ who came into the world & lived & died & rose again to bring salvation to all men.
  • It’s a done faith – It’s complete. It’s finished. Nothing can be added or subtracted from our God, & nothing should be added or subtracted from our faith.
  • It’s a defended faith – This is why Jude was writing. The church MUST defend the faith, which leads to next point……

 

Defend against the enemies – v. 4-16 – Listen to how Jude describes these enemies of the faith:

  • Condemned
  • Ungodly
  • Pervert the grace of God
  • Deny Jesus
  • Sexually immoral (v. 8 – “defile the flesh”)
  • Reject authority
  • Blasphemers
  • They’re like animals
  • Greedy
  • Dangerous & deadly
  • Hypocritical
  • Selfish & uncaring
  • Deceitful liars
  • Misleading
  • Shameful
  • Doomed
  • Ungodly
  • Grumblers
  • Never satisfied
  • Loud-mouthed boasters
  • Showing favoritism
  • Divisive
  • Worldly
  • Devoid of the Spirit of God

Does that description sound like the kind of person against whom we need to defend our church, our faith, & ourselves? ABSOLUTELY! So how do we do that?

 

Depend on the Lord – v. 20-21 – 4 verbs (action words) that Jude gives us to help us defend our faith. And the only way to do that is to live in total dependence upon the Lord as a Christ-follower:

  • Building – Making a foundation for a building; strengthening; to make more able – Build your life on the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL!
  • Praying – There it is again! I wonder if I’ve ever preached a message here that didn’t have something to do w/ prayer!
  • Keeping – Has to do w/ guarding, & obeying, & heeding – His love motivates us.
  • Waiting – to welcome, to wait for, to anticipate a future event – Waiting for the return of Christ.

What an awesome way for us to live for the Lord as we depend on Him every moment of every day of our lives!

 

Extend mercy & hope to as many as possible – v. 22-23 – And as we depend upon the Lord & live for Him, we must never forget the importance of looking outside of ourselves & reaching outside of ourselves.

  • Reach up to the One on Whom you can depend
  • Reach out to those who are doubting
  • Reach down to those who are dying

 

Send your praise to God – v. 24-25 – One of most beautiful doxologies in Bible.

WHAT HE IS ABLE TO DO.

“Keep you from falling.” You do not have to fail. It’s only when you try to go it alone.

“Present you faultless.” But I have so many faults. WE ALL DO! I will be presented in His righteousness.

“Before the presence of His glory.” Standing there before the throne of God. In the brightness of His glory that reveals all things, nothing is hid. I will stand pure, faultless. I will be whispering to myself, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“With exceeding joy.” Joy, such as you have never experienced, or could ever experience on this earth.

“And when before the throne I stand in him complete
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow
He washed it white as snow”

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Sermon notes from 10/8/17 – “An Encouragement to a Dear Friend”

“AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO A DEAR FRIEND”     3 John

INTRO – Folks, it’s time for some GOOD NEWS! Can I get an “Amen”? I’m tired of the constant barrage of bad news that has been happening in recent days. And while we can’t stop some of the bad things from happening, & we definitely need to be praying for those affected by some of the tragic events that have impacted our nation & world over the last few months, it’s simply time for some GOOD NEWS, & we, of all people, have the GREATEST Good News that anyone can know. And that Good News is this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

One of our church members sent me a text Thu. after she & talked Wed. night at Refresh when she shared w/ me that she was in the middle of a fast to seek the Lord in a greater way (it’s ok to tell others you are fasting as long as you aren’t bragging & boasting about it). This is what she texted to me on Thu.:

 

“Just wanted to share about my fast w/ you. I’m so excited! I am in 43 hours & will complete it tomorrow at 5PM. During my prayer time, I had been asking the Lord to please put me in the path of someone who needed to hear about His love & mercy, just one person. Today on my lunch break, I took my Bible outside & was reading. A young lady came out & was sitting, eating her lunch. I noticed she kept watching me. I know who she is, but don’t really know her. I finally said, “Hey, it’s a really nice day to be sitting out here.” She said, “Yeah, just wanted to take in some quiet time.” Well, she sat there a few more minutes, then started to talk to me about reading my Bible, & then about my faith bracelet…As we talked, she started tearing up, so then I started to tear up, & I’m so excited that she accepted Christ sitting outside sitting on a picnic bench! So thankful for answered prayers for her salvation, & that I still have 29 more hours! What an awesome day!”

 

I want to invite anyone in this place who needs to be saved today to call out to the Lord right now & give your life to Him!

PRAYER FOR SALVATION

Let’s look at 3 John & talk about how awesome our faith in Jesus is today, whether you just accepted Him into your heart, or whether you did that 40 years ago! It’s such a wonderful thing to know Jesus as your Savior & Lord! It’s such a wonderful thing to be connected to His Body, His FAMILY, the Church. Our faith is an “EACH OTHER” faith. It’s a PERSONAL faith, AND it’s an “EACH OTHER” faith. Here are 7 “each other” statements about our faith:

 

We Love Each Other – “Beloved” – v. 1, 2, 5 – John said that about his friend, Gaius: “whom I love in the truth.” In other words, “I truly love you, Gaius!” This is the foundation of it all. It all starts w/ our love for God & our love for each other. Greek word for “beloved” is agapetos – “very dear, a dear friend, a loved one.”

We Pray for Each Other – v. 2 – Look at what a dear Christian friend does when he truly loves the way God wants him to love: He prays for his dear friend. He prays for:

  • Physical health – “…that you may be in good health…” – See James 5:13-16
  • Spiritual health – “…as it goes well w/ your soul.” – I think about what Jesus prayed for us in John 17:15 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

So, how IS your prayer life? What do you do to stay consistent? Let me give you these suggestions:

  • Renew your commitment to prayer
  • Write down the names of those you need to pray for – high tech or low tech – doesn’t matter – just do something to help you be more consistent & faithful in praying for each other.
  • Realize that it doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t know about a person’s situation – just pray for them (sometimes just their name)
  • Respond immediately when someone needs prayer – Stop & pray for them right then, if possible (lady in convenience store in Columbia)
  • Remember that this is one of the most important things you can do, so don’t stop.

 

We Rejoice w/ Each Other – v. 3-4 – Listen, Church, we need to be rejoicing w/ each other as we see each other growing in our love for the Lord, in our passion for the Lord, in our service to the Lord! That’s why I got so excited about the text message that I got Thu from that church member! I rejoiced w/ her that God had used her in such a wonderful way, that she had placed herself in a spiritual position to hear from Him & respond in obedience! I rejoiced w/ Blake!

Too many times we let the enemy infect our hearts w/ jealousy & envy & pride. Those things slam the door on our ability to rejoice w/ someone else when God is at work in their lives.

We Support Each Other – v. 5-8 – John is encouraging Gaius to support the work of itinerant Christian workers, missionaries who were traveling around, sharing the Gospel.

Certainly, we need to do the same thing. In fact, we are doing that RIGHT NOW w/ our team that is in New Orleans helping Matthew Delaughter. We support him & other missionaries who are faithfully sharing the Gospel all over the world. That’s why YOUR tithes & offerings are SO important!

But we also need to support each other in other ways, as well.

We Correct Each Other – v. 9-10 – Sometimes, there are times when we have to lovingly confront each other when we’ve wandered away from the Lord, as, apparently, Diotrephes had done.

How sad it is when we just let our brothers & sisters drift away from the Lord into the enemy’s territory, & we do nothing about it! Our correction must not be heavy-handed, judgmental, & condemnatory, but it must happen. Many times that’s why we shy away from any type of correction in the life of another brother or sister in Christ. “That’s none of my business.” “They’ll think I’m judging them.” “I might hurt their feelings.” So, we just let them go. And their lives come apart at the seams, which affects all of us. So sad. What would you think about a soldier who knew where an enemy minefield was, & just let one of his buddies just wander off into that minefield w/out saying anything to him or trying to stop him? We often do that very thing in the Church.

We Encourage Each Other – v. 11-12 – Reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said in Heb. 10:24-25 – “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds…”

We Want to Be w/ Each Other – v. 13-15 – Last Sunday, talked about going on mission trips. Love going, love serving, love telling folks about Jesus. But one of my favorite things is coming off the plane when we’ve arrived back home, walking down the corridor, headed toward my waiting family. Love that moment when I catch the first glimpse of Vicki, or one of my kids or grandkids! Never gets old! Always brings a tear to my eye & a lump in my throat! Why? B/c I want to be w/ them b/c I love them so much!

There’s just something extra special about the relationships & the connection that we have w/ each other in the Body of Christ. John couldn’t wait to see his friend, Gaius, & the others in the church. He wanted to be w/ them. And, if you & I are in right relationship w/ God & w/ each other, we will want to be w/ each other, too!

 

CONCLUSION – So, there you have 7 “each other” statements about our faith. How are you doing in the “each other” aspect of your faith?

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Sermon notes from 10/1/17 – “A Warning to a Dear Lady”

“A WARNING TO A DEAR LADY”               2 John

 INTRO – All sorts of warnings around us all the time.

  • Warning labels on medicines
  • Warning signs on roads & highways
  • Weather warnings when severe conditions are present
  • Warning sirens & lights on emergency vehicles

All of these are designed to alert us that there is a potentially dangerous & harmful situation occurring or that one could occur. The dictionary definition for “warning” says: 1) a statement or event that indicates a possible or impending danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation. 2) cautionary advice.

The Apostle John is doing that in this short, concise letter. He’s giving this dear lady & the folks in this church a heads-up about the dangers & problems & “unpleasant situation” that could be lurking close by due to the false teachers that are at work. And he’s giving this church some valuable cautionary advice about how to deal w/ these false teachers & what to do.

There are many false teachers & false teachings in our world today that masquerade as orthodox Christian teachings. Just the other day, I passed a banner that was attached to a fence beside a church in the Jackson area. It was encouraging folks to pray for our nation, which is, of course, a good thing. The first part of one of the sentences said this: “As human efforts fail to solve America’s key problems, we turn to God…” – so far, so good – “through His holy mother”not good! It is a completely unbiblical heresy to say that Mary is the mother of God. She was the earthly mother of Jesus, but Jesus has always from eternity past been the Son of Go d. God has no beginning & no end, & has no mother. And there’s absolutely no biblical support for anyone praying to her or any human being who has died.

And we don’t pray through her or anyone else other than Jesus Christ. It does absolutely NOTHING to pray to Mary, or through Mary, or to ask Mary to do anything. She can’t do anything about what is going on in the USA. She was an ordinary human being just like you & me. She is not in heaven praying for you or anyone else. There is only one Advocate before the Father, only one Intercessor before the Father, & His name is Jesus. Mary can’t pray for you. No other person who has died can pray for you. My daddy, as godly a man as he was, is not in heaven praying for me. When Billy Graham dies, he won’t be in heaven interceding for us.

As Christ-followers, we must heed the warnings to be on the lookout for those who oppose the Bible & who spread unbiblical teachings. Let me give you 4 words that need to be in our vocabulary to warn us of false teachings:

 

GUARD – v. 7 – Since coming to CWBC, been on more mission trips than ever in my life. One of the things I noticed in the trips to Nicaragua & Honduras is the large number of armed guards everywhere – every store, bank, business has a uniformed armed guard standing outside. Most of them holding a shotgun. You can tell they mean business.

Why are they there? Obviously, to prevent the bad guys from coming in & robbing the business &/or causing harm to those who work there & do business there.

John continues to warn his readers of the “bad guys” who want to come into the church & do their damage w/ their false teachings. These “antichrists” that he’s warning about were undermining the truth about who Jesus Christ truly is, & hurting the Church by corrupting the Gospel w/ their wrong theology. They were “deceivers”, liars who weren’t just espousing an aberrant gospel – they were striving to lead people astray, keeping them from hearing the truth of the Gospel & being saved. That’s serious business!

Just as the guards in Nicaragua & Honduras don’t play, we, in the Church, don’t play either when it comes to guarding the Church from those who are leading people astray w/ false teachings & a false gospel. We may not meet them at the door w/a shotgun, but we are going to meet them w/ the guns of the Gospel of Jesus Christ blasting away. We aren’t going to kill them physically, but we are going to destroy their false teachings w/ the truth of the Gospel!

 

WATCH – v. 8 – John continues his warning to this dear, Godly lady by challenging her & the church to “watch yourselves.” He’s telling her to look out, to beware, to take heed b/c, as convincing as the false teachers may be, they will take away any spiritual progress that had been made. They will promise growth, but will only deliver deterioration. They will promise that you’ll move forward, but they will deliver stagnation. Giving in to their teachings will lead to a tragic loss of rewards promised to those who live a faithful life of obedience to the Lord.

It’s so easy for any of us to fall prey to an easy believism, a gimmicky plan for quick spiritual growth. But true spiritual growth happens over the course of a lifetime that is dedicated to the ongoing pursuit of the truths that are taught in the Bible. And a strong NT church will help its member to stay on track, moving forward in their walk w/ God, growing in spiritual maturity. That growth happens in 2 primary ways:

  1. A growing knowledge of the Word of God.
  2. A growing application of the Word of God.

 

It’s what John emphasized over & over in 1 John: If you love God, you’ll keep His commandments. We’ve got to KNOW the Bible, & we’ve got to LIVE the Bible. The Christian life is not a life of continual study of the Word but w/ no outward result; it’s a life of continual consumption of the Word that leads to life-changing application. R.C. Sproul: “Without right doctrine, right living is impossible. We have not really understood Scripture if we are not changed as a result of our study.”

 

ABIDE – v. 9 – In April of 1521, Martin Luther, a lowly German priest whose work altered history & started the Great Reformation, stood before the emperor, who asked him to recant his stance on the Gospel. Risking his life, Luther declared, “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

John’s challenge here is for us to “abide,” to STAND, to REMAIN IN PLACE, to ENDURE, to CONTINUE & stay strong in our faith, no matter what it costs us.

  • It may cost you a relationship when your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to have sex, or move in together in an unbiblical relationship that doesn’t honor God.
  • It may cost you a job promotion, or a business relationship when you take a stand against some unbiblical business decision your boss makes.
  • It may cost you a grade in school when you write a paper in your college class that stands on biblical principles & your professor doesn’t like it; or a place on a sports team when you decide that your child is not going to play ball on Sundays throughout the year.
  • It may even cost you your life.

 

As a faithful Christ-follower, we must make a lifelong commitment to abide in the teaching of Christ that is found ONLY in THIS book – the one, true, living Word of God! That commitment will bring life, joy, peace, fulfillment, direction, purpose, meaning, & strength to your life & to the Church. It will encourage others to do the same. Younger believers will draw strength from your commitment to abide. So stay there! Stay in the Word! Stand on the Word! Strengthen yourself & others through the Word! Never back away from it or back down from it! Preach it! Proclaim it! Love it! Live it! Bask in it! Be bold in it! Shout it! Share it! Just keep abiding in it!

 

REJECT – v. 10-11 – John is telling this lady to outright reject these false teachers. Paul told the Romans to do the same thing in Rom. 16:17 – “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions & create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; AVOID THEM.” Sometimes, it’s hard for us to say that we ought to reject someone, as John tells this woman in v. 10-11 to not even receive the false teacher into her house (that’s where the church would be meeting. So he’s telling her to not let them in the church). But there’s good reason for this. Here it is:

The protection of the Body of Christ supersedes the personal feelings of any individual.

If someone is trying to bring a false teaching into the church & they get their feelings hurt when we toss them out, too bad, so sad! If someone has left the church & is now trying to lead others away through their false teaching & wrong thinking, & they get upset b/c we don’t want to have anything to do w/ them, that’s their problem, not ours. The purity of the Gospel & the protection of the members of the Church is priority. We can pray for those who are wrong in their doctrine – & we should – but we are not going to accept them into the fellowship due to the potential danger they bring & the potential damage they could do. It’s as simple as that.

CONCLUSION: John warned this dear lady, & today, you & I have been warned. We’ve got to guard, watch, abide, & reject. Will we heed the warnings today?

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Sermon notes from 9/24/17 – “Keep Yourselves from Idols”

“KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS”                        1 John 5:20-21

INTRO – Interesting way for Apostle John to end this letter. Almost seems out of place. After all that John has taught in this letter, he ends w/ this almost abrupt command. REVIEW 1 JOHN. Almost feels like an afterthought. But, of course, IT’S NOT! IT’S IN THERE B/C GOD WANTED IT IN THERE!

John’s audience most likely in city of Ephesus. Temple of Diana there. Filled w/ idols. The making & selling of idols was big business. Lots of money to be made. Christians there were surrounded by idolatry. The temptation to give in, to conform would have been tremendous.

But even more applicable is the truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired & led John to write this final exhortation in his letter b/c the Spirit knew that, in 2017, the temptation to be led astray by idols would be as powerful as ever, & that we today would need to hear this challenge & heed it.

Augustine: “Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, & using anything that ought to be worshiped.”

John Piper: “What is an idol? Well, it is the thing. It is the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It could be a girlfriend. It could be good grades. It could be the approval of other people. It could be success in business. It could be sexual stimulation. It could be a hobby or a musical group that you are following or a sport or your immaculate yard.” (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-idolatry)

So prevalent in our day! Idolatry is everywhere.

Not many of us bow down to little statues on their fireplace mantle. But how many of us bow down to other things that move God out of His rightful place in our lives?

  • What is it that consumes so much of your time that you don’t have time to read your Bible, or pray, or come to church regularly? There’s your idol!
  • What is it that gets you more fired up than you are about a personal relationship w/ Jesus? There’s your idol!
  • What is it that is in your life that has caused your zeal & passion for the Lord to decrease, & your fire for the Lord to cool? There’s your idol!
  • What is it that occupies the majority of your mind’s attention & your heart’s affection? There’s your idol!

The Foolishness of Worshiping Idols

Hideyoshi, a Japanese warlord who ruled over Japan in the late 1500s, commissioned a colossal statue of Buddha for a shrine in Kyoto. It took 50,000 men five years to build, but the work had scarcely been completed when the earthquake of 1596 brought the roof of the shrine crashing down and wrecked the statue. In a rage Hideyoshi shot an arrow at the fallen colossus. “I put you here at great expense,” he shouted, “and you can’t even look after your own temple.”

Look at v. 20: Another “we KNOW” verse (word “know” used about 35 times in this letter) – It’s a one-verse summation of the Gospel.

  • Jesus came
  • Jesus gave
  • We know Him
  • We are in Him

 

Jesus is TRUE!

Jesus is REAL!

Jesus is ALIVE!

 

To even TRY to compare any false god to Jesus is so foolish! And yet we see people doing it every day everywhere. They are living their lives bowing down to dead idols & false gods.

  • False gods that appeal to our fleshly desires
  • False gods that seem to promise happiness & fulfillment
  • False gods that feel like they’re smarter & stronger than the real God.
    • This is one of the reasons that so many people – even Christians – are living together these days.
    • They’ve given into the false teaching of the world that appeals to their flesh (need to make sure you’re compatible; can have sex any time you want)
    • They’re obeying a false god that promises them happiness & fulfillment – And they may experience it TEMPORARILY. But the pleasure of sin lasts only a short time, & is always followed by pain & death.
    • They’re listening to a false god that seems to make more sense to them than the God who demands that we obey His teachings & commands in His Word. (“That stuff is so outdated!” “Things are different now.” “This is just the way everyone lives now.” “It’s not that big a deal.”)

 

The False Security of Worshiping Idols

  • It’s a control issue – G.I. Joes when I was a kid – I controlled everything about him. He didn’t do anything on his own. I did everything for him. I decided the rules about how we were going to play. I was in complete control.
    • Same way w/ idols. I call the shots, instead of God calling the shots. I want to be in control of my life, instead of submitting myself to the control of God over my life.
    • Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
  • It’s a confidence issue – In the Christian life, we are required to walk by faith & not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). It’s the very foundation of our lives as Christ-followers – Prov. 3:5-6.
    • And, yet, many times we don’t want to trust a God we can’t see. We want to take these into our own hands. We think we know better how to run our lives than He does.
    • People of Ephesus – Why trust in an unseen God when you can run down to the temple & get an immediate audience w/ a god you can see & touch & feel? So many others are doing that, so there must be some validity to it.
  • It’s a convenience issue – Handy Pantry/Pic a Bit – convenience stores in Cleveland when I was a kid. We called them “curb markets.” The big grocery stores had the same things, but more convenient to run in one of these stores. Willing to pay more for a gallon of milk or loaf of bread. Don’t want to take the time to walk up & down aisles of big stores when there’s the convenience store on the corner. We don’t want to WAIT for anything, & we don’t want to WORK for anything.
    • Building a relationship w/ the one, true God takes time. Takes work. Takes effort on our part. Takes faith. Takes patience. It’s SO worth it, but it’s a lifelong process of starts & stops, mountaintops & valleys, sacrifice, discipline.

 

The Frightening Consequences of Worshiping Idols – 2 frightening consequences:

  • What we become: We become like that which we worship
    • Psalm 115:1-8
    • Psalm 135:15-18
    • 115:8 & 135:18 BOTH say, “Those who make them become like them, so do ALL who trust in them.”
  • What is coming: Colossians 3:5-6 – “…the wrath of God is coming.” Idolatry is so dangerous b/c God has promised to pour out His wrath on those who bow down to idols.
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