The Church is God’s Will For Your Life, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

20Mar  We have spent the last three blogs reflecting upon the nature and function of the church.  As we have looked at the Bible’s teaching on this subject we have been reminded of how important this truth is to our spiritual life.

When was the last time you looked closely at where you spend your time?  Did you know that many different clubs and organizations are competing for your time and attention?  Below is a list of some of those clubs and other secular organizations:

  1. American Red Cross
  2. Salvation Army
  3. Kidney Foundation
  4. AARP
  5. NRA
  6. YMCA
  7. Boy Scouts
  8. Girl Scouts
  9. Ronald McDonald Foundation
  10. US Military
  11. Homes for our Troops
  12. National Military Family Association
  13. Special Olympics
  14. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  15. Masons
  16. Moose Lodge
  17. Rainbow Girls
  18. Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of America
  19. Chess Club
  20. Bowling Club
  21. Dancing Club
  22. Running Club
  23. Bird Watching Club
  24. Horse Riding Club
  25. Dog Training Club

Not all secular clubs and organizations are bad, but God has a desire for His children to spend their lives for Christ through the local church.

Under the umbrella of the evangelical faith, we have many different institutions and organizations known as parachurch ministries.  These ministries were once created to come alongside the church to accomplish a vision.  Today, the roles have been reversed.  The parachurch ministries are often viewed as more exciting, more front-line, and a better way to do ministry than the local church.  Did you know that there are more than 91,000 parachurch ministries in America?  Their revenue exceeds $1.8 billion dollars per year and they have assets over $4 billion dollars!  While parachurch ministries are indeed helpful, they should never replace the local church.

As we examine the Bible and redemptive history, it’s apparent – the church is God’s will for our lives as the children of God.

God has not saved us in order for our lives

To waste away on self-service.

God has saved us and joined us into His family

 into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That membership has purpose and specific functionality.

We must not neglect the church.  We must not waste the church.

The word “church” is taken from the Greek word, ekklesia.  R.C. Sproul, in his commentary on Ephesians writes, “The Greek word for church, ecclesia, is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix is ek—out of. The root is the verb coleo, to call.”  As we survey redemptive history, we can identify the church under two general headings:

The universal church is the entire group of redeemed

From every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation on planet earth.

However, most of the time when the word “church”

Is used in the New Testament,

It’s a reference to the local church.

The church exists across the entire world, but we know that it was never intended to be an invisible group.  God intends for His church to have visibility and functionality as the body of Christ meets together, worships together, and serves Christ together.

Many Christians are searching for God’s will for their lives.  They are reading books, attending seminars and conferences, and researching online.  In the midst of all this activity, we must come to the sober reality that the church is not an option to consider. The church is God’s will for the Christian’s life.

The Church Is God’s Will For Spiritual Growth.

Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 to “preach the Word.”  The Holy Spirit led him to go on and say in verses 2-4, “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  The point is not just that some in the church at Ephesus would walk away from sound teaching, but the positive side of that statement is clearly visible – Timothy was to be preaching and teaching sound doctrine.  God’s will for pastors is to preach and teach the Word of God.  God’s will for the Christian is to be submitted under that teaching just as we see in Acts2 with the early church.

The Church Is God’s Will For Spirit-Led Worship.

Just as we see in John 4, God desires for His children to be assembled for worship! God has not saved us in order to spare our souls from the wrath we deserved in hell.  He has rescued us in order to make us worshippers.  John Piper, in his excellent book, Let The Nations Be Glad, has rightly stated, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”  God is the seeker and He is seeking worshippers.  God’s will for the Christian is to be assembled with people in the church to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4;24).  God desires for His people to worship from the heart and from His Word – His revelation of Himself and His redemptive plan.  This is God’s will for our Christian life.

The Church Is God’s Will For Spiritual Service.

God tells us in Ephesians 4 that Christ has given gifts to the church for teaching and instruction.  This teaching edifies and equips the child of God for the work of ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  God has given pastors and evangelists in our church today for the equipping of the body to actually do ministry.  Romans 12:1-2 records an often neglected passage.  We are called as God’s children to be “living sacrifices” who give spiritual service of worship to our God.  Luke 9:23 records the fact that we are to deny self and take up our cross daily and follow Christ.  In Luke 14:26 Jesus says that we must love Him supremely and in comparison to the love for Him – our commitment and love to our family will seem like hatred.  We must put Christ first.

Almost every local church has people who assemble to “watch” church rather than become part of “worship” in the church body.  Each week a certain percentage of almost all congregations gather to:

  • Watch the preaching
  • Watch the singing
  • Watch the attending
  • Watch the giving
  • Watch the going
  • Watch the serving
  • Watch the learning

We are not to be

Watchers of the Word –

But learners

And

Doers of the Word!

Jesus did not call us to ecclesiastical spectatorship.  He called us to church membership.

Tragically – R. Kent Hughes is exactly right with his assessment of the church today.  In his book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, he writes, “Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers. The hitchhiker’s thumb says, ‘You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas — and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.’ So it is with the credo of so many of today’s church attenders: ‘You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills – and I’ll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out – my thumb is always out for a better ride.’”

If a person decides to place their secular club, recreational team, or even their personal family before the church of Jesus Christ, they will see long lasting negative consequences as a result.  I have personally known of families to place sports above God and it has cost them far more than they were willing to pay in the beginning.  I have witnessed mothers place their family above the church to the point that they were unwilling to serve in any other ministry outside of their home.  The consequences for such errors could be a generation of practical atheists who see mother talk much about God, but they never see her serve Him.  They perhaps see her as more interested in her home, her family, and her material possessions than serving God and loving her neighbor.  This disconnect from the church and ministry will take root in the children. The results will be devastating.

We should teach our children in doctrine,

But we must not refrain from

Teaching them in deed as well.

We are called to be “doers of the Word.”  God’s will is for the church to be serving through the different gifts He has provided each one of His children (1 Corinthians 12).  What better way to teach and disciple children than by giving them a glowing example of what it means to serve Christ?

The Church Is God’s Will For Spirit-Bound Relationships.

God has ordained the church to be a community rather than a campus.

The church is not brick and mortar,

It’s made up of living people

Who assemble in community together.

This community has one primary bond of unity in the blood of Jesus Christ and held together by the Spirit of God.  The church is a diverse group of people who come together in relationships.  As we see in Book of Acts, they loved one another, prayed for one another, and cared for one another.  That sounds much like a family.  The “Lone Ranger” Christian is an oxymoron.  God’s will is for the church to meet together and have genuine relationships that have lasting roots.

In conclusion, we know that God’s will is not for everyone to serve in the exact same way.  God has given different gifts to us all and that’s why the analogy of the body is used in 1 Corinthians 12.  We all go through different seasons in life, but those seasons should never isolate us from the gathered church for worship and service.  Anytime a particular member of the body decides to “focus on their own family” or “devote time to their jobs” or to “pursue a sporting goal” – it leaves the entire body of Christ in that local congregation weak.

However, even if it’s a small function,

If each person works and serves together –

The body is able to function with efficiency.

I’m not anti-parachurch ministry.  I’m pro-church.  I’m not against the family, but I believe we should exalt Christ above family and other relationships.  Although many people are looking for God’s will, what they may not realize is that God’s will is the church.  Could it really be that simple?

Donald Whitney said, “As wonderful and sophisticated as the heart is, it was never made to be just a heart, but a part of a body.  It has no value to the body outside the body. And the heart itself can’t thrive outside the body.”  As incredible and wonderful as you are, Christian, you were never made just to be an individual Christian, but a part of body.  As every organ and every cell is God-created to be an active member of the human body, so every true Christian is God born-again to be an active member of a local body of Christ.”

All For the glory of King Jesus!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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More Than Community: Why We Need The Church, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Mar  Thursday, we began a short three-part series of blogs looking at the Bible’s teaching about the church.  In that blog we saw that God has always had a people who He called, changed, and commissioned to be His messengers.  As we grow in our walk with God, we will be distinct in our thinking, talking, and living.

In Friday’s blog, we saw that the Bible teaches us every believer needs to be a part of the local expression of God’s church.  We looked at Hebrews 10:25 and learned that some of the early Christians had given up on gathering together to worship, be strengthened by their common faith and fellowship, and be instructed in the Word.  These activities we are means that God had provided when His people gather together.

I ended yesterday’s blog with this question . . .

In light of these truths,

How are we

To live out this command?”

In today’s blog we will look at five practical points that leads out of a correct understanding of why we need the church.

  • We Need the Church Because We Need Biblical Community.

Donald Miller is right about the fact that it’s possible to have community outside of the local church.  In fact, one can have a thriving community outside the assembly of the local church.  It happens each week at the local ball field, bar, and nursing home.  However, as we start to think of our need for biblical community as believers, we start to see that Donald Miller is not playing with a full deck of cards.  Christians need other Christians.  This doesn’t mean that Christians should only have Christian friends. That would build a stagnant group of people who never invite others into their lives and reach-out to the culture in general with the gospel.

In the end – there is no denying the fact that Christians need other Christians for support in doctrine, life, and worship.

  • We Need the Church Because We Need the Word.

The church of Jesus Christ is a community of people who have been called out of darkness and brought together in the light of Jesus Christ.  We can learn about the building blocks of a biblical community by examining the practices of the early church.

The early church didn’t come together

For drama presentations or comedy sessions.

The early church wasn’t assembled for psychology talks

In order to meet the felt needs of their culture.

They assembled for the

Teaching and preaching of God’s Word (Acts 2).

If we truly desire to grow in faith (Romans 10:17) and have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1-2), we must have a steady intake of God’s Word from the pastor-teachers (see Paul’s word to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

If you remove the Word you don’t have a church.

  • We Need the Church Because We Need to Sing.

I’m not much of a concert goer, but I did venture out to a few concerts in my teenage years.  I recall the scene in mind with crowds of people gathered together for music.  I recall the singing.  Most of it was really bad due to the amount of alcohol and drug consumption in the crowd.  I think back to times when I have been gathered in a crowd and singing erupted.  It happens during the seventh inning stretch when I go to watch the Royals play baseball here in Kansas City.  It happened a couple of time when I found myself in the midst of a flash mob.

There is nothing like the church gathered together in song.

It doesn’t matter if the quality of song is not show production,

It’s about what the gathered church is singing.

Our doxology is informed and shaped by our theology.

There is nothing that compares to a church joined together in the words:

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

  • We Need the Church Because We Need Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

It was John Calvin who insisted on the right preaching and administration of the sacraments in order to have a true church.  Calvin was not alone in his position.  The Reformers, the Puritans, and many others throughout church history pointed to this same basic necessity.  While it’s possible to have community without preaching and the ordinances of the church, we must be clear – you can’t have true biblical church without the preached Word and the observance of the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

Some of the most deeply moving and self-examination moments have occurred during a gathered service for worship and the observance of the ordinances of the church. Likewise, some of the most encouraging times have been during those occasions of worship.  To look around to a gathered room of people who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ as you eat and drink the elements of the Lord’s Supper is a truly moving experience that can’t be duplicated at a wrestling meet, football/basketball game, or camp-out with a group of friends.  Christians need this type of community.

  • We Need the Church Because We Need Encouragement and Discipleship

As Paul instructed Timothy to preach the Word in order to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy 4:2).  Every believer must sit under biblical preaching too.  Not only to hear the Word, but also to go out to share and live in those truths in our world.  As we live in a constant state of biblical community, Jesus instructed us to practice church discipline (Matthew 18).  Granted, there may be confrontation at the ball field, but it’s not the same kind of confrontation that Jesus was teaching in Matthew’s gospel record.  This should be part of the fabric of our biblical community.  We are called to be a confessing people, and we should be doing this often.  As we observe the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the need for repentance of sin and confession.  Confrontation of sin and genuine church discipline doesn’t happen at a Brave’s game.  Biblical community shapes us in God’s Truth.

As we engage in our church community we do so in order to encourage one another and build one another up in their faith and walk with the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews stated it this way, “not forsaking (neglecting) the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner (habit) of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:25).  Notice the phrase, “exhorting one another” in this verse.  It should be our desire as believers to assemble for worship under the preaching of God’s Word, sing in worship together, pray together, fellowship together, and observe the Lord’s Supper and baptism together for the purpose of encouraging one another.  Let’s be honest . . .

The Christian needs more than

A hiking trip through the woods

Or a time of coffee and pastry

With a group of friends.

Biblical community is more than a family or two

Gathered around a fire in the living room

On a cold winter’s night.

Genuine biblical community,

Although not perfect and at times exhausting,

Is God’s will for our lives as children of God.

You can’t have Jesus without His church.

The theme song for Cheers was on to something back in the 80s.  It said:

You wanna go where people know, 
people are all the same, 
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

  • Only in the church can we be truly honest about the fact that we have all fallen short of God’s glory and become engulfed in a tidal wave of sin.
  • Only in the church can we admit that we are indeed all the same.
  • Only in the church can we worship together out of a response that we are the same – merely sinners saved by the grace of God.
  • Only in the church can we gather together in a bond that is greater than any tribe, club, or community on planet earth.

We gather, assemble, worship, and serve together through the work of Jesus Christ as He died in our place and was resurrected in victory on the third day.  All Christians need the church.  Thank God for His church!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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More Than Community: Why We Need The Church, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Mar  Yesterday, I began a short four-part series of blogs looking at the Bible’s teaching about the church.  In that blog we saw that God has always had a people who He called, changed, and commissioned to be His messengers.  As we grow in our walk with God we will be distinct in our thinking, talking, and living.  In today’s blog, we will see that every believer needs to be a part of the local expression of God’s church.

Everyone is seeking community.  The nature of man is to seek and thrive in a social community with other people.  Years ago, a popular sitcom entitled Cheers illustrated that well by their community.  The show began with a theme song that told a story.  The words to the theme song are . . .

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. 
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away? 
Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name, 
and they’re always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows 
Your name. 
You wanna go where people know, 
people are all the same, 
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

Although this is a 1980s sitcom theme song, it tells a story about the human heart.  We need community.  Life is hard and often discouraging.  Everyone needs a safe haven from the world.  For the characters of Cheers it was a bar.  For the Christian, it’s the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need more than community,

We need the church.

Recently, Donald Miller the author of Blue Like Jazz has come under heavy  scrutiny because of an article he wrote on his blog where he basically admitted that he rarely attends church because he doesn’t like to sing “church” songs with a group of people.  What Donald Miller was admitting was that he doesn’t need the church.  He went on to talk about how he doesn’t like to listen to preaching either.  Although Donald Miller received much critique for his opinions, it’s a tell-tale sign of our present culture.

Everyone is seeking to reinvent church.

Following the wave of negative response that Donald Miller received for his original article, he responded to the criticism with another article (“Why I Don’t Go To Church Often – A Follow Up Blog”) that reinforced his positions.  Much of his positions sound like postmodern thinking that views boundaries through a negative lens.  However, Mr. Miller recognizes the need for community.  In response to the idea that one must be part of the church to have community, he writes:

These comments also surprised me.  It was as though people thought because I hadn’t been to church in years, I had no community, that I lived in isolation.  This is untrue.  My community is rich, deep, spiritually sound, gracious, sacrificial and at times (because I’m an introvert) exhausting.

What I hadn’t realized before I read those comments, though, was that I had worked to create my community.  Community is everywhere, and every church you’ve attended was a community that somebody sat down and created. I happen to think a lot of them look exactly the same and have no problem making mine look different, but it’s still a community.  Millions of people who do not attend church have rich, meaningful communities that they created or have joined.  You could create your own community out of your home in a matter of months.

The issues that Donald Miller raise in his article are not new ideas, positions, or philosophies.  In fact, many people started to forsake the “assembly” or gathering of the church in the early church times).  As a direct result of that new way of doing church (or not doing it at all) in the days of the early church, Hebrews 10:25 was given to us by the Holy Spirit.  There the Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  As we consider the necessity of community within the boundaries of the local church, I want to break down the beginning phrase of Hebrews 10:25, then I will give several key points of application that are brought to the surface that we must evaluate and take seriously.

God led the writer of Hebrews to use the phrase, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” for a special reason.  Some expositors have understood the word rendered here as “assembling” – ἐπισυναγωγὴν (episunagōgēn) as meaning “the society of Christians,” or “the church;” and they have supposed that the object of the apostle here is, to exhort them. not to apostatize from the church.  But the more obvious interpretation is what is commonly adopted, that it refers to public worship.  The Greek word (the noun) is used nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where it is rendered “gathering together.”  The verb is used in Matthew 23:37; Matthew 24:31; Mark 1:33; Mark 13:27; Luke 12:1; Luke 13:34, where it is rendered “gathered together.”  It properly means “an act of assembling, or a gathering together” and is nowhere used in the New Testament in the sense of the church.  The command here is, to meet together for the worship of God, and it is enjoined on Christians as an important duty to do it.  It is implied, also, that there is blame or fault where this is “neglected.”

Why those referred to here are “forsaking” or neglecting public worship, is not specified. It may have been from such causes as the following:

(1) Some may have been deterred by the fear of persecution, as those who were thus    assembled would be more exposed to danger than others.

(2) Some may have neglected the duty because they felt no interest in it – as even some professing Christians now sometimes do.

(3) It is possible that some may have had doubts about the necessity and propriety of     this duty, and on that account may have neglected it.

(4) Or it may perhaps have been, though we can hardly suppose that this reason existed, that some may have neglected it from a cause which now sometimes operates – from dissatisfaction with a preacher, or with some member or members of the church, or with some measure in the church.

Whatever were the reasons,

The apostle says that they do not as valid,

But that Christians should regard

It as a sacred duty to meet together

For the worship of God and exhortation.

None of the reasons above, or any others, should deter believers from this duty.  With all who bear the Christian name, with all who expect to make advances in growing in our love and living for Christ and Biblical knowledge, it should be regarded as a sacred duty to assemble together for public worship.  The Christian faith contains social elements; and our lives are to be strengthened by learning more about God’s grace and invigorated by worshiping together.  Some has aptly said,

“There is an obvious propriety that people

Should assemble together for

The worship of the Most High,

And no Christian can hope that his graces will grow,

Or that he can perform his duty to his Maker,

Without uniting thus with those who

Express love and surrender to God.”

Hebrews 10:25 is written because some of the early Christians had given up these strengthening and instructive means that God has provided when His people gather together.

In light of these truths, how are we to live out this command?  We will look at five practical points in tomorrow’s blog.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Church As The People Of God, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15Mar   From the early pages of the Old Testament, we find God in the process of creating a people for His divine purposes.  In the Old Testament, it was Israel that was to be the people of God (Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2); in the New Testament, the focus is on the Kingdom of God, especially expressed through the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10; Titus 2:14).  When God called Israel to be His people, He instructed them to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2), and it is interesting and significant that the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus 19 to 27, reflects the unique guidelines for civic and social relationships, worship practices, proper boundaries, treatment of foreigners, and sound economic practices.  Living in this way was an public expression of how God made His people to be distinct (holy) from their surrounding pagan neighbors and a model for them of holy character and conduct.  Israel was to become a mutually supportive and cooperative community of godly character, a valid contrast to the surrounding nations and peoples, as well as a model for those other nations. The Bible says in Isaiah 42:6-7 that God’s intention was for Israel to be a “… light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison.”  Sadly, Israel failed to become that people.

In the New Testament, God’s development of a holy people to carry out His purpose is tied to Christ and His redemptive work upon the cross and the establishment of the church.  Much of the New Testament was written to give instruction for building the spiritual and moral lives of those disciples who made up and directed those godly local groups of believers that Peter says are part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar (His own special) people” … “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, bun now hve obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The qualities of those leaders and followers are to be marked by their living in such a way that that they “should show forth the praise of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10).  As interesting as it is to focus on those functions, the larger context of 1 Peter chapters 1 and 2 helps us better understand how their lives would be used of God because of being a “holy” people.

  • They were distinguished as having their faith tried by severe challenges, proving them genuine believers (1 Peter 1:7).
  • They were committed to obeying God and fulfilling their responsibilities in the leadership roles they played (1:14).
  • They being conformed to the world with its lusts but were conducting themselves in every way as a “holy” or distinct people (1:15).
  • They were conscious of God’s supervision in their lives and work (His judgment – 1:17).
  • Christ is preeminent in their thinking, planning, and acting (1:18-21).
  • They demonstrated a sincere love of fellow believers (1:22).
  • They were morally sound and sane (2:1).
  • They were morally circumspect in civic and social life (2:11, 12).

All of these qualities describe these spiritual leaders and their influence in their churches and in their own communities.  Then Peter adds that they are to be conscious of being “foreigners,” or sojourners, and “pilgrims,” or strangers, in this world (2:11), meaning that their sphere of influence was limited in time and circumstances; thus, they were to make every effort count for impacting favorably their Gentile, unbelieving communities.

The churches that carry out the role of being the people of God well

Are those who recognize and live by their pilgrim, faith-led identity

As those strange folk (somewhat foreigners on the earth) who are led by God,

Who love and labor for a God, who insists that His people serve all mankind,

Reaching them with His transforming power of the Gospel,

Even if they are mistreated, maligned, and misunderstood.

The people of God are the fervent in their love for God and others, firm in their salvation and Scriptures, and faithful in their service for God.  We will continue this topic in the next few blogs.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Loving as Jesus Loved, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Mar  Today we conclude our four part study on expressing God’s love to others.  Monday we began to look at what love has to do with our Christian faith.  In that blog we saw that love is one of the defining marks of a Christian.  Tuesday and Wednesday we looked at what the Bible teaches on how God’s love is to be expressed out in our lives.  Today I want to wrap this Biblical teaching on the topic, understanding that we have by no means exhausted this truth.

I recognize that the kind of love we have been talking about is the ideal and we live in a sinful world that presents us with many difficult situations that require prayerful wisdom to obey Jesus’ command.  With this reality in mind, I want to offer a few seeds for thought to answer some meaningful questions that have been raised by some . . .

Does loving someone require that I like that person?

Does it mean that I must become a close friend with a difficult person?

By looking at Jesus’ example, I have to say, “Not necessarily.”

  • While He loved all people, He did not give His time equally to all.

He spent the most time with His disciples, but even among the twelve, He was closer to Peter, James, and John.  And John is the only one called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:1, 23).

  • Jesus didn’t even spend time with His half-brothers when He had the opportunity.

He could have gone up to the feast with them (John 7:1-10), which would have meant several days of traveling together.  He could have used that time to influence them, since they had not yet believed in Him.  But He let them go alone and then He went later by Himself.

  • Jesus also loved His enemies, the Jewish leaders, but He constantly provoked and confronted them.

He instructed His disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on if people rejected them and their message (Matthew 10:14).  Apparently, that was the loving thing to do, since Jesus never would have commanded them not to love their enemies (Matthew 5:55).

Also, since biblical love seeks the highest good for the other person, namely, that he come to know Christ by faith and grow in their faith to become more like Christ, love sometimes requires confronting the person with his sin or letting him experience the consequences of his sin so that he learns to hate it (Acts 8:18-24; 13:6-12; 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 13; 2 Corinthians 2:4, 6-8).  Love does not enable a person to continue in sinful or irresponsible ways.  Love tries to help a person learn to be obedient to God and responsible to “bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5).

I don’t say any of this to give anyone a cop out from loving difficult people, but rather, as Paul put it in Philippians 1:9, my aim is “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.”  I encourage you to meditate often on the characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Then go through Paul’s letters and his actions in the Book of Acts and see how he worked out those qualities in real situations.

Growing in love requires lifelong effort.  You will experience many failures.  But your aim should be to love others even as Jesus loves you.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Loving as Jesus Loved, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Mar  We are in the midst of a five part study on how to expressed the love of God to others.  Monday we began to look at what love has to do with our Christian faith.  In that blog we saw that love is one of the defining marks of a Christian.  Tuesday we looked in John 13:31-33 saw how the Bible how God’s love is to be expressed out in our lives.

  1. Jesus’ love was costly love.

For Jesus to go to the cross was an act of supreme self-sacrifice. It was costly.

  1. Jesus’ love was caring love.

The love that Jesus had led Him to be tender and honest about how He saw them.

Let’s look at two more ways Jesus expressed His love to others:

  1. Jesus’ love was commanded love.

John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  In going to the cross, Jesus was obeying the Father’s commandment (John 10:18).  Now He commands His followers to love one another, even as He has loved us.

The fact that Jesus commands us

To love one another means that we can do it.

There are no excuses

If you fail to love another believer.

You can’t do it in your own strength, of course.

Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit,

Produced in us when we walk

In dependence on the Spirit’s power

(Galatians 5:16, 22).

But just as Jesus obediently sacrificed Himself to go to the cross for our salvation, so we are obediently to sacrifice ourselves for the ultimate good of others.

I’ve had husbands come to me and say, “I don’t love my wife anymore! We’re going to get a divorce.” But the wedding vow wasn’t, “as long as we both shall love.”  It’s “as long as we both shall live”!  The biblical command is, “Husbands, love your wives….”  If you don’t love your wife, you’re being disobedient.  Figure out some practical ways that you can show her God’s love and start doing it!

He may protest, “But I don’t have any good feelings toward her. All of the years of anger and bitterness have just drained the feelings of love that I once had.”  But lacking the feelings of love is never a valid excuse for neglecting the actions of love.  You’ve probably seen the train diagram in the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract.  The engine is God’s Word.  The coal car is faith.  The caboose represents feelings.  The train will run only if you put your faith in God’s Word.  Then good feelings will follow.  But you can’t run the train on good feelings.  When we obey God’s Word and begin to love others sacrificially, feelings of love will follow.  But you can’t bail out on the commandment to love others because you lack feelings for them.  I’m sure that if Jesus had followed His feelings, He would not have gone to the cross!  His love was costly and caring.  But it also was based on obedience to His Father’s commandment.

  1. Jesus’ love was conspicuous love.

John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Jesus wasn’t just talking about having nice thoughts toward others, which no one else can see.

He was talking about love that can be seen.

It stems from the heart,

But it’s seen in outward actions.

It’s the sort of love that

Stands out conspicuously

In this self-centered world.

They should see the way

That we Christians love one another

And say, “They must be followers of Jesus!”

Sadly, the church is often known more for its fighting and divisions over petty issues than it is for its love.  Back in the 1970’s some church growth gurus observed that Christians like to go to church with others who are just like they are.  Whites like to be with whites. Blacks like to be with blacks. Rich college graduates like other rich college graduates.  Rednecks don’t like going to church with liberals.

So these church growth gurus

Gave us the homogeneous unit principle:

If you want your church to grow,

You’ve got to target the niche

That you’re trying to reach

And

Market your church to those folks.

The problem is that principle

Is completely contrary

To the New Testament!

The Bible says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In the church, there is to be “no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11).  The church is the family of God and God has designed families so that there are young and old together.

Have you ever thought about the diversity among Jesus’ apostles?  He chose Simon the Zealot.  Zealots were a radical political group that used intrigue, violence, force, and deception to try to achieve its goal of liberating Palestine from Roman rule.  They refused to pay taxes and they attacked and murdered government officials, especially the hated tax collectors.

And then He chose Matthew, the tax-collector!  The tax-collectors had sold their souls to Rome.  They milked the Jewish people of their money in order to line their own pockets. You could not have put two men of more diverse backgrounds into the same group if you had tried!  These are the men that Jesus is telling to love one another!  That kind of love would be conspicuous!

This has several practical implications.  For one thing, I refuse to have a contemporary service for young people, who prefer rock music and a casual format and a separate traditional, more formal service for the older folks, who prefer hymns with organ accompaniment.  That wrongly divides the church along age lines.  The older folks need the fresh enthusiasm of the young people and the young people need the wisdom and stability of the older folks.

Also, the church should reflect the racial and socio-economic diversity of our communities.  But we should not seek to divide along racial or ethnic lines.  Our love for one another should conspicuously cross divisions that we see in the world.  We want our church family to reflect that mix and show the love of Christ to the world.

When I was younger, I had a friend who attended a church that met in a park.  It consisted predominately of “hippies,” most of whom were under 30.  The way the church got its start was another sad example of Christians violating Jesus’ command to love one another.  A youth pastor at a Baptist church started seeing a number of young “hippies” come to Christ, so he started bringing them to church.  But the people in the church protested.  They didn’t want kids looking like that coming to their church!  What would people think?  For starters, they might have thought, “Those people must be Jesus’ disciples!”  That youth pastor went to several churches and tried to get them to accept his group, but was turned down at every church.  He finally was forced to start his own church.

So, Jesus’ love was costly, caring, commanded, and conspicuous. Finally,

  1. Jesus’ love was committed love (John 13:36-38).

John 13:36-38 says, “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where ae You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.’”

While Peter thought that he was fully committed to Jesus and in many ways, he was, his failure stemmed from not recognizing his own weakness.  Trusting in his own loyalty rather than in the Lord set him up for his colossal failure.

What is really significant is Jesus’ commitment to Peter and to the other ten disciples in spite of their failure.  Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him and He predicts it in the above verses.  He knew that all the disciples would flee for their lives when He would be arrested later that night, in spite of their protests to the contrary (Matthew 26:31, 35, 56). But, He didn’t cast them off because of their failure.  He loved them to the end (or uttermost; (John 13:1) and He showed that love by restoring them and using them after His resurrection.

Love means being committed to the other person’s highest good.

The highest good for all people is that

They would come to know Jesus personally and

Become more like Jesus Christ by growing

In holiness and living to glorify Him.

That commitment to the other person’s highest good is the glue that holds a marriage together.  As the Bible Paul says in Ephesians 5:26-27, a husband’s love for his wife should aim at sanctifying her so that she would be holy and blameless.  That same commitment should cause church members to work through conflicts and seek to preserve the unity of the church in the bond of peace.

The costliness of love means that we have to sacrifice our selfishness for others.  The caring aspect of love means that we should never be calloused or rude.  Love is kind. The commandment facet of love means that we do it in obedience to our Savior, who gave Himself for us. The conspicuous part of love means that it doesn’t consist just of nice thoughts, but of visible actions. And, the commitment of love is to see the other person become more like Christ, which is his highest good and brings the greatest to God’s glory.

Bringing together these five elements of Jesus’ love, we can come up with a definition of biblical love:

Love is a self-sacrificing,

Caring commitment which,

In obedience to Jesus,

Shows itself in seeking

The highest good of the one loved.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Loving as Jesus Loved, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Mar  Yesterday we began to look at what love has to do with our Christian faith.  In Monday’s blog we saw that love is one of the defining marks of a Christian.  Today and tomorrow I want us to look at John 13:31-33 and see how the Bible how God’s love is to be expressed out in our lives.

A preacher once asked a class, “What do you do with the commandments in the Bible?” A little old lady raised her hand and answered, “I underline them in blue.”  The pastor responded, “Okay, but then what do you do with them?”  Underlining all the commandments in blue may help you spot them as you read your Bible.  But the point of the commands in the Bible is that we obey them, not just underline them in blue.

If we were to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 on how well we obey the biblical command to love others, probably most of us would put down a 7 or 8.  Maybe a few would dare to score a 9.  A 10?  Nobody’s perfect so we won’t go there!  I have a hunch that most of us think, “You know, I’m a basically loving person, but I sure wish my wife (or kids, work associate, or friend) would be more loving.”

But, when you stop to think about the fine print in Jesus’ command, your ratings will plummet.  Our Lord said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  The “fine print” is that phrase, “even as I have loved you.”

That raises Christ’s command

Up to a Mt. Everest kind of command!

Very few make the summit of Everest,

But no one lives up there.

Likewise, on rare occasions, we may succeed in

Loving others as Christ loved us,

But none of us live there consistently.

It’s the same as God’s command that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

You never reach a point where you can say,

I’ve got that one down! Let’s move on to other things!”

These are commands that we’ve got to keep working on.

You may wonder, in what sense is Jesus’ command a new commandment?  After all, the Bible commands in Leviticus 19:19, “… you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire Old Testament law is summed up by the two commandments, love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).  So how is Jesus’ command new?  I agree with most scholars who say that the newness of Jesus’ command is the new standard that He gives, “even as I have loved you.”

Jesus’ sacrificial love

In going to the cross for us

Is the new standard.

So the main idea of our text

Is fairly simple to state,

But impossible to live out consistently

Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit:

Jesus commands us to love one another even as He loved us.  The crux of this command is to understand how Jesus loved us.  I want to look at five aspects of this love from John 13:31-33 in my next two blogs:

  1. Jesus’ love was costly love.

John 13:31-32 says, “Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.’”  This statement takes us back to John 12:23, where after hearing that some Greeks were seeking Him, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” As the context there makes clear, He was referring to His death on the cross. The cross glorified both Jesus and His Father (John 12:28).

On one level, the cross was the epitome of humiliation and shame.  There was no worse way to die than to be stripped naked, flogged, and then nailed to a splintery cross and hung up to suffer a slow death as a public spectacle.  But in another superior sense, the cross was the epitome of glory both for the Father and the Son.

To glorify God is to magnify or display His perfect attributes.

At the cross, God’s love, righteousness, justice, mercy,

And grace were magnified as at no other time in history.

At the cross, God’s justice was upheld as His sinless Son bore the awful penalty that His justice demanded for all sinners.  His love and grace shine forth as He offers eternal life to all who will repent of their sin and trust in Jesus alone.

John 13:32 refers to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension: “… if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.” The resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ death. Jesus’ ascension into heaven exalted Him again to God’s right hand, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21).

But the point is, Jesus’ love as seen at the cross was costly.  That theme is repeated over and over in the Bible . . .

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Ephesians 52, “… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ….”

1 John 3:16, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

For Jesus to go to the cross was an act of supreme self-sacrifice. It was costly.

  1. Jesus’ love was caring love.

John 13:33 says, “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” We see Jesus’ tender care for His disciples here in two ways.

First, He addresses them as “little children.”  This is the only time that this word is used in the Gospels.  It is only used elsewhere in 1 John, where the apostle whom Jesus especially loved uses it seven times (2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21).  It was a word of tender feelings, much as a parents have toward their children.

Second, we see Jesus’ tender care for His own in that He explains to them that He will be leaving them soon. They could not follow Him to heaven at that time, although, as He explains to Peter (John 13:36) and to all (John 14:1-4), they will follow later.  The picture again is of a caring father explaining to his children that he has to go away for a while, and they can’t accompany him.  But he promises that they will be reunited later.  The point is, Jesus’ love was filled with tender feelings for His disciples.

There used to be a popular Bible teacher who emphasized knowing Bible doctrine above all else.  He taught that biblical love is not a feeling, but rather a mental attitude. But in practice, he was rude, insensitive, and arrogant.  Jesus’ love was not like that, and neither was Paul’s love.  He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?Part1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11Mar  How would you answer the following question; “How do you know if you are growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

For most people, the answer would be buried inside a list of things they do – Bible study, prayer, church attendance, service, community group participation, etc. – what we call the spiritual disciplines.

As good as it is to do these things

On a consistent  basis,

They are not the measure

Or

Mark of growing to maturity.

Remember, the Pharisees did all the right things, but for all the wrong reasons, and they were repeatedly singled out by Jesus for the judgment of Almighty God.

This week I want to take a look at how the Bible answers the question I asked earlier in this article.  The following passages are a good place to start . . .

John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, the Bible says, “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you.”

1 John 3:14, “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

So, what’s love got to do with growing to maturity?  EVERYTHING!

It is the fruit of our growing relationship with Jesus.

It is to be the universal mark of the Christian.

More than our theology . . . More than our service . . .

More than our financial support

Of the expansion of God’s kingdom.

Love is to be the defining mark of the Christian.

Paul made it crystal clear that we can be doing a lot of good and important things for God, and look godly to those around us, but the absence of love makes all of it absolutely worthless.

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, God led Him to write, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

What an indictment on those who refuse to love their brothers and sisters in the Lord!  And make special note that Paul did not give us a pass when it came to the unlovable.  We are to love both the lovable and the unlovable . . . those we like and those we do not like . . . those from whom we get something in return and those we do not.

Our Lord also offered some very strong teaching on this subject.  In Matthew 5:43-48 He says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

You see . . .

When it comes to love,

We don’t get a vote.

If we have been saved

By the love of Christ

We can do nothing

But share His love

With everyone

We come in contact with.

Our love for others makes our God attractive and provides an accurate picture of who He is.  Remember, God is love; if we are His children, we too will show love to others – regardless of the cost or circumstance.

To be sure …

None of us can do this

In our own strength.

We are far too selfish and

Self-centered to love unconditionally.

But thank God we don’t have to!

He has given us

All the grace we need

To unconditionally love

All those He brings into our lives.

I cannot think of a better way to close today’s blog than to return to the “Love Chapter” and peer behind the curtain of Christ-like, unconditional love to see if our love looks anything like it.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Remember . . .

When you give this kind of love to others

(Albeit inconsistently and imperfectly),

All you are doing is giving to them

What you yourself have already received

And continue receiving

On a moment-by-moment basis

From the One who bought you

With His precious blood.

So, what’s love got to do with it – from the backroom to the boardroom?  EVERYTHING!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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From Believing In Jesus to Belonging To His Church

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7MarIf you are a disciple of Christ, do you know what happened when you asked Jesus to saved you from your sin and surrendered to him as Lord?

You were engrafted into the body of believers

And immediately went from believing to belonging.

As someone has so beautifully said,

“You were saved as an individual,

But you were saved to community.”

This truth is troubling for many in a society that prizes independence and individualism.  We live in a culture where the demands and desires of the individual trump the demands and desires of the community, group, organization, or family.  It is not uncommon to hear new believers admit that they fear losing their independence to the church; they’ll say things like, “I love Jesus but not the church” and “I am spiritual but in no way religious.”  When people say such things, they are actually asserting that they have no interest in giving up their own personal rights, desires, wants, and preferences to anyone, including the visible expression of the Body of Christ, the local church family.  It is the clear and present evidence of a self-centeredness that has a stranglehold on them.

I’m a pastor, and I have heard, a great many horror stories of believers who have been hurt by the church . . . I have even been involved in one or two.  It has been said – all too often with complete justification – that the church shoots its wounded.  Christians can be mean and hurtful.  I know; I’m part of the church, and the church is made up of broken, fearful, hurting people just like me and you.  Yet . . .

The church is the Body of Christ,

And

We simply cannot have

The Head without His body.

Jesus intended our salvation to be worked out in the context of community.  Remember, the message of our salvation ends with a wedding (Revelation 19:6-9), and I have never seen or officiated at a wedding with only one person present.  A wedding is a celebration of hearts being united to beat as one, and this is the environment God has created for His people in His church: to live, love, work, grow, serve, and suffer, each for Him and His Body.

God sums this truth up in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 where the Bible says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink into one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

This really is good news!  You belong to something that transcends your own life; you are part of the family of God.  Yes, your family is a little messed up and sometimes a bit  dysfunctional, but Jesus loves them and died for them – all of them – and you are to love them . . . yes, even lay down your life for them, just as Christ loved you and laid down His life for you.

Keep in mind that the church

Is the only organization in the world

Where membership is limited

To those who are unqualified for membership.

We get in only because of the One

Who sought us, bought us, and brought us in.

One last important point: it is only as a member of the body that you will ever get to truly know your Savior.  You see, the Bible teaches that, the more of Jesus you see the more you see, interact, and relate to the ones He came to save.  You also see more of yourself and the power to live life through Christ the more you see, interact, and relate to the ones He died to save.  As someone has rightly said, “Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus.”

Believe and belong; it’s worth the effort!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth! 

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Missing Word in Our Modern Gospel

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8MarEvery Christian loves the gospel.  We know first hand what makes it such Good News!  However, as one reads the Bible, it is apparent that there is an ingredient of the Gospel that is missing today.   This is important to know because by definition,

You cannot have a Christian

Who isn’t shaped by

And

Saved by the gospel.

We need to preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did.

  • Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation.
  • They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside.
  • They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are.
  • Theirs was not a self-centered or self-help Gospel

Too much “gospel” preaching today sounds like a slightly spiritualized version of that old Christina Aguilera song: “You are beautiful no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down. You are beautiful in every single way. Yes, words can’t bring you down. So don’t bring me down today.”

I don’t doubt that many of us feel beat up and put down.  We struggle sometimes with low self-esteem, feeling of inadequacy, and even self-loathing.  We need to know we can be okay, even when we don’t feel okay.  It is good news to hear, then, that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in His sight.

But, the gospel is more than positive self-talk and self-help,

And the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm,

“Don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug.

There’s a word missing from

The presentation of our modern gospel.

It’s the word “repent.”

Yes . . . I know . . . that sounds old school, like an embarrassing sidewalk preacher with a sandwich board and tracts with bad graphics and lots of exclamation point preaching.  And yet . . .

Even a cursory glance at the New Testament

Demonstrates that we haven’t understood

The message of the gospel

If we never talk about repentance.

  • When John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, he preached repentance (Matthew 3:8,11)
  • When Jesus launched His Galilean ministry He declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)
  • Jesus understood the purpose of His ministry to be calling sinners to repentance (Luke5:32).
  • Just before His ascension, the resurrected Christ implored the disciples to be His witnesses, that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” would be preached in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47).
  • In fact, if there is a one-sentence summary of Jesus’s preaching in Mark 1:14-15 “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Notice that tow words: “repent” and “believe.”  The two are virtually synonymous in the New Testament, not that the words mean the same thing, but that they are signs of the same Spirit-prompted work and lead to the same end times inheritance.

Strictly speaking,

The proper response to the gospel

Is twofold:

Repent and believe

(Matthew 21:32; Acts 20:21).

If only one item in the pair is mentioned –

Which happens often in the New Testament –

We should realize that the other half is assumed.

You can’t really believe without also repenting,

And

You haven’t really repented if you don’t also believe.

The gospel message is sometimes presented as a straightforward summons to repent (Acts 3:18-19). Other times, forgiveness is linked to a singular act of repentance (Acts 5:31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  The message of the apostolic good news is that God will be merciful when we repent and that repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18). Simply put . . . the full gospel message is: “Repent therefore and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out . . .” (Acts 3:19).

If the call to repentance is a necessary part of faithful gospel preaching, then maybe we don’t have as good as grasp of the Gospel as we should have.  The summons to turn from sin, die to self, and turn to Christ is missing from prosperity preachers, from preachers in step with the progressive theology movement, and even from not a few gospel-centered preachers, too.

To be sure, we aren’t called

To beat people up Sunday after Sunday.

Many folks stumble into church

In desperate need of the Balm of Gilead.

We must not overlook that.

I think anyone who listens to several weeks of my sermons will hear that I’m not a “finger-wagging scolder.”  And yet . . .

If I never call people, with God’s authority,

To be genuinely sorry for sin,

To hate it more and more,

And to turn from it,

Then I’m not doing the work

A Gospel preacher should do.

The unpopular fact remains that the ungrateful and unrepentant will not be saved (1 Corinthians 9-10; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 5:1-20; 1 John 3:14).

The New Testament has nothing

To say about building the kingdom,

But it does have everything to say

About how we can enter into the kingdom.

The coming of the King is only good news

For those who turn from sin and turn to God.

If we want to give people a message that saves, instead of one that only soothes, we must preach more like Jesus and less like our pop stars.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

 Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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