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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Sharing The Gospel – The Natural Outcome Of Hearts Filled With Jesus

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Mar  Several years ago, Dr. David Beck, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Seminary, made this statement, “Evangelism is often recognized as the heartbeat of the church, yet it is rarely the focus of serious research among biblical scholars.”  In a message during a Southeastern chapel service, he asked faculty and students:

“How did people in the first century evangelize without attending an evangelism training seminar?  Did Paul invent the FAITH outline, did Peter ever go through CONTINUING WITNESS TRAINING, or did James write the FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS booklet? … Why did none of the New Testament authors write and circulate an evangelism manual? … It would seem that evangelism was not something planned or programmed by the early church. Yet consistently and constantly the Bible tells us that, ‘The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved [Acts 2:47].’”

Dr. Beck concluded that the early church does not appear “to have been trained in any special [evangelism] seminar. …

When you study the Book of Acts, what you discover is . . .

Evangelism in the life of the early church

Was neither a plan, a program,

Or a particular presentation.

Rather . . .

It was the natural overflow

Of hearts filled with Jesus.

I believe that today’s church needs to return to a less programmatic Gospel presentation and return to a Gospel presentation that results from “the natural overflow of hearts filled with Jesus.”

To do this the church needs to focus on answering three questions:

  1. What are the Gospel essentials?

What content must a person know in order to share the entire Gospel with unbelievers?

God answers that question

Through Paul’s Spirit inspired

Summary of the Gospel

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

There he declares, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you which also you received and in which you stand, by which you also are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

These verses sum up the entire teaching of the Bible

Concerning what we need to know regarding

What Jesus Christ has done for us

In order to provide us the gift of eternal life.

Anyone who knows enough of the Gospel to have heard it, believed it, and been saved by it, knows enough of the Gospel to share it.  Conversely, anyone who doesn’t know enough of the Gospel to share it should ask himself whether he has ever heard and believed enough of the Gospel to have been saved by it in the first place.

Recall the Gospel message you heard and believed.  At its core, it likely included:

  • The reality and consequences of sin.
  • The truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.
  • An invitation to repent of your sins and trust what Jesus did on the cross through His resurrection alone to save you; and verbally confess as Savior and Lord.

This truth is what causes our hearts

To overflow with love and appreciation

For what Jesus has done.

This is the only enduring motivation

That fills our hearts to overflowing

And “compels” us to share Christ with others.

This is reinforced in Romans 10:14-15, where the Bible says, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” 

Note the last phrase of verse 15 – “Glad tidings of good things?”  This phrase is doubly emphasized in the original Greek because the verb itself means “to preach good news.” In a sense, nothing more would have been needed.  But Paul then adds an adjective which the King James Version captures well — “glad tidings of good things” — literally, “who preach good news of good things.”  In other words . . .

Paul is telling us that . . .

This is outstandingly good news,

Great news, unimaginable, super news

That is unmatched and unparalleled

To any other news we receive!

It is, furthermore, “news” from outside ourselves, news of something that we’ve not done, to which we’ve made no contribution.  When the television announcer says, “Here is the news,” we don’t immediately tense up, wondering what we are going to be asked to do.  We relax, we listen, we understand, and if the news is good – if the economic situation is improving, if the weather is going to be nice, or if our favorite sports team has won – we are glad for it.

In the same way . . .

The gospel is news outside ourselves,

News of what someone else has done

Which can affect us in a supremely positive way!

What is this good news?

Quite simply, it is salvation.

Paul loves to use that word over and over again.  In Romans 10 verses 9, 10, and 13 he has emphasized it repeatedly: “That If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved . . . With the mouth confession is made unto salvation” . . . “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the good news –

Through what Jesus has done we are saved –

Saved from sin, from wrath, from death, from the devil, and from hell.

The good news is that we may be saved in our bodies and in our souls, saved for joy, for holiness, for fulfillment, for God.  We may be saved for an endless, abundant life in heaven.  God has done something by which we may be saved. Think of a project you have written on your computer which has taken hours of careful work.  What an achievement, but one thing remains even when you have put in the last sentence.  You need to move the marker to the “Saved” box and click on it.  Then all that carefully gathered and thought out work is saved!  The Lord Jesus Christ was sent into the world by the Father to seek and to save that which is lost.  If He has come for us, and found us, and died for us, and lives in heaven interceding for us then how can we be lost?  He has saved us.  Great news!  We are safe because of what the Son of God has done for us.

Paul uses a beautiful phrase in Romans 10 verse 12 when he describes him as “the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”  Here is more good news – How great are those riches!  What good news this is!  Instead of condemning us to hell for ever, God in Christ bestows His riches on us.  In fact . . .

It would be wrong to confine this to abstractions,

For the good news is a person –

The Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the good news.

It is Christ Himself

Whom the preacher offers.

This is the best news there ever has been or ever will be!

  1. What Scriptures will I use to communicate these essentials?

Which Bible verses communicate these essentials that you and I have heard and believed?  The New Testament presents two reasons why the Scriptures must be incorporated in our Gospel presentations.

1) Hearing the Word of Christ is prerequisite for biblical faith.  The Bible says in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  This truth is reinforced in Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4; John 8:31-32; and 1 Peter 2:2.

2) Those who share the Gospel with unbelievers in the New Testament overwhelmingly incorporated the Scriptures (e.g., Luke 24:14-32; Acts 2:14-41; 3:11-26; 4:1-12; 7; 8:4, 35; 13:13-49; 16:25-32; 17:10-13; 18:5, 28; 20:27; 26:22-23; 28:23-27).

Likely you can call to mind verses that communicate the Gospel essentials that you heard and believed.  For example . . .

  • John 3:16 tells us of God’s great love for us and what His love led Him to do.
  • John 6:38-40 tells us specifically where Jesus fits into God’s Gospel message.
  • Romans 3:23 communicates the consequences and reality of sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 conveys the truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.
  • Romans 10:9 contains the Gospel’s invitation to repent of your sins; believe in both Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection for your salvation; and verbally confess, “Jesus is Lord.”

With the Spirit’s help, select a verse that communicates each of the Gospel essentials and use these verses in your evangelistic presentation of those Gospel essentials.

  1. How do I instruct a willing hearer to repent, believe, and confess?

Some Christians believe that the most difficult aspect about evangelism comes at the beginning of the process – starting a Gospel conversation with another person. However, another aspect of evangelism can be just as terrifying, if not more so and that is finding that the person you share the gospel with is convicted by God’s Spirit of their sin and their need to accept Christ as Savior; yet you don’t know how to help him receive Christ.  How do you lead an unbeliever to repent of his sins, believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, and confess Him as Lord?

If, after an unbeliever hears the Gospel,

They are convicted by the Spirit

Of the sin and need of Jesus,

And

Desires to repent, believe, and confess,

Then consider asking him to call on God in prayer.

Usually, an unbeliever does not know how to pray to God.

So, first have him share with you the reason he needs to pray to God.  As they respond listen for them to admit their sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness.

Second, ask him to tell God, in his own words, that what he has understood from the gospel essentials you shared can forgive his sins and make him right with God.  Listen for him to reference the essence of the Gospel.

Third, instruct him to confess with sincerity the phrase, “Jesus is Lord.”

Finally, invite him to thank God for what he understands God has done for him.  Usually, new believers will thank God for His forgiveness, His presence, His mercy, and His grace.

Wow . . . doesn’t all this truth warm your heart and cause it to overflow in love and thanksgiving for all the Jesus has done?  Well then, go out and tell someone about 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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Are We Acting Wisely Toward Outsiders?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5MarIf you know Christ personally, I am sure you are like me, you desire to share Christ’s love and life with others who do not know Him.  The Bible says in Colossians 4:5, “Walk (conduct yourselves) in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming (making the most of) the time.”  This verse has always caused me to seriously examine how effective I am in fulfilling my assignment from the Lord to share Him as I go about my daily life (Matthew 19:20).

I pray that today’s blog will be a source of instruction and inspiration to lead you to examine whether your “conduct” with non-Christians is wise or unwise.  The grammar in this verse dictates that the answer to this question determines whether I am maximizing each God-given opportunity that I have with unbelievers.

Even though Paul clearly teaches the Colossians to speak the “mystery of Christ” among those who do not know Jesus (Colossians 1:5, 25; 3:16, 17; 4:3, 6), his command for them to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” seems to demand more.  It is interesting and instructive to note that Paul is not led by the Holy Spirit to use the word “speaking.”  This, of course, would only involve verbal discourse.  God leads Paul to use the word “walk” which is a word that incorporates all aspects of human behavior.  Taking note of how Paul uses this word in other places in his letter to the Colossians will help us get a clearer definition of what he is implying with this command.

Paul uses the Greek root for “walk” three other times in this letter:

(1) In Colossians 1:9-10, Paul prays that the Colossian believe may be “filled with the knowledge of His [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” … so that [they] “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him …”

(2) In Colossians 2:6, Paul writes that just as the Colossians have, “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so [they should] walk in Him.”

3) In Colossians 3:7, after listing several evidences of the flesh, “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed,” (3:5) Paul reminds the Colossians that “in which you yourselves once walked when you lived I them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these . . .”

When we look at how Paul uses the word “walk,” we can see . . .

That his concern for their effectiveness

In witnessing to unbelievers

Encompasses both their verbal

And non-verbal behavior.

Paul expects the Colossian believer’s words and deeds to match the divine standard for Christian witness – to lift Jesus up and to draw all men to Him (John 3:14; 12:32).  That is why he directs us in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” and in Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

It is not surprising that Paul then further qualifies his command with the phrase “in wisdom.”  Literally, the verse says, “In wisdom, conduct yourselves.”  By phrasing it this way, Paul is emphasizing the substantial role that wisdom plays in the believers’ spoken and unspoken “conduct” with those outside the church.

As he writes his letter, he talks about how “the knowledge of the mystery of God” is fully realized as we receive and live by the truths of God (Colossians 2:2-3).  That is why he says in Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established I the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7)

The Word of God is very specific about how you as a Christian are to conduct yourself toward the non-Christian.  

Before we go any further, we need to focus on something very important . . .

The cross of Christ.

It is because of the cross

And our redemption found there

That we are able to seek to be wise

And good towards unbelievers.

The sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, given us forgiveness of our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us.  While we lived in rebellion and rejection of God’s rule over us, He was gracious and kind to us.  Because of what God did through Jesus we have the power and ability to be kind to others.

Literally, the Greek says to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.”  To the Jew every non-Jew was an outsider.  To the Christian, every non-Christian is an outsider; that is, outside the family of God . . . Outside of a relationship with the Lord Jesus.  In the days of the early church believers were often slandered by these outsiders.  Christians were called atheists because they served no visible god, unpatriotic because they did not burn incense before the image of the emperor, and immoral because, of necessity, they would often meet behind locked doors.

Today there is still an attack on the church.  Christians are called bigots because they condemn homosexuality, intolerant because they oppose abortion, religious extremists because they condemn sin, and narrow-minded because they believe there is “one faith, one Lord, and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).  Yet, in spite of these attacks we are to remain humble, loving, caring, kind, and gentle toward them.  If we are not, if we do not show love and forbearance in the face of cruelty, insult, intolerance, and ridicule, then we are not showing the world that we know Jesus?

God wants our conduct to be with wisdom.

This conduct is our  the life that we life.

How may we walk more wisely?

1) We are to be sympathetic (this could be in counseling, listening, etc.) compassionate and humble – 1 Peter 3:8 – “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”

2) We are to be loving – 1 Peter 3:9 – “Don’t repay evil for evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing repay the evil cast at you”

3) We are to be patient – you are to be considerate and longsuffering with the unbeliever.

4) We are to be careful in how we live – Ephesians 5:15-17 – “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

5) We are to be careful in how we talk – Colossians 4:6, “Let you speech always be with grace; seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought ot answer each one.”

Paul is asking the Colossians to be careful with their tongues.

  • Careful when they speak in public and private, no gossip.
  • Careful when they speak to an equal or someone in power, no slander.
  • Careful when they speak to the poor and the rich, no favoritism.
  • Careful not only when speaking of the gospel but also when speaking of the weather, the economy, politicians, the authorities.

In all our conversations God wants us to be careful, gracious, kind in your speech.  Grace is getting whatever you do not deserve.  And note the word “always.”  In all situations at all times – playing a sport, watching a movie, driving, shopping, business, in church, out of church, at work . . . The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that I may impart grace to the hearers.”

6) God also wants us to know how to answer everyone – Verse 6, “That you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  In 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Part of having answers means being wise.

Proverbs, as well as the rest of the Bible, is the only source of true wisdom.  With wisdom, you will be able to properly answer in times of counseling and heartache, joy and sorrow, and in times when morality is an issue.

Part of having answers means knowing doctrine.

The Bible is an excellent teachers of doctrine.  We are to know the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message, the resurrection, the return of Christ, and the rest of what the Bible teaches.

Part of having answers means studying difficult issues.

Study evolution, cults, and other religions.  You don’t have to master them, just be familiar with them.

We will walk wisely when we give ourselves to the following  . . .

  1. Learn to fear God – Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

  2. Spend more time in the Bible – Psalms 119:130, “The entrance of Your words give light; it gives understanding unto the simple.” The purpose of the book of proverbs is, “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.” (Proverbs 1:3)
  3. Make walking in wisdom a priority – Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Study the 119 verses in Proverbs on wisdom.
  4. Ask God for wisdom – James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him.”

  5. Follow the advice of 1Thessaloians 5:21-22 and prove all things before we make a decision. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
  6. And don’t forget, in your wisdom and grace toward those who are outside the faith, pray for them.
  • They need to be granted the faith that God gives – John 6:28ff.
  • They need to be granted the repentance that God gives – 2 Timothy 2:25.
  • They need to be granted the belief that God gives – Philippians 1:20.
  • You can make a difference in your prayers – James 5:16.

So . . .  what difference do these verses make in your life?  It should be plenty.  Your conduct and speech before an unbeliever is vitally important.  Your conduct should be with wisdom, your speech with grace.

I heard about a Christian who years ago worked with an unbeliever.  For two years, this Christian answered the unbeliever’s questions; he was gentle and kind in his conduct in all situations and always tried to point his friend to Christ.  He sought to be wise and gracious.  Today that unbeliever has become a pastor.  The Lord used that Christian, his wise conduct, his gracious speech, to help bring another into His kingdom.  To Jesus be the glory, Amen!

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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Five Most Important Teachings of the Bible

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4Mar  I often take the Bible for granted, millions of people all over the world have never even seen one.  I have seen the faces of people who have held the Bible in their hands for the very first time.  I get goosebumps when I see it.  They want to learn more about it.  Seeing people get and begin reading the Bible for the first time is always beautiful and amazing.

How grateful we ought to be

For how God is leading

And providing opportunities

To get the Bible into the hands

Of every people group.

In today’s blog I want us to think about the greatest Book that has ever been written; about the marvelous truths the Bible contains that will teach us about life and how to know Him and relate to Him; and about the powerful eternal life that the Bible points us to.

What Makes The Bible Unique?

God needs to always remind us of what a treasure we have in God’s Word.  Written over a period of 1,500 years, the Bible is a collection of 66 books penned by shepherds, kings, prophets, doctors, and fishermen.  God inspired different men to write the historical records, poems, prophecies, and letters that we know as the Bible.  Yet, in spite of the years involved in writing it and the many different writers God used to give it to us, there is a unified purpose and message that man desperately needs to hear.

When we read the Bible, God Himself

Through His Spirit speaks to us.

The Bible is God’s Word to us about His Love

And the Life we need to know.

It’s a record of His work throughout history

And

Contains everything He really wants us to know.

When we open our Bibles and read them,

We learn who God is,

How He saves from sin,

And what He wants from us.

His love for us comes alive!

What Does The Bible Really Say?

One Christian organization recently asked 2,500 people, including executives, skilled workers, writers, pastors, seminary professors, teachers, and students, what they thought were the main messages of the Bible.

Over and over, they mentioned themes of

Love, Grace, Sin, and Forgiveness.

Let’s look at the five more important teachings of the Bible . . .

1) A loving God created our world.

We take it for granted, but the book of Genesis sets the foundation for the rest of God’s story.  Our universe was no accident.  God existed eternally, and He created the heavens and earth.  God’s nature is love, and He desires a relationship with man, the crown of His creation.

The core truths in Genesis sets the stage for all else

That humanity is a special creation

Above all other created things;

That sin against God truly matters;

And

That God had a plan for redemption

In mind from before the creation.

2) Man needs a Savior.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Most of us don’t like to talk about sin,

Much less admit we’re sinners,

But it’s an important theme of the Bible.

In Genesis 3, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God.  When they disobeyed God, they sinned, and they lost their perfect relationship with their Creator.  The Bible teaches that the consequence of sin is eternal separation from God.   Old Testament stories illustrate how sin creates a barrier between man and God.  The New Testament presents Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I believe the church today has a huge under-emphasis on sin.  The Bible teaches that sin is so serious that God had to send Jesus into the world save sinners, not the so-called good people or righteous people.

Understanding our sin problem

Is absolutely essential

To understanding God’s love

And

To receiving God’s grace.”

3) Jesus is God and Savior.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He lovesd us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins.”

When I was growing up, I always pictured God as an all-powerful, loving creator, but I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about Jesus!  I found answers to my questions as a college student when I read in John 1 that God came to earth as a man.

A reading of John’s gospel

(And the other Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke)

Reveals that Jesus continually claimed to be God.

That’s one reason religious leaders wanted Him crucified.

Jesus lived a sinless life, but He died to pay for our sins.

It was the whole reason He came to earth.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 23,

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child,

And bear a Son And they shall call

His name Immanuel, which is translated,

“God with us.”

The very name “Jesus”

Means “The Lord saves.”

4) God calls us to relationship.

The Bible says in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

Most Christians agree that

Redemption and relationship with God

Are central themes of the Bible.

Abraham was called a friend of God because his faith brought him into a right relationship with God.  Moses met with God face to face, not based upon who he was or what he did, but through His faith and acceptance of God’s message.

Although our sin makes it impossible

For us to draw near to a Holy God,

Jesus paid the penalty for sin

To clear the way for us to enter into God’s family.

We have an amazing privilege:

When we place our faith in Christ,

God adopts us,

Giving us the status

Of beloved sons and daughters.

Anyone can have a personal relationship with God through placing faith in Jesus Christ.  The call to place a faith commitment in Christ is the purpose for God sending Jesus here and for giving us the Bible.

5) God rules and reigns forever (even when it doesn’t look like it).

The Bible says in Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established His throne in heaven.  And His kingdom rules over all.”

As many watch injustice, violence, wars, and natural disasters on our television screens, they sometimes struggle to believe in a good, all-powerful God.  Yet, the Bible teaches that God, perfect in wisdom, is always at work for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Even when bad things happen in our personal lives, believers can rest assured that our Heavenly Father will work all things together for our good.  Part of His sovereign purpose is to transform us and make us more like Himself: loving, wise, joyful, and peaceful.

Man’s sin has spoiled this world,

And

Satan exerts influence and authority,

Yet,

Jesus will come again.

God will have the final victory

Over sin and death.

His Word assures us of

A hope and a future.

The Bible says in Revelation 21:4-5, “And God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed.  Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make al things new.’  And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”

The Bible imparts timeless truths

That will bring us to faith,

Build us up in the faith,

And

Become a blessing to our faith

When we take time to read it.

Reminding ourselves of our beliefs helps us stand firm when the world around us is falling apart and the ground beneath us seems is shaky.  Remember the five most important teachings of the Bible . . .

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God loves us with an unconditional love.

Jesus died to pay for our sins,

So we can become sons and daughters of God.

He will come again to take us home.

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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Resting In A Powerful Truth For Ministry

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Mar1  I remember the first time I heart this quote from Francis Schaeffer, “As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places.”

I was sitting in chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  As a first-semester seminary student, my mind and heart were full of excitement and expectation, especially concerning where the Lord may take me in the ministry.  Having observed watched and heard many “celebrity” pastors, I remember thinking and hoping that maybe God would direct my ministry to such a height someday.  Yet, as the speaker preached and referenced this quote, I remember my heart being shaken, and my direction in ministry changed.

My assumption up to that point – and if we are honest, the assumption of so many of us – was that God was always going to call me to bigger and better places.

The small ministry that I had before seminary was in my past.

Greatness, notoriety, and prosperity were surely on the horizon.

Yet, the truth is, this is the way of the flesh and not the way of Christ!

Jesus prescribes the position of the heart that must prevail in the life of His disciples in Luke 14:7-11:

There the Bible says, “And He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited to go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself with be exalted.'”

Jesus’ teaching to those who heard this parable was simple:

Take the lowest position

And trust the Host

To put you

In the right position.

What Jesus teaches in this parable is echoed throughout the New Testament . . .

  • In Matthew, Luke, and John, we have the example of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
  • In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul reminds his readers to have the same mind in them as Christ Jesus, who took on flesh, took up the cross, and humbled Himself to the point of death.
  • In 1 Peter 5:6, Peter encourages his readers to, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

Dr. Schaeffer comments on the point of this passage in his book, No Little People: “This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility.”

Living out the teaching of Jesus

And the message of the New Testament

Requires us to always seek

Faithfulness over a following.

When we embrace New Testament humility, we are not promised a massive following.  When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no promise that money will flow in.  When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no assurance that any man will ever see us as a success. BUT there is the promise that we will be exalted by the Lord.

Choosing to be faithful on the lesser path

May never lead to the praises of man,

But it will lead to the approval of our Savior.

Additionally, living out this teaching of Jesus requires us to always seek out piety over a platform.

As disciples of Jesus,

Our aim should be

To grow in our devotion to Jesus

And

Not to grow our ministry reach.

For many of us (myself included), false humility pervades our social media channels.  We use false gratitude and fancy phrases that are posted, pictured, and planted all over our social media feeds in hopes that our reach will grow farther and our notoriety will increase.  These false actions often take our attention away from faithfully following Jesus.

We are tempted to grow our own following

Instead of more faithfully following Him.

Since the way of Christ is so clear, we should do two things. First, we should follow Christ’s call, no matter the span of our influence.  Second, we should work as servants and not seek celebrity status. Dr. Schaeffer says,

“Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is back-wards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.”

For each of us,

The command of Christ is

To be humble and to trust

Him alone for where we are headed.

May we always seek the lower place so that we can give Christ the highest praise with our lives!

. 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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