What Is A Gospel-Centered Church?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

22May  Last week in my blog, I looked at Acts 2:41-47 and presented five traits that determine if your church is truly Gospel-centered.  We certainly did not exhaust the truths found in those verses (i.e. we could have talked about the fact that the early church was committed to preach and teach the Word of God or that they were committed to worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth).  That will have to be left to another day.

There are encouraging signs today, amidst all the churches who are departing from the faith, that more and more churches are coming to better understand their biblical mission.  God is leading pastors to come to the realization that they are not preaching and teaching the gospel.  That seems like a strange statement – Christian churches that do not preach the gospel?   It might lead you to ask: “Are they teaching antiChristian doctrine?  Am I ranting against liberalism again?”  Often, it’s not that these churches have fallen into some gross heresy.  Most likely . . .

It’s just that over time,

They’ve let the gospel slip

In favor of another way

To try to draw people

And change people.

A few of the most prevalent things that can crowd out the gospel are:

Moralism – Using fear, rules, and commands as the basis for discouraging sin and

encouraging holy living.  This sadly results in increased pride and self‐righteousness among rule-keepers and absolute despair in those who are unable to live up.

Pragmatism – When, in an effort to reach new people, church leaders spend more time

teaching helpful techniques or useful how-to principles than actually pointing people to Bible truths, which is the only thing that has real power to change both hearts and lives.

Political agendas – Out of a desire to get involved in the public square and to influence policy, Christians of every political stripe often begin to equate the spread of the gospel with the growth of a specific political party or platform.

Social gospel – In the effort to “do what Jesus did” churches are getting in on meeting the social needs of people in their communities.  They major on meeting the physical, emotional, intellectual, and relational needs of others.  While this is an area that the Bible does that Christians will be concerned and involved with ministering to the poor and less fortunate in our society, the Social Gospel movement seeks to replace “gospel preaching/witnessing” with efforts to better the economic, moral, and social conditions of the poor.  The Social gospel movement teaches that “the duty of Christians is not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven.”  The Social Gospel movement is driven by the belief that “the Second Coming of Christ could not happen until humanity rid itself of all social evils by human effort”. Followers applied Christian ethics to social justice issues, especially as it related to economic policy.

What’s tricky is that usually these “isms” start with a noble aspiration:

  • A desire to help people change & grow,
  • A desire to reach out to people far from God,
  • A desire to use influence to change the way things are done.

Unfortunately, when something other than God is our primary goal, no matter how good that goal is, we will eventually start taking short cuts to get what we want accomplished.

A gospel‐centered church

Understands that change

Or transformation of any kind,

Especially authentic heart‐transformation,

Cannot happen apart from the gospel of grace

Which is proclaimed in the Word of God.

A gospel‐centered church roots and keeps the focus of all its activity – teaching, worship, outreach, social activism, and discipleship – honed in on the gospel:

The riches of the grace of God are available

Because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners.

Because of this, a gospel‐centered church is committed to:

  • Reading, teaching, and living by the entire Bible in light of the Gospel.
  • Preaching the gospel to believers, not just unbelievers.
  • Leaders applying the gospel to themselves first; church leaders are the first repenters.
  • Cultivating a leadership and membership culture marked by ever increasing “gospel astonishment.”
  • Being known for an atmosphere of grace; gospel‐centered churches are safe places for seekers, skeptics, and those outside of the faith – safe places where they are free and welcome to come and where they will hear “thus saith the Lord” regarding their lives.
  • Producing people who don’t just know the doctrine of the gospel but who love the person of Jesus Christ.

These are the themes that we are committed to living together at First Baptist.  At the end of the day . . .

Grace isn’t just something we “get”

And the cross is not just some object in time.

These things hinge on a Person.

At the center of it all is a Person – Jesus.

In an age when His name is easily tossed around or relegated to some minor point of

doctrine used to win arguments and manipulate people, we long for the day when Jesus is seen for what He is: the glorious God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sovereign of the Bible!

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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Three Fallacies of the Social Gospel

Grace For The Journey

  2018BlogTheme

17MayYesterday I wrote about a subtle, destructive, and unbiblical mindset that is rapidly gaining ground in many churches.  This popular movement has taken place in evangelical circles which has impacted the understanding of the words “gospel” and “gospel ministry.”

Couched in appealing language and ambiguous slogans, it finds kindling in a new generation steeped in a popular liberal mindset and ungrounded in sound Bible theology.  It is gathering droves of Christians who see it as a balanced approach to ministry.

In past years, it was called “the social gospel.”  Today, those who label this wildfire by that term, risk being viewed as unprogressive, compassionless, or throwbacks to an epoch of fundamentalist isolationism.  There is a version of the social gospel that is being revived today under the guise with new emphases on “mercy ministry” and “social justice.”

This new form of social ministry transcends any call to more involvement with the needs of society.  It is a theological system of its own, a worldview that defines the mission of the church, the kingdom of God, Christian living, and even the content of the word “gospel” itself.

Mercy ministry is plainly taught in the Bible as a gift and work of the Spirit and a necessary outworking of local church life.  Zealous efforts to help the poor are wonderful.  However, when such enthusiasm impinges on the meaning of the gospel or the mission of the church, we have a reason to become alarmed.

I want to share three fallacies that are the reasons for this grave concern:

Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch famously preached these points in Christian opposition to the evils of capitalism and big business.  He firmly believed the Gospel promoted a form of Christian socialism that is somewhat reminiscent in some Emerging Church circles today.  In the early 20th century, the Social Gospel movement was driven by the belief that the Second Coming of Christ could not happen until humanity rid itself of all social evils by human effort.  Followers applied Christian ethics to social justice issues, especially as it related to social economic policy.

Similar to the way Marxism twisted Scripture, the Social Gospel Movement was guilty of three major theological fallacies:

1) Man Is Not So Bad, And God Is Not So Mad.

In his book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr criticized the liberal Social Gospel movement and described its message as, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Rauschenbusch and his followers tended to blame sin on societal structures rather than human nature.  According to Kyle Potter in a Georgetown College article, they believed individuals “could not leave a life of sin until they were freed from the social and economic situation that drove them into sin in the first place.”  This view plainly contradicts the Biblical concept of original sin and the need for a Savior.

2)  Cultural Restoration Is The Gospel.

Social Gospel adherents seem to believe the Gospel is centered on cultural involvement: if people transformed culture, only then would Christ be revealed.  But this understanding of the Gospel is too narrow.

Christians are absolutely called to engage culture – that is the heart of the stewardship principle in life and over creation – but the Gospel is larger than that.  It is the story of God’s creation, the Fall, redemption, and the final restoration.  Rauschenbusch seemed to over-emphasize cultural restoration and minimize Christ as the agent of cultural transformation.

3) Social Salvation Is Superior To Individual Salvation.

Conservative theologians see redemption as a matter strictly between each individual and God; but progressives in the Social Gospel Movement, “hold that redemption could only be achieved collectively, by means of unified, social, and political activism.”

Though Rauschenbusch saw individual salvation as important, he always considered it secondary to social reform.  In a recent interview with Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller rejects this notion: “…individual salvation needs to be kept central.”

Though the Social Gospel movement has since fizzled, similar theology has appeared in Emerging Church circles today.   One well-known southern California pastor referred

to the Social Gospel, which is supported by many of the mainline churches, as “Marxism in Christian clothing.”  But this same pastor points out we, “shouldn’t choose between cultural restoration and personal salvation. The Gospel contains both with Christ at the center.”

So What Does It All Mean?

As we work towards developing a biblical perspective on social ministry, it’s important to keep in mind the above fallacies of the Social Gospel movement.  As we labor on behalf of the Kingdom, it’s easy for Social Gospel ideas to shape how we think about certain aspects of faith and ministry:

  • Like the Social Gospel, it’s easy to start treating cultural transformation as an end in and of itself.
  • If cultural restoration becomes our gospel, we begin to think that the Kingdom is built by us.

Regarding cultural transformation, the Social Gospel rightly recognizes that it is important.  However, it’s not the end goal . . .

Everything we do,

All the transformation we work towards,

Should point to the glory of God.

In his post “Kingdom Work,” Hugh Whelchel makes this point by quoting Bill Edgar: “Our cultural involvements are the reflection of the deeper reality of our relationship with God.”  This more nuanced view of cultural transformation strikes a balance between outward work and inner salvation.

Another common yet subtle idea implied from Social Gospel teachings is that God’s Kingdom is built by us.  It’s not!

Every part of the Kingdom,

From its establishment

To its construction

And eventual consummation

Is carried out by Christ.

He uses us as His tools in this endeavor.  It’s a subtle distinction.

We aren’t building the Kingdom;

God is building it and using us.

Simply put, it is best explained this way: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with Him, and then one day He will restore the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with Him forever.

In order for us to have a correct, biblical perspective on social ministry . . .

We need to understand that

Christ drives the process,

On both the individual and societal levels.

He “accomplishes our salvation,”

And will one day restore His creation.

My concern is not that the church is not ministering to the poor nor seeking to be good stewards of God’s creation.  My concern is that we will do it for the wrong reason if we are not led by God’s Word.

 

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

The Danger Of The New Evangelical Social Gospel

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17MayIn my blog for the next two days, I want to assess and refute a new and unbiblical mindset that is rapidly gaining ground in many churches.  A subtle ambush has taken place in evangelical circles which has impacted the understanding of the words “gospel” and “gospel ministry.”

Couched in appealing language and ambiguous slogans, it finds kindling in a new generation steeped in a popular liberal mindset, ungrounded in sound Bible theology.  It is gathering droves of Christians who see it as a balanced approach to ministry.

In past years, it was called “the social gospel.”  Today, those who label this wildfire by that term, risk being viewed as unprogressive, compassionless, or throwbacks to an epoch of fundamentalist isolationism.  There is a version of the social gospel is being revived today under the guise with new emphases on “mercy ministry” and “social justice.”

This new form transcends any call to more involvement with the needs of society.  It is a theological system of its own, a worldview that redefines the mission of the church, the kingdom of God, Christian living, and even the content of the word “gospel” itself.  It is almost a religion of its own.

Mercy ministry is plainly taught in the Bible as a gift of the Spirit and a necessary outworking of local church life. Zealous efforts to help the poor are wonderful. When such enthusiasm impinges on the meaning of the gospel or the mission of the church, we have a reason to become alarmed.

Flirting With Fallacy

Sectors of the evangelical community, led by well-meaning people, are beginning to flirt with the fine edges of heresy.  This new movement claims a mandate on Christians exists to focus on the needs of the poor and transform social institutions into a just and equitable society.

According to the movement, the gospel message itself embodies not only a call to personal salvation but also a commitment to the physical needs of humanity at large, the poor in particular, and not just within the church.  In the view of the founders of this group, rectifying social injustice is an inseparable part of the mission of the church and a key factor in defining the spirituality of its members.

Without these, they say, the gospel itself is truncated, incomplete and unbalanced.  This alone is the authentic gospel.

Such teaching is actually a new version of the failed social gospel of the early part of the 20th century, dressed up to appeal to conservatives.

How does the new differ from the old social gospel?

The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially social justice, inequality, etc.  Social Gospel leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing [of politics] … and most were theologically liberal. …[i][i]

The difference between the two is simply liberal versus conservative.  The new social gospel is really the old, dusted off version, dressed in new language, and presented to Christians as a fresh call for social justice.

How the new views the old

The current social gospel has its own perspective on the old.  It goes something like this: When the original social gospel movement started, liberalism was its bedfellow. Conservatives reacted by concentrating solely on the Bible and evangelism.  Apart from liberalism, nothing was particularly wrong with the movement.  If evangelicals today add back the pursuit of social justice, it will result in a powerhouse movement that the world will notice.

This historical scenario sounds perfectly reasonable.  It is also dead wrong.  While liberalism in the old social gospel was indeed erroneous, this is not the issue we must consider now.

Liberalism or not, it was still wrong for two reasons:

  • A false definition of the gospel.
  • An unbiblical mission of the church.

The same thing is wrong with the new version today; falsely defining the gospel as two indispensable halves, (1) preaching; plus, (2) service to the poor.  This includes creating a just and equitable society through Christianizing governmental institutions, along with environmental concerns.

The new social gospel conservatives have bought in to these wrong definitions while considering themselves distinct from the old version, solely because they reject the liberalism.  This is self-deceptive.  The definitions themselves are blatantly liberal and woefully unbiblical.

For both the old and new, meeting the material needs of mankind is just as much a part of the mission of the church as meeting the spiritual needs.  All we need to do is balance our current emphasis on evangelism with social justice and we will have a holistic gospel that will advance the kingdom of God and stun the world.

This is why I say, as kindly and firmly as I can, that the new social gospel is merely the old, repackaged version for conservatives.

The Flawed Theory of “Social” Missions

Many social justice advocates argue that the incarnation was, at least in part, about bringing peace, human flourishing, or general well-being to the human race.  Therefore, they say that any Christian effort which increases human flourishing (such as digging a well or starting a medical clinic) is gospel ministry.  Although this may initially seem compelling, it is a very dangerous one because it involves a significant redefinition of the gospel.

There are at least three biblical problems with the social action model of missions.  Of course, not all social-action advocates exhibit all of these problems, but naturally, since this is a survey, I need to paint with a broad brush.

Problem 1:  A redefinition of the gospel.

Many social justice advocates argue that the incarnation was, at least in part, about bringing shalom, human flourishing, or general well-being to the human race.  Therefore, they say that any Christian effort which increases human flourishing (such as digging a well or starting a medical clinic) is gospel ministry.  Although this may initially seem compelling, it is a very dangerous one because it involves a significant redefinition of the gospel.

As D. A. Carson points out, any such redefinition of the gospel is categorically wrong.  He writes, “[The gospel is] the good news of what God has done, not a description of what [Christians] ought to do in consequence …. One cannot too forcefully insist on the distinction between the gospel and its entailments.”  In other words, by definition, digging a well is not the gospel, because the gospel is about what God has done in Jesus Christ, not anything we do.  How did we forget that?

Furthermore, to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ as being about the general upliftment of unbelieving society is, in fact, to misrepresent the gospel.  John MacArthur writes: “I recently mentioned to a friend that I was working on a book dealing with sin and our culture’s declining moral climate.  He immediately said: ‘Be sure you urge Christians to get actively involved in reclaiming society.  The main problem is that Christians haven’t acquired enough influence in politics, art, and the entertainment industry to turn things around for good.’  That, I acknowledge, is a common view held by many Christians.  But I’m afraid I don’t agree …. God’s purpose in this world – and the church’s only legitimate commission – is the proclamation of the message of sin and salvation to individuals.”

Problem 2:  An inexplicable preference for indirect gospel ministry over direct gospel ministry.

In most social action mission efforts, the actual gospel ministry is quite limited – more of a hoped-for byproduct than the overt goal.  For example, school teachers and doctors naturally have to spend the majority of their day teaching arithmetic and peering into ears and down throats.  A church planter, on the other hand, spends his entire day doing direct gospel ministry.  Based on the book of Acts, I would argue that the gospel is not merely a hoped-for byproduct of missions.  The gospel is the mission.  An indirect approach might be necessary in Islamic countries where Christians need secular employment to get into the country.  However, there is no need to adopt indirect strategies when reaching open countries.

Often lurking behind this preference for expensive, roundabout, indirect-gospel ministry is the notion that the church must first portray the gospel by means of social action before it can preach the gospel.  I find no basis for this in Acts or the Epistles.  In fact, missions efforts in which the preaching of the Word and the proclamation of the gospel are an afterthought or a hoped-for byproduct bear no resemblance to the missions efforts of the apostles in the New Testament.

Problem 3:  The new pragmatism.

Someone has said that “one of the key crippling weaknesses of the evangelical church in our era is a spiraling loss of confidence in the power of Scripture.”  One can often see this reflected in the social action movement.  The argument is, once the church’s social relief programs make unbelievers amiable toward us, then we can nudge them toward Christ.  It’s a new expression of the old notion that the gospel needs an enticing lead-in because it will never succeed by itself.

Let me illustrate.  The following description of a social-action church plant in the Baltimore, Maryland area, comes from a book on urban missions written by graduates of Westminster Seminary.  This quote, which is fully representative of the book, provides a rather bare-faced example of doubting the power of the gospel and of the medium becoming the message: “Without a holistic faith, there is no gospel in Sandtown.  Living out the gospel in this context has meant building a collaborative network of church and community-based institutions that focus on housing, job development, education and health care.  In 2001, the full-time staff numbered over eighty ….  Seeking the shalom of Sandtown means a concentrated effort to eliminate vacant and substandard housing, a K-8 school … a job placement center that links over one hundred residents a year to employment, and a family health center …. Simply ‘preaching the gospel’ would have failed.

According to that author, the gospel in Sandtown includes housing reform, job development, quality education, and health care.  In fact, it appears that about the only thing that the gospel in Sandtown does not include is Jesus Christ crucified for sinners.  Jesus as Savior from substandard housing and unemployment is highly visible.  Jesus as Savior from sin and hell is nowhere to be found, and frankly, isn’t even necessary to most of what is being done.  The power of the gospel is openly doubted (imagine if eighty full-time church planters had been sent there!), and the medium—social reform—has become the message.

In the end, the new pragmatism leads one very far from book-of-Acts kind of missions.

In tomorrow’s blog, I will continue this thought as I conclude with presenting three fallacies of the social gospel.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

Five Traits That Determine If Your Church Is Truly Gospel-Centered, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15May  Yesterday looked into the Bible and say two traits, evangelistic effectiveness and doctrinal depth and a sense of the presence of God, that the gospel produced in the early church.  In Acts 2:41-47 we began to look at five things that God desires and led the believers to implement in their on-going activities together.  One crucial aspect God teaches us in this passage is that the believers who make up His church do everything based on a Scripturally-anchored gospel.  We are seeing the Bible clearly teaches that, just as it was in the first century, these traits are what churches should be and do today.

The great need of our day

Is that churches return to

Being truly Gospel and Bible centered

In their worship services and ministry.

Today we will look at the other three traits that the gospel produced in the early church:

  1. Gospel-centered churches are characterized by fervent, faith-filled prayer(Acts 2:42)

The gospel produces a faith in the hearts of the early church that leads them to make bold requests of Jesus.  You see that referred to verse 42 in Acts 2, and fleshed out later in Acts 4:24-31.  They expected great things from God, and then attempted great things for God.

The early church was born from prayer.  After Jesus ascended to heaven, Acts 1:14 reports that the disciples “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.”  This went on for ten days before the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  These believers prayed for 10 days, Peter preached for 10 minutes, and 3,000 people were saved. Today we’re more likely to pray for 10 minutes, preach for 10 days, and see 3 people saved.

Acts shows us a profound connection between corporate prayer and our community getting a sense of the glory of God.  When we pray, our eyes are opened to the glory of God.  When our eyes are opened to His glory, we will preach with boldness, passion and power (Acts 4:24-31).  In Acts 7:55-56, we see Stephen lift his eyes to heaven in prayer, catch a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, and in awe begin to proclaim it to those around him.  When this happens on a city-wide scale, what you get is a spiritual awakening. Tim Keller gives a glimpse of what this looks like: “In New York, in 1857, a man named Jeremiah Lanphier was hired to witness to a local neighborhood.  He was frustrated by utter ineffectiveness, and so in desperation he turned to prayer.  One day he invited people to pray with him – six people showed up.  The following week, 20 people came. The next week, 40.  Two months later, hundreds were gathering to pray.  Soon the entire downtown area was filled with men and women praying.  Evangelistic meetings sprang up all over the city, and in 9 months, 50,000 people came to Christ at a time when the population of NYC was 800,000.  This was known as the great prayer revival of Manhattan”

I really want to see that happen in my city!  It won’t come until God’s people are burdened to pray.

  1. Gospel-centered churches are characterized by empowered members. (Acts 8:1, 28:15)

A constant theme throughout the book of Acts is that God’s most effective vehicles are “regular” people.

Consider these facts from Acts:

  • Thirty-nine of the 40 miracles in the book of Acts occur outside the walls of the “church,” in the workplace.
  • The longest sermon in Acts is by Stephen, a layman. That sermon led to the most significant spiritual moment in Acts, the conversion of Saul (Paul).
  • Acts 8:1 notes that when persecution rose up against the church, the church was scattered around the world preaching the gospel. But note that Luke tells you this worldwide fulfillment of Acts 1:8 did not include the Apostles.
  • These anonymous Christians were so effective in preaching the gospel that when Paul showed up in Rome to preach the gospel “where Christ had never been named,” he was greeted by “the brothers” (Acts 28:15).

Early church historian Stephen Neill notes that the anonymity of the major gospel movements in the ancient world is breathtaking: “But in point of fact few, if any, of the great Churches were really founded by apostles. Nothing is more notable than the anonymity of these early missionaries… Luke does not turn aside to mention the name of a single one of those pioneers who laid the foundation. Peter and Paul may have organized the Church in Rome. They certainly did not found it…” (History of Christian Missions, 22)

This flows from the very nature of the gospel.

The gospel is not about recognizing the gifted,

But about gifting the unrecognized.

Church leaders who understand that gospel won’t try to build their church around a handful of mega-talented superstars, but rather dedicate themselves to empowering and releasing the church for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).  They become committed to raising up other leaders.

They judge their success

Not so much by seating capacity

But sending capacity.

  1. Gospel-centered churches are characterized by extravagant generosity. (Acts 2:45)

The gospel is that Jesus “became poor for our sake so that through his poverty we might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  When a church gets this, they become extravagantly generous toward others.

The first Christians didn’t just give out of their excess.

They voluntarily sold their possessions

So that there were no needs among them.

Eventually this sort of gospel generosity overflowed into the streets, but it started in the church.  The Bible says in Galatians 6:10, “Let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  The love that Christians show to one another is a profound statement to an unbelieving world.  It is by our love for one another, Jesus said, that the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35; cf. 1 Peter 4:9).  As Francis Schaeffer said, “the final apologetic that Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”

Evangelistic effectiveness and doctrinal depth; fervent, faith-filled prayer; a sense of the presence of God; empowered members and extravagant generosity are five things that the gospel produced in the early church.  How present are they in your church?  If one of these characteristics are missing, is it possible that we don’t understand the gospel as much as we claim to?  These are the indelible marks of a gospel-centered church.

If these are missing from your church, the answer is not to “go and try harder.”  We need to ask ourselves, “Why is the gospel I am preaching not producing these things?” and “Why are we doing other things in place of these vital life-giving truths?”

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Five Traits That Determine If Your Church Is Truly Gospel-Centered, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme 15May There is much being said today about what the church ought to be.  Some advocate that the church must be more accepting and affirming; others insist that the church must also be focused on the social needs of their community; and still others advocate that the church must major on being relevant and genuine.  Because of these strong voices, there is confusion on exactly what the purpose and ministry of the church really is.  Over the next two days in my blog I want to look in the Bible and see what the church in the first century was focused on and involved with.  The Bible tells us in Acts 2:41-47, “Then those who gladly received His word were baptized: and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believe were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people,  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

In these verses God gives us five traits of the church that He desires and led the believers to implement in their on-going activities together.  One crucial aspect God teaches us in this passage is that the believers who make up His church do everything based on a Scripturally-anchored gospel.  We will see the Bible clearly teaches that, just as it was in the first century, these traits are what churches should be and do today.

The great need of our day

Is that churches return to

Being truly Gospel and Bible centered

In their worship services and ministry.

Today we will see the first two traits:

  1. Evangelistic effectiveness AND doctrinal depth – Acts 2:41-42, 47.

Acts 2:41 tells us that in one day 3,000 people “were saved and baptized,” and verse 47 reports that God “added daily to their number those who were being saved.”  At the same time, the people were “devoted to the teaching of the Apostles” and were possessed by a great sense of awe over God’s glory.

I often hear and read church depth placed at odds with church growth.  But, the Bible teaches the early church clearly did both.  In reality . . .

The one is impossible

Without the other.

Churches that grow in numbers without growing deep in faith are not creating a “sustainable” biblical existence; they are only generating a little temporary excitement. Sadly today, many churches that are majoring on reaching people are not nearly as deep in the faith as they may think or need to be.

Gospel depth

Always produces

Gospel fruitfulness

(Mark 4:16-17).

I believe that this is one vital truth that is missing in many 21st century churches. Yet, it is so vital in making the church what it needs to be.  Understanding the gospel gives you a sense of people’s lostness.  As you study the Bible, you . . .

  • Understand the wrath of God against sin, how imminent His judgment is, the urgency of sharing the gospel, and how great His grace is towards those who repentance and accept Christ as Savior.
  • Understanding the gospel gives you humility, because you realize how lost you were before God saved you.
  • Understanding the gospel gives you the faith to believe God for great things, because the gospel reveals how willing and able God is to save.

You show me someone characterized by a sense of urgency, humility, love and the boldness that comes from great faith, and I’ll show you someone who will be an effective evangelist!

The Bible teaches that healthy, Bible-driven churches do both.  The Bible says in Colossians 1:5-6, “Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heave, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.”  Certain churches within the gospel-centered movement are suprisingly unconcerned with, or ineffective at, evangelism.  They talk a lot about “mission,” “service,” and “planting churches” but somehow that never translates that into evangelism.  They love to critique everyone else’s evangelism, but do very little of their own.  Charles Spurgeon – no theological lightweight – said, “I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpack all the mysteries of the divine Word, for salvation is the thing we are to live for.”

One great passion of the first century church was their zeal for being faithful to proclaim and present the Gospel in all their activities; they had a passion for seeing lost souls saved.

  1. Gospel-centered churches are characterized by the presence of God. (Acts

      2:43)

This first church was full of the Spirit.  There are a few things in this chapter that we will not likely experience in our congregations, outside of the providence of God, but verse 43 gives you a classic description of the effect of the fullness of the Spirit – it says the people were “filled with awe.”  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones this filling as, “A felt-sense of the attributes and presence of God as revealed in the gospel.”  The first century church’s sense of the “presence of God” was not the result of a musical crescendo or an emotional preaching.

It came simply

From the preaching of the gospel

By ones who really believed it,

Experienced its truth,

And had a heart full of passion

For it within their souls.

Jonathan Edwards, described his sense of the presence of God like this: “Sometimes only mentioning the name of Christ or an attribute of God will cause my heart to burn within me . . . Suddenly God appears glorious to me.  When I enjoy this sweetness it seems to carry me outside of myself.  I cannot bring myself even to take my eye from this Glorious Object.”

Note . . .

That this sort of experience

Is not at odds with doctrine,

Or even beyond doctrine,

But flows out of good doctrine.

It’s not less than doctrine,

It is more.

God’s beauty and majesty

Are not just to be perceived with the mind,

They are to be felt in the soul.

Where this happens, there is the joy you see in Acts 2:46-47.  It is hard for me to believe that a church can really “get” the gospel when its services are not characterized by joy.  Yes, there are times for somberness, mourning, and repentance in worship, but . . .

The predominant motif

Of biblical worship

Is joy and celebration.

Multiple places in the Bible command us to clap our hands, shout with joy, and to sing and delight in God.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 16:11 that in God’s presence is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

So how can we claim

To have gospel-centered churches

If our services are not characterized

By exuberant joy?

Evangelistic effectiveness and doctrinal depth, and a sense of the presence of God, are two of the five things that the gospel produced in the early church.  How present are these first two traits in your church?  If one of these characteristics is missing, is it possible that we don’t understand the gospel as much as we claim to? These are the indelible marks of a gospel-centered church.

If these are missing from your church, the answer is not to “go and try harder.”  You need to ask yourself, “Why is the gospel we are preaching not producing these things?” and “Why are we doing other things in place of these vital life-giving truths?  Tomorrow we will look at three other thing that the gospel should produce in our churches.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

How to Change Your Life For God’s Glory, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9May  Thursday of last week we began a four-part study on how the Gospel leads us to change our lives, or more specifically, the principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  We began with the realization that . . .

Knowing what changes to make is not enough.

We also need to know how to make them.

Change does not come easily.  The Bible provides all the truth and guidance and the Holy Spirit provides all the power we need to live as God wants us to.  On Thursday we looked at the first three principles: (1) Change Your Purpose In Line; (2) Believe You Can Change With Gods Help; and (3) Study The Bible about Your Habit.  On Friday we look at three more principles: (4) Repent of your sin; (5) Develop a Plan of Action; and (6) Pray Regularly.  On Monday we saw Principles, (7) Seek Help From Other Christians; (8) Diligently Do What Is Right; and (9) Substitute Good Habits For Bad Ones.  Today we will deal with the last three (3) specific, practical truths the Bible teaches us about that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  God’s Word is the best source of guidance for living as we ought.

For today, let’s look at principles 10 – 12:

Principle 10: Avoid Temptation.

The Bible says in Matthew 6:13 that we should pray, “lead us not into temptation.”  If we pray this, surely we obligate ourselves to avoid people, places, and situations that tempt us (Romans 13:14).

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that evil company corrupts good habits.  Note the phrase: “Do not be deceived.”  Many people think they can return to bad company without returning to bad habits.  They are deceived!

Many habits – such as drinking, smoking, drug abuse, gambling, and sexual promiscuity – are begun and continued because of “peer pressure.”  Breaking such habits by themselves is hard enough, but it is far more difficult when “friends” urge us to continue them (Exodus 23:2; Proverbs 13:20; 1 Peter 4:3,4).

The Bible says in Psalm 26:5 that we should hate the congregation of evildoers.  Too often people say, “I won’t drink (or dance or gamble, etc.). I’ll just go to the tavern (or dance hall or casino) to be with my friends.”  When people have gathered together for the purpose of practicing sin, Christians belong somewhere else! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:11.)

You cannot change a bad habit while continuing to run with the “crowd” that caused the habit. Changing the habit will require changing your friends because the “friends” are part of the habit!

Principle 11: Face One Day at a Time.

The Bible says in Matthew 6:33,34 that we are not to worry about tomorrow.  Today’s temptations will be enough to handle today.  Handle tomorrow’s temptations tomorrow – if tomorrow comes.

Often people quit trying to serve God because they are overwhelmed by the sacrifices required to live the rest of their lives for God.  But ask yourself this: “Can I practice what is right today – just today?”  Of course, you can.  So, when you get up each morning, promise yourself and God, “I will live today for God and His glory.”  Don’t worry about handling tomorrow.  If it comes, you can handle it the same way you will handle today – through God’s power.

Two men were climbing a steep path up a tall mountain.  One looked to the top and asked, “How will we ever make it?” The other replied, “One step at a time.”  And that is the only way for you to change your life for God’s glory.

Principle 12: Be Patient.

The Bible says in Romans 2:7 that we will receive eternal life if we continue patiently in well doing.  This does not mean that we work for our salvation … another way the Bible puts it is in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”   We must be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The Bible says in Galatians 6:9 that we are not to grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Your habits did not develop overnight and will not likely disappear overnight.  It will take time.  If you fall, repent, and ask God’s forgiveness.  But get up and go on in His power.  Do not give up. (1 John 1:8-2:2)

The Bible says in 2 Peter 3:18 that becoming a mature Christian is a process of growth. You are born again as a baby and gradually grow up in Christ.  You may look at mature Christians and think, “Why can’t I be like them?”  But they probably took years to mature.  Do not be impatient with yourself.

As a child grows, you may notice small changes from day to day.  But look at pictures from years ago and you will see amazing differences.  So, you may not see much change in your service to God today compared to yesterday.  But if you diligently apply the steps taught in God’s word, after a period of 5, 10, or 20 years you will see significant changes compared to where you began.

Conclusion

By using the means God provides, you can change to be what He wants.  He gives motivation, guidance, and encouragement.  All that is left is for you to determine to follow His will and then diligently act on that decision.  He provides the tools.  You must use them.  What choice will you make?

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

 

 

How to Change Your Life For God’s Glory, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9May  Thursday of last week we began a four-part study on how the Gospel leads us to change our lives, or more specifically, the principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  We began with the realization that . . .

Knowing what changes to make is not enough.

We also need to know how to make them.

Change does not come easily.  The Bible provides all the truth and guidance and the Holy Spirit provides all the power we need to live as God wants us to.  On Thursday we looked at the first three principles: (1) Change Your Purpose In Line; (2) Believe You Can Change With Gods Help; and (3) Study The Bible about Your Habit.  On Friday we look at three more principles: (4) Repent of your sin; (5) Develop a Plan of Action; and (6) Pray Regularly.  Over the next two days, we will look at six (6) more specific, practical truths the Bible teaches us about that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  God’s Word is the best source of guidance for living as we ought.

For today, let’s look at principles 7 – 9:

Principle 7: Seek Help from Other Christians.

James 5:16 – Christians should confess their faults to one another so they can pray for one another. We should bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). If our sins have harmed specific individuals, we should apologize to them (Matt. 5:23,24).

When we are fighting an especially difficult habit, it may help to choose one or two special counselors to talk with regularly. They can give us Bible passages and good advice about how to change. They can encourage us. It may motivate us just to know that others are aware of our problem. And they can surely pray for us.

Public church meetings are especially designed to give encouragement (Heb. 10:24,25; 3:12,13; Eph. 4:15,16). We need to attend regularly for many reasons, but especially we need encouragement as we try to become what God wants us to be.

Principle 8: Diligently Practice What is Right.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work. Abundant, steadfast work is needed.

We have discussed several steps to prepare us to change, but none of them can substitute for hard work and dedicated effort. All the good attitudes in the world will not get the job done until we follow through with action. God does not promise change will be easy, but He promises it is possible if we work diligently according to His word.

James 1:22-25 – Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Habits are formed by repeated action. We learn to ride a bicycle by forcing ourselves to practice, even when it feels unnatural and uncomfortable. But repetition produces a habit that then feels natural and enjoyable.

So we change to serve God only when we compel ourselves to do what we know is right and repeat it until it becomes “second nature.” (See also Rom. 6:1-23; Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46.)

Principle 9: Substitute Good Habits for Bad Ones.

Ephesians 4:22-32 – Do not just put off the old man. Put on the new man. Note the examples: Speak truth instead of falsehood (v25), work and give to others instead of stealing (v28), speak good instead of evil (v29), show kindness and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness (v31,32).

Matthew 12:43-45 – A demon left a man but later found the man’s life still empty. He moved back in bringing seven other demons with him! Jesus applied this to Israel, but it is a general principle.

“Nature hates a vacuum.” Remove the air from a bottle, and it will try to get back in. Fill the bottle with something substantial, and the air stays out. So your life cannot stay a spiritual void. It will fill with good or evil. Replace bad habits with good and the bad is less likely to return.

For example, suppose you determine to watch less TV, so you turn it off, but sit in front of it with nothing else to do. Soon you will turn it on again. But if you become actively involved in family activities, Bible study, etc., soon you will replace it with other habits.

For every bad habit you “put off,” find some useful activity to “put on” in its place.

By using the means God provides, you can change to be what He wants. He gives motivation, guidance, and encouragement. All that is left is for you to determine to follow His will and then diligently act on that decision. He provides the tools. You must use them. What choice will you make?

Tomorrow we will look at three more Biblical principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

How to Change Your Life For God’s Glory, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9May  Yesterday we began a four-part study on how the Gospel leads us to change our lives, or more specifically, the principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  We began with the realization that . . .

Knowing what changes to make is not enough.

We also need to know how to make them.

Change does not come easily.  The Bible provides all the truth and guidance and the Holy Spirit provides all the power we need to live as God wants us to.  Yesterday we looked at the first three principles: (1) Change Your Purpose In Line; (2) Believe You Can Change With Gods Help; and (3) Study The Bible about Your Habit.  Over the next three days, we will look at nine (9) more specific, practical truths the Bible teaches us about that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  God’s Word is the best source of guidance for living as we ought.

Today, let’s look at principles 4 – 6:

Principle 4: Repent of Sin.

The Bible teaches in Acts 8:22 that sin requires repentance.  Repentance is a change of mind – a determined commitment to cease sin and obey God (see Matthew 21:28,29; Acts 17:30; 11:23).  Before you can change your conduct, you must change your mind.

The Bible teaches in Proverbs 28:13 that we are not to cover up our sin, deny it, excuse it, or blame someone else.  We are to admit the sin and be truly sorry (2 Corinthians 7:10).  But sorrow is not enough.  We have truly repented only when we are so sorry that we determine to change our conduct.

Most other achievements in life

Require about 10% ability and 90% just plain

Determination and hard work.

In spiritual matters, every accountable person

Has the ability to please God; so changing to please God

Is 100% determined by our choice.

God has provided everything we need.

The decision is ours.

We will never change until we make up our minds to pursue the means God provides for us.  The decision to do this is repentance, and no one will change to please God without it.

Principle 5: Develop a Plan of Action.

The Bible teaches in Proverbs 14:22 that we must devise to do good, not evil.

God’s example demonstrates the importance of planning.

He purposed man’s redemption (Romans 8:28),

The Temple (Hebrews 8:5);

The church (Ephesians 3:10,11) (cf. Genesis 12:1-7).

Likewise, God’s servants need to have a plan to succeed in His service (Daniel 1:8; Psalm 17:3; Luke 14:26-33; Acts 11:23; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

In what other important endeavors will we succeed without a plan?  Consider the forethought needed to build a house, run a business or a household, program a computer, etc.  Worthwhile activities, to be successful, need planning.

Likewise, to change your life,

You need a specific, practical checklist of steps

You will take to change.

Analyze the circumstances or causes

That lead you to fail to do right,

Then plan how to avoid those causes.

It may help to write your plan down and modify it as needed.  This plan will include some specific points we are studying plus other points that fit your specific problem.

Many people fail to change to please God because they never planned to succeed. They did not plan to fail, but they failed to plan!

Principle 6: Pray Regularly.

Prayer is essential in two ways:

A child of God should pray for forgiveness.

If you are not yet a child of God, you need to believe in Jesus, repent of sins, confess Christ, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and come into your life to be your Savior and Lord (Mark 16:16; Romans 10:9,10; Acts 2:38; 22:16).  When you have done those things, you become a child of God (Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 6:3,4; 1 Peter 1:22,23). When you sin afterward, you need to pray for forgiveness (Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 6:12; Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-10).

A child of God should pray for God’s help.

The Bible teaches us in Matthew 6:13 that we are to ask God to “deliver us from evil” (cf. Matthew. 26:41).  Tell God exactly what your problem is.  Pray often and regularly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Col. 4:2).  Pray especially at the moment when you face temptation (Matthew 26:36-46).

God has promised that, if you ask His help, He will hear and answer (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 18; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7).

By using the means God provides, you can change to be what He wants. He gives motivation, guidance, and encouragement. All that is left is for you to determine to follow His will and then diligently act on that decision. He provides the tools. You must use them. What choice will you make?

Tomorrow we will look at three more Biblical principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

How to Change Your Life For God’s Glory, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9May  Becoming a Christian requires change.  We must remove old habits and develop new ones.  Today’ blog will look at three Biblical principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.  God’s Word is the best source of guidance for living as we ought.

Have you ever had difficulty trying to change a habit?  Human beings are creatures of habit.  We tend to continue acting as we have acted in the past.  Like a river flowing through a canyon, the longer a habit continues, the more deeply it becomes ingrained, and the harder it is to change.  This is true of all habits, good or bad.

The Bible shows us in Ephesians 4:22-24 that major changes must occur when we are converted to serve God.  Old practices and attitudes must be replaced by new ones. Christians must learn good habits like Bible study, prayer, love, faith, patience, attending times of worship and fellowship, giving, teaching others, etc.  We must also eliminate bad habits like foul language, uncontrolled temper, gambling, drugs, smoking, drinking, gossip, lying, pornography, sexual promiscuity, etc.

Knowing what changes to make is not enough.

We also need to know how to make them.

Change does not come easily.  The Bible provides all the truth and guidance and the Holy Spirit provides all the power we need to live as God wants us to.

Over the next four blogs, I want us to look at twelve (12) specific, practical truths the Bible teaches us about to show us how to change to become what God wants.

Principle 1: Change Your Purpose in Life

Before a person becomes willing to act, he/she must be motivated.  A sound sleeper is more likely to get up in the middle of the night if he becomes aware that the house is on fire than if he just remembers he did not brush his teeth!  Christians have some of the strongest possible motives for changing. Consider some:

Love and Dedication to God

  • The Bible teaches us in Romans 12:1,2 that Christians are transformed (changed) by renewing our minds (cf. Ephesians 4:23). To live differently, we must think differently. We must not seek to be like the world but to use our minds and bodies for God’s glory and service.

The Bible tells us that the Macedonian believers practiced generous giving because they first gave themselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5).  Changing our conduct becomes much easier when we are totally dedicated to God’s glory and advancing His mission. (See also Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 6:33; 16:24.)

  • The Bible teaches us in 1 John 5:3; 4:19,9 what motivates us to obey God – Our love for Him. What motivates us to love Him?  The fact that He loved us.  How do we know He loved us?  Because He gave His Son to die to save us Romans 5:8).

Love is one of the strongest forces in existence.  It can move a woman to rescue her children from a burning building or a man to lift an automobile that has crushed a loved one.  If you are having difficulty changing yourself, you need to learn to appreciate God for Who He is and appropriate God’s Word into our lives. (See 1 John 2:15-17; Matthew 10:34-37; 22:37-40; John 14:15; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17).

Imitation of Christ

The desire to be like someone we admire is another powerful motivation.  Sports heroes inspire young people in athletics.  Washington and Lincoln are models for patriotic citizens.  So godly people like Abraham, Noah, Ruth, and Mary motivate us to serve God.  But the greatest example of all is that of Jesus.

  • The Bible teaches us in Matthew 10:24,25 that a disciple seeks to be like his master. Christians are disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:26).  We should follow His steps because He left us a sinless example (1 Peter 2:21,22).

As we face each decision in life, we need to turn to Jesus, look to His Word, and live in obedience and for His glory. (See Galatians 2:20; Matthew 16:24; Colossians 3:10).

Desire for Eternal Life, Not Eternal Punishment

  • The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 9:25 that athletes control their habits so they can win a temporary, earthly honor. Christians have an even stronger motive.  We seek the crown of eternal life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).  We should set our minds on our eternal reward, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-6; 2 Peter 1:10,11; 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).

Lack of motivation is a major reason people do not change to please God.  They do not have sufficient desire to change.  Instead they want to please themselves or their friends and family.  Often they are too concerned with the things of this life.  Until our motives are right, little else will help us.  But, when our most important purpose in life is that are we determined that surrender to the Lord and live to honor and glorify Him, then we will find the power and means to make the necessary changes.

When we lack the motivation to change, let us think about why we should love God, think about the importance of obeying and following Christ, and think about our eternal destiny.

 Principle 2: Believe You Can Change with God’s Help.

  • The Bible teaches in Proverbs 4:23 that we are to keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. The way you act is determined by your attitudes and intentions.  People and circumstances may influence you, but you do not have to give in.  You do what you decide to do (cf. Matthew 15:18,19; 12:34-37).

 

  • The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will not allow temptations that are beyond our ability to bear. He will always make a way of escape.  “God is faithful.” He will always keep this promise.  It follows that you can break any bad habit and develop any good habit according to God’s will.

 

  • The Bible teaches in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. This includes changing to please Him.  If we trust our own strength, we will fail.  Satan can defeat us.  If we use Christ’s strength we will succeed, because Satan can never defeat Him.  Perhaps you have failed in the past because you have trusted your own power instead of using Christ’s.

Sometimes we think, “I just can’t change.  It’s too late.  Besides, I’m only human.”  When we do this, we are not just belittling themselves; we are denying God’s Word (Philippians 4:13, 19).  We will fail simply because we will give up instead of persisting to depend upon and use God’s power.

  • The Bible teaches in Psalm 37:5 that if we commit ourselves to the Lord and trust Him, He will accomplish His will for us. No matter how strong a temptation you face, no matter how long you have practiced a sin, if God says to change, you can change. (See also Joshua 1:5-9; Ephesians 6:10-18; 3:20,21; 2 Corinthians 9:8.)

Principle 3: Study the Bible about Your Habit.

  • The Bible teaches in Joshua 1:8 that to succeed in God’s work we need to meditate on God’s Word. As a part of this discipline, you could list the pertinent Bible passages about each habit you need to change.  You could also list reasons why you should change.  Then, meditate on these verses daily, filling your mind with their truth. (Cf. Psalm 1:2; 119:11).

 

  • The Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 that we are to frequently remind ourselves of these verses. Write them and place them where they will remind you and have its truth regularly before you: on your bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, on your table at mealtime, on the TV knob.

 

  • The Bible teaches in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus overcame temptation by quoting Scripture. But this worked only because He knew the Scripture.  Memorize verses about your habit so that, when you are tempted, they will come to mind and strengthen you.  Quote them to yourself and to those who tempt you.  (See also Proverbs 3:5,6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:17; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Hebrews 4:12).

By using the means God provides, you can change to be what He wants. He gives motivation, guidance, and encouragement. All that is left is for you to determine to follow His will and then diligently act on that decision. He provides the tools. You must use them. What choice will you make?

Tomorrow we will look at three more Biblical principles we can learn and live by that will lead to real, substantial, and God-glorifying change.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

Cheerful Confidence In Christ

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7May  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:4, “But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”

Through this verse, Solomon, the wise preacher, gives us words of great wisdom that are designed to encourage us, regardless of our station in life.

One thing we must all remember is

That life is a very precious thing

And a great gift from God.

As this truth relates to spiritual matters, it is far better to be the absolute “least” in the kingdom of God than the greatest in the kingdom of this world.  Here’s how “the prince of preachers” from the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, framed this biblical truth:

“Where the Holy Ghost implants divine life in the soul, there is a precious deposit which none of the refinements of education can equal.  The thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne; Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is in the sight of God superior to Plato.  Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only coarser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in trespasses and sins.  A living, loving, gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power.  A living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion; and is of more service to his master.

Where does this great word of encouragement find you this day?  Perhaps you are in the midst of trials that are troubling you in your workplace, impacting your family, or afflicting your health in some way.  Fear not, for your God is with you!

Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself when He hung on the cross; from the sixth to the ninth hour, He was separated from His Father in heaven, all just for you.  God, whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13), could not look upon His Son, who was bearing the divine wrath of your sin and mine.  And, because of Christ’s unimaginable atoning love, we have this promise from our heavenly Father in Hebrews 13:5, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  God turned away from His beloved Son . . . so that you and I need never fear that He will turn away from us!

Even in a situation that seems utterly hopeless, you can and must still have hope, because you are not alone.

The world may throw you to the side,

Friends may kick you to the curb,

Even family may abandon you,

But your God holds you

In His nail-scarred hands

And will never let you go.

Remember . . .

Jesus did not only die for you,

He lived for you

Every day of His life.

And now He lives

To make intercession with the Father

On your behalf (Hebrews 7:25).

Not only that . . .

But His divine power has given you everything

You need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

You have His Word on it!

It is indeed true: “Anyone who is among the living has hope,” and that Hope is in you, with you, and for you.  Cheerful confidence in Christ should be the joyful confession of 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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