The Part Of The Good News That We Don’t Want to Hear

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

24Jan  We come today to the third chapter of 1 Thessalonians where In these verses, Paul talks about his partners in the Gospel ministry and how he had sent them to establish them further in the faith and encourage them to grow in their faith.  Some of the believers in the church were disturbed that Paul and others were encountering persecution and sufferings because of their relationship with Christ.  When Timothy reported back how their faith was helping them work through these issues Paul was greatly encouraged and glad.  He rejoiced in the news and it deepened his desire and prayer that God would direct their way to them so they would be able to see them and to “perfect what is lacking in your faith.”  Then he wraps up the chapter by praying that the Lord may increase and about in his love and further build them up in the faith.

I think we all would agree that the gospel is good news.

It is certainly good news

That I am forgiven of my sin;

That I have been born-again

Into God’s family;

And that I am destined

For heaven not hell.

All of that is very good news.

And . . .

All of that is possible

Because of what Jesus

Has done for me.

When we consider God’s plan for us, and where it ultimately takes us, it is absolutely, unquestionably good news!

But the Bible teaches some aspects of that good news that we would hope was there.  One such verse is in our text, as Paul shares his concern for these believers “that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

What is Paul saying believers are appointed to experience?  The Greek word Paul uses here means, “trials, affliction, or trouble.”  No matter how you translate it, it is still not what we are hoping to find concerning God’s plan for our life.

We find it very easy to embrace passages like Philippians 4:19, where the Bible says “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus;” Or Deuteronomy 28:8, where the Bible says, “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you;” and Deuteronomy 28:6, where the Bible says “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”  Those are truths in the Bible that we enjoy reading.

But what are we to do with a verse like 1Thessalonians 3:3?  I could just jump over it and try to find something more positive to think about; or I could just say this just applied to the early church but it doesn’t really apply to us today.  But that would not be being true to God’s Word.

So, what is Paul saying about troubles in a Christian’s life?

First, he is saying don’t be surprised when it happens.

In verse 4 Paul says, “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.”  Now in that context the trouble came as a result of their testimony of Christ.  It could have come in the form of lost opportunities on the job or maybe even the loss of jobs.  Conversely, there would be financial consequences to their faith.   Certainly there were social consequences.  A Jewish family would often disown children who turned to the Christian faith; they would lose their inheritance; they would lose their family support system.

The community at large was not Christian.  In fact, the whole economy and political structure centered around the “divine” Caesar and his favor.  Of course, we know from Acts that Paul and others were physically beaten and imprisoned because of the public stand for Christ.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and 3:5 Paul specifically mentions the devil’s involvement in all this.  Satan resists the propagation of the gospel.  Satan looks for opportune times of discouragement to tempt believers and try to defeat them.

Therefore, Paul reminds these believers that behind their persecution there was part of a spiritual battle going on.  And the biblical fact is the battle has not ended and like it or not there is no neutral ground.  That’s why we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the whole amour of God.  That is why Peter gives us this warning in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”

There is a tendency for us to think something really strange has happened when a trials, difficulties, and persecution come into our lives.  There may even be the temptation to think God has somehow let us down.  But both Paul and Peter are saying that troubles and difficulties are not inconsistent with living for God.

In other words . . .

Jesus did not come into your life

Simply to make it easier

And more enjoyable.

He came to redeem you

From eternal destruction

And prepare you for eternal glory!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:13-16, “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”

Notice how Peter distinguishes between two kinds of suffering.

The Bible teaches us that

Suffering comes as a natural

Consequence of our own sin.

But the Bible also talks about

Our suffering as a consequence

Of our commitment to Christ.

One can be eliminated through repentance,

But the other may only be eliminated

With the Rapture of the Church.

Second, he is saying watch out for the tempter in those situations.

 Verse 5 says, “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”  Did you catch Paul’s play on words in that verse – “the tempter had tempted.”

Satan is the tempter

 And quite simply

That’s what he does;

He tempts.

He tempted Eve in the Garden. He tempted Jesus in the wilderness. And most of us have learned by now, he tempts us as well.

But a time of trial and testing has its own special issues of temptation.  When did the devil tempt Jesus to turn stones to bread?  He did it when Jesus was hungry.  When did the devil tempt Judas to betray Jesus?  He did it when all their hopes and plans seemed to be falling apart.

Satan is an opportunist. He is a strategist. He has a short-term and a long-term plan for your destruction.  But he looks for those moments when he can step in with his lies and suggestions; those times when you are tired or discouraged; those times when you have taken hit after hit; then he looks for an opportunity to deliver a knock-out punch.  That’s what Paul was worried about concerning these believers.

This truth is very clearly pointed out for us in the account of Jesus’ temptation, as seen in Luke 4:13, where the Bible says, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him unto an opportune time.”  Although those temptations were over Satan would continue to look for other opportunities.

This is exactly what we have been told in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  What, then, is the answer?  Peter gives us the answer in verses 9-10, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

Look how that passage begins

 With the devil’s objective – devour.

But ends with God’s objective –

To perfect, establish,

 Strengthen, and settle you.

Don’t lose sight of the end of the matter.

In Psalm 73:2-6 we find godly Asaph very disillusioned about his walk with God.  It looked to him that instead of being the head he was the tail.  It looked to him that the advantage went to the ungodly rather than the godly.  So, he says, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  Therefore, pride serves as their necklace…”

I have no doubt that most of us have had those same feelings. There are times when it seems as if you just can’t seem to “get avbreak” in life, and you look around and it seems like it is lost and ungodly folks that are having all the luck.  So Ashap pours out his complaint to God, as seen in verse 12, “Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.”  In verses 13-14 he concludes, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.  For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.”

Then the key to the whole thing hits him – suddenly revelation comes and he understands what is going on.  We read what he finally realizes in verses 17-19, “Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!  They are utterly consumed with terrors.”

The difference lies at the end of the matter.

One ends in terror and destruction.

The other ends in glory and everlasting joy.

Third, he says we are to pray for and encourage one another in such situations.

Notice how Paul addresses the whole group.  He has no thought of them enduring these things without the support of one another. He puts himself in the boat with them and them in the boat with him.  Folks, please drive this truth home . . .

We are in this thing together.

It is not every man for himself.

Our commitment to the Lord

Is also a commitment to one another.

Not only has the materialism of our culture invaded the church but so has the individualism.  It is hard for us to comprehend covenant commitment to one another because our society does not think that way at all.  Our society is built on stiff competition. There are economic benefits that have been reaped by structuring our economy around the selfishness inherent in fallen man.  That’s why it works.  It is based upon a broad reality.  That’s why communism fails.  It was based on an idealistic concept out of touch with man’s fallen nature.

But in the church, in the Body of Christ . . .

We are to live by another set of principles.

Instead of selfishness we are to live unselfishly.

Instead of every man for himself

It is one for all and all for one.

Paul commends these Christians at Thessalonica for the love they are exhibiting toward one another.  They are encouraging each other and supporting one another.  Paul sends Timothy to add to that encouragement, as seen in verses 1-2.  This whole chapter revolves around Paul’s concern for them.

That concern caused him to sacrifice something dear. He needed Timothy to be with him at Athens.  It was hard ground.  It was a difficult ministry.  When Timothy left Paul felt very lonely – you can see that in some of the words he uses.  He was facing hardship himself, but he sent Timothy anyway because he loved them and wanted them to be all right.

Paul wanted these believers to be so established that they would not be shaken or moved by the trouble they were experiencing.

When people skip over truths

Like we have here in our text,

When people think that salvation

Is nothing more than

An escape clause from Hell,

There is very little stability.

What we are talking about here is essential to our standing faithfully during times of trial and testing.

Paul prayed for these people and asked them to pray for him.

  • He prayed that he himself might go help them in their faith.
  • He prayed that the love they were expressing would abound more and more.
  • He prayed that they would stand firm and be ready for the coming of the Lord.

Paul didn’t just pray out of religious obligation.

His prayer for them flowed out

Of his love for them.

I think that is the secret

To a sustained prayer life –

If God can get our hearts

And fill them with love

Toward hurting people,

We will pray.

You and I may not be experiencing the same troubles that these Christians at Thessalonica were experiencing.  But we deal with the same adversary.  We are tempted by the same tempter. We need each other’s prayers and encouragement just like they did.  And we need to keep our eye upon the Lord and His coming just like they did.

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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Christian Growth And The Pains Associated With It

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

23JanAs we come to the last part of 1 Thessalonians 2, we’re moving into the warmest section of any of Paul’s writings about the love and affection he felt for his fellow Christ followers.

He begins by establishing

That the basis

For those relationships

Is the Word of God.

The Bible is God’s hammer that sometimes gently taps on us and other times it pounds away at our stubborn pride.  This passage gives us five facets of Christian growth, a few of which have some pain associated with them.

The first facet is the Word of God within you.

Verse 13 says, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”  The word translated “received” literally means, “to be taken up with the hand.”

The idea here is

That the Word of God

Is to be taken by us.

The word translated “accepted” goes a step further.  It means, “to welcome eagerly.”  When we receive the Word of God, we are saying that we acknowledge its authority.  When we accept it, we are allowing it into our hearts so that we can be changed by it.  This is the same idea that David expressed in Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

If the Bible is the Word of God, and it is, then we must bow in submission to it.  We should never say, “I know what the Bible says, but…”  If we know what the Bible says, then there’s no “but.”  We should say, “I know what the Bible says, period.”

When the Bible makes a statement, it is not up for a vote.  If you’re waiting for God to tell you something different than what’s in the Bible you’ll be waiting a long time.

Paul takes this one step further in the last phrase of verse 13 when he says, “…which is at work in you who believe.”

The power of the Word of God

Is tied to a surrendered, believing heart.

That is why Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: to the Jews first, then for the Gentile.”

The Gospel is the power of God!  In fact, Hebrews 4:12 puts it this way, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Most of us can testify to the fact that God has used His living and active Word to speak directly to our hearts and lives.  When God’s Word is in us, our attitudes and beliefs change.

The second facet of spiritual growth is we have an enemy.

To the extent we experience

The power of God’s Word within us,

We will collide with

A world that rejects it.

We could put it this way: If you believe the Bible, you’re going to have some enemies.  This truth is seen in verse14 where the Bible says, “For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews.”

But in spite of the persecutions, the Thessalonians did not falter. They stood strong in the face of persecution. The truth is, every generation of Christians has known persecution for their faith, and today is not different.  The Bible puts it this way in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.”  1 Timothy 3:12 is even stronger, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

In verses 15-16, we read some of the most vivid language in the entire New Testament about those who killed Christ, “Who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.  They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit.  The wrath of God has come upon them to the uttermost.”

It’s important to see Paul’s response to these truths . . .

As hurt as Paul was

By the treatment he received

From unbelieving Jews,

He had a tender love for his people.

After all, he was Jewish himself, and so was Jesus.  Look at the words the Holy Spirit led him to pen in Romans 9:2-3, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”  His heart’s desire is made clear in Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

It must have broken the heart of Paul as he wrote that the sins of the Jews are being heaped up “to the limit.”  This phrase means, “to fill to the brim,” and is the same term that Jesus used this term in His sermon against the Pharisees in Matthew 23:32, “Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!”  And yet, God patiently waits as His people continue to rebel against Him.

But, the latter part of verse 16 states that when the time is up, God’s patience will come to an end and judgment will fall, “The wrath of God has come upon them to the uttermost.”  One day God will unleash an unprecedented time of tribulation and judgment upon those who refuse to embrace the Messiah.  The Jews and the world may continue to ignore and reject the truth of God’s Word, but there’s a limit to His patience.

The third facet of spiritual growth is to surround yourself with fellow believers.

Verse 17 says, “But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.”  As we learned yesterday, Paul dealt with the Thessalonians with the gentleness of a mother.  The phrase “torn away” is a very powerful image that literally means, “When we were made orphans.”  Paul had a close and intimate relationship with these new believers but now he feels like a child who has been ripped away from his parents.

Remember that Paul had stayed in Thessalonica for only a matter of weeks, and because of intense Jewish opposition, he was run out of town.  But he always planned to return to finish the job he started.  However, because he had been delayed in his return, his opponents had begun to slander his character.  Isn’t that just like man nature?  When people don’t meet our expectations we grip and complain.  Some of the new believers were beginning to question his motives, “If he loved us why did he leave us?” they asked, “And why doesn’t he come back to see us again?”

Even though Paul was not able to go back, he never really left them in his thoughts.  He thought about them all the time.  And his longing for them was “intense.”  For Paul and his team . . .

The Christian faith must be centered

On a passionate all-consuming

Relationship with Christ;

But it must not be lived in isolation.

We need each other.

Jesus made it very clear, we are called to do life together.

Much of what the Bible teaches about the Church can only be accomplished as we function in deep friendships with fellow believers.  A quick search of all the “one another” statements in the New Testament reveals that we are to:

Love one another (John 13:34)

Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)

Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)

Accept one another (Romans 15:7)

Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)

Greet one another (Romans 16:16)

Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

Bear with one another (Ephesians 4:2)

Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)

Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Live in harmony with one another (1 Peter 3:8)

Offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

The fourth facet of spiritual growth is to know your enemy.

Verse 18 states, “For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan stopped us.”  Paul tried again and again to reconnect with the church at Thessalonica but it never worked out.

The phrase “Satan stopped us,” is a military metaphor for an army that sets up a roadblock in order to impede the enemy.  Every time Paul tried to return to Thessalonica he ran headlong into a satanic obstruction.

We must remember that Satan is real and that he is determined to attack Christian relationships.  2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to the adversary as the “god of this age.”  Ephesians 2:2 describes him as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.”  In John 8:44, Jesus called the devil “a murderer … and the father of lies.”  1 Peter 5:8 warns us about ignoring the reality of Satan’s destructive work, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And, Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

In spite of the satanic attacks that hindered Paul from returning, he had the assurance of knowing that God was working in their lives through the Word of God that he had taught them.  These believers were his crown and joy, even though he couldn’t see them in person.

The fifth facet of spiritual growth is the rewards of God before you.

Verses 19-20 declare, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”  Paul has “hope” because even though he can’t see the believers, he has confidence in what God was doing in them.  The word “joy” pictures his own inner feelings when he will see them presented to the Lord and welcomed into His kingdom.  The “crown” refers to the wreath of leaves given to the winner of a race in the Greek games.  It’s a victor’s wreath, a gold medal, and a trophy of triumph.

I want you to notice something . . .

Paul’s greatest hope,

His most joyful aspiration,

And his crowning achievement

Was to see men, women and children

Accepting Christ as their Savior, and Lord,

Thereby being In the presence

Of the Lord Jesus

When He comes in His glory.

If we could ask Paul what really fired him up, if we could find out what kept him going when things were tough, his answer would be something like this: “I will do everything I can to make sure no one is left behind when Christ returns!”

Revelation 1:7 reminds us that when Jesus comes again, many people will be filled with fear because they’ve not been saved, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.  So shall it be!   Amen”  But, Revelation 4:10-11 also teaches that believers will one day lay their crowns at the throne of Jesus, “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” These crowns will be presented to believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  But the greatest joy will be when we are able to lay them at the feet of Jesus in recognition and honor of the price that He paid for our salvation.

If we’re serious about the Word of God and growing in our faith, let’s follow these five facets that will lead us to a victory wreath.

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 Pastor’s Heart – Leading The Church To Grow Disciples

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

22Jan

Yesterday, I wrote about what the church should be.  We looked at the first chapter of the letter of Paul to the church of Thessalonica.  That chapter introduced us to what every church should be. I want to continue our look through this powerful and profitable book over the next several days.

Chapter two introduces us to what every pastor should be.  It explains how the great Apostle cared for the new believers in the churches that he founded.  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:28 that Paul considered “the care of all the churches” a greater burden than all the sufferings and difficulties he experienced in his ministry.  How the churches learned and lived was very important to him.

Paul rightly understood the growth principle for every Bible-believing, Bible-practicing church . . .

Just as God uses people to bring the Gospel to the lost,

He also

Uses people to nurture the babes in Christ

And help lead them to grow in their faith.

The church at Thessalonica was born through the faithful preaching of Paul and his helpers, and the church was nurtured through the faithful pastoring that Paul and his friends gave to the infant church. This helped them stand strong in the midst of persecution.

In chapter two, Paul reminded them of the kind of ministry he had as he taught and cared for the young church.  Several aspects of his ministry emerge.

1) We are able to see the motivation of his ministry.

We see that in verses 1-6, “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.  But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.  For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.  But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.  For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness – God is witness.  Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

Verse 4 tells us that Paul was convinced that he had been “put in trust with the Gospel.”  In fact, Paul said this in Galatians 1:11-12, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Paul saw himself as a steward of God’s message.

When Paul wrote, a steward owned nothing, but possessed and used everything that belongs to his master.  In Genesis 39:1-6 we are told that Joseph was a steward in the household of Potiphar. That is, he managed his master’s affairs and used all his master’s goods to promote his master’s welfare.  Jesus reminds us in Luke 16:1-2 that every steward one day must give an account of his stewardship.  If he is found unfaithful, he will suffer loss.

The message of the Gospel is a treasure God has entrusted to us.  We must not bury it; we must invest it so it will multiply and produce “spiritual dividends” to God’s glory.  Some Christians think that the church’s only responsibility is to protect the Gospel from those who would change it (Galatians 1:6-9).  But . . .

We also must share the Gospel;

Otherwise,

We are protecting it in vain.

Paul gives us this insight in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  In Paul’s mind . . .

Faithfulness is the most important

Quality a steward possesses.

He may not be popular in the eyes of men; but he dare not be unfaithful in the eyes of God, as seen in verse 4, “Not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.”  The pastor and/or Christian who “plays to the grandstands” will lose God’s approval.

When we see the characteristics of Paul’s ministry as a steward, we understand what faithfulness means.

2) We are able to see the manner of his ministry.

Verses 1-2 say, “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”  Paul and Silas had been beaten and humiliated at Philippi; yet they came to Thessalonica and preached.  Most of us would have taken a vacation or found an excuse not to minister. Paul was courageous, he was not a quitter.  He had a “holy boldness” that was born out of a dedication to God.

Paul’s preaching was the cause of “much conflict.”  When the apostle Paul came to town it was like a “whirlwind” had taken place. Paul was a “stormtropper” for the cause of Jesus Christ. There was no “middle ground” when it came to the apostle Paul . . .

You either loved him, or you hated him.

Why?

Because he always went against tradition

To preach the truth of the Gospel.

3) We are able to see the message of his ministry.

The Bible tells us in verse 3, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.”  The Greek reads like this, “So you can see that we were not preaching with any deceit or impure purposes or trickery.”

Paul was writing to assure his hearers that his message was not something that he, himself, had “made up,” but it was a message from God.  I have come to believe that . . .

If the preacher has no message from God,

He has no message at all.

4) We are able to see the motive of his message.

He is led by God to say in verse 3, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.”  The Greek literally reads, “nor of an impure motive.”  I believe it is impossible to preach the right message if your motive is to preach His Word solely for His honor and glory.  And I am convinced the reason that so many sermons today are shallow and are not changing hearts and lives is that preachers are using the pulpits to get their message across instead of God’s message.

This will be avoided

If our motive is

To not “shun [keep back; fall short from]

To declare the whole counsel of God”

(Acts 20:27)

Which is done as we

“Preach the Word”

(2 Timothy 4:2a).

5) We are able to see the method of his ministry.

Paul says in verse 3, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.”  What Paul is saying is that he did not use trickery to win converts.  The Greek word translated “deceit” carries the idea of “baiting a hook.”  In other words, Paul did not try to “trap” or “trick” people into being saved, the way a clever salesman traps people into buying his product.

Salvation does not lie

At the end of a clever argument

Or a subtle presentation.

Salvation is the result

Of Holy Spirit conviction

Based on the Word of God.

Paul’s method was as pure as his motives . . .

He presented the Word of God

In the power of the Holy Spirit,

And trusted God to bring

A person to salvation.

Through the years, we have used a term in our preaching and teaching that really is not a biblical term.   That term is “soul winner.”  The truth of the matter is . . .

We are not “soul winners,”

We are “seed sowers.”

God has called us to sow the seeds of the Gospel by simply sharing what He has done for us through the finished work of Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit that wins a person to Christ.  That is why Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  The word is “witnesses” – We are simply to tell what we know to be true in our own lives.

6) We are able to see Paul’s tender boldness.

Verses 7- 8 tell us, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing 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 dear to us.”  The Greek words that Paul uses here portray that of tenderness and caring.  As a nursing mother imparts life to her child.

Paul gently feeds these new Christians

On the “milk of the Word”

That they might grow

To maturity in their faith.

As an apostle, Paul was a man of authority; but he always used his authority in love.  The young Christians sensed his tender loving care as he taught them the Gospel.

7) We are able to see Paul’s deep concern.

Verses 9-12 say, “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”  Paul considered himself, a “spiritual father” to the believers at Thessalonica, just as he did toward the saints at Corinth, as seen in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”  The Spirit of God used the Word of God in Paul’s ministry, and many people in Thessalonica were born again into the family of God.

Verse 11 is a very interesting verse, and reads like this in the Greek, “And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children.”  As busy as he was, Paul still had time to pay attention to the members of this great church as if they were his own children.  While it is good for pastors and church staff to preach and/or teach to larger groups, we need to understand that nothing – absolutely nothing – will take the place of loving people and investing the Word of God in their lives.  Our Lord was never too busy to speak to individuals, even though He preached to great multitudes.

It was during this time of personal contact that Paul encouraged the believers.

Paul was aware that Satan

Is constantly seeking to get Christians

Discouraged and feeling defeated.

And every Christian needs someone to encourage them in the Lord.  The word that has been translated “exhorting” is the Greek word that means, “to call to one’s side, to encourage.”  It does not mean that Paul scolded them.  Rather, it means he encouraged them to go on with the Lord.

8) We are able to see the heart of Paul’s message.

Verse 12 tells us, “That you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”  In the Greek, the verb is in the present tense, and should read, “Continue to live worthy of God, who is continually calling you into His kingdom and glory.” Here is an important scriptural principle to know . . .

The God who called us to salvation

Is constantly calling us

To a life of holiness and obedience.

This is seen in 1 Peter 1:15-16, where the Bible says, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.”

No wonder the church at Thessalonica prospered in spite of persecution, and shared the Gospel with others for miles around. They had been born again, based on the Word of God, and nurtured right by a godly pastor who loved God and taught His 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.”

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What Every Church Should Be

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

22JanNo doubt you have heard someone say, “If you ever find the perfect church, please don’t join it.  If you do, it won’t be perfect anymore!”  Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by the grace of God, no church is perfect.  But . . .

Some churches are closer to the

New Testament ideal than others.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.”

The church at Thessalonica was in that category.  At least four times in this letter (1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18), Paul gave thanks for the believers that made up this church and the way they responded to his ministry.

Several years ago, I preached as series of messages through this powerful Letter.  As I sat down to study Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica, I must confess that my mind was drawn to our church family right here at First, Baptist, Butler.

And as I read Paul’s words of praise,

I could understand the pride and love

That he must have felt for those

Whom he loved and led

In their walk with God.

In this opening chapter we see Paul beginning the letter with unmixed praise.  It is a wonderful thing when a pastor can think of his church and say, “I give thanks always for all of you.”  Paul loved the church at Thessalonica.  These people were on his heart and he was concerned for their spiritual welfare.  In this chapter, Paul tells us what kind of a church he left in that wicked city.

The first thing Paul says about the church at Thessalonica was that they were inspired by faith.  You see that in verse 3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith.”  These were people of faith.

What makes a church be known by their faith?

What does it mean to be a great people of faith?

If we are going to be great people of faith, six things will have to be involved.

1) There will have to be an undeniable commitment to the Lord.

We see this in verses 3-4, Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.”   All of these words mean that the believers in Thessalonica were in a deep and powerful relationship with their Lord . . . it was obvious for all to see . . .

They were great witnesses of the Lord.

By faith they witnessed;

In love they labored for Christ;

By their patience they waited upon the Lord.

In other words . . .

They had made an undeniable

Commitment to Jesus Christ

For their lives.

Those people at Thessalonica were people of faith, and love, and patience, as they brought people into the fellowship of a growing church.  This is seen in Acts 17:4, “And some of them (the Jews) were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.”  They were growing daily in their faith and seeking people for the Kingdom of God.

I am absolutely convinced, when a person is really saved, I mean really saved, they are . .

Going to have a heart to grow.

They are going to have

A desire for the things of God.

And each church has the responsibility

To feed them on the

Powerful and living Word of God.

Therefore, a part of that great faith is a commitment to the Lord.

2) They were also conscientious in their living.

That is what verse 5 tells us, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.”  Later Paul emphasizes the same thing in chapter 4, verse 1, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.”

These Christians lived in a very evil day where immorality was running out of control.  The church that is worthy of God is conscientious in its living.

The church of faith must be prepared

To stand-alone with the Lord against the world.

It doesn’t matter what standard the world has,

The standard of God does not change.

3) They were conquering in faith.

They were conquering in spite of limitations.  We see that in verse 6, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.”  Even in “much affliction” they conquered.

God is called by many names in the Bible. He is the Lord, our Healer, our Provider, our Banner, our Strong Tower, our Refuge, and our Righteousness.  He also promises to be our Deliverer. But . . .

There are many believers who never experience

God’s mighty delivering and conquering power

Because Satan has convinced them

To focus on their limitations

 Instead of God’s power.

Sometimes people will talk about what is keeping them from obeying or serving the Lord, and they say, “You don’t understand.  If it wasn’t for  . . . (and then they will mention what it is that is hindering them – “I don’t have the money” … “I don’t have the time” … I don’t have the ability or knowledge” . . .).  My response is always, “But have you considered what God can do?”

If we don’t trust God

And live by God’s promises and power

In spite of our limitations,

We won’t serve at all.

These believers at Thessalonica just gave, and they just worked. Every time they witnessed they got persecuted; many times when they shared their faith they got in trouble with the authorities.  In fact, right before Paul wrote this letter, he and Silvanus were stoned at Philippi, but he said, “I want you to know that even though the Jews are persecuting us, and the Gentiles are persecuting you, it really doesn’t matter what price you have to pay, because we have a job to do.”  And folks, I want to tell you something, if you and I back up from the dreams and the plans that God has given us, if we back up, I don’t care what the excuse is, we fail. And I am telling you tonight, regardless of whom we have to tackle, and regardless of our circumstances, and regardless of what the excuse is, we must conquer is spite of our limitations.

4) They had confidence in their leadership.  1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Now that is pretty amazing . . .

The believers at Thessalonica

Believed that when Paul

Stood to preach,

That it was actually God

 Speaking through him.

They just believed that Paul was God’s “mouth-piece” to their church.  And then there are those folks who say, “Well, we just ought to follow God.”  That is absolutely right, but God did not show up in Person at Thessalonica. Therefore, the people at Thessalonica believed that when the preacher preached, God spoke.  I wrote down a statement several years ago that sums up what Paul is getting at, “If God does not speak nothing worthwhile is going to be said.   Folks, ought not to come to hear me, for I don’t have anything worth hearing.  But God has a Word through His Word that is proclaimed for every person that has come to hear Him.

The Holy Spirit led Paul to write more about this in his letter to the Thessalonians.  In chapter 4, verse 9 the Bible says, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”  And in chapter 5 verses 12-13 the Bible says, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.  Be at peace among yourselves.”  Now there are the qualities of a great, growing, living, dynamic church . . .

They loved the Lord,

They love their pastor,

And

They loved one another.

4) They were consistent in their loyalties.

We see that in verses 4-8 of chapter 3, “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.  For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.  But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good  remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you – therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.  For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”

Paul was encouraged

By their steadfast

Faith and faithfulness.

These people were consistent in their loyalties to God, His Word, and their living for Him.  That was such an encouragement to him – he was happy to hear and see what God was doing in them as their faith and obedience grew.  I can sense a little bit of how Paul felt – I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the active faith and faithfulness of our church family to the Lord!

When I look around, and I see the deadness of the religious crowd, and when I see the hand of God moving so mightily on our church, I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to know the Lord and be faithful to Him

5) There was a concern for what is lacking.

We see that in chapter 3 verse 10, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith.”  I have learned a powerful lesson in my years of ministry .  . .

It is easy to come and to voice our problems,

But a real mark of faith is when

You and I can get concerned enough

To be obedient to God’s will for our lives

And pray that the Lord will

Perfect what is lacking in our faith.

God has called us to be a people of faith.  And as a people of faith, we can make a difference in our world.

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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I’ve Made So Many Mistakes in My Life . . . How Can I Ever Be Free from All This Guilt?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

20Jan  Millions of people, both in society and in the church, are suffering under a crushing weight of guilt.

  • Maybe you’ve had an abortion, or advised someone else to have one.
  • Maybe you’ve lied to a friend, or stolen something and never made it right.
  • Maybe you’re addicted to alcohol or pornography or drugs or spending more than you have.
  • Maybe you’ve hurt someone and never sought their forgiveness and now you can’t forgive yourself.

It could come from a thousand different things, but if you feel hopelessly lost under this pressure of guilt, the message of this blog is for you.

It’s counterproductive to try to get rid of guilt feelings

Without dealing with the cause of the guilt.

Only by denying reality can you avoid guilt feelings.

You need a permanent solution to your guilt problem,

A solution based on reality, not pretense.

The good news is that God loves you

And desires to forgive you for your sin.

But before the good news can be appreciated, we must know the bad news.  The bad news is that there’s true moral guilt, and all of us are guilty of many moral offenses against God.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Sin is falling short of God’s holy standards.  It separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2).  It brings disappointment, disaster, and death to our lives.  But the Bible also gives us the Good News.  The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus died on the cross as the only one worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by God’s holiness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He rose from the grave, defeating sin and conquering death (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 54-57).

When Christ died on the cross for us, He said, “It is finished” (John 29:30).  The Greek word translated “it is finished” was written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. It meant “paid in full.”

Because of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf,

God freely offers us forgiveness.

The Bible makes the very clear.  In Psalm 103:12, the Bible says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  And the Bible says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Salvation is a gift,  The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

This gift is not dependent on our merit or effort,

But solely on Christ’s sacrifice for us.

God offers us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life,

But it’s not automatically ours.

In order to have the gift, we must choose to accept it.

You may think, “But I don’t deserve forgiveness after all I’ve done.”  That’s exactly right. None of us deserves God’s forgiveness.  If we deserved it, we wouldn’t need it.  That’s the point of grace.

Once forgiven, we can look forward to spending eternity with Christ and our spiritual family (John 14:1-3; Revelation 20:11-22:6).  You can look forward to being reunited in Heaven with your loved ones covered by Christ’s blood (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

God doesn’t want you to go through life

Punishing yourself for the wrongs you’ve done.

Your part is to accept Christ’s atonement, not to pay for it.

No matter what you’ve done,

No sin is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

He has seen us at our worst and still loves us.

There are no limits to His forgiving grace.

And there is no freedom like the freedom of forgiveness.

You need to become part of a family of Christians called a church.  You may feel self-conscious around Christians because of your past.  You shouldn’t.  A true Christ-centered church isn’t a showcase for saints but a hospital for sinners.  The people you’re joining are just as human and imperfect as you.  Most church people aren’t self-righteous.  Those who are should be pitied because they don’t understand God’s grace.

A good church will teach the truths of the Bible, and will provide love, acceptance, and support for you.  If you cannot find such a church in your area, contact me and we’ll gladly do what we can to help 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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What Is So Wrong About Straddling The Fence?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

thumbnailActs 5:34-41 is a very interesting passage.  Most people see it as a “God Thing” that helped get the disciples back out on the street again to preach the gospel – that Gamaliel, was a good man with a good conscience who helped the disciples – and certainly God used it to further His purpose.  But have you ever wondered about Gamaliel, himself.  Where did he stand on the issues at hand: Jesus Christ and the gospel?  What was his reasoning concerning his proclamation?

Gamaliel was revered as a great teacher, as a liberal reformer somewhat ahead of his time – a moderate middle-of -the- road man, having a centre-right position politically speaking.  And it is true, his intervention did seem to calm the fury of the council – for a short time, but in the next chapter (Acts 6) we see the same council – the Sanhedrin, condemning and stoning Stephen.  Gamaliel was an appeaser, not an opposer.  Gamaliel was an apostle of compromise, unlike Peter and John who boldly proclaimed in Acts 5:29 & 32, “We ought to obey God rather than men” … And we are His witnesses to these things …”  Think about this, Gamaliel was a witness of the things Peter and John talked about, as well.  He must have been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, maybe even one of those who voted for His death and a witness, of such.  He knew the Scriptures, the prophecies concerning the Messiah, for he was a great teacher; He should have known better than try and remain neutral or straddle the fence when it came to Jesus.

Agnosticism is NOT a viable option.  There is a Chinese proverb which states: “He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.”  The great philosopher Dante said it much more vigorously: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

Gamaliel was a fence straddler.  So, where did he go wrong?  Let me suggest three things.  My prayer is that we will not find ourselves doing the same thing.  May we stand with the likes of Peter, John and those throughout history who have boldly and unashamedly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. Gamaliel’s first mistake was that HE MADE A FALSE COMPARISON.

The Bible says in Acts 5:34-37, “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.  And he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him.  He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered ad came to nothing.  After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him.  He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.”

In his speech Gamaliel made some telling points about two men, their movements, and their fate – Theudas & Judas.  But in fact . . .

He was comparing the apostles, the Gospel,

And ultimately Jesus Christ with these men.

He was suggesting Jesus was like them,

And suggesting tolerance for a moment.

He put Jesus into a pigeon-hole,

A category with other revolutionaries

Whose causes have been long since discredited.

Or he is suggesting that Jesus was just

Another reformer, philosopher, teacher, or guru.

He dismisses Him with:

“We know all about such characters.”

He is just like anyone else.

That is so much like the thinking in our day.  I recently was cleaning out my files and came across a newspaper article from 1999.  It said, “Inter- faith dialogue is very fashionable in some Christian circles today … In quest of religious tolerance, Geneva’s St Pierre Cathedral is to welcome the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet’s Buddhists, to preach at a Sunday service.  Between 10,000 to 15,000 worshippers are expected to attend the service at the 12th-century building in Geneva’s Old Town, which in the 16th-century became the church of John Calvin, the most influential thinker in Reformed Christianity. This is the latest event in a series which indicates a growing role for the cathedral – one of the most important places in Reformed church history – as a center for inter-faith dialogue.”  Evidentially the cathedrals’ proprietors felt that their message concerning Jesus and the Dalai Lama’s message of Buddhism were of equal weight.  Sadly it has gotten even worse today.

But Jesus is unique –

He cannot be set

Alongside Theudas, or Judas,

Or Gandhi or anyone else,

For that matter.

And one must take a stand concerning Jesus.  C.S.Lewis so poignantly pointed out that Jesus is either crazy, corrupt or the Christ!

Exclusive claims of Christ

Go against the grain –

It is not acceptable,

So the temptation is

To soften the message,

Make it more palatable,

Hence making false comparisons.

Gamaliel was straddling the fence, and that is both dangerous and uncomfortable.

Are you making false comparisons about Christ and straddling the fence when it comes to Jesus?

This just set Gamaliel up to make another mistake,

  1. Gamaliel’s second mistake was that HE SUGGESTED A FALSE CRITERIA.

The Bible says in Acts 5:38-39, “And now I say unto you, keep away from these men, and let them alone: for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found even to fight against God.”  He began by using success as criterion – we will measure this movement by its success – time will tell if it is of God.  Success is a standard gauge of the world in evaluating men, movements, and merchandise.  Someone once said, “Nothing succeeds like success.”  But earth’s yardstick does not apply to Christ and Christianity.

In fact, look at Bible record and you will see many apparent failures:

  1. Abraham leaves wealth and comfort of Ur to become a nomad in desert.
  2. Moses gives up Pharaoh’s palace to become a shepherd then suffers with God’s people for 40 years in wilderness.
  3. Nehemiah gave up a well-paying job as a highly placed government official to build a wall around a ruin.
  4. Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a stinking muddy hole for proclaiming the Word of the Lord.
  5. And worst of all, the Founder of Christianity Jesus Christ, died a shameful death on a cursed cross.
  6. The world’s idea of success is an improper criterion.

Gamaliel followed this logic by suggesting that durability is a viable criterion.  There are many false religions and philosophies that are centuries old and some older than Christianity itself.  The Buddhism we spoke about earlier started 500 years before Christ was born.  There is the story that is told about Donald Soper, also known as “Soap-box Soper,” a Methodist preacher, who did open air preaching at Tower Hill in London for 65 years.  As he was preaching about Christ one day an objector, a rather scruffy, unkempt sort of individual, yelled “Look how long Christianity has been around – 2000 years – and what good has it done the world?”  To which Soper replied: “Look how long soap has been around -+3000 years – and what good has it done you?!”

It is not about how long something is around,

But the truth and foundation under it,

To say nothing about

The appropriation of it for oneself!

By and large, Christianity is still a minority faith in most parts of world.  Success has never been the true criterion for judging Jesus Christ.  Not time but eternity will tell.  If you are postponing a commitment to Jesus Christ on the basis of His success or durability in other peoples lives, or whether or not it will be of any long-term advantage to you – to see if it will make you happy, healthy and wealthy – you may live and die with Gamaliel straddling the fence.  And that is not a good thing!

What is your criteria?

Having made a false comparison and suggesting a false criterion, Gamaliel made his third mistake

  1. HE ARRIVED AT A FALSE CONCLUSION.

The Bible says in Acts 5:40, “And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”

Their thinking was, “Leave them alone, warn them to keep them quiet; let them go; we don’t have anything to worry about.”  Sounds like good advice – even indicating slight sympathy for Christianity.  I believe today this would be considered astute political thinking i.e. let the Romans look after them if they are trouble-makers, disturbing the peace, etc.  It seemed like a safe compromise – let’s not be hasty, not make any definitive judgment, or take any decision we might live to regret – leave them alone.  He figured, “It’s ok, its no big deal.”

This is where many otherwise reasonable people find themselves – in the midst of non-committal.  Clements wrote – “But that is one thing no intelligent or responsible person can possibly do with Christianity.  If the apostolic message is true, it is the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the world.  If it is false, it is the most outrageous lie ever perpetrated on the general public.  You cannot adopt a non-committal position. The claims of Jesus Christ demand a verdict.  During the time of the reformation there were many great minds, two of which were Luther and Erasmus.  Erasmus was always the appeaser.  The moderates throughout Europe, the gentlemen of the courts, the semi-skeptical intelligences of the universities told the golden-mouthed apostle of compromise that he was in the right.

But the heart of Christianity beat with Luther.  Erasmus would never commit himself to what he professed – maybe he did not have the courage to say with Luther when called on to renounce his heresies: “Here I stand, I can do no other.”  Coming to false conclusions will leave you straddling the fence like Gamaliel.  No where do we ever hear of Gamaliel making a profession for Christ – he may have straddled the fence one second to long and ended up impaling himself with hell forever.  Don’t wait, coming to the wrong conclusion, that you have all the time in the world; thinking it really doesn’t matter anyway, could be eternally disastrous.

Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin may have agreed to let them go but there was still a lot of frustration, anger, hatred, and unrest within themselves concerning the disciples, but not about them specifically – it all boiled down to the person of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ!  But not so with the disciples, look at what the Bible says in Acts 5:41, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” 

They were rejoicing!

They were not straddling the fence –

They were committed whole heartedly.

And thank God, that Gamaliel had one pupil who was no appeaser, or compromiser, or straddler.  Paul, first known as Saul, did not take up his mentor’s lead when confronted on the road to Damascus.  He did not say, “Well, let me wait and see how your movement goes, then maybe I’ll join up.”  Before he was saved, he was 100% for against Christ; after being born again, after seeing the light, he was 100% for God.

How about you today?  Jesus told the church at Laodicea, because they were lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, He would spue them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16).  You don’t want to be lukewarm – you don’t want to be found straddling the fence!  Are you?  Please make a decision for Christ: it may be for salvation or if you are saved, it may be a complete commitment of yourself to Him.

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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Stop Setting On The Fence . . . Make The Right Choice, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

thumbnailI want to use the next two blogs to continue our look into the Scripture regarding “straddling the fence.”  Yesterday we began this study by dealing with the question, ‘Who do you belong to?  In today’s climate it seems that some are advocating a kind of an undercover approach to living for God.  The goal is not to offend or appear “holier-than-thou.”   It has led to Christians “straddling the fence” to appear more normal and less offensive.  Have you been straddling the fence lately?

The Bible says in 2 Kings 17:39-42, “But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.  So these nations feared the LORD, yet served their carved images, also their children, and their children’s children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day.”

Israel of the past is so much like many today.   They know there is a God.  They believe in Him, at least they claim it with their speech, but hypocritically worship AND live for other “gods.”

There are some religions, that although they claim to be Christian, incorporate praying to statues (idols) and people of the religion’s past.  Not all “gods” are as clear as those idols found in some religions.  Many of the “gods” are things that get more attention than our Creator and the lover of our soul should be receiving.

These false “gods” can be a job, a spouse, a person, a shiny new car, a house, a sports team, or anything that makes us put something ahead of loving and living for God.

Although one’s justification

May be that

“I need that thing”,

“A man has to work”,

Or even

“God understands that

I am in a world

And I have to do

What I have to do to survive,”

The attention those things receive

Shows God He is not

The priority in one’s life.

He deserves to be.

It is important to know that in this area – God does not understand.  He commands us to put Him first!  The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:5 and in Mark 12:30, ““And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment.”

Yet, today a lot of people object to the need to put God as a first priority in their live.  Someone reply, “Well, if I put God first, I will have nothing to live on, people will laugh at me, and I will be an outcast!”  Much of the lost respect for Christianity comes from that kind of compromising done by so many that claim to be Christians.

Yet, God says in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, What shall we wear?  For after all these things do the Gentiles see. For your heavenly Father knows that you need of all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

God will take care of His own, especially those that are totally relying on Him.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

One needs only rely on Him.

That is the way He wants it.

We cannot have it both ways.  We should not live for the world, make it the highest priority, and then only tip our hat to God once a week.

God should be the One

We look to and lean upon,

Not the world’s ever-changing whims.

A Christian has no business

Straddling the fence between

Living for God and living for the world.

The Bible reminds us in James 4:4, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

We are in the world

And

Do need some things it offers.

However . . .

Do not make

What it temporarily offers

Your primary concern.

To do so is not

Putting God first.

Get off the “fence” of trying to be on both sides: God’s and the world’s.  God will provide and take care of you if you will just trust and obey Him.  God lays down the principle in Joshua 24:15, “And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Stop sitting on the fence . . . Make the right choice today!

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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No Fence-Sitting Saints

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

thumbnail.png The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 30:13 that while in pursuit of the Amalekites, David and his six hundred men came upon an Egyptian and asked him, “To whom do you belong . . .?”

This question is applicable for all of us today

Because our God will tolerate no rival.

There will be no neutralities

When it comes to our

Holy relationship with God;

And so, the question is put before us: “To whom do you belong?”  The Bible knows nothing of the fence-sitting saint.

There are only two answers to this question . . .

1) By natural birth, we belong to the god of this age, who has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).  As children of Adam, we are sons of Satan.  Adam, who was the federal head of humanity, rebelled against God and brought judgment down on all of his offspring.  We are all born “dead in our transgressions and sins,” following “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

But . . .

2) Through a supernatural birth, those who have, by grace through faith, placed their trust in the atoning death of Jesus Christ belong to the Creator / Savor God of the ages.  When we admit that we are sinners,that we can not save ourselves, and accept what Jesus did on the cross and through the empty tomb, we become children of the Most High God, we have been made alive in Christ and we now belong to the family of faith.

So . . . what is your response to this all-important question – “Who do you belong to?”  Your answer will be revealed as people observe the following . . .

What does your heart beat for?

I know the heart beats for a thousand different things, but . . .

What does your heart primarily beat for?

Does it beat for your self

Or for your Savior?

Does it beat for the expansion of your kingdom

Or for the kingdom of God?

Does it beat for success at the expense of others

Or for giving God glory through service?

Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  (Luke 6:45).  When we are born again our heart and nature is changed and we become able to produce good things that will glorify and honor God and benefit others.

What company do you keep?

We live in this world, and we keep company with many who belong to this world. But the deepest understanding of this question is this . . .

Whom do we associate with

Or take delight in the company of?

Is it those who are living for the Word

Or those who live for the world?

The Bible reminded us in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Who in your life is shaping your character?

How do you spend your discretionary time and money?

It might surprise you, but . . .

What we do with our discretionary time and money

Goes a long way toward demonstrating whom we belong to.

When we see all that we have as a gift from God,

We will begin to invest more and more of it

In ways that glorify our God.

How we spend our time and money

Expresses our gratitude (or lack of gratitude)

For God’s goodness and care;

And gives us opportunity privately and publicly

To thank God for His faithfulness in the past,

The supply of our provisions in the present,

And our faith in God for our promised future

And the fulfillment of His priorities.

Who do you belong to?  Have you been straddling the fence lately?  What would those closest to you say?  Remember, your life is the only Bible many people around you will ever read.  As they read your life, Who would they say you belong to?

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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Modern Manipulation Of The Gospel Message

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Many in the church today have fallen prey to a massive misconception when it comes to the message of the Gospel.  Theologically progressives have manipulated the Good News . . .

Changing the focus from upward to inward . . .

From serving the Savior to serving the self.

Far too many people imagine that somehow

God’s warning to Pharaoh has been changed

From “Let My people go so they can serve Me”

To “Let My people go so I can serve them.”

The church today – and particularly the church in the Western world – is full of the misguided, who have absorbed “gospel-lite” messages designed to meet felt needs and who believe that God exists to serve their ends, satisfy their needs, and quench their thirst for all things material.  But this is not what the Gospel is all about!  The Bible warns us in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15) and in Revelation 4:11, “Your are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power . . .”  

Here are three questions for you to ponder in order to discern if you have manipulated the Gospel message in any way:

  1. Why do you attend church?
  2. Why do you pray?
  3. Why do you tithe (assuming that you do tithe) your income?

If these Christian disciplines are part of your life simply because you desire to please your God and praise His mighty name, then the message has not been manipulated in your mind.  But if you attend church, pray, and tithe in order that you might get something in return, you can be sure that the message has indeed been manipulated.

It comes down to two words:

Duty and devotion.

If you do these and other things

For God out of a sense of duty

(Inasmuch as the Christian disciplines are our duty),

The message has been manipulated.

But if you do these and other things

Out of a sense of devotion,

Because your heart beats for nothing

Other than the Lord Jesus Christ

And you are overwhelmed with love and thanksgiving

Because of what God has already done for you

– NOT what you hope He will do in the future –

Then you can be sure that the message

You are responding to is the one

The Master delivered 2,000 years ago.

Here is another way to put this: Ask yourself, “Do I do what I do for my own gain?  Or for the Savior’s glory?”  To be sure, God has promised to meet all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), but there are two things we must remember.

First, we must never define “wants” as “needs” – and we all have a natural tendency to do just that.

Second, we must always remember that God will meet our needs in His time, in His way, and for His glory.  And often the outcome won’t look anything like what we expected it to!

In closing, and I pray for a deep and abiding encouragement for your soul, regardless of where this message found you today.  God is God, and is worthy of all our praise, glory, honor, and obedience.  When what we do for God is done simply because we could not do otherwise, we can know for sure that we have not manipulated the Gospel message and that our heart is beating for nothing smaller than our Master.

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 Christian’s Call To Holiness

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Jan  How many thousands of people have repeated a prayer and publicly announced that they were a follower of Jesus Christ only to fall away back into the world?  The answer to that question cannot be fully comprehended.  Many estimate the number of false Christians to far outnumber the true Christian population which is a staggering thought to consider.  Yet, it seems that was what Jesus communicated in Matthew 7:13-14 as He differentiated between the “many” and the “few” in relation to the false Christian and the true believer.

Throughout time, a certain category of Christianity has emerged under the name of carnal Christianity.  This category is the product of a certain belief that claims it’s possible to have Jesus as Lord and Heaven as your home while living in open sin and remaining in love with the world.  Not only is this a harmful belief system, it’s simply unbiblical.  In short, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian – the Christian can manifest tendency of thinking and living in the flesh (The Bible speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul discusses the difference between being spiritual and carnal and concludes by saying, “For you are still carnal, for where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men,”) but God knows nothing of a “carnal Christian.”  The carnal Christian is like a unicorn walking around in an open field – it’s an impossibility.

The Call To Christian Holiness

To be a Christian is to be a child of God.  What God expects from His people is a life of holiness.  The Bible states in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “Be holy for I am holy” where Leviticus 11:44 is referenced.

God has always

Had one goal

For His people

And it’s holiness.

The Bible emphasizes In Ephesians 2:10 the fact that God has before ordained that His people walk in a life pursuit of holiness.

Far too often people miss the point of the Levitical laws.  They turn them into a system of positives commands and negative prohibitions when in reality something far bigger is taking place.  For instance, God was not merely forbidding the Israelites from enjoying a good BBQ sandwich in the dietary laws; God was positioning His people to be a distinct and separate people from the rest of the world.  The Levitical laws were used to separate the people.

God is holy and has called us into a life of holiness.  Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1).

The pursuit of our lives

Should be on becoming

Conformed to the image of God

Rather than being

Marked by the world,

The flesh, and the devil.

That was our former way of living and we have been called out of that lifestyle.  Look at what the Bible says in Ephesians 3:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Notice that the Bible emphasizes that the believers in Ephesus (true about all believers regardless of geographic location) were once dead in their trespasses and sins.  This spiritual deadness caused them to walk (a statement about lifestyle) in a manner that was following the prince of the power of the air (a title for Satan).  This entire lifestyle is focused on satisfying the depraved passions of the flesh.  It should be noted that this passage begins by describing this pattern of living by the believers in the past tense.  In other words . . .

Before a believer’s conversion

Their lifestyle is carnal,

But carnality is not

The description of the believer

In the present tense

(After conversion).

According to Titus 1:8, the Christian is called to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

An undisciplined life

Centered on satisfying

Depraved cravings

Is not the picture

Of a pursuit of holiness.

It’s the picture of a life

That’s pursuing the world.

Conversion Results in Sanctification

When God saves a person, He not only saves that person from the penalty of their sin, but He likewise removes the shackles of sin and gives the individual victory over sin. Why would anyone believe that the God who can transport people into the His presence in eternity could not remove sin from a person’s life before they cross over the precipice of eternity?

The Christian’s life will be a constant battle against the flesh (Romans 7).  However, God calls the Christian to present himself as a living sacrifice – one that is holy and acceptable to God (Hebrews 12:1-2).  As a result of conversion, the child of God will love God more than the world or anything this world has to offer (1 John 2:15).  As John makes clear, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Sanctification is the progressive process whereby the child of God puts off the deeds of the flesh while putting on the clothing of holiness.  Look at how the Bible describes this process in Ephesians 4:22-24, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Salvation should be viewed as a whole, rather than merely a compartmentalized focus on the soul.  The work of salvation impacts the entire person: body, mind, and soul.  The renewal of the mind comes as a byproduct of the changed heart at conversion. New desires and affections for God emerge which change priority lists, goals, lifestyles, and nearly every other detail of the human’s existence in this present evil world.

Conversion without sanctification is not genuine salvation.  Carnality is not a description of a child of God.  When a true child of God walks off the straight and narrow path – the Spirit of God will not allow that to be an ongoing pattern.  There will be a chastening of the disobedient Christian that brings about correction.  This process could come in form of a sermon preached where the Spirit deals with the sin internally resulting in repentance; It could be a private rebuke by a fellow Christian out of love; It could come in form of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20); and for the obstinate, God has more severe methods of correction (Hebrews 12:3-17).  God will sanctify His people and Christ will have a pure bride.

Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified.  If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person.  The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness.  The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit.  Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”

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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