Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 4 - Caring in the Nature of Christ - Matthew 25:31-40

I began a series of posts a few weeks ago entitled A Grace Driven Church. In these 5 posts, I’m sharing with you messages around an acronym of the word Grace. In the first post, we began with the letter G and talked about Growing in the Love of Christ. How that true disciples will have a deepening relationship with Christ that leads to a definite reformation of conduct… We then took the letter R and looked at Reaching in the Name of Christ. How we as Christians need to take a serious view of evangelism and get busy trying to win people to Christ. Last week, with the letter A I talked about Affirming in the Body of Christ and discussed the importance of having proper fellowship with other Christians.

Over the next couple of posts, we’ll finish this series by looking at…

Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

Today, as we continue our discussion of being a grace driven church, we are going focus on the area of ministry. In the verses I read for you, we find Jesus…the Master Teacher…telling His disciples one of the very important things that will matter when we stand before Him…and that is whether or not we ministered to the needs of others. Have we done everything we can to help those who need helping. Those who are hungry and poor and sick and…most importantly…those who are not saved.

The area if ministry is, of course, not the most important thing that will matter when we stand before the Lord though. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re His child. To make sure when He asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” that you have the right answer. And that answer is because you’ve accepted His free offer of salvation and had your sins washed away by the blood of Jesus.

As Christians, there are certain things that should mark our lives and our churches. What all of these Grace Driven Church sermons are telling us is that it’s important that Christians be known for their discipleship, their evangelism, their fellowship, their ministry and…as we’ll see next week…their worship.

Here in Matthew 25, Jesus is saying that we should be known for the way we react to those in need around us and that we will be held accountable for our ministry efforts when we stand before Him. With that in mind this morning, I have a couple of statements I want to share with you to help remind and encourage you in the area of ministry. Here’s the first one…

WHEN GRACE DRIVEN PEOPLE GET…THEY GIVE

Being grace driven means that we realize how much God has done for us. We begin to understand the staggering cost of our salvation. When this happens, we respond with a desire to give back to Him in any way we can. In other words, when we GET…we respond by GIVING. We understand what Paul meant when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Here’s what happens. If we allow it, God’s grace will change us. It will make us become gracious, giving people. E. Stanley Jones described it this way. He said, “Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it, you are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give.”

When we begin to understand how much God has given to us, we are then motivated to give back. We start to see ministry as an opportunity to do just that. In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey lists several Christians who became amazingly gracious givers. Let me share a couple of those with you…

Millard Fuller, a millionaire entrepreneur from Alabama was a rich but miserable man. Then he visited Americus, Georgia where he met Clarence Jordan and became involved in his Koinonia Community. They led him to Christ and Fuller responded by giving away his personal fortune and founding Habitat for Humanity, an organization based on the simple premise that every human being deserves a decent place to live. They have built thousands of homes for the needy all over the world. Fuller once said, “The reason I do what I do and so many of our volunteers do what they do, is because we are being obedient to Jesus.”

Then there is Bill Magee, a plastic surgeon who was shocked to find that in Third World countries many children go through life with cleft palates that never get treated. Magee and his wife organized a program called OPERATION SMILE and through this ministry, doctors and support personnel travel to places all over the world to repair these facial deformities. So far Magee and his group have responded to their own experience of the grace of God by operating on over 30,000 children.

Folks…I could go on and on listing Christians who’ve responded to what they’ve received from God by giving to meet the needs of others. Unfortunately, the reality is that Christians don’t always respond to the grace of God in this way. Some seem to forget the cost of God’s gracious gift of salvation. When this happens, they don’t minister to those in need. Instead they become inwardly focused and spend all their time and talents on entertaining themselves.

It’s a sad testament when churches receive but don’t give. All their energies are focused on maintaining the church and none on ministering to the world around them. Groups of Christians like these are not grace driven. They’ve ignored Jesus’ command in Matthew 10:8 when He said, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

We have to make sure this doesn’t happen to us here at Grace Baptist. I’m glad that we are a giving church. We give to other ministries and missionaries to help spread the Gospel to the lost world around us and we need to keep that going. But it’s not only important for us to minister corporately as a body, we need to do all we can to minister individually to those God has place in our lives. We must always remember the words of Jesus from our passage in Matthew 25, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the lease of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

So, when grace driven people get…they give. Here’s the second statement I want to share with you today to help remind and encourage you in the area of ministry…

WHEN GRACE DRIVEN PEOPLE GO…THEY GROW

Did you know it’s not only those in need who benefit when they are ministered to? The one who is doing the ministering benefits as well. The very act of helping others helps us to mature in our relationship with the Lord. Ministry pushes us to grow spiritually. It forces us to rely on God’s strength because we find that our strength isn’t enough to get the job done. We learn that with God’s power working in us, we can do amazing, God-sized things. Actively serving and ministering to others helps us to become less selfish and more loving and giving people.

Christians who work to meet the needs of others will grow and become better people. One writer put it this way, “In a paradox of faith, the one who shares love comes away enriched, not impoverished.” And I believe he is absolutely correct. One of the main benefits of giving is its effect on the giver. Those who go DO grow.

What we have a tendency to do is focus on the objects of our ministry. The people won to Christ…the poor who are clothed, the hungry who are fed…but the people who are ministering benefit as well. After all these years now that I’ve spent in ministry, I can tell you this… I believe my ministry has helped me and my relationship with the Lord as much, if not more, than the people I’ve been privileged to minister to.

Listen folks…this shouldn’t be a surprising by-product of ministry. Listen to a couple of the promises we find in Scripture that talk about our giving…

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Acts 20:35, “The Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When grace driven people go…they grow. But did you know the opposite is true? For those who don’t go…they won’t grow. When a Christian withers and dies spiritually, it happens from the inside out. This spiritual death is the result of an inward, selfish focus rather than an outward concern for others. I’ve shared this definition of joy with you before but let me remind you again of how to maintain the joy of your Christian life. Put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.

So, let me ask you this today. Are you ministering to others? Are you doing all you can to help those around you? And listen…I understand that we can’t meet every need and help every person; but we can meet some needs and help some people. Are we doing our part?

Today, we’ve looked at to statements to help remind and encourage us in the area of ministry. When grace driven people get…they respond by giving. When grace driven people go…the result is they grow.

Listen folks…we need to understand that our ministry…individually and corporately…is a direct reflection of our love for Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to stand before Him one day and hear Him compliment and not criticize my ministry. The reality is that’s not going to happen by accident. It’s going to take a lifelong commitment of service and dedication to what He’s called me to do.

So, my challenge to you today is that you commit yourself to ministry. Ask yourself, “What am I doing to minister to the needs I see all around me? Am I caring in the nature of Christ?”

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 3 - Affirming in the Body of Christ - Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-33

I began a series of posts a couple of weeks ago entitled A Grace Driven Church. In these 5 posts, I’m sharing with you messages around an acronym of the word Grace. In the first post, we began with the letter G and talked about Growing in the Love of Christ. How that true disciples will have a deepening relationship with Christ that leads to a definite reformation of conduct… Last week, we took the letter R and looked at Reaching in the Name of Christ. How we as Christians need to take a serious view of evangelism and get busy trying to win people to Christ. Over the next 3 posts, we’ll be looking at…

Affirming in the Body of Christ
Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

Today, as we continue our discussion of being a grace driven church, we are going focus on the area of fellowship. We need to understand how powerful fellowship between a group of Christians can be. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I don’t have to go to church to be Christian?” While technically true, without Christian fellowship, a person with that attitude will literally be like a flower on a plant without water and wither away.

Fellowship is an extremely important part of our church. It is the true test proving whether or not we’ve actually experienced God’s grace. Jesus told us to embrace a type of fellowship that reflects His grace filled love for each of us.

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

John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

You know I think the heart of fellowship in our church is probably the front hallway. This is where we interact with each other before and after services. It just buzzes with fellowship. Doesn’t it? You can sense our church affirming itself almost when you walk through the door. These verses from Acts 2 and 4 tell us that this first group of Christians put a high value on fellowship. Verse 42 of chapter 2 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship…”

Today, I want us to try and discover the secret to their fellowship. Doing this will help us keep our relationships strong and grace filled. What was is about this early church family that made their fellowship so strong? Notice first with me that churches with great fellowship are…

PLACES OF GROWTH

Acts 2:42 tells us, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…and to prayer.” As Christians, our lives should be marked by the fact that we have a desire to know more of God and His Word and that we are people of prayer.

Within any church…any group of Christians, there are people with different levels of spiritual maturity. Some have just been saved…they are infants in the faith. Others are spiritual adolescents and others have been working at spiritual growth for decades and, as a result, are very mature spiritually. Listen folks… Church fellowship is not just enjoying each other’s company. It is taking our God-given responsibility seriously to encourage each other to mature spiritually.

Listen to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11-16, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Folks…we need to understand that the church is a place of growth…not in numbers of people but growth in a relationship with Christ. We need to be concerned about the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be doing our part to encourage those around us to commit themselves to a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Listen folks…fellowship is a by-product of spiritual growth. If Christians devote themselves to growing spiritually, they will have healthy fellowship. 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”

Not only do we see that churches with great fellowship are places of growth, they are also…

PLACES OF GLADNESS

If the church is really the family of God, it should be a place of laughter…a place of joy…a place where people like to go and want to be. In grace driven churches, people love each another. They value and cherish their time together and can’t wait for Sunday to get here. I hope that describes you. We all should be like David who said this in Psalm 122:1, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Churches with healthy fellowship emphasize the positive not the negative. They focus on what God can do, not what we can’t do…they focus on what’s best in people, not what’s worst…they build each other up, not tear each other down. They have a positive attitude of joy and gladness.

It’s important that we understand that this joy and gladness is rooted in unity. Acts 4:32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Christian unity is so important that it was one of the last things Jesus prayed for before he went to the cross. Listen to His prayer from John 17:20-23, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Christian unity doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything. Listen folks…we are all different. We have different backgrounds, abilities and education so we are never going to be the same. Christian unity comes from our knowledge that even though we are different, we have one thing…the most important thing…in common and that is our relationship with Christ…our mutual acceptance of and dependence on the grace of God.

Now hopefully, we don’t have any of this kind of behavior going on in our church, but did you know that the main thing that will rob a church of its unity is gossip and slander? This is one of satan’s greatest weapons and he uses it to destroy churches. Words spoken behind the back of another Christian will hurt and divide the body of Christ and make it into a place that is not glad.

Folks listen…I’ve told you over the years now that at some point, I’m probably going to say or do something that you don’t like…something that upsets or offends you. I can honestly tell you that this won’t be intentional but it’s probably going to happen. When it does happen, my hope and prayer is that you don’t go out Sunday afternoon and have preacher for lunch. My hope and prayer is that you will come and talk to me about it and let’s resolve it like the brothers and sisters in Christ we claim to be. The reality is if you and I love the Lord like we’re supposed to and love each other like we’re supposed to, there shouldn’t be anything we can’t work out.

To make sure our church is a place of gladness, we need to do everything we can to preserve our Christian unity. So, we’ve seen that churches with great fellowship are places of growth and places of gladness. Notice with me lastly today that churches with great fellowship are also…

PLACES OF GRACE

Acts 4:33 says, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was…powerfully at work in them all…” In other words, grace improved their fellowship.

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a former marine buddy recently converted to Christianity. His friend said the only thing he missed about his former way of life was the neighborhood bar. He described it as a place where he could go and find friends who would accept him just as he was, listening to his problems in a non-judgmental way.

Keith Miller talks about this in his book The Edge of Adventure. He said this, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It is an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.”

Listen…bars flourish not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved and so many seek a counterfeit for the price of a few beers. Now, I am not suggesting that we serve alcohol and set up HAPPY HOUR on Sunday mornings. But I do want us to realize that all people thirst for grace and if there’s one place on this planet where a person should find acceptance and love…if there’s one place where people can come to have their thirst for grace quenched it should be here in church.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Listen folks…we are God’s servants charged with dispensing God’s grace. As Christians, we’ve experienced the greatest thing ever when we received God’s saving grace and it’s our job to share it with the world around us.

Just think for a moment about the words of one of the most famous hymns in our hymn book…

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Three things enabled the early church to have healthy fellowship. Their growth…their gladness rooted in unity…and their grace. These same three things will help any church…including ours…to have healthy grace-driven fellowship.

Do we want to be a grace driven church? We must never take our fellowship for granted. We must guard it and nurture it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 2 - Reaching in the Name of Christ - Matthew 28:19-20

I began a series of posts last week entitled A Grace Driven Church. In these 5 sermons, I’m going to share with you posts around the acronym of the word Grace. Last time we began with the letter G and talked about Growing in the Love of Christ. How that true disciples will have a deepening relationship with Christ that leads to a definite reformation of conduct… Over the next 4 posts, we’ll be looking at…

Reaching in the Name of Christ
Affirming in the Body of Christ
Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Certainly, we can all agree that Jesus gave us a crystal-clear commandment in the verses I read from Matthew 28 in what we call the Great Commission. So, as I begin today, let me ask you this… When is the last time you shared Jesus with someone? Now, I’m not talking about simply just inviting someone to church. I’m talking about having a heart to heart conversation with someone and telling them why they need and how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus.

If there’s an area in which Christians have failed miserably, it’s in the area of personal evangelism…reaching in the name of Christ. Unfortunately, most unsaved people in our world don’t see us as clear reflectors of God’s grace. They think Christians are unloving, judgmental people. They think we don’t care about them. They think they don’t matter to us. They know us for those things that we legalistically don’t do instead of the things we willingly do for the Lord. The really sad part is, there are those who claim to be Christians who act this way and become the strongest arguments against Christianity.

Did you know the name Christian literally means Christ-like? So, if we’re really, truly saved…if we are Christians, then our lives should reflect that. One writer put it this way, “Either change your name or change your conduct.” Now I don’t believe we should change our name from Christian to something else. But I do think if we are going to reach in the name of Christ, then we need to change our conduct. We need to allow our own personal experience with God’s saving grace to change and deepen our understanding of evangelism.

I have several things I want to share with you today so let me get to it. I want us to reflect on our own salvation experience and remember six basic things about evangelism that will help us share the Gospel with the lost and dying world around us. First of all…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EVANGELISM IS ABOUT SHARING A PERSON NOT A PLAN

Folks…keep in mind that as Christians, we follow a Person not an idea or set of rules and rituals. Did you know you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to share your faith with others? You simply talk to others about the Person you know. Share with them about what He’s has done in your life. You introduce them to the Person of Jesus. Isn’t this the example we see from others in the Bible? Philip met Jesus and then found Nathaniel and invited him to come and see Jesus for himself. When Paul went to a new place to share the Gospel, he would simply tell others how he met Jesus and invited them to meet Jesus.

Listen folks…when we share Jesus with those who are lost, we are introducing them to a real Person. The goal of evangelism isn’t to get a decision from people, it’s to introduce them to Jesus. I want everyone around me to have the same personal, individual relationship with Jesus that I have. When we reach in the name of Christ, we’re simply introducing people to the Person of Christ. So, remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan. Next…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EVANGELISM IS DONE IN GOD’S POWER NOT OURS

None of us have the ability to change lives. We can’t convict people of their sin. We don’t draw people to a relationship with Christ. That’s God’s job. Only He is able to do these things. Let me share three verses that make this clear for us…

Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” It’s only AFTER we’ve been indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can help bring others to Christ.

Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Listen folks…understand this…without God’s power, it’s not only difficult to lead a person to Christ…it’s impossible! But when we put ourselves in God’s hands, we become powerful evangelists. We all have to realize that evangelism apart from God’s presence and power is ineffective; but when we allow ourselves to be driven by God’s power, people will repent of their sins and respond to the grace of God.

So, we must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…and evangelism is done in God’s power not ours. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER IT’S NOT WHAT WE SAY IT’S WHAT WE DO

You know there are a lot of professing Christians out there who think it doesn’t matter how they live their lives. Listen folks…the Bible has a lot to say about how we live our lives as Christians and I can guarantee you will never win anyone to Christ if you live like the devil around them. Let me share just a few verses with you that talk about proper Christian living…

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

James 2:17, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Do you want to have a positive influence for Christ on the people around you? Your family…your friends…your neighbors…your co-workers? Then your Christianity has to be more than just words. Your life has to match what you claim to be.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…and evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SHARE THE WAY

Paul describes this perfectly for us in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Listen folks…effective evangelism is flexible in nature. We have to understand that the message of the Gospel has not changed and will never change, but the method of sharing the Gospel can and sometimes must change. Types of sermons and methods of delivery change, types of music have changed over the years. We must be willing to do anything and everything we can to share the Gospel and win people to Jesus.

I read a story about a man leading a conference and talked about using contemporary Christian music in the church as a means to introduce the message of Christianity to people. Afterward, an elderly woman walking with a cane came up to him. He braced himself for her criticism. She said, “Young man…I want to have a word with you about what you said tonight. I want you to know that when it comes to music, Montovani is about as contemporary as I get unless it’s the weekend and then I’ll loosen up and enjoy some Lawrence Welk.” Then she pointed her cane at him and continued, “But if rock n’ roll is what it takes to get people back in church, all I’ve got to say is…let’s boogie.”

Now…understand that we will never replace sermons with songs but we have to be flexible enough in our methods of presenting the Gospel to reach our ever-changing world. Most of you know that I spent several years running around all over the Midwest singing gospel music. Now was my singing better than all those pastor’s preaching? Absolutely not! It was just a different way to share the Gospel with those who might not listen to its message any other way.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do and there is more than one way to share the way. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER EVANGELISM IS A REAL JOY NOT A RELIGIOUS JOB

Listen folks…one of the greatest experiences you will ever have as a Christian is leading someone else to Christ. I remember a time with Pam in the home of another couple and being able to pray with them as they accepted Christ, and the time I spent in Bulgaria back in 2003 and seeing so many people make professions of faith, and sitting across from my friend Steve and Steak N Shake and praying with him as he gave his life to Christ.

Being a Christian and sharing our faith with others isn’t always easy but there is joy in serving the Lord. Amen? We shouldn’t look at being a Christian as a job. A Christian is who we are. He has saved us, redeemed us…changed us and we have the privilege and honor of sharing that with others.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do…there is more than one way to share the way and it’s a real joy not a religious job. Then finally today, when it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER WE ARE SHARING GOOD NEWS THAT MEETS REAL NEEDS

All of our unsaved family, friends, neighbors and co-workers really need to hear what we have to say about Jesus. The things we tell them and show them about Jesus’ love have direct application to their lives. Ephesians 2 tells us that without Christ, people are spiritually dead and without hope. Colossians 1 says they are prisoners in the domain of darkness…enemies of God and cut off from Him.

So, our witness is literally good news to them! What we have to say is relevant to them in the here and now…but more importantly it’s relevant to their future. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 tells us that without a relationship with Christ people are destined to spend eternity in hell. I’ve told you before, I got saved for the old-fashioned reason…I didn’t want to die and go to hell.

The reality of hell should be a powerful motivation for us to evangelize those God sends our way. It was the main theme in Jesus’ evangelistic ministry, wasn’t it? Jesus shared stories like that of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 which plainly told of the agony and desperation of those forever separated from God. Jesus confronted the Pharisees, the scribes, the tax-gatherers, the politicians, the rich, the poor…anybody and everybody…with the hard truth that they would die in their sin and face eternal condemnation unless they repented and put their faith in Him. We need to understand that evangelism is serious business. We have what people need…we know the good news of the Gospel and we need to get busy sharing it.

Do we want to be a grace driven church? Boy, I hope so. Let me ask you again the question I asked you way back at the beginning of this sermon. When is the last time you shared Jesus with someone? Are you doing your part to evangelize the world around you. Are YOU reaching in the name of Christ?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 1 - Growing in the Love of Christ - Matthew 4:18-22

I’m going to begin a series of posts today that will take us through the end of May. The series is entitled A Grace Driven Church. Over the next 5 weeks I’m going to share with you sermons that use an acronym of the word Grace. So here’s what we’re going to cover…

Growing in the Love of Christ
Reaching in the Name of Christ
Affirming in the Body of Christ
Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

So, as we begin today, let me ask you this… What motivates you to do what you do for the Lord? The reality is as a Christian, the love and grace that He’s extended to us should motivate us in such a way that we no longer live for ourselves for live for Him. God’s love and grace should drive us…

To minister to the needs of those around us…
To desire the fellowship of other Christians…
To make evangelism a priority in our lives…

Most importantly, God’s grace should motivate us to become true disciples…to grow in our love for Christ. So today we’re starting at the beginning of our acronym…GRACE…with G…Growing in the Love of Christ. Having experienced God’s grace personally gives us a taste of His love and makes us want more. So, grace prompts us to GROW in our love of Christ. It drives us to become better DISCIPLES…to get closer to God.

Let me ask another question… What exactly is a disciple? I think we’ll begin to find the answer to this question by looking at the calling of Jesus’ first disciples. So, let me read Matthew 4:18-22.

What this passage tells us first and foremost is that a disciple is someone who learns by following someone else just like these for men did with Jesus. Today when Jesus calls people to follow Him…when people commit to being His disciples…their lives will be marked by two things and that’s what I’m going to share with you today. Notice first…that a true disciple is someone who has a…

A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

Contrary to a popular misconception in our day, Christian discipleship is NOT a religion. It is NOT memorized words and verses or religious activity. Christian discipleship is a relationship. A maturing disciple of Jesus is simply someone who has a relationship with God Himself that is alive and dynamic and growing.

Did you know that we were custom-designed for an intimate relationship with God? Humans were created to literally walk side-by-side with God through life just like Adam and Eve did in the garden before they sinned. Because of this, people constantly search to fill this void…this emptiness…that sin and separation for God has created. Not only do we as human beings desire a relationship with God, He desperately wants a relationship with us. So discipleship is first and foremost a growing, deepening love relationship between Jesus and those who’ve accepted His free gift of salvation.

Now all of us know that it’s challenging to have a meaningful friendship or relationship with another person. It takes work and time and sacrifice. Well, think of the frustration of trying to build a relationship with Someone Who is invisible and untouchable. Is it even possible to have a personal relationship with an unseen God? Let me say, “Absolutely YES!” Let me share with you a few things you can do to develop a personal relationship with Him.

Simply open the door of your heart. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” What door is He talking about? The door to your heart. Jesus is ready and willing to have a personal relationship with you but the choice is yours. So many Christians don’t seem to realize that God offers us so much more than just fire insurance…so much more than a ticket to heaven when we die. So, you want to develop a personal relationship with Him? Open the door to your heart and let Him in.

The next thing you can and must do is spend time with Him. All relationships are built on communication and closeness…and that takes time. Building a relationship with God requires regular conversations with Him through prayer and exposure to His Word. It amazes me that we as Christians have direct access to God and so few actually take advantage of it. Every new day gives us an opportunity to spends some quality time with God. Listen folks…no relationship will grow if you don’t give it time. To have a personal relationship with Him we must…open the door of our heart; spend time with Him…and…

Commit to be where He is working. All of you should know by now that one of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Henry Blackaby who said, “Find out where God is working and join Him there.” Many of you went through the Experiencing God study we did on Wednesdays a while back. In that study, Dr. Blackaby challenged us to understand that God is always at work around us and that He wants to involve us in His work. It’s our job to see where God is at work and then to join Him in His work.

True disciples value and cherish their relationship with God. They help it grow deep and strong by inviting God into their hearts, by spending regular quality time with Him and by joining Him in His work. That brings me to the second thing involved in discipleship. Not only does true discipleship involve a deepening relationship with Christ, it also leads to…

A DEFINITE REFORMATION OF CONDUCT

Listen folks…true disciples let their relationship with God to change them. They commit to a process of patterning their lives after Jesus Himself. In II Corinthians 3:18 Paul wrote, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image” Disciples give full control of their desires and decisions to God. All of us should pray like David prayed in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Reformation literally means improving something or someone by removing or correcting faults. Let me share a couple of things about this process of reformation that we all need to understand…

Reformation…improvement…correction takes time. None of us will ever become super Christians overnight. We live in an instant gratification driven world don’t we? We want what we want and we want it now. Folks listen…the reality is that we won’t be totally like Him until we are with Him in heaven. In Philippians 1:6 Paul said, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Discipleship takes time. It is a commitment to a life-long process of change…of reformation. One writer said it this way, “Disciples are made not born.” Saul met Jesus in a life changing moment on the Damascus Road but he didn’t become Paul until several years of mentoring and studying had passed. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus takes time.

Not only does this reformation…improvement…correction take time, it is costly. This is the part that gets most people and keeps them from becoming true disciples. Listen folks…salvation is free but following Jesus and experiencing this wonderful relationship with Him will cost us. Jesus said it this way in Luke 9, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Then he explained it further in John 15, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

The more we become like Christ, the less we are like the world around us and with this change comes a cost. We must give up our sinful habits. We may lose friends who don’t understand the way our relationship with God has changed our lives. Folks…a relationship with Christ is time-consuming and energy draining, but it is totally worth it!!! The real question is this… Are you willing to allow Him to make the changes He wants to make in your life so you can be the disciple He wants you to be?

Did you know that today there are more people dying as martyrs for their faith that in all other years combined? In many Islamic countries, heresy laws make conversion to Christianity a criminal act punishable by flogging, dismemberment or death. In countries like Sudan, tens of thousands of Christians are dumped in the open desert each year without food or water. Yet, Light Magazine reports that in spite of the incredible persecution, the Christian Church is growing faster in Sudan than anywhere else in the Muslim world. I guess they’ve learned that their relationship with God is worth the ultimate cost.

We have it easy here in America. No one is waiting outside to arrest us…or worse…for being in church today. Yet we still won’t commit ourselves to becoming true disciples of Jesus.

Discipleship…Growing in the Love of Christ…involves a deepening relationship and a definite reformation. Which one are you missing?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Empty Promises of Easter - Luke 24:1-12

There was a story told by “Dear Abby” in a response to someone’s question. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions, he come across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation - in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.

As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible.

In our world, we are taught “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So many of us have been taken in by these “empty promises,” that we are leery of anything or anyone that tells us we can have something for nothing.

But, you know what…God has never made a promise that was too good to be true.

The truth is the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we’ve been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God’s promises are different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, He gave us emptiness that is full of promise.

I want us to think about the promises of Easter. I have two I want to share with you today and both of these promises are marked by something empty. Notice first…

THE EMPTY CROSS

Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins. Use your imagination today and try to think back, if you can, to that first Easter Morning. It’s early morning…the sun has not risen. A few of Jesus’ followers are on their way to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Their task is a sad one. They’re going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they walk, they come to the top of a rise in the path and they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance. Just outside the city stands the gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Silhouetted by the glow of the sky, stand 3 Crosses.

The cross in the middle is the one I want us to see. That’s the cross Jesus was on. Look up at the top – those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus’ skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar came from the nails that were driven into his hands. The main beam was soaked in blood – blood from his back – blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers beat him until He was unrecognizable. It also has stains from the blood that poured from his side when a Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead…and…HE WAS.

You see, Jesus really did die and that’s why I want you to see the cross this morning. It is the place where He died…but today, it’s empty. It’s empty of Jesus’ body, but it’s also full…full of God’s promises…full of hope for you and me. The promise of the empty cross is that you and I can stand forgiven. Because it was on that cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

“SIN” – now there’s a word that’s not popular anymore. It’s a word that isn’t “politically correct.” But, the simple fact of the matter is we have all sinned. All of us have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.

So, here’s the problem. According to God’s law, the wages of sin is death. Because, we have sinned, we deserve God’s punishment. We deserve eternal death in hell. But thank God when you look at that empty cross, you see a reminder of God’s promise that you have been forgiven.

The Bible tells us that, “God demonstrated His love to us, that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!” It was on that cross Jesus offered His perfect, sinless life as a sacrifice for each one of us. The penalty of sin was paid…on that cross…that empty cross. It was there, His blood was shed for our salvation.

Because of what Jesus did on that cross, we can stand forgiven. The first empty promise of Easter is the empty cross…filled with the promise of forgiven sins. Let me share the second empty promise of Easter…

THE EMPTY TOMB

Let’s go back to our story and the ladies headed for the tomb. After pausing briefly to view the empty cross, they continue on their way down the path to the tomb. As they go, one of them asks – “who will move the stone for us?”

Now…they have good reason to be concerned. The stone placed in front of the tomb wasn’t a small rock it was a large boulder. Not only that, the Romans had sealed the tomb, so no one was allowed to open it without permission. But the ladies continue on. As they approach the burial site, they are still wondering about what had happened when they come upon something even more remarkable. The soldiers are all unconscious, the stone has been moved and an angel…glowing like lightening…is sitting on top of it.

The angel says to them, “Don’t be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; He has risen!” Jesus had risen…He was alive and the tomb was empty! And what a tremendous promise that holds. The fact of the empty tomb is the truth of the resurrection of Jesus and the promise to every one of us that we too will be raised to eternal life.

To all those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, death has lost its sting. It is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with Him in Heaven? Why is the tomb empty? Because Jesus is alive! Just as the Angel said, “He is risen!”

It’s been nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. That 1st Easter Sunday, as the women went to the grave, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. They were not yet aware of the wonderful promises of that day.

The empty cross – the promise that their sins were forgiven
The empty tomb – the promise of their eternal life

And those same promises they discovered you can have today...

You can know the freedom of forgiven sins
You can know the promise of eternal life in heaven
You can know Jesus as your Lord and Savior

I think at Easter, more than any other time of the year, we realize that God has made all sorts of outlandish promises. So outlandish, that some people just can’t bring themselves to believe them. I’ve shared a couple of these promises with you today. So, my question to you is this…will you take him at his word?

Romans 10:13 tells us that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you’ve never accepted God’s promises for your life, He’s waiting. Don’t put it off, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life that comes from a personal relationship with Christ.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palms In The Garden - Matthew 26:36-56

This Palm Sunday sermon is going to be different than the sermons I’ve shared with you before. Most times when we think of Palm Sunday, we think of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This morning I’m going to focus on a different time of Passion Week and that is the time Jesus spent in the garden as I share with you a sermon entitled Palms in the Garden. (Read Matthew 26:36-56)

Just outside Jerusalem was a little garden…the Garden of Gethsemane. Jerusalem has always been a very crowded city and property hard to come by. The wealthy would purchase private garden spots on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. This Garden of Gethsemane could possibly have been owned by a friend of Jesus and was a special place for Him to go for rest, relaxation and prayer. I hope you have that special place to get alone with God.

Gethsemane literally means oil press. Evidently, it was a place where they would harvest olives from the trees, press and crush them to remove the oil. This is a great symbol of what Jesus was about to go through for us. He was about to be crushed and pressed, so the oil of salvation could flow freely to the world.

Listen folks…we may never understand…this side of heaven…what Jesus went through that night in the garden. It was here in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus surrendered Himself to go to the cross… It was here in the garden that Jesus actually won the victory of the cross when He said, “Not my will but yours be done!”

What I want to share with you today are several palms that we find here in the garden. Notice first the…

PALMS OF SORROW

Notice what Jesus said to Peter, James and John in verse 38, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus was completely engulfed by sorrow because of what He knew He was going to face in the coming days. The sorrow He experienced was caused by several things. First there was…

The emotional suffering He was about to endure – Jesus was going to face every negative emotional attack possible. Think about it…He was going to face…
  • The rejection of His own people
  • The betrayal of Judas
  • The desertion of the disciples
  • The denial of Peter
  • The temptations of satan to have the angels come and take Him back to heaven
Listen to how Luke 22:44 describes the sorrow of Jesus, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Just picture Jesus kneeling there in the garden with His palms of sorrow over His face as He sweat drops of blood.

If any of us experienced just one of these things, we would be devastated; but Jesus went through all of it at once! Listen folks…salvation might be free, but it’s not cheap!! Not only was Jesus’ suffering caused by the coming emotional suffering; it was also caused by…

The physical suffering He was about to endure – Jesus knew an old rugged cross was waiting for Him. He also knew the physical torture that He would have to experience before He got to that cross. And listen folks…Jesus wasn’t afraid to die. He faced death with courage and with perfect peace knowing that He was doing the will of the Father. But no one in their right mind looks forward to torture and death. None of us are looking forward to dying! If the doctor gives us a choice between living and dying, we’ll take living every single time! As humans, we have a built-in defense mechanism to resist pain and death.

Can you see the palms of sorrow, as Jesus looks down at His hands, knowing in advance the nails that would be driven through them? But the worst part of His suffering wasn’t emotional or physical. The worst part of His suffering was caused by…

The spiritual suffering He was about to endure – Notice verse 39 with me again, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He picked up that cup with His palms of sorrow. In that cup was much more than any emotional or physical suffering. In that cup was the sin of all mankind and it was about to be placed on Him…the sinless, perfect Son of God.

Listen folks…we can’t even begin to imagine the disgust He must have felt at the very thought of having our sin placed on Him…to the point that His own Father wouldn’t even look at Him. When He would cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

So, we’ve seen His palms of sorrow…next notice with me His…

PALMS OF SURRENDER

Notice verse 42 with me again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” In His humanity, Jesus may have buried His face in palms of sorrow…but thank God He looked up to heaven with palms of surrender! Amen?

Let’s compare this garden to another garden. In the Garden of Eden, Adam exercised his own will and brought ruin and damnation to mankind. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus exercised the will of the Father and brought salvation and forgiveness to mankind. Adam said, “My will be done” and brought death. Jesus said, “Thy will be done” and brought life. I’m so glad that Jesus did the will of the Father…aren’t you?

Satan tries to keep us busy and gives us alternatives to being faithful to God’s will. Every day we answer the question of my will or thy will when comes to things like giving, serving, witnessing and working.

We sing the song I Surrender All and some should just be honest and instead of singing, “All to Jesus I surrender” they should sing “Some to Jesus I surrender, some to Him I freely give…I will sometimes love and trust Him, in His presence sometimes live!” Listen folks…He deserves better than that!

With complete and total palms of surrender Jesus willingly gave all…and so should we!

So, we’ve seen His palms of sorrow and His palms of surrender. Last today, let me share with you His…

PALMS OF SUBMISSION

Look at verse 50 of Matthew 26, “Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.”

Jesus knew they were coming. He could feel ground shake from the trampling of marching feet. He could hear the shouts of the mob…see the lights of the torches and hear the clanging of the swords. But Jesus didn’t run or resist. Instead, with palms of submission, He did what He’d already committed to the Father that He would do. He had fully surrendered to God…but now He was submitting to man.

The Scripture tells us there was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs who came out to arrest a carpenter, the Prince of Peace…the Son of God! Judas betrays Him with a kiss…and now Peter is finally awake…he had been asleep, along with the others…which might actually explain why they all forsook Jesus and fled. They had been sleeping when they were supposed to be praying!

So, in verse 51 we see that Peter is now awake and he does what he does best…something rash…something without thinking! He pulls out a sword and tries to kill one of those who’d come to arrest Jesus. Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away, picks up the ear and miraculously reattached it. Jesus chose the cup of the cross…He chose submission over getting His own way.

So, what’s in your cup today? Is there sorrow or suffering? Is it emotional? Is it physical? Is it spiritual? Will YOU surrender it to God? Will you say, “Thy will be done?”

It’s God’s will for you to be saved…and that takes submission. It’s God’s will for you to be faithful and that takes submission. Can you truthfully and honestly sing, “All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give?”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sealed With A Promise - Ephesians 1:12-14

Are you glad you’re a Christian? I know I am!!! How do we know we’re not only saved but safe? Not only saved but secure in our relationship with the Lord? We’re safe and secure because we're not only saved, but sealed! Folks…make sure you understand this about salvation…

First and foremost, salvation comes from the Lord. We are saved by grace, through faith…it’s a gift from God. And nowhere in Scripture does it teach that we are saved by God’s grace but kept saved by our good works. Salvation is not about us holding on to God but God holding on to us. We are saved and kept saved…secure in our salvation by Jesus. If salvation isn’t all about Jesus, then it’s all wrong!!!

The Bible teaches us here in Ephesians 1 that God has secured our salvation by giving us the Holy Spirit as a deposit that guarantees our inheritance. We’ve not only been saved by God, but sealed by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Now…it’s very important when we study the Bible, for us to interpret words within their Biblical context. This word “seal” meant something very significant to the believers in Ephesus…it brought up a specific image in their minds. What do you think of when you hear the word seal?

For some, a seal is an animal that can balance a beach ball on its nose. For others a seal is something used for canning fruits and vegetables; and for others a seal is something that keeps your engine fluids from leaking out.

What I want to share with you today are the three primary meanings of this Biblical word “seal.” The first meaning is a...

FINISHED TRANSACTION

Have you ever had something notarized? If so, then you know what it means to have something sealed. In other words, it’s a done deal, it’s official! Think of it like a business transaction… God took all the sin on your account…all the lust, the greed, the lies, the impure thoughts, the gossiping words…all your evil deeds…God took it all, and placed it on Christ’s account. Jesus paid for those sins when He died on the cross…and when He paid your debt, He paid it in full! When you got saved, God sealed…or finished…the transaction!

But listen folks…that’s not all…it’s actually a 2-part transaction. God not only takes your sins and places them on Christ’s account, but then He does something even more wonderful. He takes the righteousness of Jesus and He places it on YOUR account!

Let me ask you a question. What does it take to get into heaven? Give me only one word that describes the requirement to enter heaven… Do you know what it is? It’s “Perfection.” The Bible says that no sin will ever enter those heavenly gates. Some will say, “God will let me in…He’s a God of love!” Yes…that’s true. He is a God of love but He’s also a holy God and this holy God turned His back on His own Son when He bore our sin on the cross.

So, the only way to get into heaven without a relationship with Christ is to live a perfect life…not a good life, but a perfect life! Is anyone here perfect? Does anyone know a perfect person? Listen folks…it’s takes perfection to get into heaven…and if you don’t have perfection, you’re gonna need to find it somewhere. The beauty of it is this… We can never achieve perfection in ourselves, but we can receive perfection as a gift!!! Only one Person can give that to you because only He could afford to purchase it for you…and that person is Jesus.

Hebrews 7:28 says, “The oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Our salvation is so simple a child can easily believe and receive it, and yet so deep, we can never fully grasp just how far-reaching it truly is. The very thought that you can lose your salvation is shallow thinking, compared to the depth of what salvation really is! Folks…if you’ve been saved, you need to understand that God doesn’t see you as a wicked, dirty sinner that’s been forgiven. He sees you clothed in the very righteousness of Jesus. He sees you justified…as though you’ve NEVER sinned! Now tell me that’s not something to be excited about.

As a Christian…when you stand before God, you’ll hear Him say, “Welcome to heaven” because your salvation is a done deal. It’s a finished transaction…sealed by the very Holy Spirit of God. The second Biblical meaning of that word “seal” is…

OWNERSHIP

In Paul’s day, Ephesus was the very center of the lumber business. It was located on a river, which was used to transport logs from the logging camps to the mill, downstream. Each camp would have its own seal, stamped on the end of the logs, so the mill knew who to credit. Some people who own cattle and horses will brand them so they can be told apart from others should they get away.

My Bible tells me that I’m sealed or branded by God. I am His property. Regardless of what happens in this life, I am still one of His sheep. Remember the story of Job? Listen to what Job 1:8-12 says…

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Does Job fear God for nothing? Satan replied. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. The Lord said to Satan, Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Listen folks…Satan had to ask God’s permission to touch Job, there was a hedge around him that said, private property, no trespassing because Job belonged to God. So, what does it mean to be sealed? It means a finished transaction; it indicates ownership and the third meaning is…

SECURITY

Think of security like sealing a letter in an envelope but far more of course. Let me give you a better example. In Matthew 27:66, the Romans put Jesus in the grave, rolled the stone over the entrance, and then sealed it. Now, history says they would take a string on either side of the stone held by hot wax, and then the seal was pressed into the wax as it dried and hardened. Some might say, “Sure, but that seal was broken, it didn’t last.” That’s right…but let me ask you this, “How long will the seal of the Holy Spirit last?”

Ephesians 4:30 answers that question for us. That verse says we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God until the day of redemption.

So, we see not only the meaning of the seal but the promise of the seal. Verse 14 of Ephesians 1 tells us that the Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Let me share with you some of the things the deposit of the Holy Spirit guarantees us…
  1. A new home in heaven
  2. A new body – I’m not sure about you but I’m very excited about this one!
  3. A new city
  4. A reunion with our Christian friends and loved ones
  5. Eternal joy – No more tears, sorrow, crying, hospitals, pain, bills…
  6. Eternal fellowship with Jesus
Listen folks…the reality is if the walls of heaven were particle board instead of Jasper; the streets were gravel instead of gold; the gates chain link instead of pearl and I end up with a shack instead of a mansion…I’d still want to go to heaven. Why? Because Jesus is there, and Jesus will be what makes it heaven! Amen?

Understand this…it’s not presumptuous to say you know you’re going to heaven. Scripture is clear…

1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

The real question today is this… Are you ready to go? Do you have that personal individual relationship with Christ that saves you and guarantees your eternal future in heaven?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Back Against The Wall - Exodus 14:5-31

Have you ever felt like your back was against a wall? Ever been between a rock and a hard place, with nowhere to turn? Or maybe you’ve put in a lot of time going down some winding road of life only to find a dead end.

Moses was a great man, and a great leader. He’s a great role model for all men and fathers today! At this point in the story he has led God’s people from slavery to freedom, and now over a million of them are marching toward the Promised Land. It’s the Exodus from Egypt! Free at last for the first time in over 400 years. The New Testament confirms this is a picture of our salvation from sin, the wicked taskmaster that seeks to hold us in chains of bondage, bitterness, and burdens.

They are marching…rejoicing in their new freedom when suddenly they encounter... A shady picnic pavilion? No. A golden city of riches and happiness? Nope…not at all. They encounter a big brick wall...a problem.

THE PROBLEM

Let me ask you a question. Have you discovered that being saved doesn’t insulate nor isolate you from the problems of this world? Listen folks…salvation isn’t the end to all of our problems. Struggles and difficulties continue, and most times even increase after you get saved because now you have a new enemy coming after you! Pharaoh is a picture of Satan pursuing his losses.

We need to understand that the Christian life is not lived in straight lines. God sends detours along the way, but for our benefit. A straight line from Egypt to Canaan would have taken less than 2 weeks to travel but God takes them the long way around.

It seems like the cloud is leading in the wrong direction and the same happens to all of us. We have a goal, a destination in our mind, some place we want to go, something we want to become or achieve. Sometimes we even know that God is in it and wants us to get there, but we just can’t understand why it’s taking so long. Have you ever been there? Listen…God’s delays are not denials. Don’t be discouraged if God takes you on an alternate route. He knows what He’s doing!

Something else for us to remember… God knows what we can handle. If He led the Israelites in that straight line to the Promised Land, they would have passed right through the land of the Philistines…brutal warriors who were blood thirsty. They were definitely NOT ready for that. They weren’t warriors, they were slaves.

Now…if this detour God has them on isn’t enough, God then leads them right to the edge of the Red Sea, just as the Egyptian Army is sent to pursue them. Now they’re hemmed in and pinned down. There’s no way out. There are mountains on either side of them, a sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army is fast approaching. It’s a dead end. Their backs are against the wall. You ever been there? The problem now turns to...

THE PANIC

Look again at verses 10-12, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

Essentially they were saying, “Gee…thanks a lot, Moses! We told you so but you wouldn’t listen. Let my people go…HA! You just had to have your way...and now we’re all going to die! They were directly questioning his leadership. God used him to lead them to freedom from slavery, and now they’re questioning his ability to hear anything from God and do the right thing. But God had prepared Moses for a time like this. While the Israelites are speaking words of fear, Moses speaks words of faith. Notice the commands he gives them…

DON’T BE AFRAID – This is the same thing the angel said to Mary when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus. It’s the same thing Jesus said to His disciples in their boat during the great storm. It’s the same thing the angel said to Mary Magdalene when Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb. In every single instance, God was saying, “You may not understand your circumstances, but don’t worry…don’t be afraid, I’m still in control!”

A little boy had only one line to say in the church play and he was scared to death. All he had to do was just walk out and say, “It is I, be not afraid.” So, he walked out, saw the big crowd and said, “It’s me, and I’m scared!”

Fear is when we can’t see God through our circumstances. Faith is when we see our circumstances...but trust God! The Israelites looked left and right, front and back, and there was no way out. But they forgot that there’s still another direction to look...and that’s up! Sometimes God puts our backs against the wall so we’ll do just that. Not only did Moses tell them to not be afraid…he told them to…

STAND STILL – Boy…we don’t like to be told to wait, do we? We want to do something. We want to try and help God out or help ourselves out. Just standing still is unthinkable in our society today. Some of the most popular words in advertising today are…now, instant, immediate, quick and fast.

I can take my car title and get some “fast cash” for the very low annual percentage rate of just 350%! I can get my oil changed at Speed Lube. I can eat fast food and go pick up my fast photos all in the same hour. And if someone is ahead of us in line, we pace back and forth impatiently waiting our turn. The reality is we don’t like to wait. No wonder the concept of waiting on God is foreign to us. But listen to what the Bible says...

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Isaiah 40:31, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Waiting on the Lord is when we quietly and calmly trust Him until He provides clear direction. It’s the opposite of panic. It’s different than trying to fix things or make things happen. Listen folks… God answers prayers but unless He says, “Yes,” we don’t like the answer. We don’t like to hear, “No.” We also don’t like it when His answer is slow. We take that as a no as well! Or when His answer is grow you’re not ready…we take that as a no too. We want Him to say, “Go!” when so often His answer is, “Stop!” We have to learn to let go and let God take over. If God did let us have our way we’d quickly see how little we can do in our own strength and we’d never see what God can do in His time and in His way!

What if Moses hadn’t been a good leader? For one thing, if he had taken a vote they all would have returned to slavery. How about if he had weighed his options…humanly speaking…and tried to make a way across the sea. What were his options? Stand still, stay with God, and don’t try to get ahead of Him. The Israelites could have tried in their own strength to swim across the Red Sea, but by waiting, they could see God part the sea for them.

THE PROVISION

Notice that God sent His miracle in three stages…

THE DIVERTING OF THE CLOUD – God gave them a cloud to guide them…not a compass or a GPS. The cloud not only guided them but sheltered them. The cloud moved behind them like a wall between them and their enemies. Listen folks…He’s not only our Savior…He’s also our Protecor!

THE DIVIDING OF THE WATERS – Little Johnny was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday School. Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked across safely. He used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters and call in an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved. “Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?” his mother asked. Well, no, Mom, but if I told it the way the teacher did, you'd never believe it!

Scripture says the God parted the sea and all the Israelites crossed on dry ground. Listen folks…I don’t have a problem at all in believing this miracle. God made the sea and the dry ground under the water and it’s all under His control.

THE DROWNING OF THE EGYPTIANS - Pharaoh reaped what he sowed. Didn’t he? What was it he had done to all the male Jewish babies? Drowned them!

Folks…never forget that God works in His own time and in His own way. Maybe your back is against the wall. Take Moses’ advice. Don’t be afraid…stand still and see what God can do. God didn’t deliver His people from slavery only to drown them when they were cornered and God didn’t save you to only forget about you now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saved To Serve - Matthew 25:14-30

This parable found here in Matthew 25 is told during Jesus teaching about the end times. At the beginning of the chapter He challenged us to be watching and ready for His return...now we’re told to be working until He returns. So, we’re not just to be looking for Him, but laboring for Him because the time is short. There’s a lot to do and once eternity begins we’ll wish we had done more for Him!

Folks listen…if you’re a serious Christian, then Jesus is your boss, and you should be working for Him. Don’t be one of those “Sunday Only” Christians. As children of God, we aren’t just part time Christians…and we should be out serving Him full time. Far too many Christians have the attitude that they’ve been saved to sit…and they do it faithfully. We need to understand that we’ve NOT been saved to sit but saved to serve! He is our King and we are His servants and folks…it’s a privilege to be His servant.

Psalm 84:10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

There are two periods of time covered in this parable… The present time of responsibility and the future time of accountability. Right now, we need to live in the present, but be thinking about the future! Understand that the Bible teaches that we will one day be held accountable for what we do for the Lord in this life.

Don’t give God the leftovers of your life…give Him your best! Listen…you CAN and SHOULD make God a priority and decide just like Joshua did when he said, “As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord!”

Remembering the future time of accountability will turn a seat warmer into a servant of God! The reality is if you won’t do what He’s called you to do then He might as well just take you on to heaven. I talked to you about your giving a few weeks ago. Listen folks…you can’t buy God off...I’m glad that you tithe, but that is not why God left you here. He has a job for you to do…people to reach with the Gospel. So, with that said, let me talk to you first today about…

THE SERVANT'S ABILITY

In the parable we read, a talent is money, not an ability, but the application is the same. In each case, everyone got a different amount, but they all got a lot…even if it was less than one of the others. Think of it this way. Let’s say the one who got 5 talents got about 20 years of wages! The one who got 2 talents got 10 years wages and the one who got the single talent got 5 years or wages. The point is not who got more, but that they all received a significant amount.

The Master, of course, represents Jesus, who said in John 14, “I am going to prepare a place for you.” We are the servants in the parable. The talents represent all of our abilities, our possessions, and our opportunities to serve the Lord. Listen folks…we all have time, talents, and treasure to use for the Lord and the key is not how much of each you have, but how faithful you are with whatever you have.

Everyone has been given something. We all can serve God in some way! We’re all different because we are a body and each one of us are parts of that body. We need each other, and when we aren’t filling our place in the body, there’s a hole left over. That’s not fair to others, to God, and not even to you! Now, many of you can do great things that I can’t do. I can do some things I was called and trained for...but we all are necessary to God.

Peter and Andrew were brothers, but they were very different. One was loud, the other quiet, one spoke to crowds, the other was more personable one on one. One had more strengths but also more weaknesses, and Peter wouldn’t ever have seen thousands saved if he hadn’t been won to the Lord by his own brother!

Folks…we need to quit burying our talents and use what we’ve been given to serve God! We need to take our duty as Christians seriously and quit being satisfied with just warming a pew. And pay attention to the parable. God didn’t reward great talent…God rewarded the faithfulness of His servants. You might feel like you can’t do much but there is something we can all do…we can be faithful with what we have!

Now that we’ve looked at the servant’s ability, let’s take a look at…

THE SERVANT'S ACTIVITY

Notice again verses 16 and 17, “The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.”

Listen folks…don’t expect God to give you more until you’re faithful with what you’ve got. Do what you know and then you’ll grow. There are no skipping steps! Did you know there are certain things that all of us are called to do as Christians? Things like pray, read our Bibles and sharing our faith. How in the world do we expect God to reveal more of His will to us when we won’t be faithful in the things He’s called all of us to do?

God has blessed me with a great church and a ministry that I never dreamed of when I was starting out in my service to the Lord. God has allowed me to do things in my ministry that have just amazed me. And not because of me…but because of Him!!! All I’ve done is tried to commit myself to doing whatever He’s called me to do. So let me ask you…are you using your talents? I can guarantee…if God can use me, He can definitely use you!! You can serve the Lord!

And it’s true, we are happiest when we’re doing what God has called us to do, but we need reminded of something important. God doesn’t call us to do what WE want to do…He calls us to do what HE wants us to do.

Now…I’m passionate about this, because we live in a day of convenient Christianity, and today more than ever people do what they want to do, not what they need to do…not what God wants them to do! We decide what we’re going to do in our service to God and then expect Him to rubber stamp it instead of asking, “Lord, show me what it is you want me to do and where you want me to serve You.” When we should be asking, “Where am I needed?” We’re guilty of asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Let’s get back to the parable. As we’ve seen, the first 2 servants took what was given to them and immediately went to work. What about the 3rd servant? Verse 15 tells us that each of them received an amount “according to their ability.” So yes…he didn’t get as much as the other 2 but there was still talent and still an expectation from the master for him to be faithful with what he was given. Instead, we’re told that he went out and dug a hole and buried what he was given and did nothing with it. And why?? Because he was afraid of messing up.

I can guarantee that you can NEVER go wrong serving God. Do you think those of us who commit ourselves to God and commit ourselves to a lifetime of service to the Lord aren’t afraid of messing up? Folks…I’m afraid all the time that I’m going to mess up what He’s called me do. But we can’t let fear keep us on the sidelines. We need to understand that we serve a God who loves us and will empower us to do what He’s called us to do. NEVER forget what Philippians 4:13 teaches us… We CAN DO all things through Christ!!! What things? All the things He’s called us to do.

The 3rd servant in this parable was given one share. This is the person who could help, but for some reason they don’t. Maybe it’s unwillingness or maybe it’s fear or laziness. Maybe they don’t feel qualified. Listen folks…let me give you the secret to serving God. The secret to open a lifetime of service to God is recognizing that the best ability you can have is availability.

As I shared with you at the beginning of the sermon today, we’re living in the present time of responsibility but folks…a future time of accountability is coming.

Verse 19 of our parable says that after a long time, the Master returned to settle accounts with the servants. Listen folks…we need to understand that the long time is over and Jesus could come back at any moment. Are you ready? When He returns, will He find you being faithful to your calling? Listen to what Paul said…

2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

We are all going to stand before God one of these days and give account for the things we’ve done for Him in this life…both the good and the bad. Now I don’t know about you, but I want to hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But that won’t happen by accident. You MUST commit your life to Him and then do everything you can to live up to that commitment.

So let me ask you today… How are you doing? Are you serving or are you sitting?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 6 - How Well Do You Hope? - 1 Corinthians 15:16-19

This is the last in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. So far in our spiritual wellness checkup, I’ve challenged you to check your hearing, your reading, your praying, your giving and your loving. Today…I’m going to challenge you to check your hoping. Paul tells us here in 1 Corinthians that if we have hope only for this life then we are a bunch of miserable people. Hope is an important part of what it means to be a Christian.

So today…as I finish this spiritual wellness series, to help us answer this final question…How Well Do You Hope?...let’s use the same format we’ve used in all the other posts in this series. Let’s look first at the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS

THOSE WITH NO HOPE...

Unfortunately, this describes most people in our world today. Those who don’t know the Lord so have no hope beyond this life. They have no hope of eternity in heaven. Listen to how Paul describes those with no hope…

Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

THOSE WITH LITTLE HOPE...

These people have reason to hope but rarely think about the hope they have. Listen folks…even as Christians we can get so bogged down with the cares and struggles of this life that we are blinded to the hope we have. We are also guilty at times of putting on the blinders of sin which cause us to lose sight of our hope in Christ.

In Luke 21:34-37, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”

THOSE WITH LIVING HOPE...

Folks…in all reality, this is where we all should be as Christians and where I hope you are today. Those of us who are Christians have the greatest reason to have hope don’t we? Sure…life isn’t easy, we have health concerns and lose jobs and loved ones pass away but folks we have the promise of being with Jesus forever. And if that doesn’t give us hope, nothing ever will. Amen?

1 Peter 1:3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF HOPE

FOR MOTIVATION...

Folks listen…without hope, we have very little or no motivation to grow spiritually. Listen to the hope we find in Scripture…

John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

FOR STRENGTH...

Did you know that hope produces endurance in the Christian life?

1 Thessalonians 1:3, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hope also gives us strength to persevere and keep working for the Lord while we wait for His return. Without hope, we will have little or no strength to stand in this world.

FOR JOY...

As Christians, we rejoice in the hope we have. We have a hope beyond this life…beyond this world. Hope that one day all the pain and suffering and trials and sin will be gone! Amen? Without hope, our lives as Christians will be joyless and that’s a horrible place for a Christian to be.

So we’ve talked about the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS and the IMPORTANCE OF HOPE. Let’s finish today by looking at…

STEPS TO INCREASE OUR HOPE

READ THE BIBLE...

Listen folks…the Bible was given to us for our learning and also to give us hope. I don’t know about you, but I’ve read the back of the Book and I know who wins and I also know that I’m on the winning team. Make note of this verse…

Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE.”

Not only do we find faith in the Word of God…we find hope in the Word of God.

FOCUS ON WHAT IS COMING...

We need to learn to rest our hope fully on the grace to come when Jesus returns. Listen to what Peter wrote…

1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

Folks we are going to spend all of eternity in heaven with Jesus and with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When Paul talked about the return of Christ and the rapture of the church he said to encourage each other with these words. We should find amazing hope in what awaits us as God’s children.

Our spiritual health is affected by the quality of our hope. Does your hope look beyond the difficulties of this life? I certainly hope so. He has given us EVERY reason to have hope. How well do you hope?

We need understand that our spiritual health is affected by how well we hear, read, pray, give, love and hope. My prayer is that you’ve been both challenged and encouraged as we’ve looked at this spiritual wellness checkup.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 5 - How Well Do You Love? - Matthew 22:34-40

This is the fifth in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. So far in our spiritual wellness checkup, I’ve challenged you to check your hearing, your reading, your praying and your giving. Today…I’m going to challenge you to check your loving. Jesus said that the greatest of all the commandments was to love God and to love others. The New Testament is full of verses telling us that as Christians, the most important thing for us to do is love.

Remember Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that if he had every gift that God gave but didn’t have love it meant nothing. He finished the love chapter by saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hop and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So today…to help us answer the question, How Well Do You Love?... We’ll use the same format we’ve used for all the other posts in this series. Let’s look first at the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS

THOSE WHO ARE LOVED FIRST...

In other words, these are people who love only in response to love that is show to them. They will love but others must take the initiative. There are many, many people who base their relationships on this kind of love.

THOSE WHO ARE LOVED IN RETURN...

There are some people who take the initiative…who reach out to show love but will only continue in their love when it is reciprocated. Many people will only show love if it is a two-way street. Listen to what Jesus said about being this type of lover… Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

THOSE WHO LOVE REGARDLESS...

These are people who take initiative to love and persist in love even when it’s not reciprocated. This kind of love is extremely rare but is the kind of love that Jesus demands of His disciples. Scripture commands us to love others unconditionally…even those who are our enemies.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love…does not know God, because God is love.”

Jesus, of course, set the perfect example… John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER LOVING

IT IS THE GREATEST OF COMMANDMENTS...

We saw this in our verses we read from Matthew 22. Jesus Himself said that love was the greatest of all the commandments. Paul and James both wrote about how love fulfills the Law of God.

Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Galatians 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right.”

Listen folks…as a Christian, NOTHING is greater than love when it comes to obeying and serving God.

IT IS THE MARK OF TRUE SPIRITUALITY...

Love is proof that we have passed from death to life. Love is proof that we’ve been born again…proof that we’re really, truly saved. Love is proof that we are His disciples.

1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We have to understand that NOTHING is greater than love to prove to others that we belong to God.

IT IS THE GLUE FOR ALL RELATIONSHIPS...

All relationships…if they are healthy that is…depend on love. Our friendships, our families, our churches ALL depend on love.

1 Samuel 18:1, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”

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

Colossians 3:13-14, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

So we’ve talked about the DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS and the IMPORTANCE OF PROPER LOVING. Let’s finish today by looking at…

STEPS TO BETTER LOVING

FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF GOD...

Scripture says that we are taught by God the Father and God the Son to love each other and that we should follow their example and love others how God loves us.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.”

1 John 4:9-10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS...

Paul…through the leading of the Holy Spirit…gave us one of the greatest chapters in all of the Bible talking about love. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us the necessity and true meaning of love. It teaches us the permanence and preeminence of love. Let me give you just a few of the phrases from this great chapter…

Verse 2, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
Verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind…”
Verse 8, “Love never fails.”
Verse 13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Folks…I think it’s clear that we can’t deny the importance of love to our spiritual well-being. Love is evidence that we’ve been saved and it’s necessary if we’re going to have spiritual peace and joy. The best way to make sure the love in our lives is true, is to love like Jesus loves. I’ve given you these verses already, but let me leave them with you today…

Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How well do you love?

Last in our Spiritual Wellness check-up, we will ask, “How Well Do You Hope?”