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The Medium, Measure and Means of Loyalty


(Eph 5:24-27) “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. {25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, {26} that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, {27} that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

On a day when we have seen that the church is to be viewed and treated by each of us as a family, these verses raise a very high standard for relationship between husbands and wives and the church toward Christ.

If the husband makes Christ’s love for the church the pattern for loving his wife, then he will love her sacrificially. Christ gave Himself for the church; so the husband, in love, gives himself for his wife.

The husband’s love will also be a sanctifying love. The word sanctify means “to set apart.” In the marriage ceremony, the husband is set apart to belong to the wife, and the wife is set apart to belong to the husband. Any interference with this God-given arrangement is sin.

Our Christian homes are to be pictures of Christ’s relationship to His church. Each believer is a member of Christ’s body, and each believer is to help nourish the body in love

We are one with Christ. The church is His body and His bride, and the Christian home is a divinely ordained illustration of this relationship. This certainly makes marriage a serious matter. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness.

Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church.

A Glorious Church
The church has a history with God in it:

· It is the church of the living God
· It is the church for which the ages waited and God prepared
· It is the church of God’s redeemed and of martyrs.

Jesus built a church to withstand the ravages of time, the persecutions of men, and the destructive power of the devil.

It is the most sacred thing in the world:
· It is the body of Christ, the light of the world
· It is commissioned to proclaim the truth
· It is dependent for its success upon:

  1. Christ as its head
  2. Holy Spirit as its guide
  3. The willing ministry of redeemed men and women

An All-Inclusive Message
The message of the church is inclusive:

· it is a message of salvation for all souls
· of enlightenment for all minds
· of comfort for all hearts
· of relief for all needs
· of challenge for every life.

It has a message from God and stands for a Redeemer with a message of liberty and a dispensation of grace. It is the guardian of human rights, the hope of humanity and of peace.

It has not come without a high price. The cost of the church has been faithfulness and loyalty under persecution. The price has been paid in blood, from that of Christ and the first century Christians to hundreds martyred since.

We have a sacred obligation. The church is God’s tool for proclaiming Christ’s ideals and principles for life. It is founded on sacrifice and maintained by sacrifice. It appeals to the highest instincts of the human heart.

THE MEASURE OF LOYALTY
If our supreme loyalty is to Christ, then self and others will find their rightful place. Christ demands and deserves first place in our life.

(Mat 10:32-42) “”Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. {33} “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. {34} “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. {35} “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; {36} “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ {37} “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. {38} “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. {39} “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. {40} “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. {41} “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. {42} “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.””

A tragedy of Christianity today is that, unlike the people in Jesus’ day, the shepherd-less masses look elsewhere for a savior.

The real peril is from within:
“The compelling need of our churches is neither larger numbers, more money, nor different programs, but a fuller consecration of the lives of individual church members to Jesus Christ. “Carelessness, prayerlessness, indifference, lowering of ideals, and open inconsistency of professed Christians within the church constitutes a greater menace to the cause of our Lord than indifference, opposition, infidelity, atheism, or other issues without the church. “The neglect of the devotional life brings flabbiness, indifference and unhappiness. Church discipline seems to have been largely discarded. The standard of Christ is the demand of the times.”

THE MEANS OF EXPRESSING LOYALTY
1. By our priority allegiance
If I truly belong as a husband and wife belong to each, or as children belong to parents, the church will have a real claim upon my personality, my powers, and my possessions.

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we put our children’s sports, homework, or recreation activities ahead of our worship and Bible classes!

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we work all week no matter how we feel and use a ‘being tired’ as an excuse to miss worship!

Loyalty to the church:
· would cause us to pray for each other

· would lead us to want to meet together and make the necessary plans ahead of time to be ready to worship when we get here
· would cause us to take positive stands against those things which would interfere with our worship and work

1. By uplifting influence
Jesus demands from each of us a high standard of moral and ethical conduct. He demands personal purity…” Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”

“It is very possible that our churches are suffering a greater loss to the influence for good through the social activities of the individual members than at any other point.  “If we are as loyal and as earnest as we should be about this business of Christianity, we will not go places and do things that are calculated to retard the progress of the church to which we belong. Uncompromising loyalty to Christ wherever we are placed is one of the inescapable obligations and privileges of the Christian life.”

2. By Christ-like deeds
We might not see ourselves as flattering pictures of Christ, but in the things we say and do, we remind people that Christ dwells upon earth.

“Christianity is more than a vision…it is a life, a power, a mission for God. It is going somewhere; it is accomplishing something; it is increasing the forces of righteousness; it is translating routine into duty; it is making drudgery divine; it is finding out God and cooperating with Him in everyday life.”

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2018 in Church

 

The Meaning of Church Loyalty


Jesus established and loved the church. He commanded his people to be loyal to it and to always give it priority affection and faithful support.

Loyalty has a martial ring to it. We think of our country and the nation’s flag. Loyalty stirs within us something high and holy. We like to think of ourselves as loyal, stalwart, and true.9d7dd-love_one_another_

In Nashville is a statue of one of the Confederacy’s heroes, Sam Davis, who uttered some immortal words: “I would die a thousand deaths, before I would betray a friend.”

The Place of Loyalty
Loyalty is the willing, practical devotion of self and substance to a person or a cause that is believed to be supremely worthwhile. It carries with it faithfulness, trust and confidence.

I would suggest that church loyalty runs much deeper: it calls for devoted allegiance to a Person and a cause. It involves decision, devotion, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sacrifice.

Josiah Royce called loyalty “the chief of all virtues, the center of all beauty, the fulfillment of the moral law, and the very heart of religion.”

An individual without loyalty is like a ship without a compass. There may be much activity and much “going about” but it will often have little purpose and be unprofitable. Loyalty gives purpose, direction and drive to life.

In any list of Christian virtues, loyalty ranks high…we recognize it in scripture as faithfulness:
(Mat 23:23) “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

(Rom 3:3) “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

(Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

(Rev 13:10) “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”

· the Christian cannot serve God and money
· if any man would come to Christ, he must disclaim all loyalty to others and follow him
· Paul put it this way: “..to live is Christ and to die is gain…”

In our daily lives, there are numerous ‘loyalties’ clamoring for devotion and interest. We must stand firm in our efforts to be loyal to God, to the faith, to the church, to friends and family, and to self!

I WILL NEVER LEAVE THE CHURCH!

The reason that I will never leave the church is not due to anything special in me, but something special in Christ. Before He died on the cross He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” After His resurrection He promised, “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Yes, they have weaknesses, make mistakes, and commit sins; but, I’m not leaving them. Even though hypocrisy, materialism, and pride may surface in the life of my brothers and sisters, I’m not leaving!

So all through His life, Jesus committed Himself to people. Even though we have guilt, pride and many problems, we have the guarantee of divinity that Jesus will never leave us. I’ve decided that means several things in my relationship with the church:

 I will never leave the church emotionally. We must be available to each other to share our lives, to confess our faults, to worship, to laugh, to cry and to walk together through the places of life. We must not commit emotional adultery against each other. We need to be each other’s best friend.

 I will never leave the church theologically. Jesus built one church and He is its head. The purpose of “no creed, but Christ, no book but the Bible, no message but the Gospel and no aim but to save” is a good summary of what the New Testament church was all about. I’m committed to those principles.

 I will never leave the Church spiritually. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ. God is our Father. It is the greatest family on earth. Though sometimes our lives are chipped and broken, we are still the vessels of God’s treasure. We must never leave each other.

 Ephesians 3:8-11 (ESV)–  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Church

 

The Church: A Radical Community


Letter to Diognetus (AD 125): “Although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time (Christians) give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens…they busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go beyond what the laws require. They love all man, and by all men are persecuted…

Letter to Hadrian (AD 125): “The Christians know and trust their God…If any of them have bondwomen or children, they persuade them to become Christians for the love they have toward them; and when they become so, they call them “brother” without distinction. They love one another…If they see a stranger, they take him into their dwellings and rejoice over him as a real brother; for they do not call each other brother after the flesh, but after the Spirit of “”God. If any among them is poor and needy, and they do not have food to spare, they fast two or three days that they may supply him with necessary food. But, the deeds which they do, they do not proclaim to the ears of the multitude, but they take care that no man shall perceive them. Thus they labor to become righteous. Truly, this is a new people and there is something divine in them.”

(Mark 3:32-35)  “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” {33} “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. {34} Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! {35} Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.””

 When the first Christians were made part of the New Testament church, begun on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, they knew hardly anything of Jesus and nothing at all of the “church.” Yet, immediately, they were thrust into a fellowship of other believers – a radical, consuming community which supplanted every other loyalty.

 What did the church look like? They “devoted themselves” to meeting with a relative strangers (Acts 2:42). They sold their possessions to support one another (Acts 4). They met daily with their new friends to worship and commune in each other’s homes (Acts 2:46). They even rejoiced together when suffering persecution and ridicule!

 All this had a revolutionary impact on the families, businesses, and friendships of these first Christians. Old loyalties were exchanged for new ones. The church became almost overnight the primary “reference group” for its members.

In the New Testament, the church commanded the primary allegiance of disciples. No other group of people was allowed to take precedence over God’s people. Even family ties were subordinated to the family of God. Families of origin were put at risk and even broken:

(Mark 10:29-30)  “”I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel {30} will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

This radical sense of community was true of the first century church. Is it true of the church today? Is it true that many other loyalties compete with our devotion to the body of Christ?

 Leaders served and elders focused efforts on the good of others: Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)
25  
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
26  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–
28  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
 

We have an opportunity in this place at this time to rediscover what a radical community the church of Jesus can be. Are we willing to place as much importance on being together and serving each other as the early church? Can we adopt a new ethic for living life in this community? Perhaps we need to realize that the church is God’s means of saving us, and that we cannot make it alone!

Unity demanded at Corinth by Paul.

(1 Cor 1:10-16)  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. {11} My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. {12} What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” {13} Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? {14} I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, {15} so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. {16} (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)”

 (1 Cor 3:1-3)  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. {2} I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. {3} You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?”

Some evil effects of division

  1. Division among believers is wrong because it is directly opposed to the prayer of Jesus.
  2. Division among believers is wrong because it is contrary to the Scriptures.
  3. Division among God’s people is wrong because it results in a waste of time, means, and energy. Just imagine how powerful God’s cause would be if all believers worked in harmony!
  4. Division is wrong because it retards the salvation of lost souls. Several have told me that they are going to “try” every church until they find the right one.“ Sinners are confused by the conflicting doctrines and practices of various religious groups. Each denomination is striving to uphold its particular doctrines rather than the New Testament.

To preserve its undenominational character the church must have:

  1. No denominational name.
  2. No denominational creed, recognizing no authority but Christ.
  3. No denominational organization.
  4. Uncorrupted worship, following the N.T. plan.
  5. No denominational requirements for membership.

Unity an individual obligation to Christians

(Eph 4:3)  “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

 The Divine Standard of Unity

(Eph 4:4-6)  “There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– {5} one Lord, one faith, one baptism; {6} one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Our Authority in Religion
Every thinking person realizes that authority plays a very significant role in the life of all of us. We must have adequate authorization for everything we do. The vital place which authority plays in every phase of our lives is seen no matter in which direction we may look.

 Before we drive a car we must have the authority of a license. Before we write a check we must have the authority which comes from having made a previous deposit in a bank. Even to get married, we must have a license from the County court clerk.

 We can’t even attend a football game until we are authorized to do so through the purchase of a ticket. Authority comes from many sources and is of many kinds, but there is little we can do in life without proper authority.

 Is it not reasonable to think this principle would also be in place in regard to religious conduct? Christianity is essentially a personal relationship with God, found in Christ, and based upon a person’s surrender of obedience.

 Late in the earthly ministry of Jesus the chief priest and the elders came to him and asked: (Matthew 21:23)  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

 Jesus answered their question in a variety of ways:

  1. The fulfillment of the many prophecies concerning His life
  2. The miracles which He performed
  3. The superior quality of His teaching
  4. The perfection of His life
  5. His resurrection from the dead was the absolute proof!

 The question asked by the religious leaders of Jesus day needs to be asked/answered often in our day! God is not the author of confusion. Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”

I suggest that the answer — The Bible, the inspired of word of God

The only dependable authority in religious matters is the Word of God. And isn’t it obvious that God, the creator but also the object of our worship, should be the one to determine what He wants done in our worship and service to Him?

 (Matt. 11:27)  “”All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

 (John 1:17)  “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

 (John 5:26-27)  “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. {27} And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”

 (Hebrews 1:1-2)  “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

 Christ’s authority was executed through His apostles

(Matt. 16:17-19)  “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. {18} And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. {19} I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.””

(Matt. 19:27-28)  “Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” {28} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

(Mat 28:18-20)  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. {19} Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

(2 Cor 5:18-20)  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: {19} that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. {20} We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Our relationship to God through Christ is the most important things in the world. We ought to be absolutely certain about everything that we believe and practice!

(Gal 1:8-9)  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Church

 

Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches: Devoted To Scripture


Does anyone here remember a phrase used in our fellowship in years past: “chapter and verse?” It carried the idea that we knew our Bible and used it regularly. It’s a phrase I hope is remembered in this assembly and I hope it will always be set before us as the beginning standard of who we are and why we do what we do!

We ought to require it of anyone who seeks to press their agenda upon us…or creates tensions which need to be clearly identified as “matters of opinion.”

We began a series of lessons entitled Habits and Attitudes of Effective Churches….and made the case that any successful congregation must first be Centered on Christ.

Second only to an affirmation of faith in an allegiance to Jesus Christ, a faithful and fruitful church declares its confidence in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.

It may even be a mistake, in fact, to list these two affirmations as if they were somehow capable of being separated.  All we would dare affirm about Jesus is what we can ground in Holy Scripture.  It is our definitive source of information about him and the normative guide for understanding his function as head of the church.

The Christian faith rests upon the data found in the Bible, for “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The world around us is looking neither for someone to toss away the Bible nor for a group that will turn its authority into a heavy yoke no one can bear:
· It is waiting for churches to so embrace, affirm, and live Scripture that they cannot but see Jesus in them.
· They want churches both to teach and to model the life of Christ.
· Those churches will draw men to God.
· They will lead men and women to salvation in Christ.

1. THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED
Paul spoke these words to the elders at Ephesus: Acts 20:20-21: “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. {21} I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Acts 20:27: “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”

2. WE HAVE ALL THINGS PERTAINING TO LIFE AND GODLINESS
2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

3. THE FAITH HAS BEEN REVEALED ONCE FOR ALL
Jude 1:3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

In the Greek, “once for all” is “one time for all time.” I.e., the faith (that body of knowledge we are to believe) was delivered one time for all time:
· The faith wasn’t partly revealed, with more to come through later revelations years later!
· The faith wasn’t revealed just for that generation, with a different faith to be revealed for a generation yet future!
· Therefore the task we have is “to contend earnestly for the faith”, not be looking for a new faith to fit our desires or expectations!

4. THE SCRIPTURES CAN MAKE US COMPLETE, EQUIPPED FOR  EVERY GOOD WORK
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)
1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
2  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.

We are faithful to this “word of God” only when we are willing to accept its rebuke and correction as quickly as we accept its teaching and training and encouragement!

When I turn to the Scriptures, I find that I have all I need to…
a. Believe in Jesus – John 20:30-31

b. Have life in His name – John 20:30-31
c. Have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the apostles 1 John 1:3
d. Have joy that is full – 1 John 1:4
e. Have help when I sin – 1 John 2:1
f. Know that I have eternal life – 1 John 5:13
g. Understand the revelation of the mystery of God – Rom 16:25-26; Ep 3:3-4
h. Be fruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom – 2 Peter 1:8-11

There will always be a distinction related to “the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures.” The distinction becomes apparent as one considers the doctrines and practices of any religious group…
a. Those who accept it are more apt to be like the church you read about in the Bible
b. Those who deny it will quickly evolve into something much different

Introduction to 2 Kings 7 events:
In the period of Israel’s history known as “The Divided Kingdom”
a. The nation was divided into two parts
1) The kingdom of Israel in the north with Samaria as its capitol
2) The kingdom of Judah in the south with Jerusalem for its capitol

The weakened condition of both kingdoms left it open to attacks by other countries

We read of one siege of Samaria in 2 Kings 6, which brought a terrible famine upon the city of Samaria. Among those suffering in the famine were four lepers: 2 Kings 7:3-8 (NIV)
3 Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?
4 If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’–the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”
5  At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there,
6  for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!”
7  So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
8  The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

They discussed their plight
· In desperation they decided to surrender to the Syrians
· To their surprise, they found the Syrian camp abandoned
· At first, they splurged in their newfound riches

But upon reflection, they knew they needed to tell others what they found, and did so: 2 Kings 7:9-11 (NIV)
9 Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”
10  So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there–not a sound of anyone–only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.”
11  The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.

The lepers knew what was right, and did it
a. They knew they would be wrong by keeping silent
b. They knew punishment would befall them if they kept the good news to themselves — So they went back to the city and told the good news!

Many Christians are not like these lepers…
a. Despite it being “a day of good news”, they remain silent!
b. While many die of spiritual starvation, they feast on the gospel!

Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. {19} Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. {10} Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Today, the church is God’s “watchman” to the world! We are to take the gospel to every person! Those who have not heard will die in their own sin, but we will be held accountable if we gave them no warning!

We are not obligated to teach the non-Christian beyond the “first principles” Only if they accept the “first principles” will they ready to receive the “second principles”

If we are silent with regards to the “good news” (the gospel), then the words of the four lepers is true of us:
“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell…”- 2 Kings 7:9

A highly effective church is so focused on Jesus that its own experience of the Word of God reveals him to everyone who sees it. If we cherish, teach, and offer the Word of God to others merely as a library of statutes and case studies, we reveal our own impoverished understanding of the Bible.

The Bible is God’s revelation of himself in the person and work of Christ. And we are reading and interpreting it correctly only when we see beyond the words and cry, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus!” And we teach it effectively only when we model it so faithfully through the life of our churches that unchurched people around us cry, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus!”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Sermon

 

The Church and Us


There is a great deal of confusion in our world about the church:
· some thing of it as only a building…brick and mortar with no identity to a particular group of Christians
· some see it as a gathering place for an increasingly marginalized segment of our society
· they identify ‘church’ with rituals and altar calls
· they equate it with the bizarre and irrational conduct of the TV ministers

But it’s also becoming clear that even among those who call themselves ‘religious’ there are many who want fellowship with Christ but want nothing to do with the church!

We are a nation made up of rugged individuals…we’re becoming more self-sufficient and are very suspicious when it relates to giving groups authority over our lives.
· Can one be a Christian who is pleasing to God without having a significant commitment to a church?
· Does the statement: “I am my own church” describe you?

Let’s begin right now with an affirmation that is needed: THE CHURCH IS GOD’S IDEA!
· With all its flaws and faults, God intends for the church to be the living incarnation of Christ in the world today! If the world sees Christ, it will have to see Him through each of us, who wear His name.
· The church is God’s instrument to reconcile the world to Himself

The church can not become “an option” that one can “take it or leave it.” It must not be treat casually or with apathy. Our goal as we begin this year-long study today is to:
· reevaluate our understanding of the church
· reaffirm its place both in the plan of God and in our own lives

Someone might say: “Ahhhh, that’s all your opinion. It doesn’t surprise me to hear a minister say that we need to treat the church more seriously.” (Let’s spend our time today answering three questions or comments that usually come our way).

  1. WHO’S CHURCH IS THIS?
    “I’ve been part of one church or another for a long time now, and I don’t see many churches involved in spiritual business. They seem more concerned with budgets and buildings, power and prestige, programs and creeds. I look at the church and it looks like a man-made institution, pursuing human agendas, worried about worldly things.”
    There is no doubt that many churches have lost their calling and sense of mission…that many have “changed management.”A church that does not respond to the direction and leadership of Christ and that does not further the kingdom of God HAS become peripheral to God’s plans! Some do spend more time at business meetings worried more about brick and mortar instead of souls.

But that is not what God wants! When the church behaves as God intends:
· it is His instrument to accomplish His will upon earth
· the church is not just God’s idea…it’s His possession
· Jesus came “to build my church” (Matthew 16:18)
· Christ is the head of church, which is His body (Eph. 5:23)
· God established His church at Pentecost and adds believers to it (Acts 2:47)
· Ephesians 2:19: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…”

If the church you see around you “has changed management,” it is something we have allowed and it is something we can change.

  1. “THE” CHURCH OR “A” CHURCH?
    “All Christians are part of the church—that great, universal community of believers which transcends time and space. The church is made up of those who believe and respond by faith to Jesus, no matter when or where they lived. I am the church whether I go to church on Sunday or worship on a lonely mountain top. You don’t have to belong to a church to belong to a church.”
    Of course, every believer is part of the universal church if he/she has responded to the gospel that is preached in the New Testament.

But for any Christian who has a choice in the matter, failure to cleave to a particular ‘congregation’ is failure to obey Christ…for it is only through a confessing, local body of believers that we carry out the work of the church in the world:
· it is within a congregation structure that we commit ourselves to intimate relationships (IF we are to “love the brethern” we must worship somewhere so we can know “some brethern”)
· it is in a congregational structure that we submit to accountability, duties, and responsibilities
· our Christian character is both shaped and practiced ‘first’ among ‘church family’
· this is the context in which our spiritual gifts are developed and exercised
· it is the ‘training ground’ that disciples and equips Christians to be God’s people against the world system

Look at the New Testament and you see a pattern:
· they confessed faith in Jesus
· they were baptized for remission of sins
· they received the gift of the Holy Spirit
· they became part of local congregations which met in Galatia, Philippi, Ephesus, etc.

The visible, tangible church was not an option for them…it was something they wanted, needed, and desired. It was seen to be at the very heart of what it meant to be part of God’s kingdom.

3. YOU DON’T KNOW MY CHURCH!
“That all sounds very good…but you don’t know my church! Faulty people, flawed preacher, flailing leadership. We can’t get people to participate; some don’t attend more than once a week and some once a month. I know some are encouraged, but I often leave feeling lonely and isolated…I always have a hard time finding a parking spot…decisions are made I don’t agree with.”

There IS a great tension between the ‘church of faith’ and the ‘church of fact.’
We see the shining, pure, beautiful, faithful bride of Christ…loving, harmonious, humble, and hard working…on the other hand, there is the cantankerous bunch of stubborn people who belong to the church where we attend!

It’s the same tension we experience in our personal walk with God:
· the tension between the ideal and reality
· between what we should be and what we are
· between perfection and actuality

Some has said that the “church is like Noah’s ark. The stench inside would be unbearable if it weren’t for the storm outside.”

There will always be problems with the ‘church of fact’ because the church is made up of fallen but redeemed people
· We are imperfect and flawed
· But at some point, we must come to realize that in spite of ourselves, God is using us to proclaim His wisdom and show His glory in this community!

We must not withdraw ourselves from the process simply because the church we are a part of is not the paragon of virtue we (and God) would like it to be!

If this were a place of perfect people, rather than ‘perfected people,’ would any of us fit in?

The truth is, we’re a lot alike and we’re in this together…our goal is to one day be like Christ, and that won’t happen in our lifetime!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2018 in Church

 

Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches: Centered on Christ


There is an old legend that says when Jesus arrived in heaven after his search-and-rescue mission among humankind, all the heavenly host was assembled to greet him. There were choruses of praise the like of which had never been sung in heaven:
· He was praised as the one who had brought redemption’s plan to fulfillment.
· He was proclaimed worthy to receive honor and glory and praise.
· Torrents of love swept over him as Michael and Gabriel led the angelic welcome.

Then the angels stepped back to witness the reception given the risen and exalted Christ by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. There has never been nor will there ever be again such a reunion:
· The empty place in heaven had been filled.
· The Word was with God and was God.
· Everything was returned to its maximal degree of perfection.

With the welcome complete and the exalted Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, the angels asked him who he had left behind on Earth to finish the work he had begun. “Just a tiny group of men and women who love me,” replied Jesus.

“That’s all?” asked the angels. “What if that tiny group should fail?” And Jesus said, “I have no other plan.”

The Importance of the Church
Although apocryphal, this story underscores the importance of the church in God’s scheme of things. “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence” (Eph. 1:22-23, The Message).

· If the church of God is ineffective, Christ is denied glory that belongs to him.
· If churches focus on themselves, they become far more interested in maintaining comfort zones than in raiding enemy territory to free Satan’s captives.
· If our churches remain divided and see one another as “the enemy,” the real enemy will continue to be the Prince of this world.
· If the church is not effective, it cannot fill everything with the presence of Christ.

Numbers, nails, and nickels are the quantitative measurements people use to assess a church. How many members do you have? What size facility do you own? What is your annual budget? These may be appropriate criteria for success in business, but they can be terribly misleading about a church.

  • Churches must learn to measure qualitatively in terms of wholesome relationships, unselfish service, and faithful witness.
    · The goals we set for ourselves must be larger than the self-serving ones related to a leader’s ego.
    · The habits we nurture ought to define an identity that will cause outsiders to see our churches as outposts of the kingdom of heaven right here among humankind.

    But what are those traits? And how can a church cultivate habitual behaviors that will develop them? What are the pitfalls to their cultivation?

    Highly effective churches have some common traits. Identifying them would help some churches that are struggling to focus their energies productively.
    · Instead of simply doing the same old things on the same old schedules in the same old way, perhaps they could try a few new things and get a better result.
    · After all, didn’t somebody say the definition of insanity is doing the same things in the same ways and expecting a different outcome?

    A church will be propelled either by precedent, personality, power, or purpose.
    · Precedent-driven churches have as their operative formula: This is the way we always do things here.

    · Personality-driven churches thrive on the dreams and creativity of a central leader who has special gifts. Assuming the purest of motives and a Christ-focused agenda, the obvious limitation in such churches is the unlikelihood that their growth and effectiveness will survive the death or move of that leader.

    · Power-driven churches are unhealthy places where the worldly game of win-lose is played out in the name of Jesus. Some person or family within the church pushes people around, coerces conformity, and drives it according to a human agenda.

    · A common phrase used in this setting: “We’ll leave if you do that…”

Most of these churches wind up having fights that lead to church splits – always masked as “doctrinal divisions” in order to justify the abusive things the disputants say about and do to one another.

· A purpose-driven church, on the other hand, can survive the pitfalls just identified.: “Because it looks forward rather than backward, the fact that “we’ve never done it that way before” need not hamstring justifiable innovations. Because its vision is larger than any one person’s genius, it can not only survive a death or move but continue forging ahead to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Because it has embraced a kingdom mentality in which the willingness to wash feet supersedes anyone’s desire to be a church boss, power plays of the sort people witness in the world are altogether out of place.”

Highly Effective Churches?
For the purpose of these sermons, a highly effective church should be understood in terms of two essential traits.

First, it provides a healthy environment for the spiritual lives of its members.

Second, it penetrates the larger community around it through relationship-building and seed-planting.

· Effective churches are skilled at communication and conflict resolution.
· They encourage creativity.
· They know how to celebrate Christ in ways that are faithful to the Word of God without stifling the freshness of the Holy Spirit in their midst.
· They are safe places for dealing with woundedness and pain.
· Yet they are celebrative and joyous churches.
· Such churches are nurturing places for their members.
· The transformation of saved people from one level of faith to a deeper, richer one is witnessed daily.”

Yet a highly effective church does not exist just for itself. It looks outward for the sake of service and witness. Its presence in a community parallels the personal presence of Jesus during his ministry.

He blessed people wherever he went, brought light into darkness, and introduced people to his Father.

A church that understands its role as the spiritual body of Christ in the world incarnates those same kingdom abilities:
· It offers hope, blessing, and opportunity to people.
· It is a beacon of light to everyone who knows it because of the value it attaches to righteousness.
· It speaks not of itself but of Jesus for the sake of those who do not understand the reason for its positive outreach and in order to introduce them to him.
· Using its own credibility as part of its witness, such a church presents the gospel message of new life in Christ and calls lost people to salvation.

Centered on Jesus
The vision of the church must always be heavenward. Thus its worship must be Christ-exalting rather than creature-centered.

Its members must be challenged to march to the call of a heavenly cadence and not to the beat of this-worldly drummers who would divert their attention from the ultimate reality that centers in Jesus.

Kay Arthur relates a story a friend of hers shared about a deer-hunting trip his father made into the wilds of Oregon. With his rifle cradled in the crook of his arm, the man’s dad was following an old logging road that had been nearly reclaimed by the encroaching forest. It was almost evening, and he was thinking about going back to camp. Suddenly a noise exploded in the brush nearby. Before he had time to lift his rifle, a tiny blur of brown and white came darting up the road straight for him.
This is how her friend tells the story . . .
“It all happened so fast, Dad hardly had time to think. He looked down and there was a little brown cottontail — utterly spent — crowded up against his legs between his boots. The little thing was trembling all over, but it just sat there and didn’t budge.

“Now this was really strange. Wild rabbits are frightened of people, and it’s not that often you’d ever actually see one — let alone have one come and sit at your feet.

“While Dad was puzzling over this, another player entered the scene. Down the road — maybe twenty yards away — a weasel burst out of the brush. When it saw my Dad — and its intended prey sitting at his feet — the predator froze in its tracks, its mouth panting, its eyes glowing red.

“It was then that Dad understood he had stepped into a little life-and-death drama of the forest. The cottontail, exhausted by the chase, was only moments from death. Dad was its last hope of refuge. Forgetting its natural fear and caution, the little animal instinctively
crowded up against him for protection from the sharp teeth of its relentless enemy.”

And the deer hunter who had become a shelter didn’t disappoint his helpless ward. He raised his powerful rifle and shot into the ground just in front of the weasel. The animal sprang straight up into the air and darted back into the forest. He didn’t want rabbit for dinner anymore. He was more interested in saving his own skin. “Where did it go, little
one?” asked the hunter to the wild rabbit still huddled at his feet. “I don’t think he’ll be bothering you for a while. Looks like you’re off the hook tonight.”

· With all our intellectual attainments, technology, and busyness, we human beings are still basically scared rabbits in the cosmic forest.
· The twin predators of guilt and shame pursue us.
· Worry, heartache, and fear take peace from our hearts. Satan is a roaring lion whose intention is to have us for dinner!
· It is the business of the church to point the world to the one person in all of human experience who is capable of rescuing us from moral bankruptcy, spiritual barrenness, and hell.

· The world doesn’t need any more spectacles of fallen shepherds and scattered sheep. Felix Shepherd shared with me an article in our local newspaper which told of a youth minister at a church of Christ in Dallas a few days ago that was arrested for using the internet to send pornographic materials to a 14-year old.

It needs a clear vision of the Good Shepherd and dependable directions as to how to find him. The business of the church is not to formulate doctrines about Jesus in absentia but to be his incarnational presence in the world.

Our commission is first to be Jesus in the lives of broken, hurting people and then to speak the truth about Jesus to them so they can have a personal relationship with him as their Savior.

To allow anyone other than Jesus or anything other than the gospel to become the focus of a church’s life is to elevate that person or issue to greater prominence than Christ himself and to veer off into idolatry.

Go back and reread the sermons in Acts. You will be impressed anew with the Christ-theme of each one. Depending on whether the audience was Jewish or Gentiles, the evangelist might choose to quote Scripture or a Greek poet.
· While adapting the method pf presentation to the hearers, the message remained the same. “God has made this Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (2:36).
· “They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (5:42).
· “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (8:35).
· “Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (17:18).

The essence of the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17-18). And these blessings come as gifts from Christ rather than as fruits of our own spiritual achievements.

The central issue of the Christian faith is still Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Unless everything focuses on and finds its meaning in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a church dooms itself to ineffectual striving after the wind.

 

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2018 in Church

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Sins of the Tongue


9780825425424For too long the myth has been circulated that old speech habits can’t be broken:
· I can’t help it…I’ve always been a sarcastic person
· …always told little white lies
· …always used profanity
· …always been a gossip
· …always said nasty things when I get mad

IF we have a problem of speaking ‘what we think,’ we need to be careful about what we think!

In the beginning, God created man and woman to communicate powerfully, lovingly, and constructively.

In Christ he gives the recreated man and woman assurance of the same magnificent possibility.

 Sins of the Tongue
Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”

Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:4: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 16:24: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Do my words bring healing or harm? God expects us to know the answer to that question and to make the necessary changes if needed!

When we might suggest that our words are not that powerful, we would do well to remember the verbal integrity of many early Christians. They were commanded to speak these words: “Caesar is Lord” as they were ordered to “make your incense offering to the genius of Rome.” If they would not say such words, they were definitely put in prison and, on many occasions, they were even put to death!

Sins of the tongue
The New Testament has much to say about the ways we can abuse the gift of speech:

1. Angry talk. Words uttered in a fit of temper; a sudden outburst of wrathful speech (2 Cor. 12:20; Col. 3:8).
2. Boasting, arrogant talk. Bragging; conceited, self-centered, self-glorifying speech (2 Tim. 3:2; James 4:16).
3. Blasphemy. Speaking contemptuously of God or of Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 1:20; 6:1).
4. Coarse joking. Vulgar humor; particularly the mocking of human sexuality (Eph. 5:4).
5. Deception, distortion. Mingling the truth with false ideas or unworthy motivations. Paul spoke of some who “peddled” God’s Word, corrupting the gospel for personal gain or advantage (2 Cor. 2:17, 4:2).
6. Flattery. Excessive or untrue praise; insincere complimenting of another to gain some personal advantage (1 Thess. 2:5; Jude 16).
7. Godless chatter. Profane or empty babbling; conversation which is irreligious, misleading, or worthless (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16).
8. Gossip. Spreading idle talk, rumor or even truthful/factual personal information about others; betraying a confidence (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Tim. 5:13).
9. Lying. Making false statements with intent to deceive or mislead (Acts 5:4; Col. 3:9).
10. Obscenity. Using profane or vulgar language; unwholesome conversation (Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:8).
11. Quarreling. Heated verbal strife; unkind argumentation or debate (1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:23-24).
12. Slander. Damaging someone’s reputation by speaking malicious or untrue things about them (Eph. 4:31; James 4:11).

2 Corinthians 4:2: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

2 Corinthians 12:20: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

Ephesians 5:4: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:8: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

James 4:11: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”

The common effect of all the sins of the tongue is destruction. Speech infected by sin destroys truth, destroys trust, destroys reputation, destroys love, and destroys love for God and man.

Yet the abuses of language mentioned above are commonplace in our offices, around our neighborhoods, on our campuses, and even within our churches.  We need someone to redeem our speech, to tame our tongues.
“The rabbis used to say that the tongue is more dangerous than the hand because the hand kills only at close range while the tongue can kill at great distance.”

Man can tame the great creatures but not his own tongue.

Lehman Strauss says: “While no man can tame the tongue, there is One who can. The Lord is no less able to control a lying, blaspheming, slanderous, gossiping tongue than He is to deliver the drunkard from alcohol, the gambler from the game table, the narcotics addict from drugs, or the lustful person from adultery” (James Your Brother. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1956, p.134).

Matthew Henry says: “‘No man can tame the tongue without supernatural grace and assistance.’ The apostle does not intend to represent it as a thing impossible, but as a thing extremely difficult, which therefore will require great watchfulness, and pains, and prayer” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p.985).

I grew up in a faithful, church-going family. I think I learned early in life what a Christian is to sound like….pious words on Sunday don’t offset the gossip of Monday, the profanity of Tuesday, or the harsh words on Wednesday.

Do we realize the power we possess to strengthen another person with simple words: “good job” “I’m sorry” “Forgive me” “I love you” “I’m praying for you”

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Sermon

 
 
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