Flemingsburg Baptist Church Youth Group

Love God, Love People, Serve the World Starting One Home at a Time.

Category: Sermons

Panther Praise and Worship Back-to-School Service

Picture1On Sunday, August 18th, the 2nd annual Panther Praise & Worship will be held at FCHS. This is a night where all churches in Fleming County can come together, uniting as one, to show support for our students, schools, and district. Our utmost desire is to begin a new school year seeking God’s guidance.

The night will feature the musical talents of:

Solid Ground

and

Various FCHS Students

Pastor Kent Wilson (Unity Baptist) and Youth Pastor Joe Gunter (Flemingsburg Baptist) will be sharing a devotion to uplift and encourage our students, teachers, staff, and community this school year.

Service will end with a prayer walk around the high school.

Flyer can be downloaded here: Panther Praise and Worship

Sponsored by:

 FCHS FCA & Panthers for Christ

 

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The Gospel According to Jonah

 

I chose this passage for three different reasons.  First, I love to go through books of the Bible, this will allow you to be able to see how I would normally preach through a book of the Bible.  Obviously since Jonah is so short, we can cover it in only one sermon.

The Second reason for preaching the Book of Jonah is because we have just celebrated Independence day on July 4th.  Our text today will remind us that although it is healthy to be patriotic (to be thankful for the country that you live in, to be thankful for the freedoms that we have, to be thankful for the troops that help secure that freedom); Nationalism however is dangerous.  God opposes the proud, the worshiping of your country, the viewing of other countries as inferior, the refusal to leave this great nation, and the belief that we are superior is dangerous.  And that is exactly what we find at core of Jonah’s heart today, a hatred for anyone other than his Hebrew brothers and sisters.  So our question for today is, Is it possible for pride in our own nation, to keep us from being a part of God’s purpose in all nations? 

The third and final reason for preaching the Book of Jonah is because it points us to the Cross and our Lord, Savior, and Treasure Jesus Christ.  And I love to preach Christ and him crucified.

We will start reading at Chapter 1 verse 1.

Exegesis:

Chapter 1

V. 1-3 here in this passage we see that Jonah is commanded to go to the people of Nineveh, however, he goes to Tarshish instead.  So let me give you a little bit of backstory to help you understand why Jonah would do such a thing.  You see, we learn from 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah was a national hero, he was a prophet that prophesied that the northern kingdom should strengthen their northern wall.  Which they did and it saved them from being invaded by the Assyrians.  Well, Nineveh is one of the great and prized cities of the Assyrians.  So it is not just bad enough that Nineveh is filled with people that want to invade the Nation of Israel, but the Assyrians are known worldwide for their wickedness, they were a war-driven nation and they would do gruesome things to the bodies of their prisoners in order to deter anyone from wanting to oppose their conquests.

Listen to one account from one of the Assyrian’s own kings, he wrote, “many of the captives I have burned in a fire.  Many, I took alive.  From some, I cut off their hands to their wrists.  From others, I have cut off their noses, ears, and fingers.  I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers.  I have burnt their children to death.”

This was the reputation of the Assyrians, they were not good people.

Therefore, Jonah hated them so much that he would rather see them be destroyed and go to Hell, than for them to receive the grace and mercy of God, so he fled to Tarshish.

V. 4-5 Now we see that God causes a storm to happen.  The storm is so violent that even the veteran sailors are afraid and recognize that it must be from a divine origin.  However, we see that Jonah has fallen asleep at the bottom of the boat.   His heart is so hardened against God’s will and against the people of Nineveh that not even a divine storm can wake him up.

And that is a dangerous place to be.  I pray that this evening that you will not harden you heart against God, but that you will allow Him to work and soften your heart.  Whether, you are someone who has never accepted Christ or someone that has been walking with him for decades, do not let your heart turn cold.

Summarize V. 6-16 Jonah is so sound asleep that the captain has to come and wake him up, so that he can cry out to his God so that they might not perish.  Jonah comes up and it does not take him long to realize that this storm has nothing to do with these pagan sailors.  This has everything to do with his disobedience.  And so it becomes clear that he is the reason for the problem and Jonah is thrown overboard.  And as he sinks into the depths of the sea, the water around the boat goes calm and the storm ceases.  The Sailors onboard the ship turn and worship the Lord of Jonah, while Jonah sinks to the depths of the sea.

Now do not miss this.  Jonah fled, in order to not preach to gentiles and he ends up converting a boat full of pagan sailors.  Our God is a Great and Powerful God and can even use our failures for His Glory.

Now look back at verse 17.

V.17 here we see that a huge aquatic beast swallows Jonah, it is probably not a whale, because they have a word for whale and it is not used here.  But that is not important because this story is not about the whale or a giant fish, but God’s love for the nations, which ultimately points us to Jesus.

Summarize Chapter 2: Then we see in chapter 2 that while Jonah is in the belly of this giant fish that he prays to God.  We see that Jonah cried out to the Lord in his distress and that he answered him.  We also see that Jonah recognizes that salvation comes from the Lord.

V. 10 We pick up the story in verse 10 where we see that the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.  This verse should remind us of Revelations 3:16, it was because of Jonah’s lukewarmness that God had the fish vomit him out of his mouth.

Chapter 3

V.1-4 Now beginning with chapter 3 we see that Jonah now gets a second chance.  He goes to the people of Nineveh and delivers the message, that God had given him.  However, we also see a glimpse of his heart is still lukewarm because Nineveh was so big that it would have taken him 3 days to go around proclaiming this message, but we only see him going to them on day 1.

V. 5-9  However, starting in verse 5 we see their response.  The people immediately responded to God’s message and Word spread so quickly that it reaches the King who issues a decree stating that no man or beast shall eat and must be covered in sackcloth and cry out to God earnestly.

So get the picture here.  This powerful rich city, is now on its knees begging God for mercy, they are so desperate, that they do not feed their animals, so that their animals will join them in bellowing miserably out to God.

So the question is why?, Why such a quick and effective “mission trip” with such a rebel prophet?  Well, what is surprising about this text is that Nineveh actually means “fish town”.  Nineveh is known for worshipping a pagan god, that was half man and half fish.  So here comes this prophet that has spent 3 days in the belly of a fish, that skin is probably bleached from the stomach acid trying to digest him, and if anyone wanted proof that he had been in a fish probably just had to smell him.  So here comes this prophet with a fish story to validate his message to a people that already worship fish.

So we see that God is so powerful, that he uses the rebellion of his prophet to authenticate his message.  God basically says to the people of Nineveh, you worship a false god of fish, but I am the true God that even the largest fish obey me.  Repent or in 40 days you will be destroyed.

And catch the irony.  Jonah hates Nineveh so much that he flees in the opposite direction, but in his fleeing does he not only converts pagan sailors, but now an entire pagan city because of his fleeing from God.

And I tell you right now, that is comforting that even when I screw up, God can still use me.  God help me never flee from your presence like Jonah, but if I do please use it for your glory.

So how will God respond to their repentance?  Will he forgive them or will he give them what they deserve and wipe them from the face of the earth?  We see God’s response in verse 10.

V. 10 God forgives them.  Even though they were wicked and deserved destruction, even though they opposed his chosen people of Israel, he loved them.  For while they were yet enemies they were reconciled to God by  a prophet that went into the depths of the sea for three days and was raised again to bring them a message.

Sound familiar?  Sounds a lot like Romans 5:10 right, For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  This is because God is using this passage to point us to Jesus and calling us to repent as well.  See God loves you so much that it looks like he hates his one and only Son.  While you were still enemies, while you were still in sin God reached out to you.  We are the people of Nineveh in this story.  We deserved punishment, we deserve Hell.  Because we all have sinned against a holy and just God.  But God loves us so much that he sent His only son to us so that we can be reconciled with him again.  Jesus lived the perfect life so that we did not have to and He died the death that we deserved.  However, He did not stay in the belly of the earth.  He rose again and anyone that trust him as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure can spend eternity with Him.  And I pray today that you will respond like the people of Nineveh, that if you have never repented that you will cry out tonight for His mercy.

So we come to the conclusion of chapter three and we think end of story, Jonah preached God’s Word, the people responded what a great story.  However, Chapter 4 reveals to us just how much Jonah hated the people of Nineveh.

Chapter 4

V.1-4 In this passage we see that Jonah reveals the real reason why he fled to Tarshish.  Because he knew that God was a merciful and compassionate God, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.  So it was not that Jonah feared for his life going to this war-loving people nor was it because he feared failure, but that he feared success, he feared that God would actually offer these wicked people salvation.

So if you want to get the amount of hate he had for this people, think of a clansmen going to an inner city ghetto to share the Gospel, think of a Nazi going to the slums of Jerusalem, and think of yourself going to a Muslim nation to share the Gospel… Is it possible to hate someone so much  just because of race or nationality to want them to perish in Hell for eternity?

Now we see it is possible with the life of Jonah to hate someone that much.  But I doubt any of us out loud would say that.  However, what do our actions say about how powerful our Gospel is?

I think one of the weaknesses of the church of America today is that we evangelize like we pick songs on Pandora.

Pandora Illustration:

Do you truly believe that God is powerful enough to save anyone?  God says He is, He saved the wicked city of Nineveh, in fact, everybody in this book is messed up.  Jonah is messed up.  The Sailors worshipping all these different gods are messed up, The city of Ninevah is royally messed up, and we are messed up.  But we see the mercy of God coming to all of them, even to some of us.

However, do our actions confirm that truth?

Scariest person illustration:

V. 5-11 God says to Jonah in these verses, that you are more concerned about a plant, when there are people, whom I have created and crafted with my own hand.  And I have shown my mercy and love to them, and you want nothing to do with it because you are more concerned about this plant.

And the story does not end with a happily ever after.  Instead the story ends with a haunting question from God.  The book ends with a question, not because we do not know how Jonah responds, but it is left open because it is directed to you.  Will you go to the nations?  Will you obey the commandment in Matthew 28 and go and make disciples of all the nations?

There is a clear parallel between God’s will for Jonah, and God’s will for every single one of our lives in this room, to go and preach.  God is calling you to respond, will you go and preach, making disciples of all nations?

You see we cannot be too hard on Jonah in this book of the Bible because in all reality Jonah reveals our hearts as well.  Are these tendencies in our own hearts as well?  Are there times when we want our way more than we want God’s will?  Are we often not interested in where he wants us to go, or what he wants us to do because we already have our plans set up?

Is it possible for us to sit back and enjoy the good life in our nation, without giving second thought to how God might want to use us to make the Gospel known in other nations?  Is it possible for us in this room to know the character of God in our heads, and, yet, lack the compassion of God in our hearts?  Is it possible for us to study the Word for an extended time this evening, in this room, and, yet, walk by someone tomorrow, who may be on a road that leads to an eternal Hell, and not even think twice about that?

Is it possible for us to be more concerned about empty desires and petty comforts, little things in our life here that get us all riled up and deafen us to the reality that we are surrounded in this town and in the world with literally billions of people headed to an eternity without God?  Have our affections so entangled with little things that we lose sight of eternal realities?  Is it a temptation for us in this room to sit back and soak in the mercy of God?  And, yet, give a mere tip of our hats, at best, to the mission of God in the world?  See in Jonah’s heart is a reflection of our own.

But let us not stop there because that would be depressing.  Instead, let us look at how this prophet of Jonah is ultimately pointing us to Jesus. (Platt, 2010)

Let us start in the book of Matthew chapter 8 in verses 23 through 27.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

In this passage, we have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.  Here is a clue: Matthew has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the storm account in Jonah.

–          Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm- the description of the storm is almost identical.

–          Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.

–          In both stories the sailors woke up and the sleeper and said, “We are going to die.”

–          And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.

–          Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.

Two almost identical stories, with just one difference.

In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There is one only thing to do.  If I perish, you survive.  If I die, you will live.  And they threw him into the sea.

Which does not happen in our passage in Matthew.

Or, does it?

I think what God is showing us here is that the stories are not actually different at all when you stand back a bit and look at it with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.  For proof of this now let us look at Matthew chapter 12 verse 38-41.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold,something greater than Jonah is here.

In Matthew 12:41, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and Jesus is referring to himself as the true Jonah.

In this passage, the Pharisees said they wanted a sign, Jesus responds by saying that Nineveh responded when they saw a guy who had been in a fish.  If you do not repent when you have seen a guy who rises from the grave, then all the more judgment upon you.  And that is what Jesus is saying to every person in this room, “If you are here today and you have never turned from your sin and turned yourself to God, in Christ, through what he has done on a cross, to cover over you sins then the word for you from God today is repent.  Turn, man or woman, or student, or child, turn from your sin and turn to God in Christ.

What he means is that someday for all who repent and believe in Jesus as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure, I am going to calm all storms, still all waves.  I am going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, and kill death.

How can Jesus do that?

He can only do it because when he was on the cross he was thrown – willing, like Jonah – into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.

Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us, the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing.  That storm was not clamed, not until it swept him away.

If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?”

And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what makes you think he would abandon you in so much smaller storms you are experiencing right now?

And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.

If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you.  You will know he cares.  And then you will have the power to handle anything in life with poise.  (Keller, 2011/​2013)

 

 

 

 

References

Keller, Tim. (2013). King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. New York: Riverhead Trade. (Original work published 2011)

Platt, David. (2010, July 4). Chapter 24: Fish Food [Sermon]. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from Radical Web site: radical.net/​media/​series/​view/​397/​chapter-24-fish-food

What is Your Legacy?

Capture

Video played before sermon


Deuteronomy 6

Our passage this morning comes from Deuteronomy 6, could you work your way there as I introduce the passage to you.  I come into the pulpit this morning with a heavy heart.  This is because the passage that we will be looking at is one of the reasons that I have gone into ministry.  This passage combined Matthew 28 are the two verses that map out everything that Kaley and I do in our ministry.  You can see it on my business card, you can see it on our brochure, and most importantly, I pray that you can see it manifested in every aspect of our ministry and our everyday lives.  In fact, this chapter is so important that we see Jesus directly quoting from it four times during his ministry.

So our question today is, “What is your legacy” or “What are you living for?”  By show of hands who in here knows the names of all four of their grandparentsHow many know the names of all eight of their great-grandparentsHow many know the names of all 16 of their great-great-grandparents?  So it is clear, that living a life for yourself is vanity.  For if your own family will not even remember your name a couple generations removed from your death, why would anyone else?

So my goal this morning is to call you to live for something greater than yourself.  To take a smaller role in a victorious story that lasts for eternity, rather than playing a major role in a story that might last 70-80, maybe even 100 years, if you are lucky, that will end in tragedy.

You see too many times we complain as we look around at this world and see that it is decaying and we act like victims as the secular world continues to reject Biblical Christianity.  But I believe that the problem started with us.  You see there is a huge biblical illiteracy problem in the church.  You see, I believe that the country did not start out rejecting the Bible, look around America, it is written on everything, the 10 commandments used to be everywhere.

However, I believe that it was our failure as a church to pass our faith on to the next generation.  So when the world came asking hard questions, so many Christians across America came up looking stupid because they lacked Biblical knowledge to give an account on why they believe what they believe.  Keeping traditions for traditions sake, will cause the next generation to part from it.  If you need proof of that look around this room.

But, it is not just a Flemingsburg Baptist problem, it is not just a Fleming County problem, this is a problem across our nation.  You see the problem is that Americans revere the Bible- but, largely, they do not read it.  And because we do not read it, we have become a nation of Biblical illiterates.

So you might be thinking surely I am exaggerating, how bad can it be?  Well, this is how bad it can be… Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels.  Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.  60 percent of Americans cannot name even 5 of the 10 commandments.  Americans may demand that the 10 commandments be posted in the courthouse, but they seem unable to remember what exactly they are.

What is scarier is that 82 percent of Americans think that “God helps those who help themselves”, is a Bible verse.  A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’ family.

Another survey of graduating high school seniors reveals that more than 50 percent thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.  Yet another survey revealed that a considerable number of respondents thought that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

In summary, we are in big trouble.  And we might need to quit looking at the outside and complain about what is happening and start considering if this might be our fault.  We may just discover that the reason our nation is in such bad shape is because our churches are so unhealthy.  And I think that it is foolish to think that God is going to cause a revival to happen unless the church rises up and stop looking so much like the world.

So what do we do?  Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of Biblical teaching and preaching.  Biblical illiteracy is our problem and recovery starts at home.  Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, teaching them the Word of God.  Parents cannot franchise out their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful it may be.  The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to Biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of Biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.  (Mohler, 2005)

And that leads us to our passage today, I believe we get the instructions on how we can fix this problem.  Today I want to specifically talk to the men, the fathers of our congregation because I believe specifically that is who this text is speaking too, and because I believe that the church as a whole this is where we are the weakest in America.

So the question can be asked, “what about daughters and wives?”  Are they excluded by these instructions to fathers and Sons?  Absolutely not, by not mentioning them directly they are more included-not less-and more protected-not less-by these commands.

Wives whose husbands obey these commands will constantly hear God’s Word repeated and discussed.  Daughters of fathers who heed these commands will scarcely be able to avoid the repetition and discussion of the Word of God.  And when fathers obey these commands and repeat and discuss the words to their sons, they ensure that other wives and daughters will be led by husbands and fathers who will do the same.  The father is the key to the family, and a son is a future father.  (Hamiliton, 2011)

If I was to tell you that I knew of a way that we could decrease suicide, rape, dropouts, and people in prison, you would want me to tell everyone, in fact, you would probably join me in telling everyone.  Well, that is what I am telling you today, that we have a man-sized problem.  For proof that America is suffering from a man problem, all you have to do is look at the stats.  63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, 90% of all runaways grew up in fatherless homes, 85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes, 80% of rapists were raised in fatherless homes, 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes, and 85% of all youth sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes.  You see we have men around, but they are not really around.  (Wright, 2008)

But you might say, “Well, that is the world, surely we are doing better in the church.”  However, sadly that is not true, just like in the world, men are around, but they are not really around.  Look at these startling stats of what the church in America looks like.

The typical US church congregation draws an adult crowd that is 61% female and 39% male.  So you might say what is the big deal over 21%?  Well that 21% means that on any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in church.  Making men one of the largest unreached demographics in America.

This Sunday over 25% of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.  Over 70% of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties.  Many of these boys will never return.  More than 90% of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians.  But only 2 out of 6 will attend church on any given Sunday.  The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.  (Murrow, 2005)

So needless to say, we have man sized problem in our country and in our churches.  So what will we do about it.  Well, luckily, God does not leave us in the dark and that is what I hope to display from our text this morning.

However, before we get started in the text today, let us answer the question, why would you eliminate over half the congregation and speak directly to menWould it not be better to do this sermon during a men’s bible study?  This is because we all need to be able to recognize a Godly man or be able to instill these characteristics into younger men.

For example, young men need to hear this message because they need to know what God expects of them.  They may have learned how to be a man from their father, but are wondering how it works out Biblically or they may have an absence of a father in their life and have questions on what it really looks like to be a Man of God.

Likewise,   Young women need to hear this message because they need to be able to have a standard of what kind of man they will or will not date.  They need to hear that they need to let God make a man out of him, before they try to make a boyfriend or husband out of him.  That being single is better than being in the wrong relationship.

More mature men need to hear this message because maybe they are doing well in some of the areas, but need to improve in that area that they have over looked and to be able to cultivate these characteristics into their own children or younger men that they are discipling.  The disciple making process never stops, if you no longer have children at home find someone else you can invest your life into.

And mature women need to hear this message because maybe God is calling you to be like Eunice and Lois, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, who had carefully taught Timothy the Scriptures so that when he was still young God was able to use him to help aid Paul in his ministry.  Or, to come up behind your husband and support him in his God given role as leader, provider, and protector of the home.

So now, let us look at our passage today, because it is very clear that it speaks to us today.

V. 1-3: You see in chapter 5 Moses had just given the nation of Israel the 10 commandments and reminds them now in chapter 6 that while they are entering into the Promised Land that they need to remember to do these important things to make sure that God will continue to bless them.  Moses says to his people, if you want to make sure that your legacy lasts forever, make sure you do this.  Here we look today to see what God would have us to do to make sure that our legacy of glorifying God is passed down from one generation to the next, so that maybe the next generations might be spared from what we are going through now.

And all starts with the fear of the Lord.  This fear is not a terror of God, rather it is a response of reverent awe and trust to the redemptive revelation of God.  It is the Old Testament equivalent of trusting Christ or believing the Gospel.  The fear of the Lord is the response of faith to all that God has done to redeem his people, as he himself interprets what he has done by his Word.  (Goldsworthy, 1991)

Now let us look at the heart of the passage, starting in verse 4.

V. 4: It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the monotheistic declaration of verse 4.  Israel is summoned to hear and take notice.  YAHWEH is their God.  YAHWEH is one.  Moses says to his people if you want things to go good for you in the Promised Land, do this.  This is greatly significant.  Therefore, verse four is then explained in verses 5-9.  Starting with verse 5.

V.5: Since YAHWEH is the sole deity means that, he is to be loved.  Jesus himself quotes this passage in Matthew 22 verse 38 as the first and greatest commandment.  We are not just to kind of love God, we are not to just love God, my wife, my family, baseball, and my dog, along with other things.  It is our love; it is what we desire more than anything.  Our love for God should be so great that it looks like we hate everything else.

But, how can this be soHow can God command us to love Him?  This is so counter-cultural, that many cannot fathom how someone can be commanded to love.  People today often think love is like the wind.  It blows where it wills.  You cannot control it, you cannot do anything about it.  If you are in love with your spouse, great.  But if you wake up one morning and “fall out of love”, go ahead and get a divorce.

Or, if you love your next-door neighbors, that’s good.  But if they and their annoying kids annoy you to no end, well, there is nothing you can do about it.  You cannot force yourself to love them, right?

In short, too many of us think of love as the wind.  If the wind strikes us, we are inspired.  If not, we are indifferent.  However, love in the Bible is very different thing.  For one, love can be commanded.  The Bible commands us over and over again to love God, our neighbor, our fellow Christians, and even our enemies.  Certainly love can grow cold, and can lose the love we had at first.  But, scripture commands us to love each other genuinely, affectionately, and earnestly, and to love God with all we got.  Love is not the wind that cannot be grasped, but something that can be commanded and striven for, something we can even stir up in others.  (Jamieson, 2013)

Therefore, love God with all you have, if you do not feel like it that particular day, start by reflecting on what he did for you.  While you were still in sin, while you were still an enemy, he went to the cross for you so that you can spend eternity with him, because he loves you.

Verse 6 shows us that we are to obey our one and only God.  Here in this verse we get some very good news.  Here Moses is answering the question, how are we going to keep these commandments?  You see Christianity is not a works based religion, you are not going to be able to work your way to heaven.  So You cannot keep the commandments faithfully enough to get there either.  So if you leave here today burdened, thinking that I told you to do more and try harder, you missed the point.

So follow the train of thought that is going on so far.  Moses is telling us that if you fear and love your one and only God, you should expect an internal transformation.  God gives you a new heart.  This echoes the words of Jesus when he says, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  You see, we keep the commandments because God through the Holy Spirit changes our hearts, not because of our own willpower or because it is a checklist of things to do to make sure God still loves you.

So in this passage we are not called to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps, to do more, to try harder.  No, in fact it is a test, a measuring stick for how we are doing.  Moses is answering the question, how can I know that I am loving and fearing God enough?  The answer is if you have received a new heart and on that new heart is written God’s commandments.  We obey not out of our own willpower, but because of the heart change that has occurred in us.

We should pause here and take stock of the enormous significance of what Moses announces in chapter 6 verses 4 through 6: YAHWEH alone is God; Israel is to love YAHWEH; his commands are to be on their hearts.  What Moses says next will undoubtedly be of great significance.

What will he say nextSomething about kings or armies or economicsOr is there something more fundamental than those thingsPerhaps something that will produce righteous kingsSomething that will teach soldiers that there are things worth more than peace and more than lifeSomething that will ensure economic stabilityAnd what might accomplish all that?

The high and beautiful truths that YAHWEH is the only true and living God who is to be loved and obeyed will be followed by something of equal significance: a specified approach to passing on the knowledge of this one true God to the generations that will follow.

And who will be responsible for passing this valuable information to the next generationWill it be the king, maybe the prophets, or what about the priests?  No, the main responsibility for education falls to the parents.

You see this concept has become counter-cultural to us.  We hire math teachers to teach us math, we hire science teachers to teach us science, football coaches to teach us football, baseball coaches to teach baseball.  Parents today can delegate out almost everything that there child needs to learn.  However, let us take the example of baseball.

When you go to the community park and you watch kids that get equal time with coaches, equal time on the playing field, equal time at practice, but it becomes evident that not all players are equal.  Why is that?  You could say, that it is because of different levels of athletic ability, but I believe that has little to do with it.

Baseball is a game of repetition, a game of skill, just being athletic is not going to help you hit an 80MPH fastball and definitely not a curve ball.  No, when you go to the ballpark, it will soon become clear which kids practice at home, which ones find ways to play it every chance they get, the ones that even think about it the most compared to those that only come out for the scheduled times their teams play or practice.  You see, your child is never going to be good at the game of baseball if they are only doing the least amount as possible.

I say all this to say, how many of us do this with our discipling of our own children and grandchildren, or maybe others that God has placed in our lives to discipleHow many of us rely solely rely on the hour on Sunday, to have God’s Word spoken into our lives?  I can guarantee you this, you if you are only spending one-two hours with God a week, it doesn’t matter if it was Billy Graham preaching to you, your life and your family’s life will never be changed if you allow the world to speak into your family’s life the other 165-166 hours of the week.

If we know that a baseball player needs to be making 200 cuts a day, how much more important to the growth of a disciple of Christ to be in his Word, reading it, praying it, discussing it, and applying it.

However, before we look at the details of verse 7, we must observe that only those who believe that YAHWEH  alone is God (4) will do this; only those who live to love YAHWEH in everything they are and do (5) will do this; and only those on whose laws are written on their hearts (6) will obey what verse 7 commands.

So it is important for us not to ask the question, “how can I be a better father, grandfather, or disciple-maker?” And skip right here to verse 7.  In order to be effective here you have to be committed to verses 4 through 6.

V.7: This one and only God is to be remembered verbally in the household.  What follows verses 4-6 is an explanation of the means for passing on the knowledge of this one God to generations yet to come.  If YAHWEH alone is God, he deserves to be worshipped, loved, and obeyed even after the current generation dies.  Here Moses is answering the question, “Since our God deserves to be glorified in the next generations, how & when is the best time to be making disciples?  We learn the how in the first word of this verse.  Repeat, repetition aids learning.  We are not to just tell our children about God, but are to repeatedly tell our children about God.

Moses responds to when we disciple our children by saying, when you are getting up, when you are laying down, when you are walking, when you are sitting.  Discipling your children is not in a hit-or-miss manner.  You must be intentional.  In other words, anytime is a good time to talk about the things of God.  (Hamilition, 2011)

It is like if you asked me what do they sell at Steve’s Ace Hardware.  I would reply they have everything from A-Z.  What I do not mean is that they literally have everything, but what I am communicating is that if you need something for your home, Ace is the place.  And that is what Moses is doing.  We do not literally have to talk about God every second of the day.

However, if we love God and his commandments are written on our hearts then we should naturally and intentionally find ourselves driven to want to talk about it.

However, I fear that we miss so many opportunities because we fail to see that the Christian faith is all inclusive.  If we were inside a building looking out through a clear glass window, I might ask you, “well, tell me what you see when you look outside?”

You might begin by describing the grass and the tree and the vehicles on the street.  Now would not you find it odd or strange if I asked, “well, did you see the window?”  One does not talk about the window.  Instead, one sees the world through it.

And yet, in the end it is the window that is passed on and transferred to the child.  They will see the world through the window that we give them.  And this window is important, because how we see the world is greatly affected by the window we are looking out.  So we want to be able to give our children a clearest window as possible to look out.  We must make sure that our minds are so filled and saturated with the scripture that our world-and-life view is completely shaped by the biblical teaching.  (Gentry, 2013)

And that is exactly what we see in the life of Jesus.  Jesus used all waking moments and activities, He used the opportunities at hand to speak of the creator God, of all aspects of his creation and also of the God who is in covenant relationship with his people.

For example, Jesus trained his disciples through formal teaching such as the Sermon on the Mount.  However, Jesus also taught as he walked, as he talked, and the disciples learned from him on a day-by-day, moment by moment basis.  As a result, many of the episodes in the Gospels reveal how Jesus used different opportunities as teaching moments.  For example, the parable of the fig tree.

The good news for fathers in this passage is that there is nothing complicated here.  There is not a 10 step plan that you need to stick strictly too.  There is not instructions on that you must make soteriology perfectly clear, that you must explain the difference between “infa” and “supra” lapsarinisms, or to be able to clearly explain the book of Revelations.  There are no strict rules, such as you must read your Bible to them all the way through in a year, have them memorize the Bible by the time they are 15, or go through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology nightly.

No, God keeps it simple.  As you are loving God, as you are living out your commandments, as you are rising, walking, and resting make sure that you are intentional about sharing the Gospel with your children.

Now the word intentional is the key word in that sentence.  Discipleship is not going to happen by accident.  Satan will do everything in his power to make sure of that, so make sure that you are intentional in your teaching and always looking for ways to communicate the glory of your one and only God to your children.  The main point of verse 7 is that at the beginning and end of the day, and at every opportunity in-between, God’s word is to be repeated, pondered, explored, explained, and celebrated.

V.8: In verse 8, this one and only God is the window in which we interpret life.  Now it is probably obvious that I do not take these verses to be literal since I am not wearing scripture bound to my forehead and hands.  But, before we are too hard on Jews that do take this to be literal, calling them a bit radical, let us ask ourselves, “what are we doing to keep scripture always on our mind, and is it working better than if we were to bind them in-between our eyes and on our hands?”

The main point of verse 8 is not to bring about some mechanical activity of attaching the law to one’s forehead or hand, but to display to us that this is our power and this is the window that we should be judging every decision.  It is our measuring stick for truth.  In the Old Testament, the “hand” is often a figurative reference to physical power or might, and the “eye” is the organ of perception.  I believe that verse 8 is calling us to bind God’s Word on our power and to make God’s Word the filter for our perception.  And when we do so, it will change everything in our lives, not only our actions, but even our attitudes.

V.9: And finally, this one and only God is to be memorialized on doorposts and gates in verse 9.  The doorposts and gates were the two primary points of access in their lives.  They will pass through their doorposts whenever they enter or leave their homes.  And they would see them at the gate because the gate of a city was the center of public activity.  Buying and selling took place at the gate.  Legal decisions were rendered in the area of the city gate.

However, it is clear that the writing of the words on doorposts and gates will accomplish nothing if Israel does not recognize that YAHWEH alone is God (4), love him (5), obey his commands (6), and  remember Him by the teaching God’s word to their sons (7).  The house and gates are to be marked by the word of god as a reflection of the inward reality that Israel is devoted to YAHWEH.  Verses 4 & 5 make it clear that these items in verses 6-9 are not simply about the laws but about the one who gives the laws.

Moses did not summon Israel to obey because he was teaching a law-based religion.  Moses is not giving us a stepladder into heaven, nor is he giving us a 6-step plan on parenting, or how to have your best life now.  As we see in the New Testament, love for God is demonstrated by obedience.  Whole-life love for YAHWEH will result in his commandments being on the heart.

You see this is a result of a change on the inside, God changes your heart therefore, you do these things.  You see we will greatly miss the point of this passage if we think that we can do this on our own.  That kind of devotion to the commandments divorced from love for YAHWEH also breaks the first commandment, leading only to a condemning sense of burdensome duty.

These laws can only be fulfilled by those who are dominated by the reality that YAHWEH alone is God, consumed with a love for him that finds expression in desire to please him, commitment to obeying him, and the constant occupation of mind, heart, and imagination with the wonder of who he is.

In short, only those who live to worship YAHWEH as an expression of love for him-those who trust him more than what they see with their eyes, will have the law on their hearts, teach it to their children, bind it on their hands, frontlet it to their eyes, and write it on doorposts and gates.

That is a high standard, we are going to make mistakes, and we are going to fall short.  However, we serve a God, that is worth passing on to the next generation, that is worth our love, our obedience, and our remembrance.  And I pray this morning that you do not hear me say, try harder, work harder, but that you hear me say that if Christ is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

If he is valuable to you, then you should be desiring that to be passed on to the next generation and that you naturally should be doing some of these things already.  What I am calling you to is to reverse the cultural norms of our nation and to become more intentional with your own children, grandchildren, spouse, and those that God has put in your life to disciple.

So where do you start?  This might all seem overwhelming to you.  I encourage you to start small and to be faithful to it and see how God blesses it and grows it.  Start with maybe a prayer before going to work and school.  Maybe reading a passage before dinner or before going to bed.

Start small, be intentional, and be consistent.  No longer assume that it is the church’s responsibility to teach your children the Bible.  It is, in fact, the responsibility of every parent. And if you are a parent and you do not know the Bible, you should immediately begin reading and studying it, because at final judgment, God will hold you as parents, not the leaders of your church responsible, for the teaching of your children the Christian faith.

I pray that when we get serious about passages like Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 28 that God will do something in our community that could be epic.  It is not going to be tent revivals or the mega churches.  It is going to happen around the family table.  The family table is central to worship.  I am not saying it is going to be easy, but if we become a church known for our commitment to Deuteronomy 6 and the Great Commission, then things around here could get risky.

We would be running the risk of having an extremely biblical church and God will bless that.  When we build the bridge between those two passages, church does not become perfect, but it will become extremely biblical.  You get yourself into biblical community.  You get yourself into partnership and accountability.

My heart is that in our community will come a day when people use a biblical worldview as their filter for everything.  That this culture that has gotten so far from the Lord will come running back.

At this church, we have started talking about legacy.  Some have started to walk down this road a little bit.  There is nothing more precious than passing down Christ to the next generation in the context of the home.  When you empower people to do that, you are giving them a gift.

So here is my dream: My prayer is that one day I will walk around and see people living out the discipleship of parents to their children.  Teaching them as they rise, as they sit, and as they lie down at night.  That the Gospel is their strength, it is the way they view all things in this life.  And it is all rooted because of their love for Christ and that they then go into to the community to share this good news with others.

That our families will stand out, that they will become attractive, that people will see that there is something different about us, that they will just have to ask us and seek us out to see what the difference is.  And then we will be able to point them to the Gospel, and that we also go out making disciples that make disciples.  That is how the community is going to be redesigned.  (Coobs, 2011)

References

Coobs, Jason. (2011, March 21). What Are You Getting Yourself Into? Message July 19, 2013, posted to Family Ministry Today: http://www.sbts.edu/​family

Gentry, Peter. (2013, November 12). Raising Children, the Christian Way. Message July 20, 2013, posted to Family Ministry Today: http://www.sbts.edu/​family/​

Goldsworthy, Graeme. (1991). According to Plan. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Hamilition, J. M. (2011). That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord: Family Discipleship in the Old Testament. In R. Stinson & T. P. Jones (Eds.), Trained in the Fear of God (pp. 34-38). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional.

Hamiliton, J. M. (2011, January 3). That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord. Message July 20, 2013, posted to Family Ministry Today: http://www.sbts.edu/​family

Jamieson, Bobby. (2013). Sound Doctrine. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Mohler, Albert. (2005, October 14). The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem. Message July 19, 2013, posted to AlbertMohler.com: http://www.albertmoher.com/​2005/​10/​14/​the-scandal-of-bibilical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/​

Murrow, David. (2005). Why Men Hate Going to Church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Wright, Steve. (2008). A Parent Privilege. Wake Forest, NC: InQuest Ministries.

Be Devoted, Be Alert, and Be Grateful in Prayer

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The link to the audio can be seen here
Introduction

This is Charles Spurgeon and he is a hero of mine, which is one of the reasons why he sets in my office next to his commentaries.  But he is a hero of mine, not because he is undoubtedly the best-known preacher of the 19th century or because he preached in front of huge crowds, during a time when that was rare, but because all of his sermons were Christ centered.  Spurgeon, sometimes to a fault would preach a sermon and no matter what that passage said would make a B line to Christ. And that is what I want to do every time I preach is to help you see much of Jesus Christ.

However, another reason why Spurgeon is a hero of mine is because of his devotion to prayer.  Once when an American preacher visited Spurgeon and was given a tour of the church building where he ministered, he noticed that there was no heat in the worship center, so he asked, Don’t you have a heating plant?  Spurgeon responded by leading him down to a large basement room.  In that room, 400 men met before each service to pray for the pastor and the salvation of souls.  Spurgeon said, that is our heating plant.  Spurgeon responded similarly in 1882 when some American visitors asked what was the secret to his success, and Spurgeon responded my people pray for me.  And that is what we are instructed to do in our passage today.  Colossians 4 verses 2 through 4.

1.      Be Devoted “Devote yourselves to prayer” (v.2)

In our passage today, Paul is going to call us to be devoted, be alert, and to be grateful in prayer, and then he is going to call us to put our prayers into action.  In the opening phrase, we see that we are to be devoted.  Devoted means with constancy and zealousness.  It is the opposite of hit and miss.  It implies earnestness and serious pursuit of God, not just casual contact.  It implies pressing on and not giving up.  Paul does not just suggest that prayer is a good idea, but that prayer should be a standard feature of the Christian life.  The point is not that believers should pray with intensity when they pray but that they should pray habitually and with perseverance.  We should be utterly devoted to prayer.  (Moo, 2008)

Everyone is devoted to something.  Most of us are devoted to many things.  When you make something a priority, when you will sacrifice for it, when you will give time to it, you know you are devoted to it.  God expects Christians to be devoted to prayer.  (Whitney, 1991)

And that is exactly what Paul means here when he is calling us to be devoted in prayer.  You pray often and you pray regularly.  Prayer is not infrequent and prayer is not hit and miss.  Being devoted to prayer means that you are not haphazard and you are not forgetful.  It means you take steps to see that it is part of your regular life, the same way eating and sleeping are.  (Piper, 2000)

a.      Be Alert “stay alert in it”

                                                              i.      What does being watchful mean?

Not only are we to be devoted, but the second thing that Paul calls us to do in this passage is to be alert.  Staying alert means that you work against distractions and hindrances.  You do what you have to do to stay awake and to stay at the task.  Watchful means being vigilant, like a guard on duty outside the camp at night knowing that if you go to sleep in this job, the enemy can overthrow your mission.  So Paul urges the church to remember how tremendously serious the battle is.  Heaven and hell hang in the balance every week.  So be alert, awake, and watchful.  (Piper, 1989)

Here Paul is not simply describing the believers’ general stance to the effect that they should be alert and pray at all times.  Nor is he simply speaking of attention and engagement in prayer as opposed to a boring and lazy praying.  What Paul is calling us to do is to be children of the light being awake and renouncing the sleep of this world of darkness.  Christians should lay hold of all opportunities for prayer, and choose the fittest seasons, and keep their minds lively in the duty.  (Henry, 1960)

I think of a practical example of this is ambulances and fire trucks.  When they pass us on the road or by our house I think we sometimes forget that those sirens means that someone life is in crisis.  A good way to be alert and devoted to prayer, would take those sirens to be a reminder to intercede for someone that needs prayer.  I am afraid that the familiarity of the sirens in our lives numb us to the crisis that someone might be going through.

                                                            ii.      Opposite of the disciples in the garden

This language of being alert probably reminds of Jesus praying with his disciples in the garden before he was betrayed by Judas.  Jesus asked the disciples to pray, but found them sleeping.  So he said to Peter, “Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:37).  We must be on the watch as we pray—on the watch against a wandering mind, against vain repetitions, against trite and meaningless expressions, against limited, selfish desires.  And we should also watch for what is good.  We should especially be alert to God’s guidance of our prayers in Scripture.  It is God who works in us to will our prayers, but we always experience this divine enablement as our own resolve and decision.  (Piper, 1982)

b.      Be Grateful “with thanksgiving”

            So far in verse 2, Paul has called us to be devoted, to be alert, and now he will call us to be grateful.  It is impossible to pray for God to open a door of faith for others without remembering that he did this very thing for you?  When we pray for the salvation of others, is not the fervency of our prayer a mirror of how thankful we are for our own salvation?  If we do not feel thankful for our own salvation then how can we pray with devotedness and alertness for the salvation of others?  I pray that you will be thankful for your own salvation, and you will pray with new zeal for others.         (Piper, 1989)

            We see here that a devotedness and alertness comes from a grateful heart.  And a grateful heart comes from a true appreciation of what Christ did for us.  We once were, “dead” to the world and its powers, and through Jesus Christ we have been made “alive” to God in Christ with all of one’s sins forgiven, and destined for glory.  A true appreciation will inevitably produce thanksgiving.  How could we help from being thankful, when we realize that we were once dead in our sins, deserving God’s wrath, on our way to an eternity in Hell, and then through the power of Jesus Christ we were saved.

Not because of our works, but because God was gracious and merciful towards us.  And that is not all of the good news, not only are we forgiven of our past sins, but the bondage of sin has been broken, we are now raised in Christ.  Thanksgiving should flow from our prayers when we realize where we were heading and how God saved us, and adopted us into His heavenly family.

And that is the conclusion of the first part of the passage for today.  Paul is calling us to be devoted, to be alert, and to be grateful in prayer.  John Piper gives us a good analogy on how we should take this passage and apply it to our prayer life.

                                                              i.      Wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom

Prayer is much more than us sending up our wish lists to God like God is Santa Clause.  John Piper describes prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom in which we are asking to butler to come bring us another pillow for our comfort.

In wartime, prayer takes on a different significance.  It becomes a wartime walkie-talkie and no longer a domestic intercom.  Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, in order that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give to you” (John 15:16).

Notice the amazing logic of this verse.  He gave them a mission “in order that” the Father would have prayers to answer.  This means that prayer is for  a mission.  It is designed to advance the kingdom.  That is why the Lord’s Prayer begins by asking God to see to it that his name be hallowed and that his kingdom come.

James warned about the misuse of prayer as a domestic intercom.  He said, “You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2–3).

Prayer is always kingdom oriented.  Even when we pray for healing and for help, it is that the kingdom purposes of God in the world may advance.  Otherwise, we have turned a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom.

Let us pray like the apostle Paul, “that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

2.      Prayer for spiritual leaders (v.3)

            Now we come to our second part of this passage.  In the first part, Paul calls us to be devoted, to be alert, and to be grateful in prayer.  So what should we be devoted, alert, and grateful for in our prayers for?  In verse three Paul, takes those instructions and wants the people in Colossians to be in devotion in prayer for him, alert for ways that they might intercede for him, and grateful for the ministry that God has given to him.

Despite Paul being an apostle, Paul was by no means too prideful to ask the Colossians to intercede for him and his coworkers in the Gospel.  However, more important than the fact that Paul asks for prayer, but look at exactly what he asks for.  Paul could have requested prayer for anything, but what he chooses to request for is not personal benefit, but for the preaching of the Gospel.  Paul does not ask for them to pray for his release, but for open doors to share the Gospel.  Paul does not regard imprisonment as a serious interruption of his missionary work, so he asks not for his release or for his trial, but that the Gospel would have an open door and that he would be able to preach it clearly. (O’Brien, 2000)

If you want to pray for me, this is the same prayer that you need to use.  Pray that there will be continued open doors in the schools and the community, and that I will be able to communicate the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly.

a.      That we might be able to have open doors to sharing the Gospel.

            Notice that Paul does not pray that he or some other minister might have an open door for our message.  The emphasis falls on the Word of God.  It is the word that must be given entrance because it is the word that has the power to transform human beings.  This emphasis echoes the beginning of the letter, where Paul gives the word a similar active role, as the word grows and bears fruit among the Colossians and in all the world.  In requesting prayer for the opening of a door for the word, Paul implies that it is God who prepares the way for the message of the Gospel.  He provides opportunities; he softens the hearts of listeners by his grace.

The fact that Paul makes this request while imprisoned tells us about Paul’s passion for the gospel.  In spite of his imprisonment and difficult circumstances, Paul asks the Colossians to pray that he will have opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  What is our excuse for not taking the Gospel to our neighbors?

b.      Why Does Paul Bring up His imprisonment now?

            So the question can be asked, why does Paul bring up his imprisonment now?  Probably so to illustrate the power of God in opening doors for the gospel even when humans conspire to close them.  See especially 2 Timothy 2:9, where Paul says about the gospel: “for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But God’s word is not chained.”  Now that is important words for us today, because if you do not think that there are people in your own community trying to stop the sharing of the Gospel, just ask Jon Johnson or any other Gideon.  We need your prayers that doors will be continued to be opened even when it looks like some are being shut because God’s Word cannot be chained.  (Moo, 2008)

c.       That we might be able to declare the Gospel clearly (v.4)

Here in verse 4 we see that Paul urges us to prayer by pointing out that we cannot speak rightly about God, unless our tongues are directed by the Lord.  (Calvin, 1999)  In other words not only is there a need for God to open doors, there has to be something clear and powerful to send through the door, namely, the Word of God, the mystery of Christ,… the Gospel.  This is a prayer for the preacher, the choir, Sunday School teachers, and any others who take the Word of God on their lips.

BJ and I need your prayers!  If Paul could imagine himself speaking the Gospel in a way that was not clear and bold and powerful, how much more can I imagine that for myself.  Think of it: the greatest preacher and missionary who ever lived said that the effectiveness of his preaching depended on the prayers of the church.  If that is true for Paul, if that is true for Spurgeon, it is true a hundred times over for me.  What happens next week as I speak to the youth of this community and what happens next Sunday as BJ preaches to you depends in great measure on how you pray for us.  (Piper, 1989)

Being able to proclaim the Gospel was important to Paul because he understood that his mission advances in and through the preached Word, we understand why the fundamental prayer was for opportunities to proclaim the Word.  The transforming power of the proclaimed word of the Gospel renders Paul unashamed .  The word of the cross is God’s power for those who are being saved.

The message of Christ crucified is considered to be offensive by Jews and foolishness by Gentiles, but it is God’s power and wisdom toward those who have been called.  Paul was confident that the Gospel was so powerful that it would certainly bear fruit.  Wherever the Gospel is preached, fruit is the inevitable, for the proclaimed word is a performative word, accomplishing what it demands.  (Schreiner, 2001)

d.      So what do we do now?

            So the question before is now is what do we do now?  How are our lives and church changed on Monday, because of what we heard today?  Here is what I would like for everyone to leave here with today.  A strengthened desire to be devoted, be alert, and to be grateful in prayer.  And I would also like you all to leave here committed to pray for your pastors.

e.       What do you pray for your pastors?

  1.  Pray for our preaching and teaching.  Pray that we might have open doors and that we might present the Gospel clearly.
  2. Pray for our families.  One of the most convicting and challenging verses for pastors is 1 Timothy 3:5: If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?”  We are church members.  We must be the prayer intercessors for pastors and their families.  Few families face the kinds of pressures and expectations as the families of pastors.
  3. Pray for our Protection.  1 Timothy 3:2-4 says, “An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy, one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity.”  Just to get past the above reproach part is an accomplishment!  The word reproach means to find fault.  So to be above reproach means to be above finding fault.  While the pastor is not expected to be perfect, he is to have a reputation above most everyone else.  When people in the community speak or think about the pastor, the thoughts and words should be positive and encouraging.
    1. 1 Timothy 3 verse 7 puts it all into perspective: “Futhermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.”  A trap is something that is set intentionally.  It means that the devil has devised a plan to bring the pastor down.  He has set a trap.  It means that the devil sees the pastor as a threat, and one of his highest priorities is to take him down and take him out.  And the text is clear.  The nature of this trap will be temptation where the pastor’s reputation will be harmed.  The devil is setting traps for pastors, anything he can do to bring harm to the pastor’s reputation.  He will stop at nothing-greed, adultery, anger, addiction- to catch the pastor in his trap.  The devil is powerful.  But God is so much more powerful.  And God, in ways we do not always understand fully, works through the prayers of believers.
    2. Pray for our physical and mental health.
      1. We need wisdom to know what to preach and teach and how to present God’s Word, and to be physically able to communicate that message.

Conclusion

Remember back to Spurgeon’s story, where he gave credit to his success to his praying people.  Now contrast it with this story of T. Dewitt Talmadge.  One Sunday evening he was the guest preacher at a church not far from the church he pastored in Brooklyn.  In his own pulpit that morning the Lord seemed to bless his message with unusual power.  But as he preached the same sermon that night his words seemed to fall to the floor as soon as they were over the pulpit.  One of his church leaders who had made the trip with him asked, “How can the same message given by the same man on the same day seem so powerful in one church and so flat in another?

Talmadge responded, poor preaching is God’s curse on a prayerless church.  Do you want better preaching?  Pray for it!  Pray for BJ as prepares each week.  A prayerless church will likely get the kind of preaching for which it prays.  And I pray that this church will become like the members of Spurgeon’s church, lifting our messages higher, rather than like the church that Talmadge visited.  (Whitney, 1996)

So last question, how can you pray devoted, alert, and thankful prayers for your pastor?  The best way for me to pray for lengthy periods of time is pray through scripture.

Praying for long periods of time is hard, It is difficult to stay focused on prayer because Satan hates when we pray, so he is going to bring things up that will distract us.  He will bring up job stresses, family stresses, and even random things like did I do the laundry today or what am I having for dinner.

I first became aware of my need for a better way to pray on a trip to Nashville at a Passion Conference.  During this conference, they had a prayer room where they wanted there to be continuous prayer for the conference for every hour of the day.  Therefore, my mentor, Bert Solomon, and I selected a time slot that would stretch us and we picked to pray for a 15-minute time slot at 3AM.

When we knelt to pray, I prayed for everything I could think of and looked up at the clock and realized it only took around 2-minutes.  I then suffered through 13 minutes of fighting sleep, aimless prayers, and staring at the clock.  I felt defeated in my prayer life.  To pray for 15minutes felt like an eternity, and my mind wandered much of that time.  “I guess it is me,” I concluded.  “I am just a second-rate Christian.”  Because my mentor appeared to not had any problem with praying.

However, I learned in seminary how to pray through scripture.  So how do you pray through scripture?  Let the words of Scripture become the words of your prayers.  For example, if you pray through Psalm 23, read, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and thank Him for being your shepherd.  Ask Him to shepherd your family that day, to guide, protect, and provide for them.  Pray that He will make your family members His sheep; that they will look to Him as their shepherd.  Ask Him to shepherd you through the decision you must make about your future.  Pray for Him to bless the undershepherd at your church, shepherding him as he shepherds the church, etc.  When nothing else comes to mind, go to the next line—“I shall not want”—and continue to pray.  Simply go through the passage, line-by-line, praying what you find in the text or what it brings to mind.  If nothing comes to mind, or if you do not understand the verse, go to the next. You might choose to linger long on one verse.  Conversely, there may be only a handful of matters that prompt prayer as you go through many verses.  Nothing says you have to pray over every verse.

And if you want to specifically pray for us pastors then you can take the passages from 1 Timothy that I read earlier and pray through them or you can take the entire pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus) and pray through them for us.

So I am going to close by calling for you all to respond.  On the back of your insert that has the notes on it, I put a pledge saying that you will pray for us for 5 minutes a day.  As church members, we must be willing to pray for the leaders in our church.  Without our ongoing intercessory prayer, our churches will not be healthy.  Five minutes a day.  That is all.  Sure you can pray longer if you like.  Will you commit to pray five minutes every day for your leaders in your church?  And if you will I ask for you to stand.  (Rainer, 2013)

References

Calvin, John. (1999). Harmony of the Evangelist (William. Pringle, Trans.). In William. Pringle. (Ed.), Calvin’s Commentaries (Vol. 16).  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Henry, Matthew. (1960). Matthew Henry’s Commentary (L. F. Church, Trans.). Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library.

Moo, Douglas J. (2008). The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Nottingham, England: Apollos.

O’Brien, Peter. (2000). WBC Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 44). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Piper, John. (1982). Persevere in Prayer. In Taste and See Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Desiring God Web site: http://www.desiringgod.org/​resource-library/​taste-see-articles/​persevere-in-prayer

Piper, John. (1989, November 12). O Lord, Open a Door for the Word! [Sermon]. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Desiring God Web site: http://www.desiringgod.org/​resource-library/​sermons/​o-lord-open-a-door-for-the-world

Piper, John. (2000, January 9). Devote Yourselves to Prayer [Sermon]. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Desiring God Web site: http://www.desringgod.org/​resource-library/​sermons/​devote-yourselves-to-prayer

Rainer, T. S. (2013). I am Church Member. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.

Schreiner, T. R. (2001). Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Whitney, D. S. (1996). Spiritual Disciplines within the Church. Chicago: Moody.

Whitney, D.S. (1991). Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Why We Must Go Into the Wilderness (Mark 6) Sermon from 5/5/13

Introduction:

–         Reasons why I am grateful to be in this church.

–         But I am most grateful to be in here because it is raining out there.

–         Everyone is either in a storm, going into a storm, or coming out of a storm

–         In this passage today, we will be looking at a storm, but us first look at the events leading up to the storm, starting at the beginning of Mark chapter 6.

Rejection in Nazareth (1-6a) 1st cause for going into the wilderness

–         V. 1 The reference to the disciples is important, for during this period Jesus had been concerned with their training in preparation for the mission of sharing the Gospel.

–         Jesus’ rejection was part of the disciple making process, for they too will one day be rejected by their own people.. . and so will we.

–         V. 2-3 Why would anyone reject Jesus?  (how could someone so perfect get to people?)

  • Jesus had not been trained to be a Rabbi, but had been trained as a carpenter.
  • The people knew his family, and there was nothing special about them either.  Just a poor carpenter family in a small town that is already looked down upon.
  • They watched him grow up as a baby, they cared for him, changed him, watched him play in the mud just like every other Jewish boy growing up.  How could he be the messiah.

–         We also see a hint of mockery in this passage.  We see this by the way they refer to him as the son of marry.  This is a mockery for two reasons.

  • In their culture you always referred to the fathers household.  Jesus was not only the son of Joseph, but ultimately the son of David, but more importantly the son of David that will reign forever as the true King.
  • But this is also a mockery because it hints at the rumors that were probably going on around the town of Nazareth about Mary’s  virgin birth.
    • See the people of Nazareth were not stupid people, they just like us, are hesitant to believe that someone could be born of a virgin birth.  They knew the reproductive math and saw that it was not adding up.
    • Basically, many just could not believe that this common illegitimate carpenter’s son, that they have seen growing up could be the messiah.

–         V. 4 However, we see that this passage is in the Bible not only to prepare the disciples for rejection, but also to foreshadow the ultimate rejection of Jesus by Israel as well.

  • And we know that if they rejected Jesus they will reject us as well.

–         V. 5-6 With some exceptions, Jesus could do no mighty work there.  Jesus will not force his miracles on a hostile, skeptical audience, Jesus refuses to put on a magic show or to entertain them.  It stands in contradiction to the character and will of Jesus to heal where there is fundamental rejection of him (unbelief).

–         V. 5-6 Jesus was amazed not because he did not see it coming, but because despite know beforehand what would happen, it did not make it any easier to go through.

  • EX. of disappointment of others.
  • These are the people that he loved since he was a young boy, friends, people who have helped raised him (ex. of when he got lost for 3 days)
  • His love for them still caused amazement despite knowing that it had to happen.

The First commission (6b-13) 2nd Reason for going into the wilderness.

–         V. 7-9 The travel instructions serve as signs to Jewish people of peace, defenselessness, trust in God, and urgency.  The scene echoes the first exodus (cf. Ex. 12:11).  In both instances, there is liberation from servitude.

–         Notice in this passage the requirements for sharing the Gospel.

  • It is not the Gospel + money
  • It is not the Gospel + food
  • It is not the Gospel + this really cool program that you should do
  • It is not the Gospel + these magical words you need to say to everyone
  • It is not the Gospel + this superstitious prayer that you need to make everyone pray.
  • It is the Gospel only that they head out with.
  • This required for the disciples to have a full commitment to total dependence upon God for food and shelter.
  • And that is what God wants us to rely on as well.  Only Him.

The Imprisonment & Death of John the Baptist (14-29) 3rd Reason for going into the wilderness.

–         Comparison of John the Baptist and Jesus

  • Both had miraculous births (one a virgin and the other barren)
  • Both had Angels appear to their parents.
  • Both preached a message of repentance
  • And now both with have a passion story in the Gospel according to Mark.
  • The purpose of this passage is to point us forward to the suffering and death of Jesus.
    • Similarities
      • Both innocent
      • Both because of adulterous women
        • With Elijah’s suffering was because of Jezebel
        • Proverbs also warns us to be aware of the adulterous woman.
        • With John the Baptist’s suffering was because of Herodias
        • With Jesus’ suffering was because of the nation of Israel.

The Provision of Rest & Bread in the Wilderness (30-44) The reason for why they had to go to the wilderness.

–         The transformation of the desert into a place of refreshment and life through the power of God is an aspect of the wilderness tradition which is prominent in the prophets.  By divine intervention the land of curse will become fat pastures where the sheep will be gathered and fed by the true shepherd.

–         Why must we go through the Wilderness?

  • Illustration of skipping rocks.

–         This is extremely good news for us because we all will find ourselves in the wilderness wanting rest and food, and Jesus is showing to us that the wilderness is already being changed into the land of fertility and rest.  God will use all our sufferings not only for our good, but more importantly His glory.

–         The God who gave manna in the wilderness and who made startling provision for his servants Elijah and Elisha now gives to the people their daily bread, and promises to do the same for you as well, as you go into the wilderness.

–         Here is more good news.  Jesus does not just make the most of the situation, and gives everyone a little; on the contrary, everyone is fully satisfied.  Jesus tells them that if you hunger after me, the true bread of life, then you will never be hungry again, that he will satisfy you.

–         Eat only of physical bread and you will be hungry again, but eat of the spiritual bread of God’s Word and you will be satisfied.

Lord of the Sea (45-52) The Storm

–         Why would Jesus withdraw from people wanting to follow Him?

  • They were wanting to follow him for the wrong reasons.
  • Jesus refused to be the warrior-messiah of popular expectations.

–         Who sends them into the storm?

  • Jesus knew a storm was coming
  • Jesus knows they did not get the message about the feeding of the 5k
    • So he sends them into the storm.
      • So now the question is: Is it more loving for Jesus not to send them into the storm and allow their hearts to stay hardened or is it more loving to allow them to go through the storm in order that their hearts will be softened again?

Conclusion:

–         So why is it such good news to know that Jesus gets in the boat with you?

–         Illustration of a son father in a storm with his son.

Are You Raised in Christ? (Sermon Given on April 14th, 2013)

The audio of this message can be found here: http://sermon.net/FlemingsburgBaptist/sermonid/1200012661The goal of this sermon is not for us just to know what it means to be Raised in Christ or to know what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ, the goal is for all of us to be equipped to lead others to follow Christ and to lead others to be Raised in Christ.

The goal is not for us to look at some truths in Colossians 3 verses 1 through 4 so that we can walk away and say I am glad that I learned that. The goal is not for me to tell you a couple of stories and entertain you for a half hour and then we go back to life as normal. The goal is for us to walk away from our time together this morning and be able to teach the truths of the Gospel so at the end of this sermon; the whole church family will be equipped to not just know what it means to be Raised in Christ, but to lead others to be Raised in Christ as well.

And so we are no longer receivers. We are producers. The Word is not stopping with us. It is spreading through us. That it will spread into our work places, our classrooms, our families, and our relationships. The goal is that we would be equipped after our time together. The goal is not for us just to learn the truths. The goal is for us to be able to teach these truths tomorrow as the Gospel spreads through us into this community.

Exegesis: The foundation principle of Christian living (3.1-4)

This fundamental section marks an end to Paul’s warnings of false teachers and is a bridge to his appeals for the Colossians to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord. Chapters 1 and 2 had very little instruction but rather information. From this point on in the letter, however, the majority of the verses are dedicated to instruction on how to live, intermingled with motivations for this behavior. And this is what we find in our passage today. We get two instructions, to seek the things above and to set our minds on the things that are above. And then, we get the motivations on why we should do so in verses 3 and 4. Today we will learn how to adopt a mind-set that reflects our new identity in Christ.

1. Seeking the things above (3.1)

What does Paul mean when he says we have been raised with Christ? Our Baptisms serve as vivid example of what he means by this. When we go under the water is symbolizes death. We are buried, dead to our old life. However, when we come up out of the water we are symbolizing the victory Christ won when He came out of the grave. We too have been raised to a newness of life.

Because we have been raised with Christ, our lives are to be different: we have no life of our own since our life is the life of Christ. So, our interests must be His interests. Therefore, if we are truly followers of Christ, then we will, as the passage says, seek the things that are above. Paul encourages us to live like resurrected new creatures and not like those who belong to the old world.

As we become more like Christ, our desires should become more like Christ’s desires. And what did Christ desire more than anything? To glorify the father, therefore, we too should be finding ourselves living a life that does everything for the glory of the Lord, rather than fulfilling our fleshly desires.

We must mind the concerns of another world more than the concerns of this world. There is one guarantee way to waste your life, and that is to spend it on yourself. However, there is one guarantee way to make sure that your life counts, and that is to sacrifice it for the glory of the one true living God, and for the good of others. We know this to be true, not only by our own experiences, but because the Bible says in Mark 8:35 that For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Not only do we know this to be true through scripture and our experiences, but look at our heroes of the faith.

Matthew
Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia , killed by a sword wound.

Mark

Died in Alexandria , Egypt after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

Luke

Was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.

John

Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution In Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death.

John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Island of Patmos ..

He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve As Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

Peter

He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross.

According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die In the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

James

The leader of the church in Jerusalem , was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club.
* This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.

James the Great

Son of Zebedee James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem.

Bartholomew

Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.

Andrew

Was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony.

He continued to preach to his tormentors For two days until he expired.

Thomas

Was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent.

Jude

Was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Matthias

The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

Paul

Was tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire .

We even see this in our modern day heroes.

Adoniram Judson

Gave his life to the people of Burma, he translated the Bible into Burmese, spent 21 months in a brutal prison, and buried 2 wives and more than 5 children.

Bill Wallace

Spent 15 years as a missionary to China before he was brutally murdered as a martyr.

Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint

They were attacked by 10 Indian men that brutally murdered them and sent their bodies a float downstream. There was not funeral, no tombstone for a memorial.

Lottie Moon

Lottie Moon died a God glorifying death at the age of 72 at a frail 50 pounds, refusing to eat her food portion so that it might go to others. She knew that she was dying and saw it as wasteful for her to eat to prolong her ending life when that same food could be given to someone that depended on it for life. On her deathbed, speaking to her friend and fellow missionary worker, Lottie said, Jesus is here right now. You can pray now that He will fill my heart and stay with me. For when Jesus comes in, he drives out all evil. And she died singing, “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.” (Akin, 2008)

Lottie Moon just like many of the other missionaries I mentioned, died without any money, possessions, died without fame, they never saw mass conversions of that like of Billy Graham, they never packed out churches just to hear them speak, they died without a their spouse and children, and died thousands of miles from family.

And I ask you are these lives tragic?

NO, these are the examples that we as Southern Baptist hold up as what it looks like to not waste your life. We as Southern Baptist hold them up and say this is what it looks like to spend your life for Christ, and then we ask, who is next?

Why are they success stories? Well, take the example of Lottie Moon one last time: 20 years after her death, Chinese women in remote villages would ask, “when will the Heavenly Book visitor come again?” Their testimony about her was, “how she loved us.”

And I pray that those that God places in your life will say the same thing about you. That you are a man or woman of God’s Word and you will be known for your love for them.

If these are not tragic lives, then what is?

I tell you what a tragedy is. I will read to you from Reader’s Digest (Feb. 1998, p. 98) what a tragedy is: “Bob and Penny… took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” The American Dream: come to the end of your life – your one and only life – and let the last great work before you give an account to your Creator, be “I collected shells. See my shells.” THAT is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I am pleading with you today, especially the youth: don’t buy it. Do not buy that dream. The American Dream nice house, nice car, nice job, nice family, nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter in your life before you stand before the creator of the universe to give an account with what you did here it is Lord, my shell collection, look Lord at my boat. Do not Waste it. Do not waste your life. (Piper, 2000)

Therefore, instead of seeking ways to meet our fleshly desires we are to be seeking ways to bring glory to God and to seek after things that He delights in. And as a result, we will not only live a life that was not wasted, but we will live a life full of joy, not only here on earth, but for all eternity. Do not waste your life trying to satisfy something that is dying, but invest into the heavenly kingdom that lasts for all eternity. (Henry, 1960)

Therefore, we can summarize verse one by saying, that we should seek the things above by deliberately and daily committing ourselves to the values of the heavenly kingdom and living out of those values.

2. Setting the mind on the things above (3.2)

In this verse, Paul encourages us not only to seek after God, but to Set our minds on Him as well. The main point of this verse is that we are not to have our minds set on earthly things, but of the things of heaven. The false teachers have their minds set on the things of this world. The mind set on the flesh is death, but the true believer will have a mindset on the Spirit and will experience life and peace. Spiritual thoughts are to be characterized by that which is true, honorable, pure, lovely, attractive, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Just like how a compass always points north, our lives should be pointing to Christ. Our entire disposition should point itself toward the things of heaven. Heavenly thoughts can come only by understanding heavenly realities from Scripture. (MacArthur, 2005)

3. The motivations for these actions (3.1a, 3,4)

a. The believer’s union with Christ

– illustration of fruit tree

b. The believer’s death and life hidden with God in Christ (v.3)

We too, just like the people of Colossians need to be reminded that we have died with Christ, been raised with him and have been given new life with Him. He has done all that was necessary. So we are to zealously pursue the things of that new life, centered on the exalted Christ. (O’Brien, 2000)

The main point of this verse is also the main point of the entire passage that we were dead and now we are alive because of Christ; we have no other hope besides Him; He truly is our life. This verse is here to answer the question, Is it truly necessary or even possible to truly seek and think about heavenly things when we still live on earth surrounded by fleshly and worldly desires?

It is necessary because our union with Christ means we no longer belong to the realm of this earth but to the heavenly realm; and it is possible because our union with Christ severs us from the tyranny of the powers of this world and provides us with all the power needed to live a new life. (Moo, 2008)

When Christ died, He died to do two things. First, He died for the penalty of sin. Second, He died to give us power over sin. Jesus Christ died to overcome the penalty of sin and to overcome the power of sin. And so when you trust in Christ and you die with him that means you no longer have to pay the penalty for sin, and the power of sin is no longer in your lives. And not only did you die with Him, but we live in Christ.

However, it is important to point out that no one can rise again with Christ, unless they have first died with Him. And this is the picture Paul is talking about here, Your life is now hidden with Christ in God, and Christ is your life. This is the beauty of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are in Christ.

Jesus is our life now. You heard Paul, he said in verse 3, Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. This rich expression has a threefold meaning. First, believers have a common spiritual life with the Father and Son. Second, the world cannot understand the full import of the believer’s new life. And third, believers are eternally secure, protected from all spiritual enemies, and with access to all God’s blessings. (MacArthur, 2005)

Basically, it means you have life right now in Him. It is not that we are sitting here as a group of people waiting on eternal life, we are experiencing eternal life now. This is what Paul said in Philippians 1:21, For me to live is Christ. My whole life is summed up in who Christ is now. At the same time, the beauty of it is this is not all there is to it. There is coming a day when our life in Christ will be complete, totally complete. Christ is our life now and He is our life forever.

You see here is the deal, yes, we have eternal life right now, but at the same time now, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God. But there is coming a day, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 18, when He will descend from heaven with a trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will be raised, and we will be caught up with Him, and we will go to live with Him forever. Christ is coming back for you and Christ is coming back for me. He is coming back for us as followers of his, and we will live with Him forever.

Jesus Christ frees us from finding our sufficiency in relationships with others. He frees us to find our sufficiency in a relationship with Him. We have entered into the beauty of a relationship with Christ where He is literally our everything. He frees us from the wounds of the past and even the wounds of the future. He is our everything. His is our total sufficiency.

There should be no competition for our love for Jesus. We should love him better than life itself. And you will find that you love others in your life far more when you put them in second place than if you were to get it out of whack and put them in first place and put Jesus second. I often say to Kaley your my number 2, and she knows that is the most loving thing I can say to her, because if I was to put her number 1, then I would be putting on her unrealistic expectation to fulfill my joy. If I put her number 1, she is going to fail me. And I will live a life in constant resentment because I put someone number 1 that continually fails me.

Likewise, anything that you are putting number one is going to fail you too. People will disappoint you, other people change, other people will die, and if you have put them first in your life you are going to find it hard to live after betrayal or loss. Jesus will never betray you and Jesus has already died and risen from the dead so He will never forsake you.

You put him first and you will never be disappointed. Christians will let you down. We are not perfect, but here at this church, we do not worship the church members, we worship the one that is the Lord, Jesus Christ and I point you to him. Likewise, I will let you down and the new pastor will eventually let you down, but remember it is not the pastors you are worshipping it is Jesus Christ and He will never let you down.

This is the beauty of our passage today, Christ makes you whole. Christ makes you whole. It does not seem like it sometimes, but the beauty of Colossians 3 is that Christ makes you whole. (Platt, 2007)

Therefore, Paul suggests, at the present time our heavenly identity is real, but it is hidden. Verse 4 affirms that this will one day change. In the meantime, our true status is veiled; and, though we may not look any different than those around us, Paul’s point in this passage is that we certainly need to behave differently. (Moo, 2008)

c. The believer’s prospect of future manifestation with Christ in glory

Our identification with Christ, now real but hidden, will one day be manifest. Our hope is in the future. We should long for the manifestation that will take place in glory. We long for the receiving of our glorious resurrection bodies. Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Theological Reflection: Justification, Sanctification, Glorification (What Does This Teach Us About God?)

This small passage gives us insight on three great theological doctrines. And that theology is of Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. These terms help us answer the question, are we truly saved?

  1. Justification (v.3) is the past reference to Christ’s perfect and finished work for us.
  2. Sanctification (v.1b-2) is the present ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us as God applies the gospel to our lives and conforms us more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth comes only from Christ, so it is naturally unavoidable on us to focus on the place where He is.
  3. Glorification (v.4) is the future promise of what is going to happen in us when Jesus Christ returns. God will conform us perfectly to His will, and restore us in fellowship with Him, like it was before sin entered into the world. What I most look forward to in Glorification is complete freedom from sin. Not that we just happen to be free from sin, but that we will be so satisfied in the presence of God that we will not want to sin, that we will not even want to want to sin. Sin will literally be unthinkable to us. Sin will ultimately be undesirable to us.

Gospel:

Application: In order to not waste our lives we need to mind the concerns of another world more than the concerns of this world. Heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionally weaken our affection to the other. This is because:

  1. We are dead to present things.
  2. Our true life lies in the other world.
  3. At the second coming of Christ, we hope for the perfection of our happiness.

For too long, churches in our land have been guilty of letting people think they are saved when their lives clearly demonstrate otherwise. Consider carefully that our passage today is not pointing to some super-spiritual Christian. It simply defines what it means to be a Christian. To misunderstand this may be to misunderstand altogether what it means to be a Christian. Setting your heart on things above is not just what those really strong Christians do. Putting lust to death and ridding yourself of slander are not just the extra practices of mature Christians. Displaying compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience is not just the job of especially fruitful Christians. Those qualities are typical of Christians. None of us produces them perfectly. We are all painfully aware of that. But they are typical of us nonetheless. (Dever, 2005)

However, this is not just a modern day problem. Many of the problems dealt with in scripture arise from a failure to apply the Gospel to a certain aspect of life. You see the problem is that we stop too soon with the Gospel, we stop at justification. However, The Gospel is not, “You must be born again!” The significance of the doctrine of personal regeneration in the New Testament is not the main thrust of the evangelist’s message to unbelievers. Paul in this letter is speaking primarily to believers so that they might understand what a radical and life-changing thing faith in Jesus Christ really is.

And that is my prayer for you all today. That you will experience and see that full Gospel in your life as you leave here today. Therefore, Colossians 3 verses 1 through 4 are calling us to restore the Gospel to its rightful place at the center of our thinking and doing. And for some of you it might be for the first time and others, you might be finding that your desire for the Gospel has faded. Today, is the day to cry out to God because only He can bring new life back into us.

Therefore, as we conclude, we are to seek the thing above because our life is now in Christ and He will be revealed on the last day. The greatest incentive for righteous living is the fact that Christ will in fact return and return as Judge of all people. So verses 1 through 4 give the explicit command to do what is logical for us to do – seek completely the ways of Christ not of the earth because He is our life and will be revealed as such one day soon.

References

Akin, Daniel. (2008). Five Who Changed the World. Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dever, Mark. (2005). The Message of the New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Henry, Matthew. (1960). Matthew Henry’s Commentary (L. F. Church, Trans.). Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library.

MacArthur, John. (2005). MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.

Moo, Douglas J. (2008). The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Nottingham, England: Apollos.

O’Brien, Peter. (2000). WBC Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 44). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Piper, John. (2000, May 20). Boasting Only in the Cross [Sermon]. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from Desiring God Web site: http://www.desiringgod.org/​resource-library/​conference-messages/​boasting-only-in-the-cross

Platt, David. (2007, October 28). The Disciples’ Relationships [Sermon]. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from Radical.net Web site: http://www.radical.net/​media/​series/​view/​161/​the-disciples-relationships?filter=book&book=439

Preparing to Suffer Like Christ (1 Peter 4:1-6) Sermon Given at Christian Church 2/20/2013

This week marks the second week of Lent.  Lent is the time of year when we as Christians devote ourselves in prayer and self-control in order to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter.  Lent is not just about giving something up or keeping traditions; Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.  Lent is 40 days because Christ prepared himself for ministry 40 days in the wilderness and we prepare ourselves for 40 days for the great celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead to defeat our sins.

Lent prepares us to celebrate the wonder and promise of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Jesus trampled down sin and death, defeating the Devil (Heb. 2:14-15).  After a season of depravation, highlighting the grim reality of our broken creation, Jesus’ resurrection floods our grief with life and light.  In other words, Lent prepares us to join the disciples in their joy and bewilderment on that strange morning long ago (Mt. 28:8; Mk. 16:8; Lk. 24:12).  Our Easter worship is a dress rehearsal for our Lord Jesus’ return when he comes to unite heaven and earth, making all things new (Eph. 1:10; Rev. 21:1-8).

So the question might be asked, why would we intentionally cause ourselves to suffer by giving up something for lent, when sometimes what we are giving up is  something God created for good?  The answers lies in Luke 9:23: And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  See whether or not we celebrate lent is unimportant, but the daily pattern of giving up some things we feel like doing is immensely important for the disciples of Jesus Christ.

You see that the importance of self-control is essential in living the Christian life.  In Galatians 5:23 we see that if you are a true Christian that we will know you by the fruits of the Spirit and one of those fruits is self-control.  In Titus 1:8 we see that if you desire to be a leader in the church that you must be known for your self-control.

In 1 Corinthians 9:25, we see that Paul compares our self-control with that of an athlete.  Every athlete exercises self-control.  Paul had very little trust in the desires his body threw at him daily.  In verse 27, he says that I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

This is normal, daily, Christian warfare.  Only saints delight in the law of God at their depths.  This is because they know that God’s law is not there to be a burden to them but to be a marker for how we are to get the most joy out of life.  It is kind of like the game of baseball.

If there were no rules in baseball, it would be total chaos, with people running around with bats and throwing balls.  However, we have rules to get the most joy out of the game of baseball, just like we have commandments to get the most joy out of life.

Now is this shocking to you all that God uses illustrations of athletes and warriors in his word to us to describe how he wants us to live our lives?  What images come to your mind when you think of what it looks like to be a ChristianDo images of warriors, wrestlers, runners, and boxers cross your mind?  They should because that is the image that God uses in His Word to describe the life of a believer.  We should be preparing to suffer like Christ as a warrior prepares for battle, as a wrestler prepares for a match, as a boxer prepares for a fight, and as a runner prepares for a marathon.

God uses these images in the Bible to describe the life of a believer because He wants to remind us that fulfilling the Great Commission is not a passive effort.  Christianity is not a spectator sport.  It is something in which we become totally involved.  And we know this to be true, we do not become better at basketball by sitting on the sidelines watching the game, we get better by training and participating.

Passivity is one of the main enemies of biblical masculinity and it is most obvious where it is needed most.  It is a pattern of waiting on the sidelines until you are specifically asked to step in.  Even worse than that, it can be a pattern of trying to duck out of responsibilities or to run away from challenges.  Men who think conflict should be avoided, or who refuse to engage with those who would harm the body of Christ or their family, not only model passivity but also fail in their responsibilities as protectors.  If our sinful desires are allowed to run wild, then it will ultimately destroy human lives, not only yours, but also those around you.  (Stinson & Dumas, 2011)

Therefore, let us look at God’s Word to gain insight on how we should use Lent as a tool to help us live a life of self-control.  Our main text for today comes from 1 Peter 4:1-6.  In this passage, we see that since Jesus Christ suffered in the flesh, so will believers.  Therefore, we should prepare ourselves to suffer, for the decision to suffer indicates that we have ceased to let sin have power over us.  Let us use Lent as a tool to do what this passage encourages us to do… to become more like Christ.

(Verse 1) Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

Here in verse 1, we get the main point of the passage.  We are to arm ourselves with the intention to suffer.  The term arm yourselves has military connotations, and is in other passages as well, for example Ephesians 6:11-17.

[11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

This passage is calling us to arm ourselves with the attitude that suffering is unavoidable.  Like soldiers preparing for battle, we believers should prepare ourselves for suffering.  And that is why we study a passage like this and a book like first Peter, in order to prepare you all for suffering.  It would be easy for me to turn to a book like Deuteronomy and give you all the promises that God gives.  However, I want to prepare you for when your life gets hard.

If you have a false theology that believes that if you will have just enough faith or do the right things that God will make you healthy and wealthy then you will fall when hardships come.  I want to prepare you all to be able to not only handle persecution, but to glorify God amidst suffering in persecution in order to fulfill the Great Commission.  Your efforts to bring good news of everlasting life will be met with joy in some and anger with others and I want you all to be prepared for when it comes.  Just like how a solider is prepared.

Again in verse 1 we see that “He who has suffered” refers to believers and relates back to the command to prepare themselves for suffering.  Peter explained why they should prepare themselves to suffer, seeing the commitment to suffer as evidence that they have broken with a life of sin.

The point is not that believers who suffer have attained sinless perfection, as if they do not sin at all after suffering.  What Peter is stressing is that those who commit themselves to suffer, those who willingly endure scorn and mockery for their faith, show that they have won the battle over sin.  They have broken with sin because they have ceased to participate in the lawless activities of unbelievers and endured the criticisms that have come from such a decision.  The commitment to suffer reveals a passion for a new way of life, a life that is not yet perfect but remarkably different from the lives of unbelievers in the Greco-Roman world and today living for Christ will also be remarkably different in our culture as well.  (Schreiner, 2003)

However, it is important to point out that God did not call us to spiritual warfare and then dropped us off at the battlefield unequipped.  No, we were already in a spiritual war for our souls and when we repented of our sins and accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord, Savior, and Treasure, he equips us with invincible weapons to subdue the flesh.  These weapons are God’s Word and the Holy Spirit working inside of us.

This is one my main frustrations with my brothers and sisters and Christ, many do not understand the power that has been given to them.  They complain and worry and stress, just like the rest of the world sometimes.  Do you not know that if you are truly a believer that you have the presence of God living inside of you and his Word speaking to you through the Bible?  So if you have an important decision, stop looking for a sign and start looking for a verse.  If you are struggling with temptation, stop trying to defeat it out of your own willpower, and start focusing your affections to the one that is all powerful.  Take courage that the God of all creation, the God of the universe that has created the billions of stars, sends his presence to you and he promises good for you because he Loves you.

And how do we know that he loves us?  Because he sent only son into this world to die for your sins.  While you were still enemies of God, he died for you.  God loves you so much that it looks like he hates his only begotten son.  So if God did the hardest thing to adopt you into his heavenly family, what is a light bill or a deadly disease?

Therefore, in this passage we see that although we will still sin after becoming a Christian, we are longer controlled by them, the battle has been won.  Jesus Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin.  Therefore persecution for being a believer is a sign that you have broken free from our flesh and what the world desires and have full confidence in Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

(Verse 2) so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

In verse 2, we see that Christians should arm themselves with the intention to suffer, so that they live the remainder of their lives in carrying out God’s will instead of fulfilling the human lusts that dominated their lives before conversion.  Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to help satisfy your already given desires, but to give you new ones.  Jesus did not come to be useful in the fulfillment of your desires, but to change your desires into God glorifying ones.  Believers are summoned to suffer in the sense that they are called to do God’s will and to turn away from a life of sin.

In other words, choose suffering for righteousness because if you do not, you will choose sin.  But if you do choose suffering, you will prove that your bondage to sin has been broken.  When you suffer for what is right, it is a sign that you have renounced sinful human desires and embraced the will of God as a higher value. (Piper, 1994)

To overcome the desires of flesh we must fight fire with fire.  We fight fire with fire by replacing one passionate desire with another one.  Therefore, when we feel temptation coming then we quickly turn towards our burning passion to display God’s glory and to relish in his eternal worth and satisfaction.  We do this by not just preferring righteousness, but pursuing it.  John Owen confirmed this when he said, “be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

The imagery of fire is appropriate here because we know that fire contained in a fireplace or a fire pit can be both beautiful and serve a function.  However, when fire is not contained it can wreck and destroy anything in its path as we see every year with forest fires out west.

ILLUSTRATION OF FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE

Fight Fire with Fire!  Conquer your physical addictions with spiritual addictions.  No other way will bear long-term fruit.  Drive the demon of gluttony out the front door and seven more will come in the back, unless you fill your house with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was full from the start and no demon ever had a toehold in his marvelous life of discipline.  (Piper, 1984)

We live out this verse by demonstrating to everyone that we are no longer slaves to our fleshly desires, but slaves to the almighty God.  We will all be slaves to something, we will either be slaves to our flesh, that leaves us craving for more, or we will be slaves to God, who promises to fulfill us when we hunger and thirst after him.  I encourage you to submit to the good master, rather than the one that tries to get as much as possible out of you.

For an extreme example take a drug addict, what happens when you become a slave to drugs?  You want more drugs.  And then you build a tolerance and have to take even more drugs to get the same high that got you addicted in the first place.  Drugs promise to make you feel better, but what they actually do is wage war against your body demanding more and more from you, until your body finally collapses.

On the other hand, what does Christ promise for those that seek after Him in Matthew 5 verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Jesus promises that instead of being an empty hole like sin, that we will be satisfied.  In other words, the more we hunger and thirst for the true living God, the more satisfied we will become.  So Why would God make us satisfied instead of wanting us to seek more and more after him like a drug?  Because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

(Verse 3) For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

In verse 3, we see a list of what it will look like for you to be serving your flesh rather than God.  We also see that your past sinning is enough.  So whether you are a 8 year old child and have very little to repent of or more likely a 50,60,70 year old that has had decades of sinning to repent of, your past sinning is enough, you can stop now.  Let this be the moment that you are set free from the bondage of sin.

(Verse 4) With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

And that same list in verse 3 is also a list of the darkness that will try to persecute you.  In verse 4, we see that those people that practice these things will insult you.  They will try to make you look like a fool.  Of course our unsaved neighbors will not understand why we abandon the seemingly fun sins that they still commit, but one day they will be judged for them.  They will not understand that we have been given new passions.

ILLUSTRATION OF WHY THE WORLD WONT UNDERSTAND

That we no longer settle for the short-term pleasures of the flesh, but long for the eternal joy that comes from being a follower of Christ.  It is better to embrace suffering like Jesus did, if it is God’s will, than to choose to go back to sin just because your friends mock you.

(Verse 5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

In verse 5, we see that the main point of this verse is that believers should not succumb to the temptation to renounce their faith so they can enjoy the praise of society.  Such approval is short-lived, and those who mistreat believers now will be judged in the future.

See our enemies are not the only ones that will be judged though.  We all will be judged.  I like to look at it like this: It is like being in a courtroom and you are on trial and you know that you are guilty and you know that you are before a just and holy judge.  Satan the prosecutor gets up and rips you telling the judge all that you have done wrong in your life and accuses you of even the good that you have done was out of the wrong motivations.  You are at your lowest because you know that you are guilty because Romans 3 tells us that there is no one righteous, not one.  All looks dark for you.

But then, Jesus stands up on your behalf and he doesn’t say a word.  He approaches the seat of the Holy judge and reaches out his two nail pierced hands and points to the hole in his side and the crown of thorns.  And the judge rules INNOCENT, not because he is unjust, not because you deserve it, but because the punishment has been paid for.

Now here is the good news.  God the holy and just judge is not mad that he had to let you off, he is not like well I have to because the penalty is paid for.  No, he is the one that provided a way for you to be able to come to him and have fellowship with him because he loves you.  We could have never had come to the father unless he had prepared a way for us to be able to stand blameless in front of him.

(Verse 6) For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The point of verse 6 is to encourage us that even though there is a judgment coming beyond the grave, and even though all of us die, nevertheless those who hear and believe the Gospel will live in the spirit according to the will of God.

So why would anyone persecute of insult someone that is trying to do good?  There are different reasons, a few of the main ones is because darkness hates light.  Someone that is in darkness hates when light is brought in because it reveals what they are doing is wrong.

Another reason is because misery enjoys company.  They would rather pressure you into doing wrong with them because it makes them feel less convicted.  And the final reason is because living a Christian life will call you to live a different life that is counter cultural.  And because you are different, people will look at you with a great deal of suspicion.

One of the reasons that Peter was writing this letter was to encourage believers that were being mocked by Romans.  These non-believers were saying, “Ha, you say that you have such good news.  You say that you escape judgment.  You say your God is great and saves you and gives you joy.  Well, all we have got to say is: you are missing a lot of parties and you die like everybody else.  So if you die and go to the worms, and we die and go to the worms, we say, Eat, Drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

Did the Romans have a point?  Do people today say or at least act the same way?  However, we know that the Gospel was not preached to dead Christians in vain.  The reason the Gospel was preached to those who have died is so that even though it looks like they have been judged like everybody else, they have not.  They are alive in the spirit.  They are with the Lord.  And the sufferings that they experienced here are not worthy to be compared to the glory that has been revealed to them. (Piper, 1994)

Therefore, we can summarize this passage into 5 pieces:

1. Verse 1: Christ, the one we love and follow suffered.

2. Verses 2: When we suffer, we make a clean break with sin.

3. Verses 3-4: Any amount of past sinning is sufficient.  It is enough.

4. Verse 5: Our enemies will be brought to justice.

5. Verse 6: We who embrace the Gospel will triumph over death.

So in closing, Why does the Bible encourage us to be self-controlled as athletes and warriorsSimple: Greater Joy.  Every athlete exercises self-control to win a prize, every solider exercises self-control to win the battle, we Christians exercise self-control to get not only the most joy out of this life, but the next.  Therefore, let us use this season of Lent to make ourselves more disciplined for the glory of the Lord and to heighten our joy for Easter.

Be Aware, Be Training, Be the Example (1 Timothy 4)

Our passage for today is 1 Timothy chapter 4. In this passage, we see that Paul is writing to his beloved disciple Timothy encouraging him in his ministry. Paul gives Timothy 3 instructions in this passage: Be aware, Be in training, and to Be the example.

In the first section, we see that Paul instructs Timothy To Be Aware. Paul gives a warning concerning the false teachers in verses 1-5.

[1] Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, [2] through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, [3] who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. [4] For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, [5] for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Be Aware: If you go downtown in a bad area during bad time of night you are aware of your surroundings. You are aware of blind corners, you are aware of dark alleys, you are aware of everything other people on the streets might be doing. You have a heightened since of awareness, why?, because the potential for danger is greater.

This is what we see Paul is trying to get us to understand. Paul wants us to be aware of false teachers because of the danger that comes from being fooled by poor doctrines. Paul wants us to be aware because the potential for danger is greater.

Here we see that Paul gives us a description of how to spot false teachers. This is important today because not only do we have to check ourselves to make sure that what we are teaching is doctrinally sound, but we also have to watch what others under us are teaching.

See the problem is that it is easy to trust a pastor, to trust what he is saying is true. But we need to be studying the Bible for ourselves and making sure that what is being taught to us matches what we are reading in the Bible.

This is important because doctrines and theology matter. They are not just something pastors study in school or something that super-Christians get excited about. It is for everyone. Everyone is a theologian; just some are not very good ones. And theology matters because it leads to actions. A good theology will lead to right actions, and a poor theology will lead to poor actions. Theology doesn’t stay in theology books, what you believe about God comes out in every aspect of everyday life.

Paul had no patience for false teaching and no soft words for false teachers. He never said that the false teachers just misunderstood the gospel or that they simply taught in error. Rather, Paul knows that false teaching comes from Satan himself through his deceitful spirits.

We know this to be true because there are only two kinds of spirits, the work of the Holy Spirit, who is God therefore, cannot lie, or the work of the evil one who is the father of all lies. False teaching is one of Satan’s many tactics to lead believers astray and to divide the church. Satan’s influence leads people to stray from God. Satan does not create evil things. He is not a creator. He takes good things that God made and distorts and perverts them.

Teachers who resisted the Holy Spirit’s conviction and rejected his control became tools of Satan and promoted the wrong doctrines. Paul wrote to the believers in this church in Ephesus: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Paul gives a clear picture of what a false teacher looks like and instructs us to teach the truth, so that our congregation will not be as vulnerable to being lead astray

Therefore, this first section teaches us that we are to be aware that there are false teachers out there and that we should be seeking to protect our church, our Sunday school class, and our family from those that teach any Gospel other than that of Jesus Christ.

We are to be Aware that there are false teachers out there teaching false doctrines that could harm not only us, but those that we love around us.

This leads us to our next section where Paul instructs Timothy of his personal responsibilities. Not only does Paul instruct Timothy to Be Aware of false teachers, but also instructs Timothy to Be Training in Godliness in verses 6-10.

[6] If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. [7] Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; [8 ] for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [9] The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. [10] For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:6-10 ESV)

Here Paul tells us that in order to make sure that we do not fall into false teaching that we need to be trained in scripture and in sound doctrine. That way when false teachers arise presenting their irreverent silly myths, we will have been trained in the truth. John Flavel gives us insight on the importance of not entertaining irreverent silly myths when he wrote, “By entertaining of strange persons, men sometimes entertained angels unaware; but by entertaining of strange doctrines, many have entertained devils unaware.” We will have more success resisting evil by keeping as far from it and as close to Christ as possible.

Illustration: For example, those who are trained to spot counterfeit money do not study the millions of different kinds of fake money, no they study intently the real thing. Because by studying the real thing intently, then they will be able to recognize a fake quickly. Same thing applies to us. We do not study the millions of false gods in this world, but study the one and only true God. As we grow in Christ, we will be less likely to fall under the temptations of false teachers.

The second part of this passage puts an importance on training. “Trying to live the Christian life implies and leads to failure; training to live the Christian life puts even failures to good use.” (Neil Wilson) Training emphasizes the point that spiritual development does not happen by accident. An athlete is focused and committed, constantly training, refusing to let up, always striving. Believers must have the same focus and commitment, refusing to be sidetracked by wrong teaching.

Illustration: Now being a former wrestler the language such as train, toil, and strive, jumps out at me. When I trained for wrestling it consumed me, training for wrestling affects every aspect of your life. It changed the way I ate food. I no longer ate food for pleasure, but for energy and food that was bad, was not even a temptation because I knew the consequences of eating them. It changed the way I slept. I no longer could stay up late playing video games because I needed to have my rest for practice. I could no longer sleep in because I had to fit a full day of training and classes into my schedule. I could never miss a workout just because I did not feel good or because I was swamped with school. Wrestling consumed my time, energy, and my thoughts.

However, in wrestling all that training was for 7 minutes on the mat. How much more important is it that we have the same discipline and dedication to do the things that are eternal. Another reason why training in Godliness is infinitely more important than training for wrestling or any other bodily training is that after March, I could eat, sleep, and eat some more until next October. However, as can be observed in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in preaching God’s word there is no offseason.

Keeping with the theme of training, if an athlete is constantly training and does not get the proper nourishment, his body will fail him. Likewise, proper spiritual nourishment promotes spiritual growth. Proper nourishment for Timothy included constant meditation on the words of faith and sound doctrine.

We see in verse 10 that it is important to labor for the purity and preservation of the gospel. Because worldwide evangelization is essential and is rooted in God’s own evangelistic desire, we have a guarantee that our toiling and striving will not go wasted.

Now in the first part of this passage, Paul tells Timothy to be aware that false teachers are out there. In this second part, we see that Paul tells Timothy to be in training. To be training in godliness.

Now in the last section of this passage Paul instructs Timothy of his pastoral responsibility. Timothy is To Be the Example. We see this in verses 11-16.

[11] Command and teach these things. [12] Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [13] Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. [14] Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. [15] Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. [16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV)

Youth are often looked down on because of attitudes and behaviors that are annoying or immature. Some of the things people often associate with youth are disrespect, rebellion, self-absorption, conformity to peer pressure, indifference to serious issues, and a fixation on fun as the only thing that satisfies. If these are pronounced, people can even despise youth. Paul implies that in saying, “Let no one despise your youth.”

Paul says, the way I want youth to pursue not being despised is to look to God’s standards of love and faith and purity. In that way, even young people can become examples to older people. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

The point is not: Find out what older people want and give it to them so they do not despise you. The point is: Find out what kind of words and conduct God wants, and do that. Paul gives love, faith, and purity as examples of what we should do in our words and conduct. Let all your words and actions come from faith in Christ. Let them be loving.

Therefore, Paul’s main point is that Timothy should not have low expectations of the impact of his life toward those who are older. He should look to God, believe in the gospel, do what God calls him to do, and in that way become an example to the rest.

How many of our young people think that way: I am called to set an example for the adults. Of course, adults are supposed to set an example for young people. However, here it is the other way around. That calls for a dramatic shift in mindset for most adults and youth today: I frequently encourage our youth to not settle for the low cultural expectations for youth. Set high ones.

And to the Youth this morning I want to say to you that you can become examples for adults. Think that way. Dream that way. Let us stop wasting our time and energy on things that keep us from growing in Godliness, just because we can meet the low expectations that are given to us. Let us not waste our ministry waiting until the time we graduate, or until we have our own family.

I like to think of it like this. When I was coaching wrestling in Louisville, I had a wrestler that went to college to wrestle. When he would come back during the holiday breaks to workout with us, all of the high school wrestlers would be amazed by how good he was. While he was showing them some moves and giving them advice, I overheard one of them say well you can do that because you are in college. I interrupted and said, so your telling me that when he stepped foot on a college campus he all of sudden became a good wrestler? I said of course not, it was because he did the right things while he was in high school, is the reason why he got to go to college to wrestle.

The point I am trying to make here is that I am afraid that many of us are wasting our time in school treading water until we receive our diplomas and enter into our grown up roles at the church. Some of us think that it will all change soon as we get our diploma or until we have our own family. It is like saying soon as we step into our roles that we will instantly turn into a John Piper, or a John Macarthur, or some other pastor that has dedicated their life to studying God’s Word.

However, I encourage you all to not waste your remaining time. Do not wait until you move to your place of service to share the gospel with your neighbors, do not wait until you have your wife and kids, and Do not wait until you are older to become the person you are called to be right now.

This is critical because if we take Paul’s instructions to Timothy to be aware of false teachers, to be training in Godliness, and to be the example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity; we will save not only ourselves, but also our hearers.

Now as we close, you might be thinking, all this talk about discipline sounds a lot like legalism. And you might be saying Joey you have already spoke to us against legalism so are you contradicting yourself? The answer is no. There is a difference between legalism and discipline. Legalism is self-centered, but discipline is God-centered. The legalistic heart says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God.” The disciplined heart says, “I will do this thing because I love God and want to please Him.” Paul knew the difference well, and he never gave an inch to legalists, even while challenging Christians to train yourself for godliness.

What is so important to note here is that train yourself for godliness in its context primarily refers to training ourselves in and by the scriptures for the purpose of godliness. Our diet is to be the scriptures, and we are to exercise ourselves in them. We will become godly only through the most godly book ever written – God’s own Word.

Therefore, Run until your feet are like lead, and then choose to sprint. Pump iron until your muscles burn, until another rep is impossible, then do more anyways… For the purpose of godliness.

A Call to Plan. Sermon Given 1/6/2013


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What I would like to do here is to try to persuade you to set aside time each week in the coming year to plan—and specifically to plan your life of prayer and devotion and ministry.

That’s right I said your ministry.  We all are called into the ministry.  When Jesus told us to go and make disciples.  He meant everyone.  There are people in your life that BJ & I will never be able to reach for Christ, but God has placed them in your life for a reason.  For you to be a witness to them.

The same Holy Spirit that works inside of pastors also works in you and the same Bible that we preach to you is available to you.  The Gospel that we preach to you is the same Gospel that you will share with others.

We Pastors might be able to define the Gospel a little clearer, but we will never be able to preach a better Gospel than the same one you received from Jesus Christ.  The bulldozer of God’s Spirit often arrives at the scene of our heart ready to begin some great work of building, and he finds that due to poor planning there are piles of disordered things in his way.  I am afraid that one of the reasons why this community is 85% unreached is because Christians have failed to plan.  I believe that the Spirit of God wants to move on this place, but We are not ready for Him.

The way I hope to motivate you to do this is to give four examples of planning in the Bible.  First, some illustrations from the Proverbs; second, the planning of the apostle Paul; third, the planning of God; and fourth, the planning of Jesus.

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In other words, we see that not all goals are equal.  It is not good enough to have goals, but that those goals help you get more joy out of your relationship with God so that you in return will be able to glorify Him more.

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What makes this especially significant is that as far as we know the plan fell through.  He was arrested in Jerusalem.  He went to Rome as a prisoner and probably never got to Spain. It’s just like we saw in the Proverbs.  God is the one who finally makes the future.  But we plan nevertheless.  God uses our planning even if he aborts it.

For example, if Paul had not planned to use Rome as a base of operations for a trip to Spain, he probably never would have written the greatest letter the world has ever known—the letter to the Romans. Planning is crucial in Christian living and Christian ministry—even when God overrules our planning.

And we all probably have similar examples, when I was planning on becoming a physical therapist, God still used that degree to get me into seminary.  When we had planned on getting done with seminary as fast as possible and returning home to Knoxville.  But God used my planning and preparation to fill a position in Flemingsburg at just the right time.

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The ultimate reason for planning is that God is a God who plans and we are created in his image to exercise dominion in the earth under his lordship.

I do not think it is even possible to conceive a God who does not act according to his own eternal planning—that is, a God who has knee jerk responses to circumstances rather than deliberate actions that fit into a wise purpose.

When Adam failed in the garden, it did not catch God by surprise.  Jesus entering this world to die for our sins was not plan B.  When the Romans lifted His Son on the Cross, it was not God just trying to make the most of a bad decision.  No, from the beginning of time, God prepared a way for you to be able to come to Him and be forgiven of your sins, because he loves you.  He loves you so much, that it looks like he hates his one and begotten Son by comparison.

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Make Planning a Regular Part of Your Life

But it won’t work just to plan something tonight or tomorrow.  Planning must be a regular part of your life.  When I make my goals for the year I fold them and place them in the book that I am reading that way, I am able to look frequently at my goals to see if I am accomplishing what I had set out to accomplish for the year.  If you only look at your goals once then you will most likely never achieve them unless you are setting the bar too low.

So my plea to you is that you set aside time each week to plan, especially to plan your life of prayer and Bible study.  For example, since Sunday is the first day of the week (not the last day of the weekend!) and belongs to the Lord, take ten or fifteen minutes each Sunday and think through when you will pray and what you will study that week.  Give some thought how God might want to use you that week in a special way.  Plan the emails you need to write, the Bible verses you want to memorize, the visit you want to make, the book you want to read, the neighbor you want to talk to, etc.

The Proverbs teach us to plan.  The greatest missionary who ever lived was a planner.  God is a God who does all things according to plan.  And Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem because of the most loving plan ever devised.

He planned for our joy; we ought to plan for his glory.

Now as we plan for our time of invitation, I want to be clear.  My message this evening is not try harder by your own will power to be a better person in 2013, but to put yourself in position to be used mightily and supernaturally by God this year.  God promises that our work for Him will not go in Vain; it might not go as we planned, but it will go for His glory and our good.

Outline of Sermon Given on 12/16/12 (Matthew 5-7)

Capture Capture CaptureCapture

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Salt and Light
[13] “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
[14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
[17] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. [18] For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [19] Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

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Anger
[21] “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26] Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Lust
[27] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Divorce
[31] “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ [32] But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths
[33] “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ [34] But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, [35] or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. [36] And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. [37] Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Retaliation
[38] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ [39] But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [41] And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
[43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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Giving to the Needy
[6:1] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
[2] “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Lord’s Prayer
[5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
[7] “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [9] Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
[10] Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
[11] Give us this day our daily bread,
[12] and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
[13] And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
[14] For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, [15] but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Fasting
[16] “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
[19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
[22] “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, [23] but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
[24] “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do Not Be Anxious
[25] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
[34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

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Judging Others
[7:1] “Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
(Matthew 7:1-2; Matthew 7:3-11 ESV) [3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
[6] “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Ask, and It Will Be Given
[7] “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [8] For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. [9] Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? [10] Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? [11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

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The Golden Rule
[12] “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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[13] “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

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A Tree and Its Fruit
[15] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? [17] So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. [18] A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
I Never Knew You
[21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

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Build Your House on the Rock
[24] “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. [25] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. [26] And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. [27] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

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