Full of Grace and Truth
Observation of John 1:14
Word became flesh and dwelt among us
-Word- Jn 1:1 = this is describing God, Jesus
-Jesus entered earth as a person, “tented”
-Jesus “tented” or habited with us.
-Every true Christian believes this!
-churches that deny that Jesus is God are not churches
We observed his glory
-We- John 1:12 those who believed in Jesus, didn’t reject him
-the ones God gave the right to become his “children”
-the ones who were spiritually “born” – new life
-observed his glory-manifestation of God’s presence and power
The glory as the one and only Son from the father
-Jesus is the one and only “God with us” person to exist
-there are no other representatives of God’s power/presence
-We CANNOT say God and Buddha, or God and Caesar
-Christians died before denying their full allegiance to Jesus
-Syncretism is not an option- the Bible declares all other
religions to be false, created by humans rebelling from God
Full of grace and truth
-full of: Jesus/the Word/God is full of both grace and truth
-fully grace AND fully truth
-grace- charis- unconditional mercy, favor
-God’s dealing with us in undeserved ways
-an outflow of God’s goodness and generosity
-compares to Hebrew (c)hesed
-lovingkindness, gracious mercy
-truth- altheia- that which is reality
-Hebrew emet- aithfulness, steadfastness, consistency
“Or” is not an option!
Grace without truth destroys intimacy
-acceptance without absolutes = confusion and denial
-zero truth boundaries leads to a life of chaos
-absolute freedom invites slavery to our flesh and feelings
-1 Peter 4:3
-Relationships built on grace alone have unhealthy boundaries,
raise soft & rebellious children, permits abuse in marriage,
eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we
refuse to identify what we need or how someone hurts us
Truth without grace destroys authenticity
-Fear of rejection leads us to hide, refuse to confess faults
-leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety
-God’s Word (the Law) is designed to reveal our sin
(Romans 3:19-20) and remind us we deserve God’s
condemnation (Romans 4:15)
-Relationships built on truth alone forces us to
-we perform/pretend (no one is perfect!)
-or we fully rebel (give up trying and resort to fatalism)
Jesus offers grace AND truth
Grace: Come as you are!
-Matthew 11:28 Come all who are weary…
-Luke 15:20 Jesus welcomes the child who rejected him!
-Jesus receives us before we change: Zacchaeus, Matthew
-Christians love outsiders MORE because of Jesus
-no lifestyle, attitude, rebellious tendency should stop us
-Christian marriages receive like Jesus received them
Truth: Leave Changed!
-John 8:32 the truth sets us free!
-we must face our guilt before we ask forgiveness!
-John 4 Woman at the well- Jesus revealed her sinful lifestyle
(truth) after he accepted her (grace), which led her to abandon
false religion, trust in Jesus, and lead her city to find Jesus
In the book of John - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the fourth book in the New Testament, I always say, if you take your Bible and you cut it, don't cut it in half, you open it in half, you're generally often in the Psalms. And then if you take the other half and you cut it in half or open it in half, you are in the New Testament, usually around Matthew, Mark, or Luke. If you're in Malachi, you can read that as well if you want. But go forward, go to the right a little bit, and you hit Matthew, Mark, Luke, and then John this morning. John 1:14, Full of grace and Truth. That's my message title this morning, and we're going to talk about the idea that grace and truth must work together in our lives.
I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy eating the individual ingredients of a cake. I'm not really into vegetable oil by itself. Even olive oil, still kind of weird if you substitute things like that or lard, some of you - big old scoop of lard. Maybe some people, most people, not. I'd like to eat two cups of flour. Now, have you ever tried to eat flour on its own? I've had some stories of my children going to my mother-in-law's house. They thought that the statue of limitation had run out, and they were explaining to me how they destroyed her kitchen. And they actually dared each other to eat flour. And they did. How'd that go? It’s disgusting. Flour needs to be mixed with something to be tasty. Oil, flour, eggs - we don't eat these ingredients by themselves. We put them together for a tasty dessert.
Now, every illustration on the earth breaks down when you're talking about spiritual things because there's a stark contrast between the two. Living the Christian life is far different than eating cake. It's not a cake walk. I didn't even try that out last service. I don't know. Stick to the notes, Greg, sticks to the notes. You see, grace alone, if we were to just live by grace alone or we just let anything go, we just love people and don't ever seek the truth about what we ought to do and how we ought to live; grace alone leads to abused freedom. And it actually leads us to be continually enslaved to the very things that God wants to change us from. And it actually enslaves us to lifestyles that are disruptive and abusive in relationships, be it a marriage, the most intimate one you can think of on earth, relationships between parents and children, and obviously relationships between friends. But truth alone leads to abusive authority and shame and pretending.
We're going to unpack these as we go, but just think about it, that if you have somebody that has this high expectation of you with no room for forgiveness or grace, and they think that they have the best way of telling you how to live your life, they will abuse that truth and beat you to death with it; emotionally, spiritually, and sadly in horrible, difficult relationships physically. Truth without grace leads to abuse of authority, shame. In other words, I can't ever get out of the guilt that I have because there's no pathway for reconciliation for forgiveness. You see, grace plus truth equals acceptance, intimacy, and reconciliation. I'll share that as we move forward. But grace and truth put together brings in our lives, acceptance, intimacy, and full reconciliation.
John is writing about this man called Jesus who walked the earth, died in rose again. Many years later he's writing an account of the history of Jesus, the story of Jesus, the reality of Jesus. He doesn't start with Jesus in the manger. He starts with Jesus as the preexistent God. He is God. He is fully God. And the word became flesh and made us dwelling among us, we're going to see here in just a moment. But in the beginning of his gospel, he says in chapter one, verse one, in the beginning was the word - in the beginning, like before anything ever began, Jesus always has been the word being God, the word representing Jesus Christ. And the word was with God, and the word was God. Some cults who say they are followers of Jesus, followers of God falsely put in there a little word called "a" He was a God, and they changed the word God to little "G" god. And that is absolutely does complete violence to the original language of the Greek New Testament. And it is actually meant in order to purport a very false belief about Jesus Christ.
And so, John is writing to us to explain to us who Jesus is as the beginning. And so when we see in our verse the word, it means Jesus. And by the way, John says later in his gospel, "I'm writing these things that you might know Jesus, who He is, and that by believing on Him, you might have life in His name." His whole purpose of his gospel was that people would find Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And indeed, if we were to walk away from this service and everybody had a nice little message about history and nice little message about linguistics, and they say, "Well, pastor really studied up this week. He knows what he is talking about. Or he went way longer, which means he didn't study enough to get rid of the stuff he shouldn't have talked about," that if we just had a nice little time, and you learned and made thought the jokes were funny, and that's all you thought about, then I have failed miserably because I desire and I pray, and we do all of what we do up here. We have our baptism time - all that we do together as a body of Christ is meant to bring people towards Christ and for people who are in Christ, to keep living in Christ and walking and growing in their faith in Christ.
So I pray that this morning you might, wherever you might be on that spectrum of, here it is, I'm a follower Jesus, or I'm close to following Jesus, or I'm already following Jesus. Wherever you are on that scale this morning, that you would find yourself taking one more step towards Jesus Christ. And I would pray that anyone who is not following Jesus, that they would put this step into following Jesus this morning because eternity is too long for you to be wrong, and you never know how much time we have left to make that decision.
So let's look at John 1:14. Let me read it, break it down. And then at the end, we're actually going to camp out on the last phrase, "Full of grace and truth." But let's break down this passage so that we can see it in context. In verse 14, it says, "The word became flesh and dwell among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father, full of grace and truth." What are we saying here? What is John saying? What did the Holy Spirit inspire John to tell us this morning? First of all, the word we already established that is Jesus Christ. It became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus entered earth as a person and as some translators talk about, He tented with us. He pitched a tent and hung out with us. He habited with us. He became part of, He dwelt, we're in dwelling places, our homes, right? He wants to make his home in us. He made his home with us, born of a virgin, came in into this earth and grew. And it said that they were impressed by how well He continued to grow in His walk, in His maturity, in His stature. Jesus tented with us. And every true Christian believes this. And every true church believes this. There are people, there are certain organizations that call themselves a church, but they deny the fact that Jesus is God. He was just a representation but he's not God. And they'll even have Easter pageants, they'll even do all kinds of grand things that look very Christian, but they deny that Jesus is God, which makes them not a church, even if they say so.
And we have to be careful that we don't slip into a religiosity of the culture that just allows anything to go, anything to go, "Well, I'm a Christian. Well, I'm a Christian." No, a Christian believes that Jesus is the word, become flesh, fully God and fully man. And it says, "We observed His glory." We? Who are we that John is talking about? Well, verse 12, go up there a little bit further, up before that verse that we're looking at today. And it says, "But to all who did receive Him," there were some that rejected Jesus. But the ones who didn't reject Jesus, 'the ones who received Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of natural dis descent or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God."
Those who believe in Jesus, that's the ones. We beheld His glory. We're the ones that see Jesus, the ones that didn't reject Him, the ones who he gave the right to become his children; the ones who they were spiritually born. And interesting, John could have said all kinds of things here, he's making a point in his entire gospel that later on, he is the one that would include the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus in the night when he'd say, "What do I need to do about this? What must I do to be saved, in his own ways of saying it. And Jesus said, "You must be born again." And he talks about the idea of being spiritually born, that we not only have a physical birthday into this world, but we have a spiritual birthday. And that's why I say there is... can everybody in this room say I know the day and the time that that happened?
I don't know that everybody in this room can say that. Some can, but the fact is it ought to have happened one way or the other whether we can pinpoint it or not, we need to know that we did put our faith in Jesus Christ. And at that moment, we became born again. And these are the ones who observe his glory, the manifestation of God's presence and power. We be held His glory. What is His glory? His presence and His power. There are people that say, I'm a Christian, but there is no presence of Christ in their life. They don't look like Christ, and there's no power in their lives. They have no interest or desire to change their lives. They want to continue on a lifestyle that is ungodly. They want to continue to live for whatever they want to do. And they don't want to bow themselves to what God says is true or right in their lives; they just want to do their own thing. They want to be a lone ranger.
That person might be completely rebelling against what the Holy Spirit's saying to them. And that person is probably more miserable than an unbeliever. Or that person is an believer who is a cultural Christian, but not a true Christian. They have religion, but they don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who observed His glory have been changed. They've observed His presence. He's living within them. There's movement in their lives spiritually. There's something to be said for who that person is. Now, I'm not here to say I know who that person is in this room, that everyone I can just point it out which one is you or living for him or not. I watched all your Facebooks, your Twitters, your ticks, your stuff, and I've just made a judgment call today. No, I mean, as my head chaplain at the police department says, "I've seen the job assignment for being the judge of the world. I don't want it. I'll let God be God."
I'm just here to say a warning that anyone who thinks they're following Jesus, but there's no power, there's no presence, there's no change; I would say repent and be baptized. Tell the world you're a Christian. Start living for Him. Cross that line from religion into a relationship with Jesus and observe His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father. What else is this verse telling us? That Jesus is the one and only God with us person to have ever and whoever will exist on this earth. This is not a lineage of there was God the Father, and then He had a baby, and it was Jesus, his son. We're talking about a family relationship that is in a sense of a tightness of the same essence, not genealogical history; that Jesus is of the same essence of God and He came as the son of God and He came as the only begotten son of God, right? That's where the one and only son of God in John, again, John 3:16, John is building his case here for the reader to say, this is the one and only example.
Syncretism is not acceptable for the Christian life. It's not God and Buddha. It's not Jesus and Caesar. The Christian faith has always been intimidating to absolute authority on this earth. Why? Because absolute authority wants you to bow to them - cultural authority. We may not have a potentate king or an autocratic or whatever you want to say. We may not have a dictatorship in our country, but there is a cultural code that says you will bow to our gods and you don't tell us your god's more important than ours. And if you don't do that, there will be consequences. And the further we get into that kind of lifestyle thinking in our country, it will be the same as, I mean we know this, our Christian brothers and sisters that are suffering even in this very moment in Meia Mar and in China and in the Middle Eastern countries and different places of the world where they believe their God is God and their whole authority of their government is based upon that God, which is a false God, an evil representation of a God. And any Christian who would say, I'm not bowing to that is excommunicated and at worst, put to death.
You see, this idea that Jesus is the one and only representative and there is no other on this earth. I mean, you can just blow off the guy that's the vegan downtown that looks like Jesus and says he's the incarnate. Okay, just don't have to worry about that guy. You're not laughing. We go to these big conferences, at church Christian conferences and there's always, Jesus is always on the corner. I'm a vegan. And there's nothing wrong with being a vegan. If you're a vegan, God bless you. But it just seems that - I've never seen that. Jesus says I eat red meat, I just haven't seen that.
Again, stick to the script. But people have a Jesus complex. I'm God. And you know that person is safely helped to a mental institution or they're given warm food and a bed for the night somewhere because their families rejected them at this point. That's just crazy. But often, it's usually not that Jesus we're rejecting, it's just that we're trying to look at these other things and say, "Well, I want Jesus and my horoscopes. I want Jesus and my," and Jesus is the one and only. We can't compromise that.
The glory is the one and only son from the Father, and then we get to our phrase, full of grace and truth. Full of - Jesus, the word God. He's full of both grace and truth, fully grace and fully truth. Now, what is grace? Grace is the Greek word charis. The Hebrew "hesed" is in parallel to that in the Old Testament when it was mentioned, hesed said, meaning loving kindness, gracious mercy, unconditional mercy or favor. Basically, God is dealing with us in an undeserved way. It's an outflow of God's goodness and generosity that He wants to receive you and love you come as you are because He's not asking you to do something in order to earn his favor and love. For God's to love the world that he gave us one and only son. It didn't say for God's love the world and when they finally got their act together, He sent His son. They weren't getting their act together, and that's why he sent His son. You didn't get your act together and that's why Jesus came to you, you didn't have to come to Him. Grace!
But then it says He's also full of truth. "Althea," maybe if you say that right in the Greek, that which is reality, that which is true, that which is the reality of this. When we first started our church, we had a phrase, "Real people, real church, real God" had the t-shirts and everything, had it on our banners. Real people, real church, real God. Now, that doesn't mean while just being real, I'm going to be abusive in the way I act. Just being real. No, no. It's just saying, we take people right where they are, please don't pretend; please be who you are. I told somebody when we started our church about three or four years into it, they were talking about an argument they were having in their church about carpet, or I'll use carpet because that's what churches sometimes argue about. And they were arguing about some paint on the wall or something. I says, "We don't argue about that kind of stuff." I said, "First of all, we don't have a building." And all of their conversation was leading me to think I never wanted one. But anyway I'm glad we have this.
But I said our arguments are about like can someone come to worship today with the other person because they really can't stand each other right now and they had a big fight. I mean, they're baby Christians growing in their faith, had nothing to do with theology or the ecclesiology or the church or anything. It just had to do with real people, with real messes and real stuff going on in their lives. And I'll say I don't want all that stuff, but I'll take that far more than I'll take carpet problems, because that's people being real. It's like the guy on the airplane that'll tell you everything about him. You're like, "Wow!" And that happens to me at Aldi's, it happens to me at Kroger, I mean, you just start listening and people tell you everything. The banker starts telling you stuff. I mean, and it's awesome. People are being real.
What do we do? We go to church. How you doing? Fine. How is your week? Pretty good. Don't talk. Don't talk, don't tell. Don't let anybody know we're having problems in our marriage. Don't let anybody know that we're heartbroken over a loved one that's running away from God. We don't want to talk about the fact that I had a nervous breakdown this week because I'm dealing with anxiety. We don't want to talk about that. We think somehow that there's a barrier between the parking lot and here that we have to get rid of all that stuff and suppress it because that's - no. So we talked about being real, real people, real church.
We're going to go there with you. We want to walk in that situation. I want you to walk in my mess. I know you don't want to think I'm a messy person, but I am. I'm still a mess. I'm still being growing in my faith. I still have people say, "Pastor, you shouldn't have done this, are you offending me?" Because I'm a Christian that's growing in my faith, I'm still growing. Now to say I'm just being real, that's not an excuse, I got to mature in my faith. But so do all of us and we all need to come to a church that's willing to deal with our mess and not just pretend that we're a bunch of nice people.
We are a bunch of nice people, but we're growing to be nicer, right? Okay, we want to be real because we have a real God who has standards, but who really takes us right where we are and wants to move us to where we need to go - full of grace and truth because or is not an option, or He is grace or truth. He is truth or grace is not an option. It's not an option with God because God is full of grace and truth. And it's not an option for your relationships with one another. And it's not an option for how you relate to God. You need to receive God fully by His grace, and you need to receive God's truth at the same time. Because grace without truth destroys intimacy.
You can't really talk about the real stuff that's going on when you're just, "Oh, it's okay. Just not worry about it." That's why we spend a large chunk of my time in premarital counsel talking about being real, about what you feel and what you think. You have two people coming together and you could easily have someone dominating over the other person in such a way that that person never expresses how they feel about something. I'm not saying they want to go into, you know what I kind of like the color blue. Maybe one of our rooms could be blue. This is a real benign, easy thing. But if you are 45 years and you never get blue in your marriage, you'll get blue. You'll get sad because you've never been able to express yourself because it's all grace but there's no truth. You're not telling the truth of how you really feel. I'm fine, but you're not. And you're suppressing that and you don't really get to know the person because you don't really care. You know, just keep going. Zero truth boundaries leads to lives of chaos.
Romans 6 tells us, "What then should we send because we are not under the law, but under grace." Absolutely not. We need to have... we're accepted by faith, and the grace saves us. By grace our faith saves us and it's because of His grace that we come to Him unmerited favor. We don't have to earn our way into His presence. But we don't just say, "Well I can do whatever I want now that I'm a Christian." No, no, no, no. What does it say in Colossians 3:5, it says, "Therefore, now that you become a Christian, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Don't let the sins of your life replace the God of your life because they will be your idols. They will be your gods instead of God."
1 Peter 4:3 says, "For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the gentiles or the unbelievers do, (choose to do), carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and lawless idolatry." Verse four, "They are surprised that you don't join them in the same flood of wild living and they slander you." What's going on there? When you become a Christian, your friends that aren't Christians are going to start looking at you and go, "Who do you think you are?" Now, you don't even preach a word to them. You don't even say, "You know, you shouldn't be doing that." You just stop doing some of those things. And what do your friends who don't want to do that do? They start making fun of you? They start brow beating you and they start slandering you and they start calling you names - "You Bible thumper, you preach your boy. Who do you think you are?" "I'm just trying to live for Jesus. Leave me alone." "Oh I'm sorry. Forgive me for that." "Get out of here. Quit asking me to forgive you all the time."
I mean, there's going to be a hostility naturally because they don't... here's two things. There's two people you meet. You meet the Christian who's bashing Christianity because they're rebelling against a holy God and they're living in a backslidden life way away from God. And so, they need friends in their camp so they don't continue to... they want to try to suppress their guilt by helping you join them in what they're doing so they can feel better about their badness. And then there's people that absolutely have no iota of care or guilt and they're just inviting you in because that's how you'd live life. They don't know any better. That's just how it is. And they just think you're a weirdo if you're doing that, and you're like, I'm not a weirdo, a weirdo for Jesus, I guess. And they just don't get it.
Because you're saying, "I'm living by grace." Yes, God's accepted me fully, but that means I'm also on a pathway of moving forward into the truth. Relationships built on grace alone will have unhealthy boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries lead to, oftentimes it's the wife or the girlfriend that will keep forgiving the abusive partner to their death. They just keep throwing grace out there as if there is no truth to the fact that I'm being beat up physically and I need rescued from this dangerous situation. It raises soft and rebellious children. Kids that have no boundaries will have no boundaries in life as they grow up to be adults. It eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we refuse to identify what we really need or how someone has actually hurt us. Grace without truth destroys intimacy, and truth without grace destroys authenticity.
You see how many here's perfect? Wow! Just one person? You and I know that we can't go a day without doing something we shouldn't do and we have to ask forgiveness to God, "God forgive me. I didn't mean to do that." Yeah, you did, you did it. Don't give me, I didn't mean to do that. And sometimes we do things we didn't mean to do, but oftentimes we're pretty good at thinking. Did the devil make you do it? No, I thought of that all by myself. We're pretty creative in doing bad, and we're pretty good at... you know, I always tell people, "I'm just glad my bad is legal because I don't like going to jail and I don't like paying fines, so I just keep my bad under the radar." That ain't right, is it? But it's kind of, you know, oftentimes we want to be a good person doesn't mean that we're perfect.
And when we are not perfect and we live and think that God is only truth and not grace, what happens? We start hiding. We start pretending. We start acting like we're perfect even though we're absolutely not, because there's no pathway for forgiveness if you're just living with a God of judgment and truth. And by the way, some of you might have grown up in a home where it was all about truth and not about grace. And you have a hard time understanding God's love and unconditional favor because you were never given that as a child. You were never graced with a man or a woman who loved you unconditionally and said no matter what you do, no matter how far you go, no matter what happens in your life, I will always love you, I will always take you, I will always accept you and I will always love you; I will never stop loving you.
And if you've never had or experienced that kind of intimate relationship on this earth, it might be hard for you to understand that that's how God accepts you and loves you. And so, if you're just living by a God, that's just the judge, you're trying to run from the judge. You're trying to hide from the cops. You're trying to run away from the reality of who you really are and you will not be authentic in your life. It leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety because you have never had anything to relieve you of the pressure, of the sins and the problems that you're dealing with because you don't think there's a pathway out of it. I've gone too far, I've really blown it this time, no one can accept me now. These are the phrases that are used by someone who believes that it's all about truth and not about grace as well.
You see God's word, the law - later on it says in the passage here that Moses came with the law, Jesus came with grace and truth. In other words, the law was never meant to save us or make us happy. The law was meant to convict us. It shows us that we're condemned if we don't trust in Jesus, if we don't trust in God, if we don't trust in the one true God who gave us the law. And it was really by his grace that He gave us the truth, because the truth lets me know what's right and wrong. It lets me know who God is and how He relates to me. The truth is wonderful, but when we don't live by the truth and we don't; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that truth beats us up. It's a hammer.
In our relationships we start performing and pretending to the other person because we don't want to be caught doing something that would possibly cause them to reject us. Sometimes kids, they'll hide their sin like crazy because they know there's no forgiveness in the home, and they'll absolutely do everything they can to be one person here and another person here; two different persons, split personalities. Some kids even go so far as to have different sets of clothes that they put on their way to school, and then put the clothes their parents want them to wear when they come home, pretending the whole time. Or they get to the point where they're so sick of not living up to the expectations of their parents that they say, "I'll show you," and they rebel completely. They say, "I'll be your worst nightmare. I'm going to end up being what you say you can't stand just to get back at you."
And the hardest part about that is, as you look in on a situation like that and as pastor, as a friend, as a brother in Christ, your heart breaks because you know that they're doing to themselves things that you would never want anybody to do to themselves. And they're living in a life that is enslaved to the very thing that God has come to save them from. Think about this, we want God to accept us right where we are, which means we know we have a portion of our life that if God didn't do that, we're unacceptable. In other words, we want God to accept us right where we are so that we don't live in our shame, which means we do have a sense that there is shame in what we're doing.
But then here's the ironic thing. A person will say, "Well I want God, or I want the world to accept me for who I am or what I'm doing because I'm doing it anyway and I don't care what people think." And yet that same person is saying, "But I don't want to change. What's made me unacceptable over here, I don't want to change that. I want to do whatever I want to do God, but I want you to accept me for whatever I'm doing." But the very fact that you said that means that you know the truth is that you're not doing what God intended or designed for you to do or to be, and you're denying His ability to walk and work in your life so that you can become all that he's intended for you to be. And it's painful to watch.
And I know that I've had mentors and small group leaders that it's probably been painful for them to watch me in that situation. Again, we're all in this together. We're all dealing with this. This message is as important for me as anyone in this room, because Jesus offers grace and truth. Will you trust Him today in both realities? He offers grace, come as you are. There's a church opposite of us; we're on Anthony North, they're on Anthony South, way south by the Highway 27 going out of town, and they're called Come as You are Community Church. I love that. That's a neat name. Maybe we would've been that name, but they were existed before we did so we didn't get it. Come as you are. Didn't Jesus say come all you who are weary and heavy laden. Didn't He the one that said I will give you peace that passes all understanding?
Jesus is the one who told the story of the prodigal son. And you can read Luke 15 later. Luke 15 tells the story of the boy that said I want my inheritance now because I want to do what I want to do, and this father agreed. He says, "You're not dead yet, so I want your money now." And so he took all that money and he squandered it, winding women, debauchery, crazy. And he is living in a pigsty and he's barely able to eat and he's homeless. He says, "You know, if I could, I'm just going to go back and get hired by my dad. He's got a good pension plan. You know, minimum wage. He pays more than minimum wage. I'll get a warm meal and a bed. I'm going back to Dad. I'm not going to go back as a son; I've already blown that story. Man, I am the worst son anybody could ever want. But I'm at least going to go back and ask for a job because getting a job as a servant is far better than being homeless and hungry."
And what does he do? He gets there. And from a far off, Jesus says in the story, from a far off as if his dad had been waiting for him to come home the entire time he was gone. From a far off, he saw him and he ran to him and he embraced him. He says, "Look, my son who has lost is found, let's throw a party. Let's tell the world, here he is, my son, my son. Not my servant, my slave, not my hired hand. No, you get status of being in relationship with me, and God says that's how I am with you. Will you come as you are? Don't come with a cleaned up act. All you got to do is turn around from where you are and from a far off you're going to see God staring at you, looking for you, wanting you, receiving you right where you are.
Christian, I want you to know that that's how we need to be with anybody who's far from God. You see somebody in a lifestyle that is abhorrent to God or one that just makes you go, "Oh I don't like that." You should love them even more because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You know, you can love somebody and accept them without approving them. You can love them without applauding them. You can be compassionate without commending them. Just because you love someone unconditionally, does not mean that you accept right what they're doing. God doesn't accept what you're doing when He receives you. He just accepts you because you're a person and you're worthy of being accepted by His standards, not yours or mine.
And so, which person in our community did Jesus not die for anybody? You got a list. Because I'll avoid that house when I'm talking to him. Anybody have a list? Anybody have a list of what a house looks like that I shouldn't be talking to about Jesus? Anybody? How about any lifestyle out there? Is there anybody in our community that Jesus didn't die for? Anybody? If you got that list for me, I will tear it up because there is no list. The list is full of everyone in this community that does not know Jesus and including everyone in this room that does and all those in this community that do, Jesus died. For God to love the world that He gave us one and only son.
We ought to love more than the average person, someone who is far from God in the way they're living. We are representatives of the Father who are looking from a far off waiting for that person to turn around so we can say I love you, I care about you, you're important, you matter. Jesus offers grace, come as you are, but He also offers truth. Leave changed. That story, another story; you can read John 4, another homework assignment this week. The woman at the well - won't go into all the details, but she's there by herself. She's kind of an outcast, and Jesus starts talking to her; all kinds of things that He violated culturally for him to be in her life at this moment. And He basically starts to share with her the truth of love and trusting and and basically, she's dealing with religion and He's talking about a relationship. And at some point He says, "Can you get your husband now?" How dare he get personal with her? She says, "Well, I don't have a husband." That was true because she'd had three and she was only living with this guy. He wasn't her husband. In other words, she had some relationship issues and we think maybe, possibly that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She hadn't found it in God. She was trying to find it in relationships, and it was failing her miserably.
So Jesus didn't just say, "I'm accepting you right where we are." He pinpointed the very pain in her life. He pinpointed the very place where she was trying to find satisfaction where she hadn't; He was being truthful. Now, he didn't hang out there and beat her up, He just brought it up, and then he went on. And you can read the story for yourself and the nuances and the way it's written out. But I'll tell you what happened. He gave her grace and acceptance. He shared the truth, she gets saved and the whole city comes out and finds Jesus. Her life has changed and the whole city has changed. And they hung out there for a while. I'm telling you, truth, when we accept the truth after we've received His love, it changes us. We become a different person.
And so my question this morning is, will you trust the grace and truth of Jesus Christ? Will you put off those feelings of intimidation about God that maybe somebody has erroneously taught you? Will you understand that the right handling of the word of God means that you are fully accepted and loved by God? Will you come to Him this morning? But the same Bible that talks about being saved by grace, also says we accept the truth of God and that it is by faith in Jesus Christ. And the truth is, we've got to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ to find and experience a personal relationship with God and to know his love and to know how to live his love out in the relationships that we are in on this earth. So this morning my prayer is that you and I will trust in the Jesus of the Bible, not Jesus of the culture, not the Jesus that you were taught that may not have squared with the Bible, but with John 1:14, that Jesus is full of grace and full of truth.
How to Constantly Talk With God
September 4, 2022
Wat is your personal story?
-No “formula” for doing this
-Spiritual disciplines help, but not completely
-Spontaneous, “arrow” prayers, immediately
-Jesus told us to make disciples- help people grow spiritually
-We can only give away what we already have
-1 Thes 5:17 says “Pray constantly.” But how??
Why do we not keep talking with God?
Western Culture- Western thought says God is not involved in the everyday circumstances; he is just in our private life, in religious settings and situations only
-We actually cannot separate the sacred from the secular!
-we live in both at the same time
Pride and self-dependence
Loss of our “awe of God”
-some mature believers become too familiar with spiritual things
How to Constantly Talk With God
1. Practice talking with God all the time Psalm 105:4
-“Seek his face always”
-Brother Lawrence quote
-Francis Shaeffer quote
-Matt 6:6 Jesus says talk to God like our personal father!
-children normally depend heavily on their dads all the time
2. Practice thinking about God and His Ways Romans 8:56
-“…those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set
on the things of the Spirit”
-Bible reading and learning (preaching/teaching, personal study)
-Godly friends- we must prioritize time and energy!
-Sunday Worship, Connection Groups, Serving Together
3. Get desperate John 15:4
-“…you can do nothing without me.”
-Paul Miller quote
4. Leverage difficult circumstances Romans 12:1
-“…present your bodies as a living sacrifice”
Brother Lawrence quote on suffering pg 52
5. Confess and turn from sin Hebrews 12:1
6. Focus on Jesus Hebrews 12:2
-What would Jesus do? What DID Jesus do?
-What did Jesus do FOR us? (died for us, saved us)
-Where is Jesus taking us? (to eternity!)
7. Make it personal
-Talk with God like you talk with best friends
-Talk with God in your own daily routine
-Consider “Breath Prayers”- prayers you can say in one breath
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“Lord I seek your face right now” based on Psalm 27:8
How will you talk with God this week?
-How well did you talk with God last week? 1-5
1 No meaningful relationship with God at alll
2 No meaningful conversation with God
3 Talked with God some
4 Talked with God daily
5 Talked with God many times each day
-How can we help you start talking with God more often?
Brother Lawrence “We can make our heart a chapel where we can withdraw from time to time, and commune with Him in meekness, humility, and love.”
Davis, Marshall, translator. Brother Lawrence: The Practice of the Presence of God. Independently Published by Marshall Davis, 2013, page 46.
Francis Shaeffer “I personally could not live for twenty-four hours without looking to the leading of the Lord, and this is how I live my life.”
Dennis, Lane T.., editor. Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1985. Page 164.
Paul Miller “A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our poverty of spirit, realizing that we can’t even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the Spirit of Jesus.”
Miller, Paul E.. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press, 2009, page 67.
Intro: Today is Sunday, September 4th, 2022, and welcome to St. Joe Community Church. Today's message is entitled "How to Constantly Talk to God" and was delivered by Pastor Greg Byman. For more information, visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org. Click on the sermons tab and find today's broadcast. So now let's open the Bible, get a notepad in pen and prepare to hear from God's word. Here's Pastor Greg.
This morning I want to talk about something that's very near and dear to my heart; how to have a constant talk with God. How to practice the presence of God is one formal way of saying it. It is a practice that I believe it's integral to my personal health; spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, that when I am getting this better, I say, get it right. And they'll get it right in heaven when there'll be no barriers to doing this. When I do, when I'm better at this, I'm better. And when I'm not, I'm not, that's just kind of where I'm at in my life. Now there's a practical way of thinking about this; we talk about how to have a constant talk with God or how to have - and by the way, talking with God is a two-way street, and I'm not getting into this today, but God speaks to us through His word and through godly people who know His word and through our prayer life that is infused with truth from His word. Any kind of feeling or emotions or thoughts that we might have, not discounting them; they just all need to be filtered through what God has already said, because He is never going to contradict himself. He'll always say what He's always said. And it'll certainly be culturally and contemporarily interpreted and brought along and applied in our current circumstances, but His word never changes.
And so, we're not here to look for a new impression or thought, but when we're talking with God, He's talking to us, we're talking to him, it's a two way street. But it's sort of like when I'm thinking about this, I want to think more on the positive side is remembering that God is always with us, and that He is always someone to talk to and talk with and be with and have conversation with.
I remember when we were first married as a couple, my wife and I, it was important for me whenever I was making decisions to think about her presence even when she wasn't there. Can anybody get an Amen on that? If I'm deciding to buy something nice and fancy for myself, I needed to think about what would my wife think when I brought it home before I brought it home. It's just important to communicate with your spouse what's going on. You make decisions, "Oh, by the way we're going so and so." "But it's on our calendar that we're doing this and that. And so-and-so is going to be some sort..." "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." You always have to be thinking about when you... the two should become two. No, the two should become one flesh and you are a one unit of two people doing life together. And it's something that we're constantly practicing, constantly learning how to get better at.
Thinking about the presence of God in a normal, and I say normal like in the way God intended family; your parents are with you even when they're not as a child. That's why when you're doing something you ought not, what do you do? You hide, right. You're doing it undercover. And I learned later, what I didn't realize is how do you get away with things? Continue to be loud when you're doing the wrong thing. Because whenever children get really quiet, that's when parents come looking for them. Okay, something's wrong, they're a lot more quiet right now. And of course, you go in and find them doing something, trying to fix something really quick or trying to do something. And that's a teacher mode, that's a parent mode, that's just - we naturally hide away from the things, the people that are going to hold us accountable for what we don't want to be held accountable for. So, that's kind of, kind of how life is.
We already have these examples in our mind if you're married or if you work with children or all of us were a child at one point - children at one point, so we all understand this. Well, isn't this true that practicing the presence of God is something that we need to think about because God is always with us. And I just want to share my personal story real quick before we get going. I'm going to be honest. I'm going to give you principles, not a ritual or some religious practice. Although I'm not saying ritual or religious practices don't work, there are some rituals or there's some habits for spiritual disciplines that are very helpful and useful. And I'm not discounting that; I'm just saying that; it's beyond a habit. There's no formula, in other words, for doing this. And spiritual disciplines, they help, but I'm not completely telling you about a habit that's more like ritualistic in nature.
What I'm talking about is something more like of a spontaneous nature that I'm spontaneously talking to God, because I know He is there, I know He is listening, He speaks all around us, this is the heavens declare your glory. When I look up into the sky and these stars that are out there, that He flung them in the place; if you look in the Psalmist, God flung them in the place for our enjoyment. He gave us this world to enjoy. And you know, keep your eyes on the road. But there are times when you're like, "Wow, look at the sunset!"
I have a daughter that all the time is sending us pictures of the sunsets. And it's just awesome. She's just way into taking pictures of sunsets. And now I'm starting to - that's a cool sunset, you know? And you start taking pictures. Oh, co-road. No, I don't do that. But seriously, it's important for us to take in the fact that God is everywhere and he's speaking to us through even His creation. Now, He's not a tree, but He's everywhere, and He made that tree. And when I think about that, somebody made that tree. And you know, trees are - especially the big old ones, they're like, "Wow, that was here like before. Wow!" And you just start thinking about how finite life is when you look at creation.
Anyway, so God is everywhere, but this is more like the spontaneous arrow prayers. I think I mentioned to you last week when we were talking about pray without ceasing - pray constantly, 1 Thessalonian 5 says that. How do you do that? And I will say to you that there are times when somebody will give me a prayer request and if I don't pray for it right then, I might forget to pray. No, I have forgotten to pray. And that's my confession last week. It's just, I got to pray right now about it or write it down. That's why whenever you're leaving on Sunday morning, my brain is mush, usually by that time. And I say, please write that on a card and give it to me. That's why connection cards are so important, because you can tell me what's going to happen; you can tell me you're having heart surgery on Tuesday. I'm sorry for you. I probably will forget if you don't write it down. It's terrible. It's all about me right now, isn't it? No, I just forget. I just forget. My brain is - anyway, that's beside the point.
But praying for somebody, you got to pray for them right now sometimes or thinking about something, I need to pray about that. Pray right then. That's kind of been my way in which I practice this in my own life. And honestly, if I'm trying to help somebody become more like Jesus, I need to learn how to be more like Jesus and I got to get closer to Jesus. I need to have a relationship that's functional with Jesus because I can only give away what I have myself. So as a believer in this room and God called all of us to make disciples; if we don't have what we're supposed to give away, then we ought to work on having more of what we should be giving away.
And that's another motivator for me. Like, I see these minions, these children, my children; they're looking at me and how as goes, so goes. I have friends in my life, as goes the friends, so go the friends. We're influencers whether we like it or not. And what we give away is more caught than it is taught. And so, I'm trying to get better at this for my sake, for God's sake, for the sake of honoring Him with my life and also for the sake of other people in my life. But how do we do it? How do we do it? Because there's a lot of reasons we don't. There's a lot of reasons why we don't, and I'm going to point out three reasons why we just tend to not do this. First of all, our culture just doesn't really marry spirituality with hard truth like science and spirituality just don't mix. I can give you a whole hour lecture on it. You'd be bored, but I find it fascinating that conditionally Western culture, there was this shift that we adopted. And it's sort of like this whole phrase of, "well, spirituality, that's a private thing." You know, church and state; you're not allowed to let your spiritual life influence your political decisions. There's an idea that it's either or, not both and. Our culture kind of conditions is, don't talk about religion. Don't talk about that. Well, that's more personal.
Now, what I believe about who God is and how the world was created really is a foundational truth that helps me understand this world and helps me make wise choices in this world. I mean, he's the creator. Again, that's a whole nother sermon, but Western culture kind of conditions us not to pray about the normal stuff. Like, I need a parking spot downtown, pretty close, so I pray for God to give me a good close parking spot. And He gives it to me. And there's one guy that was talking to another guy about this whole thing. And he said - and he was praising God that he got a nice parking lot up close. And he said, "Do you think that God is so concerned with you that He is such this huge God that He really cares about your little parking spot downtown?" He says, "Do you mean to say that you believe God doesn't care about every little part of my life?" And then somebody else would say, "Yeah, but what about that little old lady that needed that parking spot? You took it, you nice young strapping man."
We can get into the woods when we talk about this. But the reality is that I believe you can pray about anything and everything. I think it matters. And if you don't get the parking spot, that's when you really need to pray,. God give me patience. Yeah! So praying is part of hard facts, concrete life; not just something we do somewhere else, spirituality, left in the church building, but no other building, and that's not true. And by the wa,y they said, you know, they took prayer out of school, and what's the joke? They'll always have prayer in schools so long as they have pop quizzes.
Anyway, pride and self-dependence. That's another reason why. I really like to be in charge of me, and I don't like thinking that I can't do something. Am I the only guy in the world that likes to fix things? I'm going to fix it, you know? And Bonita comes home with a problem from work and I got a plan for how to solve her life and everything. And you know, everybody's going to be just much better if I just show you how to do it. And I'm not consulting God when I say it either, usually, are we? We got on the fly, I know what to do here. Yeah, it's his pride and self-dependence, and we don't pray and talk to God enough about everything and anything. We'll get into that in a minute here. But that's one of the reasons why we don't talk to God often. Really, we don't want to hear what he has to say. Especially if we're about to do something we shouldn't do.
And then there's that loss of awe. Now, this is more for the believers in the room that have been Christian for a while. And Paul David Trip talks about this in his book, "Dangerous Calling to Pastors" where he says, you know what, there's a moment in which in life you were so enamored with and excited about God and you were with God enough and you handled the Bible enough and you've done spiritual things enough that it's sort of rubbed off. You've lost your awe. You're not as excited about God anymore. I mean, let me just ask the question. How many of you saw an awesome sports play on a replay this week? I mean, awe! That was awesome, right. You know, how many loved the awesome finish of the Ohio State football game last night? Awesome. Awesome. Okay, now that just divided the crowd. I think that's worse than politics. Isn't it?
Anyway, but all kidding aside, we get all enamored with fun things. How many are into American Idol or America's Got Talent - AGT, and you're like, "Ooh, that was so cool." And this one guy was flipping my... I know you're watching the game, but watch this, and I had to watch something. And it was fun, it was cool, but I went back to the game. And so you see these things and you're like enamored with it and you're like, "Wow, that's pretty cool. I didn't think he could do that." And that's awesome. And I remember in high school, for me, awesome became a vocabulary word that was used for any other things beyond spiritual things, and just became part of our normal vocabulary. And I remember people saying, you know, we really are not appropriately using that word, and we really should reserve that for God. And the point was, we are losing our awe of an awesome God. And I think we can get that way. And we just sort of take for granted the grace of God that's in our life, instead of thinking about it and living with it and talking with God about it.
So how do we do this? How do we get to this practicing or constantly talking with God? And let me give you some practical ideas from God's word. The base text was Psalm 105:4, but really there's going to be several. And if you want to write them down, you can get my notes online so that you can look at them. This is more of like walk through the Bible a little bit today, not just one particular passage like we've done in the last several weeks. But the number one thing I would say is, first of all, practice talking with God all the time. Practice it! Just practice talking with God all the time.
It says in 105:4, "Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His face always." When you want to get somebody's attention, what do you say? Look at me, look at me, right here. Look! Hey, you in the back, look at me." I'm kidding. Isn't that what we do, right? I mean, if I'm watching, again, let's go back to the game. And my wife wants to tell me something, right? "Uhhuh, Uhhuh, Uhhuh. I'll wait till the commercial." Or "Oh, wait a minute. Yes, what would you like?" I mean, if you don't have my eyes, you don't have my attention. If you don't have my face, you don't have my attention. Seek God's face always. Seek His face, seek a personal walk and walk conversation with Him.
Brother Lawrence was a brother who his name was Nicholas originally. And in the - let's see, when was this? Way back in 17th century, something like that way back when, before you and I were born. And at the end, he joined a monastery. Actually this is way back 14th century, actually. That's what it's. And he began this journey of working in the kitchen. He never had a title. He never had any kind of notoriety as a leader appointed. And yet, he began to walk with God so much so that people would come to him, looking for advice on how to walk with God, how to practice the presence of God. And it said, despite his humble position, his reputation attracted many visitors from the outside who sought spiritual guidance. And it would later become, and even as survived today in English translations, the practice of the presence of God. And in his book, he talks about the idea that we need to practice his presence always. We can make our heart a chapel where we can withdraw from time to time and commune with him in meekness, humility, and love. And who are we? We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. But what he's saying is you don't have to go to a church building to talk to God.
Some people haven't. During the week, they'll come in here and they'll come down to the ultra. I've seen it done a few times where they'll come in and pray. I sometimes come down and pray. I'll often, since my office is right across from the balcony, I'll just come into the balcony and I'll just spend a few moments and get away. There's nobody else that usually is in here certain times of the day, and it's just a nice, quiet place to be. But you don't have to be in church to pray. You don't have to be in your quiet spot to pray. At home I have some spots picked out that really work well for me. When I'm on vacation, I often, if I'm going to be somewhere for a whole week, I think of where I can go, where nobody really sees me, it's not like - I don't want to make a big show about it, where I get my Bible, my journal, and I'm just alone with God. And boy, when I'm at the beach, man, I find that the balcony is one of my favorite spots to be. And then sometime out on the beach somewhere alone in the morning time. But I just find that spot, but you don't have to have a spot to talk to God. You don't have to get to that spot. While you're getting to that spot, talk to Him while you're going there. Just a thought.
And when Jesus was on this earth and He was teaching us how to pray, He used... remember the model prayer. It's just the Lord's prayer, but it's really our prayer that the Lord gave us - our father, which art in heaven. Our dad, the most intimate way to talk about your father on earth was the word that Jesus said we ought to use when we're addressing a holy God. Dad, here I am again. Dad, look at that sunset you made for me. Dad. Now, I still say father, I still, there's a reverence in my mind and heart for that, but however, in a most respectful way, but in a most intimate way, what do you say when you talk to God when you start talking to Him. Think of it as you're talking to him face-to-face, and you're in an intimate relationship with Him. As you're a follower of Jesus, you already are in that intimate relationship with Him - live in it in your walk with Him in prayer.
Number two, practice thinking about God in His ways. In Romans 8:56, it says, "Those who live according to the spirit, have their mind set on the things of the spirit." We need to practice thinking about what God has already said. I already mentioned that earlier that the word of God is God speaking to us. If you've read the Bible, actually, you heard the word proclaimed in Psalm 139 today. You've all heard from God today. I'm not telling you; you already heard from God, because he spoke it through His word, it is for us today. And so Bible reading, Bible learning, that's why we have connection groups. And by the way, please be thinking about where you're going to go this next semester to get involved. And somehow, having some intake of God's word around some other people who are doing it with you, taking the journey together, to hear from God in a fresh way this week, or this semester as you move forward in your Christian walk.
Godly people give us insight into what God is saying so that we can be thinking about the things of God, keep your mindset on the spirit of God, because when you aren't thinking about God, you're probably thinking about something other than God. And when you're in something other than God, it usually leads to not so good, or at least takes you to the cusp of it. And you turn around and say, "Oh God, that wasn't the right thing to do. Help me help me!" Which leads me to the next point. Number three is, let's get desperate about this. Let's make this like, you know, like if you don't brush your teeth, your teeth will rot out. If you don't take your medicine, your blood pressure goes up and you die. If you don't get something going with your heart stuff, you're going to drop dead. If you don't fix this diabetes, or if you don't fix this blood sugar, you you're going to be in a lot of pain and start losing appendages in your body.
Now, we hear this from doctors all the time and give or take, we decide to do what they tell us to do. I know that, but we ought to be as desperate spiritually as we are physically. This is suicide prevention month, by the way. And I pray that we will be proactive as a family of God and you as individuals, as we move forward and help people to think of finding better solutions than the permanent one that they are trying to make that have, and if that's something that you're going through right now, and you're struggling with, please reach out to somebody before you leave today because I just can't imagine what you must be bearing if that's true. And we want you to know that you're not alone in bearing that burden and we want to help you.
But just as we believe that people ought to get desperate for their mental health, they ought to get desperate for their physical health; we need to get desperate for our spiritual health because Jesus himself said, you can do nothing without me. What part of nothing do you not understand? You can do nothing without me. That means I can tie my shoes without Jesus. No, He gave you the dexterity to tie your shoes. He gave you the freedom to sit down and tie them before the bear attacked you. I don't know whatever it is. That's a bad joke. I mean, You can't do anything without Him. And the moment I start to think I can is when I'm in the danger zone. We got to get desperate about this. This talking with God is not something we just, "Well, that's good for the pastor."
I want you to know something long before I was a pastor, long before people said you ought to go into pastoral ministry, long before I went and started pursuing what I do with my life vocation. This was a big deal to me. And I'm not tooting a horn; I'm just saying I couldn't live without the presence and help of God in the multiple circumstances that I faced. In high school and college, I needed a personal relationship walk with God to get through and to navigate all of the problems, pitfalls, temptations, and to get out of the consequences of falling into temptation. I needed Jesus to walk with me. I needed to walk with Jesus. So this isn't something that, "Oh, the pastor cooked up a good idea for us to get better." No, no, no. This is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.
We got to get desperate about this. Paul Miller in his book, "A Praying Life," he says, "A praying life isn't simply a morning prayer time. It's about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day. Not because we're disciplined, but because we're in touch with our poverty of spirit; realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the spirit of Jesus." I admire people who have a ritualistic, and I mean that in a very most positive sense, disciplined of spending time with God at a certain hour, at a certain time at a certain place every single day.
And my goal and my life pattern has been to spend time with God every single day in devoted, dedicated moment, not just spontaneous. I've never been one that's been the very same time, very same place every single day. My life schedule hasn't worked that way, and my brain isn't wired that way. That's just how it is. But I certainly admire that. And I certainly believe what I just said a routine of regularly getting with God privately alone each day is very integral part of our life. I'm talking about something a little beyond that, and that's just the ongoing walk and talk with God, after that and before that. We got to get desperate.
What's another thing we need to do this morning is we need to leverage difficult circumstances. Now, this is one that I can honestly say I don't have as strong or as experiential ability to tell you how to do this. But it does say in Romans 12:1 that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrificed. And I didn't put that on the notes here, but in 2 Corinthians 12, it was Paul himself who said that, "Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me, but He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness.'" And then Paul goes on to say; "Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ power might reside in me. So I take pleasure in what, in weaknesses, insults hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong."
I have prayed with, and I'm continuing to pray for people that have physical pain for God to heal them. And there's some people in my life that I wonder is God not allowing the pain to go away for a reason. I don't get it. I don't understand. I'm not talking about people that, you know, they abuse their bodies their whole life, and they were just all it. And now they've got something going on because of the consequences of a horrible habit. I'm talking about people that just going through pain, or their job experience, and they just can't get over the pain. And I don't get it, and I want God to relieve them of it. But I do know this, that when we leverage, when we use the pain in our lives as a way to boast about the power of God in our lives, it changes us and it transforms people around us.
There are people I have met whose spiritual lives are at a pinnacle, in my opinion, only God's judgment is best. And they've been some of the most suffering people I've ever met. There was a young man that was having some problems in a previous church of mine. He was a teenager and he is going through some issues and he couldn't quite come to grips with it. And I knew what he was talking about. And I'm not here to belittle his problems, but they weren't that big of a deal. They were, and from a teenager, it was a big deal. I get it. But I wasn't a teenager, so maybe that's a little cynical. I don't know.
Anyway, and I was just thinking, you know, he's just complaining, but I didn't know for sure. I said, "Okay, I'll meet with you. But how about if we meet after I have a visit, will you come with me to a visit?" Sure. So he comes with me. We showed up to a homebound family, and this man didn't know I was coming, because it's usually spur the moment. He's a little tiny duplex. And his wife said, "Oh, he'll come out in just a minute." And just a minute was 10 minutes from getting just for the bedroom, which was like by that window to the living room. And maybe that's even further than we're talking about. And he had the walker; he's just wheezing and coughing and had this oxygen tube that was pumping oxygen into his nose so that he could barely have enough from his COPD. And he just laboring so hard to get to the chair. And he finally gets to the recliner and he blops down and you know, like I'm finding myself going, "Oh," when I sit down - he went, "Ooohh" when he sat down. I mean, you're thinking; he's about ready to tell you about all his problems, aches and pains, his arthritis, COPD, his legs that are giving out.
And he turns and looks at us and goes, "Isn't God awesome?" And he launches into this testimony of how good God was and what he'd heard from them this morning. And he'd heard a preacher on a cassette tape. This is how far back it was. And he said, "Man, I'm telling you what, I'm just so fired, I wish more people love Jesus the way I love Jesus." And we had a grand time and he ever been with somebody that you go to there to be a blessing and you are more blessed back by them? That was us in this moment. And we sit there and we're listening to him and he's just pouring out good things about God. And I prayed for him and we left and got in the car and we're driving down a road. And I looked at the teenager and I said, "So what'd you want to talk about?" And he goes, "I'm fine."
Perspective! You get around somebody who's suffering that has the spirit of Christ in them. And they're leveraging that suffering to the glory of God. It changes you as much as it's changing them. I pray that we would leverage. Now, I'm not saying that we - I pray against it, but Brother Lawrence, the guy that everybody went to, right, "Practicing the Presence of God". I do not pray that you'll be delivered from pain. Come on brother. Brother! But I earnestly pray to God that he will give you strength and patience to bear the pain. Comfort yourself in Him who hold you fastened to the cross. He will free you when he thinks it is the right time. Happy are those who suffer with Him, accustom yourself to suffer in this manner, seek strength from Him to endure the pain for as long as he thinks necessary.
He had crippling pain so much so that he had to basically walk like this, and then he worked in the kitchen and he'd have barrels of whatever it is that he had the potatoes that he'd have to put on the cart. This was back in the horse and buggy day. And he would literally just labor. It would take him all day just to go to the market to get things, to take it back to the monastery. And he never complained about it. Although he said it was horrible, but he lived this practice in his life, discovering the presence of God more keenly in the midst of his pain.
We say around here, God doesn't waste a hurt. There are hurts and pains that you've experienced that I never have. And when I'm walking with somebody that's going through a similar circumstance like yourself, I usually try to connect them with you. And if you find someone going through a circumstance like mine, connect them with me. But the body of Christ together can walk together and bear one of those burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Leverage your difficult circumstances to say, "God, I need you more than ever." Couple more here before we go.
"We obviously need to be confessing and turning away from our sins. Therefore, since we have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us." There are times when we don't pray. Why? Because we haven't confessed what we know we shouldn't have done. We're distanced from God spiritually. I mean, if you're at odds with a friend or an acquaintance, you usually avoid them until you get it right. You don't want to be around them because you've sinned against them. And it's a two way street. Maybe they've sinned against you. So, you know in human relations, when there's problems between us, we don't have connection and community. And that is, we're not talking about that you've lost your relationship with God if you're a Christian; it's just that, you know, my dad is my dad. He's always will be my dad. Thank God he's still alive, and I have times with mom and dad and they're still with me, but like going back to that time when you're not doing the right thing, you're not around your parents; you don't want to be around them until you get right with them.
And it's the same with our heavenly father. Just when you mess up, fess up. Before you go to bed at night, just say, "God, did I mess up today?" He'll tell you, he'll show you - I can testify. "God, I think I had a pretty good day. What do you think, God?" No, not so good. And not to be beat up, but to get it right, to clear the air, to confess and get going. Confess and turn from sin. And then that scripture goes on to say that we need to focus on Jesus. As we confess our sin, we lay it aside, let us keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfector of our faith. Some translations - fixing your eyes on Jesus.
I'm not talking about a bracelet that says what would Jesus do. We had the WWJDs, but it's what would John do? Our elder - I'm kidding. No, we don't do. But no, it's not what would Jesus - what did Jesus do? What is Jesus doing? Where is Jesus taking us? If our home is eternity, do we have our eyes on the end or are we just focused on our circumstances? When I'm talking with God, I'm thinking not just about what this moment means for me right now; I'm praying about what God wants for me in the midst of this to be for there. So I'm not talking to God about just, "Oh, will you fix this problem?"
You know, I remember one time I lost - I had a bicycle. It was a really nice bicycle. I just pick it up and go. Now I just look at bicycles, but I used to ride them back then. And Greg is making fun of me. I've got one in my office upstairs that I haven't quite gotten out to use much. But I had this really nice bicycle. I had paid good money for it in high school. Took it to college, and I had a rinky-dinky, little lock on it. Well, the rinky-dinky little lock, and it was gone. I was so mad. Oh, somebody stole my bicycle. And I went in to give a report and they just laugh at you because, you know, in college that's just a normal theft, and it's just a big deal. No big deal to them because it happens. It was a big deal to me. That's a lot of money.
And I've lost more things than that in life. Or I've had something broke down that I thought was just fine and I had to fix it, and I had took a lot of money to fix it. And I'm thinking to myself, I've kind of gotten to the point where occasionally, after I get over the flesh part of, I can't believe this is happening. Well, I guess Lord, if that's how you want me to spend my money, I guess that's how I got to spend it because it's your money anyway. I guess if you didn't want me to have that bicycle - now, could I have been wiser in locking it up better? I have learned to do that. But the point is, in the midst of a situation, this circumstance in light of eternity, what are you talking to God about? Are you talking to God about the circumstance and oh-me-oh-my pity party, which is not a habit. Please have it in front of God. Talk to Him about it, but fix your eyes on Christ and say, "God, in the midst of what I don't like right now, how can you help me make leverage this in a good way because I know where I'm going is more important than where I am. Help me, Jesus. I need some help."
And finally, this morning, this is more personal - make it personal. I don't know how you're going to apply this exactly, but I will say this morning that you need to talk with God like He's your best friend. He ought to be your best friend. Talk with God in your own daily routine; whatever that works for you, do that. Keep your eyes open if you're driving or walking. Use social media to pray and talk to God. Use the news stories to talk to God. Use whatever is routinely already in your life as moments to get to God because He's right with you already. There's no place you can go where He is not. And there is nothing that is too small that He wants to talk to you about.
Consider breath prayers, like the one that is the famous one. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. One phrase, oh God, you are my God and I ever praise you. That's actually a song, but I sing that. I say that out loud. God, you are awesome. God, I love you. God, thank you for coming into my life. That's just a breath prayer. Thanks for promising to finish what you started. Think of promises of God and just let those be one sentence promises back to God.
Incorporate something and somehow some way so that you're not just routinely doing it here, which is important, but you're in a relationship way you're continually doing it. Just like you would if you're married, you don't routinely say, "Well, you know you and I have a 45 minute, maybe some days, 10 minutes together, and then the rest of the day I'm not talking to you." That doesn't work so well in a marriage in case you were trying that. And it doesn't work so well in our relationship with God.
So let's rate ourselves; team, come on forward. We're going to sing one last song, and I want to see where you're at with this. One to five, five being you're hitting on all cylinders but we still need to grow, and one I'm not so good at what's going on. Number one, if you're a one today, you have no meaningful relationship with God at all. You really don't have a walk with God. You may have made some sort of a decision, but you don't have any prayer life, you don't have any spontaneous desire to talk to God. If you do come to church, it's more ritualistic, and you're one, and just be honest about it. And I pray this morning, my goal and prayer is to walk with people and help them get beyond that. And so, if that's where you're at, please put on your connection card, "I want to know more about having a walk with God." Or "I want to want to, I don't want to, and I need to know how to want to." Let's talk about that. I love talking with people who are far from God to get close to God.
Number two, I'm a two this morning. That means I have no meaningful conversation with God. I claim to be a follower of Christ, but I really don't have meaningful conversations. They're more formal. They're more what I call they're King James-ish. You know, I just kind of go into this formal mode, but I don't really have a personal talk with God. And this morning, I hope that you'll take some of these principles and start applying a few of them to your life that you might get a little bit further along in that journey.
Number three, I talked to God some. You're three, I talked to God some. I can't remember how many times this week, but I did. I talked to God. Maybe you're a four. I talk with God daily. Every day I talk with God. But here's the five; I talk with God many times a day, not just in a formal moment. And that's the part I'm talking about, where you're just letting this flow of conversation be with God; not just in this prayer closet, which is important, but beyond our private time into the public arena of where we live and work and breathe, in our relationships, in our situations, in our cars, while we're on the internet, and all the areas of our life we're just talking with God constantly.
God has got another scripture, Jesus says this - and I believe it's to the believers, although I think unbelievers need to hear it too. What did Jesus say? I stand at the door and I knock, and whoever opens the door, I'll come in and I'll eat with them. Eating with people, intimacy, fellowship, relationship conversation. Jesus is knocking on the door. He's just asking to come in. He's not barging in. I'm not here to berate you if you haven't done this. I'm gently reminding you that the God of heaven, desperately desires to walk with you in a personal way. Will you trust him?
Outro: Thank you for joining us today here at St. Joe Community Church. And please consider this your formal invitation to join us personally each Sunday for morning worship services. We meet every Sunday at eight 30 and 10:30 AM. The 10:30 service is broadcasted live from the St. Joe homepage at stjoecommunitychurch.org. Even better, we'd love to have you visit in person. St. Joe is located at 2,900 North Anthony Boulevard, located just a few blocks south of the Purdue Fort Wayne University campus. Thanks again for joining us, and we hope to see you next week. Bye for now.
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The Day of the Lord
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
August 21, 2022
Jesus is coming again!
-see previous message on 1 Thes 4:13-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Time and the seasons
-time and era- sequence and events
-Matthew 24:36 We aren’t supposed to know when
The day of the Lord will come vs 2-3
-Day of the Lord- Old Testament- day of wrath, judgment
-Acts 17:31 Jesus is the Lord (in charge of) this day
-This day is when Christ returns to judge the world
-thief in the night- unannounced, unexpectedly
-illust: no thief calls ahead of time to say he is coming!
-Matt 24:43; 2 Peter 3:10
-People saying “Peace and security” will be destroyed
-Destruction of unbelievers is as certain as birth when a woman goes into labor- unavoidable, no second chances
But you are not in the dark vs 4-5
-Paul is talking to followers of Jesus Christ (Christians)
-We will not be surprised when Christ returns
-Christians live in the daylight/light- fully aware
Let us stay awake and be self-controlled vs 6-10
-don’t sleep- don’t ignore the fact that Jesus is coming!
-be self-controlled (stated twice)- remain sober
-we must remain in control of our minds and bodies
How to remain awake and self-controlled
-put on the armor of faith and love
-this is how we stay awake and self-controlled
-our faith must affect every area of our lives!
-Christ-like love must define how we relate to others,
And how we take care of ourselves!
-put on the helmet of the hope of salvation in Christ
-facts must override our feelings!
-trust the facts of faith in Christ
-Christians do not face God’s wrath for their sins
-we obtain salvation because of our faith in Christ
“who died for us” – in our place, confessional truth
-we are saved from God’s wrath/condemnation of sin
-we will dwell personally with Jesus Christ forever
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up
-Christ followers must help one another until Jesus comes again
-encourage one another- cheer each other on to remain alert
-build each other up- we need others to help us when we are
down, when we slip spiritually, when we get discouraged
Wake Up! Trust in Jesus Christ Now!
-you don’t have to be surprised by or afraid of Christ’s return
1 Thessalonians 5, we're continuing a series of messages from this letter that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit during the pandemic. It seemed as though all kinds of crazy stuff was going on. It was going on. It didn't seem - it was. We all faced major decisions. In the middle of that, was a little bit of an election that took place, and there was all kinds of other decisions that people were making. And just like any other place in the world, our church was no different. We had people that agreed to disagree and hopefully mostly agreeably, and it was just something we had to work through and navigate; who believed this, who believed that, who thought about this, who was trusting this? Sometimes it came down to who was listening to this particular group of news and this group of new. And it just seemed to all collide in the middle of us. We were no different than anywhere else. We had to navigate the waters of disagreeing agreeably.
And I want to say to you that I'm praising God and thanking God that the spirit of Christ prevailed. That all of us arrived eventually at the same conclusion, that God's bigger and more important than anything we agree to disagree on here on earth, amen. And I remember one of the elders said, "Make a decision, you'll be wrong, make it anyway." And we did. And we went through the trails of making decisions and trying to do what was right, but I'm telling you what, there are churches that died in the midst of the pandemic. There are churches that no longer exist. There are churches that are selling off property. There are things that are happening in other places in our city and in our region and in our country where their church, there's a sadness.
And I certainly know that we experienced loss in our church family as well. And we actually had people that when we stopped meeting, it sort of stopped being a habit, and that made me very sad. And then when we came back together and started meeting, it seemed like God replenished with different people and new people. And with the two services, we now are at the point where we did two services to stay apart from one another and to kind of bear the differences agreeably with each other and what was going on and how we did things. And then now it's like, it's by necessity because God has blessed us with more families and more individuals and more opportunities to serve and minister together and walk together in of spirit of Christ. And so by default, this building would not handle one service any longer, and so I thank God for that.
And we'll continue to - again, we're not presuming upon anything. We're just saying God did some positive things. And when I think of all the letters that Paul wrote in the New Testament that God's inspired him to write that we still have for us today to look at; this is one of the most encouraging letters you could read about the church. He continued to say, "You guys are doing this right, I know, but let me remind you to keep doing it, but you're doing, doing it right. Oh, you love one another, I don't need to remind you that. The whole region knows that. You're setting an example for believers all over the place." And I would say we are setting an example by the power of God, by the glory of God, for His credit alone, you all are setting an example.
And Paul is saying that to this church, and so I thought, what a great letter to write, to listen to, and to read and to understand to preach on, but a letter that might be similar in attitude towards that church as I have towards ours. And so, we've continued through that. We're in chapter five today. And last week we talked about the day of the Lord, how Jesus is coming again, and you can go back and listen to that and look at the notes online. Today Paul kind of wraps up his conversation with the church when he is talking about the day of the Lord; the day when Jesus comes again. And we want to talk about that, unpack that just a little bit and ask, are you ready? Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ? Are you ready for it all to be over? Are you ready to answer to God for where you stand with Him in relation to have you put your faith in Jesus, or have you not put your faith in Jesus?
You know, we always hit what we aim for. Well, we work on hitting what we aim for. We more likely hit what we aim for. When we put our eye on the ball, we usually catch it with our mit. When we throw a baseball at a particular spot, we normally hit the spot where our eyes are looking, and our arm follows through with where we're looking. If you're target shooting with bows and arrows or a gun or a rifle; you aim, you look at, you pay attention to the bull's eye. We have darts in the back room, and there are a few places where you can tell where I have not... well, we need to do some drywall speckling. Anyway, it just is what it is. Keep your eyes on the road when you're driving. Don't text and drive.
Have you ever been with somebody, might have been me, "Oh, look at the farmland over there." And your car goes... yeah, thank you, John. I hear that. I hear that grown. And what you're looking at, you go towards. It is a part of life. In your calendar, how do you know where you're going this week? Now, if you're retired, you're laughing at us. "Ha-ha. What calendar? I don't care." But for those of us that still have one and we're working, or we got something going on, we look at the calendar, because we're not going to show up for the appointments we don't remember. We're not going to show up for the appointments we don't look at and make sure we're aiming for on our schedule during the week. And if we aren't careful, we will not do what matters most and what lasts forever if our eye is not on eternity.
Some of you may know this, or may have known a lady named D. Young, and D. Young on December 7th went home to be with the Lord. And yesterday or Friday, we had her graveside service or kind of a home-going, a small crowd of people. She was about 90 years old. I think she was 90 years old, and she knew the Lord. And she knows now what she did that lasted forever and what she did that didn't matter forever. And it's a sobering moment for us to come to a moment of reckoning, to understand that we all someday will face God for our actions. For the Christian, we will face God not to get into heaven, but did what we invest in, in our lives matter for eternity or not? And for the believer it's, I now have to pay for eternity for the sins that Jesus died for and I could have asked His forgiveness for, but I didn't. We need to have our eye on eternity, or we may aimlessly live life in such a way that what we do will not matter in eternity. It will matter, but it will matter in ways that we may not have planned.
1 Thessalonian 5, let me read for us 11 verses, unpack them, and let's see if maybe we can do something about what God tells us this morning before we leave and as we leave. "About the times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you don't need anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you brothers and sisters are not in the dark, for this day to surprise you like a thief, for you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. So then, let us not sleep like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love and a helmet of the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing."
I want to add that my intentions of going through this letter was more to talk about the encouragement, but it was to talk about the totality of that encouragement and how to encourage one another. It is not to join the chorus of people that are all talking about end times. We're talking about in times because oh, that happens to be the next chapter that we're talking about. And so, that's kind of want to make sure you're aware of that, that we need to listen to all of what God has to say, and so this happens to be the next in line of what we need to hear. 1 Thessalonian 5, Paul talks about the times and seasons, about the epics or the chronologically and the chiros, the seasons or the way in which things are going to happen; about the sequence of events and the events that actually will happen, I don't need to talk to you about.
Now, did Paul already talk to them about this or did he get wind that somebody had taught them more carefully about the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ? We don't know that for certain, but it seems that Paul is just reemphasizing what they already know. And I would say that in this room; there are people here, we know Jesus is coming again. I'm just reemphasizing what you already know and kind of filling in the gaps a little bit on some things that might be a little fuzzy or you might have possibly forgotten.
We're not here to put a circle on the calendar and say, this is when it's going to happen. We want to listen to Matthew 24:36, where Jesus said, "I's not for you to know the times or days." Acts 1, "The father knows that. I'm not here to tell you. I don't know. It's the father's business when I come again, but you will be my witnesses. You're going to keep on doing what I've asked you to do until it comes. He's coming, I'm coming, but we're not putting it on the calendar." I don't need to write you about this, you already know this, Paul is saying. And I might say the same to this church today.
Verse 2-3nd three, the day of the Lord will come. The day of the Lord will come. This day of the Lord; the Old Testament would talk about this day of the Lord is the day of wrath, the day of judgment, the day of reckoning, the day when all will be made right, and all the wrong will be dealt with. When I walk with victims of deep tragedy in our city and in our community right here in this church family, there is no interest of mine ever to see someone face eternity without Jesus. I just don't want that. In fact, that passage, I look all the time; I'm not really excited about the return of Christ coming like today, as much as I also know there's a lot of people that will miss heaven if He came today, and that grieves me.
I still have loved ones that refuse to trust in Jesus. I want them to know Jesus before Jesus comes again. I am looking forward to Him coming, I embrace the moment He decides to come; I'm not in charge of time, so when He comes, it'll be the right time. And I'm not arguing with God about that. That's not what I mean. I'm just saying that I'm excited to be there, but I'm also excited for there be a waiting period for a few more people to get in and to find the forgiveness and love and to live for Christ in ways that would bless them and bless others and be honorable to God. That's my prayer. But I also am going to say this; there are some wrongs that will be righted that on this side of eternity have never been righted by a jury of 12 or a judge that ought to have been righted. Justice will prevail.
And my eye is not on the judges and juries of our land, although I'm grateful for them. My eye is on the one who will make all things right. And that day of the Lord, for those that don't know Jesus, it ought to be a day of terror and of sadness. But for those who are believers in Him, our whole trust is in what God has been doing, is doing and will do for eternity. The day of the Lord will come. In the New Testament, it is announced in Acts 17, that Jesus is the Lord of the Lord of the day of the Lord. He's the one in charge of that, and He is the one who will judge. He even said in his own teachings as is recorded in scripture, that there'll be a separation of the sheep and the goats; those who trusted in Christ and those who did not trust in Him. There'll be a day of pulling the weeds from the wheat, the wheat and the tears. This is a common conversation that the New Testament fleshes out in the fact that Jesus will be overseeing this moment. And what is this day like? It's like a thief in the night.
Tucker! Ann and Tucker up front here, newly-weds. Not quite, but yeah, it's good. Isn't it awesome to be newly-wed? Isn't it awesome? By the way, I'm coming to your house. I'm free Thursday and I'm going to steal from your house. You have things - I saw your registry. I've been married 29 years, some of our stuff is worn out and I'd like to trade. So I'm not even bringing my stuff to you because you'd have to have a garage sale. I'm just going to take your stuff. Is that okay? I mean, I'm just letting you know I'm coming and I'm going to steal from you. So, I don't know what you're going to do about it, but I'm coming.
Does a thief do that? No. A thief comes when you think not because now Tucker is saying, "I'm going to prepare for this. I'm double locking the door. I'm buying a Doberman." He might buy a gun. I don't know what he's going to do, but I now know that I probably wouldn't... he'd be the last person I would go to. In fact, everybody in the room knows I'm free on Thursday. You're all shoring up your houses now because Tucker knows I'm coming, but Bob doesn't know I'm coming - whatever. Anyway, so a thief doesn't do that. Nor will Jesus say, "Oh, by the way, on Thursday I'll be here." He comes like a thief in the night. In a moment that you think not, it will be a surprise to those that don't know Jesus. It will be unexpected.
"There are people that are saying peace and security. It's okay, don't worry. For centuries He hasn't come back." These same naysayers had cousins and uncles that were saying, Jesus is not the Messiah that was proclaimed in the Old Testament. They had cousins that sat there on the day He was crucified and say, "If he's the savior of the world, why don't you get yourself off that cross?" And they were mocking him. And three days later He rose from the dead. One of the most identifiably provable historical facts in the world history happened. It split time in half AD, BC. It so rules our lives. Even people who don't trust in God are ruled by the rhythm of the fact that Jesus came, died and rose again; even if they don't believe it. And that fact, as fact and true as it was, as true as he ascended into heaven and the angel said he is coming again - He's coming again. He's going to come. And there will be people that will be saying, there's no way.
You can do whatever you want. You can ignore God in his rules. You can do anything. Do what you feel like doing instead of what God says to do, because it's okay, you're safe. You just need to join the right crowd of people so that you won't feel guilty about it. And they will be destroyed, it says. Sudden destruction will come upon them. As certain as birth when a woman goes into labor, he says like a woman in labor pains. We scheduled three of our kids. I mean, God did, but the doctor said we're going to make it kind of happen with drugs and medicine. It was wonderful. I could clear my calendar and I took my vacation days, and I just was relaxing to me.
Now you know how to pray for your pastor's wife that she gets a better husband. But our last one... was our last one? Came like - Jannie decided to come when she wanted to come and I got a phone call, like many of you did. How many got the phone call? I'm in labor. How many of you are like; "Whoa!"? And then suddenly everything changed. You can't stop it. Well, could we like wait till Thursday because I got some appointments today? No. Like, can I go unpack real quick? No. Once that begins, you can't stop it. Paul is saying just like a woman going into labor, you're not going to stop this; there's no second chances. There's no going back and saying, "Oh, B, B, B, wait, wait, wait. I was going to go and follow you Jesus." No, no, no, it's over.
Your opportunity to make a decision is before the day of the Lord, not the day of the Lord. But then Paul says, "But you're not in the dark believers, brothers and sisters." He's talking to the Christian. We're not going to be surprised when Christ returns. We'll be pleasantly... I think I'll be pleasantly surprised. I've been with two or three, maybe four people that were facing imminent death from this world and transition into eternity. And some over the last years or two of their life would just wonder how they could ever have received the grace of God and the forgiveness of their sins; my friend John, was that way. He was so in love with Jesus. I'd show up and he'd just honoring God with his life and praying for people. And he would use that prayer room when he was alive in our great room. There's a side room, it's a prayer room, and he was just praying to God.
And he tried to live his life for God and we'd joke around and stuff, and I'd be like, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be more spiritual. Thank you, John, for reminding me of that." And yet even he would say, "I can't believe I get to go to heaven to be with Jesus. I'm a sinner. I've sinned. I don't deserve this. Why did you die for me, Jesus?" And he just would weep over that. He said, "How in the world Jesus, would me?" And I'm like, you? If you're struggling to figure it out, what about all of us that aren't as spiritual as you are? And even so, he knew he wasn't in the dark. He knew Jesus was coming again. And I know that when he met Jesus, he was pleasantly surprised to know what he believed in was true. "But you are not in the dark," Paul says. We live in the daylight. We are fully aware, but even as we are fully aware, he reminds us to stay awake and be self-controlled in verse six. "So then let us not sleep like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled."
There are times when we could oftentimes slow our lives down or do our lives according to the rhythm of the world instead of God's kingdom. Augustine in the first century wrote to the church, this book called City of God. And that city of God talks about the fact that we have a kingdom citizenship. We live in a kingdom of God as a Christian, but we also have a citizenship on earth. And our citizenship on earth ought to be affected by our citizenship in heaven and not the other way around. That how we live our lives, ought to be set to the temple of God and His word, and the power of the Holy Spirit within us; not the temple of the world. It has been said that if you went to New York City right now, and we're deposited there as a tourist, you would start walking faster because it is the fastest walking city in the world.
We went on mission trips there, and a few people can testify that their feet were about worn out when we got done. Amen. Few of you? Yeah, where's that bus and subway? I'm ready to stop walking. Fast-paced - you literally change your gate, your walking pace just by walking into that city. You don't change the city. That city changes you. And that's the way it ought to be for Christian; that our citizenship in heaven ought to change the pace of our life. And how do we do that? Well, Paul gives us some ideas. Don't sleep. Don't ignore the fact that Jesus is coming. Let's keep that in mind and not consume us to the point of like, I'm not... again, we don't know when hasn't come back yet. A few generations have passed obviously, and so still keep your life insurance, still get on that retirement plan. That 401k is going to be more helpful if He doesn't come back than if you thought he came back, let's not worry about it and He doesn't.
I mean, keep your job. Don't give all your furniture away, just live life, do what you're supposed to be doing and be excited when he comes the moment he comes, but let's be self-controlled. He says this twice, be self-controlled, really to remain sober, to remain in control of the way we act and live our lives; to be in control of our minds, our bodies, our attitudes, our actions. And how do we do this? He says, put on the armor, the armor of faith and love. This is in reference; He also talks about this in Ephesians. He fleshes this out a little more carefully in Ephesians talking about the armor, put on the full armor of God. And there are some things about the armor of God that we see that we can extrapolate.
Well, there's the breast plate and there's the different places of our body. And we know that it's a frontal armor. It's not behind us, so we're always moving forward in our life. We're not retreating backwards. We can talk about all that. But Paul doesn't seem to give us a lot of clues about it, and I think it probably not do justice to read too far into the analogies of the particular things he's saying here, but enough to say that we need to put on the armor. That is, our faith must affect every area of our life.
You need to take your faith to work with you. You need to take your faith to school with you. You need to take your faith to your neighborhood. You need to have a confidence in Jesus Christ, wherever you go. You need to have a confidence that you're trusting in him to direct your life, instead of letting the world direct your life. Instead of letting your attitude and actions or your flesh direct your life. Our Christ-like love; we must have the armor of love, unconditional favor of love, defining how we relate to other people and how we take care of ourselves. We need to look in the mirror and say, "I am loved by the Lord. Jesus Christ. I am a new creation in Christ. God loves me. And I should love me too." And I don't mean that in a self-service way, but some people, they don't love themselves. They hate themselves. They see themselves in a mirror the way God does is see them.
And you need to remember, that armor of love says that God loves you. And you must also love who God made in you and God is working a work in you. And then you must express that love in your relationships with other people. It must prevail among your family members. It must prevail in your neighborhood. It must prevail wherever you go; not just on Sunday morning, not just during connection groups, but all the time that you live your life. And put on the helmet of hope. Now, I'm going to go just a moment there. He does mention one particular piece of armor; he uses the word helmet. So I'm going to violate what I just said just a little bit, but this might be me, not the scripture, but let me say it. The helmet of hope; the helmet covers the head, right? And hope is something.... I mean, can you get through something if you have hope that there's a better ending at the end?
There was a study done. I was a psychology major in Ball State, and I was reading about this. All these students would come in, it's probably students that did this, and they had a bucket of ice water. And the goal was that they would put somebody in a chair and they put their bare feet in ice water and say I'd like for you to keep it in the water as long as possible. And they'd time them. Well, the first group they would bring in and they would just let them sit there, and they'd time them - time. And then the next group would come in, and every few moments they'd say, "You're doing okay there?" "Yeah, I'm doing okay there," and they'd time them. And then the next group would come in and put their feet in the water and there'd be people around them. "All right, you got this, come on, let's go a little bit more. Just keep a little bit more." And they would root them on. And there was different varying degrees of encouragement who lasted the longest? The people with hope. The people said, "Oh, we got someone around me encouraging me, get me going here. I'm going to get through this."
They suddenly had a goal in mind. They suddenly knew where they were... "Oh, I'm going to keep doing this." And especially if you said, "You know that last group didn't last very long. I bet you could last longer." Ooh, now I have a goal - and a little competition in there. It's human nature to give up sometimes. Not everybody has an internal hope clock. But if you've got Jesus, you've got hope. Your eyes on eternity; you know that whatever you do lasts forever that lasts forever, and whatever you're doing that doesn't - doesn't, and so you accordingly live your life and you have a hope and our hope must supersede our feelings because there are times when we doubt. There are times when we get down and our feelings betray us. We must trust facts, not feelings. But I feel like this. I feel like that. What does the Bible say? "Well, I don't know what the Bible says. I feel this way." Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Feelings are valid when they validate what the scriptures say and feelings are not valid when they don't. We trust what God says above how we feel.
You will be on a rollercoaster the rest of your life if your goal is to feel God, and to feel right. You will feel right often, maybe. I don't know. You may not. But are you living right according to the facts of scripture? Let your feelings catch up to the facts. Don't feel yourself towards facts because often our feelings will take us to things that are not factual. We trust the facts of faith in Christ who died for us. It's a statement of faith. It is a doctrinal statement. It is a statement that Paul mentions throughout. He doesn't flush it out in this particular passage, but it says He died for us, He died in our place. It is a statement of truth that we put our trust in that we don't have to pay for our sins. They're paid for. We don't have to wonder if we get into heaven. We are in heaven. We have a relationship with God. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, who is our anchor. On the other side of that veil, in Hebrews it talks about, he went through there to the holy of holies and he interceded on us. And he paid that all ultimate price once for all. And we put our faith in hope in that; not only we think are hope or not in what we feel about that.
And then he says, "We may live together with Him." In other words, our fellowship with Jesus will be with Him. And it said earlier in chapter four, that personal time with Him and those who've gone before us, as they're raised up and we are raised up and we join him together, we will never be separated from Jesus Christ. That's our hope. And so therefore Paul says, encourage one another and build one another up. Christ followers must help one another until Jesus comes again.
That that's why I always say - even yesterday I did a graveside service for somebody else; this was on Friday. And we're praying for Tien and her family and Mike for their mother's home-going Memorial tomorrow. And but I said, I said, you know where you find comfort in all this? You find comfort in a faith family. And I told them, non-partial [unclear30:44], one in town. I like one particularly, mine. And I hope you all come, but go somewhere. Be a part of something. You need a faith fellowship. You need people to encourage each other. And so well, we do this in our own home by ourselves. You need other family members. You need other people. Some of the best marriage counseling does not happen in my study. It happens in a small group when other couples get together and say, oh, you do the same. You have the same stuff we go, you have the same problems we have. Parenting gets better when you have other parents around you.
Being a single adult, you got the same struggles I've got; I got the same struggles here. We need one another. We need to encourage each other and build each other up. You can do this. Let's go! Friday night lights has started. And most of the teams, if not all the teams have practiced so hard and they're ready to go. And some of them they're still getting ironing out the details, but they have their plays down pat in their heads and they've got them on their arms and they're running the plays. And last Friday night was a day of reckoning for those teams to say who was more prepared than the others. But before the game, they probably had a pep talk in the locker room and they got around each other. And the coach said, "You're going to do this and we're going to do that." And he reminded him what he told him all season long, so far. And then you'd see some of the teams, if they were really united and he'd see them, the guys would be doing this thing, right.
And they started woohoo, and then all a sudden the stands are going, "Hey, where's my popcorn or whatever?" We're just there to watch a good game, right? And then they're all just Woohoo, and they go, whoa, and they're ready to go, and they break the huddle and they're ready to play the game while they do it together as a team, and they get stronger together. And I know our particular team at the last third quarter, they all come together. This last one, this is the last quarter, and let's all make this happen. It's rally cry, because they're in this together. They're not just a bunch of individuals. We're a team and we need one another. We need to show up for practice, working out each other's, and helping each other, growing our faith.
We need to be with each other on Sundays. We need to be with each other in rhythm during the week and in groups and do what we can. We need to be helping one another. We need me texting one another and helping each other, asking each other how they're doing. I need you to get in my face sometimes and tell me to get over it.
Even I, I'm still growing in my faith. I was going through something really tough. And last week somebody walked into my office and they said, "How you doing?" I says, "I'm having a cruddy week," and I let him have it. No, I told them what was going on. And he just walked with me and he encouraged me. And there were some things I was thinking, he says, "It's going to be fine. This will work out. Oh, that's not going to happen." You know the “what if” game that you lose every time you think it? And he was just there encouraging me. I needed that. So I need that, you need that; we all need that to be encouraged together.
So my final thought this morning is wake up, wake up. There are two kinds of people in this room right now. There's was a timeline on this stage and this meant I put my faith in Jesus Christ. It was my spiritual birthday. I trusted in Jesus as my savior and Lord, I said, Jesus, forgive me for my sins. I believe you died and rose again, come into my life and be in charge of my life. I now want to walk with you. If this is that, then there's people on this side that have not yet done that. They have not yet put their faith in Jesus. They may be close to it. They may be thinking about it. They may want to do it, but they haven't. They may be so far away from God. And that's not the case, but sometimes that's the case where someone says, "I hate Jesus. I want nothing to do with him. I can't stand him. I don't believe in him." There's other people; "Well, I'm courteous. You know, He might be real. And I know people that believe he is, so I'm respectful of that.
And then you got people that are, I want to know more and people that are just within moments of trusting in Jesus, but they're still on this side and the day of the Lord will not be a good day for them. It's a day of wrath. It's a day of reckoning. It's a day of paying for the consequences of not trusting in Jesus. But then there's those that have put their faith in Jesus, and they're on this side of the line. They may be a baby Christian, they may be brand new, they may have just put their faith in Jesus, they may have put their faith in Jesus a while back, and they never really grew a whole lot. And they're still just sort of sucking their thumb spiritually.
But they're on this side of heaven. They're on this side of trusting in Jesus. They've put their faith in Jesus and they, and you and I, and I would put myself in that category - can be confident that he who began good work in you will be faithful to complete it to the day of Christ Jesus. And I know whom I believe, and I'm convinced that he is able to guard what I've entrusted to him for that day. I'm trusting, not in me, but in Him, the one who saved me. And that day of the Lord will be, yes, a surprise, but it will not be a bad surprise. It will be a pleasant surprise. When all is said and done, I will be with Jesus forever.
And those of us that have trusted him are here. So my word to us as believers in Jesus; let's stay awake, let's stay alert. Let's stay sober. Let's stay right. Let's keep moving towards. Let's encourage one another. Let's live in the day and not in the night. And for those that are still living in the darkness, they're still not trusting in Jesus; my prayer this morning is that today would be the day of your salvation. Today you would put your trust in Him. Let's just stand to our feet right now, quietly and reverently as our team comes forward.
I just like to say a prayer out loud this morning. I don't do this all the time, but this morning I'd like to do this. Maybe this would be your prayer that you want to put your faith in Jesus. How do I do that, Pastor? Let me just lead you right now in a private prayer. You just pray to God as I pray with you this morning, just say to God right now, just in your heart of hearts. "Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you." Just tell him that in your heart of hearts, I believe you died on the cross and came back to life three days later. Just tell him that trust in him. Say I trust in what you did for me. Jesus, as best I know how I give you my life to do with as you please. I ask that you forgive me for all of my sins, everything I'm ever done; will you make me clean? Help me, Jesus.
And then just say, "Jesus, whatever you want me to do next, I'm willing to do. I'm trusting in you all the way." I don't know how you pray in your own prayer time with God, and maybe that's the word you've used in the past. But however, just get right with God. Get serious with God. The Bible says that those who confess Jesus openly and publicly are the ones that he will confess before the father. And the ones that refuse to confess Jesus publicly; He has no ability to confess you before the father. Why would you ever declare someone what they have never declared themselves to be? And so this morning, I want to invite you to take a connection card and put on it, "I've put my faith in Jesus. I've trusted in Jesus." Maybe come down and maybe we can talk about that this morning. I could chat with you up here in the front before you leave today.
Go to the back, Jerry, and Becky will be back there just to pray with you and encourage you. If you have questions you say, "Man, I think I want to do this, but I need to know where information." Please, no question is a silly question. The day of the Lord is coming, are you prepared? And if you're prepared, are you staying awake? Lord help us to honor you in whatever way you've called us to move forward in our faith today, in Jesus name.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
August 7, 2022
God’s letter to our church
-The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this letter
-2 Peter 1:21b “men spoke from God as they were carried
along by the Holy Spirit”
-2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired (breathed) by God…”
-Read Belief Statement on “The Scriptures”
-Three questions when reading the Bible:
-What did it mean to the people who first received it?
-What are the timeless principles
-How must we apply those timeless principles in our current
Reputation inside the church 1 Thes 4:9-10a
-Paul complimented them on their family love
-Phileo- brotherly/family love
-This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the NT: Rom 12:10; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7
“Taught by God to love one another”
-God-taught, evidence of the Holy Spirit
-Hebrews 8:10-11 We have God’s laws written on our hearts
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20 We are the temple of the Holy Spirit
-love: agape, unconditional love
-1 Cor 13; Matt 22:37-39; John 13:34-35
“the entire region”
-Our love must extend to other believers in other churches!
-Our church networks with regional, state, and national
churches to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!
-Our church must love other churches in our city!
-We may agree to disagree on methods and specific beliefs
-We must always respect other churches, work with them
when we can
Reputation outside the church vs 10b-12
“do this even more”
-building our reputation never ends!
-one poor decision can erase a lifetime of good decisions
“seek to lead a quiet life”
-don’t give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church!
-1 Peter 2:12- conduct yourselves honorably…
-The gospel is always offensive, Christians must never be!
-Paul may be telling them to stay under the political radar
-Context matters: they had no rights, we live in a Republic
-we are personally responsible to elect our leaders
-Jeremiah 29:7 Pray for the well-being of our city!
“mind your own business”
-Stop trying to fix people around us!
-Stop expecting unbelievers to behave like believers
-We are powerless to live a godly life without Jesus
-Paul is not saying we aren’t accountable to other believers
-Paul OFTEN told the church to correct sinful believers
“work with your own hands”
-Jewish mindset: manual labor is honorable and expected
-Greek mindset: manual labor is slavish, demeaning
-Paul’s pattern: full time support, part-time, voluntary
-2 Thes 3:10-13 don’t work = don’t get free food!
-Genesis 1:28 Humans are required to take care of creation!
“so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone”
-Why would people want to follow Jesus if His followers have poor reputations for getting along with outsiders and freeloading on people???
Do you naturally love other believers?
-Only Jesus can change our hearts to love correctly! Trust Him!
Do you have a good reputation outside of our church?
-A double life offends God and hinders our church’s mission!
St Joe Community Church’s Belief about the Bible
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
This letter to Thessalonians was written by Paul, but it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. And our particular subject matter today is Reputation Matters. It matters what the body of Christ is like inside the church, and it matters what people think of the body of Christ outside the church. And in these short few verses, we're going to unpack both of those things. We're going to talk about our love for one another in the body of Christ and our reputation, the way we act and live outside of the body of Christ. This is God's letter to our church. This isn't just a letter that was written to the Thessalonian. It's a letter that God gave to us. God inspired Paul and we've have some Bible studies that we've gone over that, and I'd be more than happy to sit down with you or others and our leaders in our church that can help you understand more carefully, this idea that - this understanding that this isn't just some history book; it's God's book for you and for me.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul, just as in 2 Peter 1, it says that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3, all scripture is inspired by God. It's God breathed is what is says in that passage of scripture. We as a church, believe that the word of God is without any mixture of error, the perfect record of what God wants, not just for the time period that He gave it to, but for all time periods, until Jesus comes again and even into eternity, His words will never pass away. In fact, we know that the word of God from the Old Testament, as it proclaimed and as the New Testament, as it revealed, it all points to one person and who is that? Jesus. It all points to one person, the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, Jesus Christ.
He was the word in the flesh. He is the final word for our faith and practice. And so is the word of God. As we study it together, we figure out what was it that Paul was saying, particularly to the people. So when we, when you're studying the Bible, you always say, what did the original hearers think about what was said? What was it like for them? Paul wrote in one letter, he said, "You know have somebody bring my coat to me." He obviously left this coat somewhere. Some of you do that here. And so he sent a letter and he says, "Hey, I need my coat. I'm kind of cold." Now, that wasn't obviously something... that was a particular thing. It was a personal request in the midst of a letter that God wrote to us, but that's, you know, take people, their coats. I don't know.
But in other words, that was some particular thing, but in the middle of that letter, and throughout that letter, there are timeless principles. So you have what it was it like back in how did they receive it. What are those timeless principles that were true for that church and for our church? That's the bridge from them to us. What does it mean to us today? What are the truths that will always be true that we must always think about? And then a Bible study, a sermon, anything that we do, it's not just about educating us about something, but about helping us to learn how to be different, how to apply it to our lives. How do I apply that to my life right now? What am I going to do about it? How am I going to live this out in my day-to-day life until I go home to Jesus or Jesus comes, whichever comes first?
It's God's letter to the church because it was timeless principles that will always need to be applying to our lives. Paul, in this letter is narrowing down. We talked last time about being pure in our lives, living a pure life. And now he's centering on the concept of family relationships in the church, spiritual family, the body of Christ. And so, I'm going to unpack it verse at a time, but I want to read the first couple of verses starting in verse nine, Paul says about brotherly love, "You don't need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you're doing this toward all the brothers and sisters in the entire region of Macedonia." The reputation inside the church is important. We need to center on what the inside of this church is like. Our reputation inside here matters. And what does that reputation centered upon? It's centered upon our love for one another. Brotherly love! Brotherly love! Sisterly love you could say as well. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It's family love. We need to care about one another.
And Paul says, you don't need to tell, I don't need to tell you how to do this, you're doing it. And I would say in testimonies even this week, when someone's saying how they have been loved on by our church family in practical ways, I hear this a lot. So-and-so came by to see us or such--and-such, or this was given to us, or we had this situation and we were just encouraged, or we were stopped and we got a text message from somebody, or something happened. I see people loving each other on Facebook, where they like or love or happy anniversary or happy birthday, and that can be a very superficial thing. But then that just investment in caring about what somebody else is going through, that's love.
And I will say I'm very grateful to serve and to be the pastor of a church that knows how to do this as well. Just as Paul said about them, I would say to you, I don't have to tell you about this, you're doing it. Oh, keep on doing it. It's good stuff. This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the New Testament; Romans 12, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1, 2 Peter 1. This is a common word for loving one another as family.
Now I didn't mean that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't like each other. Sometimes we don't like what each other do. We have differences of an opinion, which means you're wrong and I'm right. That's what opinion means, right? I mean, don't tell me you guys don't always - that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't. Some of you don't always like me. Maybe someone still doesn't like me. Oh, my feelings are hurt. It bothers me a little bit. Okay, don't I get you. Anybody that doesn't care what people think about them, there's something wrong with them. That's not cool. Everybody cares what people think about in some way, shape or form it. But love supersedes the like moment. Love says I'm going to lean into this person and see where they're at and help them and maybe go the extra mile and humble myself and say, how was I part of us getting sideways ways. We do the hard, heavy lifting, because we love one another we're family.
Someone say, we're all we got. Come on. Let's go after this. Some of you have even said, you love your spiritual family, and you find love from your spiritual family, more than your own physical family. In fact, some churches shy away from calling the church, a family because of the brokenness of so many families of the people that they're reaching for Jesus. They just don't. They don't get what that model and say, "Well, if you're a family, I'm in a family and I don't want that I'm coming here for not that. That's not what we mean and I hope you know that. This is like, oh, when I was pastoring my first church and I'm like, what? Late twenties, mid-twenties, and I got men in my church that are in their seventies. They've forgotten more scripture than I've learned. They've been after this a long time. They've got grandkids my age, and I'm supposed to be their leader? Defer to them as fathers in the ministry.
Please think of your tiny, your young pastor as a son in the ministry. Family love enables you to get through that chronological struggle in the family of God, so that a young leader can still be leading in a respectful familial way. That's the way it ought to be. You know, Bray, he acts a lot older than he looks. He's a young guy, but he's a mature young man, and he's going to lead people twice his age. And he already does in some situations. He does it in this room when he is leading us for worship. And he's due this respect that he's due because of what he does. But in no way is he going to say, "Well, I'm the leader, here's how it is." No, he's a brother in Christ. And he's a son in the ministry to some who could be his earthly father like me. And so, we have a spiritual family love for one another.
We need to have brotherly love. And Paul says, and you were taught by God to love one another. This taught by God - God-taught. It's one word - it's kind of a combination of words in Greek, which means there's an evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person when they're loving somebody supernaturally. Supernatural love causes us to go the extra mile for people when we don't feel like it. This taught by God moment, this is like - God... when the Holy Spirit comes into you and I, when we become a Christian, God writes the law of God on our hearts. This is no longer an external rule for us to follow. It's an internal drive that makes us want to. He changes our want-to. This is not a reformation. It's a transformation. This is not getting an upgraded software on our computer. It's an incredibly new hardware. It changes our heart makes it soft, makes us want to do the right thing. And when someone doesn't have that evidence in their lives, I wonder if they have a religion instead of a relationship. We need to make sure that as we're doing this, we're not trusting in ourselves. We're trusting in the one within us that's helping us to do this very thing.
I said a couple of weeks ago in 1 Corinthians 6, that we're the temple of the Holy Spirit, that's why we don't defile the temple we're living in. We're defiling God, himself, as the [hope11:43], the person that we're hosting within us when we do things that are unholy with our lives and our bodies. But then he says, you're taught by God to love one another. He switches words; love one another is actually the word love in this passage, in this particular verse is the word agape, which means unconditional, no strings attached kind of love; love that's not expecting something in return. [Unclear12:08] of love is that give and take. I love you, you love me, we kind of have this mutual partnership of love, but agape love is loving without any kind of expectation of a return on the love that you invest in that person.
You know, it's sort of like when you give a gift to somebody for their birthday, and then when your birthday comes around, they don't give you a gift. Well, that's not how the rules are played. If I give you chocolate, you give me chocolate. Karen, I bring you a donut, you bring me a donut on Friday morning, right? That's how that works. We have family love. Agape love says, Karen brings me a donut all the time and I never bring her one and she's still happy. She actually still would be because she's that kind of person. She's more spiritual than I am. But seriously, that's what agape love is. It says I'm giving you full love and care, and I'm not expecting anything in return. Who did that for us? It's a simple answer every time I ask you this morning. What's the Bible all about? And who gave us agape love? Jesus - every single time. It's Jesus! Who lives within us; the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ lives in us to show us how to love one another unconditionally, the way Christ loves us. That unconditional love was exemplified in 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 22, John 13. And Paul says, you're not only loving one another in your local church, but you love is expanding to people throughout the region of Macedonia. What's the practical principle here? We need to love Christians besides just the ones that go to St. Joe.
We had a handful of people from out of town today that were visiting family. We got love on them, they got love on us. That's just how it goes. When people come here and are visiting, we love on them as they go back to somewhere else - when we are on vacation, we go to a church and that church is a church that's in love with Christ and love with people. It's a natural byproduct that they're going to love the people that come alongside and aren't going to be there all the time. Here's another byproduct of loving people; loving other churches around us and other Christians to go to other churches. I mean, I'm kind of personal to ours, but I'm telling you, there's some other good churches around here and you need to be up on everybody. And we don't need to be up on things that aren't right about things. But I'm just saying, you know, we are going to agree to disagree on things, specific things that we might do, and that's what makes each local church unique. But it doesn't mean, and it doesn't mean we are allowed to bypass loving one another. We got to love one another.
You know how many churches loved on us over the 20 years of our existence? 20 years ago, coming up in October 20 years ago, November actually, we had our first membership class in the basement of Cavalry Baptist church on St. Joe Center Road. We had organizational meetings in other churches because we didn't have a church building. We had churches that let us borrow baptismal tanks. We learned how to take a baptismal tank through a 36 inch door and bring it into the Carmike Movie Theater down by the screen so that we could baptize people, and then we put big old plastic out, big tarps out so that when people sloshed, when the pastor sloshed them we'd be able to clean it up better. And we had churches that let us borrow that. We built one, then we gave that away to somebody else and we got a building, but we've had dozens of churches. When we've had church meetings we needed a building, when we had weddings and funerals. And by the way, let's have a moment of silence for the place we can no longer visit, Carmike Movie Theater.
We have a couple over here that renewed their valves right there in Carmike Movie Theater. How many here got baptized at Carmike? Anybody here? Couple people did, maybe a few. I mean, it was a special place for us. If you've been there recently for a movie, it ain't so special now, but probably why it closed. But it kind of hit me like, wow, there's a lot of spiritual stories that took place there. But while we were there, we could only be there on Sunday morning, and other churches opened their doors to us. Blackhawk Ministries tapped us into a worship leader that we had for a few years. And we even used their choir room, their practice room for our band to practice on certain nights of the week. We had a key to the back door to Blackhawk Ministries down the street from us here. We had churches that gave us literature for our vacation Bible school or Bible study materials. They recycled the materials by giving it to us.
We had all kinds of people serving us and encouraging us. Why wouldn't we want to do the same for them and others? Thousands of churches voluntarily gave financially through the North American Mission Board so that I could be a full-time pastor right out the gate, the first three years of our existence 20 years ago. They loved on us. We got letters, cards, people praying for us, we benefited, and my prayer is that we will pass that love on to others for the rest of our existence until Jesus comes. And we'll do the same - loving on other churches, respecting other churches and working with them when we can and caring for the body of Christ, big church, even as we're taking care of business in this church. May our love bleed into all areas of Christian contact with other believers in the region and in the world.
And then, Paul kind of moves to a different type of reputation; that's the reputation inside the church. Now let's look at the reputation outside of the church, and he kind of in the middle of verse 10 - and by the way, the verses in chapters, Paul didn't do that in his letter. That'd be kind of weird, wouldn't it? But later on in history, people who were copying the Bible started putting these chapters and verses in here so that we could find each verse place in the Bible more carefully. And in the middle of verse 10, it sort of changes gears even though it's in the same verse, according to the way they organized it. But it's a different thought, because he starts looking outside. He said, "But we encourage you brothers and sisters to do this even more." And what does he mean by that? Verse 11, "To seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands as we commanded you." And verse 12 was the results, "So that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone."
So what's he saying here? So the reputation inside the church is important. We need to show love for one another. But on the outside of the church, we need to be respected for the way we live our lives. Do this even more - building reputation never ends. One poor decision can cancel a lifetime of good decisions. People get fired overnight for stupidity, even though they may have done a long history of doing good things up until that moment. Old men and women lose their godly influence in churches when they get bitter and hardened in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors about my age get to that midlife and we go, is it really worth it? And we start slacking, and suddenly our decisions become kind of mundane and routine. And suddenly we're on the path of losing the reputation that we gained when we were zealous and energetic. There is never a moment when we're not building our reputation to outsiders for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The moment we can let down our guard about reputation is the moment we take our last breath on this earth. I'll rephrase my favorite movie phrase, "Reputation never takes a holiday" Mall Cop. Okay. Anyway, safety never takes a holiday. Okay, never mind. Maybe it's too old of a movie.
Do this even more. What's he telling them to do? Seek to lead a quiet life. And what's he saying here? Don't give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church. Two things turn people away from the church. What is it? Usually their own problems, circumstances, physical illness, they'll say, "Well, who's God, he's going to do this to me or whatever" and then people in the church who do things bad to them or look like they don't get along. I mean, if we are bickering and fighting, who wants to be in this church? But if we're living a [duclicit21:40] life, who wants to be in this church? Well, they may practice it there, but they're not preaching... they preach it there, but they're not practicing it in their own homes.
Now, a wayward believer is no excuse for any believer to reject Jesus. When someone goes before God and he says, why did you reject me? They're going to say, "Well, Jimmy, over there was a screw up for the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, he was a really poor example and he really turned me off to you." That ain't going to cut it. We're all standing guilty before God, needing holy God to forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ, so there's no excuse for this. However, there's no excuse for us to give anyone a reason to not want to follow Jesus by our behavior and lifestyle outside the church.
There is one thing that ought to always be offensive to a person, and it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, by nature, we do not want to be told we're wrong, right? Do you like to be told you're wrong? How many of you love being told you're wrong? And the gospel tells us we're wrong. That we're sinners and we need forgiveness. We can't earn our way into heaven. We must trust in the work of Jesus Christ and what he did to pay for our sins. We have to trust that. And it goes against the grain of human nature; it goes against the grain of humanity, generally. It goes against the grain of America that says pull yourself up by your bootstraps because you didn't work hard enough. And I love the idea of the American dream around here, but I'm telling you what; when it comes to spirituality, the American dream is not what saves you. It's humbling yourself and admitting you need to be forgiven, you need to be changed; you need a change maker, Jesus in your life.
That is offensive. What you're doing is sinful and outside of God's boundaries, but God wants to forgive you; not justify what you're doing. So, we'll never get over that offensive truth. You and I, as a believer, had to face that offensive truth and receive it, accept it, and now live in it and understand it and appreciate it. God loved us too much to leave us where we found us, amen, but we should never be doing anything else in our lives that's so offensive. They may hear the gospel message through us and think that the gospel's not offending us or offending them; our personality is offending them. The way we're treating them is offending them. What we're doing is offending them and they mix the two up. And Paul says that ought never be. You need to lead a quiet life. "Conduct yourselves honorably," 1 Peter 2:12 says.
Now, Paul may have been saying stay under the radar politically, because right now remember we were persecuted. And if you listen to my other sermons, they had been persecuted so much so that Paul had to leave town quickly so that he didn't cause any more problems for them. And so, seek to lead a quiet life might have meant stay under the radar of the governmental affairs. Bless the city, but don't make a big deal about it.
Now, context matters. In our context, we are participants in this Republic and we have a responsibility, and I think we'll be answerable to God for how we used our freedom to choose who is elected and who's serving. And in fact, maybe we ought to serve and be a part of that. But the context in Paul's day had nothing to do with that. And by the way, we don't know for sure what Paul was saying about quiet life, so we don't even know if that's even what he meant, but that was something that is brought up occasionally when they look at this particular passage. We know way back in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were deported into a foreign city, and they thought, 'We're going to go back, we're going to go back." And Jeremiah says, "No, hang on. Build houses, plant gardens, pray for the wellbeing of the city within you." This is Jeremiah 29. Pray for the wellbeing of the city and do good and help that city prosper, the city you're in. So if you're planted here in Fort Wayne, make Fort Wayne better by the way, you live your life. Pray for Fort Wayne, invest yourself, do what you can do to make this place... bloom, where you're planted. I think we heard that from a speaker a couple weeks ago. Bloom where you're planted, make a difference where you are.
And then he says here, mind your own business. Stop trying to fix people around us. Now, men, I'm going to be honest, I'm a fixer. And your wives, if you're married, does not always need a fixer. Women, amen. Oh, I know I'm touching on toes here, but sometimes I have to ask my wife when she starts coming home with a problem from work or there's a problem from the school with the kids. And I'll say, "Okay," because used to be, I'd say, oh, I know how to fix that. I didn't, but I thought I did. And now I have to say, "I'm working on it. I'm getting better at it. I think." You can ask her later. Okay, is this something you want me to help you fix or I'm just here to walk alongside you with the problem? Most of the time, it's just walk alongside and listen. Occasionally she's like, yeah, I'd like some input, but ask permission.
And isn't that true with coworkers that aren't believers, you got all the answers, right? They're doing all kinds of crazy stuff and they're suffering the great, crazy consequences of it, and you have all the answers. You're like, well, you know, if you didn't do that, you wouldn't experience that. And you're like getting into their business. I never asked you. Now, there's a way to do that. You know, you can get alongside somebody, but you got to show them you love them and care about them before you start trying to fix them. I mean, and you're not there to fix them. You're there to be a conduit of God's blessing and love in their lives. You're not there to give them religion. You're there to connect them into a relationship. Mind your own business.
There's times when you just need to butt out. And quit trying to think that non-believers are going to act like believers. When you get ticked off by somebody at work, check yourself for a moment. Is this person following Jesus or not? No. All right, they don't have the intel inside like you have. They don't, so don't expect him to act like you're trying to act. And by the way, mind your own business. Paul is not saying in the church mind your own business; he's saying mind your own business as you're dealing with your affairs on the outside of the church. If that was the case, he's actually telling... he's getting in the church's business, telling them what to do in this passage. So we're not saying that we don't.... we're supposed to hold each other accountable.
Brothers and sisters, if you see your brother in sin, you're supposed to restore that person gently, but be careful because you might too also fall into that same temptation. We are supposed to hold each other accountable. We are supposed to get in each other's lives, and sometimes somebody's got to get in my face and say, "Greg you're being prideful, arrogant and foolish." Please do that if that's the case, because I don't want to suffer the consequences of being prideful, arrogant and foolish. That's what's signing up into the covenant relationship with the church is all about is I'm covenanting together to hold each other accountable to be like the body of Christ is supposed to be like to glorify Jesus Christ.
So, it's not talking - he's talking about more of an outside thing than he is the inside here. And then he says work with your own hands. He concludes with a conversation about working. Now, a Jewish mindset was that you would work with your hands; manual labor is an honorable and respectable thing. But in this Greek community and in the Greek mindset in general, working with their hands was demeaning or beneath them. Well, I imagine some of the people that were believers in Jesus Christ had lost their day jobs, their desk jobs, so to speak, and they're starting to have to work with their hands. There might have been a few that said, "Well, if Jesus is coming in any moment, what's the purpose in working?" Well, it's been 2000 years, He hasn't come yet.
I've never heard more clamor for the idea that Jesus is coming than I have in my lifetime than I have recently, maybe during the cold war era in the very, very, most tense moments of that in the early part of my life. But it's getting more and more that says, well, look - and we had our server last night at the Tin Caps, some of the guys went over there and she's from the Ukraine and she still got family over there, and we were talking about that. When I was at Whitewater rafting up in, - actually in Pennsylvania during our vacation three weeks ago. On the bus ride back to get to our cars, we were all crammed in together, and a Taiwanese student that was at Penn State, a PhD student was sitting next to me and she was talking about how China is.
I said, "Wow, you must be feeling a little tense right now." She says, "Yeah, we don't want China to get excited if Russia wins against Ukraine, they might get emboldened and come and invade us." It's a really scary moment in world events right now. And you probably have been reading in current times, there's some saber rattling, there's some missiles going over the top of Taiwan and some assertion of authority say, hey, you're one of us. And so, there's some crazy stuff going on. I says, was Jesus coming back, let's get this all cleaned up. It's Armageddon time. The chart on the wall says Jesus could come in any moment. The chart on the wall says He come any moment, but we do not know the times and dates.
Let's just say - I'm still putting away for my retirement in case he doesn't come back when I'm 75, okay. 80, 90, hopefully if I live that long. I still need a bank account. I still need to keep working. He might come back and that means nothing. Yay! But if he doesn't come back, I'm going to hurt if I quit my job. These guys might have thought no big deal. And Paul's like, "No, no, no, no. Keep working with your hands." In fact, in the second letter that he wrote to them, there were some people that were freeloading. And he says, 'If that person doesn't work, don't give them any food." Our reputation from outsiders should be that we're the hardest workers they've ever employed, amen, that we have the highest ethic of any employee that they have, amen. And that we are willing to go the extra mile, mind your own business, do the right thing, keep our head under the cover and just do the right thing. Stay under the radar. Don't try to be the Mr. Fix-it godly know-it-all with a big Bible that takes every five minute break to tell people about Jesus and not do their job.
Did pastors just say, don't tell them about Jesus? If you're being employed by somebody by the hour to do a particular thing, put a widget on a widget, for instance. And during the widget on a widget somebody says I want to know more about Jesus. If you can do that while you're widget on a widget, or you get your quota done, or you get your run finished and you have a break, go talk about Jesus. But if you say, "Oh, thank you, I'm going to be spiritual and get away from the widget on a widget and talk to you about Jesus," you're stealing from your employer. And what kind of a reputation is that? Your reputation is more than just talking to someone about Jesus. It's about your whole life. A person of integrity does the right thing and is an honorable worker in the workplace and a good witness for Jesus Christ when able and when their time permits to speak about Jesus.
But your authority to speak about Jesus will be granted to you when they see that Jesus is flowing into who you are and what you do. So this morning, I got a question. Do you believe that reputation matters? Because reputation matters. Bray is going to come up and sing one more song for us. He's going to help us sing one more song together. And I got a couple of questions before we end. Do you naturally love other believers? Do you have a reputation in our church for loving people? Only two reasons why that wouldn't be the case; one, you're a Christian in rebellion. Get right. There you go, we can go home now. Or I don't even know what that means. Find Jesus, He will show you how.
If you're looking for that relationship with Jesus Christ, I welcome you to put on your card today. I'd like to know more what it means to have this kind of love that you're talking about pastor, because I don't have it. But for you and I who are Christians, we know better. And if for our love isn't showing right now, it might be a recalibration moment for us to say it's time for us to say, God, I need more of what you want from me to be loving to people around me. And the next question I want to ask is do you have a good reputation among outsiders? Do the people outside our church know that you love Jesus and that you love them? I mean, I sometimes wonder if believers don't invite their friends who don't go to church to church because they don't look any different than their friends. That it would be foreign for them to hear from you something about God.
Now, I'm not saying, I believe that's true in this room. I'm just saying in general, our ability to help people find and follow Christ is based upon the reputation we have among people who don't know Him. And what's that like for you? I'm going to be honest. There are times when I'm working on the outside of this church and I do it a lot and you know that about me. I thrive on the edges of lostness, on the edges of crazy, on the edges of where people aren't yet following Christ. And it's really easy to start laughing at the jokes, even your pastor. It's easy sometimes to possibly once or twice change my language to fit where I'm at. And that ain't right either.
We chaplains can sometimes go into some dark humor moments with our fellow officers and first responders. And that really gets us through some of the worst crimes that you've ever seen in your life. But there's a line between dealing with it and disrespecting it. And I work on that, because I don't want my reputation to be that I'm just like them. I want my reputation to be that I'm representing Christ in their midst. I am the presence of Christ. Sometimes I never get to speak about Him, but I do want them to see Him, see Him through me. I pray that would be true for all of us and our reputation for Jesus.
Let's stand together. Let's just soberly, carefully, prayerfully and joyfully embrace what he would have for us. Reputation isn't built overnight. It can be lost overnight, but it isn't built overnight. And so for you this morning, you're like on an uphill climb and you're thinking, "I got so far to go, Greg, what are you talking about?" Well, the first step on any journey is the step you take today. So let's get on it. Let's take our step. Let's move forward. Let's talk to somebody. If we need some help, get a card and say I'd like some help. Talk to me, talk to your small group leader. Let's take that step and build our reputations by God's strength for His glory.
Church Health Check-up
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
July 3, 2022
Jesus is building His church
Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”
-Jesus is building his church
-Paul planted the church in Thessalonica under Christ’s
authority (Acts 26:12-18; Rom 1:1; Gal 1:1)
-the church is plan a; there is no plan b!
Acts 1:8 “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Jesus does not lie, we WILL be and ARE his witnesses
Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:2-23)
-Paul reminds the church that we follow Jesus, not men
-1 Pet 5:4 Pastors answer to the Chief Shepherd
-Hebrews 13:17 Pastors will answer to God for their work
A church must continually examine her spiritual health
-Celebrate changed lives- what Christ has already done
-Examine the spiritual health of believers
-Examine how well church is following Christ and His Word
-Pray for the church’s future until Christ returns
Church Health Check-up: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Check-up #1: How well do leaders care for the church?
-Paul cared deeply about their faith- a father’s heart
-He sent Timothy to check on them
-Paul wondered if they had survived persecution
-Real pastors and elders care deeply for the church
-they can control how they serve and what they teach
-they cannot control the final outcome! Just like parenting
-Every church leader must care deeply about the spiritual wellbeing of believers
-Every ministry (preaching, singing, property care, etc)
ultimately aims to build up believers!
-church leaders must never have personal agendas!
Check-up #2: What is the church’s current testimony?
-Timothy reported good news to Paul and his ministry team!
-They still appreciated their church planter
-They stood firm in their newfound faith despite persecution
-Their spiritual growth gave Paul joy and thankfulness
-Who is encouraged by our church’s testimony?
-how have we persevered through opposition and trials?
Check-up #3: A vision for more spiritual growth
-Paul prayed he would be allowed to be with them again
-Paul did return later!
-Believers must continually grow in their love for one another
-John 13:34-35; John 15:17
-Believers must become more blameless and holy
-We answer to God, not ourselves, feelings, the culture
-Believers look forward to Christ’s second coming!
-Every day is spent knowing it may be our last
-We continually confess and forsake sin, and re-surrender
constantly to our Lord and Savior who we will answer to for
What would our church health check-up reveal?
-Do our spiritual leaders really care about every believer?
-Are we growing despite cultural opposition?
-Do we overflow with love for one another?
-Are we becoming more blameless and holy as we await Christ’s return?
How must we grow our love for one another?
-keeping the main thing the main thing, forgiving one another
-serving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, ??
What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ?
-Trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
-Submit to God’s Word to change our attitudes and behaviors
-Live within the accountability of the local church community
-Connection Card, Discovering Church Membership Class
-Seek out our Prayer Team Today- in person or online
Well, we are back in 1 Thessalonian 3 now and continuing on. For some of you, you may have come the last two Sundays and said, who's that guy up there? I'm the pastor of St. Joe Community Church. I have been absent for two Sundays and my son got married the 18th, and we were out that weekend. And then we went straight to church camp with our kids on Monday, and then Friday, we turned everything around, including our laundry. My family did, and we loaded up in Saturday morning, my wife and I, and our kids went to Myrtle Beach to be with my mom and dad and my sisters and their families. So we've been out for this last week, enjoying the sunshine, some rain, but bad weather at the beach is still the beach, so we've had a great, great time.
And I'm just thankful for St. Joe and your support for our family to be able to get away and to do things that we do, and just enjoy family. I say work hard, play hard. And if you don't have time off to refresh and rejuvenate, then you need to find time if you can. Sometimes it's just finding that one day or two a week and try to protect time to just rejuvenate and grow and just rest. Just take lots of naps. I believe in naps. I just think it's great. Just awesome. Anyway, Jesus slept in a boat. I mean, I'm thinking, it was a storm, but He didn't care, He was asleep. Anyway, it was good. And thanks Jacobs Well, they're going to be with us this Sunday, next Sunday, the band, to help us worship while Brae is still on his mission trip in Brazil. And for those of you that are connected with him, I pray you'll continue to pray for him and hear his reports, and as our worship leader, prayerfully considers his future and what God has for him. And just appreciate young people saying, I've got time, I've got energy, I've got ambition, what does God want me to do with my life? Yay, that's the best question you could ask. And when you don't have a lot of responsibilities or newlyweds, like you got, go for it, go do something for God, go do something big.
Some people, they save up a bunch of money and then they take a year off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Bonita has a cousin that did that, and he just raised enough money for himself and went on the Appalachian Trail and did it, the whole thing, found his wife along the way. I mean, he found a girl that he married along the way, sorry, let's say that the correct way. And she was doing the same thing. And so, we quit and we invest to do all kinds of crazy stuff. And I think it's really important for us to invest and think about what does God want me to do and spend time thinking about that, especially you who are younger. And but for us who are whatever age we are, we need to keep thinking about that as well. But I'm thankful for our church. And I believe that as we think about that tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July, the birth of our nation or the celebration of our independence. Yeah, and we praise God for that. But you know what, the best thing we can do is to be the church that God wants for our nation. That's the best we can be.
We may have voted and everything went south and wrong in whatever we voted in the last 15, 20 years, it doesn't matter. God's in charge and He's building His church. He builds nations. He tears down nations, but He is always, and will it be about until Jesus comes again, building His church. The church is what has stood the test of time. Local churches come and go. Sometimes local churches last a long time. And sometimes churches last a short time, but God, Jesus Christ said, I will build my church, so today is a church health checkup. We're going to talk about in chapter three, how Paul is excited about wondering how they were, he hears the report of how they are, and then he praised for them in their future.
And we're going to use that as kind of a way of thinking about our church, because we, as a church, have much to offer the community of people around us. We have our faith, we have our convictions, we have our beliefs, we have our energy and time and talents. Just recently, and I am celebrating the 4th of July in a fresh way because we now have an opportunity to enact laws that protect the unborn. We as a pro-life church, and we praise God for that, and we celebrate that. We celebrate the fact that we have an opportunity to do something that I wasn't even sure would even be possible in my lifetime to turn the clock back on a culture of death, to maybe pursue a culture of life. However, even as we have made a legal maneuver that I think was strategic and thoughtful, and people were a part of that, and some people voted their conscience in order for that to happen, and I think God worked in all of that in all of those different ways, we have much to pray about as well.
So while we celebrate, we have a lot to pray about. Even one of our local churches was graffiti by pro-choice people. And I'm like, what? And I actually was kind of holding my breath to hear while we were out for two weeks, if somebody might graffiti us because we talk openly about supporting a Hope Center and we talk openly about supporting adoption and supporting pro-life things in our community, and so I wondered, would that happen to us? And I'm grateful it hasn't, I hope and pray it doesn't. I'm not living in fear, don't get me wrong. But there was a church that somebody online from the Gospel Coalition article that they actually had a mob of people come and absolutely smash out every window on the first floor of their building. It's like a block of buildings, and wrote all kinds of horrible [epitas05:52] and graffiti all over their building because they knew that they stood for life. And these people were standing for not life. And it was just a sad moment to realize that people not only do not like when you are pro-life, but some are becoming more hostile.
I'm praying for safety as people continue to pursue life. And I'm also praying that we will be able to in a loving way, help people find and follow Christ and know what the Bible says about that, because our culture's not going to change until the heart changes in the culture. And that means that we need to be about the business of sharing the love and the life of Jesus Christ with our friends, our family, our neighbors, people all around us with our community. We need to be missionaries in our own hometown to share the good news of Jesus. Laws aren't going to change lives. Laws are important, but they don't change hearts. Jesus changes hearts. And so, let's just keep praying for that. So celebrate, but pray.
I'm going to say something much more carefully prayed over and thought out and edited in a way that I would like to say it in this week's newsletter in the eNewsletter, and I hope you'll look at that and prayerfully consider some thoughts that I have when I say that.
1 Thessalonians 3, I just want, as we head into this chapter to remind ourselves that Jesus is building his church. We're not building it, it's not about our budgets and baptisms; it's about what Jesus is doing to change lives. We have a budget, we love to baptize. We're supposed to, the Bible says to. We receive resources so that we can spend those resources to invest in lives, to help people find and follow Christ and to grow in Christ and to go in Christ, but Jesus is the one building His church. It's not my church. How's your church doing, Greg? It's not my church. It's Christ church. How's your church doing, they might ask you. If your neighbor says, how's your church doing? What is your church? Because you're part of this church, but it's really Christ church. It's His church.
He said at Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church," emphatically, and He continues to do that. Acts 1:8, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." The church is going to invade every culture everywhere, the whole world. That wasn't one of those, "Well, you might be my witness." No, you will be my witnesses. You are going to tell about my resurrection and the salvation of me through faith in me because there's no one gets to the father, except through me. Jesus was very emphatic about that. He says, "And you're going to be my witnesses of this fact. You're going to be witnesses that I'm alive, that I came back from death after dying for the sins of the world, and you're going to be telling the whole world about me.
Ephesians 1:23, that He is the head of the church. He is the head of the church. In fact, we know that in 1 Peter 5:4 that pastors, although we are called shepherds, pastors named shepherd in the Greek, that we're just the under shepherds underneath the chief shepherd. Jesus is in charge of this church, not me. Yeah, the elders and myself; at the end of the day, we are responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and where we go up or down, right or left, east or west. We have to finally account to God and to kind of discern. And we, as a congregation must discern together. We are congregationally led, so there's an accountability to the whole body of Christ, but we're underneath the authority and headship of Jesus Christ. He's the one that's building His church, and He's the one that's in charge of His church.
It says, by the way, in Hebrews 13:17, that we are going to answer. Pastors are going to answer for their work. It says, obey your leaders because they're the ones that are going to give an account. It's not like, obey your leaders because they're in charge. No! Just help them do better as leaders because someday they're going to answer to God for their actions. There's accountability to your pastors and elders that is above and beyond the accountability that you'll have to the Lord Jesus Christ for what happens in this church.
It is just like in our political cycles; if you're in charge of a city, a State or a nation, at the end of the day - "Well, yeah, but I can't help what inflation does." Some presidents, they benefit from the great decisions that were made by their predecessor, and then the ones get to not benefit from their predecessor, but who gets blamed? The guy at the top. Well, that's kind of generally true, but you know what? That is true in the church. At the end of the day, I'm the one that has to answer to God for how I served you all and how through my actions, God worked in a way or didn't work. It's up to Him to do the work, but at the end of the day, I have to answer to God for the work as I was responsible as your pastor. It's not what I think it is, it's what does the Bible say we ought to do. What does Jesus think we ought to do? I've made a lot of unpopular - I've made decisions I don't even like to make because it's not what I think, it's not my feelings, it's not my personal preferences; it's what does God think? What does he already said we ought to do? And we have to answer to him for that.
A church must continually examine her spiritual health. We need to celebrate our changed lives, what Christ has already done. We need to examine the spiritual health of believers on an ongoing basis, that's why we believe in small groups, connection groups. Why we believe that even being on a worship team; that's a small group in itself. And we make sure that people are spiritually growing. Examine how well our church is following Christ in His word. And we need to keep praying for our church's future until Christ returns. We're not in a holding pattern. We're not in a holding pattern.
How many here, your flower bed is in a holding pattern? What does it look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's not looking so good. You got to keep tending to it. But what does your car look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's full of junk. You got to clean it out, guys. Come on. What does your garage look like? We don't talk about garages. I don't want to talk about my garage. Anything you don't tend to gets worse. That's a scientific principle, isn't it? Things go from order to chaos, not miraculously from chaos to order. The only crazy thing that happens from chaos to order is when Jesus enters our life and takes our chaos and turns it into order. Amen. That's when life happens. And once He's in our lives, we have to keep tending the spirit, tending ourselves and doing the examination of, are we living up to what God has called us to live up to? Are we investing in His word? Are we growing?
As we look at these three different sections in 1 Thessalonian 3, I want us to think about our own church health checkup. Checkup number one is, how well are leaders caring for the church? 1 Thessalonian 3:1, "Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience afflictions. And as you know, it happened. For this reason when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him (that was Timothy) to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing."
This is a more personal moment in Paul's letter to Thessalonians where he is saying, "I really care about your faith. I really want to know how you're doing and I couldn't be with you," as we learned in previous messages, a persecution broke out. Paul had to kind of go in hiding after three weeks of serving and seeing people come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, including some very prominent women, probably prominent business women in that community. But people got upset with this new movement and started to make false accusations against them.
And they even took them to the authorities and said, "These people have got bad religion, this is bad stuff for our city. It's not helping us at all and you need to get rid of them." And these guys are housing those bad people, and they're wanting to beat him up and they're wanting to imprison them. And literally, the guy that was hosting Paul, he actually paid off - he paid a fine to the authorities so they wouldn't come against them. And Paul disappeared from their midst and went on to the next town to share the gospel, knowing that his presence was not helpful in the building up of that church, it was more of a detriment than a benefit. And so, he had to abandon them right after he had planted the church. And he was really concerned, how are you doing? Are you okay?
"And I sent Timothy," he says, he sent young Timothy; his protégé in the faith was growing up to be a pastor. And he said, "I sent him to go see how you guys are getting along." And so he was caring about them. He wondered if they had even survived the persecution. He was wondering if our labor was in vain. There's pastors that have been called to plant churches, they planted them and then they move on to the next church and they go back and they find that there's a church there, and sometimes they find there's no church there. In Ecuador, it was so clear when we were... and by the way, some of you knew that my daughter and I were praying about going to Ecuador. And that actually disappeared that we're not going to go to Ecuador this week on a mission trip with another church in Evansville. We had talked about doing that and was trying to get Janae to the country. I've taken all my kids there and this opportunity presented itself, we thought, but there's political unrest, there's civil unrest, and so it's not safe for us to go to Ecuador right now so that's on hold.
But I remember being there and we would share the faith and we would start these little churches. We, the teams of people, and I was just part of a little tiny cog and a big wheel of cogs of activity, that we would go in there and we would go up to this mountaintop area and say, is this church even here still? Are they still meeting? Are they still gathering for worship? Are they still following Jesus Christ? And sometimes we'd see them flourishing and sometimes we'd see them struggling. It was kind of a back and forth thing. In one church, they kept abandoning so much that Dave Wilson, the missionary finally said, "Look, you guys are going to have to decide whether you're going to follow Christ or follow culture, your choice. I can't keep coming up here if you're going to just only do things when I'm here and do nothing when I leave." And he said, "There are people that are hungering for us to be in their cities. And if you don't hunger for us to be here to grow the church, I'm going to have to find..." It was a heartbreaking tearful moment when he realized these people really don't want a church; they just want him to show up once in a while.
And it was heartbreaking to see the investment that was made, that there was no spiritual activity to show for it after the fact. Paul didn't know if they were going to survive. In 2003 when we launched St. Joe Community Church, we had no idea what God was going to do. This is like parenting. When you have kids, you raise them up, you help them to find God, you help them to grow in their faith, but at the end of the day, we all have freedom to choose whether we're going to follow God or not follow God. As Grant was getting married to Sarah, I said to my son, "You know, I look..." He says, "Man, thank you, dad." And we were having those moments. I teared up a little bit - a lot, and it's like emotional and it was fun. And it's like, "Oh, it's my second born son getting married. Oh my goodness, what's this all about?"
But I said to him on more than one occasion, and I believe I kind of said it that weekend, or maybe over break this past vacation time, I'll know that I've done my job, if God gives you kids, follow God, because you've passed on the faith that I've given you to them. And maybe even more so, great-grandchildren, if I'm alive then, I probably won't be. But if I am, that they're growing in their faith. But I have no control over that; I have no control over that. And so, you do what you're supposed to do; Paul did what he was supposed to do, plant the church and hope that God did the work. And He did. This church was flourishing. It was happening and He was excited about it. But a good leader cares well for their church.
If you're a leader in our church and all you care about is your little sphere of influence and your budget line item, then you shouldn't be a leader. It's not about having a title. It's about carrying a towel in order to serve people in Jesus name. If I were to stop being a pastor of this church, like that position, the title pastor, would I be diminished as a person or as my identity in Christ, not in my position? That's a hard one for us, pastors, by the way. When you're not a pastor anymore, does that mean you're... What's your status? It's important for us to know that it's not about what we're doing and what our title is or what ministry position is, is that what we're doing as a leader is growing the greater cause, and that is helping people find and follow and grow in Jesus Christ. And if you're in charge of cutting the grass, if you're in charge of singing on a worship team, or you're in charge of something that nobody even knows is going on in the church, but is necessary in order to keep the church functioning well; you're doing it to the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ. That's what a leader does. They care about the people they're serving, not the position they're performing in.
How well do leaders care for the church? That's a church health checkup for all of us, not just for the pastor; although I think about it often, but for all of us who are in leadership in the church. Checkup number two, what's the church's current testimony? Let's read in chapter three verse six, "But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us as we also long to see you. Therefore brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experienced before our God, because of you; as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith."
What's the current testimony of a local church? Well, Timothy came back and said, "Great things are happening, Paul. This church is flourishing. Good things are happening. They still love Jesus. They're still following God. They love one another." In fact, earlier in the chapters as I talked about it in other sermons, they were an example for other churches of how to be a church. Isn't that the kind of church we ought be that people want to emulate us? They want to say, "I want to be that kind of church. I want to be part of that kind of church family. I want that kind of church to be in my town, in my city, in my community, across town." If we were to start another church, we want one to be sort of like St. Joe, not like St Joe, but sort of like in the way in which we do things that we're spiritually healthy. And that's what Timothy is saying. There's some good things going on. They still appreciated their church planter.
It's enjoyable to go and see people from previous churches I've pastored, and we still have fond memories of our time together. I enjoy that. I still have friendships from people from my very first church. And I'm grateful for that. But I'm more grateful when I see these same people who I'm friends with growing in their faith, not just, "Oh, that was a good time. And did that. Been there. Got a t-shirt. Moving on with life." Is they're actually growing in their faith. They're still involved in church. They're still becoming what Jesus wants them to become in their own local church, beyond my presence as their church planter. These people stood firm in their newfound faith in spite of the persecution.
I imagine, we can only imagine that these prominent people who had come to faith may have lost their jobs. They lost their prominence. They didn't have their social status that they had because they were followers of Christ. And that was not popular. It's still kind of okay to be a follower of Christ in America. It's okay to be a follower of Christ in America. There's a time when it was really popular to be a follower Christ in America. There are places in the world where it is totally unpopular to be a follower of Christ. And you may even be in some work environments where it's unpopular to be the preacher boy or the preacher girl. I don't know. I know that to be true in some personal instances where I hear people talk. And so these people in spite of the cultural opposition to their faith were standing firm.
Is that true of us? Are we standing firm? Not like in some like militant, oh, there we are. No. It's oh, we love Jesus too much to abandon Him. We love the word of God too much to abandon what it says on how we ought to live our lives, and how we ought to practice our faith, and how we ought to be the kind of people we ought to be. And the citizens that we are, and the families that we are, raising our children the way we do, believing in marriage, the way we believe in marriage, believing in all the things that God has put forth in His word, the way God has put forth in his word; boldly standing even when it's unpopular culturally to do so.
What's our current testimony? Collectively, do we represent what God wants to be doing in local churches all over the world? We have our own unique footprint and fingerprints of how we do church and life. But in generally, are we following the New Testament pattern of a local New Testament church? What's the church's current testimony? Who is encouraged by our church's testimony? How have we persevered through our own oppositions and trials as a church family? If we stopped existing tomorrow, how many people outside of our fellowships and friendships would care? Would Fort Wayne notice if we disappeared tomorrow, other than the building's vacant? How little or much are we making a difference in our community for Jesus' sake will determine the answer to that question?
If you disappeared tomorrow from your workplace, from your neighborhood; would Christ's presence be diminished or would it be a non-issue? Nobody knew that you were a follower of Christ. It matters what our testimony is for the Lord. Jesus Christ. It matters that we're making a difference in our time and place until Jesus comes again. And then finally, in this checkup, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth.
What does it say in verse 11, "Now may our God and father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you." That was a personal request. He wanted to get back to see them again, and he did get to see them again, by the way later. In verse 12, this is the prayer that I believe we ought to pray over our church all the time. "And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, amen.
Real quickly, as I closed this morning, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth. We must continually grow in our love for one another. We don't come from the same political landscape from each other. We don't come from the same. We may have had diametrically different ideas within this body of how to handle this current pandemic. We may have all kinds of ideas. Some of you might be conspiracy theorists. Some of you don't believe in any conspiracies at all. I don't think anybody has a bunker, but if you do, you're not supposed to tell anybody. All I'm saying is, we don't sit here and try to figure out how different we are from one another. We're trying to figure out how we're moving together in the name of Jesus Christ together. And love, you know, we have a vision, it says, around our beliefs, we have unity. Our convictions, those core statements, we have core belief statements in our doctrine, doctrinal statement. You can learn that in the new members class that we teach, and it's just basic Christian beliefs. It's based on the word of God. It's our own way of saying what God says. And again, it's pretty common to so many churches and we have unity around that. And if somebody doesn't believe that, well, there might be nuances they may have to maybe attend a different church, but those are our unity unifying statements.
But in those areas where we don't have those unifying statements, those things that we don't openly talk about; they're the absent of conversation about in our convictions, we have agreement to disagree agreeably with one another. We don't all come at it from the same angle. Some people they strategically voted for what happened at the Supreme Court. Some people said, you know what, God's going to do what God's going to do and voted their conscience in a different way than some other people. But at the end of the day, what brings us together is our love for Christ and His word that we are all trying to be Christ-like. And we all going to answer for whatever we did at the ballot box. Not trying to make everybody toe in line exactly what you ought to do what I think you ought to do. I've said many times before; I have opinions nobody's asked me about - may not ever want to.
If you want to know my thoughts, I'll take you to lunch sometime, maybe, but up here, it's God's opinion about His word and how we move together in the spirit and the love of Christ. And we walk together in the spirit of Christ and that spirit of Christ involves loving, increasing in our love. John 13 says that we must love one another. That's how people know we're his disciples, that we love each other. We love each other even sometimes when we don't like each other, because we've got to love each other. And love is practical. It's not like a feeling. We're talking about laying down our lives for one another, caring for one another, truly stepping up to the plate. When you're going through crisis, we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow and go. Through whatever circumstance, we want to be a true body of Christ for one another. We do that best through small groups, by the way, it's hard to do just to know what's going on generally on a Sunday morning, but when your connection group knows what's going on, that's when we can really minister and serve and show God's love in a practical way.
Do we overflow in love for one another? And then finally, we need to be blameless and holy knowing that we are going to finally answer to Jesus who could come at any moment and make us accountable for our lives. We're looking forward to the second return of Jesus Christ. We're looking forward to Him finally finishing and putting a period on the end of the sentence of history in a world. Some people say, "Boy, I'm ready for Jesus to come today." Well, I am too, but you know what? I know a lot of people that aren't and they'll be separated from God forever if Jesus came right now.
Here's another scary thought. Are you ready to face God and be accountable for wherever you're standing right now in him spiritually? If he were to show up right now, have you prayed up? Have you been able to confess up and to recant and to move away from the things you know that He's asked you not to do - He's told you not to do in His word? Are you right with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you harboring bitterness and unforgiveness? How can you go to the throne of God and say, "Oh, I still hate so and so"? That's not going to fly in front of God. Are you ready to meet Jesus? I'm ready for the return of Christ, are you?
Are you blameless and holy in God? Blameless doesn't mean perfect. Blameless like we said earlier, Paul said he was blameless. It meant that he was continually confessing his sins, repenting and turning away from and re-surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. Is that where you are right now? You're ready to meet Jesus. Do you have a vision for more spiritual growth in your life? Or do you feel like you've arrived, you got enough of Jesus, now I'm going to get into little more of this, a little more of that, get a little bit of Jesus, move on? Is coming to church just a stop along the way of many things to do or does what we do here affect the rest of what you do during the week?
So, what would our church health checkup reveal? What would it look like? Jesus, you're a consultant. You're the Lord. You're not a consultant. Jesus come down here. What do you think? What do you think our church looks like? What do I look like in front of you, Jesus? Do I really care as the leader of this church the way I ought care for this church? Are we still growing in our faith in spite of the spiritual and cultural opposition that's around us? Are we really growing in spite of the tendency for people not to grow in their faith? Jesus, do we overflow in our love for one another? Or do we find getting along with people in our church a chore, some sort of a legalistic habit that we got to come up with because it's the right thing to do? Do we really love one another? Are we leading blameless lives? Are we hypocrites in real recovery? Christians or sinner, we're just saved as there's bumper stickers. You know, we're not perfect. We're just forgiven.
Well, is that an excuse to do whatever you want because you got free grace? No.
What would our church health checkup reveal? How must we grow in our love for one another in our church? What step do you need to take to be part of the love growth in our church family? What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ? I hope that you'll take this connection card and you'll let us know how to pray for you, how to encourage you that you'll go online and look at the contact information area on our website and get in touch with us so that we know how to help you move forward. It might be this altar. This could become the place where you publicly say something to God in prayer. It might be that you go back in the back and talk to a prayer team that will be waiting to receive you and to pray with you about whatever's going on.
Let's just honor God with whatever decision we make, that might be the example that He wants for us to be here in little old Fort Wayne, Indiana. Father, God help us to step forward in our faith and to honor you with our lives. For someone this morning, it might be for the first time they put their faith in you. And that would be their first step to tell the world that they're a Christian and have the courageous bold step of getting baptized. I pray that they will identify themselves this morning if that be their need. And for all of us who know you, I pray that you'll show us how to take our next right steps. Maybe someone's contemplating their faith and they're still not there; I pray that they would just hang on and keep coming and learning and growing and being around us. Not because we're special by ourselves, but because we follow one who is so special and worthy of our worship and adoration. I pray that our lives will be an example and a testimony that will cause them to want to know you. I pray these things in Christ's name, amen.
Today is Sunday, June 26th, 2022, and welcome to St. Joe Community Church. Today's message is entitled, "Jesus calls the first disciples" and was delivered by Bill Wallace, who serves the church as an elder. For more information, visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org, click on the sermons tab and find today's broadcast. So now let's open the Bible, get a notepad and pen and prepare to hear from God's word. Here's Bill Wallace.
Let's look at Matthew 4:18-22, "As he was walking along the Sea Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter and his brother, Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, they were fishermen. 'Follow me,' he told them, 'and I will make you fish for people.'" Verse 20, 'Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.'" Peter and Andrew responded to Jesus call immediately. Verse 21, "Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother, John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, preparing their nets and he called them. Immediately they left their boat and their father and their fishing business and followed Him." I had in [unclear01:47] fishing business and that's my notes.
So, to note that James and John responded to the call of Jesus, immediately. Here we have Jesus [unclear02:03] going door to door [unclear02:08] boat to boat. And He had this impact on these four guys, four fishermen. When He spoke, they responded immediately. And He interrupts their lives, their fishing business, all this stuff when He says, come follow me. They didn't spend the next four days talking to their financial guy of can I afford to do this. They left their business and their families and they responded. Let the word immediately sink in. Just ponder that for a moment, because there are moments in our lives that Jesus calls us to do something immediately and we don't. He may call us to become a Christian; we need to respond immediately. Nobody is guaranteed one more second on the face of this earth. If God is calling you to become a Christian, do it today, do it now because there are no guarantees.
Jesus may have called you to do something special to a special need or to some unusual need, and you haven't responded immediately. Maybe Jesus has called you to anything that he wants you to do - do it immediately. And I'm sorry, I'm going to make mention of my wife. Last night, Lynette and I were talking about this and she says, be sure to tell people, don't run ahead of God. Don't run ahead of Him and make a mess of it. But when he calls you to do something, respond with yes, because we do get ourselves into a jam sometimes when we run ahead of God, we're going to do this great thing and it falls flat on its face. Respond when He says to respond.
Maybe He's called you to a new location, to a new vocation, and you said, ""Nope, the cost is too high." When we were asked 1991 to come to Fort Wayne, to New Haven to open up a plant, I turned them down flat for months. I was not interested in coming. And then I heard a message by Dr. Charles Stanley, and I knew immediately that I had to respond. I called the guy who was going to be my boss, Wayne Tyner, the next day, and I said we'll be there. The only problem is the relocation package I need that's so I can pay the mover. I got the check the next day. And I asked him, "Well, how'd you do that because nothing moves that quick in the company I work for." He said, "I've had the check written for a month, I was just waiting on you to say yes." So from the time I said yes, to the time we got here was nine days, but the response was immediate. Nine days is pretty quick. And that's what, 31 years ago.
So maybe he's calling you to do something entirely different. There's a young man in our church who is entering medical school. He can't just hang up a shingle tomorrow and says, Dr. So-and-so MD. Wrong - Indiana frowns on that. He's got years of preparation ahead of him, school, icky-squishy stuff, but he responded that he feels like that's what God's calling him to do. We have a young lady going to a nursing school right now. She's gone this entire period of time for specialized training because it takes time to be trained to do what they're going to do. But their response was yes. So, what is God calling you to do? Whatever He has called you to do respond immediately and let Him take care of the details.
All right, let's look at chapter five and six. Chapter five, six and seven, we note that as the Sermon on the Mount. And as I was looking at this message and preparing it, I always thought that the beatitudes were the only story in the Sermon on the Mount. Nope, there are 22 different stories. 22 vignettes in the Sermon on the Mount, all of which would make great sermon material. But today I want to focus in the rest of our time on chapter five, verse 21-26, and if time permits, chapter six, verses 1-4.
Matthew 5 - what I'm about to speak about is about two matters of the heart; two things we need to address in our lives. I am speaking to me, you get to listen. In Matthew 5:21, you have heard that it was said of old, you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, you fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you fool and you idiot have become in current culture, the calling card of everybody who disagrees with us. There's nothing that shows the love of Christ when we call someone who disagrees with us, you fool, or you idiot. We lose our testimony at that point and we need to address it in our own lives.
What are some good reasons to be angry with my brother? I am 67 years old, and in the last six years, I have never seen a more hateful, vitriolic time than I see now because we have lost our eternal perspective. My opinion and your opinion matters more than scripture, whatever scripture says, and we need to adjust our thinking. We argue over politics, who I did or did not vote for. We argued for months over mask mandates. We argue over guns. And as of Friday, we now argue over Roe versus Wade. None of those have eternal perspective. All of those affect our ability to evangelize because we come off as mean, bitter, harsh, unloving, and we call ourselves Christians. We are the ones that have to change our perspective to match the testimony of written scripture.
I'll give you two quick examples. A pastor, thankfully not ours, stated he would throw out anyone who dared wear a mask in his church. Where's the love of Christ in that? His opinion became more important than love thy neighbor. Another pastor recently stated from the pulpit that the government ought to kill every homosexual. I don't see that anywhere in scripture. Where is the foothold to evangelize if that's my platform? Where is the love of Christ to a lost and dying world when that's what I stand for? And after the first message this morning, we were talking, and I said, I'm sorry, but those guys may call themselves Christian, but they do not speak for me. They do not speak for me.
If you are hateful toward a segment of society, don't associate yourself with Christ, because Christ loved us enough to die for us. Hang on that. Remember that, because the world out there thinks we are bigots and hateful and mean, and we need to change how we approach a lost world. How in the world - how can we witness to a lost world when somebody [unclear13:33] is killing somebody because they don't believe the way we do? We lose our footing.
So, what's the remedy for anger? Verse 23 of chapter five says, "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift." As I read that, I looked at that word immediately, and I read as immediately. It says, "Get up from where you are and go immediately and reconcile." We are to reconcile, not ridicule.
I recently took a trip to Arkansas to see my mom, but I had offended one of my brothers about a year ago, and I wanted to go make it right with him. He had called, he was mad over the Biden administration of the handling of Afghan refugees. And my response was thirst and unloving. I ask him, 'Are you mad because it's Biden that's doing this?" I ask him, "Do you really even care?" I ask him, "Can you even find Afghanistan on a map?" And then I ask him, "What are you and your church doing to help Afghan refugees?" That was my last conversation with my brother. For over a year, he wouldn't answer my text, he wouldn't answer my calls, he wouldn't answer emails, so I purpose that I was going to go see him and apologize when we went to Arkansas.
On the day that I was going, I didn't know how I was going to be received or if I would be received, so I took some armor with me. I took my mom. And while we were there, I apologized. I told him my answer was wrong. Whatever his purpose was in being so mad, my answer to him was wrong and unloving. And we stood there probably 45 minutes talking about that and other things. And we had a good visit, but I did not have any guarantee that he would even let me out of the car, so that was hard. If you've got some relationship that you need to reconcile with, it's not going to offend me one bit if you get up, walk out and make a phone call, because God says, Jesus says reconcile, and then bring your gift to the altar. It's that simple.
Verse 25 says, "Agree with your adversary quickly while you are on the way, lest your adversary delivered you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown in to prison. Assuredly I say to you, you will by no means get out of that [unclear17:50] until you have paid the last penny." I made a note here because I think this passage ties in really well to Matthew 5:43-47 about love your enemies. Love your enemies. Look that up and tie those together.
Now, lastly, the last portion of scripture I want to talk about this morning is titled in my Bible, do good to please God. Verse one of chapter six says, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men to be seen by them, otherwise you have no reward from your father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you ask the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Surely I say to you, they have their rewards. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Let your charitable deed may be done in secret, and your father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Give in secret and let God bless openly.
Let me give you a couple of examples and I'm going to tread lightly. Recently, Lynette and I were given an opportunity to give in an unusual manner, to bless somebody in a manner typically we didn't do. And we talked about it, we couldn't agree and I dropped it. Well, I had been on a week long consulting project and I was tired, I was exhausted, I didn't have time to think about that. I came home and on Friday we sat down and we updated our budget, which is the thing we always do during the week. And after we'd finished, I got up to leave the table and she said, I got one more thing to talk about. And she said that thing, here's how we can do it.
And our conversation with something like this, I told her, I said, "I thought you didn't want to do it. You weren't bought into it which is okay." She said something to the effect, I trust your heart. And we gave to that opportunity. Shortly thereafter, probably not even a couple of weeks, we had another opportunity to give in a similar, unusual manner, and we couldn't agree so I just dropped it and left it alone. And Jerry Jones, John Moody, and I had been to a conference in [Chagrin Falls to Allister Beck's21:34] Church. We had a great time. We left on Wednesday about noon, and I bet I hadn't been in the car 10 minutes. And one of the guys I work with out of Indianapolis calls me, and I'm going to, "Okay, this is not going to be good." And I told him, I said, "Troy, I'm driving. And I'm in the car with friends." Friends was the Q word not to use firehouse language. And so, he told me that one of the projects that we had scheduled was pulled from the schedule. And I said, "Okay, that kind of stuff happens."
And after all that happened, I began to wonder if my stinginess, my lack of generosity had affected the company. And I just told God. I said, "Look, if the fact that we didn't give because we weren't in a hundred percent agreement; if it has affected the company, don't hold them responsible, hold me responsible." Because the other guys I work with have families and kids and all that stuff, and I didn't want to be responsible for that kind of thing. And I said, "God, if it's my fault, then judge me, don't judge them; they're innocent." I don't know. I still don't know to this day, if it was because I wasn't generous that the project got pulled or what. I know the circumstances surrounding it, but something just keeps eating on me in the back going, you need to evaluate this. I want to be open to generosity, but I also want to be in agreement with my wife. God gave her to me as my advisor. So until God gives us clear direction. We're not moving. It's that simple. I want to listen to God and give, I want to listen to my advisor, so I've got a quandary; it's nobody's fault but my own.
Now, Dr. Charles Stanley has this statement, "Obey God and leave the consequences to Him." So, I want to give you a couple of hints, tips, whatever of ways to give anonymously. If you look at our economy, right now it's not very good. Gas prices are high, the markets in decline, and God says give. Lord, have you checked my 401k lately? It's taken a punch in the gut right now. And he says, give. Here's some tips: give a gas card, give a larger tip at the restaurant, give by paying for the car behind you at a fast food restaurant. I learned that one from Kevin Hunter years ago, because we were behind him one day at a fast food drive through, and when we got up there, the lady said it's already been paid for. I go, "What? I've never heard of that before. And it was driving me nuts trying to figure out who would've done that.
A short time later we're at another drive-through after church on Sunday. And I can see Kevin's suburban about two cars in front of us. When I got up there, she said, "Sir, your food's already been paid for," and it was Kevin all along. So I learned from that and I've started trying to practice that. That day I called him and said, thank you. Where are we eating next week? That kind of stuff encourages people. Just give. Look for ways to give. I can't say that I've always been faithful in giving like I should. Many years ago, Lynette and I were in San Diego and we were having a good time, but we went to the ATM late one night, I got some money out, and just as I stepped back from the ATM, this young lady with the teenage kid shows up and says, "Sir, can you help?" And I just kind of blew them off. I got in the car and Lynette says what was that all about? And I said something. She said, "Well, what are you going to do?" And I said, "Well, I've got three fives. I'll just give that to them." Never once did I say God how much do you want me to give?
There are others who would say, "Well, don't ever give them cash." I didn't have anything else to get them. And I got outta the car, gave them the three fives. That switched my conscience, but it wasn't in obedience to God. And as we left, as we pulled out of the parking lot, I saw this young lady and this teenager go into a restaurant like a Danny's or something like that, I guess, to get something to eat. And as I pulled away, I'm thinking to myself, I blew it. The next morning as I stood in the room looking over the mountains, I'm just pondering. And God says, "You blew it last night." I said, "I know, give me another chance. Give me another chance."
There are times we will be called on unexpectedly. I challenge you to ask, Lord, how much? Not, how about how much. I believe with all my heart, the only way to get out of a bad economy is for Christians to give, give immediately and leave the consequences to God. Luke 6:38 says something like this, "Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure, press down, shaken together and running over into your lap." Some versions will say bosom, but that's what I want, is running over into my lap, but it starts with give. Look for ways to give. Look for ways to bless. And whatever God tells you to do, do it immediately.
As we wrap up today, I just want to give you some key points; obey and respond to God's call immediately. If He's calling you to salvation, do it today, don't put it off. If He's calling you to reconcile; do it today. If He's calling you to give; do it today. Whatever you do, obey immediately.
Let's pray. Heavenly father, you gave me this awesome opportunity. I pray that you spoke through me and that they heard you because I need to hear you too. God, you've given us so much in this church. You've given us generous, loving people. Help us to practice that love, that evangelistic spirit for others, and that giving spirit, help us to practice it immediately. Tender our hearts God, to what you're saying, because so many times it gets drowned out by stop. Thank you. In Jesus name, amen.
Thank you for joining us today here at St. Joe Community Church. And please consider this your formal invitation to join us personally each Sunday for morning worship services. We meet every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30 AM. The 10:30 services broadcasted live from the St. Joe homepage, www.stjoecommunitychurch.org. Even better, we'd love to have you visit the St Joe family in person at 2,900 North Anthony Boulevard, located just a few blocks south of the Purdue Fort Wayne University campus on the Northeast side of the city. Thanks again for joining us today and we'll see you next week. Bye for now.
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Sunday, April 17, 2022. Welcome to St Joe Community Church. Today’s message is entitled Jesus is Alive and was delivered on Sunday, April 17, 2022 by Greg Byman. For more information visit www.StJoeCommunityChurch.org, click on the Sermons tab, and find today’s broadcast.
Jesus Is Alive!
What are you looking for?
Relief from troubles, difficulties, pain?
A good life, family, career, happiness?
Purpose in life?
Where are you looking?
-The women were coming to the tomb on Sunday morning
-An angel descends from heaven causing an earthquake
-The angel rolled back the stone and sat on it
-other accounts…moved/picked up the stone
-1-2 ton stone
-Jesus was already gone
-The guards “became like dead men”
-men guarding a dead man became like dead men!
-The angel knew the women were looking for
-Jesus who was crucified- killed, executed
-He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said.
-was raised- God the Father raised him from the dead
-Jesus predicted his resurrection
-We don’t know HOW Jesus was raised
-The stone was rolled away to SHOW he was raised
-Come and see- Jesus was not where they put him Friday
-Then go quickly and tell his disciples
The Resurrection Story
Told by all four gospel writers
-no one ever stayed “raised from the dead”
-Matthew is writing much later, a body was never found
-Lazarus may have died by now, he did at some point!
-Jewish men would NEVER have fabricated a story with
Women as the primary witnesses
-all four gospels write unique details, no collusion, no lie
-everyone who saw Jesus alive staked their lives on it
-many were willing to be killed than recant
He is not here. He is risen!
Stop looking for answers in dead places
Trust that Jesus can take care of any problem you face
Trust everything Jesus says
They set everything up, they allowed us to come in early and set things up. And when you joined our church as a portable church, it was more like you'd say, "Great, you own a truck with a hitch because you can join, right now. Like, no membership fee if you come." No. And now, if you can walk to church from your house, that's great because we don't have a lot of parking. Anyway, all kidding aside, we were sitting there looking and waiting for cars and people to come. We'd sent the flyers out. We'd sent word of mouth. We'd had public events to tell people, people were praying all over the country for us. And we were just like, you know, 20 minutes till, and I knew - pick your denomination. They had to have been some denomination because everybody comes in late, you know, like whatever's going on here. And we're like, who's coming? Who's coming? Who's coming?
And if it's just us, we're still going to praise and worship God. But it'd be really nice if some people joined us. And they did. And suddenly it's like a traffic cop... I mean, literally it felt like policemen just stopped on Maple Creston and said, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn. And they all just started coming in. And a bunch of people that we had never met in our entire lives joined us for worship that day. Some are still members and worshipers with us today and others have moved on. A lot of our people that were with us at the beginning are still with us and we're still with most of the people that join. Anyway, but seriously, we had a blast of a time.
And so, Easter Sunday - so we always celebrate our anniversary on Easter, even though the 20th of this month is actually when we started, but we celebrate on Easter. And what a grand time it is to talk about the stories of lives that have changed, hundreds of people that have come to faith in Christ; many of those baptized in our church family. Over a hundred people that have been sent on missions somewhere, either here in the United States or somewhere around the world to send them out in Jesus name, to come back. God is doing His work and he's continuing to do work. And we're not looking at the rear view mirror to say, look what we were, but we're then the wide front window, the windshield of life to say, where is God taking us next? That's what it's all about, because we haven't arrived. We've arrived when we're in heaven. We've arrived when we're in heaven. And until then, we got something to do. We got something to do for the Lord Jesus Christ. And I prayed that you've come here ready to hear what God wants for your lives. I pray that I'll just share what God wants me to say that it might be an encouragement to you, it might be strengthening; it might illuminate what God's word has already said in this very familiar story.
Someone asked me that was John. He says, isn't it hard to sometimes - you have to share the same story everybody knows every year on Easter. And so, I'm going to talk about Jonah today. No, I'm not going to do that. You know, because you're like, what can you say? And you don't want to be creative, so creative that you like out create God, and that would be like blasphemy, so I'm not going to try to do that, so very simple story. I pray in very real ways that you will hear a fresh word from God this morning. That's my prayer. So the first thing I'm going to ask you is what are you looking for? What are you looking for? What are you looking for in life now?
Now, I am one of those... if you are married, one of you is a shopper and one of you is a buyer. Somebody brought that up. That was a good analogy. And I go back and forth, you know, put me at Menards, I'm a shopper. I'm just looking around. What are you looking for? And you know, they're helpful - some of them are, at Menards, and they're saying, can I help you? And you're like, not really, you know, my wife is tried, but you know, I joke with them. And then at the end of the day, you know, like, is there something you're looking for? And I'm like, "Well, no." You know, and if I am there quick, yeah, but some days I am looking for something, but you know, there's a kickball and you know, we might need a kickball, or cereal, Menards sell cereal. What's that? I'll buy some lumber, buy corn flakes; they both taste the same. I mean, we can do this. This is all good. I like cornflakes by the way, put lots of sugar on it. But I'm telling you what; it's a fun place to be for me. Now, I'm a guy, I like guy things, you know, put me at Joanne's Fabric Shop and you're like, "Well, when can we get out of here?" And as a kid, my mom was a sewer. She sewed my first leisure suit.
Anybody have the privilege of wearing a leisure suit in the seventies that your parents - your mom made you? Well, pray for me. I've got scars. But anyway, I've got awesome pictures of the leisure suit. I think it was burnt orange. I'm serious. This is true, but my mom would go and she would look and look for patterns and bolds of fabric. And I had the most wild, crazy imagination and I can make believe anywhere. I was an only kid for five years and I was the only boy in my house forever, and I had two sisters. I knew how to make things up; you cannot make up make believe in a fabric store. It was just so stink and boring in there. I mean, it was just like, there's another bold of fabric, and there's another bold of fabric and the chairs are too high to get to the fabric. Anyway, it is an awful place.
Some of you, you go shopping because you love your spouse and you go with them. And some of you, you love your spouse enough to not go with them and make them suffer while you're going, "Are we going home yet?" You know, but you're looking for things and you'll know it when you'll find it. And so, I'll know what I'm looking for when I find it. Anybody said that, thank you, pastor, I receive that word. You hear that? Okay. And for those of you, we pray for you, but pray for me because you never get home. And this is a rabbit trail. How many of you say, "Look, honey, I saved $50." How much you have to spend to save $50? That's in my brain. I'm like, there's a percentage here. It was 30% off, that's $50. Like, I wasn't good at math, but I can do the math. We're going to pay for this. Anyway, it's all fun. It's all fun. But, what are you looking for?
Some of you, if in all seriousness are looking for relief, you're looking for answers. You're looking for some kind of a situation, a career change. Maybe no more career. Maybe it's a new season of life. But it's, what do I do with these little children in my life? What do I do when I get children? What do I do, I'm brand new married? How many it's their first Easter married today? Ooh, you're newlyweds. Right here. Right here. Let's give them a round of applause. Awesome, awesome. Okay, have you decided where you're going to go to this afternoon because that's the family you love the most, right? Oh, that's awful. That's awful. That's awful. Okay, but pray about it because you know, we don't want you to offend anybody, no.
How many here - that's the real question is which family do we go to and not offend the other? Yeah, that happens. That's a real story on Easter. But anyway, we're praying for you. We're praying for you. Anyway, I had the privilege of walking up and being with both these couples this year.
Some of you're looking for forgiveness. You're looking for absolutely or some sort of redemption from something. And the question really is, where are you looking? Where are you looking for those answers? Where are you shopping for your life values? Where are you shopping for your self-worth? Where are you shopping for hope and healing? I talked to somebody - I use this phrase and most of you have heard me say it before; "doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result is just silly." It's insanity. And I used that at a car parts store. Yeah, I was shopping. I don't know - I went buying. I needed a part. But I went there and a guy was talking about something, and he says, I work seven days a week. I'm like, really? "Done it for five years." I said really? That is amazing. Seven days a week. I didn't have time to ask him what his family thought of that.
Young man, and I said seven days a week, wow! Are you getting ahead? That's a lot of time to be getting. He says, "Not at all. I'm getting behind." Huh? I said, you know, if you don't take off a regular time, like take of; God will give you a bunch in a row. And I said are you getting ahead? "No, I'm not getting ahead. I'm farther behind than when I started all this. I said, you know, doing the same thing over and over again as what - and the counter clerk, her name is Angel she said. Insanity! And why is it that we think we're looking for all the answers in all the wrong places, looking for that country song. I'm looking for love in all the wrong places. You're looking in the wrong places and you keep thinking you're going to find it. How many times you go to the closet looking for the one thing that you thought you put in that closet? And how many times are you going to look there and realize it's not there?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a game changer for anything you're looking for. It changes everything. If this is just one more club, then we need a great marketing program to get a bunch of people here and entice them. And maybe we'll do a like half off price to join or something. Really, we don't charge people to join. But I mean, you know, what are we going to - you know, we're just a business. We're just the lions club. We do a little bit better philanthropy than others. We give a little bit more to this. We do this niche of helping people in Jesus name, but you know, Jesus is dead, so it's not... but He's a good figure of follow because He was a really nice guy when He lived on the earth.
I mean, if that's all it's about, then we've really kind of missed the mark here. The resurrection of Jesus Christ isn't just something we think is important on Easter Sunday. It's something that so changed the spiritual world that people began to worship, not the Sabbath, but on Sunday. Like Jewish people, that it was ingrained in their brain, you worship on Saturday. And they switched to Sunday because on the first day of the week. In the early breaking dawn, some girls went to a tomb and found it empty. And it so changed the world that we even whoever does or does not believe in Jesus proclaims that Jesus at least made a mark in history because they write a date down that's tied to BC and AD.
If you're looking for real answers, you're going to find it in the empty tomb. You're going to find it in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, let me tell the story here - kind of unpack it. You've already read it. John read it for us in Matthew 28. If you have your Bible turn there, and I'm just going to walk through the story a little bit here. After the Sabbath, the week was dawning, the first day of the week, then Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, they came to the tomb. Was it a tradition of them to go to the tomb and mourn in the death and the loss of a friend, of someone they cared for deeply? Were they coming to prepare the body a little bit more? Who was going to roll the stone away? In one passage it says in another gospel story, that they were going to go, and in haste had prepared the body because it was about to be Passover, and they had to get his body off the cross and into that borrowed tomb.
And they thought, well, but we need to fix them right. But they were going to the tomb. And it says here, Matthew kind of inserts while he's telling the story of them coming. But by the way, there's a big earthquake that took place. And it took place because an angel descended from heaven and it was so powerful when he came that an earthquake occurred. And now, Matthew's explaining these things to us about 90 years of AD 90 - 40, 50 years later he's telling the story. And I'm going to tell you that this would not have lasted or the test of time if he had been telling a lie. What he's telling and when it was received by the Christians, it was a commonly understood story. If it wasn't, we wouldn't have it in our Bible today because there's a lot of stories that were made up about this whole event that were not real, that did not have truth in them, and we don't have them today.
And anybody that you watch those history stations, they really love on Easter to take, oh, the lost gospel of Judas, the lost gospel of James, the lost gospel of Thomas, and most of those that they have the label of a person's name were written hundreds of years later, or at least over the time, beyond the time in which the actual disciples name, the disciple existed, he was dead by then and somebody was faking it. And it's very easy to see as a historian, if you really wanted to look at it credibly; anybody can say that's not a lost gospel of Mark; that's, somebody's attempt to pervert the real gospel that we have. You know why it's lost? You know why the church voted it down? Because it was false, and they would've quickly voted out the resurrection story that Matthew told if it was false. They didn't. We have it today in antiquity. We have it today in current times.
The angel descends down, caused an earthquake, and it says here that he rule rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. And I was listening to David Jeremiah on the radio, and he made mentioned that in one of the versions of one of the gospel stories, the word is that he picked it up and moved it. The stone would normally be in a groove and it would roll across the opening of the grave of the tomb that Jesus would be in. And it was so big, it would be as big enough to be like a four foot by this wide, really kind of a doorway. And the stone would have to be so big; it would be about one to two tons in weight. And they would leverage it with several people to get it out of the way. They'd put the body in there; put it back so that they wouldn't be desecrated by wild animals. And in this case, the guards were guarding it because they didn't want the disciples to come and steal the body and pretend like Jesus had come back to life.
And it says the angels picked it up, moved it aside and He was sitting on it, waiting for the ladies to show up. There He was, bright, white, glowing, and incredible. You know how big of a story it was? Read in there. The soldiers, the grown men that were supposed to cover the grave, fell back in fear and were like dead men. They passed out. They fainted. Tell that to your commanding officer. How bad was it? I fainted. You don't get to go back out again. They bought them off, by the way, you can read that later, to tell a lie about what had happened there. It's interesting that guards who were there to guard a dead man; when that dead man came back to lie, they became as dead man. Kind of ironic. Little twist in the story that, you know, wow, that's interesting.
The angel I think knew that He was coming. In fact, they said, "You're looking for Jesus, aren't you? The one who is crucified! You know what? He's not here. He's alive. Come look and see where He lay, where He used to be." He was raised the Bible says. God, the father raised the son. Jesus himself had predicted three times. I talked about this already, last handful of Sundays ago that He predicted that he would rise. In fact, He says it's the same one. He said that He told you that He would do this. That's the one.
Now, the Bible doesn't say how He was raised. It doesn't say that anybody witnessed his resurrection. All we have is the evidence. They rolled the stone away, not to let Jesus out, but to let us in to see that He was no longer there. And He says, you can see he for yourself, ladies. He's not here. Come and see. It's not where we put Jesus. Jesus isn't where you put Him on Friday. He's gone. And then says, go quickly and tell his disciples. They got to be the first ones to declare that Jesus was alive. I remember some of the early times, I can't remember the first time I ever did it, where I was able to actually share my story with somebody and help them find their story by trusting their lives in Jesus Christ. Wow. What a blessing to tell somebody the story, my story, but really tell His story and let them and invite them to have their story enveloped in His story, where they put their faith in Jesus Christ.
And at the end of my sermon this morning, I have three words. And if you write those three words down, you could with your story, talking about His story, use those three words to help someone else find Jesus this week, or whenever. Just have it handy, have it ready. And when people ask you, "Why do you have hope? This is kind not such a cool thing - situation going life. Why are you not so jarred by the horrible things that are going on in this world?" Oh, I'm sad. I'm very sad. It really breaks my heart. I get emotional when I see the images on TV right now, what's going on in another continent. I'm struggled to see the bad things that are going and I struggle to see the hopelessness. I struggle as I watch the news of what's going on in our city, as I watch people in their lives with hopelessness in their hearts and minds, because they don't feel like it's worth moving forward.
It breaks my heart. I can't stand to see the abuse that takes place to our children, when Allen County is one of the highest infant and toddler mortality rates in the State. I know that's a give and take, ebb and flow, and it is not something that anybody... we want it to disappear. Being a metropolis, being so many people by percentages, we're going to have more things happen, probably that are not good, but I want to have that percentage reduced to zero, by the way. It breaks my heart. I'm not here to say I'm not affected by it, but I know who I'm serving. And who's in my heart and where my real hope lies. And I know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fact that He conquered death, the fact that He overcame evil, the fact that I am forgiven of my sins and I can offer that to anybody in this place, anybody around the world and they too can find forgiveness in Christ, and their lives too can be changed by the power of Jesus; that's the only hope I know for this world. That's the only hope I have.
And some days if I come up to a scene and I have to be a chaplain and I have to be there; I'm just the presence of Christ. They don't know that I'm the presence of Christ, because I don't have an opportunity to talk to them about that. But boy, as soon as the door is open, I'm ready, and it's exciting to share Jesus. These women we're the first one. And you imagine how excited they were. He's not here. He's risen. We went there. And the guy said I don't believe you, in another story, another gospel story. They ran in to find out for themselves, because what do women know?
No, I mean, I have to see it to believe it. I'm going to bring it... I say that for a reason. You are like, "Man, you're really hitting the numbers today." No, I got a reason for telling you that. You see the resurrection, I'm telling you this morning was told by all four Gospel writers and you say, but there are differences. One gospel writer said it this way, Matthew said it this way, Mark said it that way, Luke said it this way, John said it this way, and yet it doesn't look like they match in their story. Now, how many of you are teachers or you've worked with preschoolers, actually teachers with older kids? Anybody? You ever had to - how about your own kids? You have more than two or three kids in your lifetime. Okay. And what if something bad happened? You know, somebody carved their initials - well, that you would know who it was.
They used a permanent marker on a dry erase board or they did something that shouldn't have done or somebody stole something or something bad happened. And you pull them in one at a time to tell story, right? You tell little Johnny, little Julie and you go what happened here? And they both have the exact same story verbatim. What do you know? They're called a liar. They're telling a story, because they somehow got together and says let's get this right. We got to figure this out, because they're going to ask us what happened. Okay, you're going to say this and I'm going to say this, and they collude with one another. And police officers know this when they're investigating a crime that when two guys are saying the very same story, it ain't the same story that actually happened. Odds are, it's a story, but not the story.
So when you have all four gospel writers looking at, let's just say an accident occurs in the middle of the intersection and they're sitting on all four corners. They all have a different perspective. My perspective is this is the angle how I saw the cars hit. This is how I saw the cars hit. This is how I saw the cars hit. And all four are a collection of the story that actually happened because none of them had the same viewpoint of the accident. And all of the gospel writers come from their own personal viewpoint; not viewpoint like opinion, but their own facts that they know about out on their corner of the street as they looked at the story of Jesus. And so it's the additive principle. You add them together to find the real story. You don't subtract from one another, because one didn't say this and the other said and say that.
This resurrection story is, if you looked at it from human perspectives - incredible. It's incredible. No one ever stayed raised from the dead. No one ever stayed raised from the dead. If Lazarus had died again, because remember he got raised by Jesus. They'd still be talking about it. If that little girl who was raised from the dead; that Jesus raised from the dead was still alive, there'd probably be a gospel in her name. Some kind of a name like, wow, who's this person? But all evidence suggests that Lazarus and that little girl eventually did enter the grave on this side of heaven. Their faith was in Christ, my hope and prayer is I'm assuming Lazarus did, but they died. The one that didn't was Jesus, and that's the one we're still talking about. That's the one we're singing about. That's the one that people gave their lives for. It's incredible.
Matthew is writing much later, like I told you already, and so if they had found his body in a Creek somewhere, tossed aside somewhere, buried in a different grave - Oh, they just got the wrong tomb. That's a theory out there. Don't you know they would've done everything they could to unearth the truth about this. Who was in charge, the Christians? No, there were very few Christians at that moment. Who was in charge were all the people that had everything to lose if they didn't find the body of Jesus, and nobody did. It's incredible. But you know what? It's also a very credible story. And here's the part that I referred to just a moment ago.
You see, truth be told, and thank God, women have a say legally. And they have as much right and they're just as equal in their opinions in their weight of what they say in our world today, than they ever were hundreds of thousands of years ago. And it's been in recent history that women have had equal rights. And so, I say that not to say, yay, I say that's not good. But the thing is, if this story had been fabricated by the men who wrote it down, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they would have never made up the story that a woman found Jesus alive before men. They just wouldn't have. And say well, that's not right. I'm just saying that's how it is; that it's even more credible to believe that it's a true story because you can't make it up.
I mean, I've come home and said, "Honey, you won't believe what I witnessed today." And she'll do the same with her job. And we'll say, and you know, we won't share names but share stories and we try to decompress a little bit and we go - you can't make this up. It just, you can't make it up. You have an incredible story. You can't make up the fact that these women found the tomb empty, because in that day and time, it would've been knocked aside as poo-poo. No, there's no way. That gives women some kind of status that they don't even have in this world, and so, it's very credible. It's very credible that all four Gospels would write unique details that these women were the ones that found the tomb empty.
And it's very credible. When you think that the people who believed and saw that Jesus was alive, staked their very lives and died many of them for that truth. What would you die for? What lie would you die for? What lie would you die for? At one point you'd finally say, "Okay, that crossed. No, He's dead. I just lied." They didn't do that. They willingly suffered for the name of Jesus Christ because their lives had been so changed. What did it say in 1 Corinthians 15, "For I passed on to you as most important what I also received." Paul says this, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures and that He appeared to Cephas, that would be Peter, then to the 12, and then he appeared to over 500 brothers and sisters at one time. Most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. And then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, He also appeared to me.
And then Paul goes on later and he says, verse 17, "And if Christ has not been raised, you’re worthless. You are still in your sins. Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be petty more than anyone." This resurrection story is not just a good story to tell on Easter and we get a nice little outfit or in my case, in the seventies, a leisure suit. This isn't one of those things where we just say, "Oh, He has risen." Oh, you got the story; you know how to do this, yeah. It's sort of like Christians. We know how to do this. God is good - All the time. Oh, you got it. You're in the club.
This isn't ritual. It's ritual with a purpose. I ritually come to church on Sundays because I believe Jesus came back to life. I ritually pray to God because I believe God is alive. I ritually thank God for my sins being forgiven because He really forgave me of my sins. He paid the price. And so, you might call it a ritual, you might call it a religious practice, but the meaning behind it is not ritual or religion. The meaning behind it is relationship - knowing Him personally. And so, He's not here, He's risen. I want to end on that note before we leave today. He's not here, He's risen. Look, what are you looking for? He's here. What are you looking for? Store clerk comes up, "What are you looking for?" "I don't know. I'm looking for this." "We don't have that here." You've ever been somewhere like that? Boy, try to find a fan belt on the first big day of snow, or try to find a snowblower belt on the first big day of snow. We don't have one of those; they were all out all over this city.
There's no dead body here, He's gone. What are you looking for? Why are you looking somewhere else for your answers? Stop looking in dead places for answers to live life. Stop looking in dead end places. Stop looking where you already know the answer does not exist. Stop looking where you know you should not be looking. Don't go into that rebound relationship. Don't go into that new debt program. Don't go into that buy one more new thing; I'll maybe be happier at this place than that place. Quit trying to buy your love into what's going on trying to find someone else. I'll tell you what; some of you, you're still living in a past that someone created for you in an evil way. They're chirping in your ear; "You're not good enough. You're not pretty enough. You'll never amount to anything."
Heaven forbid it, it's your parents, it might be a teacher; it's somebody in your life, and you can't overcome being last picked at the playground at kickball because of how awkward you are when you went and played, you can't get over a shadow story that is not in charge of you, but you're letting it be in charge of you. You keep going to the graveyard for answers and he's not there. Stop it! Stop it! He's risen, and His power and His life, and by His authority you can get over. You can go over. You can be healed from. You can grow. You can become, and you have purpose and meaning in the name of Jesus Christ.
There's living proof in this room that that's true. Trust Jesus to take care of any problem that you're facing. Trust Jesus and everything that he says. He said, "I'm going to come back to life. Oh, by the way, guys, I'm coming back to life. Oh, by the way, I'm going to be raised from the dead." And he did. And if God, the father and God, the son could walk together in a situation and bring the holy spirit and all that; if all of that can happen and they can bring together a story that so shook the world that we talk about it today. And if Jesus is true to His word and He fulfilled everything that the father had for him to do, and scripture was fulfilled from the Old Testament and it was written about in the New Testament; if Jesus kept His word all of that way, He will keep His word with you. If He said you're forgiven, you are. Quit bringing up something you've already asked His forgiveness for.
I know there's a thing called regret. It's horrible. I know there's a thing called I have a past and I remember it. I know a thing called that - you know, we just don't like what happened. But we don't have to live in the chains of the way it was. As I mentioned our earlier, we have a windshield full of opportunity; don't look in the tiny mirror, mu mirror of what used to be. Look forward, not behind. Put on the full armor of God, the Bible says. You know that full armor; it's that frontal stuff, nothing on the back. It means that we keep moving forward, but we don't go with some kind of a death wish; we go in the name and the power of Jesus Christ. He promised to come back to life. He did. He promised security, peace, and hope. He gives it. He promised forgiveness. Will you trust Him this morning?
Stop trusting in your past story. Stop trusting your broken family. Stop trusting the things that you know are lies from the pit of hell, and trust in the risen savior, Jesus Christ. Three words and we're out of here. You know how you start believing in Jesus and trusting Him complete with your life; you start admitting that you've missed the mark. You admit to Him that you are a sinner for all of sin and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. I deserve punishment forever. Apart from a holy God, I deserve to be separated from God forever. And you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ if you've not first, come to him for forgiveness of your sins.
He's not just some good story that He put across on your chain and now I'm a Christian. No, you need to admit to Him. Repent therefore, and be baptized. Let people know. I'm no longer going to live that way. I know that's wrong. I know what you call wrong is wrong, and I admit that. I fall short of being perfect like you, Father. I ask you to forgive me. And then I believe - I believe, Jesus, that you've died and rose again. If you believe in your heart, that God raised Him from the dead and you confessed with your mouth Jesus is Lord, you'll be saved. You got to believe this story is real. This isn't just something you talk about that's a fun little story. This actually happened. Real man really died, really came back to life, and I believe that. You believe. I believe, Jesus. You're the hope. Jesus said I'm the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. I believe Jesus, you're the only way to heaven. There's no other door I can get in. It's through you.
And finally, I commit. I'm all yours, Jesus. With all my breath I give you my life. Paraphrasing what we sang a little bit ago. I commit as best I know how, I give you my life to do with as you please. Whatever you want from me, I'm yours. Even unto death, Jesus, I want to live for you. I'm tired of living a lie. I'm tired of living my shadow past that isn't good. I'm tired of living in answers that don't give true hope. I admit I'm a sinner. I believe Jesus you died on the cross and rose again, and then now commit my life to you as my savior and Lord.
Let's stand one last time this morning, if you would. It was mentioned earlier that we had these connection cards. They're on the back table. As you go out this door, maybe you need to grab one, put something on there. Lord, I've got something. You're talking to God and you say, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" And this card might help you. It says here, accepting Christ as savior. Maybe the first time you've never put your life in Jesus' hands. Today would be the day that you admit, believe and commit your life to Jesus Christ. Maybe it's a re-surrendering of your life. Maybe it's requesting baptism. Maybe your next step is I'll come back next week. Look, if you've never gone anywhere for a long time, your best next step might be just; I'm committed to coming back, but don't not do what God's told you to do.
And by the way, you're ready to make a decision right now. You might not be ready tomorrow, so I encourage you to do it now. And let someone know that you've done it now so that we can be praying for you and encouraging you and helping you to make good on what you know God has asked you to do this morning. And so, don't be silent. Speak up, let us know. I'll be down here in the front. Jerry will be in the back. Some others will be in the back, Becky as well, to help encourage you and to pray with you if you feel led to do so. And so, please, let's just respond as the Lord has called us to do. Father God help us all to be obedient to whatever you've told us to do. Nothing I want them to do, God, this isn't about me. It's about you, Jesus. So Lord, speak to every heart in this room, including mine, and help us to move forward the way you want us to spiritually in Jesus' name, amen.
Palm Sunday and Lord’s Supper
April 10, 2022
Palm Sunday: Jesus in the crowd
Jesus was a Crowd Favorite!
-Read Matthew 11:7-11
-they were welcoming a king, their savior
-He rode in on a donkey- came peacefully
-Their expectations did not match what Jesus came to do
-They wanted Jesus to overthrow their earthly oppressors
-Jesus came to set them free from their own oppressive sin
-Result over the next week: Their Loyalty Was Short Lived
Thursday Night: Jesus and His Disciples
The Lord’s Supper: Affirmation Of Loyalty
-Jesus established an enduring practice of remembering His death
Mark 14:22-26 As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many. I assure you: I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in the kingdom of God.”
The Lord’s Supper is…
A Symbolic Reminder
-Jesus used elements from the Passover Supper
-Bread symbolized his broken body
-The Cup symbolizes his blood shed for our sins
For Christ’s Followers
-We invite fully committed followers of Christ
-Are you a Palm Sunday or Thursday night follower?
-We declare Jesus died for our sins
-We declare He is coming again
Come carefully to the Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:28 “A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread or drinks the cup.”
-Confess your sins and Receive Forgiveness
-Submit again to Christ’s Authority in specific areas of your life
-Restore broken relationships “as much as it depends on you”
The Lord’s Supper
Take your time- pray about your heart attitude first
Come forward to receive the elements
Pray before eating and drinking
Keep Worship Area Quiet- let others partake in peace
Use Connection Card- to declare your spiritual commitments
Come for Prayer- Prayer Team members are ready to help you
My Next Steps
Connection Card in Offering Box
-everyone can do this
-be sure to mark your spiritual commitments, pledges, prayer
Good Friday Worship at Noon
Easter Sunday Worship
-This is the best time to invite friends and family to worship
After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
-We can’t stay in the “upper room”
-Jesus is leading us to a life of sacrifice and victory!
To the cheers and adulation of the crowd, they were putting Palm branches, leafy branches, Palm branches down; they were putting their coats down. They were signifying that this Royal King deserved a coronation. That He was coming in, in such a way that they were like, "Yes, this is him, Hosanna!" They were just singing the praise. He was the rockstar of the morning. I just want to clarify for those of you, and this came up this week in our elders meeting, that some of you might have been offended when I called Jesus a goat. And I just want to remind you that culturally speaking, when you call somebody the goat, it is an acronym for "greatest of all time". So, I was not defaming Jesus by calling him a goat. That would be bad, don't do that. Don't do that. He was the goat. He was the greatest of all times.
So just in case, if you're listening, maybe that was you. I don't know who it was, but there was a comment back that maybe that wasn't appropriate, and I didn't mean in any way to offend, especially Jesus Christ. Let's give Him honor to whom honor is due. But guess what? This crowd, as excited as they looked, had an agenda for Jesus Christ. Jesus is in the crowd and here He was being welcomed in as the King, their savior.
Now, Jesus was not meeting their expectations. In fact, the way He was entering was not like He should have in order to match what they wanted Him to be. He was riding in on a colt, so you know which team He roots for. Anyway, that was... See the second service, I get a little excited, you know, I get a little... my wife says, "Tamp it down, Pastor Greg. Tamp it down husband." Anyway, He wrote in on a colt; He was coming in peacefully. He was making sure that the Roman authorities and anybody who thought they were in charge, that He was making it very clear that He was not trying to [unclear02:31] any earthly authority. If He was going to be put to death, it was not because He was a rebel who is trying to incite an insurrection. His death would be the result of His own people, condemning Him for no other reason than that He claimed to be equal to God; that he claimed to be God.
He's in this crowd, and He's not meeting their expectations. He's not going to meet their expectations. They wanted Jesus to overthrow their earthly oppressors. Jesus came to set us free from our own oppressive sin. And the result over the next week would be a very short lived popularity where this same crowd would be converted into a mob that would cry out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him. Put Him to death in the worst way possible. He's not our king."
You think, how can a crowd be so fickle? I'll give you an illustration. You have someone who is starting a new company; maybe they're a politician and they are starting a new term as a newly elected official. Or in my case, I work with a lot of church planners. And of course, I was part of the beginnings of planting St. Joe Community Church. And this next Sunday, we traditionally celebrated, it's the 20th or the 21st of April, but we celebrated on Easter Sunday will be our 19th anniversary. And I think back on how we said, "This is how we're going to do it. This is what we're going to do. This is the way in which this is the mission and purpose, the vision of our church." And many church planners will do that, and they'll gather a crowd of people and they'll move that crowd to move forward. And God will be working in the middle of all that, and there'll just be this swell of people that will come.
And then about year two or three, as they begin to implement the vision that God had given them that they clearly said, this is where we're going, this is what we're doing; a few of the people in the crowd will go, "Well, that's not what I signed up for." They didn't read the bulletin. They didn't read the fine print. They didn't really hear what they wanted. They heard what they wanted to hear. And they joined the crowd of people doing a new thing in town with their own agenda and their own version of what they wanted to happen in that new company or that business or that church or that politician. And when that person was true to what they said they would do, they weren't so happy about it and they faded.
And bar none, every new church, every new organization, every political leader, or any kind of leader who says, I'm now the new leader, who everybody champions at the beginning; there will always be a few people that didn't really hear what they wanted to do. And when they actually did it, they get mad and leave. It just happens. And so Jesus, I mean, case in point, this crowd said, "This is what you are to us. We hate the Romans. We want him out of our lives. Oh, king, get this over with." And He didn't come to overthrow an earthly kingdom. He came to overthrow in the spiritual kingdom that's behind every pagan, earthly kingdom. He came here not to overthrow Putin, but to overthrow the one who's the mastermind behind all the evil that exists in this world.
Now, he has a pure choice to do good or evil, and he is owning evil like nobody's business. And it's horrible. But the ruler of this world is Satan himself, and he wants to cause everybody to be in bondage to send until eternity when they spend eternity away and banished from God forever to pay for their sins. And he wants to drag as many people with him as possible. And Jesus came not to overthrow a temporal kingdom that was underneath a spiritual kingdom that was against the ways of God; he came to overthrow the very kingdom that had us in slavery to our own sins. He came to overcome your personal kingdom that is in charge of you that's causing you to sin and to do things that are destructive to yourself and to people around you. Jesus came to set us free. He came to die.
He was a crowd favorite in this moment, but then we see later Thursday night, we see Jesus and his disciples. We see Him in the crowd. Yay! But when he really gets down to brass tacks of what he's going to do, he's left with just a few. And even when he had the few, one ran off to continue to press Him into the vision that he had for Jesus' life. Some think that when Judas betrayed Jesus, that Judas, we think, no one knows, but there's a possibility that Judas may have thought if I can just push Jesus's buttons, if I can press against him the authorities, then He'll step forward and be the king that I want him to be. Or maybe by this time, he was so angry that Jesus wasn't the man that he wanted Him to be, that he was in spite betraying Him so that he would say, "Well, if that's what you want, you get what you deserve, and I'll just help it along by betraying you into the hands of the authorities." We don't know.
But even in the 12, there was one that stepped away and said, I'm not really into this. So, we have a much smaller group of people who are following Jesus Christ at this moment in time. And we pick up in Mark 14, where Jesus institutes the first Lord Supper and on the screen is the version that I'm going to read from out of the Christian Standard Bible, where it says, and you are welcome to read out loud along with me this morning, if you would, starting at verse 22 on the screen. "As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them and said, 'Take it, this is my body.' Then He took a cup and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and they all drank from it. He said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.' After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
What's going on here? Well, this night of gathering was in keeping with what God had instituted in the Old Testament called the Passover Supper. We're not getting get into the intricacies of that. That in itself is a very unique story; a word picture of all the elements that you can tie to our savior Jesus Christ. But the two that He pulled from the Passover supper were the bread and the cup. And He took this, what they knew to be the Passover Supper, and he instituted a new supper that we now call the Lord's Supper. And He used it as a symbolic reminder. He used elements that are symbolic of His broken body and His spilled blood. And that's what we'll do today in a few moments; we'll take the bread and we'll take the cup. And as we eat and we drink, we remember His death until he comes again.
Again, this is upper room conversation, not crowd conversation. These are people who are all in following Jesus, that's who we invite to be part of what we're doing. This upper room, this room where we have to choose to belong into the family of Jesus Christ, that we choose to put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and our savior; that we're willing to even die. Take up your cross and follow me. We've talked about this in the last handful of Sundays, about the cost of following Jesus Christ.
We're symbolically remembering that this forgiveness of our sins came at a price and the price was the life of Jesus Christ. The human being, the God man, God in the flesh, divinely God who came to take our place. A symbolic reminder -when I'm working with young children, I talk to them about substitution of punishment by saying, let's just say little Johnny did something wrong. And since we're already going with little Johnny, Jack says we have a John and a Jack in his room. And says, "I know Johnny did it, but I'll take his punishment for him. I'll take time out instead all the time." All the time.
God bless you. We have a moment of forgiveness and a few moments of confession. And Jack says, "I know John deserves to be in punishment for two hours in his room by himself, not doing anything and not playing in the yard, but I'm going to, instead of John taking the punishment he deserves, I'll take his place and I'll go sit in his room and sit in timeout. And Johnny can go and hang outside with the friends and do all the fun stuff that he doesn't deserve to do, but he'll get to do because I'm replacing him in his punishment." That's exactly what Jesus did for us. He replaced us in our time out zone. He replaced us by not letting us not making us have to die and be forever separated in hell from a holy God because of what we did to offend Him. When you offend an infinitely, holy God, it takes an infinitely long time to pay that off. In other words, you'll never pay it off. And God knew that, and that's why for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever would believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus came to die. He came to perish physically, with his blood pay for, and the perfect sacrifice, because He knew no sin, became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He took our place. He could. No one else in humanity could. They couldn't find anything wrong with the guy when they put Him to death, except for that he blasphemed God by claiming to be God. They couldn't find any witnesses. They had liars come up and say what He was, and they couldn't agree on enough witnesses. And even in their own human pagan court, they couldn't find a way to rig it so that He could be put to death for something He did wrong on this earth. He died for us and these are symbols of his death, reminding us that he paid our price.
And as I already said, this is for Christ's followers; not for people who are thinking about following Christ, not for people who might want to follow Christ but they're not sure yet, or for people that are just trying to figure things out. The crowd is not invited to us. Followers are invited to this. And so, if you are a follower in the middle of the crowd, we welcome you to join us at the Lord's Supper table. In other words, are you a Palm Sunday or a Thursday night follower? If you're just a Palm Sunday follower, that's not what we're talking about. Someone that wants Jesus to kind of come through for them, and then when He doesn't, I'm not so happy about Jesus. I want my way of doing things, so could you change the Bible to match what I want?
God says, "No, you got to match what I want. And when you can't, you just say, 'I'm sorry, please forgive me. I was wrong. And I ask your forgiveness so that I can do it the right way, the way you want me to do it.'" There isn't a single person here that can say I deserve to come to the Lord's Supper table. We've all blown it; every one of us in our own way, shape or form. And we've either been slapped on the hand by somebody in authority or we've had the Holy Spirit slap us upside the spiritual head to tell us we did something wrong. You know you did it wrong. And all God's asking us to do is not to say, "Oh, I'm good enough." No, say I'm not good enough, and I know it, and I agree, and I ask and I confess and I'm willing to say I want to do it your way instead of my way." I want to go to the upper room. I want to live in the upper room. I want to live to follow Jesus whatever it takes.
This table is for that kind of a person this morning. And if you're like me, you've blown it this week, somewhere shape or form; either it's a thought or an action or an attitude. And all we're saying is just ask forgiveness, say, "God, I'm not worthy to come to the table, but I know I'm a follower, and so I ask your forgiveness and will you clean me up? Will you give me strength? Will you help me to do better this week? I want to be more like you this afternoon than I was last night." I don't know where you're at or where you've been, but come as you are - leave changed.
And then finally it's a symbolic reminder, it's for Christ followers, but it's also a declaration. We're declaring that Jesus died for our sins and we declare that He's coming again. On Friday at noon, I have the privilege of bringing a brief message and that message will be, "It is finished". Jesus said that when He died on the cross. He said several things when He was on the cross. But the one thing that I thought that we ought to talk about on Friday morning that I felt impressed to talk about is that one phrase, "It is finished". Stop working for your sins to be paid off, stop trying to pay off God with works. You know, some people they give God just enough and then they think, "Well, I didn't give Him a whole lot here, so I'm going to do a lot of work around the church or I'm going to be a good person, or I'm going to donate a bunch to the salvation army, or I'm going to do all this," because you don't really want Jesus to be in fully in charge so you sort of like bargain with God. Well, if I'm a good enough person over here, that kind of balances out my not so good over here. And Jesus said on the cross, "It is balanced." No, He said it is finished. I did everything possible and necessary for you to be forgiven of your sins; stop trying to pay me off.
And so, it's a declaration that I'm trusting, not in myself, I'm not trusting in anything I did. Our righteousness is like filthy rags, the Bible says. I'm not trusting in what I'm doing. I'm trusting in what Jesus already did, so that's what this is about this morning. And so we come to the table, reminding ourselves of the symbol of His broken body and His spilled blood; as a follower of Jesus Christ, an upper room Christian, not a crowd Christian, and we come declaring that Jesus paid it all. There's a hymn, isn't there? Jesus paid it. Jesus paid it some... no, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a Crimson stain, He made it white as snow. We're declaring that we have victory over the things that we cannot in this lifetime fully experience victory over. We're still struggling in that. But even in the struggle, we know we've already won when we're trusting in Jesus.
We invite you to participate with us as we come to the Lord's Supper in that attitude and spiritual commitment. One more thing before we actually open the table for you to come, and that is I suggest that you come carefully to the Lord's Supper table. We've already made it clear that only believers should come today and partake with us. And we're not going to sit here and be the judge of hearts. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, I'm not going to say, 'Well, no, you're not. You're not." We're not going to do that. Nor are we going to say, "Are you fest up and are you ready to receive the Lord Supper in a worthy manner?" And so even that, I think we need to look at this morning to say, even as a believer, the Bible in 1 Corinthians 11:28 say, "A man ought to examine himself, in this way, let him eat the bread and drink from the cup." We exam am in ourselves. We don't want to come and as later the verses say, in an unworthy manner. We don't want to disrespect the table.
You see, Paul who wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians is the letter. They were part partying, they were having food and they weren't sharing it with poor people who didn't have enough food. There was this class prejudice moment going on. There was this total disrespect. They were getting drunk. There was just this party attitude instead of this worship respect for Jesus attitude. And Paul says, this is really how it's supposed to be. When you come to the Lord's Supper table, you need to examine yourself. See, some of you, you've gotten sick and some of you died. I've never had that happen in a worship service, but I don't want it to. I want you to come in a worthy manner. He said, in other words, there's consequences for being disrespectful of Jesus Christ when you come to the table. And a man or a woman, we ought to examine themselves. In other words, where am I at, Jesus? What have I done to offend you? How have I not asked your forgiveness in ways that I offended you?
And before you come to the table this morning, stay at your seat long enough to do business with God, and to just confess. You might need to write a name down of somebody that you need to ask forgiveness for when you leave this place. Nobody will be offended if you pull your phone out and you send a text while you're here to say, "Hey, we need to meet as soon as possible. God got a hold of me," or whatever you feel comfortable saying at that moment. But, God gets a hold of you about a relationship that's off kilter. And some people, I've even known them to not come to the Lord's Supper table until they get it right with the person that they have personally offended. That's up to you, and that person has to do their part of the reconciliation. But if you've been rebellious in reconciling and forgiving somebody, it's important for you to get that right. And as God as your witness, say that you will move forward in that way, from this day forward living for Jesus in that area of your life the way he wants you to.
And so, examine yourself before you come and just ask forgiveness. You might need to take a slip back and get a connection card if you didn't pick one up on your way in. Or on your phone, go to our website and go to our contact page and send us a note, a prayer request - "This area of my life, I got to get better. I need help. I need prayer. I need support. I need some resources, some people to come into my life, maybe a Bible study or some way I need to be connected so that I can get better."
I've heard it said before, we're only as sick as our secrets. And if you're being secretive about something, and if you're withholding something in your life that you're struggling with, and you're not getting partnership with; you're going to probably continue to struggle with it until you get someone in your life. We confess our sins, one to another that we might be healed, the Bible says. And you're in not really feeling the healing, because you're not inviting others in your journey. You're not humbling yourself in a way that, not to go get beat up, but for someone to support you and lift you up as you're teetering on the brink of disaster in that particular area of your life. So, we invite you in confidence. We have our prayer team during the ending of our Lord's Supper time; Jerry and Becky are going to be probably towards the back, right? And they're going to be receiving people if you want prayer. I'll be up front if you want to come forward for prayer. Put your connection card in the box, the offering box as you leave, if that's something you feel, somehow some way, move forward spiritually and let us know how you did it.
So, I'm going to pray, and I'm going to invite you to come forward. We'll come to the middle aisle, if you would, just kind of as you respectfully come over with each other, grab the elements; they'll be given to you or you'll pick the cup up, and I think we're going to give you the bread. And then you'll move to the side either this way or that way to the outer aisles and get back to your seat or to somewhere in this room or even out there if you feel more comfortable. Maybe come with people, if you're with a group of people or come by yourself, but we're all participating kind of at our own pace. Take the elements. If you're with a group, invite someone in that group to just breathe a prayer, say thank you, Jesus, for dying for us. Take the bread, take the cup.
If nobody's got the courage to pray out loud, say, okay, we're just going to sit here quietly and pray, and then somebody say, amen. At least have the courage to stop the prayer. And just somehow respectfully pray, and then partake, and then sit down and kind of quietly allow everybody to participate until we're all finished this morning. That's how we're going to do that today. And so let me pray, and then as we have this pause of you coming and reflecting on what God wants you to do and the way He wants you to come, you come as the Lord leads.
Father God help us to honor you with our lives as we publicly declare to the world and to the people in this room that we have trusted you completely for the forgiveness, us of our sins, that you've removed our guilt. You've set us free. You've given us a new name. You've placed us in your family forever. I thank you for that promise. And it doesn't matter how far we've gone as a believer, we can always come back. It doesn't matter what we've done, none of us, not one of us, even one sin keeps us from deserving to come before you this morning. But we trust in the blood that was shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and we want to tell the world that we are or followers; not our agenda, but your agenda; not our vision, we want your vision; not our plan for what kind of a king you ought to be, but God, we trust you as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to do with our lives and to work in this world however you choose to do so. We trust you, Jesus. And I pray this in your strong name, amen.
Jesus Defines Greatness
G.O.A.T. is a normal human measurement
Greatest Of All Time
Behavioral research reveals we naturally shift to competitive mode when doing projects with other people
How many ways do you tend to keep score in life?
How often do we apply God’s standards when measuring GOAT?
Jesus defines greatness in God’s kingdom! Read passage
1. Jesus just predicted his crucifixion and resurrection
“Promise that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom.”
-Mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee) asks this
-Mark 10:35-37 says only the sons asked about this
-They are asking for the greatest positions in God’s kingdom
“You don’t know what you’re asking”
-Jesus challenged their understanding, he just said he was going
to suffer greatly
-How often do we pray with similar ignorance???
-Do we really know the consequences of what we ask for?
-Can you drink this cup?? Can you take what I’m about to take?
-Matthew 26:39, 42 the cup in Jesus’s prayer- cup of suffering
-James and John (obviously with their mom in this request) tell
Jesus they are able
-Jesus explains they WILL suffer (drink this cup)
-James was the first person killed/martyred Acts 12:2
-Jesus affirms He is under his Father’s authority- he didn’t have
the right to determine greatness/status in His kingdom.
-Jesus neither grants nor denies their request
Jesus Defines Greatness
“It must not be like that among you”
-Spiritual greatness is not defined by how many people you rule
over (lord it over = political, positional power)
-Spiritual leadership is not about disregarding who you rule over
(act as tyrants = manipulate, exploit, all for personal gain)
-The world defines greatness according to how much authority a
person has to rule and control people
-Note: Jesus doesn’t actually condemn authority or leadership
-Jesus re-defines for us what a great leader actually does
-Jesus has all authority, submitted to his Father’s authority
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”
-servant- Greek word diakonos, deacon, minister
-ironically, the church struggles NOT to give people with these
titles a special status in the church!
“Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave”
-slave- literally doulos
-lowliest person with no worldly rights, puts everyone else first
-how have your decisions benefited others?
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve”
-Jesus had every right as our king to be served
-Jesus set the example of spiritual greatness
-do you serve others or expect others to serve you?
“And to give his life as a ransom for many”
-Jesus identifies himself again as the Isaiah 53 suffering servant
-Philippians 2:5-11 Christ became great through selfless suffering
Do you want to be great?
Reject the world’s definition of greatness
“Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus” Phil 5:5
There's a lot of good music out there. My daughters were at a concert in Illinois; my youngest is visiting her sister, my other daughter in Purdue this weekend. And they took a picture of the name of the... I have never heard of these people before. And they're worshiping God - I didn't know if it was a secular concert or Christian concert and I looked it up and now it's on my Spotify. All the way into church this morning I'm listening to music that my daughters went to hear in a concert, paid good money, I think my money. Anyway, to go see - and at least some of it, and all comes from one source anyway. But there's so many ways and styles, and the way in which we worship evolves, but it all goes back to what we're singing, not the style. Are the words honoring to God? Are they honoring God? Are they talking to God? Are they talking about God to God's people together? So, I really appreciate the diversity and the variety that Bra and the team bring to us each week that we worship together.
Worship is not only singing and praying and hearing and reading God's word, but hearing about God's word. And so, here we are in the worship time where we hear about the word of God in Matthew 20 this morning, where Jesus defines greatness. And we are heading towards the cross, which then three days later is the resurrection. And next Sunday will be remembering the Lord's Supper together. And for those of you that are watching us online, just prepare ahead of time, get some juice and some flat bread or cracker or something. Or if you need some help with that, we can help you this week and bring it to you. But we will be worshiping the Lord together and observing the Lord's supper this coming Sunday which is Palm Sunday/ it's the Sunday that we also remember in history that Jesus came into Jerusalem and they laid down palm branches and they were singing Hosanna, Hosanna, and praising His name. And that same crowd would be turned, and so many behind the scenes would turn that entire scene into a scenery of execution where in by God's divine providence, Jesus died for our sins.
And that gets right to the heart of this story because greatness is not determined by the way, in which we think greatness is determined. I have a question to ask, Goat! Who in your mind is the goat in sports? Now, right now, some of you don't even care about sports, and God bless you, you have a lot more time on your hands to do other things. But so for those of you, that love sports right now and if you're watching, I want you to shout out loud who you think the goat is. I don't care what sport it is. I don't care if you pick swimming, I don't care if you pick bowling or NFL or ooh, who wants that, you know, NCAA; I don't care what you think, but who is the goat? 1, 2, 3. I don't agree with any of you. I don't agree with any of you. Is there an asterisk by any of your goats? Oh, home run hitters. They had some asterisks now in baseball history.
Anyway, but we all have this idea of what the goat is because behavioral research reveals that we naturally shift to competitive mode when doing projects with other people. I don't care what the project is. I remember as a kid, we would swing, and may have swings - I don't know if they still have those anymore, if they're dangerous or not, but we had swings. And I think every kid has to sign a liability sheet that says, if I get her on the swing, I will not sue you, and so my parents neither will blackburn somebody else.
Anyway, but there's all these rules and regulations, but we had swing sets and we would swing and we would jump... this is the worst part. We'd jump off the swing. How many jumped off a swing, lived to tell, here you are today? We did. And then you would mark in the grass, a rock usually, because what else do you have to mark where you landed to see who landed the furthest. It wasn't just fun. Let's all jump off the swing together and have fun and tumble and not break our legs. No, let's see how far we can jump without breaking our legs and see who wins. And you know, how many made it to... we always had these competitions - jump off the monkey bars. We do everything. It's human nature.
I participated in this team, building powerful ministry teams. I'm certified to teach it and all that and all fun stuff. And we had this thing where we had to get in a group, two or three different groups and we had to solve a project together, solve a problem. And invariably, not only did we see what the other team was doing... are we getting done faster than they are? The only rule was, solve the problem. They didn't give us a time limit and they didn't tell us that we got chocolate if we won first. I mean, they didn't do anything. They just said solve the problem. And invariably, we went into competition mode. Ours is better than yours. We have a better answer than you have. We got done first. And researchers have shown that that just tends to be the case every single time we do something.
One time I remember being a part of a team that went together and they actually, there was this path that you had to walk on and it was like a grid. And then electronically, it had the landmines - oh, you had to start over again. You had to start over and you had to get to the end. And there were two pads and you had to walk without getting on the wrong spot. I remember one team actually helped the other team finish because they couldn't get it done. And he said, "Yay, you win," because it wasn't about competition. It was just about completing the project. But by human nature, it tends to come out that we just want to be better/good. We want to be the goat. We want to be the goat or at least kind of like it, kind of close. How many ways do you keep score in life?
My kids dressed not as funny as your kids dressed. I don't know. I heard from my kids this week. Well, I didn't hear from my kids. We get this competitive mode of everything is got to be better than somebody else. So many times we have a better back shadow, a backstory of being beat down in life somehow; maybe physically, heaven forbid, but that's probably true statistically in this room; spiritually, mentally, verbally abused. You were in a relationship that you are in abuse, and that backstory always comes roaring ahead, and you always keep score about how well you're doing based on how well you might look in the eyes of someone in the past that shouldn't even have the dignity of having any kind of say about how good or bad your life is. And we just do this, and it roars ahead of us, and it gets in our current story even though the past story is over and we're not living it anymore, it still affects our present story in our lives.
The question I want to ask here is how often do we apply God's standards when measuring goat? How are we measuring it according to what God thinks? And that's what this is all about this morning. Jesus is going to define for us what true greatness is. Jesus defines greatness in God's kingdom here in this passage.
Matthew 20:20, "Then the mother of Zebedee sons approach him with her sons..."
And by the way, the mother of Zebedee sons, the sons are James and John, the disciples of Jesus, and here's mom and her boys.
"...And she knelt down to ask him for something. 'What do you want?' he asked her. 'Promise,' she said to him, 'that these two sons of mine may sit on your right and the other on your left in your kingdom.' Jesus answered, 'You don't know what you're asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I'm about to drink?' 'We are able,' they said to Him. He told them, 'You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and left is not mine to give. Instead it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my father.' And when the 10 disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them over and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as a son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"
So, what's going on in this passage? While we see here that this comes right after Jesus has predicted His crucifixion and resurrection. We went over the three different times He said that last Sunday in worship. He had just said I'm going to suffer a crucifixion. He described what they would immediately know as the most horrid, feared way of being killed in that time period and probably of all time periods, and that's to be nailed to a Roman cross. This is what's going to happen to me, and then I'm going to rise again. And they didn't catch what was going on because right after that, mom zooms up, the first century helicopter mom. And she said, "My boys, you look how special they are." I had a grandma who's in heaven today, and if she's looking down she'll chuckle, I think. I don't know if you can see us down here, but I tell you what, she'd say, "You know, I know you're the only grandson I have. And I know a lot of people in the world say they have wonderful grandchildren, but I really do think you're the best grandson anybody could ever have." And I'm taking it to the bank. I was my grandma's goat. I'm just saying.
I mean, she wasn't biased, right? I mean, no, not at all. Of course not. But here's this mom coming up, telling Jesus that she wanted her boys to sit on the right and the other on the left; the most prominent positions in the kingdom of God. Will you please let my boys have top dog spots in your kingdom? I hear there's a kingdom coming. And when it all said and done, can you put them in the most prominent position possible in your kingdom, Jesus? Now we know that it's James and John, we know Mark 10 actually mentions James and John; he doesn't mention that their mom is advocate for that position.
So, here's this story and here they are asking questions, and you know, this is Jesus, the son of God. He calls himself the son of man to identify himself that He is human and He is with us, but He's also the son of God. He's divine and He is human. And He's always being asked for something. And isn't this the case? I mean, wouldn't this wear on you if you're being asked something all the time? If you ever, you have a leader that you know, or somebody you see, and you see somebody - in fact, there are people I know that they're in leadership position, and even at most meetings, even if we're in a public gather, I just don't go over to them right away because I know that oftentimes they're getting bombarded by people. And most of the time people are asking for favors.
When you meet somebody who's very prominent and you asking why in the world are they just kind of not so excited? Because most of the people that come to someone like that is usually coming to get something. And the best thing you can do by the way, just a side note has nothing to do with this. The best thing you can do with someone who's an authority or someone who is a person of prominence, person of wealth, is when you come to them, say, how can I pray for you? That's all you need to ask. I need to ask a favor. Oh, what is it? I just want to pray for you. We don't have to right now; that person might not be a person of faith. They might be weirded out by your faith. I don't know. I'm glad they're being weirded out if that's the case, by the way. They need to know that you support them as they support and influence people in their lives.
Just pray for them, just encourage them' just a side note, just a thought, and then ask for the selfie. I'm kidding. Don't do that. No, no, no. Don't ask. I'm kidding. You don't know what you're asking for, Jesus said. You don't know what are asking for. How many of you have prayed a prayer and you really didn't know what you're asking God for? We've all done this. We pray out of this ignorance of, I think I know how the universe runs. And if you give me this, the universe will run a whole lot better. Ain't that what we pray? I know better than you, God, because you haven't given me what I want, and what I want's more important than what I already got, so give it to me now.
I'll get here in a second here. I'm not saying not to pray big prayers. I'm just saying that sometimes when we pray, maybe oftentimes, we really don't know what we're asking for. He challenged their understanding because He had just said, "I'm going to suffer greatly. If you follow me, take up your cross and follow me.: He had said that earlier. Did you forget that guys? Guys, do you realize that the greatest person in the world, Jesus, I'm going to die? Are you following me to my death, to your death? Do you really know what you're asking for? Do you know the consequences of your request if it's granted? Can you drink this cup? What do you mean drink this cup - the challenge, the Holy Grail, the one that Indiana Jones was going after, is that what we talking about? What kind of cup are we talking about?
No, it's euphemism for the idea. Can you drink... can you come after and deal with what I'm going to have to deal with? What did he say in the garden of Gethsemane? "Father, if it be that will, could you take this cup from me? This cup of wrath, this moment of suffering that's about to take place in my life, but nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." The same word imagery, this word picture of I'm going to have to drink the worst thing I've ever had. I'm going to have to drink into my life the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Are you willing - are you able to drink the cup? And of course they said, "Yeah, we can do that. We can do that."
And Jesus says, "Well, yeah, you're going to suffer. You're going to drink from my cup. You're going to be ostracized. You're going to be cast out. James, He didn't tell him this, but James would be the first murder of the Christian Church, he'd be put to death before anybody else. And then later on, John would suffer greatly in his ministry for Jesus Christ. He'd be banished to the Island of Patmos. And he would receive as a blessing, a tremendous revelation, which we have today recorded as the Revelation of Jesus Christ about the end times. And it is historically tradition has says that basically he did die of an old age. He didn't die and suffer a martyr's death of crucifixion like Peter did, or by being filet to death by some other means by horrible means as some others did. You know, even doubting Thomas died a martyr's death. And so, this one that was doubting Jesus, and this one that we go, how weak his faith was, how strong his faith was in the end according to a tradition. Yeah, you're going to drink the cup of mine.
But by the way, guys; boys, I just want you to know it is not mine to give whether or not you're on my right or my left. That's up to the father. Because as a person in authority, I am under authority and my authority is trumped by God's authority, by my father's authority. I'm God the son, He's God the father, and He's the one that's prepared those decisions, not mine. He neither denied nor granted their request. He just said, let's leave it in the hands of the father. I think there's been at least three times I've been asked, do you think this is it, Pastor Greg, do you think this is it? Do you really think I've been around different scenarios and different circumstances, some horrific, some exciting, and all these different places you keep hearing, you know, Russia is getting, and this is happening and that's going, and our nation's getting... and I think maybe my lifetime maybe and all these different things are happening. And even when I talk about that, I say, "Well, it could be; we're closer than we've ever been." And then you're in the car and you say how close are we? Closer than we were five minutes ago when you asked. I mean, we are getting closer and it does seem like there's some things going on. But I want to tell you, Jesus even said, when they said when you're coming back? When's this going to happen? And in Acts 1, He said, "It is not for you to know it's the father's business. I don't even know. But you will be my witnesses here and everywhere."
In other words, keep after it. Look at the signs. Look what's going on. But trust the father's divine plan. Don't quit. Don't sell your house yet. Although it's a good time to sell houses. Don't do it. Don't give up the shop yet. Keep working, keep living, keep doing, look forward, but trust the Father's divine authority over the times and the ends and trust the Father for who's going to be first and second and third in the pecking order of the kingdom of God. That's up to Him, not Jesus.
And he's like, yeah, you're going to suffer, but that's one part. But guess what? The other part where you're going to be, that's really up to my father. You don't know what you're asking. You don't realize the authority question that you're asking. And so then, Jesus now defines greatness. After this, the disciples come up, it's like, "What are you boys asking for? Come on!" Now, were they mad because they were asking first? Didn't say! We wanted to ask that question. You know, Peter's like, "Why not me? You said I'd be the rock." By the way, he never took steroid. I should stay on script. Sorry guys. Yeah. Yeah. Amen, oh me.
It must not be like that among you, that's what Jesus said. What did He say? You know that the rulers are the Gentiles lorded over them. And those in high positions act as tyrants over them, but it must not be like that among you. In other words, He said, there's a world system, there's people who lorded over others and there are tyrants. And by the way, don't get your democratic, the people are in charge and don't deal with this hierarchy. They were used to hierarchy. They had no idea what voting was - human rights. You had zero rights under most authorities.
Paul even said obey those in leadership, they don't wield the sword for nothing. God had put them in charge to maintain order. Whether they were godly or not, you need to honor authority in the world. And there's a whole ethic of conversation about doing the right thing, and I'm not getting into that today. But Jesus is saying, this is what you're used to seeing; political powers, they lorded over people, they're lords. And then there's people that have authority by their wealth or influence, and they hold it over people; they're like tyrants. And you know that's kind of how the world acts, and a great person is seen by how many people they are in charge of. Spiritual greatness is not defined by how many people you rule over or how many people you can manipulate. It's not about disregarding, who you rule over; acting as a tyrant, manipulating, exploiting all for personal gain. This is not how greatness is defined.
You don't come here and try to get in the kingdom and say, "Well, I want a position." It's not about position. At our church we often have said, and we'll say it again. I'm saying it right now. We're not here to give out titles. We're here to give out towels. The world defines greatness according to how much authority a person has to rule or control people. Now, Jesus doesn't actually condemn authority or leadership; He's just redefining what a great leader is. He's defining greatness. He's not denigrating leadership or position. He's just saying that if you want to be a great person, it's not based on position; it's based on how you live out in whatever position of life God has given you.
Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. The word Diakonos, the Greek word, where we also get later on in the New Testament, the word for deacon, the word for minister, but that's not what Jesus is establishing here. He's saying you need to be a servant. You need to serve. He's not putting a title here. He's saying we're looking for a way of living, serving other people. Up in the upper room, He said, "This is what you're supposed to do." And He gets down on His knees and He washes their dirty feet. And He says, "And as I've done for you, you do for others." You need to serve and need to be willing to take... nothing should be beneath you. We were talking about some kind of activity or something or washing or mopping or something. And wasn't a point of arrogance; it was just, well, that's not beneath me. It should never be beneath you. Serving people, serving generally. You know when you know that you're not a good servant is when someone calls you one and you don't like it.
Ouch! You must be a servant. Ironically, the church struggles not to give people with these titles special status: the deacon board, the minister. These titles are I think, honorable and good and biblical. And yet, why is it that they become the elevated person that now is lording it over in access tyrants over the church, and an unhealthy church system lets it happen? Because we are taking the world's definition and we're imposing it on the church's life, instead of letting the definition of Jesus interpret for us what greatness is.
And then He says, "Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave." Another word he uses, "doulos" slave, the lowliest person with no worldly rights who puts everyone else first. I have a question. How have your decisions this week about you lived your life benefited other people? I'm not saying we deny our basic needs; take care of us... I'm not saying that we like, I'm a worthless worm, I'm nothing. We need to eat, sleep, drink. We need to do our things, we need to have... But I'm talking about as you make decisions, how has it affected positively the people around you? When I talk about men being the spiritual leaders of their home, and I talk about a husband leading his wife spiritually; I always ask the question, will you be willing to put your wife and your children first whenever you make a decision and your last? That's what a servant leader is in the home.
As elders, as ministry team leaders in our church, as people who have spiritual leadership in our church, every decision we make is based on what is best for what everybody else needs, not what our needs are. I have personal preferences. I like it this way. I like blue. Other people like red. I like this. I like fufu coffee. Other people don't care. I mean, we have these ways of living that we think, well, this is how it ought to be done, but it's usually how I want it to be done, not how is it best done for the benefit of not only today's church, but the future church and the generations of church until Jesus comes again church.
I said a long time ago when we started the church; we started at a certain benchmark of style and way in which we did things. Method never changes. The message never changes - methods do. And I said, I'm sure that in the end of my ministry, we'll be doing methods that I probably won't really like so much just because I'm an old fogie, but I pray and I will fight tooth and nail that the message never changes.
Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. If you want to be first, you need to be last. You need to be the slave, because the son of man did not come to be served but to serve. You're following me; be a servant. You're making out me to be the greatest of all time; well, the greatest of all time just bent down and served you. And by the way, this is how he served you and to give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus had every right as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to be served. And He said, "I didn't come here to be served. I came here to serve you. I didn't come here to be the greatest of all time on this earth in this earthly system that you guys are living in. I came here to be the greatest of all time for the kingdom of God forever and ever to the glory of God, the Father, amen and amen. And I came here to do that by serving you, because God wants a people for a kingdom of himself. He wants a priest to the believers. He wants a group of people that honor and love Him, and there's no way we can earn our way into heaven. I'm going to die for you so that you can get there without your own ways of getting there. I'm going to do it for you. I'm going to die so that I will pay off what you owe God. You owe him eternal death for what you've done to rebel against a holy God. And I'm going to take that punishment for you so that you don't have to take it so that you can receive by faith, the grace, the unmerited favor of God." The forgiveness of your sins, eternal life; not by any kind of work so that no one can boast and say, I got in this way, how'd you get in?
We all got in because of Jesus. You know the one question they'll ask you in heaven; I don't know, preacher said this all the time and I don't know how that's going to go down in heaven. But the one question to be asked is what did you do with Jesus when you enter into eternity, did you trust Him or reject Him? And if you trusted Him, He says, "If you will confess me before others, I confess you before the Father. But if you refuse to confess me before others, then I'll have to refuse to confess you before the Father." "No one gets to the father, except through me." Jesus said. "I came to die for you, to serve you." And if you want to be great, if you want to be the goat in your lifetime, you need to be like Jesus.
So based on this passage, we look at Philippians 2 where Paul later on identifies a little bit more in chapter 2 where he says, "If you're going to honor people in your life, you need to honor them the way Jesus did. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Adopt the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ. Emphasizing what Jesus says here in Matthew 20, "Jesus who existed in the form of God did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on the cross." He died to pay the ransom for many, his punishment for our inequities - Isaiah 53.
So, who is the goat? You want to modify your answer? Who's the goat? Who's the goat? Jesus is the goat. He's the greatest of all time. And if you want to be like Jesus, and if you're a Christian, if you say I'm a follower of Christ, you're Christian; that means you are trying to be like Christ. And you want to be the greatest of all time under Christ; you're not trying to compete against Him, right? But if you are having a mindset to want to do the way Jesus did, to be as Jesus was and to live as Jesus lived; then you too will live out a life of service and slavery to the best of what God has intended and wanted for the people in your life and around you and the people you influence.
If you happen to make your way into a person of authority and status, he's not telling you to sell everything and become a slave of the world. He's saying that in your position of authority, in your slavery to what God wants - you do the right with whatever you have to do with. If you're a leader, you lead in such a way that is not about your leadership; it's about the best of the people that you lead. It's about taking care of the people that you need to take care of. It's about America saying that we have been given so many privileges and responsibilities that, yes, we do owe a debt to the world of taking care of and doing things to encourage and help in ways that other nations never could, because by the grace of God, we have what so many others never have had.
We have an opportunity to be a shining light of encouragement as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ to make a difference in other people's lives, by serving, not by telling and by lording it over and acting as a tyrant and acting not like Jesus when we don't get our way. We say, Jesus, you're in charge of my life, and because you were a servant and bow yourself to the point of death, I want to live my life pleasing to you.
A passage that I didn't have in the notes, but I think is appropriate to read, 2 Corinthians 5:15, where it says, "And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised."
I pray this morning that we will reject the world's definition of greatness, that we'll stop living in competition for those things that don't even matter. Yeah, kids, keep jumping off the swing and seeing who gets first. That's fun, but our status and our worth is not determined by how fast or how far we go compared to everyone else in the world. Our status and our worth is already been settled in heaven. We're valuable enough for a King of King to die for us, and so the least we can do is just say I'm willing to die to myself to live for Him as I serve and encourage others around me. Let's reject the world's definition of greatness, and let's adopt the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ. Let's adopt the attitude of Jesus.
I don't know if it means for the first time you put your faith in him and you tell the world I'm a Christian. Maybe before Easter or right on Easter Sunday, we'd be more than happy to help you follow through in believers’ baptism. Or maybe it's to say, "I re-surrender again, because I'm done in all this competitiveness that Io keep living in; it's my back story that's getting in the way of my present story. I got to get into the God story of my life." And maybe that connection card, maybe you just say, "I'm not even sure what I'm asking for, but I'd just like to meet with somebody and pray with them, or just pray for me this week so that I define greatness the way God wants me to and get rid of my stinking thinking." Let's adopt the same attitude of Jesus Christ.
Let's pray right now. Father, God, I don't know what you want to do in this room and how you want to move and who you're working on. You've been working on me all week on this. What is leadership? And this just puts a wrinkle in, in all the ways in which we've been taught in this lifetime, in this world of what leadership is and what leaders do. And I thank you that you get in our way and you help us to not think in temporal finite terms, but think in eternal terms. And I know that these two men that were asking questions went on to greatness because of their sacrifice of their lives for you, Jesus. And so, I thank you for the examples of James and John. Yeah, a little arrogant at the front end, and God, I just pray that we won't be afraid to ask big prayers because we might be asking wrong. But Lord, be willing to submit to your final answer when we ask them. I just pray that you'll help us to be successful spiritually in front of you. This week, as we think about the people we influence and encourage, that we might influence and encourage them in a way that benefits them and honors and glorifies you. Show us how to do that, Jesus, we're still learners. We're still growing. And help us to be obedient to publicly proclaim today whatever it is you want us to. And I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection
Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19
March 27, 2022
Jesus came to die for our sins!
-He didn’t just teach good principles to live by
-He wasn’t just a good example of a human to follow
Jesus clearly explained his mission
-Matthew 9:15 he makes a passing reference
-Matt 10:38 A follower must be willing to take up his cross
-Jesus explains his plan to the disciples three times
Read Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19
The combined details of Christ’s prediction
1. He will be killed and resurrected in Jerusalem
-16:21 and 20:17-19
2. He will be betrayed and be handed over
-handed over= 20:18
3. The elders, chief priests and scribes will condemn him
-16:21 and 20:18
4. Gentiles will kill him by crucifixion
-killed= all three times
-Gentiles will crucify him= 20:19
5. He will be raised up on the third day
-all three times
Jesus demonstrated his
-specific predictions of future events
-his enemies fulfilled Old Testament prophecy
-Jesus said “it was necessary” 16:21
-Jesus was undistracted from his purpose
-Jesus refused to let his disciples stop him
-Jesus carried this burden alone- disciples didn’t understand
-Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while
we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Jesus overcame the punishment of sin by rising from death
-God planned all along to save us from our sins
-Jesus became the final High Priest and Perfect Sacrifice for us
Trust Jesus to be right
-He correctly predicted his death and resurrection
-He will correctly lead us right now!
Trust Jesus to save us
The Son of Man
The Son of Man
The Son of Man
He must go to Jerusalem
We are going to Jerusalem
Suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and scribes
Be betrayed into the hands of men
Handed over to the chief priests and scribes
They will kill him
They will condemn him to death
They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified
And be raised the third day
On the third day he will be raised up
On the third day he will be raised
Peter rebukes Jesus
The disciples were filled with grief
A mother asks Jesus to give her sons special status in His kingdom
B: Bible book