In Acts 2, for those of you that have come here for quite a while, you will be familiar with part of what I'm going to read aloud this morning because it is what we would often used to introduce people being baptized and the reason why we baptize people. And we'll be doing that in a couple of weeks. And if you're interested in learning more about that, please put that on your connection card. We'd love to talk with you. We chat with anybody before that happens, to help you solidify and understand and to think through God's word, according to the truth of God's word, your testimony and your faith in Jesus Christ. We actually are going to be describing and talking about baptism today in our members' class. We always share the gospel, the good news of Jesus. And we talk about baptism and Lord Supper and the basics of our church life together.
But this passage is pretty common, commonly read Acts chapter two, verse 37 and following. And as Peter had shared the message of Jesus Christ, that he had come and died, rose again and ascended into heaven. Peter was announcing that a new thing was about, was occurring in this very moment, the people that are in Jerusalem, thousands upon thousands of people had gathered for a high holy moment in the Jewish life, in the Israeli nation's life. People from all over different countries had come. They were Jewish descendants or they were maybe Proselyte. They were people that were not Jews, but they had trusted in the Jewish faith like the Ethiopian Munich that was saved later on. He was from Ethiopia. We know that Philip came and witnessed to him and he gave his life to Jesus Christ. And so, there were all these crush of nationalities and the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and the believers that had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And they began to speak in other languages. They began to speak in languages that were understandable to all the people, that their heart language was what they were saying and like, how can this possibly be? And other people were looking and saying, how silly those people look, and they must be drunk in the middle of the day. What in the world is going on? And they said, this isn't something that this isn't... they're not drunk. This isn't some aberration that is human made. This is a supernatural moment where God is anointing the people of God to say He is starting a new thing, the church is born - the Day of Pentecost, we call it.
And in this moment, these people are receiving new information about how to live life and how to honor God. And I would suggest to you that new information requires action. How many here love the roundabouts that we have in this? Any roundabouts fans? How many of here are ready to just wipe them off the face of the earth? Anybody here? Back to four way stops where we can really head on crash and side crash and all those things? You see my bias on that one? If you crash, at least it's a side crash instead of a T-bone, right? I mean, that's kind of the theory behind it.
But new information requires action. I need to do something about this. You learn how to do something new. You learn a different pattern of how life is, and you kind of figure it out and you adjust your life accordingly. New information - I don't like it when you do that, honey. That's new information, right? Which means, Tucker, you need to change your habits for your new bride. Just a suggestion. He does a great job of that already, I'm sure, right Anne? Yeah. Anyway, they're saying yes right here. They're doing good. They're teaching our bible study, I get to know them a little bit better this semester, so it's kind of fun.
New information requires action. We have to change. And in this moment, the church is birthed, and those who had practiced the legalistic system and the sacrificial system, Jesus replaced all of that. And now they needed to put their allegiance in God through faith in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. They needed to join a new team. I brought some props today. Well, I'll start with this one. How many of here have something similar to this - or your own team? Or some of you have been thrifting and you have some cowboys wear. I'm just kidding. Ah, that was so wrong. I set you up for that earlier, right? Yeah, I did. I did.
We have our teams and we put our jerseys on and we go, you know, he's going to win the day for us, right? But we still have the jersey, right? Pretty clean, we haven't used it so much. Anyway, and then I brought another one just so that, you know, equal opportunity person here. I don't know whose jersey this is. This was some high school kids that I won't show his name on tv. But anyway, it was in my daughter's car - my other daughter I think, and her friends or whatever. And he was on a particular team, but he wore the jersey and he didn't wear it anymore. He like threw it away. So we're not using it anymore. Nobody has even asked us for the jersey, I mean, it's been three years and they still don't want it.
I mean, how many people - you know, you see wearing a jersey, being on the team, it's more than just wearing a jersey to be a Christian. It's more than just saying, I'm on the team, to be a Christian. Now, I'm not here to tell you, you work your way into heaven. We are saved by faith alone. There is no works involved because we could boast about how we got into heaven on what we did and how impressive we looked as a Christian.
So, I do believe that once you're saved, you're secure in Christ. The Bible talks about that. But I also believe that once you're saved, a change begins to happen. You begin to look like you're on the team. And I want to use the motif of wearing a jersey and being on a team that again, the illustration can break down. And you've already stopped listening to me if you're a Bears fan or if you're a Baltimore's fan, you hate the Colts, right? And I won't tell you I went to the OSU football game yesterday. Oh, I just did. And so those of you from Michigan, I'm so sorry for your loss. No, you won yesterday. Oh, I'm so sorry. I mean, or maybe Notre Dame fans. I mean, I don't know what you are this morning, I'll offend everybody and anybody, and I'm offended sometimes, you know, that's just the way it is. It's games.
But we don't play games when it comes to Christianity, so I'm using the motif, but it does break down a little bit because no illustration is complete. The best illustrations are biblical illustrations, but I thought I can bring it into the real world with the jersey this morning. So what should we do when we hear about the good news of Jesus Christ? Well, let me give you an example. Let me give you a model of what Peter said they ought to do when they learned that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Verse 37, "When they heard this, they were pierced to their heart. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what should we do?'" And I hope that's what you're asking this morning. What do we do to follow Jesus? And Peter replied, Verse 38, "Repent and be baptized, each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call. With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, 'Be saved from this corrupt generation.'"
And verse 41, which I read oftentimes when we baptized, "So those who accepted his message we're baptized. And that day, about 3000 people were added to them. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe. And many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now, all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions in property and distributed the proceeds to all as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
What's going on here? What should we do? Peter tells them what to do. And then we see the evidence of how they did this and what God continued to do in their midst, to bless and to bring more people to faith in Jesus Christ. What should we do? The first thing we need to do is go public. We got to go public. Repent and be baptized. Repent! That means I'm going to turn away from doing this life and I'm going to go towards this life.
The young man that said, "Coach, I want to join the high school football team." He says, "Great, we've got practice every day this week. You can come get your jersey and you can start playing." All week long he never shows up. On the following Monday at lunchtime, he sees coach and says, "Coach, I really want to be on the team." He says, "Great, come get your jerseys, come get onto the team and practice with us and belong to the team, and you will be part of the football team at the high school." This goes on for several weeks, to which finally the coach says, "You want to, but you are not a part of the football team." You've never changed your behavior from not being a part of the team to being part of the team, to not committing, to not going to practice, and to doing whatever you want to do, to pledging your allegiance and living under the authority of Jesus Christ and choosing to turn from a life of not committed to Jesus, to a life of being committed to Jesus Christ.
And you've not even put on a jersey, you've never even said that you're part of the team. You don't wear the colors. You're not on the team young man, you just have dreams of being on the team, but you will never participate in, nor you enjoy the victory of our team because you've not joined. We go public by turning away from living a life of our own, doing by our own selfish ambition, or whatever the world is telling us to do, that we enjoy doing more than honoring God. And we say, "I'm no longer going to do that, and I'm going to start following Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." I'm going to start submitting to what Jesus wants me to do instead of doing whatever I want to do. And I'm going to show the world I'm a Christian by putting on the jersey, I'm going to get baptized.
Baptism is like a wedding ring. Done three weddings in three weekends, two of which were brand new weddings. One was a renewal. But during those weddings and even during, during the renewal, there were some wedding rings. Now, I don't know about you, but we never trust the little tiny ring bearers with the rings. You know, they're going to toss them, throw them in the sand, eat them. I don't know what they're going to do, but we want to make sure they make it down here, so we usually give them to the best man. So I get it from the best man and I start talking about the ring. But what if the best man forgets the ring? Well, we wait in the cold like we did for one wedding for a long time to go back to the hotel and go get it and bring it back. But what if we didn't even have that option available?
If a couple's up here and they pledged their lives, they pledged their allegiance to one another for life, I'm going to sign that document and they're going to be married, even without the wedding ring because the wedding ring doesn't make them married. The wedding ring shows the world that they are. It's a symbol, an outward symbol of an inward commitment and a lifelong commitment to one another in marriage. And that's what baptism is. Baptism doesn't make us a Christian. You can go in a wet rebellious center that doesn't want to follow Jesus and come out a wet... a dry and come out wet and not be any more changed than if you went to a swimming pool.
Our trust in Jesus Christ is saying, "I'm wearing the jersey and I'm for real. I'm going to live for Jesus Christ." They accept the message and they're baptized and they're brought into the body of Christ. They're added. The Lord added to their number - 3000 people. When you come into baptism, you are added to publicly declared, marked off. You're a part of the body of Christ when you get baptized. Whenever somebody says they're on a football team, you're marked off as a person who is a part of the football team. You are on a roster. You are a member of the football team. You're a member of the body of Christ when you become baptized. True Christians will want to obey Jesus and openly commit to Him. But what's the next thing that they do? Well, and then they devoted themselves to a few things.
Well, first thing we devote ourselves is we need to study the Bible. We need to learn the playbook. We need to practice the playbook. Now, there's this football quarterback, is it Matt Ryan now? Is it the Colts? Some of you don't care, but those that might follow these things, his first game, what they say? He doesn't know the system very well, they don't know him very well. He's still learning the system. He's still learning the playbook. They're still learning the playbook, the way he runs the playbook as the quarterback. And then the next game they tied. It's like kissing your sister, but they win, they win. You know, that was just wrong, I shouldn't have said that out. Can you bleep that out on the online version? And then they win against a formidable team last week. And what they say? He's in the groove. He's learned the system better.
Isn't that true with Christian life? You don't just show up and be a Christian. You learn what it means to grow. It's called discipleship. Being discipled or under the discipline of the Bible. And this was a Bible that was not just something they tucked away and did by themselves; it was the apostles teachings. It was under the authority of the local church. Now, none of us needs one person to tell the other person what to do about what the Bible says. We all had the Holy Spirit within us. That's another whole Bible study in itself. We're all equal when it comes to knowing the word of God. But we all need one another to be stronger in knowing how to apply and live out the Bible together. And that's why it's through the local church that we learn, and that's why the church is called to go make disciples, baptizing them in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I've said to you. It's the church's responsibility to help. It's just like parenting. As parents, we are responsible to teach our kids how to live life and hopefully move away and be self-sustaining and all that fun. But our job is to raise our kids up and to teach them what is right and wrong, just as the church is responsible to teach and help the body of Christ know what it is.
Now, Bible study here was mostly apostles, the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, the leaders, because they only had the Old Testament, and they didn't call it the Old Testament. Until they had the New Testament, then we start calling it Old and New Testament. They only had the testament. They had the law. They had the word of God, and they used the word of God to explain this new thing that was going on as they lifted out. And from spiritual eyes and the Holy Spirit living within them, and the Holy Spirit giving them an unction that was unusually special because we see inspired scripture coming along later on that we don't see today. And they were explaining the Bible to this new group of believers, and they started to get together. They were replacing what they knew what was wrong with what was right.
When we study the Bible, we figure out that we have a lot of what you might kindly say, are thinking errors. There's a counselor here in town, trained doctor counselor, who wrote a manual for the penal system here in the state of Indiana. And it was kind of nickname, or it might have been on the title, "Thinking errors: How to replace thinking errors with what is right errors." And it was used throughout the whole system, and that manual when it was taught well, the men and women who went through replacing their thinking errors with the right kind of thinking and the right kind of living and making decisions in their lives, were less likely to go back to prison. And if you know anything about prison life, it just seems like people, that's like a revolving door. They get out, they go back in, they go out, go back in, because they don't replace what they're thinking. They don't change their behavior, they don't change their lifestyle; they go right back to their old ways.
Christianity is about replacing our human selfishness with what God wants us to do. We need to get the playbook in our hearts and minds. And we come to the people of God to make that happen. We not only studied the Bible, but it says here, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. We need to develop Christian friendships. We need to bond with the team, build loyalty, build trust, know who the teams are. A quarterback that comes into a new system doesn't say, "Okay, receiver number three, I'll throw that to you." No, they know who they are. A good leader of a team will oftentimes gift the team. When they win a game and all the accolades go usually to the superstars on the team, they usually spread the wealth and they go out and they're benefiting, the rest of the team. Even the second and third strings know that they're part of a group of people that we're moving forward and winning. They know each other. That's why teams take retreats and they get away from one another.
They go to training camp every year. They get away in a locker room and they kind of work together. They have practices together. They spend time with one another. And oftentimes, they hang out with one another. We need to develop Christian friendships. In verse 44-45, it says they shared their possessions with one another. They made sure everyone was properly provided for. And by the way, they were working through the local church to make that happen. We have started a... we have always had a benevolence team, but it's been a team of like two or three people. But now we have a team that is much broader, much more diverse and the different personalities of people and their spiritual gifts so that they can carefully and adequately assess the basic needs of people when they come to us asking for help.
And so, we want to make sure that we're doing this responsibly. That we're not just haphazardly throwing stuff out to help people or completely missing people who truly have needs. And we just don't have the capacity to properly process their situation. And this was happening in the church. This isn't communism or socialism where everybody sold everything and everybody just, they all had this common. It just said that they basically, and it seems like the pattern of the New Testament continues to show throughout the other letters, that they did what they could to take care of who they needed to take care of when the time came to take care of them.
Paul, he organized an offering to give to the Jewish community, the church in Jerusalem, because a great famine had had come out. And so the people in Macedonia, they were absolutely broke, totally broke, and yet they gave out of their poverty to help people in need in Jerusalem. And so this isn't about - this is the church just being the church. When food is all you need, nothing else will do. They need to be taken care of. Developing Christian friendships is also about accountability. It's a about saying, I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do and I've got someone around me to help me say, "Hey, I don't know that that was the right thing to do."
If you're working on your language a little bit, like you have vocabulary that you don't want to use anymore, get around Christians more than you're not around Christians because the Bible is pretty clear. And I think you've learned this before in your own lives probably, that bad company corrupts good morals - 1 Corinthians 15:33. That's why oftentimes I would ask our kids, "So, who you sitting around with at the lunch table? Who's on the bus sitting with you? Well, okay, you join that club, who's in the club with you?" I went to parent teacher conferences. Yeah, I wanted to know the teacher. I wanted to know some of the parents. I wanted to know who these families were that my kids knew. In fact, they didn't go to a house that I didn't know who the family was.
It's important that we know who our kids are around. Why? Because we want them to be successful, and the only way you're successful is if you're around people who are trying to do the right thing. It's important for us to develop Christian friendships, that our closest friends ought to be people who are following God in their own personal lives as well. It doesn't mean that we aren't friends with people who aren't Christians. It just means that we are gaining our strength from and getting encouraged by the people who are following God. And by the way, I'm really excited that we've had this semester of connection groups. We have the highest percentage of people comparatively to like our average attendance on Sunday. And then the average attendance of people coming to our connection groups; we have the highest percentage of participation this semester than we've had in a long, long time. And so in fact, probably the highest we've had in the last 15 to 20 years, at least 15 years at least. We're not even quite 20 years old. And so, I'm just excited about that and seeing that you have that built in opportunity to live life with other people.
And we can't guarantee that you're going to make a friend in a connection group. Nobody can make friends happen. But I guarantee you, you will not make friends with our church family if you don't go to a connection group. It just harder to do. You might on the outskirts here in the parking lot on Sunday mornings, but the best way to build Christian friendships is not just in rows on Sundays, but in circles when we're together in a smaller group to know and to be known by other people.
What's another thing that devoted themselves? Well, they devoted themselves to worship with other Christians. It says here, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread into prayer. That seems to indicate that they were practicing the Lord's Supper together. At least they were eating together, but breaking bread was a symbolism for the Lord's Supper. And in verse 46 it says, "They went from in the temple courts and from house to house." They were identifying with the team all the time. They were always wearing their jerseys, constantly. Every day it said they were worshiping. You see, every day is game day for the Christian. It isn't just on hype day, the day that's scheduled on the day of event. We just from a crass point, you know, we got to go to see Ohio State play yesterday and we got off into a suburb of Columbus to eat dinner before we parted our ways.
We went back to Fort Wayne and Grant went back to Munsey, and we all had our Red Jerseys on and had our hats and all that stuff, and then we'd see other people walk in. And it's like 20 minutes away from the game, but you could see, "Oh, they were at the game too. Oh, they were at the game too." And you'd see these people and like if you go to the Colts game, you see people or on our way to Purdue last year we saw all these Michigan State Green going down Highway 25 to get to the campus. And then they went slower back home because they lost. But anyway, you see gold and black and you see green and you see blue for the Colts and you see red for whatever team you're on.
And all this Jersey stuff shows up, but then, you know, Jena didn't wear a jersey today. She didn't want to offend everybody. YI didn't wear my stuff today. No, because we're fair weather. You know, we don't wear the jersey all the time. In fact, it's not even my team, right? I mean, you say, ""How are our Colts doing?" "Oh really? Do you own the Colts? Do you have stock in the Colts? Are you Jim Irsay's like cousin or something? No, I don't own anything to do with the team. I just own some stuff that they put their logos on, right? I didn't even go to Ohio State. I went to Ball State. I just want to root for a team that won more often.
You know, they're doing the amateur and all that, it was homecoming, and I'm like, "I'm not homecoming anything. I'm a Buckeye because I grew up there." You know, a Christian is on the team for keeps all the time 24/7. You're always flying the colors. You're not just a fair weather friend; you're worshiping God all the time, not just occasionally. Well, I'll worship him at church and then Monday I turn on whatever I want to turn on. I want to do whatever I want to do. I'll listen to whatever I want to listen to. And you're thinking that by just coming here one hour on a Sunday and maybe another hour in a connection group, you're actually going to figure that out. No! Worship is a 24 / all in moment in life for the believer.
We worship with other Christians. We celebrate when we find another believer at work. Not because, "Oh, we're in and they're out." No, because we got, we got a teammate, we're walking alongside, we're getting some help from. And finally this morning as we look at this passage, and this is an inherent thing, this isn't something that you can do; it's just that when you do these things, when you are going public, when you're studying the Bible, when you're developing Christian friends and when you're worshiping with Christians, you're going to show evidence of changed lives. Team members look like they belong on the team. They keep getting stronger, they remain more loyal. Their jerseys are dirty.
I was in the marching band at Ball State and Sean and Allison, that play on our team, Sean and I played at least one year together at the same time. And they used to position us behind the visiting team, which was a mistake because we get in trouble taunting the visiting team. And we would pick out a jersey in the third quarter that was completely clean, which, what does that mean? They were in a game. And this is back when we had a grassfield. So, if you're in the game, at least for a little bit, you got your jersey dirty, and they didn't have anything on them. And so we'd pick them out and we'd start saying, "Hey, put in number 32, put in number 32. He hasn't played a second today. He's feeling lonely on the bench. It's kind of cold. The bench isn't that warm. He's warming it, but it's not where..." you know, we would just taunt number 33, put number 33 and put number, whatever number it was, that the guy Jersey was completely clean.
He's not getting any play time. And one day when the middle of all this, the whole band is in, we're in the visiting section in the middle, but then the visitors are kind of on both sides. And finally this mom goes, "Hey, that's my son. Quit picking on him." How many guys would just love it if your mom said that? So what does the band kindly say after that? "Oh, we're so sorry." No, no, no. "Mama's boy! Mama's boy!" It was horrible. If she's listening today, I'm sorry. I was part of a mass movement that was wrong. It's all part of the game, right?
If you're a Christian, you're going to show like you've been living for Jesus. You're going to get persecuted. People aren't going to like you because you're a Christian. You're going to do things that are look weird to other people. They're not weird. They just different than the steps of the world. You're going to show evidence. They were publicly added to the church in verse 41 through 47, you're going to belong somewhere, not just be a freelancer. "They were devoted, openly committed," verse 42, "to these things I already mentioned." And in verse 43, it shows there that everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles." There was something special going on. There was supernatural activity. There were miracles being performed. And I want to say to you, that we don't need some supernatural miracle of people falling backwards and somebody go... I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about that your life looks different and nobody can explain it other than there's something going on inside of you because you have a want to that you never had before.
You start walking away from addiction instead of towards it. You start walking away from the temptations instead of towards it. You start doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do or what the world says you ought to do to be popular and powerful and pleasured. You find more pleasure in honoring God than the pleasure you had in anything that didn't honor God in your life. That's the evidence that God's working in and through you. It starts with putting on the jersey and saying, "I want to follow Jesus." It continues as you study the playbook and you say, "God, I want to know what you want me to do with my life." It continues when you hang around other Christians and you get in a group and say, "Hey guys, I don't want to do this anymore. Can you help me not do that anymore?" And you have people in your life that encourage you and egg you on and help you to do the right things instead of the wrong things. You and I have all been in a crowd somewhere, where you ended up doing something you shouldn't have done because the crowd encouraged you to do it.
Am I the only one in the house oh me, say, "Oh me!" If that was you. Oh me! Oh me! We've all been there. But you've also, I hope there's a few of us in the room that have others in our lives that have encouraged us to do the right thing, and we've been victorious because God put those people in our lives to help us, say amen if that's someone like you. And those people egg you on, and as that happens and as God's spirit begins to work inside of you and you start to understand the system, not just from a mental but from a heart standpoint. You start to wear this jersey and it gets dirty and gets tattered, it gets ripped up, but you're on a team. I always find it funny when we call it the World Series Baseball, right? When you talk about the Super Bowl, and they're the world champions, the national, the champions of the world, and the rest of the world just laughs.
First of all, football for most of the world is actually something that you don't touch with your hands - soccer. We're not world champions in America. You know who the world champions are? The champion - we are the champions. Who's that? Christians. Because we have a victor, Jesus Christ, who has been victorious over everything we struggle with, including death. And we are on a team that in the end, wins, has already won and it's just waiting for the coronation, waiting for the trophy. When someday we will be receiving our crowns, our trophies of what we have done to honor and glorify God, and we're going to throw it right back at the feet of Jesus and say it was all because of you that this was even possible. And all of that difficulty, and all of that blood, sweat and tears, and all of that way in which we've lived that was so counterculture, but we knew was right and was much more enjoyable than not, will have all been for everything. Because we're not just on a team that comes and goes; we're on a team that lasts forever.
I pray this morning that you and I will show up and be counted on the team of Jesus Christ. That will show up not just to get wet in a pool, but to actually start doing something about what he said we ought to do; living with people who are trying to do the same thing and openly worshiping Him, not just on Sunday morning, but every day of our life. I hope this hits somebody somewhere this morning and I pray that if it did that you will do something about it. What should we do? Well, that's a good question. What is God telling you to do? What is your step that you must take to move forward and to be counted on the team that lasts forever? It might be to declare your faith in Jesus for the very first time. It might be to sign up and tell the world you're Christian by getting baptized. It might mean to go to this class in a couple of minutes that we're going to have and learn what it means to truly belong to the body of Christ here at St. Joe and in general, some good principles for wherever you land in a city and learn what it means to follow Jesus in a church. I don't know what God wants you to do, but I pray you will not hesitate to step forward and be counted.
What should we do?
New information requires action!
-We often change what we do when we learn new info
-Peter explained that Jesus was the Savior that the Old
Testament had prophesied would come
-they needed to trust in Jesus, not the sacrificial system
What should we do? …to follow Jesus Christ?
-vs 38 Repent- turn from living a sinful life apart from Jesus
-vs 41 Accept the message that Jesus provides forgiveness
-vs 41 Get baptized into the church (…added to them)
-baptism is like a wedding ring- it symbolizes our commitment
-True Christians want to obey Jesus, openly commit to Him
Study the Bible
-Apostle’s teaching- the full Bible was still being inspired
-the early church depended primarily on the Old Testament
-Bible study is a community activity- not a solo activity
-Every believer is equally able to know and do God’s will
-Every believer needs other believers to do this well!
-we must replace our thinking errors with God’s truth
Develop Christian friendships
-vs 44-45 they shared their possessions with one another
-made sure everyone was properly provided for
-they worked through the church leadership to do this
-many were likely shunned by family, employers
-this pattern is more descriptive than prescriptive
-bad company corrupts good character
Worship with Christians
-breaking bread- likely the Lord’s Supper
-vs 46 in the temple and from house to house
Show evidence of changed lives!
-vs 41, 47 publicly added to the church
-vs 42 devoted: openly commited to the church
-vs 43 spiritual freedom
-signs and wonders happed through the apostles
-God announced to the world he was now working through
-Missionaries report this type of supernatural activity where
The gospel is introduced for the first time.
-Today we see the supernatural power of God working in
people: freedom from addictions, relationship
reconciliations, and more!
What should we do?
What must you do right now to obey the message of Jesus?
How are you openly committed to the church of Jesus Christ?
What must you do to grow spiritually?
Connection Card, Prayer Team, online contact form
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.
Jesus Is Coming Again!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
August 14, 2022
We believe in the real and personal return of Jesus Christ
-read belief statement
Why does this matter?
-they thought their loved ones had missed out on Christ’s return!
-we must all consider our appointment with death
-some people avoid talking about death (fear, distracted)
-death to some is popular, a way to escape
(possibly in pain, lacking proper information)
-The Bible says Jesus is coming again
-We must trust the whole Bible, or none of the Bible!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope
-Christ followers have real hope!
-We follow someone who solved our greatest problem: death!
-1 John 5:11-13 …you may KNOW that you have eternal life
-Yes Christians grieve over death, but with HOPE!
Jesus died and rose again, and so will we!
-John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life…”
What believers experience when they die:
Jesus is coming back!
-This can happen at any time!
-Paul and the Thessalonians anticipated Christ’s return
-Acts 1:7 Jesus tells us not to worry about when
Paul tells us how (vs 16-17)
-The Lord will personally come down
-This will be noisy!
-A shout- a cry, command, announcement
-Archangel’s voice- Mark 8:38
-Trumpet of God- no one will miss this event!!
-The dead will rise first to join Jesus
-No description of how, nature of bodies,
-We who are alive will (also) be “caught up”
-Same word in Acts 8:39; 2 Cor 12:2-4
-Happens along with resurrected dead
-We meet Jesus in the clouds- Mark 13:26; Acts 1:11
-This is where we get the belief in the Rapture
-1 Thes 4:15-17 does not offer a clear timeline
-differing beliefs on the timing of the rapture come from
Multiple verses in the Bible
-Our church believes in the second coming of Christ and the
Rapture of His church, we agree to disagree on exactly
when this occurs in relation to the final judgment of the world
-see our Belief Statement about Last Things
We will always be with the Lord
-Our reunion with Jesus physically is forever!
Jesus is coming again!
Therefore encourage one another with these words
-Every believer should be encouraged by this promise!
-Every unbeliever CAN be encouraged: trust Jesus now!
-1 John 5:11-13
St Joe Community Church
Belief Statement about Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
1 Thessalonian 4, Jesus is coming again. Amen. He's coming again. As much as He came, as true as He came to this earth, as true as He died and rose again, as true as He ascended into heaven and people saw Him do that. A multitude of people saw this happen. He's coming again. The Bible is as true about His coming the first time as it is about His coming again that we've not yet known. The Old Testament was full of prophecy that said He was coming. He's coming, He's coming, He's coming. The God of the Old Testament, the same God of the New Testament; there's no difference, no change. The message isn't different. He operated in different ways and seasons, but God was the same when He started in Genesis, all the way when He said, Hey, there's something going to happen. And you can read there for yourself that He predicted. And then all the way through the prophets and all the way through the journey of the Israelite nation, as it foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ, that He would die and rise again.
And He did, He came, He died, He rose again, and He was sending into heaven. And just as He said that He is coming again, a second coming, we believe that as a church family. In fact, let me read for us the statement of faith that we all signed that says, this is what we believe about the end times. Last things is sometimes how it's said in doctrinal statements. And there are many scripture verses, and you can find this online. And if you go online to my Bible sermon notes, you'll find it at the end of my sermon notes this morning as well. God in His own time and in His own way will bring the world to its appropriate end.
There's going to be a final moment. I don't know when that is, but it's going to happen. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth. The dead will be raised and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to hell, the place of everlasting punishment. And the righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in heaven with the Lord. Multiple verses attest to that doctrinal statement. And yet - let's just make sure that we know that's a human statement about Bible truths. It is a finite statement. It's something that will pass away, but God's word will never pass away. But it's a way for us to encapsulate multiple verses in scripture for us to come together and say, we're united on this. We're not united on anything other than this, in other words; we're united on this.
And we together believe and agree together on this, where we disagree or we add to, or we say, well, I think there's another series of things that we may have different convictions and there are in this room, but we agree to disagree agreeably -we have the liberty to do that. But in all our beliefs, whether it is this true belief, this doctrinal statement that we all as members believe, or the things that we agree to disagree on, exactly how it's going to happen and eschatology stories of different systems of thought about how that's going to happen. We all operate out of love for one another because we can believe the exact right things and not have any love and it doesn't really matter.
And so this morning, I want to open up for us a passes of scripture that it's not mysterious, but it's a mystery. It's not something that is sort of this fantastical thing that I can't even understand it. We can't because it is otherworldly and the way it's described. And yet, wasn't the resurrection and other worldly thing. Isn't the coming of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the God man, isn't that another worldly thing? And so too is this topic this morning.
Now, I'm just going to be honest. I had a lot of things on my plate this past week, a lot of things that were going on a lot of moving parts; things that were already scheduled well in advance, a bunch of things thrown in on top of that, and then a bunch of things thrown in on top of that. How many can relate? That's the kind of week you might've had. I'm just flat tired, and on Friday I'm going... I'm staring at this passage, I looked at it, I kind of studied a little bit about it, and I've read this and I was reading all the theologians and I'm trying to go back and get my commentaries. And I'm trying to put together, God, what do you want me to say? And there's this block party coming up. And I thought, you know what? I'm just going to pull out something that's real easy to preach on. I mean, I'm going to... Thank you, Darrell. There's nothing easy to preach on, but there's easier topics. Yeah. Topics I really love to talk about and that's why you let the Bible tell you what to teach, not just your feelings. And I was just going to say, well, I'll just push this off. Not skip it, but I'll do it another Sunday. And I know that Bill's wife Lynette, would've said, "That's going to mess up my journaling. Don't do that." See, she's got her journal down here. I knew. Testify!
And so, I'm staying on schedule and said, you know what? So I buckled down and I'm so grateful I did. And then this morning somebody came up said, man, I'm so glad you did that. And I feel so inadequate sometimes when I'm coming all the time, so many times - God, you've got to just speak through me. And He spoke this morning and it was confirmation that in spite of all of the midnight oil and the things that I was doing to get ready for this, God is in charge of this. And He was in charge of the time schedule. And if you're here today, you are here on the timing schedule of God, not mine. I was gone a couple of Sundays this summer, as somebody who thought you were going to get a new pastor. I don't know. So I was gone so often, somebody's going to put a for sale sign in my front yard. I mean, so I have pushed this off. This is the Sunday when this sermon comes, and it's, God's timing, not mine. And here we are, about the perfect timing of Jesus' return, whenever that is. And isn't this something that people are talking about.
For some, the Christians are like, "Oh, I'm just waiting for Jesus to return. I'm done with this world." How many kind of sometimes are that way? How many of you are tired of dealing with the sin in your life? And you're like, "I'm done. I'm ready for Jesus to come back." That's more me than about the times and the epics of what's going on. Some people are really into a timeline and they say, this is how it is. I always use that wall as if somebody someday, maybe they did have a timeline there maybe. I don't know, I'll go over here. And they have this whole timing of how the events are going to happen in the current geopolitical scheme of things and there's wars going on. And it's horrible. We need to keep praying for Ukraine. We need to keep praying for Taiwan, and we need to keep praying for these hotspots in the world. We need to keep praying for the church in the Middle East, where Christians are being martyred on a regular basis for their faith in Jesus. We need to pray for the church in China that is thriving under great persecution. And we need to pray for the church in America that is not thriving under great freedom to share our faith. Did you hear me? Sometimes freedom isn't always free spiritually. It's a cost.
This topic matters. We need to believe and trust in and look forward to the return of Christ because first of all, the Bible says, so it's going to happen. Now in this particular passage, it seems as though Paul was answering a question that was being asked of the church. They're like, "Hey, we've had some loved ones died. Did they miss Jesus? Because He said He is coming back." They assumed He was coming back. And because they so assumed it was so real to them that He was coming back, that the fact that He was coming back and their loved ones had died before He came back, it was a mystery to them. Are they going to miss it? Is that's it, they're dead and gone and what's going to happen to them? And Paul's trying to answer that for them.
This is in their temper in their first century moment in life, this letter was written to answer a question, but it's also an answer to a question to bring us hope in our circumstances because we must all consider our appointment with death. I jokingly said yesterday, Fair Haven Funeral Home sponsored us. We're going to have them come by, try out the hearse, go inside, sit down in it, lay in it, see if you like it. I mean, just like the show and tell at the police station; how many would've done that? Anybody here morbid enough to do that? Jean would've done it. All right, and we would've taken tons of pictures and said she is nuts. But we do have a picture of one of our elders laying in a hearse. I'm just going to tell you, I haven't shown it to his wife yet. No, we put it online, she said, look at this. And some guy had a used hearse that he... anyway, that's a whole nother story. And he looked pretty comfortable in there.
But we don't want to think about death. We pop into Walmart, we pop into the gas station. We pop into this or that. We pop to see a friend. How many of you pop into the funeral home? We don't. I just pop in. Now, I do. I'm morbid. I have friends over there. They work the funeral home. I was like, "Hey Mark, how's it going? Hey Britain!" I'm good friends with the four guys that own Fair Haven, and so I'll stop in just to say hi, Hey, let's go to lunch. I mean, you know, that sounds very, very sacrilegious, doesn't it? But you know what, it's part of life. But most of you are saying, "No, I don't normally do that." I make a plan to be at the funeral home because I have to think about what, death. And as someone who has lived more years than he is going to, I agree with you. I don't always want to think about that, but we got to. The Bible says in Ecclesiastic 7:2, "It's better to go to the house of mourning than it is to go the house of feasting."
Because if we're just having a party all the time, we're going to get to the end of our life, and did we live it the way God intended for us to? Did we fulfill the plans that He had for us? Did we do what He called us to do while He had us on His earth? Because once we're gone, we can't. We got to live it to the fullest, and not just eat, sleep and for tomorrow we may die; eat, sleep, go to party - party with a purpose. The block party, do the fun things in life with purpose. I'm not saying not have fun. I'm a fun guy. You all are a bunch of bullies. Tell you, that's just not right. I think I am, but I like to have fun. But man, if you just live your life, having fun all the time and you forget, what's really important, you're going to miss a lot of stuff. In a flash, my daughter's a senior, the last one. In a flash I take my daughter to go start her junior year this week at Purdue. In a flash, two kids are married. In a flash, it's gone in a moment. What are you doing with the moment you got? We got to think about the end times because how we end matters as much - it has to do with how we live right now.
And quite frankly, the Bible says He's coming again, so if we believe the Bible to save us from our sins, if we believe the Bible that Jesus died to pay for our sins on the cross, if we believe that He died and rose again, a fabulous story, an incredible story, a miraculous story. If we believe that we got to also believe what the Bible says about His return. He's coming again. He's coming again. And if a church doesn't believe that, if you don't believe that you're saying, I believe part of the Bible, not all the Bible. I'm saying, if you don't believe some of the Bible, you can't believe any of the Bible; it all stands or falls on itself. If something's not true, then God's a liar. Why would we trust God if He lied here and He didn't lie over there? That's a shifty guy to me, I wouldn't trust Him.
I trust Him to be true, and even if we don't understand it, even if we stare at it and go, what is that all about? We have to believe it as a fact, as much as we believe anything else that the Bible says. So let's read 1 Thessalonians 4:13, "We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters concerning those who are asleep so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord. We who are still alive at the Lord's coming, will certainly not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from the heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are still alive who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words."
What is Paul saying here in this brief passage that is concise, it's not all inclusive, it doesn't give every detail, but it gives a lot of detail. First of all, we do not grieve like the rest who have no hope. Every time that I'm giving a funeral for a person who knows Jesus, who's gone home, they have gone home to be with the Lord. And while there's grieving, there's always going to be grieving when someone dies. Maybe not as much for some than others in terms of, I feel comfortable with where they're going. An elderly person that passes away, maybe they've been struggling, whether they be younger or old, they've been struggling with a debilitating illness. Or my grandma, I didn't weep uncontrollably at her death. I had an uncontrollable sorrowful moment when I realized she had so much dementia she didn't remember me. That's when I said goodbye to my grandmother. And so, I was not happy when she went home to the Lord, but I was grateful that she was no longer in the prison of a body that was no longer functioning the way she functioned when I knew her as my grandma.
We're going to grieve. We're going to be sad. That's normal. But we don't grieve like people who say that person I'll never see again. We're going to see him again. I say, see you later. How many have lost a loved one in heaven? You lost them in heaven, really? They're lost. I just absolutely tricked you just now. No one is lost if they're in Jesus. They're found in Jesus and they're forever with Jesus. And somebody asked me, you didn't get into the idea of where they're at before this all happens in this passage. No, I'm not going to. Well, we can talk later about that, but it says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Whatever that means, I don't know. We're not on pause, somehow we're with God, but in some other sense, we are. And there's conversation about that, but the quickest answer is, we're with Jesus when we go to heaven or when we die, but this is something that will definitely happen at a moment that we think not. Jesus died and rose again and so will we.
What does it say in verse 14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again," and that if could also be a sense we believe, or in other words, of course you believe that Jesus died and rose again. Well, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. We will rise again too. When we baptize people in our church, they are baptized, buried in the lightness of Christ, raised to walk a newness of life. We baptized by immersion by simple fact that the word baptism means immersion, but it's a word picture of a death, burial of resurrection. It's a symbolic gesture that I am buried with Christ raised to walk with Christ. Someday I will be buried if I die before He comes again and I'll be raised up just as Christ was raised from the grave. We symbolize that in baptism. We talk about that as a body of Christ. We are resurrected spiritually into a new kind of a person. We're transformed into the kind of person that God intended for us to be when we become a Christian. But there'll be someday when our body will catch up with what's happened already, spiritually inside.
You know when believers die they experience a freedom, a relief from the temptations, a relief from this earthly body. They receive fellowship with Jesus and all the other believers. And there was a man that died that he spoke to our church two different times. I went to see him just before he died at the age of 33 years old, I believe it was. And he's on he's deathbed, and I just had a few moments with him, me and somebody else. And he said, "You know, a lot of people want to go home to be with Jesus; a lot of times everybody said, 'oh, I want to go be with grandma and grandpa. I want to go be with mom and dad that died already. I want to be with my child that died.'" And certainly, I can't even imagine in those experiences what you might feel like, but you know what he said? He says, I'm telling you what; I want to meet personally the one who died for my sins. I want to personally say hi and thank you and follow at His feet and worship the one who bled and died for me. That's who I'm looking forward to seeing in heaven. I'm looking forward to seeing grandma, but I want to see Jesus. He is the king of Kings and He's the Lord of Lords, and He is the most important person in heaven that I ever want to see. And I'll see the others too, but it's because I see Him that I get to see them. Yes, because we all trusted in Him. He's our hope.
He's the resurrection in the life. That's what He said in John 11, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die." Do you believe this Martha? He's about ready to raise Lazarus, and Jesus, almost like he's asking you, do you believe this? He raised Lazarus. You know, that was such a miracle, that Lazarus came back from death. In that same time period, not only are they trying to kill Jesus, but because Lazarus was a testimony to the power of the resurrection in Jesus Christ, they put a death warrant out for him as well. Let's see if we can kill Lazarus too. There's no indication that I can find in history that they followed through with that. But they were like, he is evidence that Jesus is somebody that is taking our power away from us, and we got to erase the evidence of his power.
This Jesus is the one who has life and death in His hands. Verse 15 kind of describes how He's coming back. Jesus is coming back. He's coming again. Acts 1:9-11 tells us that He had ascended into heaven, all this crowd saw Him; they're gazing up into heaven. Okay, he's gone now, what do we do? He had told them what to do, but they're just standing there. And it's like you got your orientation for your job, and then you're just looking at your boss and your boss's like, "Now go, go do what I said to do." This is kind of the church looking at this fabulous thing of Jesus going up into heaven. And while He was going, they were gazing into heaven and suddenly two men and white clothes stood by them. And they said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?’" The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven. He's coming back. They knew that from the very beginning.
And in fact, Acts 1:7, they were saying, 'When you're coming back? When's this going to happen?" And Jesus even said, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the father has set by His own authority." I'm not here to tell you how it's going to happen. And by the way, if Jesus didn't come to tell you how it's going to happen, this pastor not going to tell you how it's going to happen either. I can give you some ideas. I can point you some scriptures, but it's going to happen. That's what I can point to for sure that He's coming back and we must be ready.
Are you going to be ready if He came in a moment? Would you go to heaven or hell? In your trust right now where you're at - I'm not here to put anybody in stark fear, but you need a spiritual reality check is, have you put your faith in the one who can give you eternal life? Have you trusted in the one who, if He came in a moment, He would take you home to be with himself forever? Or are you still waffling, wavering or rejecting? So Paul tells us a little bit how verse 16 and following, and let me just break it down. He's going to come personally. He's coming down. It's him. It's not some mystical mist, you know. And people can have apparitions and ideas and mystical things that they've seen. There's a farmer in Iowa that probably had crop circles that he didn't see the teenagers go in and do that.
I don't know if it's true or not. I don't know. I don't have to believe in crop circles to believe in Jesus and have a life and hope. That might or may not have happened. UFOs - anybody seen something weird? Don't raise your hand. That you're like, I can't explain it. I've seen a few things; I can't explain it, but my faith is not based on that mysticism that I don't know. My faith is based on truth that I do know. And my hope is based on that. Not on something that somebody's told me that they might have thought of that they saw. And again, I'm not here to clarify it or disagree with that person. I'm just saying, I trust in what I know is true, and that is that He's coming again personally.
Oh, and it says here it's going to be pretty noisy; a shout, a cry, a command, an announcement, the archangel's voice. This is also referred to in Mark 8:38, the trumpet of God. Great instrument. We played trumpet in Ball State together; my wife and I did too. That's a great instrument, right. And God's going to blow His clarinet. I'm sorry for any clarinet people. No, He didn't say that. He said trumpet. I'm sorry. His bass guitar, maybe. No, trumpet. Anyway, now I'm stepping on everybody's toes this morning. But it's going to be loud. This is going to be noticeable. Now for the flat air society, they're like, "Yeah, He is going to come one spot where I going to see it." I don't know how He is going to do it globally. I don't know. I don't know how it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. And we're going to know that it happens. We're not going to miss it. Pull a prank on your friend, go to their door tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM and bang on it, "Hey, the rapture happened and we missed it." Don't do it.
Well, I know where I'm going, I don't know about you. We're just fine anyway. That actually happened to somebody and it was weird, so don't do that. But it says here, here's the timing, "The dead in Christ will rise first," be first to join Jesus, "and then we who are alive will be caught up with them together." Now, that, what the Bible says there's a sequence, the dead and Christ rise than us who are alive. But it also, the way it's worded to say, it's a simultaneous - in other words, Paul is addressing a problem that they had in their minds. Did they miss it? No, they're actually going to get ahead of the line. But it's not about who gets there first. We're all getting there together. We're all together going to be caught up.
Again, a fantastic, wonderful moment in this world event of history that's going to happen. And it says, we hear a lot "caught up" same word in Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. In fact, Paul even used this word, "I was caught up into the heavenly," the third heaven, maybe your version says, and he had a vision from God. Maybe this was one of those visions. We don't know. He didn't quite explain what he learned or even how that meant, if it was an out of body experience, if God actually physically took him up there or not. I don't know. We know Elijah had a chariot come down, pick him up and take him home. That was kind of crazy. Enoch walked with God. He was no more. Walked with God, and he just walked right up into heaven with God. Wow. Wouldn't that be cool?
But you know, those are unique moments in history. This happened. What did Paul mean by that? We don't know what he meant by his experience, but he's using the same word that we are going to have this personal reunion with our savior Jesus. And this is where we get the belief in what's called the rapture. Does your church believe in the rapture? You'll notice that in our doctrinal statement, the word rapture does not appear. You know why, because the word rapture doesn't appear in the Bible. However, the concept of it does. That word meaning - a Latin word, meaning carrying off or a snatching away.
So yes, we believe in that, but we don't use that word because that's not a word - but we can use that word because it's interchangeable; if you want to put it in the terms of what we're talking about here in 1 Thessalonians 4. There's no clear timeline, by the way. Paul does not give a clear timeline. He doesn't say these are the world events that are going to happen when it happens. He just says it's going to happen. And he says we will be caught up with them. We wonder maybe even if Paul even thought that in his lifetime it might happen. There's some conversation about that. Or maybe he might, we, like whoever's alive at the time that it happens, it will happen, will be caught up with the dead in Christ.
Again, Paul isn't overly clear, but it seemed to make sense and it worked well for the people who were receiving the letter. And I think that if we don't make it too complicated, it's going to make sense to us as well as we trust the Holy Spirit and His timing in our life. See, our church does believe in the second coming of Christ. We believe that. He's coming again. That's what we urgently appeal to people; be reconciled to God, connect people with God, connect people with the body of Christ. There is no plan B or C or D. The plan A is the local church. And if you're in a local church, participating in and helping pursue the mission of God, to declare His glory to the whole world, by declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples and helping them to grow in their faith, that they might go and do the same with their friends and family that we might, all of us, have multi-generations of believers in our lives. Just as we might have children who are physically born to us, it is natural for us to have spiritually born people around us that we've led to Christ and we've grown in Christ. And it is unnatural for any of us to be spiritual orphans or to be spiritually childless.
In other words, who are you telling people about Jesus? And if you aren't, why aren't you because that's what God's all about. Connecting people with God, connecting people with himself, connecting people with the body of Christ. And that's why we say we are pursuing the lost and unchurch. We're unashamed to say we want to tell the whole world about Jesus Christ and we warmly welcome people who want to come in and transfer in and help us to do that who are already follows of Christ. Join us in the mission of what we're trying to do here, that we might see God be honored and glorified, and that we'll see multiple generations of spiritual babies growing up to become mature Christians, to see other people come to Jesus, spiritual babies, mature Christians. And that cycle continues until Jesus comes again, as we await the second coming of Christ and the rapture of His church.
And then it says at the end there, we will always be with the Lord. At that moment, there'll be no separation. Oh, they were clinging to Jesus when He was eating with them and talking with them and teaching them the last things and really investing in them for those several days that He was on earth as a resurrected body person, showing them His wounds, helping them to have clear evidence, evidence that was so clear that most of the people that trusted in Jesus were martyred for their faith. Some were tortured for their faith. There's tradition that most of the disciples died a horrific death because they clung to the fact that Jesus rose again and they were unwilling to renounce it to their peril.
And only one guy we know of that we know for sure was probably John who died of old age, but God used him in his old age to give us the revelation at the end of the Bible and gave us such great wisdom and ministry to the local church as he lived out his old age life, but most others were martyred for their faith. This was such a fact that was true to them. And they were looking forward to the return of Christ. They were looking forward to all that Jesus said was to take place through the church, through them and for the end of time. But even as they anticipated and they saw this separation from them and Jesus in bodily form, they weren't going to be with them, that all ends when it all ends. That all ends when it all ends. We're with Him forever. There's no more separation.
There's no more, well I'm going to go away for a while then I'll come back and be with you. No, that's over. It's done. And we're with Jesus forever, our savior. So Jesus is coming again. He's coming again. Do you believe that? Therefore, encourage one another with these words, don't be discouraged. In fact, I want to read a passage here to just keep us on track with this because some of you, you've got a timeline in your brain of how this is going to happen. "Now, pastor, I heard you say this, but do you believe this too?" Well, I might, but here's what I know. There's a lot that we agree to disagree on. And there's some basic things that I already told you we agree on with unity. And if you don't believe that, then you wouldn't want to be a member here because that's what we believe.
But let me just share a quote from somebody about this idea of the rapture of the church. It's an glorious event that we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We'll be in God's presence forever. There's far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God's intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope. God wants us to encourage each other with these words. And if you are looking at this as a discouragement, there's only one reason you should be discouraged by it. You're not going to be a part of it. There's only reason you should be discouraged by it, that you do not have hope in Jesus Christ. You have hope in a religious system; you have hope in some kind of a way of living that doesn't include surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. You don't have any hope and you should be floundering and you should be very unhappy about what I talked about today. But if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ - Paul said in Romans, "Whoever puts their hope in Him, will never be put to shame." His grip doesn't slip.
I've walked my toddler children across icy parking lots. And I can remember times when I said, let me hold your hand. I don't want them to hold my hand. It was too weak to hang onto when their feet slipped. And I've told my children this, and I hope you've told your children, this there's things you can't do for kids when they go places and do things and they've got to deal with real life grown up situations. But I've told my kids this and it's a word picture of God's love; there is nothing you'll tell me that ever stopped me from loving you. There is nothing you will ever do that will stop me from pursuing you. There was nothing you will ever do that will stop me from ever wanting to have a fellowship and a love for you. I will always be your father. I gave you my last name because I believe that that's who you were. You are mine. I am yours. And as your father, that will never... You can take away my name from you if you want to legally, but I will never take my name away from you.
Now, some of you, you never had that kind of a father. And it breaks my heart if that's ever the case. But it's a word picture of the father's love for us. He gives us a new name. He gives us a new life. He gives us a new way of living. He gives us a new heart. And I plead with you just as Paul did, I plead with you on Christ's behalf. Be reconciled to God, put your faith in Jesus this morning.
Let's stand together. Our worship team's going to bring one more song to us and help us to come and worship Him in music. But this isn't a time to show off how good we can sing in this room. It's a time for us to get serious with God. Be encouraged by these words this morning. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, be encouraged that He's got you in the Palm of His hand, and that he's got a purpose and a plan for you, and you're saying, 'Oh, I better be ready for that moment." Well then, maybe it's time for you to surrender and get going with what God's called you to do and stop waiting for something else and go do it.
Maybe for you this morning, it's time for you to stop playing around with this thing about Jesus Christ. Put your faith in Him, or I'll be honest; there's some of you, "I don't have enough information pieces. I'm really confused. I've been given all kinds of other information and I don't know what to believe." Your best step is just to simply say that. Maybe your best step today, yes, put your faith in Christ. But yes, put your faith in Christ like saying I want to put my faith in Christ. Ask the questions. We're going back to school some of you, I don't have to. I'm back in school too. We're all going back to school, and what they say - the dumbest question is the question that you don't ask. There is no silly question. Use the connection card. Connect with us, email us, text us, ask us the questions. But I believe this, is that true? Well, I don't know about this, is that right? But I don't know about this, is this...? Help us help you take that step of faith that God's asking you to take today.
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.
Thank God For Godly People!
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
June 12, 2022
Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
-Paul, with others, wrote this letter to the Thessalonians
-Thessalonica- 100k people, affluent, peaceful, idol worshippers
-They did not enjoy religious freedom, as we discover today
-Acts 17:1-4 Paul shared the Gospel, several people believed
-Acts 17:5-10 Paul left after three weeks due to a riot against
Him, which he refers to in today’s focus passage
-This church was growing spiritually, highly encouraged Paul!
Who are your spiritual encouragers?
-Christian leaders, friends, family members
Who is thankful for your spiritual walk with Christ?
Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians!
-1 Thes 1:2
-1 Thes 2:13 That is why we constantly thank God…
-refers back to 1:7-10
-and now he continues his complimentary words to them
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
1. Godly People Trust the Bible Vs 13
-they “received the word” as “the Word of God”
-God’s Word was changing them! “works effectively”
What is the Word of God/the Bible?
-John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God.
-Jesus is the living Word, our perfect human example!
-2 Peter 1:21 …no prophecy ever came by the will of man;
instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by
the Holy Spirit.
-God caused people to write exactly what He wanted us to
read, know and obey
-2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed (inspired by God)
-Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and effective and
sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as
the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able
to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
-The Bible powerfully changes the core of our being!
-Godly people want to know and obey the Bible
-they compare all other claims of truth against the Bible
-they reject all other claims that contradict the Bible
2. Godly People Set the Example Vs 14
-They “became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus”
-they set an example as a whole community, not individuals
-You and I aren’t examples for churches by ourselves
-United obedience to God’s Word shows the world that Jesus
is building His church!
-The miracle of the local church is that, in spite of our humanity,
she still exists all over the world!
3. Godly People Endure Opposition Vs 15-18
-The Thessalonian Christians were persecuted by their own neighbors and
-John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may
have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be
courageous! I have conquered the world.”
-Jesus suffered, we will suffer! Jesus forgave, we must forgive!
-Real Christians endure opposition and persecution
-Opposition is Satan’s effort to keep people from finding God!
-Vs 16b “wrath has overtaken them at last” God will be their
ultimate judge for stopping people from finding Jesus
-vs 18 this opposition kept Paul from being with them
4. Godly People Desire Eternal Rewards Vs 19-20
-Paul described the Thessalonians as his “crown of boasting”
-Who is following Jesus because of you? New believers will
forever testify that you and I were “witnesses” for Jesus!
Thank God for Godly People!
-who do you thank God for?
-who is thanking God for you?
The apostle Paul wrote this letter, we know now as they may or may not have understood that God's spirit was giving them a special unction and understanding to write what was inspired by God for us to have for all eternity, until Jesus comes. It is our guiding light, our guiding textbook for how to be a local church. There are many, but this is one of the letters that God preserved over time for us. But he wrote this letter specifically when he wrote it, he wrote it to Thessalonians; those who were living in the City of Thessalonica. Thessalonica had about a hundred thousand people, they were affluent, they were peaceful, but they were idle worshipers. They were pantheistic. They were multi-religious.
And in fact, we're going to see here in this passage, it's highlighted the fact that they really didn't enjoy, at least the Christians didn't enjoy religious freedom, like we would understand today. So, maybe many things that we know to be true about - maybe two to three times bigger than this city, but very similar in this metropolitan feel, at least in our way of being that kind of a city. And politically free, there wasn't some - even though Rome was very much in charge of that region and that land and that time, they were the Roman empire; they had relative freedom to govern themselves just like we in Fort Wayne would have that freedom. We will see and we do know that, and they were intolerant of anyone who said, this is the one true way. And of course, that's kind of similar to us today that someone would say, this is absolutely right, this is true, the Bible is true, which means all other faiths are false. You can't logically or mentally say, this is true, and this is true.
And so, the anyone who would say, when you say I am the way, the truth in the life, no one comes to the father except through me, Jesus Christ. There are some in our city and some in our region, some in our country that would say you have no right to believe that, and you have no right to impose that understanding upon our society. And so, we have vestiges of that, but this particular city, there were mobs of people that would riot and actually threaten to physically harm people who said such things. And they did.
We know that the backdrop of this, if you want to do a little history or study or comparison in Acts 17, this is the description of when Paul first went to Thessalonica and shared the gospel, and when several people believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then we see in Acts 17:5-10 where he left due to the riot against him. And it's, of course, we're referring to that in today's focus passage. But in spite of the opposition, in spite of the persecution, in spite of many people probably losing their positions of prominence and popularity, the gospel flourished and the church was birthed, and not only was born in that city, but it was thriving. It was so thriving that Paul wrote this letter as an encouragement to say, you guys are getting it right and I am so thankful for you. And that's why I have chosen this because I say, I am thankful for my church family, and I'm thankful for what God has and is doing in and through us.
Now, we're always one decision away from chaos. Don't get me wrong, but at the same time, we need to acknowledge and celebrate. And as I had one friend of mine, he's actually in Ecuador right now with one of our local pastors, Bobby Pells in Evansville as a pastor. And Steve Johnson is a pastor at Waynedale Baptist Church, and they're now on a teaching tour through Ecuador from the west coast all the way into the mountains. And I think they're heading over to Coca in the jungle for their final stint of two days of preaching to indigenous and rural preachers. And as they talk about - Bobby will say to me, "I don't celebrate well. I'm always looking to the next; I'm always looking to the next." It's almost like athletes do that. They're all excited about the trophy they received, but they're already thinking about next season how they're at the bottom of the pack one more time. Or they're at target to be knocked off because they're at the top of the pack right now.
And so, sometimes even in Christian circles, we just don't celebrate well the successes that God has given us because for some reason, we think that's prideful to say, I'm so thankful for all the things that have happened well. And if you're becoming prideful, that's a bad thing and you shouldn't do that, but it shouldn't preclude us in fear of being prideful. We need to at least acknowledge, I'm grateful that things are going well. I'm grateful that things have happened in a good way. I acknowledge that everything didn't happen the way we wanted it to, but a few things turned out okay, and God is good. And so, that's why I felt like it was important for us to read through this letter and extrapolate from us some things we can learn and grow from and be encouraged by today.
Now, I have a question asked as we move forward because my title was, "Thank God for Godly People." Who are your spiritual encouragers? You might want to write down a note of someone in your life that's a spiritual encourager. Maybe they're hopefully alive so that you can actually thank them and say something to them. And maybe they've gone home to be with the Lord and you need to thank God for them, and just pause and say, thank you God for that person in my life. I have a picture of someone on my desk that has gone home to be with the Lord that in his own small way was an encouragement to me. Not only was he an encouragement to me personally, but one thing he was encouraging to me about was he finished well.
He continued to fight the good fight, he continued to run the race with endurance, and he made it to the end without any kind of scandal or specific thing that was revealed later about him. Even after his death, there is nothing that has been said or could be said that has been found out that would absolutely cancel his ministry life as a pastor. Not only in our city, but in Portland, Indiana and in Muncie, Indiana and multiple other areas where he served the Lord, mentored young men in the Lord and finished well, the race. There are people like that in my life. I think of Brother Miles Seaborne; his wife just went home to be with the Lord this week. Did you know that? Talking my wife there, but Jeanie and her husband, Miles, were very encouraging to us when I was in seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. And I will be forever grateful for brother miles and what he did in my life.
Brother Horton was a good person in my life. And I remember Mickey, Mickey was just, and I say was just, he was a Sunday School teacher, blue collar worker that just opened up the word of God in my ninth, 10th grade class, Sunday School, each Sunday morning, faithfully teaching us the word of God. And there are things that he shared with me that I even use for illustrations today when I'm teaching the word of God. Just faithfully teaching the word of God to me, and I probably fell asleep occasionally. I probably didn't pay attention all the time. I probably wasn't the best student for him, but God is my witness, I can look back and know that in spite of what I wasn't, he continued to be a faithful witness of the word of God to me. He was a spiritual encourager. Who is that in your life that you can point to? Write that name down, find a moment sometime today or this week to thank God for them and to reach out if they're still alive, and thank them personally?
Who is thankful for your spiritual walk in Christ? Did somebody, if I were to say this to enough people, to a crowd of people that knew you, would they write your name down as a spiritual encourager? Is there someone in your life that you have influenced towards Jesus Christ that they would say I'm grateful for that person and that they would name you as that person? And I say that to say that Paul is talking to this church because he's saying you guys were those kinds of people. I'm thankful for you. You are something that I celebrate an eternity with and for, and that's the kind of people that I want to be. That's the kind of people that I want us to be, and that when people think of people from St Joe Community Church, they think of refreshment - cups of cold water in Jesus name, speaking the truth in love, not just speaking the truth and not just living in love, but speaking the truth in love, the combination, encouraging people in their spiritual walk.
Paul thanked God for Thessalonian Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2, it says, "We always thank God for all of you making mention of you constantly in our prayers." And in the very beginning of our passage this morning, he said, this is why we constantly thank God because when you receive the word of God that you heard from us, you welcome it, not as human a message, but as it truly is the word of God, we thank God for you." And now he continues his complimentary words to them. And so, let me read for us 1 Thessalonian 2:13-20, "This is why Paul is saying, we, his team, constantly thank God, because when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as a human message, but as it truly is the word of God, which also works effectively in you, who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God's churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. They displeased God and are hostile to everyone by keeping us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. As a result, they are constantly filling up their sins to the limit, and wrath has overtaken them at last. But as for us brothers and sisters, after we were forced to leave you for a short time, in person, not in heart, we greatly desired and made every effort to return to see you face to face, so we wanted to come to you. Even I, Paul, time and again, but Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus that is coming? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
Thank God for godly people. Thank God for godly people. They're the kind of people that we want in our lives. They're the kind of people that you want as a pastor to lead. They're the kind of people that as a people of God you want leading you. They're the kind of people you just need around you. You need around a few godly people so that you can endure a bunch of ungodly people, a bunch of ungodliness that works around you. Whenever I was at Ball State, I was in the marching band, and that was quite a Motley crew. And you just kind of knew which bus to not get on if you really wanted to stay away from what you shouldn't be doing.
And I remember my junior and senior year thinking to myself, well, first of all, I was thinking to myself, my girlfriend's in the band, I'm going to go in the band. Of course I am, because free trips to all places and be with my girlfriend. But having said that, I also thought to myself, is there a Christian group of people? Are there some godly students who are in the band that I can actually hang out with so I don't have to continue to endure a bunch of ungodly people and be pretty much a loner when you go on trips? And we went to places like Niagara Falls; we went to see the Buffalo Bills play and we played. At halftime we went down to the Cincinnati Bingos. We went to different road trips as a band, and that was part of the fun is you get free trips to go places and you get to play awesome music with a bunch of people that are really talented, much more talented than I was. But in spite of that, it was just good to be around people who were godly.
And it just invariably worked that each year I would find our group of people, and it was a varying degrees, but for the most part, we all remembered the trip. And we all wanted to enjoy the trip without doing things that were not only a little illegal, but we're definitely self-abasing and things that just would not have put us in a spot where we would've been honoring to God. Now, I'm not going to tell you that I was perfect; don't get me wrong. And I'm not here to tell you that I had it all figured out. I'm just saying that I needed those people around me so that I wouldn't keep doing the things that I in the flesh wanted to do. So, don't sit here and look at this halo guy. Let's look at a guy that was desperate to be around people so that he wouldn't do the bad things, okay. Let's just get that straight.
But here's the kind of people that we thank God for. Godly people in verse 13, it shows trust the Bible. Paul says they receive the word of God - receive the word that they gave them as the word of God, not as a human message. God's word was changing them. It was working effectively, he says in his letter to them. It works effectively in you. You're changing. You're becoming something different because of God's word in your life. Now, what was the word of God for them? It was the Old Testament for the most part, but there was no inspired... this letter was coming to them, but this letter had not yet come to them so they didn't have the inspired word of God. They didn't have, I mean, the inspired New Testament. They didn't have the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we have in our Bible. They had the Old Testament; the Old Testament was changing their lives.
How many pastors and leaders ignore the Old Testament in thinking that we aren't Old Testament people, were New Testament people? And yet the church was birthed on the Old Testament, cutting their teeth on the word of God that had already existed and always will exist just as much as the New Testament, but the New Testament was not yet in their hands. As they were studying this word, it changed them. It made them into the person that God wanted them to become. Now, what is the word of God? Well, let's just look at John 1:1 says in the beginning was the word and the word was with Jesus and the word was God. So, the epitome or the actually fullness of the word of God is Jesus Christ, himself. He's the living word. He's the word that he demonstrated the word of God as He walked among us as a human being. He always existed - He always will. He was God. He is God.
1 Peter 1:21 continues to give us some ideas of what the word of God is, "No prophecy ever came by the will of man. Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." God has caused people to write exactly what He wanted us to read, know and obey. And when you read Paul's letters, it certainly has his personality, his vernacular, his skill at writing. But behind what he's doing is the Holy Spirit that is helping him to perfectly say in his own way of saying it what God wants us to know for all eternity. That would be true for Paul, that would be true for James, and that is true for Peter, and that is true for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and all those who are part of writing the inspired scriptures or bringing it even at first in an oral tradition in the old Testament.
In 2 Timothy 2:16, it says all scripture is God breathed, which means inspired by God. In Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any double edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The Bible powerfully changes the core of our being. It's why it's a frightening book to people that don't want to obey God. It's why this book has tried to be banned by so many people and why we have to smuggle it into communist countries, countries that are intolerant of anything other than their own religion of communism and socialism. A country that is fully fueled by humanism; cannot stand the authority of the word of God because it jars them out of their complacency, into a conviction that makes them uncomfortable and in a way in which they would not want to live.
God's word is powerful, that's why we give a Bible to our graduates. That's why we give Bibles to people when they are baptized in our baptismal. That's why we give Bibles to people just because we give Bibles away. We just give them away, left and right. They're on the piano back there. If you want one, take one if you don't have one. If you need an extra one, take one. We'll continue to buy more because the word of God is a powerful and effective tool. It is God's tool for changing our lives for guiding us. Godly people want to know and want to obey the Bible. They compare all other claims of truth against the Bible, and they reject all claims that contradict the Bible. Godly people submit their personal feelings and opinions to the Bible.
So many times today, and I've heard it in speeches, I've heard it in commentaries, what you feel is right. Well, my opinion is what matters, even if it's against what God's opinion is. Well, we've evolved in our understanding of what the Bible says. Nothing will be further from the truth. God's word was, is, and will be. My word will never pass away, Jesus said. We don't change the Bible to fit our feelings and thoughts; we change our feelings and thoughts to fit the Bible. And these Christians, even in the midst of intense persecution, what do you mean you don't believe in all these other gods? What do you mean we're all lost in judgment of a holy God that says that what we're doing is wrong? What do you mean? Can't you just get along everybody else in our city? Can't you just stop preaching Jesus to people around you? That's just wrong for you to impose your belief on somebody. The same way that it might be wrong to impose somebody's beliefs that they can drive down a road to a river where it bridge is out, and they put a warning sign that says, "do not go, road closed, bridge out, danger." Oh, but I don't want to impose my feelings and beliefs on somebody driving their car. I ought to let them just - they need to experience for themselves whether or not the bridge is out.
If you believe something to be true and you staked your eternity on it, you don't have to be dogmatic and rude and cruel and mean, but for the sake of God, could we at least tell people that they're in trouble if they are, if we really believe that in love? But that was intolerant to people in Thessalonica. And these Christians were being persecuted for believing that. But in spite of the intense opposition to their faith, they were thriving. And Paul accredited to the fact that the word of God was actively changing their lives. It wasn't just a personal opinion that flew into town and talked to them. It's not a win some pastor or a preacher coming up here and talking that changes your life. It's the word of God that changes your life. Not only do godly people trust the Bible, godly people set the example. Verse 14; "They became imitators of God's churches in Christ Jesus." They became imitators of God's churches.
Now notice here, it doesn't say you individually became imitators of Jesus Christ by yourselves. It says that they were imitators as a community of the Lord, Jesus Christ. They were an example of what it meant to live a Christian life as a community of people, not just as individual people. Now, individuals I'm sure were powerful in themselves, but it was a community effort, not an individual effort that they said, "Oh, look what you're doing here, look what you're doing here!" It was the collective of their godliness that came together that was a powerful witness that God was at work in their lives.
You and I aren't examples for churches by ourselves. There is a movement it seems for people to have their own little theological libraries and their own little theological ways of doing things. And they're sort of like this own little enclave. Now, I am all for, and I am not against all forms of congregating together. There's large church, there's small church, there's house church, there's all kinds of ways to share the gospel and for people to thrive as a community of faith together, but the key is, a community is more than just yourself. It's a group of people coming together in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We believe in membership and covenant relationships with one another that this isn't just something we just sort of show up and we're kind of together. No, we're in this together. We walk together in the spirit of Christ.
United obedience to God's word shows the world that Jesus is building His church. And I want to say this, the miracle of the local churches, that in spite of our humanity, she still exists all around the world. In spite of our stupidity, in spite of the fact that we are all hypocrites in recovery – "Hi, I'm Greg, I'm a hypocrite." "Hi Greg." "Yeah, thank you." I think Beth gets it. This is group therapy for me. I need others to know that I am not right. Boy, I said that out loud. My daughter's like, "Yes, he admitted it." I am not perfect. Yes, of course I'm not. You know I'm not; for me to say otherwise, you would laugh. I'm becoming what God wants me to become, and it's through the local church. It's through our collective obedience to the word of God together that we become something to behold for the world to see, to be examples for other believers around the world.
We set the example when we're a godly person that people thank God for. And we thank God for godly people who endure opposition. I've been referring to this throughout the message, but the Thessalonian Christians were persecuted by their own neighbors, their own citizens, their own regional people; their own countrymen. This translation says, people in your own country, your own countrymen; your own country people. It wasn't some outside force that was coming in. It was people that already knew them that they already knew. They may have lost their jobs because they were Christians. They may have been ostracized by family members that were either refusing to agree with them and didn't want anything to do with them or afraid to agree with them because they didn't want to suffer the same intense persecution that was being thrust upon them. They endured the opposition.
Jesus warned of this in John 16:33. He said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace." You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous. I have conquered the world. I mean, when Jesus came, the perfect example - we aren't, He was, He is; the perfect son of God, who was the perfect word of God was crucified. They couldn't stand perfection when they saw it. They didn't want anything to do with it. So, don't kid yourself to think that when you begin to stand up for what is right that you will not be suffering. You will suffer the same consequences.
It is illegal for a Christian who is a counselor licensed by the State of California to obey the word of God in helping someone get out of their sinful lifestyle. They right now cannot be certified by the State of California. This is happening throughout the States and other places. If someone wants to move out of an ungodly relationship or out of an ungodly tendency, they will lose their license in the State of California. And this is continuing to happen because they don't want the Bible to be the final authority; they want humanity to be the final authority. And the question will be, as this continues to ripple through America, if it doesn't change, if it continues to run unabated; will godly people continue to endure? Will godly people endure? And it will, I think, in many ways, reveal those who are not relationally connected to Jesus Christ, but simply culturally connected to a community of Christ, but not really relationally connected to Jesus as their true Lord and savior, because real Christians endure opposition and persecution.
Now, opposition is Satan's effort to keep people from finding God. It says here, "That by keeping them from speaking to the Gentiles," in other words, there was a persecution that rose out, "so that they may be saved." In other words, Satan is trying his best to hide the truth from people who don't know it, and trying to shroud anything that the Christian community is doing and helping everybody point out all the ways in which we aren't, which we can easily do. There are many ways we aren't because we're not perfect.
One of my officer friends said it will never be perfect because you're all run by humans, and by God's grace, hopefully, under the authority of Jesus who is the Lord of our church and the chief shepherd of our church, but until we are in heaven, the church will not be perfect. And so many people are being hidden or are trying to hide the truth of God through the humanity of the church, instead of the spirit of the church. And Paul says very simply, almost like he just says, "Oh, and by the way, wrath is overtaken them at last." They're going to suffer a great awakening to their error of their ways. And at some point, God will be their ultimate judge for stopping people from finding Jesus. I referred to the idea that the county highway department decides, they say, "I need for you to go and I need for you to put the bridges closed danger signed." And that guy decides, "You know, I don't like my boss. I don't care for the county. I think they're wrong in their attitude about that bridge, and I'm just not going to put the sign up because I don't care. I don't want people to know the bridge is out."
Now, that person would be prosecuted and put in jail for a long time if somebody lost their life because he refused to put the sign up. And I think our society would rightly say he faces or she faces a higher penalty for what they did because they had the authority to do something, and they abused the authority in such a way that it took the lives of people. And I believe this is what Paul is saying, that there are people that are openly opposing the true. They're not just saying live and let live. They're not being tolerant. Its one thing to say I don't believe that, I'm an atheist, but I certainly... you know, you're welcome to believe it if you want to. I'm not going to do anything to stop you because hey, maybe it's true. And you have the right in the freedom of our country to believe what you want to believe so go for it. And here's a Bible, I don't want it anymore because I've rejected it, but you can have my Bible.
I had an atheist give me a Bible one time. She said, "My mom had this and I know you're a religious person and I thought that you might want this." And I wanted to so give it back to her, but I took it and thanks. I still have it, and I still pray for her to come to know Jesus. But these people are openly opposing the gospel so much so that they're trying their best to keep people from finding Jesus. And Paul says, there's a day when the limit of their sin will be so complete that the ultimate judge - they're in trouble. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, but he's just stating a fact.
In the midst of all that godly people, endure opposition. And finally this morning, godly people desire eternal rewards. Now, Paul explained here as a caveat here, he explains that it couldn't be with you, that I was hindered from coming because of this persecution. Some think that maybe Paul knew it was better for them to thrive in their faith as a Christian community without him being there, than for his notoriety or is Christian celebrity or whatever you might say that he was so popular for Christ that it would've been more of a hindrance than a help to the Christian Church for him to show up. But indeed he wanted to come; he sent Timothy instead with this letter.
But then he says, yeah, even though he wanted to come, don't forget who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus that is coming. Is it not you? And indeed you are our glory and joy. He described Thessalonians as his crown of boasting. And there's a whole Bible study that talks about the crowns. I mean, there's six or seven or five at least. And we talk about that - there's some ways of kind of collecting all of those Bible verses together. And if that is truly the case, I think in Revelation, it says that they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus in worshiping Him in eternity. Then anything that we receive as a reward is thrown right back at Jesus to say, the only way I was able to do this in the first place was because of what you did through me and gave me the power to do it. Our worship of Jesus is everything that we accomplish. I said that we don't celebrate success very well, but any success that we do celebrate goes right back to the feet of Jesus to say there's no way we could have been successful if it hadn't been for you in the first place. And we put it right back at him. It was all because of Jesus that we were able to do what we did.
And Paul says, "You are shining examples of what I'm going to celebrate for eternity. I'm going to celebrate you. And I wonder if Paul was thinking, we're going to celebrate together, that I can't be with you here temporarily in this earth, but forever we're going to be together at the throne of Jesus worshiping together. And wow, I'm going to say, God, you let me be part of an opportunity and a movement in a city that I just visited for three weeks, and look what happened. People came to know Jesus, and you used me to do that. Wow, God, I'm celebrating forever that these people were rescued from hell to heaven, from death to life, from just living a regular common existence on earth to an existence of purpose and meaning while they lived out their life on this earth, and I'm celebrating."
Who are you going to celebrate when you get to heaven because God used you to help them find and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior? Who is following Jesus because of you? These new believers will testify forever that you and I were witnesses for Jesus Christ. It's only two things that last forever; God's word and people. What are you investing in? How are you leveraging everything you have on this earth in order to leverage and invest in the word of God, which changes your life and people who last forever, either away from God forever or with God forever? What are you doing about it? Godly people desire eternal rewards.
Oh, I'd love to see young people get degrees, get certifications, get a welding certification, get a degree. My best friend growing up, he's got a mechanics. He's a machinist, and then now his daughter is going to go to a college on a full ride. And I can't wait to talk to him in person to say, "Wow, who would've thought a guy that couldn't stand a book." He liked standing on books to get to something else, but not read them, has got a daughter who's a Brainiac that wants to study biology and be a teacher. And he's going to go, "Yeah, I never guessed." And yet he's as smart as anybody else, he's just smart in a different way. But all these accomplishments - but you know what? All those accomplishments are great, but nothing compared the accomplishments of what you do to follow God and to help people find and follow God through whatever gifts, talents, and abilities you've done, and those talents and gifts, and those rewards that you've had that this earth gives us.
I pray that we will live for eternity, not for the finite; that we will think about how we're being an influence and an encouragement to people around us. Not so much thinking about all the people that need to bless me. Thank God for godly people. Who are you thanking God for? Will you let them know that you're grateful for them and who's thanking God for you? You said, well, I don't know who that would be right now. Well, God has given you a moment of time to change. He's given you a moment because the end of your life doesn't have to be where you're headed right now if only you will start making the change that God wants you to make to live for what matters.
Use that connection card and help us know how to pray for you. Maybe it's time to tell the world you're a Christian through baptism. Maybe it's time to take the class and learn what it means to belong to a church family. And we're not here to talk you into anything. We're just here to open up God's word and open up our lives to help you move forward spiritually one step at a time. Let's stand. Let's sing one more time. Let's strike while the iron's hot. Right now is the moment when you know what you must do. Will you make that decision? Will you move forward? Will you take a step of faith? Will you trust us even just a little bit to help you move forward to become the godly person that God wants you to become for His namesake? God help us to each take the step you want us to take to honor you to bless others and to have an eternal destiny that is hopeful, good, pure, perfect, and glorifying to you, in Jesus name I pray, 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.
What to do now! By Pastor Greg Byman
What to do now!
Jesus is coming back!
Acts 1:11 He will return the same way he left
Anticipation of His return is growing
His return has been anticipated since He ascended!
-The Apostle Paul had to discuss this in Thessalonians
-Every major world event has triggered talks of His return
-I remember the Cold War, everyone thought
The world was going to end soon, Jesus would return
Jesus told us what to do until he comes back
What to do now (until Jesus comes again)
1. Don’t predict the end of the world
-We aren’t supposed to know
-Even Jesus submitted to His Father regarding end times
-Prepare as if Jesus is coming at any moment, plan as if he isn’t
2. Trust Jesus with your whole life!
-Place your faith in His sacrifice for your sins
-Place your faith in His resurrection from death
-God’s plan right now is for everyone to trust Jesus
3. Tell others what you know is true
-Sharing the good news about Jesus Christ is our #1 task!
-We are Christ’s witnesses- whether good or bad witnesses!
-Jesus has empowered us to be His witnesses (vs 4, Holy Spirit)
-Be more excited about sharing Jesus than sharing your opinion
about how Jesus is coming back to fix the world!
-Helping people trust Jesus with their whole lives IS how Jesus
fixes our world!
-“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth”
-this only happens when people surrender to Jesus Christ!
4. Share Jesus with the whole world!
-Jesus provided a logical plan, go from local to global
-Take the next right step to tell others about Jesus
How everyone can share Jesus globally
Consider this thought: If you believe the world is about to end, are you spending all your resources to help people go to heaven instead of hell?
-Is the return of Christ something you are hoping for because
you don’t want to deal with this world?
-Who do you know will be eternally separated from God forever
in hell if Jesus returned right now?
-I pray we will be as excited and convicted to share the good
news with our friends and family as we are about the return
of Jesus Christ!
What to do right now
1. Make your decision public
-Website contact page
2. Depend on Christ’s power to obey Him
-Jesus is the best leader anyone could ever follow!
-His ways are perfect
-His plans give us purpose
-He gives us the power!
Today is Sunday, April 18th, 2021, and welcome to St. Joe Community Church. Today’s message is entitled: What to do now, and it’s taken from Acts chapter 1, verse 11. Be sure to check out Pastor Greg Byman's outline notes available at the St. Joe website. Just 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 Pastor Greg.
Pastor Greg Byman
What to do now? Last week we read an account of Jesus who was resurrected from the dead. He appears to his disciples. The third time he restores Peter from his shame of denying Christ three times. He kind of recommissions them to say, let's move forward guys, come on, we’ve got work to do. And now we see another account of his resurrected body, his human body, who is not in the grave any longer. He's appeared to these hundreds of believers and his disciples gathered around him, and he's giving them the last few words of instructions before he goes up into heaven. Now, before we read verses 7 and 8 in Acts chapter 1, I want to declare to you what our church believes, what the Bible says to be true, what I'm staking my life on is that Jesus is coming again.
Jesus is coming back. He is returning. It says there if you read down a little bit further in that text that we're reading this morning in verse 11, it says men of Galilee why do you stand looking up into heaven? What are you doing standing around here? There's nothing to see here, move on, move it on. He says this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven. We know that in John chapter 14, you don't have to turn there, but you can put down if you're writing any notes today that in John chapter 14, it says, don't let your heart be troubled. Jesus is telling his disciples to believe in God. Believe also in me, in my father's house are many rooms. If not, I would have told you I'm going away to prepare a place for you.
In other words, I'm going away, but I'm preparing a place for you to be with me forever. And there's someone in this building that believes that more than anybody else; it’s our friend, Corey. I think every week he comes to work in our church he tells me that God's preparing a place for him, and for you, Pastor Greg. He believes Jesus is coming again, and when he takes us back to be with himself, he's got a place for us to be. And I love the translation, I think it's more appropriate to the Greek language than the original Aramaic Greek that the New Testament was written in where it says not mansions but rooms. In other words, we're going to have attachments to the mansion of God. We're not going to be in all these different houses and our little plot of land so that we can have our own little spot.
No, we're all going to be together with God. And who's going to be the light of heaven? God himself. He's the energy source. He is the one we're attached to. He's the one that we're going to see and be with forever. And he says, I will go, come again. I will take you to myself that where I am you may be also. You know the way I'm going. And of course, Thomas says, we don't know where you're going. How can we know the way? And this is the famous passage we often hear people talk about. And we say, and I've said many times from this stand right here, it says, Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through for me. The way to get to eternal life, the way to get to where God is preparing a place for all of us, is to get to Jesus.
Jesus is coming back. There's an anticipation of his return; it's growing. People think he's coming again. If you're on social media is sort of like, you know, you see all these different people putting posts on the properties. Oh, what chapter of revelation are we looking at today? You know, all these sayings and clichés and everything. And I want to say to you, I'm not that old, but I'm old enough to remember that in the 1980s when I was in Sunday school they had it all figured out that Jesus was coming. Like within moments, he would be there because there was mutually assured destruction through nuclear annihilation. The cold war, anybody remembers this? Some of you say no, our history books maybe, but I'm too young for that. But many of us remember, and I was at the tail end of it.
Remember when we used to have those tornado drills? I used to have a tornado drill where I got underneath the desk and put a book on my head or we'd go out in the hallway and put a book on our heads. Like that was going to do anything. Anyway, who knows? Actually, some of them say that wasn't necessarily a tornado drill. In Ohio, that's a serious business for tornado drills, but it was also for nuclear fallout drills because we were under the constant threat of annihilation by the nuclear Holocaust. When we went out west with our kids five years ago or so, we saw in South Dakota these decommissioned missile silos. It looked like a huge washing machine with the agitator in the middle of the top load. And you look down there's that missile pointing at you. And this one was decommissioned hopefully, but they'd taken out the nuclear warhead that was on it.
And that thing right there speckled all around the west and some are still commissioned in order to protect us. The reality of the fact I was on a ship, a nuclear submarine that my cousin used to be the commander of, and I remember just putting my arms around one of the 22 nuclear warhead silos, the tubes that held these ballistic missiles and they were multiple heads. Each of the 22 had multiple heads that would come off of it and be assigned to particular cities and our enemy territory in Russia and other places in order to assure that our enemies were annihilated the submarine went underneath the water and it just made sure that it was deterrence. Hey, we're here and at any moment we can push the button and everybody's gone. And I remember putting my arms around that down in Kings Bay, Georgia going wow, this right here could destroy millions of people, what I have my arms around.
It's mesmerizing, Lord Jesus comes quickly. There's this excitement that he's coming. There's this anticipation. There’s this foreboding that he's coming. Wars and rumors of Wars, calamity, earth lead destruction, hurricanes, and all kinds of things. I mean this was actually true back in Thessalonians in the first century the people were dying and they said, well, Jesus is coming back. They missed it. They're dead. And Paul had to write to the church and say, no, no, no, no, you don't get it if he hasn't come back yet, he will. And you can know that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write that the dead in Christ will rise first, and then those who are alive will be caught up together. That there's a plan for those who have died in Christ. In other words, his coming again hasn't happened yet.
And God has a plan for those, even if we die before it happens. You see, Jesus told us he was coming back. The Bible declares he is, but it's been 2000 years and I'm planning for great, great-grandchildren to actually live a life on this earth unless he comes back, and I'll be happy for that too. We don't know when he's coming back, but there is this anticipation that he is going to. But I believe that Acts chapter 1 declares for us, and I believe it, I am convicted that the Bible tells us that Acts chapter 1, verses 7 and 8 these are our marching orders until he comes again.
What to do now until Jesus comes again? Let me read for us verses 7 and eight,
Jesus said to them, it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
What are the things that Jesus is asking us to do? He’s not asking us, he's telling us what to do until he comes again. Well, first of all, number one, don't predict the end of the world. When we were visiting churches in my middle school years of life, we were in transition and we went to a church in Dayton, Ohio, a good solid church and nothing was. But one thing they did do is when I went into the Sunday school classroom for the youth they had this chart, and I don't think literally it was as far as from that wall to that wall, a chart that explained how Jesus was coming again. It had nations mentioned of that Bible this was the nation. This was the nation, some of the nations on that they don't even exist anymore.
They had it all figured out. I can guarantee you of every chart that you've ever had from somebody who says this is exactly how Jesus is coming again. I can guarantee one thing true about all of those charts, they’re not true because Jesus himself says it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. Even Jesus said, now, I'm not saying Jesus didn't know. He may or may not have known, but in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit he was submitting to the will of the Father regarding the times and periods of how things would pan out for his kingdom to come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus himself was submitting to the Father. I submit to you that we must submit to the Father and we must listen to Jesus, does not predict the end of the world. I say we ought to prepare as if Jesus is coming at any moment, but plan as if he isn't. I think at any moment he could. At any moment, in fact, that's why in a moment I'm going to share. You need to be ready. You need to be ready if he's coming at any moment. We need to prepare. We need to plan and continue to live our lives according to the plan that God has for us even if he doesn't come back at this very moment.
Don't predict the end of the world. Don’t get on Facebook and say, it's coming right away. It’s coming, yes, you can say, he's coming. He's coming. He's coming. I can say that. I will say that I'm convinced he's coming. If he's not coming the Bible is false. It's a lie. Why believe any of it? He's coming. And by the way, there are some legitimate conversations I think, according to the word of God and according to the signs and according to all the different Daniel, Revelation, these are good things to talk about. And there are some, I think, very biblically responsible conversations to be had about how about it's going to come about. But don't be predicting it because nobody knows except the Father.
Number two, we need to trust Jesus with our whole life if he's coming again, right? In other words, we've got to put our faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ, just as I said, last week, I'm going to go backward. We need to place our faith in his sacrifice for our sins. Place our faith in his resurrection, from death. Romans chapter 10, what does it tell us? It says that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart resulting in righteousness and one confesses with the mouth resulting in salvation. For the scripture says everyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. This morning are you ready for the return of Jesus? Are you ready for this world to be completely over?
Every minute of your life you have a decision to make, whether you're going to put your faith in Christ or you're going to reject Christ and there's no middle ground. Well, I'll decide tomorrow. If you decide tomorrow, you have decided to reject Christ forever. And maybe you'll wake up tomorrow and have an opportunity to change that decision. Some pastors say everyone at church, so how many decisions did you have on Sunday morning? He says, well, everybody made a decision. They either decided to follow Christ or not follow Christ. They decided to tell us publicly what they thought or to decide to keep it to themselves. But everybody made a decision and everybody in this room is going to make a decision. Whether you're going to put your faith in Christ or whether you're not going to put your faith in Christ. For the Christian, you're going to decide whether or not you're going to keep on living for Christ or that you're going to start trying to take control of life your own way and do your own thing.
Whether you're going to do what he's asked you to do, or you're going to reject his plan and try to do your own way and see the discipline of God come against your life and say, man, that's not what I intended for you. And just like an earthly father would try to help a young teenager do the right thing. Indeed God himself helps us as our heavenly father. He helps us and disciplines us to move forward and do the right thing. Everybody's going to make a decision this morning. The question is, is your decision to follow Christ or reject Christ? There's no in-between. Right now you could put your faith in him by just saying, God, I admit to you, I'm a sinner. I believe you died on the cross for my sins.
I no longer want to live in the shame. I'm done living in my own power because I can't overcome this stupid stuff I keep doing. God helped me. Come into my life. I believe Jesus, you died and rose again. You died for my sins. I trust you with my life. If you'll just put your faith in him this morning, he says he will never put you to shame. His hand, his grip, his grip doesn't slip. He wants to hold onto you this morning. Will you reach out to him? I pray that you'll take that connection card that's on a window sill or you'd go onto our website on your phone or your computer at home and you just reach out to us and say, Hey, I'm making this decision today. I need some help knowing what that means.
We'd love next week to have a baptismal service and let you openly declare your faith and baptism. Would you let us do that? Would you let us help you put your faith in Jesus Christ? He's coming at any moment. I'm not here to scare you. I'm just giving you a reality. You need to be ready when he comes. You need to be ready before he comes. You need to be ready. Put your faith in Jesus.
And number three this morning as we get back to the text let's tell others what we know is true. Let's tell others what we know is true. We as believers if we've put our faith in Jesus Christ, we will be his witnesses. We are to tell others. 2nd Corinthians we read it, we are his ambassadors. An ambassador doesn't have their own authority. An ambassador doesn't tell people what they think it is. They tell people what the person who sent them the truth is. We are the ambassadors of Jesus Christ imploring people, encouraging them, begging them on Christ's behalf to be reconciled to God. Sharing the good news about Jesus Christ is our number one task as believers. We are his witnesses whether good or bad witnesses to be honest.
He's empowered us, he said you will receive the power it says here. From on high the Holy Spirit is living in our lives if we're a believer in Jesus Christ. And we need to be more excited about sharing Jesus than about sharing our opinion about how Jesus coming back to fix the world. How did Jesus tell us to pray? Your kingdom comes; yours will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do you know how the kingdom comes into this world? One heart at a time yielding their lives to Jesus Christ.
The kingdom of God is in the heart of men, and women, boys, and girls, people who have surrendered the authority of their lives to the authority of Jesus Christ, his kingdom. Do you want to see our world change? So many people as said he's coming again because they're tired of the system we're living in. They're tired of the injustices. They’re tired of seeing babies slaughtered in the womb and politicians elected that are happily and gladly telling people that it's everybody's right to do so.
They're happy that bad things are being called good and good things are being called bad and Christians are going, Oh, I just want to get out of here. Jesus come quickly. And some people say, well, we need to just reform our nation. We need to get a bunch of people in there and elect the right people. You know, as responsible citizens we are responsible and the blood is on our hands if we voted for somebody who does not believe in God. But you know what, how do you know who does that? Because who does or doesn't believe in God. And I've cast my vote going well, I think this is the most godliest choice, but I don't know if they believe in God. So I know it's a mesmerizing moment, but do you know what I know for sure? I pray for the salvation of our leaders. I pray for the salvation of our elected leaders, whether it's from the White House Congress or Supreme Court, I pray they trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
I pray that they'll get Daniels in their life. You know, Daniel in the Old Testament, I pray that godly men and women will be advisors to ungodly men and women in office so that they will know the truth of Jesus. They will know the truth of the Bible and start living that because what will really fix our world is when people put their faith in Jesus Christ. That's what changes Fort Wayne. That's what changes Allen County. That's what changes Indiana. That's what changes the United States is when people put their faith in Jesus Christ. People who God changes will change the world. That's what we need to pray for. That's what we need to look for. We need to tell others what we know is true. We need to share Jesus with the world.
And number four, we need to share Jesus with not just Fort Wayne, but with everybody, the whole world, Jesus gave us a plan here. It says you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the outermost parts of the world. You will be my witnesses in Fort Wayne in the 05, 46805 districts, and the other districts around Fort Wayne. You'll be my witnesses in Allen County, in Indiana, United States, and to the outermost parts of the world. If you were to go up to my office and you're welcome to do so at any time, you will see that I have two maps. I put a call out to say I was looking for a map of Fort Wayne that I could write with a dry erase marker on. And they have them for sale. And I was in the process of buying one and Tom Garrity who went home to be with the Lord last year, he said, I got something for you on your desk. And I went up to my office and he had taken a full-size map of Fort Wayne, cut it into fourths, ran it through his laminator at work, and brought me a map of Fort Wayne.
That's just the kind of guy he was. He would just serve. If we needed leaves picked up, he was out there picking up. Do you know why we had leaves all over this yard, over the fall and winter? It’s because Tom died before he did it. Honestly, a week before he was planning to do it, he passed away and we didn't have any other Tom get up and do it, shame on you. No.
But that’s just the guy he was. I didn't mean to do that I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to guilt you’ll, but he was awesome. But do you know why I had that map? I got sidetracked here because of Tom, he was awesome. I love Tom. Pray for Gina. She's still going through, she's going towards his birthday and anniversary and all that. His widow needs prayer right now. And if you're listening to us, Gina, we love you. If you're listening to us online. Tom gave me that map. Do you know why I wanted that map? I wanted that map so I could have a visual aid of where God has called us to share Jesus and penetrate darkness and lostness. And I have a little dot right where 2900 North Anthony is, right here on the map. And then I have a circle around it. So is that a mile radius? No.
That's about a size of a masking tape reel that I drew around it. It's just a way for me to get a target thought of this is where God's called us to reach people for Jesus. I've got the demographics I can tell you all about it. I can tell you how many percentages of ethnic groups are in here. I can dice it down to the median income. I mean, boy, the Census Bureau, you'll give a lot of information out and so do I, and we have that. Of course, credit cards tell our story too, you know, every time you go into that Kroger plus card, you know, whatever it is. They just figured out everything about you so that they can sell stuff to you, right? Well, we get that information as a church so we can learn what our mission field is. And it drills down, and we can know those things because God's called us to share Jesus right here in Fort Wayne.
And we want to be missionaries in our own backyard, but we also need to be sending missionaries beyond our backyard, sharing Jesus with the whole world. See Jesus provided a logical plan here and everywhere to the outermost parts of the world. And the last I checked, we're pretty far away from Jerusalem. I think the plan is working. What do you think? Do you know why you're here today in Jesus Christ? If you know Jesus is because somebody outside of Jerusalem told you about Jesus. And I'm praying that somebody outside of Fort Wayne hears about Jesus because we sent them because on the other side of my office on the other wall is a map of the world. And I have a dot where we've sent mission teams to other places in the United States and around the world to share the good news of Jesus.
And these are mission trips that are not vacations with a little bit of Jesus in there, you leave, you leave ready to serve. You use the money that people raise to give you in a very careful way. We worked you hard and you're ready for a vacation when you come back because you're there to share Jesus. You're there to work the field that you've been given when you get there. And over a hundred of us have been mobilized in the last 18 years to go share Jesus. Why? Because we believe that it's to share Jesus, not just here, but everywhere. And I want people to have a world vision of the kingdom of God, not just their own backyard vision of the kingdom of God.
And we have missionaries that we support. In fact, here's how we do it at St. Joe, and I pray that you'll be a part of this with us. We pray for people who are sharing Jesus globally. We give over 10% of our resources away to missions, causes, beyond ourselves. And we go, we send people out and our money actually helps pay for people that are sent out on a full-time basis, and they go and don't come back as far as that's where they live to share Jesus somewhere else.
Now, I want you to consider this thought if you believe the world's about to end, are you spending all of your resources to help people go to heaven instead of hell? Is the return of Christ something you're hoping for because you don't want to deal with this world any longer, or is it motivating you to tell more people about Jesus? I have a friend she was a student at Indiana Tech and she named all her cows, steers. She was from Wisconsin and she had names for all of them [inaudible 26:13]. In fact, she actually had one on her Christmas card. Heidi and the herd, Merry Christmas. That's crazy. Heidi and the… I think that was awesome. I said, well, do you eat any of them? She says, oh yeah, we butcher some of them. I said, really? She says, yeah, we butcher the ugly ones. I said, but like when you name all the herd... She says oh, we don't name them. We don't name the ones that we eat because that would be too emotional.
I mean, you know, Daisy. Daisy the cow. Now, for some of us in the room, us guys were like, that's red meat, I'm dealing with it, no big deal. Whatever. When you think about all the masses of people that will miss heaven, and facing an eternity without Jesus, what does that do for you? And I'd like for you right now to think of men and women, boys and girls that you know personally their names, family members, friends, neighbors. I mean, no one knows anybody's heart, but you and I know, and I know plenty of people that unless they're really Buffalo on me, they don't know Jesus. And if he were to come at any moment, they're gone. I just woke somebody up, sorry. They're dead. Sorry, Sean. They are without Jesus and they miss heaven.
What are you doing with the resources, the time, the energy, and everything God's given you? Are you spending it so that more people go to heaven? Store up your treasures in heaven the Bible says. Store up your treasures for retirement so that you don't have to do anything for another 20 years, and then you die. I love retirement thoughts. I love the fact that you don't have to work for a living. You can live off what you worked for, but are you doing it in order to leverage your time and energy for the kingdom of God? Or are you doing it just to float around until you go to heaven?
Who do you know personally? Names? People? Because see if we don't start identifying by naming the people that aren't going to heaven we will have zero emotional attachment to sharing Jesus with them. We won't care. Joe's going to hell, I don't care. It ought to bother you that Joe doesn't know Jesus. And you’re there to help him find and follow. Now, I got people on my list who don't want to hear from me ever again. I'm still praying for them. A few of them have actually come around and asked me questions and I'm starting to talk to them again. Some of them, I just see them, I do business transactions with them, I encourage them. I'm just being Jesus to them the way I can. We've got to share Jesus with people until he comes again.
2nd Peter 3:9 says, The Lord does not delay his promise as some understand delay but is patient with you not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. It could be that someone listening online or right here in this room, Jesus, didn't come back this morning because he's waiting for you to put your faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't come yet because he's waiting for one more person to know him.
Thank you for joining us today. St. Joe is located at 2900 North Anthony Boulevard, just a few blocks south of the campus of Purdue University at Fort Wayne. Pastor Greg Byman serves as the senior pastor and the entire St. Joe Church family welcomes you to join us for worship service each Sunday morning at 8:30 and 10:30. Currently, masks are optional for the 8:30 service and required for the 10:30 service and most indoor activities. St. Joe is dedicated to helping people learn about what it means to place one's faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life. If you or somebody you know is interested in what it means to know God personally, please contact the church today. Please visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (260) 471-4704. Thanks for joining us today. We'll see you next week.
Church Elders: Why, Who, What?
B: Bible book