How to Constantly Talk With God
September 4, 2022
Wat is your personal story?
-No “formula” for doing this
-Spiritual disciplines help, but not completely
-Spontaneous, “arrow” prayers, immediately
-Jesus told us to make disciples- help people grow spiritually
-We can only give away what we already have
-1 Thes 5:17 says “Pray constantly.” But how??
Why do we not keep talking with God?
Western Culture- Western thought says God is not involved in the everyday circumstances; he is just in our private life, in religious settings and situations only
-We actually cannot separate the sacred from the secular!
-we live in both at the same time
Pride and self-dependence
Loss of our “awe of God”
-some mature believers become too familiar with spiritual things
How to Constantly Talk With God
1. Practice talking with God all the time Psalm 105:4
-“Seek his face always”
-Brother Lawrence quote
-Francis Shaeffer quote
-Matt 6:6 Jesus says talk to God like our personal father!
-children normally depend heavily on their dads all the time
2. Practice thinking about God and His Ways Romans 8:56
-“…those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set
on the things of the Spirit”
-Bible reading and learning (preaching/teaching, personal study)
-Godly friends- we must prioritize time and energy!
-Sunday Worship, Connection Groups, Serving Together
3. Get desperate John 15:4
-“…you can do nothing without me.”
-Paul Miller quote
4. Leverage difficult circumstances Romans 12:1
-“…present your bodies as a living sacrifice”
Brother Lawrence quote on suffering pg 52
5. Confess and turn from sin Hebrews 12:1
6. Focus on Jesus Hebrews 12:2
-What would Jesus do? What DID Jesus do?
-What did Jesus do FOR us? (died for us, saved us)
-Where is Jesus taking us? (to eternity!)
7. Make it personal
-Talk with God like you talk with best friends
-Talk with God in your own daily routine
-Consider “Breath Prayers”- prayers you can say in one breath
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“Lord I seek your face right now” based on Psalm 27:8
How will you talk with God this week?
-How well did you talk with God last week? 1-5
1 No meaningful relationship with God at alll
2 No meaningful conversation with God
3 Talked with God some
4 Talked with God daily
5 Talked with God many times each day
-How can we help you start talking with God more often?
Brother Lawrence “We can make our heart a chapel where we can withdraw from time to time, and commune with Him in meekness, humility, and love.”
Davis, Marshall, translator. Brother Lawrence: The Practice of the Presence of God. Independently Published by Marshall Davis, 2013, page 46.
Francis Shaeffer “I personally could not live for twenty-four hours without looking to the leading of the Lord, and this is how I live my life.”
Dennis, Lane T.., editor. Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1985. Page 164.
Paul Miller “A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our poverty of spirit, realizing that we can’t even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the Spirit of Jesus.”
Miller, Paul E.. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press, 2009, page 67.
Intro: Today is Sunday, September 4th, 2022, and welcome to St. Joe Community Church. Today's message is entitled "How to Constantly Talk to God" and was delivered by Pastor Greg Byman. For more information, visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org. Click on the sermons tab and find today's broadcast. So now let's open the Bible, get a notepad in pen and prepare to hear from God's word. Here's Pastor Greg.
This morning I want to talk about something that's very near and dear to my heart; how to have a constant talk with God. How to practice the presence of God is one formal way of saying it. It is a practice that I believe it's integral to my personal health; spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, that when I am getting this better, I say, get it right. And they'll get it right in heaven when there'll be no barriers to doing this. When I do, when I'm better at this, I'm better. And when I'm not, I'm not, that's just kind of where I'm at in my life. Now there's a practical way of thinking about this; we talk about how to have a constant talk with God or how to have - and by the way, talking with God is a two-way street, and I'm not getting into this today, but God speaks to us through His word and through godly people who know His word and through our prayer life that is infused with truth from His word. Any kind of feeling or emotions or thoughts that we might have, not discounting them; they just all need to be filtered through what God has already said, because He is never going to contradict himself. He'll always say what He's always said. And it'll certainly be culturally and contemporarily interpreted and brought along and applied in our current circumstances, but His word never changes.
And so, we're not here to look for a new impression or thought, but when we're talking with God, He's talking to us, we're talking to him, it's a two way street. But it's sort of like when I'm thinking about this, I want to think more on the positive side is remembering that God is always with us, and that He is always someone to talk to and talk with and be with and have conversation with.
I remember when we were first married as a couple, my wife and I, it was important for me whenever I was making decisions to think about her presence even when she wasn't there. Can anybody get an Amen on that? If I'm deciding to buy something nice and fancy for myself, I needed to think about what would my wife think when I brought it home before I brought it home. It's just important to communicate with your spouse what's going on. You make decisions, "Oh, by the way we're going so and so." "But it's on our calendar that we're doing this and that. And so-and-so is going to be some sort..." "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." You always have to be thinking about when you... the two should become two. No, the two should become one flesh and you are a one unit of two people doing life together. And it's something that we're constantly practicing, constantly learning how to get better at.
Thinking about the presence of God in a normal, and I say normal like in the way God intended family; your parents are with you even when they're not as a child. That's why when you're doing something you ought not, what do you do? You hide, right. You're doing it undercover. And I learned later, what I didn't realize is how do you get away with things? Continue to be loud when you're doing the wrong thing. Because whenever children get really quiet, that's when parents come looking for them. Okay, something's wrong, they're a lot more quiet right now. And of course, you go in and find them doing something, trying to fix something really quick or trying to do something. And that's a teacher mode, that's a parent mode, that's just - we naturally hide away from the things, the people that are going to hold us accountable for what we don't want to be held accountable for. So, that's kind of, kind of how life is.
We already have these examples in our mind if you're married or if you work with children or all of us were a child at one point - children at one point, so we all understand this. Well, isn't this true that practicing the presence of God is something that we need to think about because God is always with us. And I just want to share my personal story real quick before we get going. I'm going to be honest. I'm going to give you principles, not a ritual or some religious practice. Although I'm not saying ritual or religious practices don't work, there are some rituals or there's some habits for spiritual disciplines that are very helpful and useful. And I'm not discounting that; I'm just saying that; it's beyond a habit. There's no formula, in other words, for doing this. And spiritual disciplines, they help, but I'm not completely telling you about a habit that's more like ritualistic in nature.
What I'm talking about is something more like of a spontaneous nature that I'm spontaneously talking to God, because I know He is there, I know He is listening, He speaks all around us, this is the heavens declare your glory. When I look up into the sky and these stars that are out there, that He flung them in the place; if you look in the Psalmist, God flung them in the place for our enjoyment. He gave us this world to enjoy. And you know, keep your eyes on the road. But there are times when you're like, "Wow, look at the sunset!"
I have a daughter that all the time is sending us pictures of the sunsets. And it's just awesome. She's just way into taking pictures of sunsets. And now I'm starting to - that's a cool sunset, you know? And you start taking pictures. Oh, co-road. No, I don't do that. But seriously, it's important for us to take in the fact that God is everywhere and he's speaking to us through even His creation. Now, He's not a tree, but He's everywhere, and He made that tree. And when I think about that, somebody made that tree. And you know, trees are - especially the big old ones, they're like, "Wow, that was here like before. Wow!" And you just start thinking about how finite life is when you look at creation.
Anyway, so God is everywhere, but this is more like the spontaneous arrow prayers. I think I mentioned to you last week when we were talking about pray without ceasing - pray constantly, 1 Thessalonian 5 says that. How do you do that? And I will say to you that there are times when somebody will give me a prayer request and if I don't pray for it right then, I might forget to pray. No, I have forgotten to pray. And that's my confession last week. It's just, I got to pray right now about it or write it down. That's why whenever you're leaving on Sunday morning, my brain is mush, usually by that time. And I say, please write that on a card and give it to me. That's why connection cards are so important, because you can tell me what's going to happen; you can tell me you're having heart surgery on Tuesday. I'm sorry for you. I probably will forget if you don't write it down. It's terrible. It's all about me right now, isn't it? No, I just forget. I just forget. My brain is - anyway, that's beside the point.
But praying for somebody, you got to pray for them right now sometimes or thinking about something, I need to pray about that. Pray right then. That's kind of been my way in which I practice this in my own life. And honestly, if I'm trying to help somebody become more like Jesus, I need to learn how to be more like Jesus and I got to get closer to Jesus. I need to have a relationship that's functional with Jesus because I can only give away what I have myself. So as a believer in this room and God called all of us to make disciples; if we don't have what we're supposed to give away, then we ought to work on having more of what we should be giving away.
And that's another motivator for me. Like, I see these minions, these children, my children; they're looking at me and how as goes, so goes. I have friends in my life, as goes the friends, so go the friends. We're influencers whether we like it or not. And what we give away is more caught than it is taught. And so, I'm trying to get better at this for my sake, for God's sake, for the sake of honoring Him with my life and also for the sake of other people in my life. But how do we do it? How do we do it? Because there's a lot of reasons we don't. There's a lot of reasons why we don't, and I'm going to point out three reasons why we just tend to not do this. First of all, our culture just doesn't really marry spirituality with hard truth like science and spirituality just don't mix. I can give you a whole hour lecture on it. You'd be bored, but I find it fascinating that conditionally Western culture, there was this shift that we adopted. And it's sort of like this whole phrase of, "well, spirituality, that's a private thing." You know, church and state; you're not allowed to let your spiritual life influence your political decisions. There's an idea that it's either or, not both and. Our culture kind of conditions is, don't talk about religion. Don't talk about that. Well, that's more personal.
Now, what I believe about who God is and how the world was created really is a foundational truth that helps me understand this world and helps me make wise choices in this world. I mean, he's the creator. Again, that's a whole nother sermon, but Western culture kind of conditions us not to pray about the normal stuff. Like, I need a parking spot downtown, pretty close, so I pray for God to give me a good close parking spot. And He gives it to me. And there's one guy that was talking to another guy about this whole thing. And he said - and he was praising God that he got a nice parking lot up close. And he said, "Do you think that God is so concerned with you that He is such this huge God that He really cares about your little parking spot downtown?" He says, "Do you mean to say that you believe God doesn't care about every little part of my life?" And then somebody else would say, "Yeah, but what about that little old lady that needed that parking spot? You took it, you nice young strapping man."
We can get into the woods when we talk about this. But the reality is that I believe you can pray about anything and everything. I think it matters. And if you don't get the parking spot, that's when you really need to pray,. God give me patience. Yeah! So praying is part of hard facts, concrete life; not just something we do somewhere else, spirituality, left in the church building, but no other building, and that's not true. And by the wa,y they said, you know, they took prayer out of school, and what's the joke? They'll always have prayer in schools so long as they have pop quizzes.
Anyway, pride and self-dependence. That's another reason why. I really like to be in charge of me, and I don't like thinking that I can't do something. Am I the only guy in the world that likes to fix things? I'm going to fix it, you know? And Bonita comes home with a problem from work and I got a plan for how to solve her life and everything. And you know, everybody's going to be just much better if I just show you how to do it. And I'm not consulting God when I say it either, usually, are we? We got on the fly, I know what to do here. Yeah, it's his pride and self-dependence, and we don't pray and talk to God enough about everything and anything. We'll get into that in a minute here. But that's one of the reasons why we don't talk to God often. Really, we don't want to hear what he has to say. Especially if we're about to do something we shouldn't do.
And then there's that loss of awe. Now, this is more for the believers in the room that have been Christian for a while. And Paul David Trip talks about this in his book, "Dangerous Calling to Pastors" where he says, you know what, there's a moment in which in life you were so enamored with and excited about God and you were with God enough and you handled the Bible enough and you've done spiritual things enough that it's sort of rubbed off. You've lost your awe. You're not as excited about God anymore. I mean, let me just ask the question. How many of you saw an awesome sports play on a replay this week? I mean, awe! That was awesome, right. You know, how many loved the awesome finish of the Ohio State football game last night? Awesome. Awesome. Okay, now that just divided the crowd. I think that's worse than politics. Isn't it?
Anyway, but all kidding aside, we get all enamored with fun things. How many are into American Idol or America's Got Talent - AGT, and you're like, "Ooh, that was so cool." And this one guy was flipping my... I know you're watching the game, but watch this, and I had to watch something. And it was fun, it was cool, but I went back to the game. And so you see these things and you're like enamored with it and you're like, "Wow, that's pretty cool. I didn't think he could do that." And that's awesome. And I remember in high school, for me, awesome became a vocabulary word that was used for any other things beyond spiritual things, and just became part of our normal vocabulary. And I remember people saying, you know, we really are not appropriately using that word, and we really should reserve that for God. And the point was, we are losing our awe of an awesome God. And I think we can get that way. And we just sort of take for granted the grace of God that's in our life, instead of thinking about it and living with it and talking with God about it.
So how do we do this? How do we get to this practicing or constantly talking with God? And let me give you some practical ideas from God's word. The base text was Psalm 105:4, but really there's going to be several. And if you want to write them down, you can get my notes online so that you can look at them. This is more of like walk through the Bible a little bit today, not just one particular passage like we've done in the last several weeks. But the number one thing I would say is, first of all, practice talking with God all the time. Practice it! Just practice talking with God all the time.
It says in 105:4, "Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His face always." When you want to get somebody's attention, what do you say? Look at me, look at me, right here. Look! Hey, you in the back, look at me." I'm kidding. Isn't that what we do, right? I mean, if I'm watching, again, let's go back to the game. And my wife wants to tell me something, right? "Uhhuh, Uhhuh, Uhhuh. I'll wait till the commercial." Or "Oh, wait a minute. Yes, what would you like?" I mean, if you don't have my eyes, you don't have my attention. If you don't have my face, you don't have my attention. Seek God's face always. Seek His face, seek a personal walk and walk conversation with Him.
Brother Lawrence was a brother who his name was Nicholas originally. And in the - let's see, when was this? Way back in 17th century, something like that way back when, before you and I were born. And at the end, he joined a monastery. Actually this is way back 14th century, actually. That's what it's. And he began this journey of working in the kitchen. He never had a title. He never had any kind of notoriety as a leader appointed. And yet, he began to walk with God so much so that people would come to him, looking for advice on how to walk with God, how to practice the presence of God. And it said, despite his humble position, his reputation attracted many visitors from the outside who sought spiritual guidance. And it would later become, and even as survived today in English translations, the practice of the presence of God. And in his book, he talks about the idea that we need to practice his presence always. We can make our heart a chapel where we can withdraw from time to time and commune with him in meekness, humility, and love. And who are we? We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. But what he's saying is you don't have to go to a church building to talk to God.
Some people haven't. During the week, they'll come in here and they'll come down to the ultra. I've seen it done a few times where they'll come in and pray. I sometimes come down and pray. I'll often, since my office is right across from the balcony, I'll just come into the balcony and I'll just spend a few moments and get away. There's nobody else that usually is in here certain times of the day, and it's just a nice, quiet place to be. But you don't have to be in church to pray. You don't have to be in your quiet spot to pray. At home I have some spots picked out that really work well for me. When I'm on vacation, I often, if I'm going to be somewhere for a whole week, I think of where I can go, where nobody really sees me, it's not like - I don't want to make a big show about it, where I get my Bible, my journal, and I'm just alone with God. And boy, when I'm at the beach, man, I find that the balcony is one of my favorite spots to be. And then sometime out on the beach somewhere alone in the morning time. But I just find that spot, but you don't have to have a spot to talk to God. You don't have to get to that spot. While you're getting to that spot, talk to Him while you're going there. Just a thought.
And when Jesus was on this earth and He was teaching us how to pray, He used... remember the model prayer. It's just the Lord's prayer, but it's really our prayer that the Lord gave us - our father, which art in heaven. Our dad, the most intimate way to talk about your father on earth was the word that Jesus said we ought to use when we're addressing a holy God. Dad, here I am again. Dad, look at that sunset you made for me. Dad. Now, I still say father, I still, there's a reverence in my mind and heart for that, but however, in a most respectful way, but in a most intimate way, what do you say when you talk to God when you start talking to Him. Think of it as you're talking to him face-to-face, and you're in an intimate relationship with Him. As you're a follower of Jesus, you already are in that intimate relationship with Him - live in it in your walk with Him in prayer.
Number two, practice thinking about God in His ways. In Romans 8:56, it says, "Those who live according to the spirit, have their mind set on the things of the spirit." We need to practice thinking about what God has already said. I already mentioned that earlier that the word of God is God speaking to us. If you've read the Bible, actually, you heard the word proclaimed in Psalm 139 today. You've all heard from God today. I'm not telling you; you already heard from God, because he spoke it through His word, it is for us today. And so Bible reading, Bible learning, that's why we have connection groups. And by the way, please be thinking about where you're going to go this next semester to get involved. And somehow, having some intake of God's word around some other people who are doing it with you, taking the journey together, to hear from God in a fresh way this week, or this semester as you move forward in your Christian walk.
Godly people give us insight into what God is saying so that we can be thinking about the things of God, keep your mindset on the spirit of God, because when you aren't thinking about God, you're probably thinking about something other than God. And when you're in something other than God, it usually leads to not so good, or at least takes you to the cusp of it. And you turn around and say, "Oh God, that wasn't the right thing to do. Help me help me!" Which leads me to the next point. Number three is, let's get desperate about this. Let's make this like, you know, like if you don't brush your teeth, your teeth will rot out. If you don't take your medicine, your blood pressure goes up and you die. If you don't get something going with your heart stuff, you're going to drop dead. If you don't fix this diabetes, or if you don't fix this blood sugar, you you're going to be in a lot of pain and start losing appendages in your body.
Now, we hear this from doctors all the time and give or take, we decide to do what they tell us to do. I know that, but we ought to be as desperate spiritually as we are physically. This is suicide prevention month, by the way. And I pray that we will be proactive as a family of God and you as individuals, as we move forward and help people to think of finding better solutions than the permanent one that they are trying to make that have, and if that's something that you're going through right now, and you're struggling with, please reach out to somebody before you leave today because I just can't imagine what you must be bearing if that's true. And we want you to know that you're not alone in bearing that burden and we want to help you.
But just as we believe that people ought to get desperate for their mental health, they ought to get desperate for their physical health; we need to get desperate for our spiritual health because Jesus himself said, you can do nothing without me. What part of nothing do you not understand? You can do nothing without me. That means I can tie my shoes without Jesus. No, He gave you the dexterity to tie your shoes. He gave you the freedom to sit down and tie them before the bear attacked you. I don't know whatever it is. That's a bad joke. I mean, You can't do anything without Him. And the moment I start to think I can is when I'm in the danger zone. We got to get desperate about this. This talking with God is not something we just, "Well, that's good for the pastor."
I want you to know something long before I was a pastor, long before people said you ought to go into pastoral ministry, long before I went and started pursuing what I do with my life vocation. This was a big deal to me. And I'm not tooting a horn; I'm just saying I couldn't live without the presence and help of God in the multiple circumstances that I faced. In high school and college, I needed a personal relationship walk with God to get through and to navigate all of the problems, pitfalls, temptations, and to get out of the consequences of falling into temptation. I needed Jesus to walk with me. I needed to walk with Jesus. So this isn't something that, "Oh, the pastor cooked up a good idea for us to get better." No, no, no. This is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.
We got to get desperate about this. Paul Miller in his book, "A Praying Life," he says, "A praying life isn't simply a morning prayer time. It's about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day. Not because we're disciplined, but because we're in touch with our poverty of spirit; realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the spirit of Jesus." I admire people who have a ritualistic, and I mean that in a very most positive sense, disciplined of spending time with God at a certain hour, at a certain time at a certain place every single day.
And my goal and my life pattern has been to spend time with God every single day in devoted, dedicated moment, not just spontaneous. I've never been one that's been the very same time, very same place every single day. My life schedule hasn't worked that way, and my brain isn't wired that way. That's just how it is. But I certainly admire that. And I certainly believe what I just said a routine of regularly getting with God privately alone each day is very integral part of our life. I'm talking about something a little beyond that, and that's just the ongoing walk and talk with God, after that and before that. We got to get desperate.
What's another thing we need to do this morning is we need to leverage difficult circumstances. Now, this is one that I can honestly say I don't have as strong or as experiential ability to tell you how to do this. But it does say in Romans 12:1 that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrificed. And I didn't put that on the notes here, but in 2 Corinthians 12, it was Paul himself who said that, "Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me, but He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness.'" And then Paul goes on to say; "Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ power might reside in me. So I take pleasure in what, in weaknesses, insults hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong."
I have prayed with, and I'm continuing to pray for people that have physical pain for God to heal them. And there's some people in my life that I wonder is God not allowing the pain to go away for a reason. I don't get it. I don't understand. I'm not talking about people that, you know, they abuse their bodies their whole life, and they were just all it. And now they've got something going on because of the consequences of a horrible habit. I'm talking about people that just going through pain, or their job experience, and they just can't get over the pain. And I don't get it, and I want God to relieve them of it. But I do know this, that when we leverage, when we use the pain in our lives as a way to boast about the power of God in our lives, it changes us and it transforms people around us.
There are people I have met whose spiritual lives are at a pinnacle, in my opinion, only God's judgment is best. And they've been some of the most suffering people I've ever met. There was a young man that was having some problems in a previous church of mine. He was a teenager and he is going through some issues and he couldn't quite come to grips with it. And I knew what he was talking about. And I'm not here to belittle his problems, but they weren't that big of a deal. They were, and from a teenager, it was a big deal. I get it. But I wasn't a teenager, so maybe that's a little cynical. I don't know.
Anyway, and I was just thinking, you know, he's just complaining, but I didn't know for sure. I said, "Okay, I'll meet with you. But how about if we meet after I have a visit, will you come with me to a visit?" Sure. So he comes with me. We showed up to a homebound family, and this man didn't know I was coming, because it's usually spur the moment. He's a little tiny duplex. And his wife said, "Oh, he'll come out in just a minute." And just a minute was 10 minutes from getting just for the bedroom, which was like by that window to the living room. And maybe that's even further than we're talking about. And he had the walker; he's just wheezing and coughing and had this oxygen tube that was pumping oxygen into his nose so that he could barely have enough from his COPD. And he just laboring so hard to get to the chair. And he finally gets to the recliner and he blops down and you know, like I'm finding myself going, "Oh," when I sit down - he went, "Ooohh" when he sat down. I mean, you're thinking; he's about ready to tell you about all his problems, aches and pains, his arthritis, COPD, his legs that are giving out.
And he turns and looks at us and goes, "Isn't God awesome?" And he launches into this testimony of how good God was and what he'd heard from them this morning. And he'd heard a preacher on a cassette tape. This is how far back it was. And he said, "Man, I'm telling you what, I'm just so fired, I wish more people love Jesus the way I love Jesus." And we had a grand time and he ever been with somebody that you go to there to be a blessing and you are more blessed back by them? That was us in this moment. And we sit there and we're listening to him and he's just pouring out good things about God. And I prayed for him and we left and got in the car and we're driving down a road. And I looked at the teenager and I said, "So what'd you want to talk about?" And he goes, "I'm fine."
Perspective! You get around somebody who's suffering that has the spirit of Christ in them. And they're leveraging that suffering to the glory of God. It changes you as much as it's changing them. I pray that we would leverage. Now, I'm not saying that we - I pray against it, but Brother Lawrence, the guy that everybody went to, right, "Practicing the Presence of God". I do not pray that you'll be delivered from pain. Come on brother. Brother! But I earnestly pray to God that he will give you strength and patience to bear the pain. Comfort yourself in Him who hold you fastened to the cross. He will free you when he thinks it is the right time. Happy are those who suffer with Him, accustom yourself to suffer in this manner, seek strength from Him to endure the pain for as long as he thinks necessary.
He had crippling pain so much so that he had to basically walk like this, and then he worked in the kitchen and he'd have barrels of whatever it is that he had the potatoes that he'd have to put on the cart. This was back in the horse and buggy day. And he would literally just labor. It would take him all day just to go to the market to get things, to take it back to the monastery. And he never complained about it. Although he said it was horrible, but he lived this practice in his life, discovering the presence of God more keenly in the midst of his pain.
We say around here, God doesn't waste a hurt. There are hurts and pains that you've experienced that I never have. And when I'm walking with somebody that's going through a similar circumstance like yourself, I usually try to connect them with you. And if you find someone going through a circumstance like mine, connect them with me. But the body of Christ together can walk together and bear one of those burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Leverage your difficult circumstances to say, "God, I need you more than ever." Couple more here before we go.
"We obviously need to be confessing and turning away from our sins. Therefore, since we have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us." There are times when we don't pray. Why? Because we haven't confessed what we know we shouldn't have done. We're distanced from God spiritually. I mean, if you're at odds with a friend or an acquaintance, you usually avoid them until you get it right. You don't want to be around them because you've sinned against them. And it's a two way street. Maybe they've sinned against you. So, you know in human relations, when there's problems between us, we don't have connection and community. And that is, we're not talking about that you've lost your relationship with God if you're a Christian; it's just that, you know, my dad is my dad. He's always will be my dad. Thank God he's still alive, and I have times with mom and dad and they're still with me, but like going back to that time when you're not doing the right thing, you're not around your parents; you don't want to be around them until you get right with them.
And it's the same with our heavenly father. Just when you mess up, fess up. Before you go to bed at night, just say, "God, did I mess up today?" He'll tell you, he'll show you - I can testify. "God, I think I had a pretty good day. What do you think, God?" No, not so good. And not to be beat up, but to get it right, to clear the air, to confess and get going. Confess and turn from sin. And then that scripture goes on to say that we need to focus on Jesus. As we confess our sin, we lay it aside, let us keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfector of our faith. Some translations - fixing your eyes on Jesus.
I'm not talking about a bracelet that says what would Jesus do. We had the WWJDs, but it's what would John do? Our elder - I'm kidding. No, we don't do. But no, it's not what would Jesus - what did Jesus do? What is Jesus doing? Where is Jesus taking us? If our home is eternity, do we have our eyes on the end or are we just focused on our circumstances? When I'm talking with God, I'm thinking not just about what this moment means for me right now; I'm praying about what God wants for me in the midst of this to be for there. So I'm not talking to God about just, "Oh, will you fix this problem?"
You know, I remember one time I lost - I had a bicycle. It was a really nice bicycle. I just pick it up and go. Now I just look at bicycles, but I used to ride them back then. And Greg is making fun of me. I've got one in my office upstairs that I haven't quite gotten out to use much. But I had this really nice bicycle. I had paid good money for it in high school. Took it to college, and I had a rinky-dinky, little lock on it. Well, the rinky-dinky little lock, and it was gone. I was so mad. Oh, somebody stole my bicycle. And I went in to give a report and they just laugh at you because, you know, in college that's just a normal theft, and it's just a big deal. No big deal to them because it happens. It was a big deal to me. That's a lot of money.
And I've lost more things than that in life. Or I've had something broke down that I thought was just fine and I had to fix it, and I had took a lot of money to fix it. And I'm thinking to myself, I've kind of gotten to the point where occasionally, after I get over the flesh part of, I can't believe this is happening. Well, I guess Lord, if that's how you want me to spend my money, I guess that's how I got to spend it because it's your money anyway. I guess if you didn't want me to have that bicycle - now, could I have been wiser in locking it up better? I have learned to do that. But the point is, in the midst of a situation, this circumstance in light of eternity, what are you talking to God about? Are you talking to God about the circumstance and oh-me-oh-my pity party, which is not a habit. Please have it in front of God. Talk to Him about it, but fix your eyes on Christ and say, "God, in the midst of what I don't like right now, how can you help me make leverage this in a good way because I know where I'm going is more important than where I am. Help me, Jesus. I need some help."
And finally, this morning, this is more personal - make it personal. I don't know how you're going to apply this exactly, but I will say this morning that you need to talk with God like He's your best friend. He ought to be your best friend. Talk with God in your own daily routine; whatever that works for you, do that. Keep your eyes open if you're driving or walking. Use social media to pray and talk to God. Use the news stories to talk to God. Use whatever is routinely already in your life as moments to get to God because He's right with you already. There's no place you can go where He is not. And there is nothing that is too small that He wants to talk to you about.
Consider breath prayers, like the one that is the famous one. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. One phrase, oh God, you are my God and I ever praise you. That's actually a song, but I sing that. I say that out loud. God, you are awesome. God, I love you. God, thank you for coming into my life. That's just a breath prayer. Thanks for promising to finish what you started. Think of promises of God and just let those be one sentence promises back to God.
Incorporate something and somehow some way so that you're not just routinely doing it here, which is important, but you're in a relationship way you're continually doing it. Just like you would if you're married, you don't routinely say, "Well, you know you and I have a 45 minute, maybe some days, 10 minutes together, and then the rest of the day I'm not talking to you." That doesn't work so well in a marriage in case you were trying that. And it doesn't work so well in our relationship with God.
So let's rate ourselves; team, come on forward. We're going to sing one last song, and I want to see where you're at with this. One to five, five being you're hitting on all cylinders but we still need to grow, and one I'm not so good at what's going on. Number one, if you're a one today, you have no meaningful relationship with God at all. You really don't have a walk with God. You may have made some sort of a decision, but you don't have any prayer life, you don't have any spontaneous desire to talk to God. If you do come to church, it's more ritualistic, and you're one, and just be honest about it. And I pray this morning, my goal and prayer is to walk with people and help them get beyond that. And so, if that's where you're at, please put on your connection card, "I want to know more about having a walk with God." Or "I want to want to, I don't want to, and I need to know how to want to." Let's talk about that. I love talking with people who are far from God to get close to God.
Number two, I'm a two this morning. That means I have no meaningful conversation with God. I claim to be a follower of Christ, but I really don't have meaningful conversations. They're more formal. They're more what I call they're King James-ish. You know, I just kind of go into this formal mode, but I don't really have a personal talk with God. And this morning, I hope that you'll take some of these principles and start applying a few of them to your life that you might get a little bit further along in that journey.
Number three, I talked to God some. You're three, I talked to God some. I can't remember how many times this week, but I did. I talked to God. Maybe you're a four. I talk with God daily. Every day I talk with God. But here's the five; I talk with God many times a day, not just in a formal moment. And that's the part I'm talking about, where you're just letting this flow of conversation be with God; not just in this prayer closet, which is important, but beyond our private time into the public arena of where we live and work and breathe, in our relationships, in our situations, in our cars, while we're on the internet, and all the areas of our life we're just talking with God constantly.
God has got another scripture, Jesus says this - and I believe it's to the believers, although I think unbelievers need to hear it too. What did Jesus say? I stand at the door and I knock, and whoever opens the door, I'll come in and I'll eat with them. Eating with people, intimacy, fellowship, relationship conversation. Jesus is knocking on the door. He's just asking to come in. He's not barging in. I'm not here to berate you if you haven't done this. I'm gently reminding you that the God of heaven, desperately desires to walk with you in a personal way. Will you trust him?
Outro: Thank you for joining us today here at St. Joe Community Church. And please consider this your formal invitation to join us personally each Sunday for morning worship services. We meet every Sunday at eight 30 and 10:30 AM. The 10:30 service is broadcasted live from the St. Joe homepage at stjoecommunitychurch.org. Even better, we'd love to have you visit in person. St. Joe is located at 2,900 North Anthony Boulevard, located just a few blocks south of the Purdue Fort Wayne University campus. Thanks again for joining us, and we hope to see you next week. Bye for now.
Produced by Resermon - on the web at www.resermon.com.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
August 7, 2022
God’s letter to our church
-The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this letter
-2 Peter 1:21b “men spoke from God as they were carried
along by the Holy Spirit”
-2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired (breathed) by God…”
-Read Belief Statement on “The Scriptures”
-Three questions when reading the Bible:
-What did it mean to the people who first received it?
-What are the timeless principles
-How must we apply those timeless principles in our current
Reputation inside the church 1 Thes 4:9-10a
-Paul complimented them on their family love
-Phileo- brotherly/family love
-This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the NT: Rom 12:10; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7
“Taught by God to love one another”
-God-taught, evidence of the Holy Spirit
-Hebrews 8:10-11 We have God’s laws written on our hearts
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20 We are the temple of the Holy Spirit
-love: agape, unconditional love
-1 Cor 13; Matt 22:37-39; John 13:34-35
“the entire region”
-Our love must extend to other believers in other churches!
-Our church networks with regional, state, and national
churches to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!
-Our church must love other churches in our city!
-We may agree to disagree on methods and specific beliefs
-We must always respect other churches, work with them
when we can
Reputation outside the church vs 10b-12
“do this even more”
-building our reputation never ends!
-one poor decision can erase a lifetime of good decisions
“seek to lead a quiet life”
-don’t give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church!
-1 Peter 2:12- conduct yourselves honorably…
-The gospel is always offensive, Christians must never be!
-Paul may be telling them to stay under the political radar
-Context matters: they had no rights, we live in a Republic
-we are personally responsible to elect our leaders
-Jeremiah 29:7 Pray for the well-being of our city!
“mind your own business”
-Stop trying to fix people around us!
-Stop expecting unbelievers to behave like believers
-We are powerless to live a godly life without Jesus
-Paul is not saying we aren’t accountable to other believers
-Paul OFTEN told the church to correct sinful believers
“work with your own hands”
-Jewish mindset: manual labor is honorable and expected
-Greek mindset: manual labor is slavish, demeaning
-Paul’s pattern: full time support, part-time, voluntary
-2 Thes 3:10-13 don’t work = don’t get free food!
-Genesis 1:28 Humans are required to take care of creation!
“so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone”
-Why would people want to follow Jesus if His followers have poor reputations for getting along with outsiders and freeloading on people???
Do you naturally love other believers?
-Only Jesus can change our hearts to love correctly! Trust Him!
Do you have a good reputation outside of our church?
-A double life offends God and hinders our church’s mission!
St Joe Community Church’s Belief about the Bible
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
This letter to Thessalonians was written by Paul, but it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. And our particular subject matter today is Reputation Matters. It matters what the body of Christ is like inside the church, and it matters what people think of the body of Christ outside the church. And in these short few verses, we're going to unpack both of those things. We're going to talk about our love for one another in the body of Christ and our reputation, the way we act and live outside of the body of Christ. This is God's letter to our church. This isn't just a letter that was written to the Thessalonian. It's a letter that God gave to us. God inspired Paul and we've have some Bible studies that we've gone over that, and I'd be more than happy to sit down with you or others and our leaders in our church that can help you understand more carefully, this idea that - this understanding that this isn't just some history book; it's God's book for you and for me.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul, just as in 2 Peter 1, it says that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3, all scripture is inspired by God. It's God breathed is what is says in that passage of scripture. We as a church, believe that the word of God is without any mixture of error, the perfect record of what God wants, not just for the time period that He gave it to, but for all time periods, until Jesus comes again and even into eternity, His words will never pass away. In fact, we know that the word of God from the Old Testament, as it proclaimed and as the New Testament, as it revealed, it all points to one person and who is that? Jesus. It all points to one person, the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, Jesus Christ.
He was the word in the flesh. He is the final word for our faith and practice. And so is the word of God. As we study it together, we figure out what was it that Paul was saying, particularly to the people. So when we, when you're studying the Bible, you always say, what did the original hearers think about what was said? What was it like for them? Paul wrote in one letter, he said, "You know have somebody bring my coat to me." He obviously left this coat somewhere. Some of you do that here. And so he sent a letter and he says, "Hey, I need my coat. I'm kind of cold." Now, that wasn't obviously something... that was a particular thing. It was a personal request in the midst of a letter that God wrote to us, but that's, you know, take people, their coats. I don't know.
But in other words, that was some particular thing, but in the middle of that letter, and throughout that letter, there are timeless principles. So you have what it was it like back in how did they receive it. What are those timeless principles that were true for that church and for our church? That's the bridge from them to us. What does it mean to us today? What are the truths that will always be true that we must always think about? And then a Bible study, a sermon, anything that we do, it's not just about educating us about something, but about helping us to learn how to be different, how to apply it to our lives. How do I apply that to my life right now? What am I going to do about it? How am I going to live this out in my day-to-day life until I go home to Jesus or Jesus comes, whichever comes first?
It's God's letter to the church because it was timeless principles that will always need to be applying to our lives. Paul, in this letter is narrowing down. We talked last time about being pure in our lives, living a pure life. And now he's centering on the concept of family relationships in the church, spiritual family, the body of Christ. And so, I'm going to unpack it verse at a time, but I want to read the first couple of verses starting in verse nine, Paul says about brotherly love, "You don't need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you're doing this toward all the brothers and sisters in the entire region of Macedonia." The reputation inside the church is important. We need to center on what the inside of this church is like. Our reputation inside here matters. And what does that reputation centered upon? It's centered upon our love for one another. Brotherly love! Brotherly love! Sisterly love you could say as well. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It's family love. We need to care about one another.
And Paul says, you don't need to tell, I don't need to tell you how to do this, you're doing it. And I would say in testimonies even this week, when someone's saying how they have been loved on by our church family in practical ways, I hear this a lot. So-and-so came by to see us or such--and-such, or this was given to us, or we had this situation and we were just encouraged, or we were stopped and we got a text message from somebody, or something happened. I see people loving each other on Facebook, where they like or love or happy anniversary or happy birthday, and that can be a very superficial thing. But then that just investment in caring about what somebody else is going through, that's love.
And I will say I'm very grateful to serve and to be the pastor of a church that knows how to do this as well. Just as Paul said about them, I would say to you, I don't have to tell you about this, you're doing it. Oh, keep on doing it. It's good stuff. This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the New Testament; Romans 12, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1, 2 Peter 1. This is a common word for loving one another as family.
Now I didn't mean that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't like each other. Sometimes we don't like what each other do. We have differences of an opinion, which means you're wrong and I'm right. That's what opinion means, right? I mean, don't tell me you guys don't always - that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't. Some of you don't always like me. Maybe someone still doesn't like me. Oh, my feelings are hurt. It bothers me a little bit. Okay, don't I get you. Anybody that doesn't care what people think about them, there's something wrong with them. That's not cool. Everybody cares what people think about in some way, shape or form it. But love supersedes the like moment. Love says I'm going to lean into this person and see where they're at and help them and maybe go the extra mile and humble myself and say, how was I part of us getting sideways ways. We do the hard, heavy lifting, because we love one another we're family.
Someone say, we're all we got. Come on. Let's go after this. Some of you have even said, you love your spiritual family, and you find love from your spiritual family, more than your own physical family. In fact, some churches shy away from calling the church, a family because of the brokenness of so many families of the people that they're reaching for Jesus. They just don't. They don't get what that model and say, "Well, if you're a family, I'm in a family and I don't want that I'm coming here for not that. That's not what we mean and I hope you know that. This is like, oh, when I was pastoring my first church and I'm like, what? Late twenties, mid-twenties, and I got men in my church that are in their seventies. They've forgotten more scripture than I've learned. They've been after this a long time. They've got grandkids my age, and I'm supposed to be their leader? Defer to them as fathers in the ministry.
Please think of your tiny, your young pastor as a son in the ministry. Family love enables you to get through that chronological struggle in the family of God, so that a young leader can still be leading in a respectful familial way. That's the way it ought to be. You know, Bray, he acts a lot older than he looks. He's a young guy, but he's a mature young man, and he's going to lead people twice his age. And he already does in some situations. He does it in this room when he is leading us for worship. And he's due this respect that he's due because of what he does. But in no way is he going to say, "Well, I'm the leader, here's how it is." No, he's a brother in Christ. And he's a son in the ministry to some who could be his earthly father like me. And so, we have a spiritual family love for one another.
We need to have brotherly love. And Paul says, and you were taught by God to love one another. This taught by God - God-taught. It's one word - it's kind of a combination of words in Greek, which means there's an evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person when they're loving somebody supernaturally. Supernatural love causes us to go the extra mile for people when we don't feel like it. This taught by God moment, this is like - God... when the Holy Spirit comes into you and I, when we become a Christian, God writes the law of God on our hearts. This is no longer an external rule for us to follow. It's an internal drive that makes us want to. He changes our want-to. This is not a reformation. It's a transformation. This is not getting an upgraded software on our computer. It's an incredibly new hardware. It changes our heart makes it soft, makes us want to do the right thing. And when someone doesn't have that evidence in their lives, I wonder if they have a religion instead of a relationship. We need to make sure that as we're doing this, we're not trusting in ourselves. We're trusting in the one within us that's helping us to do this very thing.
I said a couple of weeks ago in 1 Corinthians 6, that we're the temple of the Holy Spirit, that's why we don't defile the temple we're living in. We're defiling God, himself, as the [hope11:43], the person that we're hosting within us when we do things that are unholy with our lives and our bodies. But then he says, you're taught by God to love one another. He switches words; love one another is actually the word love in this passage, in this particular verse is the word agape, which means unconditional, no strings attached kind of love; love that's not expecting something in return. [Unclear12:08] of love is that give and take. I love you, you love me, we kind of have this mutual partnership of love, but agape love is loving without any kind of expectation of a return on the love that you invest in that person.
You know, it's sort of like when you give a gift to somebody for their birthday, and then when your birthday comes around, they don't give you a gift. Well, that's not how the rules are played. If I give you chocolate, you give me chocolate. Karen, I bring you a donut, you bring me a donut on Friday morning, right? That's how that works. We have family love. Agape love says, Karen brings me a donut all the time and I never bring her one and she's still happy. She actually still would be because she's that kind of person. She's more spiritual than I am. But seriously, that's what agape love is. It says I'm giving you full love and care, and I'm not expecting anything in return. Who did that for us? It's a simple answer every time I ask you this morning. What's the Bible all about? And who gave us agape love? Jesus - every single time. It's Jesus! Who lives within us; the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ lives in us to show us how to love one another unconditionally, the way Christ loves us. That unconditional love was exemplified in 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 22, John 13. And Paul says, you're not only loving one another in your local church, but you love is expanding to people throughout the region of Macedonia. What's the practical principle here? We need to love Christians besides just the ones that go to St. Joe.
We had a handful of people from out of town today that were visiting family. We got love on them, they got love on us. That's just how it goes. When people come here and are visiting, we love on them as they go back to somewhere else - when we are on vacation, we go to a church and that church is a church that's in love with Christ and love with people. It's a natural byproduct that they're going to love the people that come alongside and aren't going to be there all the time. Here's another byproduct of loving people; loving other churches around us and other Christians to go to other churches. I mean, I'm kind of personal to ours, but I'm telling you, there's some other good churches around here and you need to be up on everybody. And we don't need to be up on things that aren't right about things. But I'm just saying, you know, we are going to agree to disagree on things, specific things that we might do, and that's what makes each local church unique. But it doesn't mean, and it doesn't mean we are allowed to bypass loving one another. We got to love one another.
You know how many churches loved on us over the 20 years of our existence? 20 years ago, coming up in October 20 years ago, November actually, we had our first membership class in the basement of Cavalry Baptist church on St. Joe Center Road. We had organizational meetings in other churches because we didn't have a church building. We had churches that let us borrow baptismal tanks. We learned how to take a baptismal tank through a 36 inch door and bring it into the Carmike Movie Theater down by the screen so that we could baptize people, and then we put big old plastic out, big tarps out so that when people sloshed, when the pastor sloshed them we'd be able to clean it up better. And we had churches that let us borrow that. We built one, then we gave that away to somebody else and we got a building, but we've had dozens of churches. When we've had church meetings we needed a building, when we had weddings and funerals. And by the way, let's have a moment of silence for the place we can no longer visit, Carmike Movie Theater.
We have a couple over here that renewed their valves right there in Carmike Movie Theater. How many here got baptized at Carmike? Anybody here? Couple people did, maybe a few. I mean, it was a special place for us. If you've been there recently for a movie, it ain't so special now, but probably why it closed. But it kind of hit me like, wow, there's a lot of spiritual stories that took place there. But while we were there, we could only be there on Sunday morning, and other churches opened their doors to us. Blackhawk Ministries tapped us into a worship leader that we had for a few years. And we even used their choir room, their practice room for our band to practice on certain nights of the week. We had a key to the back door to Blackhawk Ministries down the street from us here. We had churches that gave us literature for our vacation Bible school or Bible study materials. They recycled the materials by giving it to us.
We had all kinds of people serving us and encouraging us. Why wouldn't we want to do the same for them and others? Thousands of churches voluntarily gave financially through the North American Mission Board so that I could be a full-time pastor right out the gate, the first three years of our existence 20 years ago. They loved on us. We got letters, cards, people praying for us, we benefited, and my prayer is that we will pass that love on to others for the rest of our existence until Jesus comes. And we'll do the same - loving on other churches, respecting other churches and working with them when we can and caring for the body of Christ, big church, even as we're taking care of business in this church. May our love bleed into all areas of Christian contact with other believers in the region and in the world.
And then, Paul kind of moves to a different type of reputation; that's the reputation inside the church. Now let's look at the reputation outside of the church, and he kind of in the middle of verse 10 - and by the way, the verses in chapters, Paul didn't do that in his letter. That'd be kind of weird, wouldn't it? But later on in history, people who were copying the Bible started putting these chapters and verses in here so that we could find each verse place in the Bible more carefully. And in the middle of verse 10, it sort of changes gears even though it's in the same verse, according to the way they organized it. But it's a different thought, because he starts looking outside. He said, "But we encourage you brothers and sisters to do this even more." And what does he mean by that? Verse 11, "To seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands as we commanded you." And verse 12 was the results, "So that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone."
So what's he saying here? So the reputation inside the church is important. We need to show love for one another. But on the outside of the church, we need to be respected for the way we live our lives. Do this even more - building reputation never ends. One poor decision can cancel a lifetime of good decisions. People get fired overnight for stupidity, even though they may have done a long history of doing good things up until that moment. Old men and women lose their godly influence in churches when they get bitter and hardened in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors about my age get to that midlife and we go, is it really worth it? And we start slacking, and suddenly our decisions become kind of mundane and routine. And suddenly we're on the path of losing the reputation that we gained when we were zealous and energetic. There is never a moment when we're not building our reputation to outsiders for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The moment we can let down our guard about reputation is the moment we take our last breath on this earth. I'll rephrase my favorite movie phrase, "Reputation never takes a holiday" Mall Cop. Okay. Anyway, safety never takes a holiday. Okay, never mind. Maybe it's too old of a movie.
Do this even more. What's he telling them to do? Seek to lead a quiet life. And what's he saying here? Don't give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church. Two things turn people away from the church. What is it? Usually their own problems, circumstances, physical illness, they'll say, "Well, who's God, he's going to do this to me or whatever" and then people in the church who do things bad to them or look like they don't get along. I mean, if we are bickering and fighting, who wants to be in this church? But if we're living a [duclicit21:40] life, who wants to be in this church? Well, they may practice it there, but they're not preaching... they preach it there, but they're not practicing it in their own homes.
Now, a wayward believer is no excuse for any believer to reject Jesus. When someone goes before God and he says, why did you reject me? They're going to say, "Well, Jimmy, over there was a screw up for the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, he was a really poor example and he really turned me off to you." That ain't going to cut it. We're all standing guilty before God, needing holy God to forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ, so there's no excuse for this. However, there's no excuse for us to give anyone a reason to not want to follow Jesus by our behavior and lifestyle outside the church.
There is one thing that ought to always be offensive to a person, and it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, by nature, we do not want to be told we're wrong, right? Do you like to be told you're wrong? How many of you love being told you're wrong? And the gospel tells us we're wrong. That we're sinners and we need forgiveness. We can't earn our way into heaven. We must trust in the work of Jesus Christ and what he did to pay for our sins. We have to trust that. And it goes against the grain of human nature; it goes against the grain of humanity, generally. It goes against the grain of America that says pull yourself up by your bootstraps because you didn't work hard enough. And I love the idea of the American dream around here, but I'm telling you what; when it comes to spirituality, the American dream is not what saves you. It's humbling yourself and admitting you need to be forgiven, you need to be changed; you need a change maker, Jesus in your life.
That is offensive. What you're doing is sinful and outside of God's boundaries, but God wants to forgive you; not justify what you're doing. So, we'll never get over that offensive truth. You and I, as a believer, had to face that offensive truth and receive it, accept it, and now live in it and understand it and appreciate it. God loved us too much to leave us where we found us, amen, but we should never be doing anything else in our lives that's so offensive. They may hear the gospel message through us and think that the gospel's not offending us or offending them; our personality is offending them. The way we're treating them is offending them. What we're doing is offending them and they mix the two up. And Paul says that ought never be. You need to lead a quiet life. "Conduct yourselves honorably," 1 Peter 2:12 says.
Now, Paul may have been saying stay under the radar politically, because right now remember we were persecuted. And if you listen to my other sermons, they had been persecuted so much so that Paul had to leave town quickly so that he didn't cause any more problems for them. And so, seek to lead a quiet life might have meant stay under the radar of the governmental affairs. Bless the city, but don't make a big deal about it.
Now, context matters. In our context, we are participants in this Republic and we have a responsibility, and I think we'll be answerable to God for how we used our freedom to choose who is elected and who's serving. And in fact, maybe we ought to serve and be a part of that. But the context in Paul's day had nothing to do with that. And by the way, we don't know for sure what Paul was saying about quiet life, so we don't even know if that's even what he meant, but that was something that is brought up occasionally when they look at this particular passage. We know way back in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were deported into a foreign city, and they thought, 'We're going to go back, we're going to go back." And Jeremiah says, "No, hang on. Build houses, plant gardens, pray for the wellbeing of the city within you." This is Jeremiah 29. Pray for the wellbeing of the city and do good and help that city prosper, the city you're in. So if you're planted here in Fort Wayne, make Fort Wayne better by the way, you live your life. Pray for Fort Wayne, invest yourself, do what you can do to make this place... bloom, where you're planted. I think we heard that from a speaker a couple weeks ago. Bloom where you're planted, make a difference where you are.
And then he says here, mind your own business. Stop trying to fix people around us. Now, men, I'm going to be honest, I'm a fixer. And your wives, if you're married, does not always need a fixer. Women, amen. Oh, I know I'm touching on toes here, but sometimes I have to ask my wife when she starts coming home with a problem from work or there's a problem from the school with the kids. And I'll say, "Okay," because used to be, I'd say, oh, I know how to fix that. I didn't, but I thought I did. And now I have to say, "I'm working on it. I'm getting better at it. I think." You can ask her later. Okay, is this something you want me to help you fix or I'm just here to walk alongside you with the problem? Most of the time, it's just walk alongside and listen. Occasionally she's like, yeah, I'd like some input, but ask permission.
And isn't that true with coworkers that aren't believers, you got all the answers, right? They're doing all kinds of crazy stuff and they're suffering the great, crazy consequences of it, and you have all the answers. You're like, well, you know, if you didn't do that, you wouldn't experience that. And you're like getting into their business. I never asked you. Now, there's a way to do that. You know, you can get alongside somebody, but you got to show them you love them and care about them before you start trying to fix them. I mean, and you're not there to fix them. You're there to be a conduit of God's blessing and love in their lives. You're not there to give them religion. You're there to connect them into a relationship. Mind your own business.
There's times when you just need to butt out. And quit trying to think that non-believers are going to act like believers. When you get ticked off by somebody at work, check yourself for a moment. Is this person following Jesus or not? No. All right, they don't have the intel inside like you have. They don't, so don't expect him to act like you're trying to act. And by the way, mind your own business. Paul is not saying in the church mind your own business; he's saying mind your own business as you're dealing with your affairs on the outside of the church. If that was the case, he's actually telling... he's getting in the church's business, telling them what to do in this passage. So we're not saying that we don't.... we're supposed to hold each other accountable.
Brothers and sisters, if you see your brother in sin, you're supposed to restore that person gently, but be careful because you might too also fall into that same temptation. We are supposed to hold each other accountable. We are supposed to get in each other's lives, and sometimes somebody's got to get in my face and say, "Greg you're being prideful, arrogant and foolish." Please do that if that's the case, because I don't want to suffer the consequences of being prideful, arrogant and foolish. That's what's signing up into the covenant relationship with the church is all about is I'm covenanting together to hold each other accountable to be like the body of Christ is supposed to be like to glorify Jesus Christ.
So, it's not talking - he's talking about more of an outside thing than he is the inside here. And then he says work with your own hands. He concludes with a conversation about working. Now, a Jewish mindset was that you would work with your hands; manual labor is an honorable and respectable thing. But in this Greek community and in the Greek mindset in general, working with their hands was demeaning or beneath them. Well, I imagine some of the people that were believers in Jesus Christ had lost their day jobs, their desk jobs, so to speak, and they're starting to have to work with their hands. There might have been a few that said, "Well, if Jesus is coming in any moment, what's the purpose in working?" Well, it's been 2000 years, He hasn't come yet.
I've never heard more clamor for the idea that Jesus is coming than I have in my lifetime than I have recently, maybe during the cold war era in the very, very, most tense moments of that in the early part of my life. But it's getting more and more that says, well, look - and we had our server last night at the Tin Caps, some of the guys went over there and she's from the Ukraine and she still got family over there, and we were talking about that. When I was at Whitewater rafting up in, - actually in Pennsylvania during our vacation three weeks ago. On the bus ride back to get to our cars, we were all crammed in together, and a Taiwanese student that was at Penn State, a PhD student was sitting next to me and she was talking about how China is.
I said, "Wow, you must be feeling a little tense right now." She says, "Yeah, we don't want China to get excited if Russia wins against Ukraine, they might get emboldened and come and invade us." It's a really scary moment in world events right now. And you probably have been reading in current times, there's some saber rattling, there's some missiles going over the top of Taiwan and some assertion of authority say, hey, you're one of us. And so, there's some crazy stuff going on. I says, was Jesus coming back, let's get this all cleaned up. It's Armageddon time. The chart on the wall says Jesus could come in any moment. The chart on the wall says He come any moment, but we do not know the times and dates.
Let's just say - I'm still putting away for my retirement in case he doesn't come back when I'm 75, okay. 80, 90, hopefully if I live that long. I still need a bank account. I still need to keep working. He might come back and that means nothing. Yay! But if he doesn't come back, I'm going to hurt if I quit my job. These guys might have thought no big deal. And Paul's like, "No, no, no, no. Keep working with your hands." In fact, in the second letter that he wrote to them, there were some people that were freeloading. And he says, 'If that person doesn't work, don't give them any food." Our reputation from outsiders should be that we're the hardest workers they've ever employed, amen, that we have the highest ethic of any employee that they have, amen. And that we are willing to go the extra mile, mind your own business, do the right thing, keep our head under the cover and just do the right thing. Stay under the radar. Don't try to be the Mr. Fix-it godly know-it-all with a big Bible that takes every five minute break to tell people about Jesus and not do their job.
Did pastors just say, don't tell them about Jesus? If you're being employed by somebody by the hour to do a particular thing, put a widget on a widget, for instance. And during the widget on a widget somebody says I want to know more about Jesus. If you can do that while you're widget on a widget, or you get your quota done, or you get your run finished and you have a break, go talk about Jesus. But if you say, "Oh, thank you, I'm going to be spiritual and get away from the widget on a widget and talk to you about Jesus," you're stealing from your employer. And what kind of a reputation is that? Your reputation is more than just talking to someone about Jesus. It's about your whole life. A person of integrity does the right thing and is an honorable worker in the workplace and a good witness for Jesus Christ when able and when their time permits to speak about Jesus.
But your authority to speak about Jesus will be granted to you when they see that Jesus is flowing into who you are and what you do. So this morning, I got a question. Do you believe that reputation matters? Because reputation matters. Bray is going to come up and sing one more song for us. He's going to help us sing one more song together. And I got a couple of questions before we end. Do you naturally love other believers? Do you have a reputation in our church for loving people? Only two reasons why that wouldn't be the case; one, you're a Christian in rebellion. Get right. There you go, we can go home now. Or I don't even know what that means. Find Jesus, He will show you how.
If you're looking for that relationship with Jesus Christ, I welcome you to put on your card today. I'd like to know more what it means to have this kind of love that you're talking about pastor, because I don't have it. But for you and I who are Christians, we know better. And if for our love isn't showing right now, it might be a recalibration moment for us to say it's time for us to say, God, I need more of what you want from me to be loving to people around me. And the next question I want to ask is do you have a good reputation among outsiders? Do the people outside our church know that you love Jesus and that you love them? I mean, I sometimes wonder if believers don't invite their friends who don't go to church to church because they don't look any different than their friends. That it would be foreign for them to hear from you something about God.
Now, I'm not saying, I believe that's true in this room. I'm just saying in general, our ability to help people find and follow Christ is based upon the reputation we have among people who don't know Him. And what's that like for you? I'm going to be honest. There are times when I'm working on the outside of this church and I do it a lot and you know that about me. I thrive on the edges of lostness, on the edges of crazy, on the edges of where people aren't yet following Christ. And it's really easy to start laughing at the jokes, even your pastor. It's easy sometimes to possibly once or twice change my language to fit where I'm at. And that ain't right either.
We chaplains can sometimes go into some dark humor moments with our fellow officers and first responders. And that really gets us through some of the worst crimes that you've ever seen in your life. But there's a line between dealing with it and disrespecting it. And I work on that, because I don't want my reputation to be that I'm just like them. I want my reputation to be that I'm representing Christ in their midst. I am the presence of Christ. Sometimes I never get to speak about Him, but I do want them to see Him, see Him through me. I pray that would be true for all of us and our reputation for Jesus.
Let's stand together. Let's just soberly, carefully, prayerfully and joyfully embrace what he would have for us. Reputation isn't built overnight. It can be lost overnight, but it isn't built overnight. And so for you this morning, you're like on an uphill climb and you're thinking, "I got so far to go, Greg, what are you talking about?" Well, the first step on any journey is the step you take today. So let's get on it. Let's take our step. Let's move forward. Let's talk to somebody. If we need some help, get a card and say I'd like some help. Talk to me, talk to your small group leader. Let's take that step and build our reputations by God's strength for His glory.
Church Health Check-up
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
July 3, 2022
Jesus is building His church
Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”
-Jesus is building his church
-Paul planted the church in Thessalonica under Christ’s
authority (Acts 26:12-18; Rom 1:1; Gal 1:1)
-the church is plan a; there is no plan b!
Acts 1:8 “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Jesus does not lie, we WILL be and ARE his witnesses
Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:2-23)
-Paul reminds the church that we follow Jesus, not men
-1 Pet 5:4 Pastors answer to the Chief Shepherd
-Hebrews 13:17 Pastors will answer to God for their work
A church must continually examine her spiritual health
-Celebrate changed lives- what Christ has already done
-Examine the spiritual health of believers
-Examine how well church is following Christ and His Word
-Pray for the church’s future until Christ returns
Church Health Check-up: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Check-up #1: How well do leaders care for the church?
-Paul cared deeply about their faith- a father’s heart
-He sent Timothy to check on them
-Paul wondered if they had survived persecution
-Real pastors and elders care deeply for the church
-they can control how they serve and what they teach
-they cannot control the final outcome! Just like parenting
-Every church leader must care deeply about the spiritual wellbeing of believers
-Every ministry (preaching, singing, property care, etc)
ultimately aims to build up believers!
-church leaders must never have personal agendas!
Check-up #2: What is the church’s current testimony?
-Timothy reported good news to Paul and his ministry team!
-They still appreciated their church planter
-They stood firm in their newfound faith despite persecution
-Their spiritual growth gave Paul joy and thankfulness
-Who is encouraged by our church’s testimony?
-how have we persevered through opposition and trials?
Check-up #3: A vision for more spiritual growth
-Paul prayed he would be allowed to be with them again
-Paul did return later!
-Believers must continually grow in their love for one another
-John 13:34-35; John 15:17
-Believers must become more blameless and holy
-We answer to God, not ourselves, feelings, the culture
-Believers look forward to Christ’s second coming!
-Every day is spent knowing it may be our last
-We continually confess and forsake sin, and re-surrender
constantly to our Lord and Savior who we will answer to for
What would our church health check-up reveal?
-Do our spiritual leaders really care about every believer?
-Are we growing despite cultural opposition?
-Do we overflow with love for one another?
-Are we becoming more blameless and holy as we await Christ’s return?
How must we grow our love for one another?
-keeping the main thing the main thing, forgiving one another
-serving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, ??
What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ?
-Trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
-Submit to God’s Word to change our attitudes and behaviors
-Live within the accountability of the local church community
-Connection Card, Discovering Church Membership Class
-Seek out our Prayer Team Today- in person or online
Well, we are back in 1 Thessalonian 3 now and continuing on. For some of you, you may have come the last two Sundays and said, who's that guy up there? I'm the pastor of St. Joe Community Church. I have been absent for two Sundays and my son got married the 18th, and we were out that weekend. And then we went straight to church camp with our kids on Monday, and then Friday, we turned everything around, including our laundry. My family did, and we loaded up in Saturday morning, my wife and I, and our kids went to Myrtle Beach to be with my mom and dad and my sisters and their families. So we've been out for this last week, enjoying the sunshine, some rain, but bad weather at the beach is still the beach, so we've had a great, great time.
And I'm just thankful for St. Joe and your support for our family to be able to get away and to do things that we do, and just enjoy family. I say work hard, play hard. And if you don't have time off to refresh and rejuvenate, then you need to find time if you can. Sometimes it's just finding that one day or two a week and try to protect time to just rejuvenate and grow and just rest. Just take lots of naps. I believe in naps. I just think it's great. Just awesome. Anyway, Jesus slept in a boat. I mean, I'm thinking, it was a storm, but He didn't care, He was asleep. Anyway, it was good. And thanks Jacobs Well, they're going to be with us this Sunday, next Sunday, the band, to help us worship while Brae is still on his mission trip in Brazil. And for those of you that are connected with him, I pray you'll continue to pray for him and hear his reports, and as our worship leader, prayerfully considers his future and what God has for him. And just appreciate young people saying, I've got time, I've got energy, I've got ambition, what does God want me to do with my life? Yay, that's the best question you could ask. And when you don't have a lot of responsibilities or newlyweds, like you got, go for it, go do something for God, go do something big.
Some people, they save up a bunch of money and then they take a year off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Bonita has a cousin that did that, and he just raised enough money for himself and went on the Appalachian Trail and did it, the whole thing, found his wife along the way. I mean, he found a girl that he married along the way, sorry, let's say that the correct way. And she was doing the same thing. And so, we quit and we invest to do all kinds of crazy stuff. And I think it's really important for us to invest and think about what does God want me to do and spend time thinking about that, especially you who are younger. And but for us who are whatever age we are, we need to keep thinking about that as well. But I'm thankful for our church. And I believe that as we think about that tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July, the birth of our nation or the celebration of our independence. Yeah, and we praise God for that. But you know what, the best thing we can do is to be the church that God wants for our nation. That's the best we can be.
We may have voted and everything went south and wrong in whatever we voted in the last 15, 20 years, it doesn't matter. God's in charge and He's building His church. He builds nations. He tears down nations, but He is always, and will it be about until Jesus comes again, building His church. The church is what has stood the test of time. Local churches come and go. Sometimes local churches last a long time. And sometimes churches last a short time, but God, Jesus Christ said, I will build my church, so today is a church health checkup. We're going to talk about in chapter three, how Paul is excited about wondering how they were, he hears the report of how they are, and then he praised for them in their future.
And we're going to use that as kind of a way of thinking about our church, because we, as a church, have much to offer the community of people around us. We have our faith, we have our convictions, we have our beliefs, we have our energy and time and talents. Just recently, and I am celebrating the 4th of July in a fresh way because we now have an opportunity to enact laws that protect the unborn. We as a pro-life church, and we praise God for that, and we celebrate that. We celebrate the fact that we have an opportunity to do something that I wasn't even sure would even be possible in my lifetime to turn the clock back on a culture of death, to maybe pursue a culture of life. However, even as we have made a legal maneuver that I think was strategic and thoughtful, and people were a part of that, and some people voted their conscience in order for that to happen, and I think God worked in all of that in all of those different ways, we have much to pray about as well.
So while we celebrate, we have a lot to pray about. Even one of our local churches was graffiti by pro-choice people. And I'm like, what? And I actually was kind of holding my breath to hear while we were out for two weeks, if somebody might graffiti us because we talk openly about supporting a Hope Center and we talk openly about supporting adoption and supporting pro-life things in our community, and so I wondered, would that happen to us? And I'm grateful it hasn't, I hope and pray it doesn't. I'm not living in fear, don't get me wrong. But there was a church that somebody online from the Gospel Coalition article that they actually had a mob of people come and absolutely smash out every window on the first floor of their building. It's like a block of buildings, and wrote all kinds of horrible [epitas05:52] and graffiti all over their building because they knew that they stood for life. And these people were standing for not life. And it was just a sad moment to realize that people not only do not like when you are pro-life, but some are becoming more hostile.
I'm praying for safety as people continue to pursue life. And I'm also praying that we will be able to in a loving way, help people find and follow Christ and know what the Bible says about that, because our culture's not going to change until the heart changes in the culture. And that means that we need to be about the business of sharing the love and the life of Jesus Christ with our friends, our family, our neighbors, people all around us with our community. We need to be missionaries in our own hometown to share the good news of Jesus. Laws aren't going to change lives. Laws are important, but they don't change hearts. Jesus changes hearts. And so, let's just keep praying for that. So celebrate, but pray.
I'm going to say something much more carefully prayed over and thought out and edited in a way that I would like to say it in this week's newsletter in the eNewsletter, and I hope you'll look at that and prayerfully consider some thoughts that I have when I say that.
1 Thessalonians 3, I just want, as we head into this chapter to remind ourselves that Jesus is building his church. We're not building it, it's not about our budgets and baptisms; it's about what Jesus is doing to change lives. We have a budget, we love to baptize. We're supposed to, the Bible says to. We receive resources so that we can spend those resources to invest in lives, to help people find and follow Christ and to grow in Christ and to go in Christ, but Jesus is the one building His church. It's not my church. How's your church doing, Greg? It's not my church. It's Christ church. How's your church doing, they might ask you. If your neighbor says, how's your church doing? What is your church? Because you're part of this church, but it's really Christ church. It's His church.
He said at Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church," emphatically, and He continues to do that. Acts 1:8, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." The church is going to invade every culture everywhere, the whole world. That wasn't one of those, "Well, you might be my witness." No, you will be my witnesses. You are going to tell about my resurrection and the salvation of me through faith in me because there's no one gets to the father, except through me. Jesus was very emphatic about that. He says, "And you're going to be my witnesses of this fact. You're going to be witnesses that I'm alive, that I came back from death after dying for the sins of the world, and you're going to be telling the whole world about me.
Ephesians 1:23, that He is the head of the church. He is the head of the church. In fact, we know that in 1 Peter 5:4 that pastors, although we are called shepherds, pastors named shepherd in the Greek, that we're just the under shepherds underneath the chief shepherd. Jesus is in charge of this church, not me. Yeah, the elders and myself; at the end of the day, we are responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and where we go up or down, right or left, east or west. We have to finally account to God and to kind of discern. And we, as a congregation must discern together. We are congregationally led, so there's an accountability to the whole body of Christ, but we're underneath the authority and headship of Jesus Christ. He's the one that's building His church, and He's the one that's in charge of His church.
It says, by the way, in Hebrews 13:17, that we are going to answer. Pastors are going to answer for their work. It says, obey your leaders because they're the ones that are going to give an account. It's not like, obey your leaders because they're in charge. No! Just help them do better as leaders because someday they're going to answer to God for their actions. There's accountability to your pastors and elders that is above and beyond the accountability that you'll have to the Lord Jesus Christ for what happens in this church.
It is just like in our political cycles; if you're in charge of a city, a State or a nation, at the end of the day - "Well, yeah, but I can't help what inflation does." Some presidents, they benefit from the great decisions that were made by their predecessor, and then the ones get to not benefit from their predecessor, but who gets blamed? The guy at the top. Well, that's kind of generally true, but you know what? That is true in the church. At the end of the day, I'm the one that has to answer to God for how I served you all and how through my actions, God worked in a way or didn't work. It's up to Him to do the work, but at the end of the day, I have to answer to God for the work as I was responsible as your pastor. It's not what I think it is, it's what does the Bible say we ought to do. What does Jesus think we ought to do? I've made a lot of unpopular - I've made decisions I don't even like to make because it's not what I think, it's not my feelings, it's not my personal preferences; it's what does God think? What does he already said we ought to do? And we have to answer to him for that.
A church must continually examine her spiritual health. We need to celebrate our changed lives, what Christ has already done. We need to examine the spiritual health of believers on an ongoing basis, that's why we believe in small groups, connection groups. Why we believe that even being on a worship team; that's a small group in itself. And we make sure that people are spiritually growing. Examine how well our church is following Christ in His word. And we need to keep praying for our church's future until Christ returns. We're not in a holding pattern. We're not in a holding pattern.
How many here, your flower bed is in a holding pattern? What does it look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's not looking so good. You got to keep tending to it. But what does your car look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's full of junk. You got to clean it out, guys. Come on. What does your garage look like? We don't talk about garages. I don't want to talk about my garage. Anything you don't tend to gets worse. That's a scientific principle, isn't it? Things go from order to chaos, not miraculously from chaos to order. The only crazy thing that happens from chaos to order is when Jesus enters our life and takes our chaos and turns it into order. Amen. That's when life happens. And once He's in our lives, we have to keep tending the spirit, tending ourselves and doing the examination of, are we living up to what God has called us to live up to? Are we investing in His word? Are we growing?
As we look at these three different sections in 1 Thessalonian 3, I want us to think about our own church health checkup. Checkup number one is, how well are leaders caring for the church? 1 Thessalonian 3:1, "Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience afflictions. And as you know, it happened. For this reason when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him (that was Timothy) to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing."
This is a more personal moment in Paul's letter to Thessalonians where he is saying, "I really care about your faith. I really want to know how you're doing and I couldn't be with you," as we learned in previous messages, a persecution broke out. Paul had to kind of go in hiding after three weeks of serving and seeing people come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, including some very prominent women, probably prominent business women in that community. But people got upset with this new movement and started to make false accusations against them.
And they even took them to the authorities and said, "These people have got bad religion, this is bad stuff for our city. It's not helping us at all and you need to get rid of them." And these guys are housing those bad people, and they're wanting to beat him up and they're wanting to imprison them. And literally, the guy that was hosting Paul, he actually paid off - he paid a fine to the authorities so they wouldn't come against them. And Paul disappeared from their midst and went on to the next town to share the gospel, knowing that his presence was not helpful in the building up of that church, it was more of a detriment than a benefit. And so, he had to abandon them right after he had planted the church. And he was really concerned, how are you doing? Are you okay?
"And I sent Timothy," he says, he sent young Timothy; his protégé in the faith was growing up to be a pastor. And he said, "I sent him to go see how you guys are getting along." And so he was caring about them. He wondered if they had even survived the persecution. He was wondering if our labor was in vain. There's pastors that have been called to plant churches, they planted them and then they move on to the next church and they go back and they find that there's a church there, and sometimes they find there's no church there. In Ecuador, it was so clear when we were... and by the way, some of you knew that my daughter and I were praying about going to Ecuador. And that actually disappeared that we're not going to go to Ecuador this week on a mission trip with another church in Evansville. We had talked about doing that and was trying to get Janae to the country. I've taken all my kids there and this opportunity presented itself, we thought, but there's political unrest, there's civil unrest, and so it's not safe for us to go to Ecuador right now so that's on hold.
But I remember being there and we would share the faith and we would start these little churches. We, the teams of people, and I was just part of a little tiny cog and a big wheel of cogs of activity, that we would go in there and we would go up to this mountaintop area and say, is this church even here still? Are they still meeting? Are they still gathering for worship? Are they still following Jesus Christ? And sometimes we'd see them flourishing and sometimes we'd see them struggling. It was kind of a back and forth thing. In one church, they kept abandoning so much that Dave Wilson, the missionary finally said, "Look, you guys are going to have to decide whether you're going to follow Christ or follow culture, your choice. I can't keep coming up here if you're going to just only do things when I'm here and do nothing when I leave." And he said, "There are people that are hungering for us to be in their cities. And if you don't hunger for us to be here to grow the church, I'm going to have to find..." It was a heartbreaking tearful moment when he realized these people really don't want a church; they just want him to show up once in a while.
And it was heartbreaking to see the investment that was made, that there was no spiritual activity to show for it after the fact. Paul didn't know if they were going to survive. In 2003 when we launched St. Joe Community Church, we had no idea what God was going to do. This is like parenting. When you have kids, you raise them up, you help them to find God, you help them to grow in their faith, but at the end of the day, we all have freedom to choose whether we're going to follow God or not follow God. As Grant was getting married to Sarah, I said to my son, "You know, I look..." He says, "Man, thank you, dad." And we were having those moments. I teared up a little bit - a lot, and it's like emotional and it was fun. And it's like, "Oh, it's my second born son getting married. Oh my goodness, what's this all about?"
But I said to him on more than one occasion, and I believe I kind of said it that weekend, or maybe over break this past vacation time, I'll know that I've done my job, if God gives you kids, follow God, because you've passed on the faith that I've given you to them. And maybe even more so, great-grandchildren, if I'm alive then, I probably won't be. But if I am, that they're growing in their faith. But I have no control over that; I have no control over that. And so, you do what you're supposed to do; Paul did what he was supposed to do, plant the church and hope that God did the work. And He did. This church was flourishing. It was happening and He was excited about it. But a good leader cares well for their church.
If you're a leader in our church and all you care about is your little sphere of influence and your budget line item, then you shouldn't be a leader. It's not about having a title. It's about carrying a towel in order to serve people in Jesus name. If I were to stop being a pastor of this church, like that position, the title pastor, would I be diminished as a person or as my identity in Christ, not in my position? That's a hard one for us, pastors, by the way. When you're not a pastor anymore, does that mean you're... What's your status? It's important for us to know that it's not about what we're doing and what our title is or what ministry position is, is that what we're doing as a leader is growing the greater cause, and that is helping people find and follow and grow in Jesus Christ. And if you're in charge of cutting the grass, if you're in charge of singing on a worship team, or you're in charge of something that nobody even knows is going on in the church, but is necessary in order to keep the church functioning well; you're doing it to the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ. That's what a leader does. They care about the people they're serving, not the position they're performing in.
How well do leaders care for the church? That's a church health checkup for all of us, not just for the pastor; although I think about it often, but for all of us who are in leadership in the church. Checkup number two, what's the church's current testimony? Let's read in chapter three verse six, "But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us as we also long to see you. Therefore brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experienced before our God, because of you; as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith."
What's the current testimony of a local church? Well, Timothy came back and said, "Great things are happening, Paul. This church is flourishing. Good things are happening. They still love Jesus. They're still following God. They love one another." In fact, earlier in the chapters as I talked about it in other sermons, they were an example for other churches of how to be a church. Isn't that the kind of church we ought be that people want to emulate us? They want to say, "I want to be that kind of church. I want to be part of that kind of church family. I want that kind of church to be in my town, in my city, in my community, across town." If we were to start another church, we want one to be sort of like St. Joe, not like St Joe, but sort of like in the way in which we do things that we're spiritually healthy. And that's what Timothy is saying. There's some good things going on. They still appreciated their church planter.
It's enjoyable to go and see people from previous churches I've pastored, and we still have fond memories of our time together. I enjoy that. I still have friendships from people from my very first church. And I'm grateful for that. But I'm more grateful when I see these same people who I'm friends with growing in their faith, not just, "Oh, that was a good time. And did that. Been there. Got a t-shirt. Moving on with life." Is they're actually growing in their faith. They're still involved in church. They're still becoming what Jesus wants them to become in their own local church, beyond my presence as their church planter. These people stood firm in their newfound faith in spite of the persecution.
I imagine, we can only imagine that these prominent people who had come to faith may have lost their jobs. They lost their prominence. They didn't have their social status that they had because they were followers of Christ. And that was not popular. It's still kind of okay to be a follower of Christ in America. It's okay to be a follower of Christ in America. There's a time when it was really popular to be a follower Christ in America. There are places in the world where it is totally unpopular to be a follower of Christ. And you may even be in some work environments where it's unpopular to be the preacher boy or the preacher girl. I don't know. I know that to be true in some personal instances where I hear people talk. And so these people in spite of the cultural opposition to their faith were standing firm.
Is that true of us? Are we standing firm? Not like in some like militant, oh, there we are. No. It's oh, we love Jesus too much to abandon Him. We love the word of God too much to abandon what it says on how we ought to live our lives, and how we ought to practice our faith, and how we ought to be the kind of people we ought to be. And the citizens that we are, and the families that we are, raising our children the way we do, believing in marriage, the way we believe in marriage, believing in all the things that God has put forth in His word, the way God has put forth in his word; boldly standing even when it's unpopular culturally to do so.
What's our current testimony? Collectively, do we represent what God wants to be doing in local churches all over the world? We have our own unique footprint and fingerprints of how we do church and life. But in generally, are we following the New Testament pattern of a local New Testament church? What's the church's current testimony? Who is encouraged by our church's testimony? How have we persevered through our own oppositions and trials as a church family? If we stopped existing tomorrow, how many people outside of our fellowships and friendships would care? Would Fort Wayne notice if we disappeared tomorrow, other than the building's vacant? How little or much are we making a difference in our community for Jesus' sake will determine the answer to that question?
If you disappeared tomorrow from your workplace, from your neighborhood; would Christ's presence be diminished or would it be a non-issue? Nobody knew that you were a follower of Christ. It matters what our testimony is for the Lord. Jesus Christ. It matters that we're making a difference in our time and place until Jesus comes again. And then finally, in this checkup, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth.
What does it say in verse 11, "Now may our God and father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you." That was a personal request. He wanted to get back to see them again, and he did get to see them again, by the way later. In verse 12, this is the prayer that I believe we ought to pray over our church all the time. "And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, amen.
Real quickly, as I closed this morning, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth. We must continually grow in our love for one another. We don't come from the same political landscape from each other. We don't come from the same. We may have had diametrically different ideas within this body of how to handle this current pandemic. We may have all kinds of ideas. Some of you might be conspiracy theorists. Some of you don't believe in any conspiracies at all. I don't think anybody has a bunker, but if you do, you're not supposed to tell anybody. All I'm saying is, we don't sit here and try to figure out how different we are from one another. We're trying to figure out how we're moving together in the name of Jesus Christ together. And love, you know, we have a vision, it says, around our beliefs, we have unity. Our convictions, those core statements, we have core belief statements in our doctrine, doctrinal statement. You can learn that in the new members class that we teach, and it's just basic Christian beliefs. It's based on the word of God. It's our own way of saying what God says. And again, it's pretty common to so many churches and we have unity around that. And if somebody doesn't believe that, well, there might be nuances they may have to maybe attend a different church, but those are our unity unifying statements.
But in those areas where we don't have those unifying statements, those things that we don't openly talk about; they're the absent of conversation about in our convictions, we have agreement to disagree agreeably with one another. We don't all come at it from the same angle. Some people they strategically voted for what happened at the Supreme Court. Some people said, you know what, God's going to do what God's going to do and voted their conscience in a different way than some other people. But at the end of the day, what brings us together is our love for Christ and His word that we are all trying to be Christ-like. And we all going to answer for whatever we did at the ballot box. Not trying to make everybody toe in line exactly what you ought to do what I think you ought to do. I've said many times before; I have opinions nobody's asked me about - may not ever want to.
If you want to know my thoughts, I'll take you to lunch sometime, maybe, but up here, it's God's opinion about His word and how we move together in the spirit and the love of Christ. And we walk together in the spirit of Christ and that spirit of Christ involves loving, increasing in our love. John 13 says that we must love one another. That's how people know we're his disciples, that we love each other. We love each other even sometimes when we don't like each other, because we've got to love each other. And love is practical. It's not like a feeling. We're talking about laying down our lives for one another, caring for one another, truly stepping up to the plate. When you're going through crisis, we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow and go. Through whatever circumstance, we want to be a true body of Christ for one another. We do that best through small groups, by the way, it's hard to do just to know what's going on generally on a Sunday morning, but when your connection group knows what's going on, that's when we can really minister and serve and show God's love in a practical way.
Do we overflow in love for one another? And then finally, we need to be blameless and holy knowing that we are going to finally answer to Jesus who could come at any moment and make us accountable for our lives. We're looking forward to the second return of Jesus Christ. We're looking forward to Him finally finishing and putting a period on the end of the sentence of history in a world. Some people say, "Boy, I'm ready for Jesus to come today." Well, I am too, but you know what? I know a lot of people that aren't and they'll be separated from God forever if Jesus came right now.
Here's another scary thought. Are you ready to face God and be accountable for wherever you're standing right now in him spiritually? If he were to show up right now, have you prayed up? Have you been able to confess up and to recant and to move away from the things you know that He's asked you not to do - He's told you not to do in His word? Are you right with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you harboring bitterness and unforgiveness? How can you go to the throne of God and say, "Oh, I still hate so and so"? That's not going to fly in front of God. Are you ready to meet Jesus? I'm ready for the return of Christ, are you?
Are you blameless and holy in God? Blameless doesn't mean perfect. Blameless like we said earlier, Paul said he was blameless. It meant that he was continually confessing his sins, repenting and turning away from and re-surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. Is that where you are right now? You're ready to meet Jesus. Do you have a vision for more spiritual growth in your life? Or do you feel like you've arrived, you got enough of Jesus, now I'm going to get into little more of this, a little more of that, get a little bit of Jesus, move on? Is coming to church just a stop along the way of many things to do or does what we do here affect the rest of what you do during the week?
So, what would our church health checkup reveal? What would it look like? Jesus, you're a consultant. You're the Lord. You're not a consultant. Jesus come down here. What do you think? What do you think our church looks like? What do I look like in front of you, Jesus? Do I really care as the leader of this church the way I ought care for this church? Are we still growing in our faith in spite of the spiritual and cultural opposition that's around us? Are we really growing in spite of the tendency for people not to grow in their faith? Jesus, do we overflow in our love for one another? Or do we find getting along with people in our church a chore, some sort of a legalistic habit that we got to come up with because it's the right thing to do? Do we really love one another? Are we leading blameless lives? Are we hypocrites in real recovery? Christians or sinner, we're just saved as there's bumper stickers. You know, we're not perfect. We're just forgiven.
Well, is that an excuse to do whatever you want because you got free grace? No.
What would our church health checkup reveal? How must we grow in our love for one another in our church? What step do you need to take to be part of the love growth in our church family? What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ? I hope that you'll take this connection card and you'll let us know how to pray for you, how to encourage you that you'll go online and look at the contact information area on our website and get in touch with us so that we know how to help you move forward. It might be this altar. This could become the place where you publicly say something to God in prayer. It might be that you go back in the back and talk to a prayer team that will be waiting to receive you and to pray with you about whatever's going on.
Let's just honor God with whatever decision we make, that might be the example that He wants for us to be here in little old Fort Wayne, Indiana. Father, God help us to step forward in our faith and to honor you with our lives. For someone this morning, it might be for the first time they put their faith in you. And that would be their first step to tell the world that they're a Christian and have the courageous bold step of getting baptized. I pray that they will identify themselves this morning if that be their need. And for all of us who know you, I pray that you'll show us how to take our next right steps. Maybe someone's contemplating their faith and they're still not there; I pray that they would just hang on and keep coming and learning and growing and being around us. Not because we're special by ourselves, but because we follow one who is so special and worthy of our worship and adoration. I pray that our lives will be an example and a testimony that will cause them to want to know you. I pray these things in Christ's name, amen.
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.
Full worship service
Jesus: The Source of True Security, by Pastor Greg Byman
Full worship service
Jesus: The Source of True Security
Why Jesus is the source of true security
1. Jesus is the final word
2. Jesus is our creator
3. Jesus holds us together
4. Jesus solves our biggest problem
1. Trust Jesus with your life
2. Trust Jesus in the moment
3. Trust Jesus with your future
Romans, part 9: Stop Trying
Full worship service
B: Bible book