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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

JUMPING FOR JOY

What distinguishes you as a Christian? Not just what we say, but what we do, and how we act, and more importantly, how we react. Are you different than the world around you?

Philippians 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – rejoice evermore

It sure seems hard to rejoice when things aren’t going so well, however. Actually that is part of the problem, because what we do is we look to our present circumstance only to define our mental state. It is sometimes difficult to remain on an even keel when everything else is off kilter. What are we to do to remedy the situation?

Well, what many try and do is to “tip the scales” by seeking out fun things, things that will lighten the moment, things that they believe will bring a temporary sense of joy. Then this excitement will balance out the negatives, or so they believe. The problem with this is that joy is not a temporary thing. Happiness in circumstances is temporary, and finding pleasure in the present only leads to becoming addicted to “fun”, as if this is the real way to lasting joy.

It isn’t.

Fun is fun, but it is only part of the pursuit. Christians who have a biblical worldview (not all of them do) understand that fun things can be made more enjoyable because of out understanding of their place in life. Fun is fun, and things such as sports and such enjoyable and not necessarily evil in themselves, but their place is to point us to Christ. Yes, I said that. The glorious feeling we get when listening to Beethoven, the sense of wonder we get when looking at Michelangelo, the heightened imagination we get from reading Shakespeare, these all are only parts of the reality of the world we cannot see. These things point us to a greater reality, the reality of the spiritual.

Ice cream may be wonderful to a child, but what it represents is a simple picture of the delight we are to find in Christ. Earthly pleasures and pictures are only shadows of something greater. All art, writing, and music, etc., are essentially attempts to reach out and capture something of the majesty that we seek after, a yearning for something beyond our normal experience, even when these things point to normal experiences. A Christian who understands this will be able to enjoy temporal things with a better sense of their place, and not as the “be all and end all” of existence. They won’t have to succumb to the need to be entertained.

Many things give us thrills, but they do not last. I went to see Beethoven’s Ninth symphony performed recently, and I love that piece of music. Including the voices it was over 250 people involved, and there were three renowned vocalists taking lead parts, all singing in the native German. I may not have understood it all, but it was marvelous. “Ode to Joy” – it brings the goose bumps, but they go away. The question is, how do we get and how do we keep true, lasting joy?

Nehemiah 8:10 – the joy of the Lord is our strength
John 15:10-12 – it is the joy of Jesus (vs. 11), and we get it through loving one another (vs.12)

Psalm 16:11 – in the presence of the Lord is fullness of joy
Psalm 105:3-4 – seeking His face brings the joy and His strength

1 Peter 1:8 – joy unspeakable and full of glory
Romans 14:17 – the kingdom is joy, Thy kingdom come!

The devil wants to “destroy the joy” with circumstances, but we can have joy when the world cannot. This is what the world needs to see, that we trust in the goodness of our God and have joy despite circumstances. It isn’t, “okay under the circumstances”, it’s living above our circumstances, living from God’s perspective, it is prophetic living (James 1:2 / 2 Corinthians 6:10 / Psalm 126:6 / Psalm 30:5).

Joy is like a thermostat not a thermometer – we need to get the joy and let it permeate our lives, not react when we are happy, that is glee. The world substitutes thrill for true joy, thrills die out, and it is the nature of a thrill not to last, so you have people seeking thrills. Instead they ought to have true joy, it doesn’t go away, we need to seek it, and rediscover it.

Psalm 51:12 – repentance brings true joy
1 John 1:4 – Jesus restores fellowship with us so that we can rejoice
Romans 15:13 – joy comes through believing

The world needs to see us as Christians having as much fun as they are but only in a better way, and in a way that honors God, and in a way that doesn’t need to be entertained all the time. The world also needs to see us as Christians blessing God and not blaming God “when the chips are down”, and it needs to see us turning to Him instead of turning to doubt and turning to temporary excitements when the going gets rough. This will point others to Christ, when we have true joy. Amen.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shifting Sand

The editor of Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady, recently spoke to a group of Pentecostals about the shift he thinks needs to take place within Christianity. You will notice the “Barna-esque” call to dissolve the local church, the false cry of sacerdotalism, the confusion of so-called chauvinism, the carping about cash, and the clarion bell of dominionism, as well as a few straw men added on to make it seem as if he is building a cumulative case for what is wrong with contemporary Christianity. He is wrong; we will answer the points in the article individually. My comments will be in RED.

100 Years After Azusa Street: Where Are We Going?

3/14/06 – By J. Lee Grady

In April 1906 the Holy Spirit fell on a ragtag group of black, white, and Hispanic Christians who had gathered in the rundown Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. They sang with fervor, testified of God's sanctifying power and spoke in tongues in a day when such behavior was considered fanatical. This now-famous revival, led by an unknown black preacher named William Seymour, was a defining moment in the history of Christianity.

Pentecostalism has now spread to every continent and in some cases is fueling the most staggering church growth on the planet. Yet at the same time many sectors of the movement have become musty, stale and painfully irrelevant. Some of us are stuck in a time warp.

The cloud of God's presence does not stay in one place too long. He is always moving forward. He wants to reach every generation and He loves to open a bottle of new wine when it's time for a new season. Meanwhile those who prefer the altars of old-fashioned Pentecostalism have rejected the new wine and sometimes have persecuted those who drink it.

A couple of weeks ago I addressed a group of Pentecostal scholars who had gathered at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., to celebrate the miracle of Azusa and to envision the future of our movement. I told them bluntly: It is time for us to move on. We must kill our sacred cows, tear down the old monuments and have some funerals. As wonderful as the past was, we can't live there. God says to us: "'Behold, I will do a new thing'" (Is. 43:19, ASV).

Here are just a few of the "new things" God is doing:

In answering these assertions, a few questions must first be asked. Where is the biblical basis for any of these assumptions? Or is the bible just another “sacred cow” that we need to have a funeral for? Some of these points have a seed and the sound of truth to them, but the answer isn’t to swing the pendulum to the opposite side.

Let’s take these points one by one.

1. He's shifting us from buildings to the organic church. Almost all ministry encounters in the book of Acts took place outside of religious buildings. Yet we still hang on to the outdated idea that God wants to live inside a brick-and-mortar temple. He wants to dwell among His people! Many of the people we are called to reach will never go near our buildings (which, by the way, sit empty most of the week). We must take Christ to the marketplace through home churches, workplace Bible studies, campus ministries, street meetings and into cyberspace.

Answer: He already dwells among His people (Colossians 1:27). We already are taking Christ to the marketplace in these areas he states. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are to forsake the gathering of ourselves together in churches, yes buildings. Many people we are called to reach may never go near our buildings, but many people we are called to reach will never believe, either! We should be doing evangelism and discipleship outside the “four walls”, yes, but we should also not abandon the practice of corporate worship and hearing sound biblical exposition.

2. He's shifting us from pulpits to people. The believers at Azusa Street celebrated the fact that God can use anybody regardless of class or religious pedigree. But we quickly fell back into the old mind-set that requires a vast chasm between clergy and laity. Every member of the church is a minister. We must equip the saints for the work.

Answer: This is a misrepresentation. The focus has never been on the pulpit alone, nor has it ever been the primary focus. That the pulpit equips the people is an important feature, nonetheless. Mr. Grady seems to be confusing the work of the ministry and the equipping for that work, yet he states the very reason we need the pulpit, so as to equip believers. He answers his own questioning by showing why we do need the pulpit to be stronger, not less so.

3. He's shifting us from racism to reconciliation. As much as we talk about our heritage of racial integration, the truth is painful: We are still too separated. (And it's not just white folks who harbor racist attitudes.) Jesus is serious about having a church that reflects the rainbow colors of heaven. We must think multiculturally. And we must sit at the feet of ethnically diverse leaders including those from the developing world and adjust our outdated Western paradigms.

Answer: Who is arguing against this? This is a straw man par excellence.

4. He's shifting us from male-dominated to egalitarian. We must allow full participation of women in ministry, and make room for their leadership gifts. We will never reach modern American culture if we keep our chauvinistic mind-sets. And we will never fulfill the Great Commission if we don't empower and equip the female half of the church that has been marginalized and neglected.

Answer: Marginalized and neglected? I suggest that Mr. Grady take a look at the work done by Piper and Grudem, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is a heavily debated topic, for sure, but to confidently assume that God Himself is shifting us sounds like shifting sand to me. Where are the verses? Where is the exegesis? How do you back up your statement that we will never fulfill the Great Commission, and that those who are complimentarian are simply “chauvinistic”? And what exactly does he mean by “reaching” the American culture? Where do we want to reach them, Mr. Grady, in their dead spirits or their “victimized” flesh?

5. He's shifting us from hidden sin to healthy holiness. We have congregations full of people who are not whole. A large percentage of Christians struggle continually with addictions, bitterness, life-crippling beliefs systems, wounds from dysfunctional families and even occultism. We must become bondage breakers. We need another holiness movement but this time it must focus on the heart rather than on a dress code, and it must lead people to an encounter with the Father's love rather than into paralyzing legalism.

Answer: Another straw man. Using this does not in any way strengthen his case about the other points.

6. He's shifting us from human ability to supernatural power. We Pentecostals claim to believe in miracles, but we have little to show for it. Has our faith dried up? God wants us to rediscover New Testament, book of Acts-style Christianity. And that won't happen until we rediscover book of Acts-style prayer.

Answer: The old tried and true “we need to get back to Acts” mantra. Of course we need supernatural power, even cessationists agree on that. Your definition of what this may look like might be different than many others, however. Of course this is debatable, but again, it is really just a straw man. It is very easy to trot out these “obvious” flaws, so as to have them soften us up for the more radical points, such as #’s 1,2,4,7, and 8.

7. He's shifting us from poverty to prosperity. I'm not talking about a message that tells every Christian to expect a Lexus in his garage, or that causes preachers to chase after watches, yachts and Botox injections. We must dispense with that foolishness. But we must also reject the Pentecostal poverty mentality of the past so that we can have the faith to fund world evangelism. God wants to give us billions of dollars to feed the poor, plant churches, build hospitals and transform nations.

Answer: Once again, Grady uses a casual swipe at obvious abuses as a vehicle to swing the pendulum in favor of his view. He creates yet another straw man with the phrase “poverty mentality”. How we get the money and steward that money is prime, and are the real questions.

8. He's shifting us from escapism to conquest. So many of us have viewed the future with pessimism. We've been wimps rather than warriors. We thought everything was getting worse, as if Jesus simply wants us to "hold on" until the rapture. God is calling us to adapt a triumphant view of history. The Bible says we win. We need to start acting like it.

Answer: Pure dominionism. This statement could have been made, and has been made in one form or another, by C. Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, or even Rousas John Rushdoony, for that matter. It isn’t that we are pessimists, Mr. Grady, it is that we follow what the Bible says about the end times and man and his depravity. Yes we win, WHEN CHRIST COMES BACK. Amen.

(J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist. He writes his Fire In My Bones column for Charisma Online twice a week.)

DISCLAIMER: Church of God and Faith News (my source) does not necessarily endorse or sanction all or any part of this news item.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to Thank God

GIVING THANKS UNTO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

This is a brief, outline style synopsis of the last six sermons I have preached, all coming from Romans 1:8. The full messages can be seen by clicking on the "Romans" post. I hope these little nuggets will strengthen you.

We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our STEWARDSHIP

Luke 16:10-12 – Three areas of faithfulness

1. In little things (Hudson Taylor) – A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness to a little thing is a big thing.

2. In financial things (Oswald Chambers) – The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.

3. In another ministry (Charles Spurgeon) – Those who have no master are slaves to themselves.


We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our SINCERITY

In word, in deed, and in truth – Three verses

1. Colossians 3:17

2. 1 Corinthians 10:31

3. 1 John 3:18


By our prayer life – Three principles of powerful prayer

1. Thank Him for what you have before you ask Him for what you need. He already knows what you need (Matthew 6:8, 32); what He wants is to hear how much you appreciate what He has already done.

2. You must see God in His power before you see Him in your problems. Until our hearts find their safety, satisfaction, and rest in God, they will have no rest. We cannot glorify God in the world until we have glorified Him first in our hearts.

3. Tell God what you have done wrong before you ask Him to make it right. God already knows what you have done wrong, but He wants you to live in constant view of the fact that He does know all that is going on about you, more than we know about ourselves. Realizing we are open to God (Hebrews 4:13) helps us to live a more holy life.


By taking our spiritual temperature – Three measures

1. What am I really like in secret? I may appear to others to be master of myself when in public; but what happens when I close the door and only the Father sees me? It is not visible service so much as my hidden life of devotion that is the index of my spirituality.

2. How do I react to the words “duty”, “obedience”, and “submission”? Sanctification, growing in grace, is not about a feeling; it is about the submission of our wills to the will of God. Love for God and duty are two parts of the same thing. True faith manifests itself through obedience.

3. Am I living with a sense of how visible my life is to God? The giants of the faith learned to live visibly, even in secret; they knew they lived Coram Deo (before the face of God). That one principle is enough to transform your whole life, and rid you of all deception – of others, of God, of self.


We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our SANCTIFICATION

Three wrong ways

1. P = Pietism. Produced by too much emphasis on the human side of the equation. Operative phrase: Go and get God.

2. Q = Quietism. Produced by too little emphasis on the human side of the equation. Operative phrase: Let go and let God.

3. R = Riotism. Produced by no emphasis on the human or the divine side of the equation. Operative phrase: Don’t go – forget God.


We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our SUFFERING

Three realizations

1. As a Christian, our suffering is never as great as our sins.

2. By His stripes we are healed, by our stripes He is revealed.

3. Weakness is the true path, the only healthy way.


We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our SOLIDARITY

3 questions

1. Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No.

2. Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.

3. Are you a lively stone? (That’s up to you to answer).


We give thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our SERVICE

3 issues – 2 negative, one positive regarding “Christian Success”

1. Acquiring – Sometimes your responsibilities for God can keep you from God. Instead of acquiring material we acquire ministry. If this is you, you need to realize that this isn’t the way to please God, by doing more stuff for God. Your ministry to God is more important, and comes before, your ministry for God. Indeed, many that are getting excited about the things of God don’t recognize the process God uses to grow us up. This is the order: obedience, submission, service, and then, and only then, leadership. Said another way, your actions, attitudes, availability, and then ability. Acquiring ministry is not the measure of spirituality.

2. Avoiding – If you try and control every situation, you are controlled by every situation. Psalm 90:12 – those who number their days carefully gain a wise heart. However, it is not numbering them by the clock, but by the experience. Living requires time management, true, but not the kind that attempts to quarantine most of what makes life what it is: the mess, the surprises, the breakdowns, and the breakthroughs. Why are we looking to minister only in the way and time we want to, like right after we come off the mountaintop? Be looking for God to send someone by at the “wrong time”. Your agenda is never as important as God’s.

3. Acknowledging – We must acknowledge God, in humility, in weakness and in strength, we must thank Him for all the things that come before us, and all of these things are opportunities to minister, or be ministered to. It isn’t about acquiring ministry, but about being ready and available for ministry, not as we see it, but as God calls us to it. Have you truly replaced your understanding of worldly success with a biblical one, or are you just using the same standard and “baptizing” it with words like ministry, and victory. Look again at “acquiring” and “avoiding” – this is what most people, even after they become Christians, think victorious living is about, and they are wrong, dead wrong. Faith without works is dead, yes, but works without faith is death itself. Trying to acquire in order to please God is not faith, and doing for others without caring for home is not faithfulness. Avoiding is not faith its fear. It’s not care, its control.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

ROMANS: The Righteousness of God, the Redemption of Man

Simple Outline

Chapter 1-3 – The Problem – Sin

Chapter 4-5 – The Provision – Salvation

Chapter 6-8 – The Process – Sanctification

Chapter 9-11 – The Power – Sovereignty

Chapter 12-16 – The People – Service

This book is so rich with revelation that what we will do is unpack each verse, mining its depths, and then give the overall sense of it in its context. We will also be giving application from the whole verse, chapters and subchapters, and breaking apart each verse we will look at what the Bible says about the particular subjects mentioned and give specific applications here also.

CHAPTER ONE:

Verse 1

Paul – new identity in Christ – he was focused on what God had made him & wanted him to do

Putting off the former conversation (Ephesians 4:22) – it is not about what you did, good or bad

They think it strange you will not run with them (2 Peter 4:4) – you have and you need a new life

Forgetting what is behind and pressing on (Philippians 3:13) – this is what chapter 3 of Philippians is about, how Paul, as Saul, had done it all and done it sincerely as best he knew how, with more zeal than anybody. But he counted all that as rubbish, as trash, compared to the journey he was now on, a new creation

A servant – Greek word used here for servant is doulos – the idea here is complete and utter devotion, not a miserable existence, Peter uses the same word in 2 Peter 1:1

There is a big difference between serving and being a servant. Serving is good, but being a servant is more than serving. Serving is an action, being a servant is an attitude. Serving is giving something; servants are giving everything. Serving is doing something; a servant is being something. Serving is providing something when asked; a servant asks what they can provide.

Of Jesus Christ – Paul identifies his allegiance in no uncertain terms; there is no ambiguity in his declaration that Christ is the only way that God has ordained for men to receive eternal life

Matthew 6:24 – No man can serve two masters.

John 8:34 / Romans 6:16 – If you are mastered by anything you are slave to it.

We are creatures of habit. Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

To be free of anything you must become more a slave to Christ

Called – If anyone had received a call, it was Paul – yet it still took him 3 years to start and 14 years to begin to fulfill his destiny. If it took him that long what about us, why would we be any different? You may say that his call was greater so it would take more time, but he also was more sold out. It takes time to fulfill the call, Abraham didn’t see Isaac till 25 years later, Noah waited 100, Joseph 13, David was anointed as a shepherd boy but had to wait, etc.

Romans 1:6-7 – you are also called by Christ, called to be saints

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 – some called to be apostles, all called to be saints

2 Timothy 1:9 – we have received a holy calling that is by grace and not works

Romans 8:28-30 – to those who are the called, it is a predestined destiny

Ephesians 4:1 – walk worthy of the vocation (calling), we are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)

To be an apostle – Paul is first a servant, not an apostle

Hebrews 5:4-5 – callings are not to be taken by us; they are given to us (Galatians 1:1)

1 Timothy 1:7 – desire is not calling

James 3:1 – not every one is supposed to teach, lead, speak, etc.

Revelation 2:2 – sense of an apostle today, false apostle’s movement

Separated unto – we were not just saved from something but saved to something (Ephesians 2:8-10), grace not a cloak for sin, people fooling themselves with this Christianity-light, this cotton candy gospel where there is no cross, no repentance, and sad to say, no real regeneration.

We must realize that even though we are called we must also be sent. Even after God had chosen him (Acts 9), Paul still was separated by the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands (Acts 13:2). God may have called you, but have you been ordained by his agents, those in authority over you? Has anyone laid hands on you, setting you apart for your ministry? God does not call you at first to be accountable to no one; you must first pass through the initiating phase of your ministry. This is why so many have a vision, and one that is truly given by God, but they will not submit and be sent, therefore they stumble and suffer.

The gospel of God – God only has one gospel and it is the one Paul preaches

Galatians 1:8-9 – if anyone talks about a Jesus that Paul has not described it is a false Jesus, which dismisses Mormonism right off the bat, the new age Jesus, all the other Jesus’ of today. The gospel of God is not man striving to reach God or godhood; it is the Godhood reaching down to man.

Overall sense of verse one:
This verse is telling us all about this man Paul. This new man, who was sold out as a slave to Jesus Christ, had been called to be an apostle and had been separated from the religious world he came from to the preaching of the gospel of God.

Application:
Are you a new man in Christ? Are you sold out to Him? Do you know what you have been called to? Have you separated yourself from the world, not isolated but insulated with and for the gospel? Do you stand for the one true God and His gospel against all others (1 Peter 3:15)?

Verse 2

Which he had promised afore – The Gospel which Paul preached was not of his own making. It was the message which fulfilled all that the Old Testament prophets had promised. It was what true Judaism believed and anticipated. It was not a revelation of something new and unexpected, but a realization of that which had been promised. It is not a new religion. It is the fulfillment of an old religion. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. What he was preparing and promising then, he fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. Beside the prophecies, there are all of the Old Testament types and shadows such as the Tabernacle and the Temple that point to Jesus. Two on road to Emmaus – Luke 24:24-27 (cf. John 4:25-26 / John 5:39).

The gospel was “Plan A” not something new – Genesis 3:15 / Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 / Acts 3:22 / Acts 13:32-33 / Acts 26:6

God keeps His promises – Hundreds of years go by. The Jews wonder if the Messiah will ever come. They go through horrendous suffering. Then God acts and the promise is fulfilled. This means that God can be trusted. It may look as if he has forgotten his promises. But he does not forget. So verse 2 is not only a statement about the content of the gospel, but is also a reason for believing it. If we can see that God promised Christ centuries before he came and that in many details he fulfils these promises, our faith is strengthened. 2 Peter 3:9 – Jesus first advent is the reason we can believe, no matter how long it takes, in the promise of the Second coming. Also this deals with His coming to fulfill His promises in our lives now.

What has he promised you? Has it come but you failed to recognize it? Your provision missed your perception because you were looking for more than you needed. Illustration: Story of flood, man on house, canoe, boat, helicopter, he dies waiting, etc.

What have you promised God?
Luke 14:27-33 – This is part of the Gospel that has never been popular, but in recent times, has been stripped from most people’s Bibles. Yes, there is a cost to serving the Lord. That does not mean we can buy our salvation or even buy favor with the Lord, but if we want what He has to offer, we need to let go of the worthless things that we so desperately cling to. Oh, we easily promise to forsake all to follow Jesus when we are presented with the glory of the Message. But when push comes to shove, many bounce back from making good on their commitment, and it is at that point that many easily break their promises to the Lord.

Over the years I have heard many prayers of repentance and of recommitment that were just empty words. In fact, I have heard more lies told and empty promises made at the altar than anywhere else! That is why I very seldom make altar calls anymore. Not because I do not believe that people should make commitments to the Lord, but because it is better that we not make a commitment, than make one and not keep it. I would rather have people leave the service and prove their repentance by turning away from that which displeases the Lord than cry long tears at the altar, only to return to their former lifestyle the very next day! We actually insult the Lord and the Spirit of Grace when we make promises we have no real intention or ability to keep.

Jesus seemed to struggle with the same frustration (Matthew 21:28-31).

While talking to those serving in the military, I am often struck with how religious men become when faced with death. Everyone seems to pray, read their Bibles and attend chapel. Countless people have promised, and continue to promise, to serve God if he saves them from death in war or in some natural disaster. Yet, how many of those promises are actually kept and how few of those men (and women) actually serve God when the problem has passed? It almost seems that we expect God to understand that we don’t really intend to keep those commitments, just like no one really expects people to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Malachi speaks about a man who, while looking over his flock, is so touched by the Lord’s blessings and goodness that he promises to sacrifice the best to the Lord as a sign of his gratitude. However, when the time comes to fulfill his vow he bounces back and substitutes the animal with a cripple. The Lord says of such a man: But cursed is that deceiver (Malachi 1:14).

Should we then not make promises to the Lord? Yes, we should BUT before we make them we should think carefully if we are prepared to, and able to, fulfill the vows we make. It is only a foolish king who goes to war without reckoning first if he has what it will take to conclude the war successfully. A person who starts to build a house and then has to abandon the work because he did not calculate the cost is very stupid. So, before making a promise to the Lord, sit down first and calculate the cost. If you are a preacher, don’t coerce people to make decisions without telling them the whole story about cost of discipleship.

How many promises have you made to the Lord since the beginning of this year? Since the Lord remembers every single one, you had better sit down and remember them also, and not only remember them, but also begin to fulfill them. Hannah promised the Lord that if He gave her a son, she would give that son back to the Lord. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Hannah to take her baby (he had just been weaned) and to actually leave him at the temple while she returned home? This was indeed, a promise with a greater cost than she could ever have anticipated, but she kept her word! No wonder Samuel became one of the greatest and most anointed men in all Israel’s history!

Deuteronomy 23:21-23 – Begin right now to make a list of each and every commitment you ever made to the Lord. Write them down and then begin to fulfill your obligations. Yes, the cost may be high, but see if the Lord will not abundantly bless you as you keep your promises to Him.

By his prophets – more than just one, the message was delivered over and over

Amos 3:7 – there are many prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus to the letter

David a prophet – 2 Samuel 23:2 / Psalm 16:9-11 / Psalm 22:15 / Psalm 68:18 / Psalm 110:1

Paul was a prophet – 2 Peter 3:16

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 / Ephesians 4:8 / Isaiah 53:5-12

In the Holy Scriptures – they are holy because it is God speaking to us through the Scriptures. That is what makes them holy. This is Paul's understanding of Scripture and should be ours. So many are falling for the trap of Satan in the Garden of Eden, “Yea, hath God said?” They are trying to diminish the power of Scripture. Recently, the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland wrote a piece called The Gift of Scripture, in which they deny the literal meaning of the Creation events of Genesis and the apocalyptic events of Revelation. They say people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true. Yet Jesus prayed to the Father “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).”

Genesis 3 – 2 great lies of Satan regarding the Word of God – “hath God said” – Did God really say? – Attack on the inspiration of the Bible: there are those who reject the Bible outright. Also “you will not surely die” – Are you sure it really means that? – Attack on the interpretation of the Bible – it doesn’t really mean that, etc.: those who accept the Bible’s authority but reject a plain, orthodox reading and want to apply an esoteric message to Scripture. The fact that the symbols of serpents (snakes) became the object of worship among mankind is convincing proof that the Genesis 3 account of the fall of man is to be taken as a literal history. In other words, it’s not just a metaphor or a “word picture” of what happened as the neo-orthodox view of the Bible would have us believe.

The Bible is God’s word, not merely words written by men – 2 Peter 1:20-21 / 2 Timothy 3:16 / 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – you must believe it in order to receive it – Hebrews 4:1-12

Verse 3

Concerning his Son – 1 Timothy 3:16 – The Son is fully God (Hebrews 1:8). Contrary to many cults of Christianity such as Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons, Jesus claims to be and the Bible declares him to be nothing less than fully God, not a created being, not Michael the archangel, and not a mere man. By claiming to be the Son of God, the Jews of the day understood Jesus to be stating that he was indeed God (John 5:18, 8:24). Yet Jesus did not grasp onto this when he took on humanity (Philippians 2:5-9). The lesson is that true humility is true power.


Discernment point: All cults essentially deny the divinity of Jesus. If a teaching lessons the “Almighty” nature of Jesus, placing something or someone else as equal as or greater than Him, then it is not of God.


Jesus Christ our Lord – The whole gospel is included in Christ, so if anything draws away from Him, it goes astray from the gospel. He is the living and express image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3 / Colossians 2:9), and he alone is the one to whom our whole faith is to be directed and in whom it is to center. He is the definition (Matthew 3:17) and the sum total of the gospel (John 17:3 / John 6:28-29 / John 5:39). The knowledge of Christ gives you every thing which can be learned from the gospel (2 Peter 1:2, 3:18). Those who seek to be wise without Christ are lost.


Discernment point: Any religion, movement or ministry whose primary focus is not on the person of Christ, His atoning work, and our becoming like Him is not of God. No matter how much “good” they are doing or how “right” it may seem, it is only a distraction, which leads to diversion, then deception, where we believe we are doing right when we are not.


Which was made – Psalm 2:7 / Hebrews 1:5, 5:5 – Hebrews 2:9-18 – Kinsman redeemer – Two things must be in Christ, that we may obtain salvation in him, both divinity and humanity. His divinity possesses power, righteousness, and life, which by his humanity are conveyed to us.


Discernment point: If a teaching denies the blood atonement it is not of God.

Of the seed of David – they knew who He was (Matthew 1:1, 9:27, 12:23, 21:9 / Luke 18:38-39) John 7:42 (they didn’t know the whole truth, supposing he had come from Galilee, and the Messiah was supposed to be from Bethlehem – Micah 5:2). They were taking the scriptures and only seeing part. How often do we take the scriptures and make them say only the part we want to hear? How many “scholars” are misapplying scripture today – Luke 11:52, 11:13 – we need the power of Jesus’ life by the Holy Spirit today as much as and more than ever.

Matthew 22:41-46 – the Pharisees knew the Messiah was to be the son of David, but they did not understand that he was to be more than man, but God as well. Again they only saw part of the scriptures (Micah 5:2), just as they had done about Christ being a leader. They thought it would be a political revolution and physical power given instead of a spiritual kingdom and spiritual power (John 18:36). Even after the resurrection the disciples misunderstood this (Acts 1:6-8). How often do we today want a Jesus who will take over our society but not our souls?

According to the flesh – Preexistence – Revelation 1:8 / Isaiah 41:4 – He was made according to the flesh, but made all things according to his power (John 1:1 / Colossians 1:16 / Hebrews 1:2). He adds this phrase so we will understand that he had more than flesh, which he brought from heaven, and didn’t take from David, the glory of the divine nature. Paul not only declares that Christ had real flesh, but he also clearly distinguishes his human from his divine nature. John declares that the Word was made flesh and in that flesh there was a divine glory (John 1:14).

Jesus was called the Son of God (Matthew 4:3 / Matthew 8:29 / Matthew 14:33 / Matthew 27:54) and the Son of Man (John 5:18-27). Christ, by taking on human flesh, had two distinct natures. This is called the “Hypostatic union”. Jesus did not become a man, and he didn’t empty himself of his deity; Jesus emptied himself into a body. No deity was subtracted, but humanity was added. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man, Theanthropos, the God-man. The firstborn from the dead, Jesus redeemed us by his humanity and by his divinity and through the Holy Spirit transforms us into a completely new being, a Child of God (Acts 26:23 / Romans 8:29 / 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 / Colossians 1:18 / Hebrews 2:10 / Revelation 1:5).


Discernment point: If a teaching denies the two natures, or denies that they are distinct yet in one body, that Christ was both God and Man, it is not of God.


Verse 4

And declared to be the Son of God – this declaration was an open manifestation of the truth. Jesus was already the Son of God, but was openly determined to be so among men by this crowning event. Even though you are a son of God, have you been declared to be so openly, not of you own declaration but by your own resurrection, are their witnesses of your new birth?

With power – 1 Corinthians 4:20 – 2 Corinthians 5:11 – Not just words, “I’m saved”, but power that proves you have the power of God to overcome sin. You are truly born again.

Humility key to power we see verse 3 leading into verse 4, Son of Man, Son of God

According to the spirit of holiness – 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 – not the spirit of heaviness, Luke 4:18 / Isaiah 61:3 – Romans 8:7-8 (Living Bible), people are always trying to consecrate the old man, no wonder they think the Christian life is miserable, the old man won’t ever conform to Christ, so we need to stop trying to make him do it, instead we need to focus on the new man. Galatians 6:7-8 – two lions in the backyard, which are you feeding, concentrating on not feeding the flesh is too often just flesh-powered, will-powered, self-help, pick-yourself-up-by-your- bootstraps nonsense to God and His ways and His life. It is still not enough we must concentrate first on feeding the spirit. Trying to reform the old man is fruitless, we need to simply live from the inside out instead of from the outside in, it is about the new you, focus on building up the new man and forgetting about the old man and he will eventually lose his primacy in our lives, instead of just trying to make the old man get in line, he never will (Romans 8:7-8, LB). We need spiritual maturity not sin management, we need biblical ministry not behavior modification, we need to decrease the therapy and increase the theology, focus on the new man, 2 Corinthians 5:17 / Ephesians 4:24 / Colossians 3:10 the reason it seems so hard and awful is because we are trying to do it on our own power we are trying to get our old man to shape up but we just need to starve him, to crucify him, and it is painful Romans 12:1-2 / 1 Peter 4:1, but what we get in return is life

You see when you are saved you are saved but how well you live this life depends on how much you let him live His life in you. God is going to get you home but your power and your perspective depends on His presence in power in your life. Are you operating according to the spirit of holiness or heaviness?

By the resurrection from the dead – Born again – Ephesians 2:1 / Colossians 2:13 / Romans 8:19 – Are we showing forth, declared as Sons of God by the Spirit of holiness by our born again life? Free at last – you may be born again but do you understand and are you realizing (making real, cashing in) on all that means for you in this life? We are free from the penalty of sin but also free from the power of sin. Are you living in resurrection power?

We think we are shown to be Sons of God with effort according to the spirit of heaviness by our looking like we’re dead. You show, you manifest God’s life by the spirit of holiness which will make you glad not sad, and you life will preach! Spurgeon – “Holy gladness and holy boldness will make you a good preacher, and all the world will be a pulpit for you to preach in. Cheerful holiness is the most forcible of sermons, but the Lord must give it you” – 2 Corinthians 4:1-2


The Nature of the Gospel of God and its Work in Man (1:2-4)

1. It was promised in the Holy Scriptures.

2. It concerns Jesus God’s Son.

3. It concerns Jesus as a descendent of David.

4. It concerns Jesus as the Son-of-God-in-Power.

5. It concerns Jesus and His resurrection from the dead.

6. It concerns us as to our calling unto this Gospel.

7. It concerns us being declared children of God by our own resurrection from the dead.

Verse 5

By whom – Jesus – He died and then He gave (Ephesians 4:7-8)

Anything we receive is on account of and through Christ – Pentecost wasn’t until after and because of the Cross (Acts 2:33). Church of God symbol, the anointing flows from the Cross, and your anointing will flow as you go to the Cross, as you die He lives, if you want more power than more of you must die. When the flesh is put down, then faith comes up.

We have received – all of us as Christians have received eternal life, and God has established a relationship with us whereby we can receive what we need, here and now (Romans 5:2, 8:32).

What have you received? Grace is free but it isn’t always automatic, God expects us to use our faith to acquire from Him in prayer. Are you going to God yourself? We are kings and priests (Revelation 1:6 / 2 Peter 2:5, 9); a main goal of the Reformation was to reestablish the priesthood of all believers. We still have teachers (Ephesians 4, etc.) but so as to grow us up to teach us to be able to go to God ourselves (Hebrews 4:16).

Given but not received, we may fail to receive (Hebrews 10:36 / Galatians 6:9 / John 1:12 / 1 John 3:22). Unbelief, unforgiveness, an unrenewed mind, and unseen forces can hinder us.

Mark 4:1-29 – You have to be good ground in order to receive and reap the harvest. Some receive right here at the altar but fail to take it home with them because all they wanted was to receive and didn’t want to till the soil of their heart.

Conversely, we don’t have to and shouldn’t receive everything that the world tries to give us. We need to watch where we get our “news” from. What are you receiving today? Whose news do you choose to use? Whose report will you believe?

Grace and apostleship – Whatever grace, guidance, or gifts you may receive they are to be found in God’s Word. Jesus, the Living Word, will give to you from His written Word.

Ephesians 1:3 – blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ
Colossians 2:6-10 – what you need is Christ, not some self help book, do it His way
2 Corinthians 3:18 – we are changed by the Spirit as we behold Christ
1 John 5:7 – the Spirit and the Word are one
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – through the Word we are thoroughly equipped
2 Peter 1:2-4 – he has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (“knowledge” here is epignosis – a fuller knowledge, a growing recognition).
We see how everything we need is wrapped up in Jesus, and we acquire these things from Him by the promises in the Word of God. It is through the Bible that we receive the power of the divine nature.
Hebrews 4:12 – indeed the Word of God is ALIVE! This is where we get our needs met.


Discernment point: Regarding your needs for life and godliness, remember this;
IF YOU ARE GETTING IT OUTSIDE THE WORD OF GOD
THEN YOU ARE GETTING IT OUTSIDE THE WILL OF GOD.


Hebrews 5:4 – No man can take a ministry position unto himself, although we see this so often in the church today, apostle or prophet so and so. They say that they have a revelation but they don’t even know what has already been revealed. Yes I believe in prophecy but not as sometimes practiced today. Prophets are not to be sought they are to be sent, and a prophet should only be confirming a word you already know, or one that you have lying dormant within you that when spoken it bears witness, and of course, all prophecies must be tested against the written Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 / 1 Corinthians 14:29).

We apply this by saying that through Jesus Christ and only through Him we receive grace for everything we need.

For obedience to the faith – There is a reason we receive grace and gifts, not to do as we would want but as He would want

Faith is obedient Romans 16:26 / Ephesians 2:8-10 – your actions describe your beliefs.

When we are Receiving His grace, we should be reflecting His glory – 2 Corinthians 7:1 / Titus 2:11-12 – we have the promises, we receive the grace in order to be obedient and serve God out of His own power and not our own strength.

We apply this by saying that through Jesus Christ and only through Him we receive grace for everything we need to be obedient to the faith

Among all nations
The Gospel is for all people (1 John 2:2 / Revelation 7:9), not just Jews but Gentiles as well, not just men but women and children, not just whites, but blacks, browns, yellows, reds and anyone and everyone else who calls on Jesus to save them (Galatians 3:26-28 / Colossians 3:11)

In context this is also Paul telling us that he had received an apostleship that was to be world wide, he knew his mission was to be obedient to the vision no matter what (Acts 20:22-21:14). Paul was to show the crucified with Christ life in all the nations of the known world.

We apply this by saying that through Jesus Christ and only through Him we receive grace for everything we need to be obedient to the faith anywhere and everywhere we go. Our mission is also “world-wide”, we are to live the gospel throughout our world to all the people we encounter or whom see us in action.

People want a big ministry, one that is world wide, but it must start with you own world now. If you are faithful in this world, God will expand your borders, but how can He trust you with more if you will not be faithful in a little? You must live prophetically, as if your ministry is worldwide right now, because in truth, it is; you never know the reach of God through what you do right here in your little arena.

For his name – it is all about Jesus – anything that has something as its focus other than the person of Jesus Christ, His atoning work, and our becoming like Him is not from God, no matter how right it may seem, and how much it sounds like the real thing or how much it talks of Jesus, if the primary focus is something else, it is a distraction which leads to diversion, and ultimately to deception. No work you do for God that comes from your own power will survive the judgment seat of Christ and anything good but not for him is of no eternal worth either.

We apply this by saying that through Jesus Christ and only through Him we receive grace for everything we need to be obedient to the faith anywhere and everywhere we go so that we will glorify Him.

Why don’t we receive? Because we either don’t seek it from Christ alone, or we don’t intend or aren’t obedient to what the gift is for, or we live a compartmentalized life (double minded – James 1:6-7), or we aren’t intending or aren’t’ glorifying Him with the gift.

Discernment point: Evangelical co-belligerence, partnering with non-Christians of other faiths for “the common good”. The common purpose may seem right, however, it is not done for the name of Christ but for the good of men. It is certainly right and good to help hurting people, of course, but there are limits. The church is not to be a “partner” with government and business to help eradicate society’s ills; that is the old social gospel of the early twentieth century. When an effort places the gospel as being secondary in importance to other needs, even if they are real and epidemic it is wrong. The most important thing is a person’s soul, and to set the gospel aside in order to work with non-believers is to deny Christ. A watered down gospel is no gospel at all. We may work with them for noble purposes, yes, but if it means that we have to silence our voice about the gospel then no, no matter how pressing the need.

The true gospel offends people. It reminds us that we are fallen creatures in bondage to sin and on our way to hell apart from God and His offer of salvation in Christ. It reminds us not to expect popularity in the world when we are true to His Word! Instead we are called to follow His narrow, difficult road, no matter what the cost:

John 15:18-21 – If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

In contrast, humanitarian deeds will win the world's applause. So will a whitewashed gospel, cleansed of offensive truth, and focused on man's worth rather than God's righteousness.

The gospel cannot be partnered with the world – 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NKJV) – For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.

Verse 6

Among whom
Among the all nations Paul was speaking about, the Romans were part of Paul’s mission

The Gospel is for all people, meaning all people groups, and only one way, and the call has gone out everywhere (Romans 10:18 / Colossians 1:6 / 1 Timothy 4:10 / Titus 2:11 / 1 John 2:2) –

How can we truthfully say, and in what sense is God the Savior of all men? It is not that all men are saved as in universalism but that there is only one Savior for all men; it isn't as if Christians have one Savior and others might have another savior. Notice Paul's point in 1 Timothy 4:10: especially of those who believe; Christ's atoning work is adequate to save anyone, but only effective in saving those who come to Him by faith. Jesus is the only Savior of all mankind, the only way (John 14:6 / Acts 4:12). Salvation wasn’t localized to a particular place or people and is not limited to a particular time period. The call is indeed universal, but the only those who will receive it are saved (John 1:12).

There is only one Gospel for all men, only one path, contrary to the billboard seen recently in Orlando, which declares that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have the same God, and says to the reader, “let’s talk” with a website and phone number. Of course, it is sponsored by an Islamic group. Jesus was intolerant of any other way, and God has declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah the Jews were looking for but missed, and God declared that the promise was through Isaac, not Ishmael, so the Muslims are wrong. Also, it cannot be the same Jesus because the Christian Jesus is the Son of God, and the Qur’an says that Allah has no son.

Are ye also
Paul was not just speaking to Romans in general, but to individuals, those who would believe.

You are also part of the mission, “among whom are ye also” means you and me and everybody.

You are included in God’s grace if you have faith. You have been blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). You have all you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You are more than a conqueror (Roman 8:37). You have been given a lively hope (1 Peter 1:3). All things work together for your good (Romans 8:28). You have an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled (1 Peter 1:4), and God always causes you to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14)!

The called
If we are also the called, then what are we called to? As we saw when studying verse 1, we are called, as it says in verse 7, to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2).

We are called to fellowship with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9). We are called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9). We are called to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). We are called to liberty (Galatians 5:13). We are called to the one body of Christ (Colossians 3:15). We are called to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7). We are called to suffer for righteousness sake (1 Peter 2:21 / Philippians 1:29 / 2 Timothy 3:12). We are called to virtue (2 Peter 1:3). We are called to inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9). We are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). We are called to his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12 / 2 Thessalonians 2:14 / 1 Peter 5:10)!

Those wonderful truths we have been sharing for the last several moments are what our missionary friends are telling those in the rest of the world. It is also what we need to be sharing with our world. We don’t need to change the message. If those you share the Gospel with don’t believe it, then they won’t receive it. If they won’t receive it, you will have done your part; if they don’t get it, then don’t sweat it (John 3:27 / John 6:44).

Of Jesus Christ: –
The Gospel, the spread of it, and your inclusion into it are all about Christ.

Jesus Christ is the one who called Paul to salvation and apostleship and Jesus equipped him for the mission. He is the one who called you and He will empower you for service in His kingdom. If you have answered the call to salvation, it is high time to answer the call to service. We also have the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of miracles, and so forth. Not exactly the same as Paul had, his mission was unique, but your mission is also unique, and you need special equipment to do the task.

You are called, and as we saw last week you have everything you need to perform every good work right at your fingertips. Earlier in this study and at other times we have discussed the futility of trying to serve in your own power. The Bible, through its great and precious promises, is how you are made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-4).

This is where the Bible comes in concerning power for service. When Jesus commanded the disciples to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), He had already breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), but He told His disciples not to go out until they had been endued with power from On High (Luke 24:49).

Jesus called this the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-8). Through this promise the early church received the power to evangelize the world. It is the power you need to evangelize your world. If the disciples needed power then so do we, more than ever.

To answer some teaching, yes, I believe that you received the Spirit at salvation, and yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, and you receive all of Him when you are saved. You may already be operating in “full power mode” without having to have had an experience.

Many, however, have not been taught that they received power when they were saved and have not as yet realized this power. The question, then, isn’t about His person, but His power. There are measures of His power; that is the point of 1 Corinthians 12 and what is written in John 3:34. It is not about lacking His essence but lacking His energy flowing through you. It may be resident within you, but have you acted upon it, have you realized, made real, cashed in on this power. That is what the baptism with the Holy Spirit is all about. It is about receiving by faith the power to perform your mission. It is like a commencement service for those who haven’t yet understood and realized God’s power in their lives and have decided to go on with God. It is the promise of the Father, and it is yours for the asking (Luke 11:13).

Verse 7
To all that be in Rome

Paul is concluding his greeting here before getting on to the message he wants to deliver to the members of the body of Christ in Rome.

Who is the “all” Paul is speaking of? “To all that be in Rome” means all the believers that were in Rome, not all the persons. We see that clearly in the next verse. The content of the message shows us that it is intended for anyone who would hear it, but it is specifically addressed to the believers. However, Paul is intending to include every believer, and not just some.

It is the same today. We may all have different functions and different gifts and different ministries in the kingdom of God, but it is the same God that gives His message and His grace to us all (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 14-18, and 25-27). The message God was about to deliver through Paul was for all that believed in Jesus. They should receive the message, internalize it, and then deliver it to the unbelievers, and amongst each other, in word and in deed.

We must understand that the message of the gospel is not only for the lost but also for the saved. The message preached is for everyone who will hear it; the preacher may mean for it to have a particular impact but the Holy Spirit will apply the message how He wants to your life situation. There is something for you in every message preached if that message is faithful to the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). John Calvin understood this truth when he affirmed that "The Word goeth out of the mouth of God in such a manner that it likewise goeth out of the mouth of men; for God does not speak openly from heaven, but employs men as His instruments."

Preaching springs from the truth that God has spoken in word and deed and that He has chosen human vessels to bear witness to Himself and His gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-21). We speak because we cannot be silent. Paul said “woe to me if I preach not the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16).” Jeremiah said the word was like fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). We speak because God has spoken. Paul said “I believed, therefore I speak (2 Corinthians 4:13).” Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word, in and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

The Greek word that is used for “save” and “saved” here in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 is sozo – It is the power of God to save, to heal, and to deliver. Verse 21 speaks of salvation in its final sense, but verse 18 speaks of the here and now – those that are being saved (NIV, NASB, etc.). To those that are being saved; you can be saved in the ultimate sense, but do you believe you can be saved here and now, in the temporal sense, from you temporal problems? Do you believe that through the foolishness of preaching that you can be healed, delivered, set free?

If the cross and its message seem weak, they are not; they are powerful and wise. But our expectations of what God should do keep us from receiving that power and wisdom. When hearing a message, you mustn’t think you’ve heard it all before or you will miss the part and the power of the message that was intended for you. You will miss His voice unless you “enter in” by faith (Hebrews 3:15-4:7).

Beloved of God

Ephesians 1:6 / Colossians 3:12 / Hebrews 11:6 – you are pleasing to God but you need to exercise your faith for it to manifest in your life.

God is not against you for your sins, He is for you against your sins. We are not at war with God (Romans 5:1), so we need to get on the right side of the battle. You don’t have to do things to get Him to love you and to bless you. In faith you are pleasing to God, and He wants to please you, you just need to get with the program. You can’t be fed lunch when you aren’t in the lunch line, stop complaining about being hungry and get in line.

Colossians 4:2 – Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
You have got to keep on keeping on, and give thanks to God no matter what (Job 13:15). You have got to “pray through” (Daniel 9:2-19). You need to not let the world, the flesh, and the devil steal your blessing (Mark 4). You hear the message, you know it is for you, you believe it, you receive it with joy, and then you go home and let it all slip away. 1 Peter 4:7 – watch unto prayer.

Preachers, we need to be more concerned about what happens to our people after they leave the building, not just how excited they get when they are in the building. We need to teach people not only how to get it, but how to keep it. Continue in prayer, and abound in thanksgiving.

Abounding with thanksgiving – Colossians 2:7 – abounding in thanksgiving means to be giving thanks a lot, but also that you will abound when you are in a continuously thankful attitude.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. This is the will of God!

God wants to please you, but He will not do it if it will spoil you – AW Tozer.

Hebrews 13:5 – We are beloved yet still discontent, and we are not ready for God’s blessing.

Proverbs 30:15-16 / Proverbs 27:20 – There are two sorts of discontentment, one good, and one very, very bad. There is spiritual discontentment and there is carnal discontentment. The heart of a carnally discontent person is comfortless. Wherever he goes, his ever-increasing misery goes with him. It is hell on earth. The flesh is a raging fire that will never be satisfied. The carnal nature can never be satisfied, if you are discontent, you are living out of your flesh. Our contentment must be in God, or we will be discontent.

James 4:1-2 – It originates in self. Self is the assertive principle in this agony of wars, fighting and murders. It is ‘your lusts that war . . .’ Self gives birth to carnal discontentment. This is always the case; there is no exception.

Psalm 127:2 (ESV) – It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Philippians 2:3-15 – Jesus was able to give up heaven and take on flesh because He was content in God (Colossians 3:3).

Called to be saints

Ephesians 1:1, 2:10 / 1 Corinthians 6:11 / 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, the ones that God through Christ has made saints. Christians are called saints; it isn’t some special designation given by men to other men because of what they have done. The Bible says that even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Those who are saved are all saints on account of Jesus Christ and His righteousness. All our good deeds are because of what He has done not what we have done.

Grace and peace to the saints; this is a standard opening of Paul’s He states the fact that those who have been called saints are also called to be saints; that is those whom God called Paul knew by their faith – they acted like saints, not like aint’s (Romans 1:8 / Colossians 1:2-4). He calls them saints corporately, the group of individuals that God has called out for Himself, the saints.

We are called to holiness, or wholly otherness, so that our lives will match our testimony. We are called out individually, but also corporately. Individually, when the chips are down, our lives will be different than others, and our testimony will bear weight. We are saints in position, but we need to act like saints in condition. Corporately, we will see the power of God demonstrated when we lean on Him instead of the arm of the flesh through partnering with the world. We are not only to proclaim, but also to live out the truth of the gospel, not complain, and live out our pitiful use of the gospel. The gospel has the power we need individually, and corporately. We need holy gladness and holy boldness. We need courage and conviction that God is enough.

We are to bring the message, to speak and to live the message out (Philippians 2:15), not have unbelievers come in with their message so that we can then give them ours. Our credibility is in godly living, not worldly appeal. We seem to have this feeling in the Church today that we need to beg them to come and do everything like the world, we have to entertain them to get them to come in, and now the church looks just like the world, only with baptized “Christian” terminology, like so-called “Christian yoga”. The truth is that so-called Christians today will do anything and just put the tag of “for God”, or “for Jesus”, on it and somehow this is supposed to baptize it into sanctity. The problem is that we are alienated from the life of God by the hardness of our hearts (Ephesians 4:17-18). We are not broken by our sin, and we feel like it is our right and amazingly we call darkness light and say it is our responsibility to redeem the culture by becoming like it. Blasphemy! Titus 1:16 and 2:11-12 apply here.

“They don't call it worldliness, they have a new word for it; it's called contextualization, which is a fancy word for worldliness. The contextualization of the gospel today has infected the church with the spirit of the age. It has opened the church's doors wide for worldliness and shallowness and in some cases a crass party atmosphere. The world now sets the agenda for the church. . . . The average church, I'm afraid, may care far more about the world's opinion than they do about God's. They're so engrossed in trying to please non-Christians they may have little thought for pleasing God Himself. And you might conclude that the church has been so over contextualized as to become worldly”, Jim Bublitz from oldtruth.com.

This is exactly what we are seeing these days. The truth is that the worldly fascination proves that they have not been BROKEN by their sin, they are self-ish, and what they want is a Jesus who will let them cling to Him while still clinging to their old man and his ways. "Christian homosexuals", "Christian Goth", “Christian nudist camps”, “Christian raves” etc; it is all about "redeeming it for Christ", they say. If the tree is bad, so will the fruit be. What we need is new life, not our best life now, including all those goodies we won't leave behind. They defiantly will not listen, and claim that they belong to Christ because they are not broken, again I say. The true gospel offends people, and makes them count the cost. This reminds me of what goes on in Hindu countries, where you evangelize; they say that they want Jesus, but only to add Him to their pantheon of gods. Here in Laodicea, we want Jesus plus our entertainment...The gospel cannot be partnered with the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

James 1:27 – Just doing good things isn’t enough; we can’t do the first part at the expense of the second. Unspotted means that we don’t partner up with the world, even when it means we have to leave off at doing some “good” things for others. However, so many of today’s so-called Christian leaders just don’t get it. They think that we need government and business help to spread the supposed Gospel they are carrying. Think for a moment about Lot, he was the mayor of his town but that influence didn’t stop it from suffering the judgment of God in flaming fire and brimstone! How dare we think that if we could just get our legislators and judges to be Christians that then everything would be hunky dory? We could have every governor, every Senator, every politician in America, and the world for that matter, as professing, born again Christians and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference! Don’t you know that God already has the king’s heart in His hand and He turns it any way He wants (Proverbs 21:1)? Yes we can vote, but this world is passing away and we are just passing through; our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Holiness means not to yoke ourselves with the world in order to further a common cause if it means that we must compromise the Gospel, and being a saint means not to act and think as the world in all of its wicked ways. Not compromising the Gospel isn’t just about being able to declare the truths of Christ, it also means not believing that we can look like the world, like we can be separate in heart but we can still adhere to the latest and greatest trends in society, being worldly, fleshly, centered on self, and what the Old Man Adam wants rather than centered on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-3). No person can live a life separated unto the Gospel in their heart and still be living and looking like they used to in the world. We must be progressively becoming more detached from the world. There are things that I did last year that I by the grace of God will never do again, even if they aren’t sin per se they are at best dead works, and at worst they are the makings of an idolatry of self. It might not be all bad, but it is absolutely no good. I’m tired of being cool, now I want to be clean. Being reverent is relevant.

It isn’t about what you are allowed to do; it is what will leave you in a static state rather than having a living, growing, dynamic relationship with Christ. Don’t think for one minute that you can go on doing like you do and still get moving on with God. Yes, it may not keep you from Heaven, but that thing you won’t let go of, that thing that you defend as your right, that thing that you know isn’t right but you tell everyone else that it is none of their business, that thing that you keep as your little secret, that thing that you have to do in certain company but refrain from amongst others, that thing will keep you from God’s greater glory, it doesn’t glorify God, and it ruins, yes I said it RUINS your witness!

In the name of supposedly spreading the Gospel, we compromise; we let the world dictate to us as long as we get to dictate a little back. As long as they pretend to listen, and as long as they fill our pews, pad our pockets, support our programs, and come to our parties, as long as they satisfy our hunger for prestige, our thirst for significance, and our longing for popularity, as long as they want to help us in our humanitarian aid, we let the world set the standard for our conduct; morally, ethically, socially, and yes, even spiritually. If we really believed that we had something to offer, then we wouldn’t need to coerce or cajole, the power of the Holy Ghost would compel them, if they are going to be saved.

These days we are committed first to results and relationships. But here Paul declares that we are first called to be saints, to God and His kingdom, not first to results or relationships, but to God. Adam and Eve, instead of God’s Word they first chose results by Eve wanting what the fruit supposedly offered. Adam still had a choice to make, even after Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, but Adam chose his wife (relationships) rather than God (obeying His Word). This is why Christ said that we must put our relationship with God and His Word above any other relationship; He even described it as “hating” you father and mother as compared to God.

Jesus reversed this human tendency toward results and relationships by denying Himself (Matthew 4 / Luke 4 – if He would have turned the stones to bread, it would have been that Satan would have then told Him to feed the world – results). The Word comes before the bread – John tells us that Jesus first taught them then fed them (John 6). He was tempted by Satan in His relationship with the angels, and also results of gaining the world. But what will it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul (Mark 8:36)? Jesus knew the discouragement of having a ministry that didn’t seem to meet its goals (Isaiah 49:1-6), but He with was more interested in faithfulness than results, and He knew that God would reward Him.

The quest of results and relationships has clouded the judgment of the Church, and of individuals that ought to know better. The world in the church – look at the fruit of the Church Growth Movement – has the Church changed the world, or has the world changed the Church? They may get the whole world into their churches, but are the people transformed, or does that church become transformed? The churches are bigger than ever but full of unregenerate, unrepentant unbelievers. Instead of tares among the wheat we now have only some wheat among the tares.

We have got it backwards. They even speak of “transformational churches” these days. The Bible says that we are not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The people are to be transformed by God, not the church being transformed by the world. They say that if we don’t adapt we will be left behind, but I say that if we do adapt we will be left behind all right, when the trumpet sounds at the Rapture, where the unspotted bride of Christ will be taken away (Ephesians 5:27 / Colossians 1:22). They say that if we don’t get with it that we will fade away. But my Bible says, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isaiah 40:8).” Again, I say, what profit a man, and we could say, the Church, to gain the world but lose its soul?

You are called to be a saint; how are you answering the call?

Grace to you

John 1:14 – grace can be given but apparently not received.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – Do you receive it?

Vehicles or means of grace – John Piper has said that:
Grace strengthens my soul by faith when I meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 1:3). Grace strengthens my soul by faith when I see saints love each other sacrificially by the power of Christ (Matthew 5:16). Grace strengthens my soul by faith when I see the heavens declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Grace strengthens my soul by faith when I fulfill my ministry with God's help (1 Timothy 3:13). Grace strengthens my soul by faith when fellow-Christians pray for me (Ephesians 4:16). Grace strengthens my soul by faith when a brother or a sister exhorts me or admonishes me or hears my confession of sin and comforts me (Hebrews 3:12-13). And fresh grace strengthens my soul by faith when I remember Jesus, in the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, and feast on his risen life.

And peace

Peace with God
Romans 5:1 / Colossians 1:20 / Ephesians 2:13-14 / Philippians 4:7
Romans 15:13 – peace and joy come in believing what God has said. When you believe, He will fill you with joy and peace and you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ

John 5:23
From God to us through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:33 / Romans 5:5 – the Holy Ghost is given by Christ, He comes through Christ, and He proceeds from the Father through the Son – John 15:26, 16:7, 13-15, and 20:22.

Applying the Power of the Cross to Everyday Life: Crucifying the Flesh

There is going to be a lot of material to cover here, and some build up to the main points is necessary, so please stay with it, your concentrated reading will pay off. Basically, what we are going to describe is how Satan shoots an arrow of offense, deception, perversion, or whatever, using the agency of another person, etc., and how and why God allows this. We are going to explore how God allows Satan to attack us, enflaming our flesh or by using the world, and how we can “die” to these attacks.

These arrows can only hurt us on the surface, not in our inner, spiritual man. This is actually for our good, because it allows an opportunity to crucify the flesh, and to have the life of God in its place. Haven’t you always wondered what people meant by, “take it to the Cross”, and “ crucify the flesh” and especially what it means and what it takes to be Christlike? Now you will be able to see one way of how this is accomplished by God, amen.

Grace and peace from God and the Lord Jesus Christ: these words are written for us by both Paul and Peter, and by countless others down through the history of the Christian movement. These were and are more than words of encouragement. The people who penned these words had gone through tremendous trials and had received grace and peace and now they were spreading it. How are we going to be able to do the same?

We must understand that while grace is free but it doesn’t always work on “automatic”, it is grace accessed by faith (Romans 5:2 / Ephesians 2:8-10): that is how we apply grace, by our faith. There is more than saving grace; there is standing and sanctifying grace, etc. We need grace for this life, not just grace to get us to the next one.

Peace isn’t the lack of conflict it is in the face of conflict. Jesus left us His peace but it is applied when we are ready to yield to Him in the face of conflict, and not stand up for our rights.

Grace and peace are what we are supposed to be spreading; it is what God has endowed us with an unlimited supply but by our unbelief and our grumbling we limit God’s unlimited power in our life (Psalm 78:41).

Paul is an agent of grace and peace, working for the agency of God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the Chairman of the Board, Christ is the President, and the Holy Spirit is the Chief Operating Officer. Have you ever seen the business card of someone who just got out of college or is just starting a career, and they haven’t worked their way into management yet? On it you will see the title, it is “account executive”, in other words, sales, but the salesman are the ones who drive the company and the ones who get paid according to their production.

We are the same in God’s kingdom. All we have to do as “account executives” for Christ is to spread His unlimited grace and peace around, especially to the other saints. When we do that we will “get paid” by receiving more grace and peace ourselves, more that we can spread out, and on and on. Grace and peace, more and more of it, are what we need, and we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-10). If we are faithful in what seems to be a little thing God will be honored and promote us (Luke 16:10-12).

You can spread grace and peace around because it doesn’t depend on you and your supply, but on God’s. Philippians 1:19 – the bad will turn for your good in the sense that you will be stronger by feeling more power from God; power to overcome negative things said about you or done to you. Like Paul here in this passage, he is in prison and people are doing wrong things to him. There are situations that look bad and then a bad thing happens to seemingly make it worse, but God is mocking the devil by this thing. He is making it better and turning things to your good (Romans 8:28) because God acts more powerfully on your behalf because you need more of Him, amen! This is why we can rejoice in trials (James 1:2). That is, if you recognize instead of retaliate.

A lot of people already know some of these things in principle; however, insight without understanding is dangerous. As believers in Jesus, we all have a new spiritual insight into things. But, the question is, do we correctly understand what we see? Insight is all around us. We see what God tells us in the scriptures about how the devil, our flesh, and the world work to bring us down. We see that God intends to bring us up, out of those circumstances. We see that He intends to bring us through trials for His glory, not to simply let us avoid any semblance of suffering.

We may understand this in theory, but we fail to recognize it in practice. What we don’t recognize is how it is all orchestrated, we may see it but we don’t realize it, we don’t understand how it all plays out. What we need is insight with understanding. You see, in Jesus, insight is immediate and free. On the other hand, insight with understanding takes time and has cost. It's not something we can snap our fingers and have. The bible says with all your wisdom get understanding (Proverbs 4:5).

You have to understand how God works, and how He uses the world the flesh and the devil to conform you to Christ-likeness. We must understand how the wiles of the devil are used.

God allows the negatives to come in so as to give you an opportunity to destroy the flesh, and to see His power manifested for you to stand firm in the battles of life.

Ephesians 6:10-11

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

The word for wiles or schemes in the Greek is methodeia, or the methods of the devil, which are used by God so that we may stand in the power of His might. By having to deal with what makes you upset you have to let go of you, and have to get more of God to get you through.

The key is to recognize before you respond, you see the attack for what it is, a God ordained opportunity for growth in grace. You are being trained to be a proven warrior for Christ. That person is not the enemy, but a victim of the enemy and yet is still a tool, of God. You can turn the devil’s goal of attack around, not only for yourself but also for the other person.

Imagine the power of this: what may seem to be an obstacle and a problem and an offense and nothing but a negative can actually be the way to your victory over the flesh and promotion in the ranks of the godly. Of course you can react by the flesh and you are worse off and the other person is no better. That is what we too often see, all hurt and no help, because we didn’t recognize the possibilities for the power of God.

You see it is easy to spread grace and peace around when no one is offending you or whatever. But it is also easier to spread a false grace and peace done out of your flesh done with no real love toward others only nice feelings and warm fuzzies. But if we have to suffer an arrow then the grace and peace have to come from our spirits by the power of God and what people get is real, tested and proven, and instructive to those who receive it.

Well, when we receive grace and peace from the Lord, it is like a “booster shot”, but we will get tested for effectiveness right away, and we don’t get it without the experience of crucifying the flesh. The problem is we feel like what we need is a “power boost shot”, and then we can walk around and say, “do what you will, it doesn’t matter”. We think we can get the feeling and then we can start dealing. It doesn’t usually work that way. The normal way is that we start dealing and then we get the feeling. God gets the glory and you get the grace.

You have to learn how to use the shield of faith. It isn’t some mantra you repeat in the morning or before you enter a tough situation and then expect that you are “covered” somehow just because you repeated a few positive affirmations. People think just because God says so that they can just say so, and the devil has to run, but that isn’t the case (Acts 19:13-19). In that passage it wasn’t just that they got the formula wrong by saying, “whom Paul preaches”; it wasn’t the formula that was wrong it was their faith that was wrong.

It’s the same as those who think that just because they repeat some formula about wearing the full armor of God that they are wearing it, not so. We must say so in deed and in truth (1 John 3:13-19); when God allows the devil or lets others be used “against” us, we must show forth in truth that we trust God and are dying to the flesh. The power of God is not a play toy, and isn’t a magic incantation that we can use regardless of our personal state.

The scenario goes like this: first, the devil uses someone or something to shoot an arrow into you (Ephesians 6). Now you, instead of going, woe is me, well you just recognize what God is doing, and you laugh and realize that all the arrow did was hit your flesh. Well good, let it die anyway! Instead of this puny instrument that cannot touch your spirit harming you by you living from and reacting to the flesh, you say, “go ahead, make my day!”

Now you have gotten your booster shot, you have recognized what God was doing through the agency of others. Satan meant it for bad, and the other person may or may not have, but God meant it for both your and their good, you get more grace, renewed strength. The other person sees a true light of Christ in you, and the only thing that gets hurt is your flesh, which you want to die anyway! Then that thing that once could hurt you cannot hurt you any more, and you have experience in wielding the shield of faith. What hurt you before can’t hurt you no more! You grow in the Lord and know how to spread grace and peace, amen!

We are in a battle. If some little imp can get the best of you, if all the enemy has to do is shoot one little arrow, and then you cry and scream, “I’m hit”, and fall down and focus on your wound, then you are out of the battle for the time being. When you eventually get up, the same little arrow is used to knock you down again. This will keep happening until you learn that if you just keep going after getting hit, not focusing on the flesh that is hurting, then what happens is that flesh dies and the life of Christ takes its place!

Most Christians just go around after getting hit with a little toy arrow and moan and complain about how bad life is treating them; if that is all that the devil has to do, you aren’t very mature. What we should want is to get to the place where there could be all kinds of weapons in array against us. It would be like, “come on help me get holy!” That way other people will have to deal with less, and they can even help us out if we need it.

So many think they are in this big battle when all the enemy has to do is take one little arrow of offense and you are down for the count, for weeks or months, or maybe even leave the church or the fellowship of the saints altogether. So often this is what is happening to those who get hurt so easily and then say they don’t have to go to church, they have been stung by a bb. Why in the world do you think you can do real spiritual warfare when the sound of a cap gun knocks you down?

Satan has a limited supply, if all he needs is a toy dart to keep you down, then that is all you will get, but since you aren’t growing and letting these darts kill the flesh, these darts seem like great big attacks because they are multiplied. Satan has limited resources but he is always trying to enlist you to do his will, and in that way he multiplies his arsenal. Are you his agent? The bible describes Jesus as our Advocate (1 John 2:1), and Satan as our Adversary (1 Peter 5:8). What agency are you using most often, the Advocate, or the Adversary?

Now Satan has got other kinds of weapons in his arsenal besides offense, like fear, frustration, discouragement, and others, but grace and peace are your way to begin to win versus these too. Satan’s arrows may be intended by him to harm you, but God intends them to show off your skills as a Christian warrior. He will give you power to overcome if you will let that part of you that can’t overcome, namely your flesh, your “self”, die so that He can take its place.

1 Peter 5:8-10 – the process of suffering and gaining life from death for the Christian Warrior.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

You have to suffer the death of the flesh first and then God will strengthen you. The question is, How well are you doing in the fight?

Be prepared to suffer with the death of the flesh. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2 NKJV).” Crucifixion is a slow, painful death. When we crucify our sinful desires, we will suffer as they die. When the pain of death begins, the joy of the Lord will flood our souls, and it is this joy that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We should be mentally prepared for the suffering we'll face on the road to freedom. Armed with the mind of Christ, we will have permanent victory!

The Way (to the Cross) the Truth (of the Cross) and the Life (from the Cross)

So many times we have heard to take it to the Cross, that we have to go to the Cross, that the Cross hold power for us in this life, and that we have to crucify the flesh, etc.; but what does that mean, and how is it done? That is what we have been beginning to show you, now look further.

Colossians 2:15 – God mocks the devil again by making a show of the devil openly with our lives, following Jesus to the Cross and becoming Christlike with the death of our flesh that the life we live is by the Son of God (Galatians 2:20 / Philippians 1:21).

If you teach or learn this then it will invite the attack of the enemy, which is what your flesh will speak to you. Your old man doesn’t want to be starved to death; he wants constant attention. Well in a sense the attacks are what we want, cause all it can do is allow us to win even more, the devil cannot touch us where it really hurts, in our spirits, if we are dead to the flesh (Romans 6:6 / Luke 12:4-5 / Colossians 3:3).

Matthew 10:28 – And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

We will be able to suffer the death of the flesh more, God will get more glory, the devil will be mocked, and we will be more Christlike. If the fire gets hotter, so be it, all it does is burn off the dross, and really it isn’t that it is getting any more intense it’s just that we will recognize the battles for what they are and now we will be prepared to win.

John 12:20-28 – a prophetic passage about how we can see Jesus’ power in our lives.

20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

We live this passage out literally and we are literally becoming more Christlike. In other words, the hour has come for you, as a Son of God, a child of God, that the Son of man should be glorified in your life. You must lose your life to find it, not that we have to lose all our possessions, although that is what many see this passage as saying. However, it isn’t the stuff that is bad, material things aren’t bad in themselves. What we must and we will lose is the stuff that is bad inherently, like envy, jealousy, covetousness, greed, pride, etc.

These are what make having those things bad, what spoils us from having them, but if we don’t have the lust for those things then those things won’t spoil us. Then it will be okay to have them because they won’t cause us to sin and so it is more likely that God will allow us to have them. However, since we don’t have that other stuff like pride that sometimes makes us want certain stuff, than it won’t matter if we get the stuff or not anyway. It also won’t matter if some have the stuff and we don’t have it, we won’t care, and the other who has also lost the lust for the things won’t mind sharing.

We serve Christ and His cause by following Him, and so we need to realize where He was going, which was the cross, which means we must also go to the Cross. Through that sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) God honors us. It is a troubling thing to our soul to realize what is going to happen because our flesh will not like it one bit, but it is for this that the sons of God are manifested that the name of God might be glorified once again. We can set our eyes on the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus knew it was going to hurt and we are to humble ourselves and arm ourselves with the like mind (1 Peter 4:1 / Philippians 2:5-15).

There it is: we get hit, but instead of looking at what it has done to “our life”, we move on to the cross, it hurts, our flesh is troubled, but we keep on going and the flesh eventually dies, and the resurrection life of Jesus takes its place. We are becoming Christian warriors; the shield of faith has quenched the arrows of the devil. We are learning to use the weapons of our warfare, and we are moving ahead in the battle, not lying there wounded on the field, no glory being given to god. We are more than conquerors, our lives mock the devil instead of us spewing out threats to him, and God is glorified in His saints. Hallelujah!

Now Satan has other arrows in his quiver, not just offense. There is, of course, deception, and perversion. Perversion is when an otherwise good thing is used in a bad way. Everyone seems to be looking for something to grab on to, and that thing can become sin. We are holding on to what God has given us instead of holding on to God Himself. Many times this is when we have gotten hold of a truth of God, and we think it a thing to be grasped like a tool, but instead of us using it, it uses us, a perversion.

For example, with the teaching we just went over, this could be perverted by thinking that everything is just a dart, and by this we never listen to anybody at all. Nothing “gets through” to us, and we think we are wearing the breastplate of righteousness when what we are really doing is just being a victim of a hard heart.

Verse 8

We are going to look at preacher, and pew, and prayer, and the power of thanksgiving. We will be going through a lot of scripture, so be careful to hear it all, don’t get sidetracked or offended.

FIRST THINGS FIRST
– THANKING GOD – STEWARDSHIP

First – The first thing Paul was going to do was to thank God for what he was given, in this instance people to preach to. We are thank God for what we are given, and we thank Him rightly by giving Him the firstfruits, including the fruit of our lips (Hebrews 13:15). God, and specifically our allegiance to Jesus Christ, should be our first priority (Colossians 1:18).

Seek ye first – Matthew 6:33 – the first thing we need to do is seek Jesus. What is the kingdom of God and his righteousness, it is the person of Jesus Himself. Luke 17:21 – Jesus IS the kingdom. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God’s righteousness IS Christ.

So to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is to seek Jesus. The question, then, is how do we do that?

Hebrews 12:28 – reverence and awe, not a casual thing.

Philippians 2:21 – others, 1 Corinthians 10:24, 14:12

Colossians 3:1 – not worldly

Hebrews 11:6 – diligently

Matthew 7:7 – persistently

Hebrews 13:14 – future grace

1 Peter 3:11 – peace

Romans 2:7 – holiness (Romans 14:17)

Galatians 2:17 – realize it is still us in Christ, not Christ in us, our old man still sins

Acts 17:30 – repentance

Galatians 1:10 – to please God not man

Luke 13:24-27 – narrow way

Luke 19:10 – Jesus is the seeker

John 5:44 – faithfulness

The firstfruits belong to God; a principle found throughout the Word. We could cover a lot of direct commands, types, shadows, and examples, but lets just consider one that many people haven’t thought about before. In the book of Joshua, there were 10 cities conquered, and they were allowed to take whatever they wanted from last nine, but nothing from Jericho, the first.

Matthew 6:33 – people put themselves first, but it shows our trust in God when put Him first. This is God’s will, and along with giving thanks (Colossians 2:7, 4:2), it gives us power in prayer (1 John 5:14-15).

Thank Him for what you have before you ask Him for what you need. He already knows what you need (Matthew 6:8, 32); what He wants is to hear how much you appreciate what He has already done. If we will honor Him, He will honor us (1 Timothy 4:8).

Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7). You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start, most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. Its like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to.

The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little, it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel is your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).

It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship. If we love the Pittsburgh Steelers, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little Steeler clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.

Now I like sports, but follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that every thing we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?

I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted; it is not a contest, but a conquest. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart them mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the Steelers or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?

Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament, all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4 – keep your place here, we will be looking at the next part of this passage in a minute, and it is interesting that this verse comes in the context that it does).

It isn’t a matter of doctrine; the truth is that the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but make sure you are honoring God with the firstfruits.

The concept of tithing in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest.

Tithing is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.

Luke 16:10-12 – three areas of faithfulness

In little things (Hudson Taylor) – A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness to a little thing is a big thing.
In financial things (Oswald Chambers) – The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.
In another ministry (Charles Spurgeon) – Those who have no master are slaves to themselves.

Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10 – sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect.

Ezekiel 33:31 – don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth.

Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-7 – don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t.

I thank my God through Jesus Christ
Colossians 3:17 – notice that we give thanks through both word and deed.

THANKING GOD – SINCERITY

Speaking again about prayer, the first thing they thanked God for in the Old Testament prayers was proclaiming God’s majesty and His mighty acts of redemption, and specifically the deliverance from Egypt and the bondage of slavery (2 Samuel 7:22-23 / Nehemiah 1:5-10). Now we thank God for His greatest act of redemption, and proclaim the work of Jesus Christ and our deliverance from the bondage of sin.

Adding to what we said earlier about prayer, that we are to thank Him for what we have before we ask Him for what we need, we must also consider adoration a large part of our devotional and prayer life.

Where thanksgiving is about God’s gifts and our gratitude, adoration is about God’s person and our awe. We give thanks when we recognize what we have received from God. We express adoration when we recognize who God is. Paul is giving thanks here, and later and at many other times in his letters he gives “doxologies”, or statements about God and His magnificence (cf. Romans 11:33-36 / Jude 24-25 / Revelation 4:8-11, etc.). It literally means to speak of His glory.

It is the very center of the prayer life. Unless we are motivated by a strong sense of adoration, the prayer life becomes greedy, selfish, and stunted. Adoration is our first and highest calling. For this we were made. For this we were redeemed. We need to cultivate this discipline of giving God the glory due Him, as best we can, and striving to get better all the time.

God is more than worth it, and this is another powerful principle of prayer. You must see God in His power before you see Him in your problems. Until our hearts find their safety, satisfaction, and rest in God, they will have no rest. We cannot glorify God in the world until we have glorified Him first in our hearts.

Also notice the repentance here, and in Daniel 2, etc. Here is yet another powerful principle of prayer: Tell God what you have done wrong before you ask Him to make it right.

God already knows what you have done wrong, but He wants you to live in constant view of the fact that He does know all that is going on about you, more than we know about ourselves. Realizing that we are open to God (Hebrews 4:13) helps us to live a more holy life.

We have spoken about putting first things first, but where does God look first? Of course, it is your heart (1 Samuel 16:7 / Jeremiah 17:10). How then, or what then, is a good test of that?

Here are three things that provide a good measure of where you are spiritually:

What am I really like in secret? I may appear to others to be master of myself when in public; but what happens when I close the door and only the Father sees me? It is not visible service so much as my hidden life of devotion that is the index of my spirituality.

How do I react to the words “duty”, “obedience”, and “submission”? Sanctification, growing in grace, is not about a feeling; it is about the submission of our wills to the will of God. Love for God and duty are two parts of the same thing. True faith manifests itself through obedience.

Am I living with a sense of how visible my life is to God? The giants of the faith learned to live visibly, even in secret; they knew they lived Coram Deo (before the face of God). That one principle is enough to transform your whole life, and rid you of all deception – of others, of God, of self.

You give thanks to God through Jesus Christ by doing the will of God, by maturing spiritually.

Giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ is more than putting “in Jesus name” on the end of our prayers. Certainly it is that, but it is more. Which child would truly be giving thanks for that item you gave to them or that wisdom you imparted to them: the one who did it with just words, or the one who put it to use?

Is the life you live like Paul’s, by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20)? Yes, well then, look again at Colossians 3:17, and look at 1 Corinthians 10:31. Are we giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ by giving glory to God, that is, by the life of Christ in us, in all that we do as well as say? Of course not, but are we progressing in that?

Do you want to be a more effective witness, or a leader in the church? Then look at what Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 4:15-16). Are we becoming more holy, that our lives give thanks to God? Do we even recognize the need for that?

THANKING GOD – SANCTIFICATION

We explained that we give thanks to God through Jesus Christ in both word and in deed (Colossians 3:17), and we gave the example of two kids, the one who put the gift to use was the one who was truly giving thanks. The gift we receive from God through Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit, and it is God the Spirit who sanctifies us, or sets us apart. Sanctification, or growing in grace, is the supreme way and measure of our thanks to God through Jesus Christ.

We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, and this will ultimately happen at the coming of the Lord, but in this life, we cooperate with the Spirit. As Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, we are not to be conformed by the world but transformed by the renewing of our mind to think and act like Jesus. This is a dual effort with God and us as Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. We act in accordance with His decrees.

The problem we see in the church today is the nature of how this works, and we see three examples of how it can be done wrong, how we can drift one way or another into error.

The P, Q, R, of S (Understanding the Two Sides of Sanctification)

P = Pietism

Pietism is the notion that sanctification (holiness) is a purely human work.

Produced by too much emphasis on the human side of the equation.

Pietism is a totally active approach to sanctification. It is up to you to defeat sin.

This is manifest in various forms of legalism and asceticism, like the religion of the Pharisees, and the monasticism of medieval Christianity.

Operative phrase: Go and get God

Q = Quietism

Quietism is the view that sanctification doesn't occur until we give up striving for it.

Produced by too little emphasis on the human side of the equation.

Quietism is a totally passive approach to sanctification; it is an attempt to become holy by abandoning all effort and simply "trusting" God to remove the temptation to sin.

This is manifest in the Deeper Life movements.

Operative phrase: Let go and let God

R = Riotism

Riotism is the idea that sanctification is an unnecessary focus.

Produced by no emphasis on the human or the divine side of the equation.

Riotism is a totally careless approach to sanctification. Because we teach that one can be saved without sanctification, masses of unconverted church members are lulled to sleep and end up in hell. The Bible teaches, "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

This is manifest in seeker sensitive movement, and sections of prosperity teachings.

Operative phrase: Don’t go – forget God

T = Truth:

The truth brings the knowledge that sanctification is an ongoing struggle where we ask God to give us the will to win (Ephesians 4:22-24 / Colossians 3).

Produced by a proper emphasis on both sides of the equation.

Truth is the proper approach to sanctification. We are simultaneously justified yet sinful.

This is manifest in the giants of the faith, and their struggles with each of the other ways.

Martin Luther was clearly involved with pietism first, being a monk.

John Wesley taught entire sanctification, but never achieved it in his own life.

We see both pietism and quietism as having failed, and of course riotism isn’t even a consideration, not that those who practice it are even considering anything anyway.

Operative phrase: Don’t let go of God

Fear and trembling is to understand that we will always have to be fending off our old man, but understanding that God will give us both the increased will and the deeds of holiness as we become closer to Him.

THANKING GOD – SUFFERING

We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by being faithful (3 areas), in word, in deed, and in truth (3 verses – Colossians 3:17 / 1 Corinthians 10:31 / 1 John 3:18), through our prayer lives (3 principles), by taking our spiritual temperature (3 measures), and by our growing in grace, or sanctification (3 wrong ways).

Developing the idea of sanctification further, and in keeping with the operative phrase, “don’t let go of God”, we come to our next point, which brings us back around to the overall point. Our spiritual power and our sanctification depend on a moment-by-moment bond with God. The dynamic of that relationship that helps build that bond is by thanking Him in all things. So we see how we give thanks through Christ in those other areas we have discussed, and now we will move on to matters about thanking Him that are deeper.

Now, as a starting point, we said earlier when discussing “first things first”, God initiates and establishes our relationship with Him. We don’t seek Him; He seeks us. Like everyone else, we were rebels under the spell and the power of the enemy; Christ rescues us and brings us home. We have nothing to do with it. We only respond to Life because we have been made alive. Because of His great love for us, God makes us alive when we were dead. It’s an empowering realization.

You may say, well we received eternal life, we responded. True, we opened the door and it was our choice. Jesus knocking on the door example – the door only has a handle on our side so it is of our own volition, our own “free will” that we open to Christ, but the truth is that we can only hear Him knock if He grants us the ability to hear.

We started this series in Romans with the title, the righteousness of God and the redemption of man. As we become more and more aware of how desperately sinful we really are, we also become more and more astounded by how righteous God really is. We begin to more fully realize, to make it real in our lives, the fact that God didn’t owe us His grace and mercy. We were dead in our sins, but God has made us alive. How often we forget that.

This “empowering realization” is the fountainhead of our giving thanks for His grace. Now, then, once we’re spiritually alive by God’s power, we can act to remain plugged into His current of grace. We are getting that moment-by-moment thing going. As we thank God for His presents, we remain in His presence.

However, it needs to be said that it is easy to give thanks when things are good, according to our standards. We have also talked about adoration, and it is tied to thankfulness. It gives thanks for His character regardless of any favors received. It is the real evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Gracious gratitude, as Jonathan Edwards called it, can grow in the midst of pain.

We need to give thanks to God through Jesus Christ by our suffering, and indeed it is Jesus Christ alone who gives value to suffering, so through Him is the only way to give thanks in it.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – the story of “it is well with my soul” song.

We must encounter God in such a way that we have a change in our perspective, regardless of any change in our circumstances. Instead of looking at our problem, we are longing for His perspective.

We need to be like Habakkuk after his encounter with God and respond humbly to trials. Habakkuk was a post-exilic prophet. He had gone from confusion about the circumstances to certainty about the Savior. A momentous change occurred in the disposition of Habakkuk's heart, and yet there has been absolutely no improvement in his circumstances. Nothing has changed, and yet, for Habakkuk's heart, everything has changed.

Habakkuk is a compelling example of prayer and patience. He says, "I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us" (Habakkuk 3:16). God has promised to discipline His people. He has promised to judge the Babylonians, and He has promised to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory; therefore, Habakkuk will wait humbly and quietly for the fulfillment of each promise, be it judgment or blessing.

Habakkuk knew nothing about God's timing on all this. He didn't know when this all would happen, and normally, neither do we. Though we find the promises of God throughout Scripture, they don't come with specific dates and times. Therefore, when our circumstances contradict God's character and promises, we're tempted to supply God with a time frame and demand that He fulfill His promises according to it. Instead we need to heed Colossians 4:2 – Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

Listen to Habakkuk's humble, joyful response to trials in Habakkuk 3:17-18.

Without ignoring the reality of suffering, Habakkuk turned his attention away from it and fixed his gaze upon the more critical issue of salvation. So which are you more aware of, the present suffering or, the great salvation (Hebrews 2:3) that is in Jesus Christ?

To know true joy in the midst of suffering is to recognize that regardless of the severity of suffering we experience in this life, it is never as great or as serious as our sins. That's a divine perspective of suffering. As a Christian, our suffering is never as great as our sins.

2 Corinthians 4:7 – apples of silver in pitchers of gold, wrapped in a cardboard box, the box has to be ripped opened to reveal the treasure (words fitly spoken can be likened to God’s Word, the revelation of Himself through our flesh). The prize, the gift is on the inside but all we want to do is decorate the box.

Verses 8-9 of 2 Corinthians 4 is not about just making it through, it is about the triumph of Christ that reveals itself when we are at our personal weakest. It’s not that we see trouble but eventually we will be okay, it is that we see trouble and we know that we are revealing God by giving thanks anyway. We understand that thought we are crushed in body, and weak in soul, our Savior Jesus lives on strong, He is a flame that cannot be put out!

Pressed but not crushed, it isn’t that we are pressed but we still have some volume left, like we are only hanging in there, this type of press only presses out our weakness that His strength might appear as it is. We are perplexed but not in despair, we are to be at a loss with one's self but we are not with any less hope at all, it is not that we still have hope it is that hope has become greater to us. Persecuted but not abandoned, we are chased off but we are not out of the company we really want to keep, struck down but not destroyed, struck down and not destroyed doesn’t mean struck down and then we are down but not out, it means struck down in ourselves, so that He might live. Our lives may be being destroyed but He is emerging from that.

2 Corinthians 4:15 – For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

By His stripes we are healed, by our stripes He is revealed.

I will close with words of wisdom from J.I. Packer:

Scripture tells us that God gives strength for three things: endurance of strain and pressure, fidelity in serving God and others, and resistance to Satanic wiles. (Note – Of course these are the very three things we have been discussing for the last 6 weeks.)

But, and this the crucial point to grasp, what I have just formulated only becomes reality when Christians feel too weak, mentally, morally, and spiritually, and maybe physically too, to rise to the demands of each situation. Then they extend the hand of faith to God as drowning men stretch for the lifebelt. “Help!” is prayer at is truest, as it is weakness at its most explicit. And it is a prayer that God answers!

What the world never understands and those who think that the good Christian feels strong and powerful and has life easy never understands is that only consciously weak souls ever lean hard enough on the Lord to stand steady or walk straight in his risen power. Weakness is the true path, the only healthy way.

How weak, I wonder, are you today?


THANKING GOD – SOLIDARITY

We previously discussed the fact that God helps those who know they are weak. While we are all indeed weak, it does not mean that we don’t act. While we must be giving thanks to God for all things, and we must cling to the promises of God, we must also realize our part in the promises. As we have seen in our discussions about the compatibility between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, we have seen the need to act in accordance with God’s decrees, in salvation and in sanctification.

We have talked extensively about giving thanks in all things, and the last two meetings we spoke of giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ in our sanctification, and also in our suffering. Now we turn to a matter and manner of giving thanks that is near and dear to this pastor’s heart. That is the idea of giving thanks to God though Jesus Christ in our solidarity.

Solidarity is defined as common interest and active loyalty within a group. They go together: not just doing activity, and not just being within. Not on the outside and not stationary, inside and involved. Not simply showing up once in a while and perhaps participating when we want to, but staying within the group and in an active way. To both be present and to participate regularly.

The promises of God are yea and amen, and God wants us to possess them all in abundance. Now, while some promises are things God will bring to pass no matter what, others are like a garment waiting to be worn; they are for those who meet the conditions of them. When we meet those conditions, and we continue to pray, to give thanks, and believe in God the possibilities turn into probabilities as we put on the promises of God like prophecy.

There are promises of God that have been given to the Church, but many in these last days have come to believe that these promises are simply for individuals in the Church, which to them means simply saved individuals. This is not so, however; these promises are for the universal Church, yes, but they are appropriated by the individuals who are resident and active within the universal, invisible Church’s visible expression, which is the local church. If you are missing from the local church, you will be missing some of the blessings.

Let’s ask a question that is asked, every day, in many ways.

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

The answer to this is simple, but the reality of what this question is trying to point out isn’t as simple as it may seem, because many are not focusing on what is really meant by this question.

To simply answer the question, then, do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

The answer is no.

However, lets now propose a different, more pointed question that actually gets to the heart of the matter.

Do you have to go to church when you are a Christian?

The answer is yes.

Lets state them together, so that you may think about this, and begin to realize where we are going next.

Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No

Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.

Now people can get all up in arms about this statement, but what they are doing, not me, what they are doing is focusing on the legal aspect of it, not the spiritual aspect of it, and they fail to recognize that their spiritual lives will indeed suffer if they are not in church. Period. God knows it, everyone else knows it, and you know it.

What many people fail to realize is the benefit of just being there. It is very much like when I counsel couples; I always get them to commit to praying together at night before they go to bed. I am sure many of them wonder why this is so important. They probably feel like this exercise, as they might call it, has little chance of actually helping them.

However, what they are doing in their fleshly minds is trying to reason out why this is valuable inherently, and come to believe that the prayers won’t solve anything. They are looking at the prayers as some sort of vehicle that will magically deliver a message or some innate power that will get them to the next level. The answer isn’t always in the prayer by itself, it is that we honor God by doing it, and then He begins to line up the events and situations that will help us overcome the obstacles.

People are looking at the prayer itself, and wondering, what can that possibly do, I need money right now, or I need this or that to stop happening, or I need a job. It isn’t that He will give you a message right then and there, that this and this is what you should do, though He may, it is that this and this will start happening, all in response to your obedience to worship God and honor Him with prayer. You are leaving it on Him, in a way. You are coming in to His presence, as a couple, and the mere fact that you do this, becoming more intimately involved with God together, is why God becomes more intimately involved in your situation.

Church is the same way. The message may not have all that jazz for you in your mind, and the music may not move you as much as what is in your CD player right now, but that is only part of the plan God has for church. If you will just submit to God and commit, really now, to the local church, God will commit to your local lives. When you miss church you are not simply missing the message, you are missing the method.

The leading God gives is not only through the probing eye of the pastor, and not only through the community of believers assembled there, it is also just by attending yourself, in that God will then attend to your wants as you have attended to what He wants. Participating in church precipitates the providence and provision of God. When you open the doors of your will, then God will open the doors of your opportunity.

Saying that you can be a believer without going to church is like saying you can be a tennis player without stepping on the court. People say that they have a problem, that is why they couldn’t make it to church, but in truth they couldn’t make it church, and that is why they have a problem. God knows your heart, and God knows if you are looking for an excuse. If that problem weren’t there, would you have gone then? Then why didn’t you come that one particular week you didn’t have to work, or when you didn’t have that problem? You had better go when you can or God will make sure you can’t. Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. It is just like what we were studying in Jeremiah 44 (Arrow of Deception teaching).

The Church is a community, which is supposed to reflect the fact that God, in His tri-unity, is also a community. He is one, yet is three distinct persons. We are one in Christ through the Spirit, but we are also distinct persons.

Jesus put it this way when He was praying to God for His disciples: The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me (John 17:22-23).

Notice here that Jesus speaks of the glorious unity, which His disciples should have, is not some internal state of affairs, but a visible unity, which no one around can possibly deny. Jesus wants His followers to form an objective society in order to demonstrate that God is a society – a community of love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit into which we have been brought as members.

Earlier when we talked about Romans 1:7, which leads “to all that be in Rome”, we were talking about all the believers, as we discussed. Now lets examine that for a moment. Who and exactly where were all the believers in Rome? How could Paul make sure that the letter would be read to every believer in Rome? How did Paul know where to address this letter?

The answer is simple. Paul addressed the letters he wrote to CHURCHES, because there was no thought of believers acting like lone rangers outside the fellowship of other believers. The church is an essential part of the gospel!

Is the church essential to the gospel? If so, why? The Church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Christ is the Head of this Body (Colossians 1:18). Furthermore, He is the Savior of this Body (Ephesians 5:23) because He died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25).

When you are saved you are made part of the Body of Christ: another way of saying the same thing is that one cannot be saved without becoming a part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27). Therefore, the church is an essential part of the gospel. We cannot become a part of a Body and then separate ourselves from the rest of it, and expect to live.

You may think that all you need to do is stay connected to the Head and you are all right, but when you are separating from the rest of the Body, you are also separating from the Head. You cannot be nourished by the Head while at the same time un-sewing yourself from that which you are knit together (Colossians 2:19). We only increase with the increase of God as we are holding the Head and we stay knit together with all the joints and ligaments. You may think that you can continue to be a part of the invisible body while at the same time declining to participate in the visible body, but you are only fooling yourself.

We give thanks to God through Jesus Christ by attending and serving the institution that He founded, the Church, and we serve the universal church body by serving its visible expression, the local church body. God has a covenant with the Church.

Church is about fellowship, yes, and it is also about worship, yes, and worship in the context of fellowship is good and right. However, church is also about discipleship, and this takes leadership. All of this is necessary for the proper stewardship of a church through its members.

Let’s look at some negative and positive reasons for attending a local church.
To those who say they don't need to or have to go to church, or ask the question, "Why do I have to go to church?" …

Going to church honors God, does your absence?

Preaching helps build the building (edifice - edification - preaching) and it is essential for the exhortation and comfort of believers, in addition to their regular feeding on the Word. Also, most that I have observed who give the excuse that they don't need to go to church to be fed and led aren't actually feeding on Christ at all, or very little at best.

When you avoid church, you are avoiding the community of believers that need your gifting, 1 Corinthians (12-14) speaks plainly to this. Romans 15:14 / Colossians 3:16 – you cannot admonish and edify others without fellowship! In other words, you are being selfish, and you are ripping me off personally! He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; that is, one with Christ, AND ALSO, one with each other. Are you really part of the Body of Christ?

It is the fellowship of the church where we find Jesus Christ. Jesus is active in His Church. Yes, He is active in individual lives, but those lives find more power in the context of the local church.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find protection from the demonic forces of evil and sin in this world. We call it a sanctuary for a reason, folks.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find encouragement in life. We can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians.
It is the fellowship of the church where we become Jesus Christ to the world.

The church is where we can find the best vehicle for our growth. We hear the Word preached and taught, and it stimulates us in our own private devotional and study times.

That, in the “spiritual bodybuilding” aspect, is like “taking your vitamins” The second part of “getting big” is to engage in resistance training. In accordance with this idea, the environment of the church provides two important features of growth producing conflict:

Authority who will challenge you with truth and correct you when you are wrong.

The environment of believers who are imperfect and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your wrinkles. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Hurt feelings are probably the greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His Word can immunize you against such tenderness. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

If anyone thinks he is spiritual, just get close to your brethren, and you’ll find out what’s really inside you. People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. Matthew 7:3-5, consider how having a beam makes us see everything as having a beam in it. Sometimes we don’t notice a certain type of car all over the road until you own one yourself. If there’s bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. When you hide from church, you are exposed.

It doesn’t matter how agitating, rude or unspiritual your brethren might be. This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them. These attitudes are characteristics of your own immaturity – a weakness in YOU that needs perfected. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. They see their own sins and blemishes revealed in their relationship with the brethren, or they become outraged when their self-willed desires or sins are challenged through convicting preaching or correction.

If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the environment of the church will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to truth and the correction of authority (Hebrews 13:17).

Many would fight against God’s institution and claim they don’t have to go to church by appealing to the “priesthood of all believers.” Yes, it is true we are all able to come to God through Jesus; we are all a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9 / Revelation 1:6), and no one else is a mediator between God and man but Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). So, you are a priest, but did you consider the fact that the priests served in the temple!

Another objector (read: REBEL) may use what we just said and then say, “okay, but I am the temple – take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:19, pal! Of course, this is easily refuted by pointing out that the church is also the temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16 – so there!

And furthermore, looking back at the 1 Peter 2:5-9 passage, it says that we are lively stones. Now consider the fact that God, in 1 Corinthians 3:17, says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (the church). If we are lively stones, yet we are absent from the church, the temple of God, then are we helping build the church, or are we hindering the building of it? Well, we certainly aren’t helping matters by not being there!

We may not feel like we are tearing it down, but our lively stone is supposed to be a part of the building. You might say, well, it can be built without me. Okay, then God will indeed build it without you, but then just remember you won’t be a part of it. If God has to build the building without you in it, then you are not a part of it, e.g., you are not a part of the temple, you are outside, and it was your choice! See?

You will either leave the church or believe in the church. As the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37). Noah pleaded for people to come on board, and he didn’t promise good times, great music, hot babes, or any other thing in the world except a bunch of dirty, stinking animals! Are you going to get in the Ark or not?

If you are out of the church you are out of God’s will. Part of finding a good one is you staying and growing and helping it to be a good one.

Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. No more selfish excuses – GET IN CHURCH, AND STAY IN CHURCH.

THANKING GOD – SERVICE

We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our stewardship (3 areas of faithfulness). We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our sincerity, in word, in deed, and in truth (3 verses – Colossians 3:17 / 1 Corinthians 10:31 / 1 John 3:18), through our prayer lives (3 principles), and by taking our spiritual temperature (3 measures). We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our growing in grace, or sanctification (3 wrong ways).

We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our suffering (3 realizations – As a Christian, our suffering is never as great as our sins. By His stripes we are healed, by our stripes He is revealed. Weakness is the true path, the only healthy way.) We have talked about giving thanks unto God through Jesus Christ by our solidarity (3 questions – Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No. Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes. Are you a lively stone? That’s up to you to answer).

Another way that we often forget to give thanks to God through Jesus Christ is by the use of our time. However, that doesn’t mean just to be busier “about God’s business” by just being busier. It means living each moment as an opportunity to serve God, in whatever situation you find yourself in, not just waiting to get to that thing you want to do for God (Colossians 3:23-24). Sometimes your responsibilities for God can keep you from God.

Most people understand how material stuff has a way of keeping you from God. Well it is the same with ministry stuff. We go from one bad thing to another, we trade one love of stuff for another, we feel like we have licked the covetousness bug concerning material things, just to turn around and find that bug right back on us regarding ministry things. Instead of acquiring material we acquire ministry, and we are blind to the fact that God still doesn’t have our heart, not in that area, at least. This is the first of three issues, one positive and two negative, that deal with our time, and giving thanks to the Lord, that I want to deal with today. The first, again, is acquiring.

If this is you, you need to realize that this isn’t the way to please God, by doing more stuff for God. Just as your money doesn’t buy influence with God, neither will that big plan you have. What God wants, and requires, of you is that you stay humble, and worshipful, repentant, and submissive, and in order with your family life, loving your wife or husband and respecting them, giving to your children’s lives before you give to your church life, building your personal and family spiritual life before you build your ministry life, and so forth. That is Christian success. No amount of ministry success will change that.

One sign of spiritual immaturity that we often see as pastors is the desire to minister before the time is right. People start to “get right” with God, they finally attend church regularly, and then they feel like they are supposed to go out and conquer the world for God. A person starts to really believe, and they want to put into practice the things they are learning, and that is good. They should be sharing their faith, yes, but not starting some “big idea” ministry. The problem lies in the fact that they aren’t as equipped as they think they are. They are well intentioned, but they are not ready to lead. They may be great leaders in the world, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to lead in the kingdom of God, not yet at least.

They need to learn more than simple desire for God. You have to learn to lead, and it is a process. They need to learn to serve before they can learn to lead, and they have to learn to submit before they can learn to serve. They need to learn to obey before they learn to submit. That is the order: obedience, submission, service, and then, and only then, leadership. Said another way, your actions, attitudes, availability, and then ability.

Remember what we said earlier about faithfulness in another ministry (Luke 16:10-12)? What makes you think you can have this para-church ministry when you cannot even commit to the ministry of the local church? Learning to serve means learning to do what the church already knows it needs, not coming up with something you want to do and calling that service. Acquiring ministry is not the measure of spirituality.

Paul had a lot to say, and in this book of Romans he was about to lay it out in a way that the revelation of God had never been laid out before or since. This was Paul’s magnum opus, and yet after he gave his salutation, and before he got on with the meat of his letter, before he ministered to the people, he stopped and smelled the roses, as it were. First he gave thanks to God through Jesus Christ. Your ministry to God is more important, and comes before, your ministry for God.

How many times do we fail this standard? We may have some great revelation, some wonderful thing to say, some great idea, but we are so driven we forget our true purpose. It isn’t about what God has given us, or what we think we know but others don’t, it is God Himself that matters. The deal is already done, it is our privilege to proclaim it, not rush to name it and claim it. You don’t always have to “get on with it”; sometimes the interruptions are the main thing itself.

This is where many otherwise gifted people become blind. They are asleep to a big part of life. Indeed, many who are getting excited about the things of God don’t recognize the process God uses to grow us up. The reason so many don’t recognize opportunities to minister is because they think they have something “better” or “bigger” to do at the moment God is bringing a “certain person” or situation into focus. Often it is a situation that they need to learn to be able to handle that “bigger thing” when it comes along. However, that big thing won’t come along or we won’t be successful at it until we learn these smaller lessons, which of course are not smaller at all, just smaller in our own, finite minds.

That is the second area, and the overall thrust of what I am trying to say today. We must acknowledge God, in humility, in weakness and in strength, we must thank Him for all the things that come before us, and all of these things are opportunities to minister, or be ministered to.

It isn’t about acquiring ministry, but about being ready and available for ministry, not as we see it, but as God calls us to it. Think about Peter and John at the gate beautiful (Acts 3:1-2): that man was there every day, but the Apostles knew exactly when they should do the works of God. Think about Jesus, and the “certain man” at the pool, how come he got healed (John 5:5-8) and Jesus left the other sick folk alone?

Why are we looking to minister only in the way and time we want to, like right after we come off the mountaintop? Often, God lets us be used when we are down in the dumps, because then we truly realize the power is from God, and it helps us to be ready, in season and out. When we feel guilty but God uses us anyway, we see that we really do have a real faith, and that God is the one whose got a hold of us, and we can turn back to God with full assurance of faith. God allowing us to be used in our so-called weakest moments is His way of getting us to draw closer to Him.

We don’t earn ministry opportunities by being good little boys and girls, but we are allowed to see them by believing God is real, and recognizing opportunities as they come. Of course, drawing close to God in holiness helps us to realize these things, but God will allow us to minister even when we are seemingly far away from Him so as to get us to want to draw closer again. When you see God use you when you’ve been bad, repent, He is waiting for you with open arms. So if you just told someone else about believing God for there life, and now He has just shown you He is real by using you in your weakest moments, catch the clue, take some of your own medicine, and believe Him for your problem. That is “Christian Success”.

Be looking for God to send someone by at the “wrong time”. Your agenda is never as important as God’s. Remember what we said before, being faithful in a little thing is a big thing. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and those that walked on by. They had bigger and more important things to do, like teaching at the temple, but they missed the ministry just lying there waiting to happen.

Instead of thinking about the next big thing, pay attention to how God is present in each moment, in its mad rush or its rigmarole. He is present in both. Too often we become so time-obsessed that we take no time to really notice. We look at our watch, and think that we need to just hurry up and get on with it; we need to go watch the big game, right?

I heard of a pastor who one day after a Sunday service received a note: "Pastor I would appreciate it if you prayed shorter prayers. Your prayer this past Sunday was 12 minutes, 43 seconds in length. Please strive for greater brevity." The note was unsigned, but we know that this person is so bound by time that they haven’t learned to number the days. They can tell the time, but not discern the season.

Psalm 90:12 (HCSB) – Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.

We can miss that, and miss wisdom. See what this text proclaims: those who number their days carefully gain a wise heart. However, it is not numbering them by the clock, but by the experience. The people who do this become God's wise men: those calm, unhurried people who live in each moment fully, savoring simple things, celebrating small epiphanies, unafraid of life's inevitable surprises, adaptive to change yet not chasing after it. We must learn this many times.

Many driven people, at some point, forget their purpose. They lose the point. The very reason they began something – something that may have been noble – fades under the weight of their striving. Being driven too hard, their purpose gets displaced by greed for more, or dread of setback, or force of habit. Their drive eventually becomes their purpose.

The difference between living out our purpose and being driven is most clearly seen in what we do with time. The driven are fanatical time managers – time-mongers, time-herders, and time-hoarders. Living requires time management, true, but not the kind that attempts to quarantine most of what makes life what it is: the mess, the surprises, the breakdowns, and the breakthroughs. However, that is what many if not most people do, especially as they become “successful”. That is another pitfall of trying to be a Christian success, the first was acquiring, this is avoiding. Avoiding and acquiring hinder you from acknowledging.

I challenge you to redefine what you think is Christian “success”. Have you truly replaced your understanding of worldly success with a biblical one, or are you just using the same standard and “baptizing” it with words like ministry, and victory. Look again at “acquiring” and “avoiding” – this is what most people, even after they become Christians, think victorious living is about, and they are wrong, dead wrong. Faith without works is dead, yes, but works without faith is death itself. Trying to acquire in order to please God is not faith, and doing for others without caring for home is not faithfulness. Avoiding is not faith its fear. It’s not care, its control.

I have said it before: if you try and control every situation, you are controlled by every situation. Too much rigidity strangles purpose. The more I try to manage time, the more anxious I get about it, and the more I get distracted and lose my purpose.

Truly purposeful people manage time less and pay attention more. The most purposeful people I know rarely over-manage time, and when they do, it's usually because they're lapsing into busyness and guilt. The distinguishing mark of purposeful people is not time management. It's that they notice what is really going on for all it is worth. They are being and living prophetically. They acknowledge God, they thank God in all and for all they do.

That is mainly what prophecy is about, not fore telling the future, but forth telling the present from God’s perspective. The truly purposeful are not trying to move on to the next thing, and scratching another thing off the list, they are living God’s purposes to the full in every moment. They are truly awake to the life of God.

Martin Luther learned this lesson (Luther in the castle). Perhaps speaking about time wasted, he said, “Riches are the pettiest and least worthy gifts which God can give a man. What are they to God's Word, to bodily gifts, such as beauty and health; or to the gifts of the mind, such as understanding, skill, and wisdom! Yet men toil for them day and night, and take no rest. Therefore God commonly gives riches to foolish people to whom he gives nothing else.”

C.S. Lewis – The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it's hard to remember it all the time.

We need to see and follow the examples of Paul, and of course, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had a purpose and could have been driven; he knew his mission and was bound and determined to see it through. He was to deliver the Gospel to the whole known world, to the Gentiles. Yet he stayed three years in Ephesus, and he didn’t complain about his purpose and his lack of time, or tell God how he needed to be set free or the Gospel wouldn’t get out when he was imprisoned. He knew that he may be bound but the Word of God was not bound. He had people pray for an open door, but was sensitive to the Spirit when he felt driven to go somewhere but was told not to.

How many times have we started out on a godly, good course, one where God had indeed been taking us to, only to have Him give us a detour, or change our course? Do we cry and complain, or do we give thanks and comply?

Jesus knew where He was going; to Jerusalem and the Cross – yet He didn’t seem to keep track of time and didn’t seem in a hurry. He paid attention to the opportunities that came before Him. He didn’t stumble at interruptions; He used them as a tool. He was hospitable to interruption; He was looking for the “curveballs” that life throws at us all. Learning this secret will help you master your emotional roller coaster, my friend.

Jesus didn’t rush to the deadline for His death, but He still arrived on the scene in Jerusalem in perfect time. We can take the time to thank God through Jesus Christ for all and everything that happens to us, and every situation we find ourselves faced with, because God has everything under control, and His timing is perfect. Thank God through Jesus Christ when you get “interrupted” this week. Stop trying to acquire or avoid and start trying to be faithful wherever you are at. Don’t just move on, but enter in. Amen.



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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