Responding to Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”

(Matthew 12:1-14)

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) in every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here the last two weeks, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are: 1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners, 2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, 3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings, and 4) to follow Him and obey His commands. If you missed either of these previous messages, you can check out the videos and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Here is the main point of today’s sermon: A person cannot experience the promised rest of God through either human effort or religious legalism; the rest of God can only be attained through a personal response to the gracious invitation of Jesus Christ, made possible through His shed blood on the Cross of Calvary. It is only by faith in Jesus that anyone can enter the rest of God.

 

Listen to Jesus’ gracious invitation, from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor [tired, weary] and are heavy laden [burdened], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [humble] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Last year, I spent eight weeks preaching this promise for rest, and I am again teaching it on Wednesday nights in the Chapel. You can go back and listen to all eight of those sermons on our webpage and you are personally invited to attend my Wednesday night class. 

 

Immediately following Jesus’ gracious invitation, Jesus illustrates His authority to do what He promises by demonstrating how He fulfills the Law of God in which sabbath, the ancient biblical principle of finding rest in God, is found. Unfortunately, sabbath understanding had become reduced to what you can and cannot do on a certain day of the week—Saturday for the Jews and now Sunday for many Christians, but even that is argued about, like everything else. Jesus gets us back to the heart of the matter. Let’s watch and listen to Jesus in Matthew 12:1-8,

 

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [ref. 1 Samuel 21:1-6] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ [cf. 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8] you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

 

Jesus states two major truths about Himself: 1) in v. 6 “something greater than the temple is here” and 2) in v. 8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is declaring His authority to fulfill His promise to give rest, within God’s Law (though not according to man’s additional 600 codified rules). Jesus is the fulfillment of Sabbath and the rightful, authorized Lord over it (not just Sabbath, but all of the Law as we saw in the Sermon on the Mount).

 

Jesus is the One to which the temple pointed. The story illustrates this in Matthew 12:9-14,

 

[Jesus] went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

 

Jesus’ action to heal the man with a “withered hand” on the Sabbath was Jesus fulfilling the original sabbath principle of God—to demonstrate trust in God to bring about rest for His creation, as it was originally intended. In healing this man, Jesus was pointing to the consummation of all things, when there would be no more withered hands in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21-22). The seventh day principle upholds our faith in the finished work of the Cross and our hope in the return of Christ to complete all things in Him. As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end. Even though your current life circumstances under the sun do not invite rest, you declare your faith in this hope every time you rest in the Son, Jesus Christ!

 

While this could become a major off ramp opportunity for me to teach the whole “rest motif” of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, I will not do that, but I will say this: Jesus is reminding us that from “the beginning” God’s intended purpose of the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) and the future commands to honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15) are to demonstrate God’s sovereign rule over all things (time, land, people) and our right response to trust Him by resting in Him and His work, instead of the work of our hands! To do otherwise is the definition of vanity of vanities, to chase after the wind, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes.

 

God’s rule over all creation is not ushered into the world by us slaving away—the anxious toil of Psalm 127:1-2—as if we were still in Egypt working under heavy taskmasters who make impossible demands of us, and in so doing ignoring the damage our lack of sabbath rest is doing to us, our families, and our culture. The Kingdom of God is ushered in through us resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus Christ being lifted upon the Cross that anyone can come to God and “find rest for their souls” (the ancient promise of Jeremiah 6:16, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 11:29). To sabbath is to publicly protest against the Pharaohs of this world and the gods of commerce that they serve, and to declare your loyalty (faith) in the God who not only modeled and commands rest for His people, but died so that we can enter it.

 

A thousand years before Jesus, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Whose work will bring the exaltation of God to the nations and bring the blessing of salvation to the people of all nations? Let’s be clear, not your anxious toil… God’s finished work on the Cross of Calvary!

 

The dying blow to any missionary or pastor, church or gospel ministry is to put that burden square on themselves or on their people. As Paul said in Galatians 3:1-9,

 

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

We are all “weary” from the universal human experience of trying to make life work for us in a fallen world. And many of us are “heavy-burdened” by working hard to meet the requirements and/or expectations that religion and churched people put on us. Whether you are weary or heavy-burdened, sick or tired, or just plain old sick of being tired, you can “be still/cease striving” from all further humanistic or legalistic efforts to please God and be pleasing to people.

 

Collapse into the arms of Jesus Christ, who graciously invites you: “Come to Me, [all y’all]…”

 

Jesus’ actions on that Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-14 were not in rebellion to the sabbath commandment, but it was a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders addition of “works of the Law” by which no one can be saved [ref. Gal. 3:10-14, Paul’s way of saying, “legalism” because there was no Greek word for the concept]. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, He did not come to abolish the Law, but in fulfilling it to remove the addition of these “works of the Law” (i.e. religious legalism). In adding “works to the Law”, as they did in so many other places, they missed the real purpose of God’s Law, as Jesus said to them, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12:7; cf. Hebrews 10:5-10). They missed the invitation of God to yoke with Him through faith, as Abraham had done in faith (ref. Galatians 3; cf. Hebrews 11). In doing so, they cut themselves off from God and put heavy burdens on others. Jesus came to offer them a new way to walk in the ancient paths of God—and that way is Himself, empowered daily by the Holy Spirit.

 

Instead of teaching people to walk with God through faith, the religious leaders had cut them off from the life in God’s Spirit by burdening them with teachings and additional commandments that were far too heavy for even them to shoulder.

 

Listen to Jesus’ scathing rebukes of these religious leaders in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Again in Luke 11:46, “And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

 

It is only in Christ that we can enter rest. As the author of Hebrews 4:8-11 explains, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

 

Why does the author of Hebrews say we must “strive to enter that rest” and Psalm 46:10 state, “Cease striving and know that I am God”? Is there a contradiction in the scriptures? No, allow me to answer this by using Paul’s words from Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

This is essential to you being able to apply this lesson: The rest of God is not first to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but preeminently in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God (faith) and move closer and closer to Him every day. I am prescribing rest to you through the life of obedience that comes from faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, not the “works of the Law” empowered by the flesh. If you are finding physical and mental/emotional rest difficult (i.e. taking a day off from working and ceasing from worrying), then how much more must you start with rest for your soul. It is only in Christ that you soul; hence, your brain and heart will be delivered and rescued from the deceptions of the world, the wickedness of our own desires, the lies of humanism, and the corruption of religious legalism. These are all yokes!

 

Strive to enter into the rest than can only found in the truth of Jesus who sets us free from all these other yokes by giving us the truth (John 8:32). As Paul expressed this truth so clearly in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Break the yokes of the world and get into Christ’s yoke. The rest of God is found only in Jesus Christ because “Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”
 
 
Listen to the Message here:
 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Master: Follow Him and Obey His Commands!”

 
Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for that weekend.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! We are not lifting up the name of FBC although we will celebrate. We are not going to pat ourselves on our collective back: we are not here because of us or our great ability. We are here as a church because of Jesus and His great ability.

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says,
“He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
 
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) with every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here last week, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are:
1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners,
2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, and
3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings
 
If you missed last week, you can check out the video and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Building upon this teaching, and not repeating it, we are going to focus on the next implication of Jesus being lifted up: Follow Him and Obey His Commands! 

 

Jesus draws each of us, personally, to Himself for God’s glory and our good! Jesus did this with his first disciples in Mark 1:17,
“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
 
We have turned this into a mysterious verse. What is Jesus inviting us to? What does He mean by “fishers of men”?

 

Being a follower of Jesus is a very practical call. Those first disciples had to make a choice between remaining fishermen (that was their occupation) and continue on with their regular schedules or literally leave their normal rhythm of life behind in order to follow Jesus. As the historical records shows in Mark 1:18-20,
“And immediately they left their nets and followed [Jesus]. And going on a little farther, [Jesus] saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately [Jesus] called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

 

Jesus’ call to follow Him is not only a practical one, but it is also a comprehensive call. What I mean by comprehensive is that this decision affects how you are going to live your life, work your job, raise your family, and invest your time and money. It is complete!

 

Jesus’ invitation, “Follow Me” is a short phrase including the Greek word δεῦτε which for these original followers of Jesus, Israeli fishermen, carried the implications of the Hebrew word and concept of הלך (hālakh). While the use of this concept does not jump out at us today, it carried a tremendous amount of practical and comprehensive connotation to those first invited. As the Lexham Theological Workbook explains of hālakh:

This word can refer to literal walking, i.e., traveling by foot (e.g., Genesis 9:23; Deuteronomy 11:19). It sometimes also refers to forms of literal travel that are not on foot, such as the motion of Noah’s ark on the waters (Gen 7:18). It has a common metaphorical sense that pertains to one’s manner of living. To walk (hālak) in a certain lifestyle or custom is to habitually practice it (e.g., 1 Kings 16:19; Isa 33:15; Psalms 1:1; 81:13).[1]

 

Jesus was not just inviting these early followers to take a walk with Him, He was inviting them to take on His lifestyle and go on a life transforming journey with Him. To put it in our language, Jesus was saying, “Come with me and learn how to talk the talk and walk the walk.” This is more comparable to a young person’s decision to join the military, rather than find a job or go to college—it is an all-consuming decision to take on the way of Jesus (hālakh). The mannerisms of Jesus, the lifestyle of Jesus, the language of Jesus, the mission of Jesus! That is why Jesus says, “and I will make you become fishers of men”.  More than a play on words, it is the promise of the Holy Spirit to transform their stories to the glory of God by putting them to the plow (in His easy yoke, ref. Matthew 11:28-30) of His harvest fields!

 

In the same way, Jesus is calling you “follow” Him. By God’s grace, I pray for you to respond to Jesus’ call today!

 

But before I go any further. Let’s make sure you and I are hearing the same thing. When I say the word “follow,” what do you hear? Scott Underwood helps us answer how our culture hears it:

It seems to me that the world/culture/society has hijacked the word “follow”.  Social media and social networking sites have cheapened the word, making it mean nothing more than “keep tabs on” or “keep track of”. I can follow a company on LinkedIn, bands on Spotify, or companies, bands and people on Twitter, Facebook or various other social media platforms. I can follow as many or as few as I want. With even less commitment from us, it means that we are following by having someone send us info on something we are interested in. I don’t have to do anything. And when someone or something I follow does something I don’t like; I can just unfollow them. No commitment, no relationship, nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, we often hear the term “follow” applied in a weird or uncomplimentary way toward people that follow cult leaders – Charles Manson, Scientology, etc.. The people who have pledged their lives to live out the wishes and precepts of an individual or another are often described as followers, which is a very different definition than the social media following. Of the two extremes, I think the cult leader portrayal is closer to the biblical understanding. The problem with the cult situation is not the followers – it’s the object (person or group) of their worship. He or she can’t be trusted.  Like you have said many times before, the person who is worshiped is not worthy of that worship, and the worship itself will crush them. When we follow a worthy God in a way that pledges our lives to live out His wishes and precepts, we can truly be thought of as followers. To keep tabs on Him with the understanding that we can unfollow Him when he asks too much of us surely is not the way He has intended.[2]

 

Truly “following” Jesus means we will submit our lives to His life. In following Jesus, we come to Him as our Lord (check out last week’s sermon) and Master/Teacher (John 13:13)!

 

The Holy Spirit then starts God’s work in us to conform us to Jesus’ likeness and to transform our stories to bring glory to God by bearing much fruit; hence, proving ourselves to be His disciples (John 15:8). God saved you to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to walk in—to do! (Ephesians 2:10). Again, this is the 2nd half of Mark 1:17, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

Here is another illustration from the Bible of what happens when someone follows Jesus in a practical and comprehensive way. This time, not a fisherman, but a tax collector. Think of an accountant for the IRS or government employee as I read to you Mark 2:14-17,

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Jesus continues by calling Zacchaeus, who in response to Jesus’ invitation changes the way he does his family business and gets right with people he has victimized by paying them back restitution for his previous crimes (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus challenges the rich young ruler on the one thing he won’t give up in order to follow Him (Mark 10:17-22). He tells others that they shouldn’t return to their lives to bury their father or tend to personal business (Matthew 8:18-22). Following Jesus changed the daily lives of all these early followers because they knew Jesus was calling them to make a practical and comprehensive decision. Not just mental assent to an idea or an emotional decision to a felt need. The faith decision is mental and emotional, but it is also practical and comprehensive. Jesus never said it was anything but all this—He calls us to join with Him in His relationship with the Father and that is eternal life!

 

Listen to Jesus make this very clear in Luke 14:26-33,

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

 

If Jesus is your Lord and your Teacher/Master (as He says He is in John 13:13), then follow His commands! Listen closely and obey His commands. As He says in Luke 6:46-49,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

 

When you obey Jesus’ teachings you are lifting up Jesus Christ—the exalted One who was crucified, resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father—and through your submission to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will draw people to Him, to the glory of the Father.

 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

If you don’t know where to start, then this is the right time to start. I am teaching a class on how to do this on Wednesday nights. Join me as I follow Jesus. Open up your Bible with a Christian and go verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the Gospel of Matthew and start doing what Jesus commands. Submit to God, read your Bible, pray for guidance, and obey with God’s help.

 

This is a decision for your head, heart, hands and feet. As the earliest followers of Jesus heard in the command of “Follow Me”, they were taking on the walk (hālak) of Jesus, meaning they were changing their lifestyle and their customs to now habitually practice the commands of Jesus.

 

This is how the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ keeps getting told, sermon after sermon, good work after good work, person after person. It is all a work of God’s grace in and through you! It is a visible witness—a shining of His Light!

 

You may be the only way for someone to know Jesus. Will they see and hear the call to follow Him? Is your life proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?
 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “Travel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[2] These words are from a private email between me and Scott. Scott may or may not say these words exactly during the sermon as it is our intent, Lord willing, for Scott to share his thoughts during the sermon.
 

Listen to the message here:

 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 1) Supplement

Jesus is Quoting Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:13-15

 

In my sermon on Sunday, January 5, 2020, I referenced an Old Testament story, but did not have the time to elaborate upon it. In this short blog article, I am going to do just that. Enjoy!

 

Jesus the Christ declares in John 3:13-15,
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

 

To know what Jesus is talking about I have to take you back to the historical event Jesus is referencing from Numbers 21:4-9. While you read this I want you to take a look at the two pictures on the screen. Look closely: What is in the center of each patch—EMT and Medical Corps?  It is called a “caducea” or a version of one. You see snake(s) wrapped around a pole. While most understandings of the origin of the caducea are from Greek mythology, there is a Bible story that is far more ancient (by thousands of years) than these mythological origins.

Images were found on www.bing.com (accessed 1/8/20).

 

Numbers 21:4-9 reads,

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

 

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, to save the people, though this time, not just the Israelites. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, not to heal venomous snake bites, but to deliver us from the effects of the Fall, all of us have been affected by that original serpent in the Garden, Satan, who tempted the first people to sin.

 

You see this idea clearly expressed in Romans 5:12-17,

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

Our response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross starts with putting our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life. That is and always will be our most important response to Jesus being lifted up—Faith! And not just any faith—the object of your faith must be Jesus Christ! This is God’s grace for our lives as Jesus draws you to Himself according to God’s will and for God’s glory.

 

It is amazing to me how our culture continues to capture these biblical images without understanding their origin or meaning. It is my hope that more people will realize that every EMT is putting on display the grace of God in their life-saving work. Every doctor is putting on display the life-saving work of Jesus Christ in their medical practice. All healing in this life is a good gift from God, but temporary. Whereas eternal life is the ultimate healing, only possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

 

From this time forward, whenever you see the caducea, may you think of Jesus lifted up so that all people will be drawn to Him. May you see the common grace of God declaring the finished work of Jesus Christ for all who are in need of healing.

 


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Responding to Jesus (Week 1)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord: Gather to Him and Listen Closely!”

John 12:32

Today, we kick off a new year. Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for that weekend.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! We are not lifting up the name of FBC although we will celebrate. We are not going to pat ourselves on our collective back: we are not here because of us or our great ability. We are here as a church because of Jesus and His great ability.

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up!

 

First, we lift up Jesus Christ by putting our faith in Him—to believe in Jesus and the Good News of what He accomplished for the world through His finished work on the Cross (the Gospel). Listen to the words of Jesus the Christ, from John 3:13-17,

 

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [reference to Numbers 21:4-9], so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, to save the people, though this time, not just the Israelites. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross not to “condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

 

Our response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross starts with putting our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life, and His being lifted up also calls us to exalt the name of Jesus by lifting His Name above all other names! Listen to Paul explain this in Philippians 2:5-11,

 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

As we hear in this scripture, Jesus is not only the Savior, He is the Lord, to the glory of the Father! As Paul says in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 

Jesus came into the world to glorify God through His obedience to the point of death on the cross. In His submission, He rescued humanity by defeating sin once and for all through His vicarious death on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the tomb.

 

We are called to respond to Jesus being lifted up by exalting Jesus above all other authorities in our lives. If Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father, then He is preeminent before all things—that means if you call Him Lord, He must come first in your everyday life! Listen to Paul explain who Jesus is and His Lordship as God over all creation, from Colossians 1:15-20,

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

This is who Jesus is! Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

 

Is Jesus your Lord? There is only one way for you to know: Jesus will gather you to Himself!

 

Jesus’ promise of John 12:32 is that His death on the Cross “will draw all people”. This is Jesus’ promise! When you respond to the crucified Savior lifted upon the Cross, you are simultaneously called to submit to the Exalted King of kings and Lord of lords, on whom God bestowed “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

This is the Good News! This is God’s Grace! As Paul said in Ephesians 2:4-10,  

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Jesus will lift you up with Him in the heavenlies, just as He was lifted up by His Father at His ascension (Acts 1:6-11). As Luke records in Acts 1:9, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

 

There is only one way to salvation and it goes through the Cross, and upon being drawn to Jesus you will have a change of mind. You will have a new perspective on yourself, others, and on life itself, because Jesus is Lord. Listen to Paul in Colossians 3:1-3,

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

 

Upon being drawn to Jesus you will have a change of mind (perspective) and a change of heart (loyalty). You will listen closely to His words, His teachings, His commands, because Jesus is Lord! Listen closely to these words from Jesus Christ in Luke 6:46-49,

 

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

 

God’s grace gives you eternal life through faith in the One who is exalted and lifted up. God’s grace empowers you to live your everyday life with a new mind and a new heart. This is important because when you obey Jesus’ teachings, then you are exalting Jesus Christ—the lifted up One who is crucified and risen, who is the Light of the world—and through your exaltation of Jesus Christ all people will be drawn to Him, to the glory of the Father.

 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

The good works that flow out of your life, flow out of faith, from a new mind and a new heart that are being transformed after being drawn to Jesus Christ—crucified, risen, and coming again! This is how the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ keeps getting told, sermon after sermon, good work after good work, person after person.

 

By God’s grace alone and all for God’s glory, you are gathered to scatter, to shine the Light of Jesus Christ for all the people to see, no matter how deeply in darkness they dwell.
 
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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 5)

A Cord of 3 Strands: Faith, Hope & Love

1 Corinthians 13:13

The Bible is our source of wisdom and knowledge.  It is God’s word.

1 Corinthians 13:13

 “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

This verse helps put them together:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

 
 

When we help each other, things are much better, whether just helping a friend or stopping someone from bullying others. 

Faith, hope & love is what holds our lives together!

 

Faith and Grace

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Grace is God’s love for you that you cannot earn.

Grace – There is nothing you can do to make God love you more.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

 

A good father demonstrates a secure love to his children. 

It is the parent’s responsibility to discipline them when they are disobedient.  But nothing you do can stop me from loving you…

 

We discipline you as children to teach you how to submit, so you understand how to submit to God. 

Grace is about the power of our relationship with God.  It holds the cord of both ends of our life together.

We do not earn God’s love by our works, it is only by His Grace! 

Faith is a gift from God that activates His grace in our lives.

 

Hope is Knowing

 

While faith is enough for salvation, it is not all we need to live a Christian life.  You need hope:  Knowing what you believe is going to happen in the future.

 

Hope is our life bread.  Hope is believing that tomorrow will be better than today.  It is believing that God is going to do what He promised to do.  It is what lets us demonstrate God’s love to the world.

 

Romans 5:2-5

“and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,

knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

and perseverance, proven character;

and proven character, hope;

and hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts

through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

Hope is not wishful thinking.  “I hope it snows.”

It comes from us persevering through hard times.

 

Hope is Faith in Action!

Remember the saying:  “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is.”

 

We are the hope of the nations.  We bring hope.

When things get rough, hang on to Jesus!

You don’t need to go through tough times alone!

God will provide!  We should never feel the full weight of responsibility.

God is the rock – not us!

 

He will fulfill all of His promises to us!

Then we can love others in the same way that God loves us!

 

Love is the Greatest

 

Your life needs to be a 3-cord rope!

Faith, Hope & Love!

 

When we unweave the 3 strands, life begins to feel uncertain, empty.

We must stay in rhythm with God.  Develop habits in your life that keep you in God’s rhythm.

 

Make room for God in your life…in your family. 
 
Spiritual Disciplines.  Spending time in His Word, time in prayer together.
 
When we don’t things begin to fall apart. 

When we are in a positive rhythm with God it is easier to feel God.  When we are not, life becomes a vicious circle. 

 

Sin:  I want what I want and I want it now!  You are in my way so I am going to remove you rather than love you.

Love:  Giving what is needed.

 

The Fruit of the Spirit

 

Nine qualities woven together by the Holy Spirit that are graced to us when we believe.

 

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

 

Faith, Hope and Love is the Life we are called to live!

 

When we get to Heaven, it will all change…

We won’t need Faith any longer, since what we believe in will already be revealed in all its glory!

We won’t need Hope any longer, since we hoped for will have already happened!

 

In Heaven there will only be LOVE. 

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and wisdom is perfected by love!
 
Note:  The content in this blog was notes taken by the ADMIN while listening to the message.  Any errors may be his.  I hope you find them helpful.  They were checked by Pastor Jerry.
 
 
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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 4)

“Jesus is our Peace!”

Luke 2:1-20, emphasis on verses 13-14 (NASB)

 

Life is crazy! How can you find peace in the middle of it? Christmas is a time of peace, but what does it mean to have peace if the world is crazy all around us? How can we experience the promised peace of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find the promised peace of Christmas and then bring it into everyday lives.

 

Read the Christmas story of Luke 2:1-20. Emphasize Luke 2:13-14,
 
“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (emphasis added)

 

The Christ of Christmas brought to this world the good news of a great joy which is peace with God, peace with one’s self, and peace with other people!

 

Listen to Jesus in John 14:27,

 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

 

Jesus does not offer us the peace of the world (which at best is a cease fire, but not the end of hurt feelings and tensions), but Jesus offers us His peace. Jesus says, “My peace I give to you…” and the peace of Jesus is the end of strife between us and God, and the end of the enmity “among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Enmity is when there is strife/discord/hostility between two parties.

 

As Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:13-18,

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

 

How do we receive the peace of Jesus Christ?

 

You can have peace with God by inviting Jesus to be the Lord of your life. By taking our faith off of ourselves, off of anything or anyone else, and putting our full trust on Jesus for this life and the life to come. There is no other way to peace. The catastrophic damage caused by trusting in yourself as Savior, trusting in a career, a person, an achievement, a goal, a degree, a job, or in anything or anyone is so prevalent and rampant around us that there is no peace to be found. Only in Jesus, can we have peace!

 

Listen to Romans 5:1-8, where the Apostle Paul teaches us of this peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ,

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

But this is not just a promised peace between us and God, as we have already seen. We bring the Peace of Jesus into our everyday lives by bringing our peace with God to other people.

 

How do we have peace with other people when other people can be so “unpeaceful”?

 

To do this you first must be at peace with God and then with yourself. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this to the New Testament church in Philippi. He teaches in Philippians 4:6-9,

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

This kind of peace – from God and internal to us – is one that will stand guard (military imagery!) in our hearts and minds, so that we can face even the worst of life situations. This keeps us off the roller coaster of the world’s concept of peace and stable in God. Listen to Jesus in John 16:32-33 explain how:

 

Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

 

We have this promise to anchor our souls in life’s storms so that the peace of God perseveres in us and through us, first from God, then into our own self, and then out to our neighbors. Only then are we ready to do what Jesus commands in the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:37-40,

 

And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

 

You can’t love your neighbor with God’s love, and live at peace with him/her, unless you are first at peace with God and loving your “neighbor as yourself” which means giving them the peace you first received. This peace, like joy, is a grace from God, given to us as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

 

Here is what I want to know: How can I walk in this peace every day?

 

By trusting that Jesus is who He says He is—knowing the promises of God and persevering in them! Listen to Jesus teach us about why He came that first Christmas morning. From John 10:10-18,

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

 

Jesus came to earth to bring us into God’s care and protect us from the true dangers of this world (the thief, the wolf). Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will walk with you no matter the storm or situation, relationship struggle or financial woe. The Lord is with you and He brings His peace with Him wherever He goes. Invite Jesus to walk with you and talk with Him along the way so that He can bring His peace to your mind and heart in each and every situation.

 

Do you know His voice? His leading? Do you know the peace that comes from abiding in His presence?

 

Listen to Psalm 23 to see how the Lord will walk with you as your Good Shepherd:
 

    1            The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

    2            He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

    3            He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

    4            Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

    5            You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

    6            Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Did you hear the final promise?

This promise is the promise of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walking with you throughout your life on earth and taking you home to dwell with Him for eternity. This is why Jesus came to earth, so that we who put our faith in Jesus can have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with other people.

 

Let us persevere in this peace, not just in this Christmas season, but as patiently wait for His 2nd coming. As Jesus taught us in John 16:33,
 
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
 
 
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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 3)

“Jesus is Joy!”

Luke 2:8-12, (NASB)

Christmas is a season of joy, but what does it mean to have joy when so many aren’t happy? How can we experience the promised joy of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find true joy and live with it in our everyday lives, this season and into the New Year.

 

A Christmas Scripture reading from Luke 2:8–12,

8    In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9    And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12  “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

The good news of Jesus Christ is the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people”.

 

This is the gift of Christmas! Listen to the words of the famous hymn, “Joy to the World”:

[Verse 1]
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

[Verse 2]
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

[Verse 3]
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

[Verse 4]
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

 

Joy is an important promise of the Bible, so important that we must memorize it and persevere in the promise of joy as greater than our happiness or sadness, our situations and circumstances. Joy is rooted in the Christmas story because joy comes from God in fulfillment of His promise to bring “Joy to the world [because] the Lord has come!”

 

Here is today’s BIG IDEA:   Joy is the gift of the Lord’s Presence!

 

Listen to Psalm 16:5-11 to hear this big idea in Scripture:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (emphasis added)

 

We know this big idea is true because its converse is a daily reality for so many. Listen to what happens when God removes His presence. From Lamentations 5:15, “The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning.” (emphasis added) The gift of joy ceased because God had removed the gift of His presence from Jerusalem. And we know that God would not restore Jerusalem for 70 years, but until that time He let the land lay barren as judgment for the rebellion of His chosen people. The author of Lamentations is Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, but even in the midst of judgment, God does not leave His people without hope. He gives Jeremiah this promise of hope found in Lamentations 3:22-26,

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.

 

Because God’s lovingkindnesses never cease and His compassions never fail, and they are new every morning, I can go through each day with joy. That is why I start every day with the singing of “This is the Day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” and why I start each morning with a set apart time of Bible reading, prayer, and listening to God so that I cultivate an immediate awareness of God’s presence in my life. How can you start your day becoming  aware of the presence of the Lord? Is there a favorite song you could sing?

 

While the people of Israel would experience a return to Jerusalem, they would not experience the fullness of this promise until the declaration of the angel that first Christmas morning: Jesus Christ is the Person of the promise and He promises to give His joy to us! Listen to Jesus’ words from John 15:8-11,

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (emphasis added)

 

Jesus is joy! Jesus is the gift from God to bring about the salvation of the LORD! This is why we can sing, “I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

 

The joy of Jesus is different and distinct from happiness or sadness. Joy is not an emotion; it is a gift from God to every person who receives His Son Jesus Christ and puts their trust in Him for their salvation. Just like with our salvation, joy is not something we earn or work for. Joy is what we have in a personal relationship with Jesus! Joy is a grace of God and the grace of God brings joy! Joy is something you have, but it is also a presence at work in you.

 

So, in my life, I not only start my day with time with the Lord to become aware of His presence tangibly and practically, but I am also learning to practice His presence throughout my day, as I go… That means I am learning to pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit – eyes open to the presence of God in and through me, in and through others. How about you? Are there ways you can start practicing paying attention to the presence of God in your life and in the activities and events of your days? Are you aware of God’s presence in you as you go about your day?

 

But we have to do more than know we have joy; we are commanded to be a joyful people! That takes the grace of God, too. Let me be honest, I know that this seems to be an incredibly insensitive command of God because we all experience so much pain and grief on this side of Heaven. I get it…there are times for grief and lament in our lives. I am not leading us to a Pollyannaish faith or a “happy-clappy” Christianity. Remember how James 1:2 commands us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…”

 

I am teaching us that this command of God is not insensitive, it is a part of His lovingkindness and compassion from a loving Father to His children, that are new every morning. Our joy is us coming in agreement with who God is, not us coming in agreement with the evil of this world and the depravity of a fallen creation. Listen to Jesus talk about the importance of joy to His disciples from John 16:20-22,

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

 

Just as Nehemiah said at the rebuilding of Jerusalem after such a long period of suffering and hardship: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

Did you hear that? Joy is strength! When we manifest the presence of God in our situations and circumstances, we are bringing the God of the universe to bear on whatever we are facing! This is us facing the giants of our lives and this world with faith, hope, and love!

 

After a period of deep grief over his sin and a painful loss of a child, King David cries out to God in Psalm 51:11-12, “Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

Are you seeing the intimate connection between joy and God’s presence? This is why we need to learn to be aware of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives as we go about our day. Paul teaches us that joy is in the “Fruit of the Spirit” that God gives to us when we first believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God manifests joy in us and we are to manifest what we have and who we are in Christ by putting aside our flesh and passions so that we can walk in submission to the Holy Spirit. There is power in a submitted obedient life and one of the greatest powers God gives us through His Holy Spirit is the ability to be joyful! Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:22-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

 

We are strengthened to live faithfully to God’s commands by the joy of our salvation – the presence of God in us. When we lose our joy we find obedience to be burdensome and incongruent with our circumstances. When we walk away from God and sin against Him and disobey His commandments we lose the awareness of the joy of our salvation and do not manifest the presence of God as we once did – we find it hard to practice His presence and sing worship songs. This becomes a vicious cycle that rational thought actually reinforces. But this is why we must sing every day and why we must read our Bible every day and why we must pray. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to rejoice always, again I say rejoice! Joy changes everything!!!! Joy is a discipline of the Christian life…

 

There is power in rejoicing, which is the outward expression of joy, because joy is the manifestation of the person of Christ in you – you are putting Jesus on display for all to see. Rejoicing is a declaration of your faith, hope, and love! Rejoicing has power over darkness and dominion over evil spirits because it is bringing the presence of Jesus to your situation. That is why Paul says, “Rejoice always” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and again, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). There is so much power in joy – it is an atmosphere changer! Both in you and outside of you – a truly joyful person is infectious!

 

Friends, I know there is every reason to weep or lament. I read the news, too. I work with people every day, in some of the hardest situations of life. I am living in the real world, right there with you. We are commanded to be joyful, not because there isn’t suffering in the world, but because there is hope in the new heaven and new earth, in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, in the communion of the saints, and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our faith and hope call us to rejoice, especially in the midst of our weeping and lamenting. Because our suffering does not tell the whole story – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection does!

 

The Christmas story is the beginning of the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10b). Joy doesn’t come from singing a Christmas carol, but believing in the truth it proclaims: “Joy to the World [because] the Lord has come”! The key to experiencing the joy is found in the first verse of this famous hymn: Let every heart prepare Him room”.

 

If you don’t make room for God’s presence to dwell in your heart, then the joy offered to the world that Christmas morning 2,019 years ago will not enter your life. I want you to live in the fullness of God’s joy, so please this Christmas, invite the Christ of Christmas into your life.  
 
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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 1)

“Jesus is Hope!”

Luke 2:1-7, NASB

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of the Living Word, God’s one and only Son Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the divine herald of God’s Gospel, and the Eternal King of God’s Everlasting Kingdom. 2,019 years ago something happened that changed not only time as we know it, but shifted the hope of the nations for all time. What happened was that the most influential person in history was born and the Bible records it from first-hand witness accounts.

Allow me to read a selection of the Bible’s account of the Christmas Story. From Luke 2:1-7.

Does listening to this familiar story thrill you with the hope of the Christmas Story or weary you with the burden of the Christmas Season?

For the weary and the heavy-burdened, it is my privilege to teach you about the hope that Jesus Christ came to give the world. He did so in such a dramatic fashion that time itself started over at 0. All dates before this event are called B.C. (before Christ) and all dates after are called A.D. (anno domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”). We live in a season of Advent Celebration and Anticipation! Jesus has come and Jesus is coming! All time points back to and leads to these dual truths of Jesus’ 1st & 2nd comings. We celebrate His first coming as we hope for His return!
 

Why do I mention time? Because time is important and in fact I believe a right view of time is so important that a proper understanding of the Christmas story “in time” is essential to learning how to live with hope in our everyday “in real time” lives. I will teach you what I mean by this and then apply with 3 practical applications that will start helping you live with the hope God intends for you to live your everyday lives in light of the Christmas Story.

 

The key to understanding the hope of the Christmas story lies in the fact that it is a real story in real time. Listen to Luke 2:1-2, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” This same key is highlighted in Matthew 1’s “Genealogy of Jesus” summarized in Matthew 1:17, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

 

What am I talking about and why is this important?  Both Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts of the Christmas story start with time markers. Luke’s from a Gentile historian’s perspective (the historical witness of rulers and their activities) and Matthew’s from Israel’s religious perspective (by genealogy). But both serve the same purpose: to put the Christmas story “in time”! This is important because the promise of God for the Christmas miracle, the coming of Jesus, was foretold many times over the course of hundreds of years by many prophets of God. God gave His people a promise so that they wouldn’t despair. Faith and Hope are intertwined in time!  

 

Listen for the key to living with hope in Isaiah 40:30-31: “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

 

I emphasize the words, “yet those who wait on for the Lord,” but this time hear those words from the NIV, as the key word shifts to illuminate the depth of the original Hebrew word that the Prophet Isaiah used to make the point: “But those who hope in the LORD…”. And from Young’s Literal Translation, “But those expecting Jehovah…” All these translations are correct, none more than another because the Hebrew word carries all of these meanings: to wait on; to hope in; and to expect.”[1] There is a deep truth about the biblical concept of hope (found in OT and NT) that I want you to understand. Listen to this definition of biblical hope:

 

In the Gospels, the theological concept of hope is expressed in terms of waiting (προσδέχομαι, prosdechomai) for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). In the Letters, hope is directly related to and grows out of faith in God. While faith takes God at his word, believing that he will do as he has promised, hope is the anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises (Rom 4:18–21; Heb 6:11–18). Hope originates with God (Rom 15:13), is based on his calling (Eph 1:18; 4:4), and is facilitated by Scripture (Rom 15:4). Specific objects of hope include the future resurrection (Acts 23:6; Rom 8:20–24); the Parousia (Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:2–3); and eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). Hope’s opposite is expressed in terms of unbelief (Heb 3:6–12), grief or despair (1 Thess 4:13), and shame or disappointment (Rom 5:5; Phil 1:20).[2]

 

Isaiah wrote 700 years before the Christmas miracle of the incarnation, the coming of Messiah, the great rescue of God for His people and all the people of all nations. He commanded God’s people to wait for it, to hope in it, to expect it! Isaiah pointed to the Messiah in more detail and with such exactness that his prophecies have been quoted by the Church throughout history to point to the fulfillment of God’s promises through Jesus Christ. The people of God knew these promises, they knew the prophecies of Messiah, but they still sought salvation from Egypt instead of trusting in God to rescue them. That led to their destruction and deportation.

 

Because of our perspective today (hind sight is 20/20), we see now what God’s people couldn’t seem to hang onto for 700 hundred years even though God had told them everything they needed to have hope—God had promised and their hope was to be in His promises and not in their own abilities to rescue and deliver themselves from their situations and circumstances.  When we don’t wait on the Lord and we take matters into our own hands, we more times than not make it worse and cause ourselves greater worry and anxiety. We are to wait on the Lord to keep His promise for rescue and deliverance; for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:30-31 give us direction on how we are to remain hopeful in our everyday situations:

  1. We WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times;
  2. We HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His good purposes even when evil seems to be having its way; and
  3. We EXPECT the Lord to act in and through us in our situations and circumstances. This is the way of hope in our everyday lives.

 

The Gospel story of Jesus Christ starts with a time marker of Jesus’ birth (for both Jewish and non-Jewish listeners) because God wants us to see the importance of how God works in real history with real people who have real faith. The key to all of those great stories of the Bible is that the people of faith waited on the Lord, not always perfectly, but they lived by faith and trusted in the Lord’s promises.

 

Christmas is a story found in real time! Can you empathize with how difficult it must have been for the Israelites to wait on God through their circumstances? Waiting is hard! Because it’s not a passive waiting; it is a faithful, trusting, expecting waiting. Hope requires faith! The problem for us is not that we have learned to read the Bible with eyes of faith, but that we have not yet learned to look at the events of our lives the same way we read the Bible stories. So, we have created a disconnect between the hope we read about and the hope we experience.

 

Just as God gave us the prophecies of Jesus from Isaiah 700 years before the promise was fulfilled and just like there were 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptizer (i.e. the intertestamental period), God’s people have a long history of having to wait on God’s promises and even at times, waiting through God’s silence to us in our situations. It’s what we do in the waiting that determines whether or not we will experience hope or despair in our circumstances.

 

Truthfully, it is not the events that bring despair or depression in our lives, it is our interpretation of the events. I invite us to look at our daily circumstances with biblical hope.

 

Here’s how to have hope, not only this Christmas season, but from this day forward:

 

  1. DEVELOP A FAITH PERSPECTIVE ON EVENTS:
    As Isaiah taught us, we WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times. To do this, we must know the promises and persevere in the promises. That means our faith must become personal and intimate. It must work its way into the very nuts and bolts of our everyday working and playing lives. So often, in the past, we have allowed world events, national politics, community gossip, church challenges, family situations, work circumstances, and health struggles to determine our perspective on life. That is backwards! Your faith in Jesus Christ and what He has promised is the shaper of our conversations and how we interpret life. Faith shapes perspective: This is the way to hope!

 

As Paul taught us in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

What shapes your daily conversations? How do you interpret your situations and circumstances? Is your faith in Jesus Christ worked into the very fabric of your whole life or is it compartmentalized into a Sunday morning religious observance?

 

  1. REMEMBER THAT THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE GREATER THAN OUR PROBLEMS!
    As Isaiah taught us, we HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His promises even when evil seems to be having its way and our problems seem bigger. Your faith in Jesus Christ brings hope by giving us God’s promises to hang onto when all the evidence of this life points away from an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God. Hope is not wishful thinking, like I hope it snows for Christmas. Hope is a certainty that faith in God and His promises is not displaced because He who promises is worthy of all trust!

 

God delivers on time, every time! Paul taught us the reality of how to live this way. He said in Philippians 4:6-9, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

 

We need a persevering faith that comforts us with not only the assurance of our salvation, but also the assurance of Jesus’ promise for the abundant life (John 10:10). There is no hope outside of the rest you gain from the assurances that God and His promises are right and true, every time and on time—in His time.

 

When you walk in the assurance that the PROMISES OF GOD are BIGGER THAN the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE then you will experience the PEACE OF GOD.

 

But conversely, when you allow the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE to LOOM LARGER THAN then PROMISES OF GOD then you will experience the ANXIETY OF THE MOMENT.

 

Every time you feel the emotion of anxiety, it’s an opportunity to turn it around and go to God with thanksgiving in your heart for who He is and His promises for your life! Don’t let anxiety condemn you, but allow the conviction you feel at the normal human emotion of anxiety to move you to God. Do you know the promises of God so that you can rest in Him? How do you work them into your heart and mind so that they can bring about the promised peace of God? What shapes your emotional well-being—your circumstances or His promises?

 

Your FAITH in Jesus Christ is the foundation of who you are (your identity!). The HOPE you have in the promises of God will shape your perspective and your perspective will shape your emotional well-being. What makes all this visible, is the LOVE of God put on display through your life during the hard and challenging times. That leads us to the final application:

 

  1. LIVE THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF LOVE!
    As Isaiah taught us, we EXPECT the Lord to act in and through real people in real situations and circumstances. I am here to tell you that you can be the solution to the situation. When all hope seems to be lost, be the hope by loving the people around you instead of reacting with anxiety and fear. Be the person that God uses to bless people by how you walk through your situations and circumstances. The world does not need any more doomsdayers, gossips, or troublemakers. Our nation has reached its quota on all of these and the church is called to be different than the culture, not co-opt it.

 

How can we be different? Biblical Hope! We hope in the promises of God! Just as we celebrate whole-heartedly the first coming of Christ every Christmas, we resolve to whole-heartedly hang on to the promises of God that Jesus will return; His second coming is imminent and the Kingdom of God can’t be thwarted by evil. We can love today because we know Love wins!

 

Our church is called to be the light of Jesus Christ to East-Central Indiana, not just a representative gathering of a growing minority of people called Christians who happen to live in East-Central Indiana. We are called to transform stories so that we will see thriving communities. That will only happen through LOVE! And the only way LOVE will happen in the hard times and difficult meetings and in controversial polarizing conversations is if each of us has our lives built on the foundation of the assurance of our faith in Jesus Christ, pillared by our hope in the persevering promises of God, and put on display by the Love that God first loved us!

 

As John, the Beloved of Jesus, taught us in 1 John 4:9-11, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

 

Christmas is a wonderful time to practice loving people in practical ways. Many people are weary and heavy-burdened during Christmas because they have forgotten that Jesus is the reason for the season. Their hope has been displaced from the reason of the season to the hustle and bustle of the season.

 

Let us give the greatest gift of all—the Hope of Jesus Christ through practical and intentional acts of love. You will spend a lot of time and money on giving gifts this season, but why not invest a lot of time and money on becoming the gift of God to our communities.

 

It has been said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

 

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of Jesus Christ—the One who brought hope to the nations! Don’t go another second without the hope of Jesus Christ for yourself. Don’t let the weary and heavy-burdened of our community go another day apart from the real hope of Christmas. You are called to go from this place today and be the hope of Jesus Christ.
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] “קָוָה (qāwâ). vb. to wait, hope. In its basic sense, the term describes the act of waiting. It may indicate the act of expectation when a particular outcome is anticipated (often rendered “look for”) or the act of hoping when the expected outcome is desirable or beneficial” (Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014]).

 

[2] Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
 
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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 6)

“Go in Love to Grow Closer to Jesus in Every Season of Life!”

Matthew 22:37-40.
 
Pastor Jerry is going to share from his heart.  The content has already been touched on in his last letter which is below.  He wants to dive deeper as he shares with us and prepares us for his departure on his sabbatical.
 
Pastor Jerry’s 6th Letter:
 

Dear First Baptist Church Family, It is with great expectation of what God is doing in us as members of the Body of Christ, and will do in and through us at FBC, that I send you this letter one week out from departing on my 3-month Sabbatical. The theme word for this time of Sabbath rest is GROW! Over the last year, you have heard me teaching on our mission and vision, our faith and values, our 7 big words and our 7:1 Initiative. All of this has been in preparation for fulfilling the 2020 Vision Initiative and being strategically prepared to enter 2020 on mission for Jesus. As I prepare to leave you for this prolonged time of Sabbath rest, I have no new word or teaching for you because I have already told you everything that is necessary for our fellowship at FBC to mature in Christ and become His Church. I only ask you to do this one thing: GROW! Grow in these areas:

  • Our mission: transforming stories through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Our vision: we desire to see communities thriving to the glory of God!
  • The 7 Big Words designed to unite us on what it means to be His Church: GATHER, FOLLOW, REST, BELONG, LOVE, SERVE, and GO!
  • The “7:1 Initiative” to help you grow personally. Research shows that people feel a church is “theirs” when they have 7 people they are in relationship with and have 1 place to serve where they can help make a difference. To that end, I invite you to take part and grow with at least 7 other people and find 1 place to serve. God designed you for this!
  • The four core values: “Loving others as God first loved us” (red); “Developing people for a life of service” (blue); “Living and giving generously” (yellow); and “Growing closer to Jesus in every season of life” (green). Walk firm in your faith in all these ways.

I have seen you walk in these ways. Excel even more! Regardless of your season of life, you are called to GROW closer to Jesus! This is all I ask of you over the next 3 months: GROW!

  • GROW in your individual walk with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit!
  • GROW in your vital relationships by giving the love of Jesus Christ!
  • GROW as a Church Family by living as one people to the glory of the Father!

Thank you for the overwhelming support and exceeding joy I have received from you as I prepare to “enter the rest of the Lord” in a unique way. This is a gift from God that I do not deserve, but that I receive with a thankful and humble heart! Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to grow in you through a set apart season of Sabbath rest. As Hebrews 4:9-11a states, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest.”

Growing in Christ with you,
 
 
 
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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 5)

“Living and Giving Generously!”

2 Corinthians 8:9;  Matthew 6:19-21, 19:21-23; Titus 3:4-7; Philippians 2:5-8, 14-18 & 2 Corinthians 9:6-12
 

Good morning and welcome to your missionary training session. I’m so glad you all decided to come for missionary training. Now, before we begin, does anyone feel like they are in the wrong session? Like being in the wrong class in college or high school – “I didn’t sign up for missionary training.” No? Great, because if you signed up for Heaven with Jesus then you signed up to live eternally today, which means this missionary training is for you.

 

Let’s start out by learning from missionaries who have been in the field. Over the years, I have spent time with numerous cross-cultural missionaries and there is a dominant thread through most of them, though not all of them, and that is a generous lifestyle.

 

Missionaries are people who, in response to God’s grace in their lives, are leaving behind much of what is familiar and expected of them by their home culture so that they can go to others and give what God first gave to them. Their generosity is a lifestyle! It is about giving grace.

 

Many of the missionaries I have talked to in depth have done their work in the foreign mission field by getting to know the people and meeting them where they are. They spend a lot of time on the front porch with their neighbors, working in their neighborhood, and setting up ways that they can be generous to their new community. They are focused on building relationships.

 

Even if missionaries don’t have the financial means to be generous with money, many times they are generous with what they do have to give. They are generous with their time, their skills and talents, their home and vehicles, with their very lives. If they have money, it is simply part of the package and not the dominant part of the conversation of what it means to live and give generously.

I am talking about this because this is the most practical teaching on what a missionary does and how we can live in such a way that we will experience communities thriving to the glory of God.

 

What works for foreign missionaries works here in local missions. Here is the good news: you don’t need to go to language school or have to do the incredibly hard work of learning new cultures and customs. You just have to be willing to be as intentional here as you would be there!

 

This morning I simply want to read to you the gospels of Jesus Christ to make this point because Jesus’ whole lifestyle illustrates the point. Listen to Paul’s summary statement of Jesus’s example from 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

 

How did Jesus make us rich? Listen to Titus 3:4-7, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

 

Jesus accomplished this for us by making Himself poor. As Paul teaches in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

 

Paul encourages us to have the same attitude as Jesus did: a willingness to empty ourselves for the sake of another. A willingness to sacrifice what we want to help another. A willingness to put aside a comfort to comfort another in the name of Jesus. Why do we do this?

 

The missionary martyr, Jim Elliot from the 1950s, is frequently quoted, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Generosity is very much about perspective. When we realize what we have been given in Christ—heavenly riches, then it becomes easier to give away what we cannot keep—worldly wealth. The more and more we focus on living eternally today, the more and more the value of things upon this earth lose their appeal. Some people argue that we can be so heavenly minded we are of no earthly good, but I would have to disagree. The more eternally minded you are, the greater you bring Heaven to earth for its good!

 

Listen to Jesus express this: In Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

In Matthew 19:21-23, Jesus is responding a man who has asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After the man says that he has kept all the commandments, Jesus demonstrates to him that he has not kept the most important commandment. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

 

Here is the mastery of what Jesus said: when you love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, you will hold nothing back from Him that He asks of you. You know you belong to God when all that you have belongs to God! Generosity begins by knowing that all that you have belongs to God and all that you have is by grace for grace.

 

Does all that you have belong to God? I encourage you to demonstrate this to God in the way you live and give generously to meet the needs of your neighbors! God will give you many an opportunity to demonstrate that you have eternal life by the way you do this. If you are not in the spiritual habit of returning to God what is already His, then you need a new perspective.

Generosity is an outflow of devotion to the God who is our all in all! We are generous to that which we are devoted to… Paul says that we should have a distinct response to Jesus becoming poor for us. Listen to Philippians 2:14-18, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”

 

Allow me to illustrate this in a simple way that works for me in my life. I say that I am willing to die for my wife because I’m that devoted to her. Don’t tell your spouse you are willing to die for them and then not be willing to die in little every day ways; like being polite, doing chores, offering forgiveness, etc. Every time you put yourself first and choose not to serve your spouse, you are demonstrating your true allegiance: to yourself and not to God! Jesus died so that we could be rich! What are the little things you need to die to daily so that you can help others be rich?

 

One last scripture to end today’s message: 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”

 

One of the best daily disciplines for the generous lifestyle is to take time every day to count your blessings! Why? Because thankful people are generous people! When you know that all that you have is from the Lord and will return to the Lord, then it would be foolish to not use the things to show others the way to Jesus.

 

So, count your blessings! And then go be a blessing. Let your generosity flow out of grace, out of the recognition that all that you have is God’s and from God’s hand. Give it back to God by living and giving generously to meet the needs of your neighbor.

 

Just remember what Christ has done for you… yet while you were still far away from God, God demonstrated His generous love to you by sending His Son Jesus Christ as the gift of all gifts so that through His poverty you could become rich!

 

Live out of the deep well spring of thankfulness for your salvation and you will find eternal life is not only a final destination, it is a way of life! You will reap what you sow in this life and into eternity. Live eternally today!
 
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