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,
 
 
 
Listen to the message here:
 
 

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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!
 
Listen to the message here:
 

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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 4)

“Filled Up to Go Out!” (Continued)

Acts 1:7-8

There are signs in our parking lot as you leave this location that say, “As you leave this place, be the hands and feet of Christ to our community.” This sermon series called, “GO: Living Eternally Today!” is about encouraging you, equipping you, and empowering you to live your life for the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). That means you are being sent from this place to go out and live and give generous to your neighbors.

 

Today, I am going to finish last week’s message with some help from our Dominican Republic Mission Team. If the team could come on up please and stand with me.

We all area called to be a WITNESS for Jesus! This calling comes with your salvation! It is not a second special call. It is part of who you are as a Christian and as part of this calling Jesus insists that you shouldn’t go alone! That is the emphasis of our Scripture lesson for last Sunday and today. In Acts 1:8 Jesus promises, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

(DR Team Testimonies)

 

Jesus teaches us that Holy Spirit is our Helper which is why He tells to not go without Him!

 

Listen to Jesus teachings on the Holy Spirit:

 

  • John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
  • John 14:25-26, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
  • John 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • John 16:7-8, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
  • John 16:13-15, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

 

Honestly, Jesus knows that we can’t answer His call as a witness without a Helper. That is why He gives us the image of getting in His yoke! So that we are connected to Him because it is through our relationship with Him that we are filled with the Holy Spirit—the Helper, and not just once at the time of our conversion when we are sealed for the day of judgment, but we are to be daily refreshed with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Mission Field, even in your own local community, is like going on a backcountry fishing trip. You don’t always know where the best fishing hole is and which bait to use on different fish. The Holy Spirit is like a fishing guide who knows the lay of land, where the fish are, how and when to fish for them, what bait works best, etc. Who would hire a fishing guide to take them into the backcountry of the wilderness where there are chains of lakes just waiting to be fished, and then not listen to what they say? A good guide takes a novice and helps them be successful in why they went in the first place: to catch fish! The guide is key—the guide teaches and then reminds of what He has already taught as he guides you into action! Don’t go alone!

 

I use the fishing imagery because Jesus used it first. In Mark 1:17, Jesus invites and promises, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

Why did Jesus promise you the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8?  TO MAKE YOU BECOME…  It is the promised work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill in and through us the promise of Jesus Christ to all who follow Him! This is what Paul meant when he stated in Philippians 2:13, It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

 

This is why Paul can say to us in Philippians 1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Because Paul knows that to be a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit and it is through the filling of the Holy Spirit that God brings us to completion, one day at a time. It is a process that you cannot go at alone! We each must go on the journey God calls us to, in the yoke of Jesus!

 

As Paul rebuked the early church followers who thought they could do the Christian life apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. From Galatians 3:3, Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” We can’t abandon the Helper once He gets us to the right fishing hole.

 

Paul says in Ephesians 5:17-18, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Listen to a pastor clearly explain what this means:

 

To be filled with the Spirit means to have the Spirit pervading, saturating, and infiltrating us with His holy and glorious presence in every chamber and corner of your being, leading and influencing every purpose, every affection, every thought, every action, every utterance. That’s what being filled means. The tense of the verb is the present, which indicates that the process of being filled must be continuous and constant. So another way of saying what Paul is saying is this, “Be continually getting filled.” In other words yesterday’s filling will not do for today. We must be like a cup that is kept full of water by being kept constantly under an ever-flowing faucet. Notice the word “with.” If we literally translated the passage it would read, “be filled in the Spirit.” The thought is that every part of the believer’s life is “in the Spirit.” If we are believers in Christ we are “in the Spirit.” That means the Holy Spirit surrounds us and rests upon us with His glorious and holy presence. Paul’s thought is to let this water of life to flow in and through us to expel and push out everything else until we are completely full of the Holy Spirit.[1]

 

You have been chosen and saved by God’s grace and it is that same grace of God that is working in you that empowers you to live as a witness of God to our world, starting in our communities. The question is not whether or not you are called to be a missionary—if you have been saved, you have been called! The question is are you being filled up to go out? It is the Holy Spirit of God within us that compels us to go and guides us along the way.

 

Don’t go alone! Don’t leave this place without being filled with the Holy Spirit!

 

How? By asking God! Jesus taught us this in Matthew 7:7, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

 

Ask God to immerse you with His presence and His power in every part of your life; hold nothing back; surrender it all and come to Jesus with all your weariness and all of your burdens.

 

You can teach people what you know, but you can only replicate what you are! Are you immersed?
 
Listen to the Message here:
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Pastor Tom Preble’s 2019 sermon, “Devotion to the Essentials Gives Birth to Revival Families”.


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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 3)

“Filled Up to Go Out!”

Acts 1:7-8

When you are going to drive your car out of town on a journey, what are two things that you need to do to make sure your car will make it to the destination? You need to fill it up with gas AND you need to know where you are going! This is even more true when you live the Great Commission life. You need to fill up to go out. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit!

 

The Holy Spirit is both your power source and your guide along the way. As I teach this to you this morning, I really want you to think about the yoke imagery of Jesus Christ from our REST series, based on Matthew 11:28-30. During that series we learned that we are to get in the yoke with Jesus and learn from Him and become like Him. In doing that, we find that His yoke is well-suited (“easy”) because it is uniquely fitted and the burden is light. It is the Holy Spirit working in and through us to do the work Jesus is guiding us in as we submit to the direction and guidance of the senior ox, Jesus, in our oxen team. Learning to walk in the Spirit is learning to submit to the easy yoke of Jesus! We are called to live our whole lives in rhythm with Jesus, in His yoke and under the power of His Spirit. Jesus taught us this will give rest to our soul!

 

Last week, we learned that the Holy Spirit empowers real people to have a real faith to make a difference in real history! Jesus calls each of us to “real-life” missions. In the same way that He sent those first seventy followers on a real-life training mission, so Jesus is sending you out to make a real impact! While some people use a passport to get to their mission field, a passport is in no way a prerequisite to live on mission for Jesus! What is a prerequisite for you to bear fruit for Jesus Christ on the mission field is the filling of the Holy Spirit!

 

In the Scripture lesson for today Jesus tells His followers to fill up to go out: Acts 1:7-8 narrates, “[Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

Jesus is calling us to go be His disciples in real tangible ways with real people in a very real community that needs hope. We are not called to be doomsdayers, but hope-bearers!

 

According to Acts 1:7-8, there are no boundaries to sharing the gospel: We are not to worry about times or seasons of history, whether culture is friendly and accepting of our message or hostile and denying it! Whether those in authority are for us or against us and regardless of whether the laws of the land forbid or permit. Also, we are not to let nation-state boundaries or imperial policies prevent us from living as citizens of Heaven here on earth. In short, as the sermon series title says, we “Go: Live Eternally Today!” In the New Heavens and New Earth there will be no closed gates as all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life will enter and dwell in the House of the Lord forever (Revelation 21:25-27; Psalm 23:6; John 14:1-6).

 

Don’t close out people that God won’t close out! We are to be a witness to all people!

 

Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20) and Jesus’ promise of Acts 1:7-8 directs and empowers us to go to every corner of the earth sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed, starting where you are and as you go along the way. Your mission field begins in your Jerusalem! The “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8 is your current location. Real-life discipleship happens in real-life mission opportunities every day where you are. You grow in  Christ by being faithful here. Faithfulness is not for some far-away place. Faithfulness begins at home, but it doesn’t end there—Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth!

 

The mission of God begins around your kitchen table, but it must leave the front door of your home and go to work with you, go to the store with you, go to school with you, go on vacation with you, go on work trips with you… As you go, live out the Great Commission by making disciples, immersing them in the presence and power of the Trinitarian fellowship, and teach them in word and deed all that Jesus has given us to find abundant life and rest for our souls.

 

Are you willing to go? How can you look for everyday life opportunities to go? Maybe you are already going and didn’t realize it…maybe you could start this week!

 

Before you leave today and go into the mission field of our communities, I want you to know something important: Jesus insists that you shouldn’t go alone! In Acts 1:8 Jesus promises, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

Don’t go out alone! As you go today into the real-life discipleship of being on mission as you go where ever you go, you are not to go alone or in your own strength. Jesus has given you His Holy Spirit to go with you. Some of you may remember this image that I have shared with you in a previous teaching on the Holy Spirit:

 

Jesus teaches us that Holy Spirit is our Helper which is why He tells to not go without Him![1] Honestly, Jesus knows that we can’t get to this destination without both a full gas tank and a Helper to get us there. That is why He gives us the image of getting in easy yoke! So that we are connected to Him because it is through our relationship with Him that we are filled with the Holy Spirit—the Helper, and not just once at the time of our conversion when we are sealed for the day of judgment, but we are to be daily refreshed with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

The Mission Field, even in your own local community, is like going on a backcountry fishing trip. You don’t always know where the best fishing hole is and which bait to use on different fish. The Holy Spirit is like a fishing guide who knows the lay of land, where the fish are, how and when to fish for them, what bait works best, etc. Who would hire a fishing guide to take them into the backcountry of the wilderness where there are chains of lakes just waiting to be fished, and then not listen to what they say? A good guide takes a novice and helps them be successful in why they went in the first place: to catch fish! The guide is key—the guide teaches and then reminds of what He has already taught as he guides you into action! Don’t go alone!

 

I use the fishing imagery because Jesus used it first. In Mark 1:17, Jesus invites and promises, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

Why did Jesus promise you the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8?  TO MAKE YOU BECOME…  It is the promised work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill in and through us the promise of Jesus Christ to all who follow Him! This is what Paul meant when he stated in Philippians 2:13, It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

 

This is why Paul can say to us in Philippians 1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Because Paul knows that to be a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit and it is through the filling of the Holy Spirit that God brings us to completion, one day at a time. It is a process that you cannot go at alone! We each must go on the journey God calls us to, in the yoke of Jesus!

 

As Paul rebuked the early church followers who thought they could do the Christian life apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. From Galatians 3:3, Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” We can’t abandon the Helper once He gets us to the right fishing hole.

 

Paul says in Ephesians 5:17-18, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Listen to a pastor clearly explain what this means:

 

To be filled with the Spirit means to have the Spirit pervading, saturating, and infiltrating us with His holy and glorious presence in every chamber and corner of your being, leading and influencing every purpose, every affection, every thought, every action, every utterance. That’s what being filled means. The tense of the verb is the present, which indicates that the process of being filled must be continuous and constant. So another way of saying what Paul is saying is this, “Be continually getting filled.” In other words yesterday’s filling will not do for today. We must be like a cup that is kept full of water by being kept constantly under an ever-flowing faucet. Notice the word “with.” If we literally translated the passage it would read, “be filled in the Spirit.” The thought is that every part of the believer’s life is “in the Spirit.” If we are believers in Christ we are “in the Spirit.” That means the Holy Spirit surrounds us and rests upon us with His glorious and holy presence. Paul’s thought is to let this water of life to flow in and through us to expel and push out everything else until we are completely full of the Holy Spirit.[2]

 

You have been chosen and saved by God’s grace and it is that same grace of God that is working in you that empowers you to live as a witness of God to our world, starting in our communities. The question is not whether or not you are called to be a missionary—if you have been saved, you have been called! The question is are you being filled up to go out? It is the Holy Spirit of God within us that compels us to go and guides us along the way.

 

Don’t go alone! Don’t leave this place without being filled with the Holy Spirit!

 

How? By asking God! Jesus taught us this in Matthew 7:7, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

 

Ask God to immerse you with His presence and His power in every part of your life; hold nothing back; surrender it all and come to Jesus with all your weariness and all of your burdens.

 

You can teach people what you know, but you can only replicate what you are! Are you immersed?
 
Listen to the message here:
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

        [1] John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:25-26, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 16:7-8, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:13-15, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

[2] Pastor Tom Preble’s 2019 sermon, “Devotion to the Essentials Gives Birth to Revival Families”.


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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 2)

“Real Life Discipleship!”

Luke 10:1-24

I love to backpack! Whether it is a short hike around Westwood Lake or a longer backcountry trip, it is my favorite outdoors activity. In 1 month, I will be spending a week on the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I can’t wait! But your first hike shouldn’t be a week-long backcountry trip. For numerous reasons: breaking in your hiking boots so you don’t get blisters and hot spots, fitting your backpack so it doesn’t rub your hips raw, learning the right amount of food and water to pack, knowing what to pack and how to pack your backpack for a long hike. Those are logistics, then there is fitness and preparation. When I hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon, I trained and planned. When I summitted Half Dome in Yosemite, my wife and I trained and made sure we had the correct gear. When Daniel, Brandon, and I do sections of the AT each year, we trip plan looking at mileage and elevation, water resupply, and other essential aspects of backcountry hiking. You can read about this, you can study it, but honestly there is only one way to learn how to thrive in the backcountry and that is doing it—training. You have to go and hit the trail and make mistakes along the way.

 

This six-week series is focused on equipping you to “Go” into your everyday life to live out the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20. Last week we focused on who Jesus is sending out and why. Starting today, we will take the rest of the series to talk about the what’s and the how’s of living and giving generously. Like getting ready for a big backcountry trip, you have to know some things and prepare, but mostly you have to go out and train.

 

Before Jesus ever gave His disciples the Great Commission, He would send them out on real-life training missions. Just like Regan is doing an internship with Kevin this summer before she returns to IWU, so Jesus would send out His disciples as part of their training and growth. There was no graduation or ordination to wait for, there was just today—today is the day of salvation! Let’s look at an example of this from the life of Jesus as He trains up His followers.

 

Turn with me to Luke 10 and we are going to read through this historical account of Jesus and His disciples found in verses 1-24. Read Luke 10:1-24 from NASB.

 

This is not the first time Jesus sends out His disciples on mission (cf. Luke 9). In fact, following Jesus comes with a lifestyle of living and giving generously! Jesus does not save us for eternity tomorrow, but to live eternally today! You are not to spend your whole life studying Heaven in preparation to go their one day, you are to bring heaven to earth in little ways every day. Just like the best way to prepare for a big hike is by walking around your own neighborhood first.

 

Responding to Jesus in faith comes with the call to living on mission—the Mission of Jesus Christ as He describes in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

 

And again in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” We join in His work to transform stories through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Glory of the Father!

 

This is the pattern of Jesus and we have been teaching this through the 7 Big Words: Jesus GATHERS [Big Word #1] His followers out of the world and to Himself to learn to live like He lived, teaching them to FOLLOW [Big Word #2] Him and to focus their lives on Him and to learn how to be like Him so that they can find REST [Big Word #3] in their life. Jesus models the mission to His followers as they go along the way and teaches them to BELONG [Big Word #4] to His new family, the Church. Jesus called us (His Church) out of the world to send us back into the world to LOVE [Big Word #5] people as He first loved us and to SERVE [Big Word #6] people as He set the example for us to be servants. Finally, Jesus tells His disciples to GO [Big Word #7] in His authority to do what He does under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. As we see this in Matthew 10:1 at the calling of the Twelve, “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” “Living and Giving Generously” is the way of Jesus to live eternally today! Living eternally today is not only a lifestyle choice, but it is a means of grace where God works through you to declare His love for the world. We are able to live a generous life because our hope lies in Christ, and we are not preoccupied with the things of the world. Living and giving generously is the proclamation of our rescue from slavery to the world!

 

Living and giving generously is a revolution against Satan who Jesus saw falling from Heaven (Luke 10:18) when this first group of disciples (still incomplete in their fellowship and imperfect in their faith) walked in the authority of Jesus throughout their communities. And Jesus told them very clearly to not rejoice at what they did, but rejoice in their relationship with the Father through the Son. We rejoice in whose family we belong to—we are children of God!

 

We are image bearers of God, we are to live a certain way because of the status we have from our Father. We have authority because we are under His authority!

 

Our doing flows out of our being—out of our redeemed status as sons and daughters of God! The fruit on our branches comes from abiding in the vine! We reap what we sow and we are called to sow a faith relationship with Jesus and reap the works that flow from faith!

 

Relationship is the essential aspect of the sending of the 70 that we often miss and to our detriment as the people of God. Jesus sends those who are in relationship with Him (the 70) to walk in the authority of His Name—the banner over the 70 is His love! Apart from His love, the 70 can do nothing! The same is true for us…

 

We live out our relationship with Jesus in real life every day!

 

Missional living—Great Commission obedience—is grounded in the authority that can only come from being in union with Christ. Only one who is immersed in the trinitarian fellowship of God can baptize anyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Only one who has learned to obey the commandments of Jesus by finding rest for their soul in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ can replicate an obedient disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

You can teach people what you know, but you can only replicate what you are. Ultimately, we are to rejoice in this—in people; people are the only works we leave behind. Not our name, but His name! The greatest legacy you can leave your family is not a large bank account or a building that will fall down, but a faith passed on. I love taking my kids on hikes. My son and I trail run and hike together. My daughters enjoy hiking and we love to do this as a family. We do small hikes, day hikes, overnight camping trips, and one day we will backcountry together. I am passing on my love of hiking by doing it with them.

 

We are called to bring thriving to our communities to the glory of God today and every day that is called today is a day to bring witness to the transformation of your own soul to the glory of God. We are called to go and replicate what we are in Christ. To pass Him on.

 

Making disciples starts with you having a relationship with Jesus that transforms your story first!

 

The Holy Spirit uses real people with real faith to make a difference in real history!

 

Jesus calls us to “real-life” discipleship. In the same way that He sent those first seventy followers on a real-life training mission, so Jesus is sending you out of service every Sunday on real-life training missions! While some people use a passport to get to their mission field, a passport is in no way a prerequisite to live on mission for Jesus!

 

Jesus is calling us to go be His disciples in real tangible ways with real people in a very real culture that needs messengers of hope.

 

Where is Jesus sending you? To whom is Jesus sending you? What are you replicating?

 

Jesus promised we would have help as we do on these real-life training missions. From Acts 1:7-8, “[Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

We will unpack this more next week, but for now I simply want you to hear this: as you go today into the real-life discipleship of being on mission as you go where ever you go, that you do not go alone. Jesus has given you His Holy Spirit to go with you.

 

Your community is your Jerusalem! This is where real-life discipleship happens in real-life mission opportunities every day. Revival is coming! Where will it begin?

 

The mission of God begins around your kitchen table, but it must leave the front door of your home and go to work with you, go to the store with you, go to school with you… As you go, make disciples immersing them in the presence and power of the Trinitarian fellowship and teach them in word and deed all that Jesus has given us to find abundant life and rest for our souls.

 

In other words, go in the name of Jesus Christ to transform stories…GO! Live Eternally Today!
 
 
Listen to it here:
 
 

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Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 1)

“Incomplete and Imperfect!

(Matthew 28:16-20 & Luke 10:1-24)

Today, we start exploring the 3rd of the 4 core values of First Baptist Church. Each of the core values is connected to one of the 4 colors on our logo and each is being taught and reinforced with a wristband of the same color. Today you have received or will receive on the way out, a yellow wristband that says, “Living and Giving Generously.” Please wear it with me for the next 6 weeks as we focus on this. You may continue to wear your previous wristbands that the leaders and staff of the church have provided for you at their own cost, but at a minimum please don’t throw them away. Keep them somewhere noticeable as a reminder of what we are all about.

Our mission statement at FBC is “We exist to transform stories through the gospel of Jesus Christ” and if this mission is happening in us (it must happen in us if we are following Jesus in an abiding relationship) and through us (as fruit of what He is doing in us and not as our own performance goals; it is the Holy Spirit who bears fruit on our branches!) then we will see our vision unfolding inside our fellowship and outside into the communities we live, work, and play: “We desire to see our communities thriving to the glory of God.” It’s all about relationships!

 

Our faith and values provide us with the guard rails by which we can participate in fulfilling our church’s mission and vision by the power of the Holy Spirit. The four core values are: “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). Firm in our faith we are to walk in these ways.

 

We are putting up all these banners so that you know who we are and what our mission and vision statements are (in the Gathering Area as you walk in) and what our faith and values are (inside the worship center). We are not investing precious resources for decoration, but to align us (like a car getting its alignment) so that we are all traveling in the same direction on the same mission. Amazing what God can do through a people who are working together and don’t need any credit because their account is already overflowing with God’s grace.

 

For the next 6 weeks we are going to focus on yellow—living and giving generously—and then while I am on sabbatical (August 25 is the final sermon that I will give in this series), we will all focus on green—growing closer to Jesus in every season of life (that 3-month focus culminates on Sunday, November 24, the night I return). We are each in a different season of life, the key is to support one another in our spiritual growth in each and every season of life.

 

This series is also finishing up the 7 big words that we have been learning over the last year: GATHER, FOLLOW, REST, BELONG, LOVE, SERVE, and GO! If you missed some of those Sundays, you can watch or listen to any of the sermons and/or read the sermon notes on our ever-improving website at www.newcastlefbc.com. These 7 big words are the building blocks for us being the people of Jesus Christ, committed and submitted to His teachings for His Father’s purposes and glory. Each of these words is an invitation, a promise, and a way of life.

 

The primary way we have been inviting you to experience the promise and way of life of these 7 big words is FBC’s “7:1 Initiative!” It is our hope that each of you will have 7 friends at FBC who you trust and are growing with as the church, people who connect you in the body and people with whom you belong. We also hope you have 1 place of service at FBC where you are impacting others and multiplying what God has given you for His purposes and glory.

 

The “GO: Living Eternally Today!” series will be constantly reinforcing all this 7:1 initiative because you will see that living the Great Commission life is living both a life of community and service. We are better together when we are in Jesus together!

 

The main scripture for this sermon series called “Go: Live Eternally Today!” is Matthew 28:16-20. Listen to the Great Commission:

 

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

This is the Great Commission, not the great suggestion. It is not an optional “opt-in” activity for those who choose it nor an advanced option for those who want to be radical. This is what part of being in the yoke of Jesus, this is God’s will for your life. Like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, if you want the chocolate, you have to take the peanut butter. You can’t just lick off the chocolate and then hand back the peanut butter. Well, you can, but what a mess…

 

We are going to dive into the Great Commission in this series, but today we are simply going to focus on the who: To whom did Jesus give the Great Commission? Matthew 28:16-17 teaches:

 

1) To “the Eleven disciples”: They had an incomplete fellowship! Judas was gone, the fellowship was broken, trust has been shattered, betrayals occurred, disappointments erupted, but here is Jesus still giving this group of followers the Great Commission.

 

2) To “some were doubtful”: They had an imperfect faith! Not only was their fellowship incomplete, but they did not all believe. These were imperfect followers of Jesus entrusted with God’s eternal plan to reach all people with the greatest message ever.

 

Jesus gave His Church the Great Commission when they were an incomplete fellowship with an imperfect faith! 2,000 years later, we are still incomplete and imperfect, but God is still calling us to hear the same word: “Go!” Jesus doesn’t wait for you to be ready for Him to send you on His mission. The key ingredient of Jesus’ calling to live life focused on the Great Commission is not your capability, but your availability and willingness to take His yoke and learn from Him.

 

As many of us have heard before, “God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called!” If we wait until we are ready/complete/equipped to go, then we completely ignore the work of the Holy Spirit to empower us and make us who He wants us to be. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He’s ready to use us right now, where we are!

 

What are some of the ways we disqualify ourselves from living out the Great Commission?

  1. My faith is not strong enough or I don’t know enough…
  2. That is for pastors and missionaries, church workers…
  3. I have sin in my life or I may do/say something that hurts the effort…
  4. I’m too busy…

 

This six-week series is focused on equipping you to “Go” into your everyday life to live out the Great Commission, but today we are focusing on who Jesus is sending out and why. We’ll take the rest of the series to talk about the what’s and the how’s of living and giving generously.

 

Before Jesus ever gave His disciples the Great Commission, He would send them out on real-life training missions. Just like Regan is doing an internship with Kevin this summer before she returns to seminary, so Jesus would send out His disciples as part of their training and growth. There was no graduation or ordination to wait for, there was just today—today is the day of salvation! Let’s look at an example of this from the life of Jesus as He trains up His followers.

 

Turn with me to Luke 10 and we are going to read through this story found in verses 1-24. I will unpack specific details as a I read it…

 

I love this comment from a local church pastor on the Luke 10 passage regarding its application to our lives, “We are not responsible for saving anyone; we are responsible for telling everyone. It’s not their response to our ability; it is their response to His ability, even though it’s our responsibility to tell them.”[1]

 

“Living and Giving Generously” is the way of Jesus to live eternally today! Living eternally today is a means of grace to declare your allegiance to Jesus and not the world. It’s a way to live like Jesus for His Kingdom in a world that is actively opposing Jesus and His Kingdom. Living and giving generously is a revolution against Satan who Jesus saw falling from Heaven (Luke 10:18) when this first group of disciples (still incomplete in their fellowship and imperfect in their faith) walked in the authority of Jesus throughout their communities. And Jesus told them very clearly to not rejoice at what they did, but rejoice in their relationship with the Father through the Son. We rejoice in whose family we belong to—we are children of God!

 

Listen to this insight that further explains the importance of Luke 10:20 combined with the fact that we do not know the names of these 70 people,

 

Since God did not consider it important for us to know the names of the 70 (or 72) disciples He charged with the important task of preparing the way for Jesus, we don’t need to consider it important, either. What Jesus called attention to was not the power He gave them but the fact that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Similarly, while we may get excited about visible miracles and demonstrations of supernatural power, the greatest miracle of all is the fact that unworthy sinners can become righteous children of God (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; John 1:12). When our focus moves to ourselves and how God is using us, we are headed the wrong direction. It is a good reminder that, since their names are unimportant, ours are, too. It is the name of Jesus Christ alone who deserves all attention and glory (1 Corinthians 1:28–29; Philippians 2:9–11). It is enough that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.[2]

 

Family of God, we don’t have to wait until our fellowship is complete or our faith is perfect to be a part of Jesus’ Great Commission plans for our communities and beyond. We are called to bring thriving to our communities to the glory of God today and every day that is called today. We are called to go and make disciples of all people just like we are called to serve all people and love all people. Making disciples starts with you having a relationship with Jesus that transforms your story first! The Holy Spirit uses real people with real faith to make a difference in real history!

 

“You can teach people what you know, but you will only replicate what you are!”

 

We will learn more of how to do this over the next 5 Sundays, but please know that it begins with you realizing that the Great Commission is for each of us, in all of our imperfections and incompleteness. If you are in Jesus Christ, then you are ready today to be sent out. So as you go today, may the Holy Spirit empower you to live and give generously rejoicing that your names are recorded in Heaven (Luke 10:20).
 
Listen to the teaching here:

 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Jack Wellman, “5 Lessons about Jesus sending out the Seventy-Two” (August 22, 2018, accessed July 17, 2019) https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2018/08/22/5-lessons-about-jesus-sending-out-the-seventy-two/.

[2] “Who were the 70 (or 72) disciples in Luke 10?”, Got Questions Ministries, accessed July 27, 2019, [https://www.gotquestions.org/70-or-72-disciples.html].


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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 6)

“Serve from Grace!”

(Galatians 6:9-10)

I really like going to Chick-fil-A. It’s not only their food, it’s the atmosphere and their service! They are just that good! We have some employees of Chick-fil-A in here, so please shout out that wonderful phrase that we all should use when someone says thank you to us and I’ll give you a hint, it is not “You’re Welcome!” It’s a step up… The employees respond, “My pleasure!”

 

Paul teaches us about serving in Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

 

Is serving one another in the household of faith a pleasure to you? Have you lost heart in doing good because you can’t see any good reason to do it? Have you grown weary because you are not reaping fruit (maybe your timeline is off or you are looking for results too quickly)? Are you still looking for opportunities to do good to all people?

 

People can tell whether or not it is truly “my pleasure” and your attitude about serving changes the atmosphere of not only what happens here, but out there on a daily basis. Your attitude towards serving can take something ordinary and make it extraordinary! Your attitude can stop something from becoming extraordinary! It only takes one person to turn someone off from this church or from Jesus…

 

Paul would not have told us about the dangers of losing heart in doing good and growing weary if these weren’t real threats to the church. In fact, Jesus Himself invited us in Matthew 11:28-29a, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”

 

What can we learn from Jesus’ example on how we are to serve?

 

We are commanded to serve like Jesus: From Grace, in Love, and with Compassion!

 

Firstly, From GraceIt is as Jesus said in John 15:9-10, “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.”

 

Did you hear the comparison in Jesus’ words? The Father loves us with the same love that He loves Jesus! We are to find rest for our souls by remaining in the One who is love. We connect to, abide in, yoke with the One who rescued us from the death penalty of our sin and gave us new life. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-5, And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

 

It is all from God’s grace. We serve because we are becoming like the One who loved us first because we are now united with Him by grace. That is what I mean when I say “We serve from grace…” We are serving others from the deep well of gratitude to God for our salvation!

 

We serve from grace, [and secondly] in love Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

 

Listen to this devotional reading that Scott Underwood shared with me. Read devotion.

 

Paul explains to a group of Christians really struggling in their daily faith in Galatians 5:6, 13-14: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision [religion nor nonreligion] means anything, but faith working through love [relationship]. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

To serve in love is to bring Christ to the situation. Love is the energy. If grace is the deep well that motivates our service, then love is the energy that compels it into action. No one will ever know your deep love for God and His grace unless it is seen through your love of another!

 

We serve from Grace, in Love, and [lastly] with Compassion! Compassion directs our service! Grace is what motivates us! Love is what energizes us! Compassion focuses us!

 

Let’s just take a couple snapshots from Jesus’ earthly ministry:

 

  • Matthew 9:36, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • Matthew 14:14, “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” (cf. Mark 6:34)
  • Mark 1:41, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”
  • Luke 7:13, “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

To serve another in love and with compassion is to pull from the deep well of grace that God first served you with. To serve another is to declare your faith in this Jesus and to live like He lived. You don’t serve others because they deserve it, but exactly because it was God’s good pleasure to serve you first. As John said in 1 John 3:1a, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I can hear God say in this verse, “My pleasure!”

 

Because of His pleasure, we serve from Grace, in love, and with compassion!

 

In conclusion, we have learned how we are to serve so that we don’t lose heart in doing good or grow weary (from the deep well of grace, in love, and with compassion) and as we go to do this we are left with the question: Who are we to serve?

 

Remembering our scripture lesson for today from Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

 

It starts in the household of faith. We should have a better atmosphere than Chick-fil-A right here in these relationships. I can make it a part of your job description, but only God can change your heart! We are to do more than practice and perfect the art of saying, “My pleasure!”, we should be motivated by grace to love one another.

 

Serving begins in the household of faith, but continues to the world. How we serve conveys our  message! The gospel is good news! As Jesus Christ commanded His followers after He washed their feet in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Remembering that 80% of all communication is non-verbal, are people hearing the message of God’s good news through you by the way you serve? Are they seeing Jesus as you serve?

 

Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” And Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

The same One we gather together to celebrate every Sunday morning for our salvation is the very One we put on display in our service! First, in here [inside this building] and then out there [as the church]! Just like it must start in here [point to my head and heart], but it must be put on display with these [my hands and my feet]!

 

SERVE: IT’S THE WAY OF JESUS!

 
Listen to the message here:
 
 

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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 5)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!”  (PART 3 of 3)

(Romans 12:1-8)

Today, we are going to walk through the last step of “The 5 Steps to Effective Serving” based on Romans 12:1-8.

Allow me to quickly review the first 4 steps from the last 2 sermons:

Step 1: Everyday, Dedicate Your Everyday life to Jesus! Romans 12:1 calls us to daily submission to God’s Word. Are you experiencing rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ?

Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions! Romans 12:2 calls us to focus on Jesus and to guard our hearts from that which will distract us from seeking first the Kingdom. Where is your treasure? What are the “patterns of this world” that are taking your mind, heart, calendar or check book away from Jesus and His Kingdom?

Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace! Romans 12:3 calls us to view ourselves humbly through God’s grace by the faith that has been given to us. Nothing we have is from our own hands—not our salvation or even all that which we think we have earned or done. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself.

Step 4: Commit to Being a Functional Member of Jesus’ Church! Romans 12:4-5 commands us to not see ourselves as a lone ranger Christian, but to become healthy members of a local congregation by seeing ourselves as each having an important function. Are you willing to be a healthy member of Jesus’ body by being a functional member of a local congregation?

 

Before I move on, I want to discuss a concern that has been expressed to me recently. First of all, let me say that I appreciate it when people share their concerns with me, the elders, or other members of the leadership. That is the right way to handle concerns, by being healthy and helpful. Please talk to us. I know trust is hard, but this is the better way. A concern has been expressed to me that there is no place to serve for some people. I hope the report I have received is isolated. As a pastor and fellow elder, speaking for the elders of the church, I want to publicly say that we want every person to find a place of service in and through the church—we desire to be a safe place for you to grow in Christ in every season of your life because we don’t believe in retirement from serving God. While there is process for some positions in the church (e.g. worship team try outs or qualifications for eldership), that does not mean that we don’t want people to find the right place of service. We are not in the business of hurting people, but healing people. But what happens when hurting people are not willing to be a part of God’s therapy through the church for their healing? We want each person in our church to find God’s will for his or her life. So, if you are actively taking yourself out of ministry, stop! If you are actively working against others, stop! If you feel like you have no place to serve here or have been told that by anyone, then talk to me or one of the elders or come to talk to the elders as a team or write us a letter (and please sign your name to it). We want every person who calls FBC their home to have a place of service, whether in the church walls or outside in the community. That is the 1 in our 7:1 Initiative!

 

Now, let’s finish with the last step of learning how to effectively serve as found in Romans 12:1-8. This step is important to the above issue because it is not our goal to get you busy, it is our goal to guide you in all righteousness to serve as God designed you to serve. The elders do not feel called to either direct your steps for you or derail you from using your gifts, but to disciple you into great fruitfulness for the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the journey of maturity!

 

Step 5: Multiply what God has given you to use! Romans 12:6-8 brings it back to God’s grace and how He has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for ministry by giving you spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

 

Romans 12:6-8 is not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts, but it is an exhortation to fully engage with what you have been given by God’s grace to do God’s will.

 

What is a spiritual gift? It is a special ability, given by the Holy Spirit to every believer upon being saved, to be used to minister to others and therefore build up the body of Christ. All gifts are given to help the Church fulfill its purposes to the glory of God.

 

Here are three Bible verses to help us better understand the Bible’s view of spiritual gifts: Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1 & 7, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” & “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Peter says in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

 

The Bible does not lock us into tight restrictions as to the number of spiritual gifts, or even their definitions. If you like would like to further explore the major lists of gifts beyond Romans 12:6-8; check out 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31; Ephesians 4:11-12; and 1 Peter 4:9-11.

 

The bottom line about spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12—14: spiritual gifts are the temporary to build the eternal; don’t worship the gifts (nor those who are working more maturely in their gifts), but only worship the Gift-giver! Everything we have and every service we render unto King Jesus is by God’s grace and for God’s glory! All glory to God!

 

A couple teaching points regarding spiritual gifts: They show your ministry whereas the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) shows your maturity in Christ. At conversion, you are saved and given everything in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one person has all the spiritual gifts and there is no one gift everyone is to have (i.e. tongues) that manifests at conversion to prove you’re a Christian! The sign of salvation is a life that exalts Jesus Christ; God will grow up those who are His! That is His promise to His people; to you!

 

By following the steps in Romans 12:1-8, you will grow in His grace in your maturity and in the ministry Christ has gifted you. This is the means of grace found in Christian discipleship!

 

Let’s review the 5 steps as we wrap up these three messages on the steps to effective serving: 1) Submit to God in every area of your life, every day; 2) Keep your eyes on Jesus and get rid of the distractions; 3) Stay humble in God’s grace; 4) Be a functional member of the body of Christ; and 5) Multiply what God has given you to use!

 

We want to equip you to learn more about spiritual gifts so we are making inventories with information sheets available for you on both the welcome and resources desks. Please grab a packet and work through this information. If you would like to learn even more, please email me or get in touch with the church office and we will send you even more information. God has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for service. Do you know it and are you using it?

 

God formed you in your mother’s womb with service in mind. When you came into union with Christ, the Holy Spirit sealed you for eternity with His presence and power. At the time of your salvation, God gave you spiritual gift(s) to build up the body of Christ, to fulfill your design for ministry, all to bring glory to God! Always for God’s glory!

 

Do you know how good God is and what He has given you to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do for His glory?

 

What does this look like? I will need some youth to help me illustrate what this looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the youth acting out parts, tell the story of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

 

Are you multiplying what God has given you for His purposes and His glory?

 

As Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 4)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!” (PART 2)

(Romans 12:1-8)

Today, we are going to walk through the last 2 steps of “The 5 Steps to Effective Serving” based on Romans 12:1-8.

Allow me to quickly review the first 3 steps from last week’s sermon:

Step 1: Everyday, Dedicate Your Everyday life to Jesus!
Romans 12:1 calls us to daily submission to God’s Word. Are you experiencing rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ?
 
Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions!
Romans 12:2 calls us to focus on Jesus and to guard our hearts from that which will distract us from seeking first the Kingdom. Where is your treasure? What are the “patterns of this world” that are taking your mind, heart, calendar or check book away from Jesus and His Kingdom?
 
Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace!
Romans 12:3 calls us to view ourselves humbly through God’s grace by the faith that has been given to us. Nothing we have is from our own hands—not our salvation or even all that which we think we have earned or done. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself.

 

Now, let’s continue with the last 2 steps of effective serving found in Romans 12:4-8.

 

Step 4: Commit to Being a Functional Member of Jesus’ Church!
Romans 12:4-5 communicates, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (emphasis mine)

 

As the Scripture is worded, everyone has a function. No one is called to sit on the sidelines. There are no stand-alone Christians, just like there are no coals outside the fire that are red hot for very long. We are members of a body, gathered by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to do God’s will for God’s glory. Apart from the body of Christ we are neither healthy nor able to faithfully function as God designed us. Finding your place of service in a local church is an essential piece of God’s program. In fact, it’s what builds the body of Christ!

 

Ephesians 4:11-16 emphasizes this point, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (emphasis mine)

 

There can be no lone rangers in Christianity. We already have our hero and His name is Jesus. That job opening is closed. I am not asking anyone here to be anyone else’s savior and I’m definitely breaking down any preexisting codependency you may have with a pastor, especially if that pastor is me. I’m a horrible savior; I am a fellow beggar for grace! When I act like a lone ranger or like an omni-competent pastor, then I am doing just that—acting out of my own particular brand of brokenness! We are in this together, each of us doing our part as God calls us, because the health and effectiveness of the church is 100% dependent on each of us doing our own part.

 

One of my friends explained the imagery of “what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.” In understanding the imagery we see the importance of it. Listen to her explain, “There are so many things happening in the joints of the body. 1) Ligaments attach bone to bone to stabilize the joints of the body. 2) Tendons attach muscle to bone to provide range of motion to the joint. 3) Synovial fluid in the joint is like oil to an engine, and allows all the parts to keep moving freely and without pain (i.e. when someone says they have “bone on bone” joint pain, it means all their synovial fluid is gone).”

 

This biblical imagery explains why the contemporary church looks like it is limping through life and groaning along the way. It is not supposed to be this way! The church accomplishing the mission to bring glory to God is 100% dependent on the individual members being healthy functional members of the body. That is why the Bible says in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 

God wants us to be together on a regular basis. To do life together, face to face, in union with Jesus and united to one another. God commands this for His glory, for our usefulness as His Church, and for each of our good. We are designed by God to be in a faith community. Our salvation may be personal, but it is not designed to be private. In fact, salvation comes with commands for a very community-oriented, service-focused life. Are you willing to be a healthy member of Jesus’ body by being a functional member of a local congregation?

 

Step 5: Multiply what God has given you to use!
Romans 12:6-8 brings it back to God’s grace and how He has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for ministry by giving you spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

 

This is not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts and these are different than your natural talents, but it is an exhortation to fully engage with what you have been given by God’s grace to do God’s will! Get off the sidelines and start using all of what God has given you for all of His glory! We want to equip you to learn more about Spiritual Gifts so we are making Spiritual Gifts inventories with information sheets available for you on both the welcome and resources desks. Please grab a packet and work through this information. If you would like to learn even more, please email me or get in touch with the church office and we will send you even more information. God has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for service. Do you know it and are you using it?

 

God formed you in your mother’s womb with service in mind. When you came into union with Christ, the Holy Spirit sealed you for eternity with His presence and power. At the time of your salvation, God gave you spiritual gift(s) to build up the body of Christ, to fulfill your design for ministry, all to bring glory to God! Always for God’s glory!

 

Do you know how good God is and what He has given you to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do for His glory?

 

What does this look like? I will need some youth to help me illustrate what this looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the youth acting out parts, tell the story of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

 

Are you serving effectively with what God has entrusted to you? 1) Submit to God in every area of your life, every day; 2) Keep your eyes on Jesus and get rid of the distractions; 3) Stay humble in God’s grace; 4) Be a functional member of the body of Christ; and 5) Multiply what God has given you to use! As Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 3)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!” (Part 1)

(Romans 12:1-8 & Luke 10:25-37)

In the first week of this series we looked at the heart of ministry by looking at the heart of Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve. We saw this truth most clearly displayed through His sacrificial death (Philippians 2:3-11), but also through how He washed the feet of His disciples on the night he was betrayed before going to the cross (John 13:5-20). Last week we dove into the heart of what keeps us from serving. We took time to ask God to check our hearts and minds so that we could hear from Him what He would have us do. The concept of being uniquely designed for service was introduced to you—you were created with good works in mind (Ephesians 2:10).

 

In fact, we each have a unique S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart passions, Abilities and talents, Personalities, and Experiences) for service because God created us and saved us to serve. Your form follows your function—to serve according to God’s design! Are you serving effectively?

 

Over the next 2 Sundays, we are going to walk through Romans 12:1-8, where Paul lays out for us the 5 steps for how we are to serve like Jesus served. We are going to learn how to walk in the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do—we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), that is who we are!

 

Today, we will cover the first 3 steps and next Sunday we will cover the last 2 of how we each can know we are serving effectively, as according to God’s design and purposes for us.

 

Step 1: Dedicate Your Everyday Life to Jesus!
Romans 12:1 is an invitation to each of us every day, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

 

Paul is not talking about your initial conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. He is talking to church people, people who have already made a decision to be disciples. The first step every day for disciples of Jesus Christ is to present themselves to God as living and holy sacrifices, by getting into the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

Jesus gives us this promise from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

This is not only a promise; it is a way of life (a daily praxis). Every promise of God is ours to believe, but also ours to live as a praxis of life (as a lifestyle). I get in the yoke of Jesus each morning with my early morning quiet time (a.k.a. “coffee time with Jesus”) because I know that if I am not in the yoke, then one of my 3 A’s—anxiety, ambition, or ambivalence—will take over and lead my day. It has become such an ingrained habit that a majority of the time I am awake before my 5:30 alarm ready to get in the yoke with Jesus. Before, I used to wake up distracted, filled with anxiety for the work that needs to get done or driven by the impulses of my body, but now I wake up desiring to be with Jesus and once again submit and find rest in His yoke.[1]

 

This is the first and most important step: submit to God, dedicate your day to God’s glory! Just like in spiritual warfare, before you have authority to rebuke the devil, you have to first submit to God (James 4:7). It is in submitting to God that Jesus’ authority and power flow through us.

 

Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions!
Romans 12:2 is a daily promise to each of us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

But this promise of God—to know the will of God for your life—like all the promises of God, comes with daily challenges! I am an easily distracted person and I have triggers from my past that must be safe-guarded against. For example, TV for me is like one of those old school bug zappers that was on the back porch when I was growing up. ZAP! If the TV is on, then I am glued to it and being sucked in. ZAP! To stay alive, I have to stay away from it! For me that is eliminating a competing distraction. I don’t know what it is for you, but that is part of what it looks like for me to follow Jesus well. You may have better time management skills or more brain space than me, but I don’t have minutes, nevertheless hours, to invest in someone else’s program for my life. It also saves a lot of money which allows us to be even more generous with both time and money! I realize that not everyone will have the same issues that I have, so I don’t command this. I just ask you, “what are you doing to eliminate those things that are after your brain space, your heart space, your calendar and your checkbook?”

 

Remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:19-21, 33a, “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. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Friends, we do not serve what we love, we love what we serve!

 

So often, I will tell people that spending minutes a day in Jesus’ program for your life is not enough if you are spending hours in the world’s program for your life. Jesus does not want to be one of your priorities, He wants to be “The Priority”. He doesn’t want to be on the top of your checklist of things to get done today, He wants everything on your checklist to be for Him and through Him. Jesus is a jealous God and will not tolerate idols in His people! Why? Because He loves us and knows that those very idols we serve are killing us from the inside out.

 

Your heart will follow that which you treasure—guard it well! Whatever you feed your mind and heart with will influence you the most. Who are you listening to? Where is your treasure?

 

Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace!
Romans 12:3 teaches us, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

 

Pride comes before the fall. Pride is the ruin of the great servants of God. I have hit the wall of pride and performance in my own life, and I am here to tell you that step #3 is essential to serving in the way of Jesus—be humble in God’s grace! While this is an everyday process, I exhort you to not think more highly of yourself, but as Paul commands us in Philippians 2:3-8,

 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 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.

 

Having a servant’s heart is critical to serving like Jesus! In fact Jesus said in Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

What does this look like? I will need a whole bunch of children to help me illustrate what this humility looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the children acting out parts, tell the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37.

Being available every day to serve like Jesus is not self-service! We each need to STOP self-serving! The clearest sign of a humble person is not that they think less of themselves, but that they think of themselves less.[2] We need to start being humble servants! It is our willingness to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—by God’s grace! Jesus is our motivation. Grace is our empowerment! Jesus gave you grace so that you can give grace to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! We are saved to serve!
 
Serve Week 3: Listen to it here
 
 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Do you think you can get to be on time so that you can get up earlier than necessary to start your day by getting in the yoke of Jesus? The following quote reflects the positive ripple effects that come from the spiritual fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) that can lead to such a morning routine. This is not legalism or an evangelical check list. This is God’s grace to empower the abundant life: “One way in which the self is resourced is through self-discipline. Though it is an unpopular concept in a materialist world propelled by consumerism and expectant of instant gratification, self-control or self-discipline is critical in resilience and can be learnt by practice. Self-control is defined as the self’s ability to alter its states and responses. Since self-control is central to most forms of virtuous behaviour [sic] it can be regarded as the primary or master virtue. It seems to operate like a muscle which is weaker after exertion and replenishes with rest, slowly becoming stronger with repeated exercise and also strengthened by social support. For those in adversity, self-discipline during times of trauma can enable physical escape or psychological protection. After trauma self-discipline helps to deal with anger and hurt, setting boundaries in relationships and the rebuilding of life, as when survivors of childhood trauma make an ongoing, deliberate choice to manage their anger and hurt” (Justine Allain-Chapman, Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth, New Library of Pastoral Care [London: SPCK, 2012], 28–29).

[2] “The concept of humility is enriched rather than diminished by religious understandings, she argues, because the religious perspective describes one’s place in the world in relation to God, so that one can be smart, but not all-knowing, and have personal power, but not omnipotence. There is a connection between humility and compassion which resonates with the observations already make about empathy. Humility, viewed positively, leads to compassion because of self-forgetfulness, rather than a self-focus that can come with false humility. Thus humility is not a devaluation of oneself but an increase in the valuation of others” (Justine Allain-Chapman, Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth, New Library of Pastoral Care [London: SPCK, 2012], 32–33).


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