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No Generation Gap in the Body of Christ September 26, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Discipleship, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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NO GENERATION GAP IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
2 Timothy 2:1-18

In the last Olympics, it was fascinating to watch the 4-by-100 and the 4-by-400 track and field races. In all of these races there is a baton that is passed on from runner to runner. The baton is essential to successfully completing the race. If it is dropped the race for that team is over. It doesn’t matter if the drop occurs during the exchange of the baton or during the running of the race. The minute the baton is not where it is supposed to be, the team is out.

In the same way, Grace Bible Church is running a relay race. There is, however, a difference in that we are all running at the same time, we all have our hand on the baton. Some are ready to let it go. Their time in the race is almost over. Others have their hand fully on the baton. Still others are grasping at the baton so that they can get a greater grip on that baton. If, however, a generation drops the baton, the race for Grace Bible Church may be over.

A. The oldest of us need to be imparting their most important lessons (doctrinal/practical) because we will soon be gone (verses 1, 2a, 7-9, 11-13). These lessons are threefold…

1. Be strong in God’s grace (verse 1).
2. Remember God’s gospel (verses 2a, 7-8).
3. Be willing to suffer (verses 9, 11-13). By the way, the creed in verses 11-13 indicates that there was a generation before Paul, a generation that passed down truth in the form of hymns like this one and creeds like the ones found in 1 Corinthians 15 describing the gospel. Let us like Paul look forward to the future but let us also forget that the truth of our message is anchored in the early church who received it from our Lord Jesus Christ who confirmed what the Old Testament prophets revealed in their message from God. If God never speaks to you with a direct message you still have a message from God. Just because it is mediated does not mean it is not God’s word.

B. Those of us following need to be strong in the truth (doctrinal/practical) as we focus on entrusting those less experienced among us who are found faithful in the truth (verses 1-13). Paul, writing from prison, had just related how he had been encouraged by Onesiphorus, who had come to Rome, to his prison cell, and had ministered to him. Who, however, is going to encourage Timothy? Paul volunteers but just in case encouragement from a prison cell is not enough, Paul reminds him that there is grace to be found in the Christ, Jesus.

“The… movie “Black Hawk Down” contains a scene that is quite instructive at this point. A vehicle filled with wounded American soldiers has come to a stop in the middle of a street where Somali bullets are flying in every direction. The officer in charge tells a soldier to get in and starting driving. ‘I can’t,’ the soldier says, ‘I’m shot.’ ‘We’re all shot,’ the officer replies. ‘Get in and drive’” (from Ray Pritchard). Paul is encouraging Timothy to get in and drive.

If the first generation reminds us that we should be willing to suffer, this next generation reminds us that we should be down in the trenches suffering with others. We get tired, we get frustrated, we get discouraged but we need to remember that’s the way the Christian life is. We are soldiers in battle, athletes in competition, farmers laboring for the future. The reward is after the battle, after the game, after the harvest. Now, we need to be strengthened in the grace of Christ.

C. The less experienced among us need to focus on learning to be faithful (verse 2, doctrinally/practically) so that we will be worthy to teach others (verses 14-18).

Have you heard “about the Chinese Bamboo tree[?] When you plant it, it doesn’t come up for five years. The first year—nothing. The second year—nothing. The third year—nothing. The fourth year—nothing. Then in the fifth year, it grows 90 feet in six weeks! The question is, ‘Did it grow 90 feet in five years in six weeks?’ Obviously, it took five years, even though for most of the time it seemed as if nothing was happening” (Ray Pritchard). We give up much too early. We forget that much of the work of God is like the Chinese bamboo tree.

How do you learn to be faithful? (1) You learn the truth of the Bible for that is where faith, the foundation of faithfulness, is to be found (2:15); (2) you learn to give of your time, your money, and your relationships by spending time serving God, including him in your plans, and committing yourself to his people.

This faithfulness, however, is not only talking about what we do but also what we believe. This week we heard in the news that it was discovered that Jesus had a wife. If that worried you, then there are some things that you need to know.
1. The supposed evidence is no bigger than a business card. There is so little text, we don’t even know what it says about Jesus and marriage.
2. It was supposedly written well over three hundred years after Jesus died and it is not certain that it is authentic.
3. If it is authentic, it may well be produced by Gnostics who were heretics and did not even exist until the century after Jesus lived.
4. Jesus was a common name during that time. Just like the grave of Jesus, so what?
5. If Jesus was married, so what? Do we not believe that Jesus was a man like we are in every respect except that he did not sin? What is so sinful about being married and having children by your wife?

Paul says do not waste your time within the church debating things like this that you know are not true. Teach faithful doctrine. Yes, answer the questions of those from outside, defend the faith, but don’t tolerate such foolish teachings within the church. They are not to be tolerated.

D. Those not yet among us must receive that which is true or they will be damned (verses 12, 18, 26). The snare of Satan is a snare that leads to eternal damnation.

How do you assure that those not in this auditorium today will receive the word? By not wasting your time with those things that corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that look like today? It looks like a return, not to the culture of the previous generations but rather to the truth that is eternal, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Many years ago, when [Ray Pritchard] taught through Colossians in a Wednesday night Bible class in Oak Park [near Chicago], a small group of people would come to the chapel for the lessons… [They] often only had 20 or 30 people there…One year [he] spent a long time going through Colossians verse by verse…[One] night [he] came to Colossians 1:28… Bob Allen was there that night. Bob must have [been] around 80 years old. He had come to Christ in a dramatic conversion many decades earlier. His faith was deep and genuine, and he was by nature a modest man who didn’t talk about himself very much. Because there weren’t many people there that night, [Pritchard] roamed up and down the aisle of the chapel, waxing eloquent about the true purpose of the ministry. At one point [he] had Bob stand up to portray the day he would stand before the Lord. [Pritchard] imagined [himself] saying, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, this is Bob Allen. I present him to you as complete in Christ.’ A hush settled in the room as the magnificence of that day dawned on [the congregation]… Bob whispered, “Thank you,” as he sat down.” Will the generation following you say, “Thank you” to you and your generation?

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What We Share In Christ September 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Faith, Gospel, Hypocrisy, Reward, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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WHAT WE SHARE WITH EACH OTHER
2 Timothy 1:3-12

One of the biggest misconceptions of our modern society is that we have to feel good about each other in order to have true community or, to use a biblical word, true fellowship. As often happens, we get the cart before the horse. We often compare the church to a family. Yet we would never say that it is good mutual feelings that form a family. We recognize that love for one another is characteristic of a good family but we also recognize that a dysfunctional family is still a family.

Perhaps I can explain it this way. When our children are conceived or adopted they become a part of our family, not because they feel good about life or about the faces that greet them when they come into the world but because they are conceived into or adopted into a family. At that moment they begin to share everything with their family. In the same way, the moment one is born again they begin to share with other believers. Today we want to look at some of those things we share with one another as members of the Body of Christ gathered together at Grace Bible Church.

A. We share with each other a genuine faith in Christ (verses 3-7). The word genuine means without hypocrisy, without pretending. Faith is either genuine or it is not. Genuine faith might be strong; it might be weak but it does not pretend.

1. Our genuine faith is characterized by a pure conscience (verses 3-5). In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes those without a pure conscience. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. They say I have faith but they live differently.

“Major Osipovich, an air force pilot for the former USSR, planned to give a talk at his children’s school about peace. But he would need time off during the day to give his talk, so he volunteered for night duty…Soon the Soviet pilot was caught in a series of blunders and misinformation. In the end, Major Osipovich followed orders and shot down [an] unidentified aircraft. The actions of an air force major preparing to talk about peace plunged 240 passengers to their deaths and sparked an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off” (Leadership, Summer 1994). We may say we have faith but our actions demonstrate whether our faith is real or not.

Those without genuine faith are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 2:2-4). If, however you have a genuine faith, the power of God will help you to love others rather than yourself or money or pleasure. If you have genuine faith you will live humbly, in submission to and thankful for authority. If you have genuine faith you will find a way to forgive and control your temper and your tongue.

2. Our genuine faith is characterized by a powerful spirit (verses 6-7). A genuine faith does not fear because it is confident in Christ. A genuine faith produces power in the form of love for others and for God. A genuine faith protects your mind from the deception of the devil.

B. We share with and in Christ the sufferings of the gospel (verses 8-11). Paul writes Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Suffering with Christ is not optional.

1. It is our calling (verses 8-9a). Christ has enlisted us as soldiers. Soldiers suffer. They don’t take breaks during battle. At Petersburg, Virginia the Union soldiers had dug a 500 foot tunnel to a chamber under the Confederate army. In this chamber explosives were placed in preparation for a surprise attack. When the explosion was set off there were immediately 278 casualties and a huge crater formed where the Confederate soldiers had been posted. Four Union divisions were to attack immediately after the explosion to take advantage of the confusion and to hopefully bring the war to an end. The first division belonged to Brigadier General James H. Ledlie but Ledlie was not with his troops. “He was immured in a bombproof [nearly a quarter-mile away], swigging away at a bottle of rum… joined [by another of the four divisions’ commanders, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero]…It…cost Burnside 3828 men, nearly half of them captured or missing” in great part because two commanders took a break during the battle (based on Shelby Foote’s account of the battle in Volume III, The Civil War: A Narrative).

2. It is our privilege according to His purpose and grace (verses 9b-10a). Before time began God purposed to give us grace through Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, that grace and love were revealed to the world. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We have done nothing to deserve this calling but called we are nonetheless. We will suffer but it is a privilege that will be rewarded throughout all eternity.

3. It is our necessity (verses 10b-11). It is one thing to be called. It is another to fulfill that calling. Paul says, “God has appointed me to suffer for the gospel but I can do nothing else.”

C. We share with and in Christ a glorious certainty (verse 12). Only the soldier who fights receives the glory of the soldier. Only the athlete who competes wins the gold medal. Only the farmer who sows, reaps a harvest. The hymn Paul quotes from in 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

“Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, writes in Life magazine about…Poppa…We had just moved to Holliswood, New York…it had some land around it, even trees. One in particular was a great blue spruce that must have been 40 feet tall. Less than a week after we moved in, there was a terrible storm. We came home from the store that night to find the spruce pulled almost totally from the ground and flung forward, its mighty nose bent in the asphalt of the street…We stood in the street, looking down at the tree. ‘Okay, we gonna push ‘im up!’ [Poppa said]. ‘What are you talking about, Poppa? The roots are out of the ground!’ ‘Shut up, we gonna push ‘im up, he’s gonna grow again.’ …So we followed him into the house and we got what rope there was and we tied the rope around the tip of the tree that lay in the asphalt, and he stood up by the house, with me pulling on the rope and Frankie in the street in the rain, helping to push up the great blue spruce. In no time at all, we had it standing up straight again! With the rain still falling, Poppa dug away at the place where the roots were, making a muddy hole wider and wider as the tree sank lower and lower toward security. Then we shoveled mud over the roots and moved boulders to the base to keep the tree in place. Poppa drove stakes in the ground, tied rope from the trunk to the stakes and maybe two hours later looked at the spruce, the crippled spruce made straight by ropes, and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s gonna grow again…’ If you were to drive past that house today, you would see the great, straight blue spruce, maybe 65 feet tall, pointing up to the heavens, pretending it never had its nose in the asphalt” (Leadership, Winter 1993).

This is what we share in Christ. We share in a genuine faith in Him, a faith that produces suffering here on earth and a glorious reward in eternity. We will reign with Him in His kingdom here on earth. We will celebrate with Him the great Passover, when He for the first time drinks of the fruit of the vine with those of us who have put our faith in Him and have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light.

Being in God’s Will Like Paul Was August 27, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Cross of Christ, Glory of Christ, Prayer, Will of God.
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BEING IN GOD’S WILL
Acts 28

As we come to the close of Paul’s career as recorded in the book of Acts, there are a couple of things that we need to recognize.

1. Paul still had several years of ministry ahead of him, yet he had already fulfilled God’s specific will in his life. God had said that Paul “is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul had already done all this. If he had never made it to Rome, Paul would have fulfilled God’s will in His life.

2. We also need to recognize that God’s will for Paul’s life and for your life is pretty much one and the same. God expects the same things from you that He expected from Paul. God expects all of us to be committed to the cross of Christ, to the body of Christ, to the glory of Christ in our life. So if you want to be in God’s will you have to commit yourself to telling others the gospel of Christ; you have to integrate yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, temporally, financially with some portion of the body of Christ, that is, the church. You also have to commit yourself to the glory of Christ. Why do we live righteous lives? So that He might be glorified through them. You may choose the wrong career, you may choose the wrong wife, you may choose to attend the wrong church but if you are invested in the cross of Christ, the body of Christ, and the glory of Christ, you are in God’s will.

A. Being in God’s will is a place of safety in the midst of danger; therefore, we can have peace (verses 1-10). I would refer you to today’s bulletin insert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He made a choice that put him in great danger because he was confident of God’s will. Yet he did not escape the wrath of the Nazis. Yet he died with peace that his death would be the beginning of life.

The story of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake is a fascinating story. I have never been bitten by a snake but I can image the horror they all must have felt as Paul got bit. Once as a teenager I was entering the house we lived in. I opened the screen door and a little snake which had crawled up to the top of the door fell on to my wrist and began to wrap itself around my wrist. You have never heard such hollering or seen such dancing as I performed at that moment. I slung my arm so hard that the snake flew ten to twenty yards out in the air and landed in the grass. That snake never had a chance to bite me.

Notice, however, that the snake fastened his fangs onto Paul’s hand. I am sure Paul did not just calmly flick the snake into the fire. He felt the pain of the fangs entering into his hand. Whatever he did with his hand was certainly a reaction of pain, surprise, perhaps even fear. Paul, however, did not die. He did not even get sick. There were the marks in his hand but he did not die. I can imagine Paul wincing at the pain in his hand from the bite but the poison had no effect. Why? God was not through with Paul yet.

Later Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, 13-14, 16, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…”

Are there dangers? Of all kinds! When, however, we are in Christ and we are committed to His cross, His church, and His glory, we can have peace.

B. Being in God’s will is a place of success in the midst of difficulties; therefore, we can take courage (verses 11-15). Bonhoeffer during his imprisonment at Tegel prison wrote about success, “We must be determined not to be outraged critics [of success] or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as visitors or vanquished…To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair? but, How is the coming generation to live? …The rising generation will always instinctively discern [whether] we are acting upon [concrete responsibility] for it is their future which is at stake” (Prisoner For God, p. 17-18).

The brethren Paul met as he approached Rome were probably strangers to him. It is likely that Paul had no idea how he would be received. Yet a small group came, thrilled to see him and Paul took courage that God had paved the way for his arrival with brethren who cared for him. This small group was a confirmation of God answering Paul’s prayer recorded in Romans 15:30-33, “Now I beg you, brethren…that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me…that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you…” Paul had thought he would just be passing through on his way to Spain but God had other plans and God prepared Paul’s way before him. That is why Paul took courage when he arrived at Rome.

C. Being in God’s will is a place of significance in the midst of obscurity; therefore, we can bold to preach the gospel (verses 16-31). Do you want to be significant? Then your message better have eternal value both in this life and the life to come. Do you want to be significant among the men and women of history? Then you better stand with the family that will rule the universe, the church of the living God. Do you want to glorify God? Then you must glory in His cross and in His people and live accordingly.

As our missions conference comes closer, we need to understand that our significance is found in proclaiming the gospel to this world.

1. Some of our hearers will turn away. These people had interest in Paul’s message. They listened to Paul’s message. They even understood intellectually Paul’s message. They still walked away because they did not believe the message and were not transformed by it.

2. Some of our hearers will be healed and transformed (verse 20). These people had the same background. They had the same interest in Paul’s message. They listened to the same teaching that the rejecters listened to. They had the same intellectual understanding that the rejecters had. They, however, believed the message and were saved by it.

“A TV news camera crew was on assignment in southern Florida filming the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. ‘Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? …’ ‘I built this house myself,’ the man replied. ‘I also built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2×6 roof trusses, I used 2×6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code’” (David R. Culver, Leadership, Winter 1993).

Are you in God’s will? If you are you will be saved. Are you inviting others into God’s will? That is the only way to guarantee they will be saved.

How to Know God’s Will? June 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Bible, Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, Paul's Life, Will of God.
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KNOWING GOD’S WILL
Acts 21:1-14

There is a story told of a successful retiring from a company being questioned by a young, up-and-coming employee. The young man asked the one about to retire, “What does it take to be successful?” The older man said, “Good decisions.” “But how do I learn to make good decisions?” the young man asked. The older man replied, “Bad decisions” (adapted from The Good Book of Leadership by Borek, Lovett, Towns, 2005).

This helps us to understand that the question implied in the sermon title is the wrong question. Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book (1991) frames a better question for us to ask, “How do we develop the skills necessary to make wise and prudent choices?” Paul exemplifies for us in his life three skills we need to develop in knowing God’s will.

A. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the Holy Spirit (verses 4, 10-11). I am starting with what seems to be the hardest, guidance from the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit never leads us astray. How do you try the spirits to know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? First, you check it by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathed the Word of God into holy men of God. He will not contradict what he has already said. Second, if we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us, we had better be sure that it was the voice of God. Haddon Robinson tells about “Edgar Cayce, Cayce…known to his followers as the sleeping prophet,’ began as a Sunday school teacher. But over the years, his spiritist ‘readings’ on the truth of God began to seriously disagree with God’s revelation at all major points…the sleeping prophet had doubts about the heretical teachings that began to pop up in the readings, but his mother reassured him, saying, ‘The devil cannot speak through a righteous man’ ” (taken by Robinson from The Story of Edgar Cayce: There Is a River by Thomas Sugre, 1967).

2. The Holy Spirit does not always give us clear instructions. That is why we need not to ask, “How can I know the will of God in this decision?” but rather “How can I make a wise decision that honors God?” (adapted again from Haddon Robinson).

3. The Holy Spirit generally only leads those who will do all He demands. Are you willing to take responsibility for depending on the Holy Spirit in order to know what God wants? Prayerlessness is a characteristic of someone who does not want to know and do God’s will.

B. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the body of Christ. Now there is a danger here. “Christians who have already made up their minds about their lifestyle seek out churches and pastors who approve of it” (Haddon Robinson). Yet it is clear that Paul listened at times to other believers (Cf. vs. 4, 12-14 with 17:10-15) and recommended even to a church like that in Corinth to exercise their own spiritual judgment in settling issues between other members.

1. In some situations the church has authority. There are many issues where we do not have authority and should not attempt to force our views on others but there are some areas where a congregation has authority. It is interesting that God commanded the church in Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. It is the church that made doctrinal clarifications in Acts 13 concerning circumcision. It is the church that makes decisions about who is a member and who is not, that is church discipline.

2. In other situations the church has no authority but it may have wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Henry and Richard Blackaby report (in Spiritual Leadership, 2001) tell about Warren Bennis’s suggestion “that the downfall of President Richard Nixon came after he surrounded himself with clones of himself. Observes Bennis, ‘They couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and so were useless to him.’ The key to effective counselors is not that they agree with their leaders and always support their decisions but that they tell their leaders things they would not know or recognize otherwise.”

C. In order to know God’s desire we should understand His Word, the Bible (Cf. 20:25 with 14:21-23). How important is it to know God’s Word? It helps us to know where we are going in life. If you know that, you have won most of the battle.

Alice, while in Wonderland, comes to a crossroads and is trying to make a decision about which road to take. The Cheshire Cat asked, “Well, where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know!” “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do very nicely.”
Young person, if you know and believe your Bible, the decision to marry a believer and not an unbeliever is already made for you. Which believer to marry, you need to figure out for yourself. The best decision I have ever made in my life was which girl to marry, yet I must admit her good looks spoke to me a whole lot more than the Holy Spirit did. How did I keep from making a mistake (and I have made more than enough of those), by knowing the Word of God and following it to the best of my ability.

Richard and Henry Blackaby in 2001 wrote in Spiritual Leadership, Harry Truman has been called a great leader because he had the ability to decide. But more than that, he was willing to accept the consequences of his decisions. Truman’s famous dictum, ‘The buck stops here,’ encapsulated his belief that leaders cannot shirk their responsibility to make decisions or bear the consequences of their decisions. Truman repeatedly modeled this philosophy during his presidency.”

Next week: Leaving the Children Home (Acts 21:5)

The Blessings and Curse of the Cross (Galatians 3) March 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Crucifixion, Galatians, Lord's Table.
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THE CURSE AND THE BLESSINGS
Galatians 3:7-14

We saw last week that Paul was opposing those who were perverting the gospel. They were changing salvation by grace through faith in the gospel, that is, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a salvation by law: circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, zealousness, the Ten Commandments, or some other way in which one can make himself acceptable or at least presentable before God. Paul says, “You can’t change what God has set forth.”

Warren Wiersbe tells how “a new employee was instructed how to measure valve parts to make sure they were ready for the final assembly. But after a few hours, his foreman was receiving complaints that the parts he was approving were faulty. ‘What are you doing?’ the foreman asked. ‘I showed you how to use that micrometer. You’re sending through parts that are oversize!’ The employee replied, ‘Oh, most of the parts I was measuring were too large, so I opened up the micrometer a bit.’” The cross is God micrometer. It is by the cross that we determine our spiritual welfare.

A. The curse of the cross was on our behalf (3:7-14; 5:11; 6:12-13).

1. The curse was pronounced by God (3:7-14). Paul quotes six different Old Testament passages to make the point that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. He also says that through the law comes the curse. Actually, there are two curses here. The first, a general curse, is on anyone who breaks one law (verse 10). This is in contrast to the justification that comes through faith (verses 8-9, 11-12). Justification can simply mean that you are getting what’s coming to you. That is not the way Paul is using this word. He takes an Old Testament concept and speaks about God taking a sinner’s account and stamping it “righteous.”

There are four stamps God could use. He could stamp our account as “guilty.” That is what we deserve. Or he could stamp us “not guilty.” That means you’re not condemned, that is, the evidence does not condemn you. But, of course, that is not true. God could stamp our account “innocent.” That is better than not guilty but the evidence still is against us. God uses the stamp “righteous through faith” (see Abraham’s case in verse 6). What Paul is saying is that righteousness is put on my account by grace through faith in Christ and his death on my behalf.

One might say faith in the second curse pronounced by God, that is, the curse of the cross (verses 13-14). It is faith in the righteousness, the redemption, the payment, provided by Jesus Christ on the cross for our account that justifies us with God.

2. The offense of the cross provoked persecution and derision (5:11). Certainly the cross was despised by the Jews because of the curse pronounced by God on anyone hung from a tree. It was also a most shameful death in the eyes of the Romans who were actually carrying out the act of crucifixion. It was reserved for criminals and slaves. Jesus was neither. Robert Gundry feels that Mark’s gospel may have been written to counteract the shame of the cross by recording the power of Jesus, for no Roman would trust a crucified Savior. The Roman senator and orator Cicero said “the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the perons of a Roman citizen but also from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears…the mere mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man” (In Defense of Rabirius taken from Gundry’s A Survey of the New Testament). The shame of the cross was not theoretical but real.

3. The cross is incompatible with profiteering from believers (6:12-13). It is more respectable to belong to the right group than to be associated with the cross of Christ. Heroes did not die on the cross but in battle. Those who profit from religious faith have no use for the cross unless they can turn it into some type of work. If I preach a certain type of message so that it might attract a crowd, am I any better than these? Not that we should not try to reach as many as we can and any legitimate method should be used. At times the message of the cross has been more popular than others but whether it is the “in thing” or not, it is still our only message.

B. The blessings of the cross come through Christ living in me (2:17-21; 5:24; 6:14-17).

1. Our lives are transformed by grace through faith in Christ (2:17-21). When we baptize tonight, we will being testifying that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ through His death and resurrection. Verse 21 is a sobering verse. If we have life through any other way, then the cross of Christ was a waste, a wasted life.

2. We actively war against sin (5:24). We will speak about this more at a later time but the fight against sin in our own individual lives must take place under the banner of the cross. Apart from the power of the cross to give us new life, we are helpless against the sins listed in this chapter. Our flesh will give in but we are alive now in Christ, the Crucified One.

3. Our boasting is dependent on the cross (6:14-17). Unlike the profiteers, our boasting is dependent on Jesus. My rejection of the sins of the flesh, of this world is based on my new life in Christ. Paul even notes that he has brands or marks on his body that identify him with Jesus. In those days an idol worshipper might have the brand of his idol burned into his body. Slaves were also marked with brands. Circumcision itself, though not a brand, served the same purpose. Paul said, “My brands come through my daily life with Christ.”

Let’s take our micrometer and measure ourselves.
1. Have you been saved by the grace of God? If you feel in anyway that you deserve salvation, you are too big for the micrometer of the cross.
2. Are you trying to mix law and grace? Are you trying to adjust the cross for yourself or someone else? God will not accept that mixture.
3. When we celebrate today the Lord’s Table, will you be boasting in the cross of Christ or will you be trying to impress God by your sanctified worship?
4. Are you walking in spiritual liberty? We are celebrating spiritual liberty today through the Lord’s Table. Do you live your liberty out in the world during the week?
5. Are you willing to defend the truth of the gospel of Christ? Or do you let it slide when people say, “Well, I think I’m good enough for God. I’m better than the average Joe?”
(Questions adapted from Warren Wiersbe’s Be Free).

As we partake of the Lord’s Table, let us dwell on these questions and respond to God’s call to salvation and to walking in spiritual liberty.

Next week: Righteous Indignation (Galatians 1-2)

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper on New Year’s Day January 2, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Communion, First Corinthians.
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Had a great service yesterday. This is the devotional I brought.

THE LORD’S SUPPER
1 Corinthians 11:18-34

The importance of the Lord’s Supper is sometimes lost in how we celebrate it. Often it does not feel like a celebration. The atmosphere is too somber. We sometimes act as if “the point of the meal is to screw up one’s face and try to feel sorry for Jesus. This is often accompanied by a psychological attempt to meditate on the physical pain of Jesus’ sufferings-an emphasis that is markedly understated in the biblical text itself” (Russell Moore, contributor to Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, 33).

A focus on the physical pain of Jesus does not seem to be the focus of the celebration described by Paul, although it is mentioned. There are two aspects of the celebration emphasized by him.

I. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of our family relationship (verses 18-22 and 27-34). Sometimes I am asked if I go to individuals, for example, to shut-ins and serve the Lord’s Supper. I don’t, not because it is wrong, but because it then ceases to function as a family event. These people, though, did not act as a family. They understood that they were supposed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together as a family and they did gather together. Unfortunately, they did so in a very dysfunctional way. In fact, their lack of hospitality brought shame on those who were less fortunate in the congregation.

A. Lack of hospitality within the church shows that we despise the church (verses 18-22). In Corinth the “have’s” sat separately from the “have not’s” and acted generally as if they were better than them. I wish I could say we never acted that way but many of us know better. How often have we as individuals acted like we were better than someone else in this church? That is not the way God wants us to act.

B. Lack of hospitality within the church is unworthy of the love our Lord has shown to us (verses 27-30). “Jesus, what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.” Remember the thief on the cross. To die on the cross was a shameful death. In the earliest days such a death had been reserved for slaves. To die on a cross was to be “despised by the world.” Jesus, however, did not despise the thief but loved Him and took Him to paradise to be with Him forever.

C. Lack of hospitality within the church will be judged by the Lord (verses 30-34). Our Lord Jesus takes this seriously. In Corinth, some were afflicted with sickness because of their pride towards their fellow believers. Others were killed by our Lord Jesus in judgment for their sin. To my knowledge we have not suffered in this way and yet I ask myself if some of our difficulties can be attributed to our lack of love for each other. God has, however, been merciful to us. We must learn to love every person in our church family with the love He has shown us, a love that does not despise the other but rather exalts the other.

II. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not only an expression of our relationship as a church family but it is also an expression of the importance of our Lord’s death (verses 23-26).

A. He ought to be remembered by us (verses 23-25). This week I caught a portion of the NPR broadcast, “Talk of the Nation.” They were asking the question, “What persons passed away in 2011 that we ought to remember?” One man called in and mentioned the “Champaign Lady” from the “Lawrence Welk Show.” The daughter of the man who invented the Nordic Track and told about her dad. An acquaintance of a nun who was important in the early days of anti-nuclear protests also called in. These people all did important things in the field in which they worked. None of them, however, have done anything comparable to what Jesus did. His body was broken for us. He shed His blood for us. He established a new covenant between God and man for us. He ought to be remembered by us.

B. He ought also to be proclaimed by us (verse 26). Russell Moore says that the Lord’s Supper should “be characterized by more celebrative singing and even laughter, than the rest of the service. The congregation would be taught to understand that the Supper is a victory lap-announcing the triumph of Christ over the powers of sin, death, and Satan” (Moore, 33).

The third verse of “At Calvary” says, “Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus ev’rything, Now I gladly own Him as my King, Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, There my burdened soul found liberty-At Calvary!”

Jesus Among Friends (Luke 22) April 7, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Atonement, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Christ, Communion, Covenant, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, Falling Away, Jesus, Lord's Table, Luke, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Passover, Suffering.
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JESUS AMONG FRIENDS
(Luke 22:1-62)

A couple of weeks ago I asked for questions from the congregation to be written out on a 3” by 5” card. I received a card with the following question, “Is it sinful to “befriend” persons outside the faith or should we see this “opportunity” as one to bring these people to Christ?”

Now I don’t know what provoked this question but it does address a real problem. As believers in Christ, what should our relationship be to those outside the faith? One of my biggest concerns as pastor is that most of us do not bring many unsaved friends to church. There are many possible reasons for this but one of them could be that we tend to isolate ourselves from sinners.

Jesus, however, was known by his enemies as a friend of sinners (Luke 7:33-34). Was this a just accusation? In this chapter we find Jesus with twelve of his closest friends; men who He chose to follow them. One of those men was a man named Judas.
How did Jesus show friendship to Judas (22:2, 21, 27)?
I. Jesus chose a sinner to be His friend, to be one of the twelve (22:2). Sometimes we forget that Jesus knew all along who would betray Him (John 6:64-71). He chose a friend who he could never help. It is interesting that Jesus knew also that Judas would never believe, Jesus befriended a liar, a traitor, a thief simply because it was God’s will.
This helps us to answer the first part of our question. It is obviously not sinful to befriend a sinner. It also helps us to answer the second part but not directly. We are not just to look at people as “opportunities” but rather we are to live in God’s will and be so full of a passion for Jesus Christ and His gospel that we become the “opportunity” for them to hear the gospel of Christ.
II. Jesus shared His table with a sinner (22:21, 27). It was such a high honor at that time to be invited to eat with someone that to refuse the invitation opened one up to the revenge of slander and defamation. Jesus gave Judas a place of honor.
Judas seemed to be singled out by Jesus for honor and intimacy at this feast (John 13:26). Based on this chapter, it appears that Judas has been given by Jesus, the host of this feast, the place of honor on his left. In addition, Jesus gave Judas the sop. The sop was a piece of bread that was dipped into some type of sauce or mixture. To give the sop to some one was not only a great honor but symbolic of a close friendship. Jesus treated Judas at this festival with the greatest of honor and signs of friendship.
III. Jesus served sinners (22:27). When Jesus washed feet, He washed Judas’ feet also. When Jesus instituted the Communion that we celebrate today, He did not withhold it from Judas but rather served him also. Jesus, the King of Kings, served Judas in whose heart the devil had accomplished an awful work (John 13:2).
What ended the friendship between Judas and Jesus (22:4-6)? There are a lot of theories about Judas’ motivation, money being the most obvious. I think money certainly played a part (John 12:6). There was something deeper though for all of the disciples were tainted by their desire to be important in the kingdom and they certainly could have assumed that great riches would come with the kingdom. What ended the friendship was Judas’ lack of faith in Christ (John 6:64-71). Oh, he certainly began believing but he did not have a faith that would last.

This tells a lot about true faith. True faith that lasts is not dependent on excellent surroundings. Judas heard the Creator of the universe teach truth and wisdom. His faith, however, did not continue to respond. There was an initial response but it was broken easily on the banks of a few coins. What will break your faith?
What was Jesus’ desire for His friends (22:14-30)? He desired that they be a part of His eternal kingdom.
What is the kingdom of which Jesus is speaking?
a. It is a coming kingdom (22:15-19) Last week we saw where Jesus said that the kingdom is in the heart of those who believe but it is also a future eternal kingdom. This coming kingdom must be prepared through suffering (compare v. 15 with 17:22-25). Hebrews 1:8a-10 describes this kingdom through suffering in this way, “But now we do not yet see all things [in submission to Jesus]. But we see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him…in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
b. It is also a new covenant kingdom (22:20). I do not have time to go back to Jeremiah and look at these Old Testament passages but the main characteristic of the new covenant kingdom is heart transformation. Jesus died so that I might be born from above, regenerated in heart, passing from the kingdom of darkness into His eternal light.
c. It is a caring kingdom (22:24-27). Service is more important than authority.
Leroy Eims of the Navigators tells about a man who came to Christ and desired to serve Eims. Because he was young and inexperienced in the faith, there were not a lot of opportunities at the Navigators office for this man to serve. Winter was coming though and the man greatly desired to serve in some way. Leroy Eims gave him the task of shoveling the walkway to the office building. The man was very zealous in this service. In fact he was so zealous, Eims quipped, that not a snowflake hit the walkway the whole winter long. Eims said that such valuable service could not go unrewarded and they brought him into the office to train for service within the Navigators organization. The young man cared enough to serve.
How do we show friendship to Christ (22:28)? We show friendship to Christ by continuing with Him even in His trials. Can we do that? Absolutely, Jesus said, take up My cross and follow Me.
“They tried my Lord and Master with no one to defend.
Within the halls of Pilate He stood without a friend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, my life for Him I’ll spend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, until my years shall end.

The world may turn against Him, I’ll love Him to the end,
And while on earth I’m living, My Lord shall have a friend.

I’ll do what He may bid me; I’ll go where He may send;
I’ll try each flying moment to prove that I’m His friend.

To all who need a Savior, my friend I recommend;
Because He brought salvation is why I am His friend.”
Sometimes, however, even the most loyal of us fail Jesus when He needs us most. Peter is a true example and Jesus knew Peter would fail. Yet He showed friendship to Peter anyway. How did Jesus show friendship to Peter (22:31-34)? He warned him, He prayed for Him to endure in the faith, He gave him a positive hope for the future, and He was honest in telling Peter what he did not want to hear.
Let us return to our question about befriending sinners. Here is a good plan to follow them. We must warn them. Only a friend will warn someone of the dangers of hell. We must pray for them to come to faith. We cannot argue them into the faith. We need God’s help to bring them to faith. We need to give them hope, let them know that there is a purpose for them in this life and the life to come. Finally, we need to be honest even if they do not want to hear the gospel. It is possible to antagonize people but if you are a real friend who lives out a real faith in Christ, you will figure out how to give them the gospel of Christ.
As we come to the close of our service, we come to the time when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. How does the Lord’s Table or communion show our friendship with Christ and with each other (22:19, 26)? It shows our friendship with Christ according to verse 19 by remembering what He did for us. It shows our friendship with each other in that each one of us comes together to the table. We are all equal in Christ’s kingdom. It is interesting that the only people unworthy of this bread and juice are those who considered themselves above others (1 Corinthians 11). Today, I want us to take a few moments and ask ourselves, not if we’ve sinned but if there is anyone here today who we consider ourselves superior to. Think through the rows of seats. If you find anyone who you feel you are above, would you not repent of that ungodliness now and humble yourself before God in silent prayer?

Common Sense and the Holy Spirit January 24, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Body of Christ, Christian Liberty, Guidance, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Religion, Sermons.
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During the past four weeks, we have seen that the Bible teaches that those who put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, receive the person of the Holy Spirit for indwelling. The power of the Holy Spirit for witnessing of Christ is promised. This power or ability to witness of Christ is displayed in us through the filling of the Spirit.

There are, however, those who resist the Word of God, the gospel of Christ but even among them, the power of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the life of the Apostle Paul, can wake a man up and bring him to salvation.

Further, every believer is selected by the Spirit to function within the body in reaching the world with the gospel of Christ as well in edifying one another.

There are, of course, many obstacles (which is part of why the book of Acts is such fascinating reading) but the body of Christ is equipped with COMMON SENSE FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. This common sense guides us in overcoming some of these obstacles.
Acts 15:1-33

If ever there is an area of life open to the non-sensical, it is that of guidance. Haddon Robinson in “Decision-Making by the Book” tells the oft-repeated story of a man who was “…attempting to discover the mind of God by taking his chances with the Bible. He simply shut his eyes, opened up his Bible, and put his finger on a passage. Opening his eyes, he read this passage from Matthew 27: ‘Then he went away and hanged himself.’ Somehow, the fellow didn’t think that gave him any direction for his problem, so he closed his eyes again and opened his Bible to another passage. He looked and read Jesus’ statement in Luke 10: ‘Go and do likewise.’ That wasn’t quite what he was looking for either, so he tried one more time. He shut his eyes, opened his Bible, and read the statement in John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you.’”

Now this is a humorous story but it points out that there are times when we face difficulties and problems so difficult that the temptation to forsake common sense is great.

Now there are many ways to maintain common sense. Being married to a good spouse, listening to the advice of wise parents, and seeking the counsel of experts in a certain field are all ways to maintain common sense in our actions and decisions. We, however, also have, as these people in Jerusalem had, the Holy Spirit within us both as individuals and as a church. He is the source of all knowledge and of all common sense. Today I would like for us to look at three lessons that the common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches the body of Christ.

A. The common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance (Acts 15:15-19). This should not surprise us, since we know that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Scriptures. Yet we have already seen that it is possible to use the Scriptures without the common sense given by the Holy Spirit.

What then do I mean when I say the common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance? It teaches us to understand God’s perspective of this world. These people had a tough problem to solve. It potentially could lead to the first division within the church along religious/ethnic lines and to the weakening of the body of Christ. The problem could not simply be solved by the apostles proclaiming, “We said so!” That is why, after Peter spoke from his own personal experience and Paul and Barnabas reported on what God had done among the Gentiles, James, the writer of the epistle of James stood up and quoted or read from Amos 9:11-12.

Now Amos is talking about the millennial kingdom which is still future for us. It would seem that this might not apply. James, however, understood God’s plan for mankind as revealed in the Old Testament and understood that God’s plan is not to make Gentiles into Jewish proselytes but rather to make Jew and Gentile alike one people in Christ. God’s plan is to join the two groups of believers spiritually and not culturally.

WHY WE NEED A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

It is important for us to have a biblical perspective on life because perspective answers the “why” questions of life (idea from Rick Warren). Perspective will cause us to love God more. It will help us to handle trials, “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2-3, 12). It will help us to love God more and to resist temptation, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God” (James 4:4). I was speaking with one of our men this week who pointed out that his awareness that sin will keep him from some of the blessings of God helps him to resist temptation. Where does that come from? It comes from a biblical perspective of temptation and blessings.

This Holy Spirit taught dependence on God’s Word for guidance will protect us from error. This is what is happening in this chapter. Will the church fall into the error of performing rituals for salvation or will they continue to teach that Christ alone is the way of salvation? Because of the biblical perspective taught by James and accepted by the church, they did not fall into the trap of salvation by good works. Biblical perspective is not about being right about truth. It is about knowing how to live truth. That is why we have been looking at the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and why on Wednesday nights we have been tackling the issue of perseverance in salvation. It is one of the reasons I encourage you to be in Sunday School. You need a biblical perspective of life. We need to know how to live the truth.

Now this does not mean that all the problems you will ever have are addressed in the Bible. There are many times when we have no specific answer in the Scripture for our particular problem. These people did not have a clear Old Testament verse that directly addressed their problem. They did though have the Scriptures and they had the Holy Spirit to give them common sense in discerning what they should do.

B. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us to work together for solutions (Acts 15:1-7, 22-27, 30-33). Again, this should make sense to us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures, He is the one who unites us together into the body of Christ. So it seems reasonable to conclude that if we are all baptized by the same Spirit into the body of Christ, we should be able as a body to work together for solutions. We know, however, that this is not always easy. Some issues are especially tough.

a. We cannot get around these issues because particularly tough issues often demand solutions (Acts 15:1-7). There are several reasons for this. Tough issues demand solutions, because the consequences of a decision made are significant. There are times when the consequences are clear but we do not like them. Sometimes, though, the consequences are unclear. In either case, it can make coming to a solution difficult.

The consequences of the tough issue facing the church in this case are made clear for us by Peter in verses 7-11. There was a danger of sinning against God by tempting Him (verse 10). Peter says that God has already spoken in this case. He has already made it clear that all, both Jew and Gentile are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not through the yoke of the law. James followed that with his statement in verse 19, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

b. Particularly tough issues demand action by the body (Acts 15:22-23, 30-33). Now it would have been easy for Peter and James to have simply dictated to the people the proper action. They had apostolic and pastoral authority to which they could have appealed. Paul also by reason of his apostolic call from God with Barnabas also could have bypassed the other apostles and the church in Jerusalem and simply done whatever it was that they wanted. They were after all both prophets (Acts 13:1-4). The church at Antioch could have declared its independence of the church of Jerusalem and kicked the troublemakers out. None of these things happened.

i. First, the church of Antioch chose to consult with the apostles and elders of Jerusalem (15:2). There was mutual accountability that went beyond apostolic authority. Paul in Galatians 1-2 makes it clear that his authority was equal to that of the original apostles. What we have here is an understanding that we as churches are accountable to each other.

ii. Secondly, the view point of other believers within the body was heard (15:5). For fifteen years there had been no doctrinal controversy within the church. There had been many changes. Now the problem arose and within the body there were believers (not outsiders) who wanted to require circumcision for Gentile and Jew alike. Rather than attacking the people, the leaders met together for serious consideration of the issue.

iii. Third, considerable time was given to consider the truth. God could have given them a revelation at the time to settle the matter but He did not. He allowed the body of Christ to function through the guidance of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Peter, recounted the story of Cornelius which was well known but was important to the issue. Paul and Barnabas then recounted according to verse 12 how that God had worked in the Gentiles in Asia Minor similarly to how He had worked in Cornelius’ situation. Then James confirmed that this was consistent with the Word of God by quoting Amos and then giving his judgment of how to deal with this problem.

iv. After all this, the leadership and the congregation decided to follow James’ recommendation, sending two of their leaders and prophets to encourage the church of Antioch in their carrying out the requirements given. Notice that both congregations acted within their own membership and in their relationship to each other as the body of Christ. They did not act as a democracy. A physical body is not a democracy and neither is the body of Christ. Neither, however, did the leadership as a whole act as a dictatorship. You see, the apostles and elders and prophets and other leaders are not the head of the church. Christ is the head. They function merely as a part of the body. Both extremes much be avoided. We are not a democracy nor a monarchy but rather a body under the headship of Christ and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That is why these two churches and their leaders acted with common sense and that is what we should seek to do also.

C. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us the right balance of boldness and sensitivity (Acts 15:7-12; 20-21; 28-29). This balance comes when we give priority to what the Holy Spirit gives priority to, the truth of the gospel of Christ.

a. Boldness is needed to protect the truth of the gospel (15:7-12). Those who wanted to require circumcision were a powerful group. They continued to plague both the church at Jerusalem as well and Paul throughout the next few years. In fact, Paul recounts for us in Galatians 2 where Peter later lacked the boldness he needed to stand against these very same people. And lest you think that Paul was perfect in this matter, he recounts for us in 2 Corinthians that he was not always as bold as he could have and perhaps should have been. We need, however, to understand that we need to be bold for the gospel of Christ. If we had been as bold for the gospel of Christ as we have been for moral values over the last two hundred or so years, the spiritual landscape of this country might look much differently. We cannot do anything about the past but we can right now at Grace Bible Church make the gospel of Christ our top priority. We can do it and we must do it. It is the priority of God’s Word and it is the priority of the Holy Spirit and it is the priority of Jesus Christ. His gospel must be our priority also.

b. Sensitivity is needed to propagate the truth of the gospel (15:20-21; 28-29). Notice particularly verse 21. The reason given for these requirements is because of unbelieving Jews. James and the church at Jerusalem did not want the gospel to be hindered because of Gentile liberty. Now some of the things in the list are clearly sinful and some are debated even today. The point of this list is that there are certain behaviors both sinful and possibly non-sinful that can hinder the propagation of the gospel of Christ and we need to take that into consideration.

An example of this might be in a Moslem country where to lay a Bible on the ground would be highly offensive to a Moslem. A holy book deserves the respect of the high place. While that may seem silly to us, if we are aware of that, then we will avoid appearing to blaspheme God through careless behavior.

An example that hits much closer to home might be my approach to abortion. I am convinced from Scriptures that we should oppose abortion and in democracy we have the right to oppose abortion. Our opposition though should not blaspheme the gospel. When Christians in their opposition to abortion take on or defend unbiblical actions and attitudes, then they have forgotten the common sense that the Holy Spirit gives to the body.

Are you practicing Holy Spirit given common sense in your decisions, in your life? Let us learn the Word and accountability within the body and witness to the Word of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in those activities that the Holy Spirit teaches us the common sense we need to be the church in this world.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:1-6 “Confidence in Life”

Selection by the Spirit exemplified in Acts January 17, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Barnabas, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth.
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Selection by the Holy Spirit
Acts 12:25-13:5

The Holy Spirit is the personnel officer of the Trinity. He is well qualified for this task because He has the ability to see the big picture of eternity, because He can accurately evaluate each one of us, and because He can enable us in areas where we are lacking.

“While he was manager of the Chicago Cubs, Charlie Grimm reportedly received a phone call from one of his scouts. The man was excited and began to shout over the telephone, ‘Charlie, I’ve landed the greatest young pitcher in the land! He struck out every man who came to bat. Twenty-seven in a row. Nobody even hit a foul until the ninth inning. The pitcher is right here with me. What shall I do?’ Charlie replied, ‘Sign up the guy who got the foul. We’re looking for hitters.’ ” The Holy Spirit knows exactly what is needed to accomplish the task of the church (from John Maxwell’s “Developing the Leaders Around You”).

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is this? Has the Holy Spirit selected you?

1. The Scriptures teach that every member of the body of Christ is selected by the Spirit to serve (Compare Acts 11:29-30 and 12:25 with 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and (Romans 12:3).

This particular passage (Acts 13:1-5) describes the Holy Spirit’s selection of two men, Paul and Barnabas, for missionary service. We read this and forget that the Holy Spirit was working in the whole church at Antioch in this selection process. Acts 11:19-30 tells how the church began and how that every believer was actively involved in ministry in telling others of Christ and in serving other believers. It is this church where they were first called Christians. What we find in this church is Holy Spirit working in every member. This is the atmosphere out of which the Spirit selected Paul and Barnabas.

2. Every ministry of every believer and in every church is important to the Holy Spirit (Every church in Ephesus had an overseer because every group of believers is important to the growth of the overall body of Christ, Acts 20:28-35).

a. Why? The Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others.

i. For example, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ so that we might be able to witness effectively of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is the theme of the book of Acts, that is, how God through the Holy Spirit used the first believers to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. It is God’s intention that all men should hear the gospel through us. According to Ephesians 4, that is a benefit to us as the body of Christ.

ii. Evangelism is not however the only benefit of ministry. It is also God’s intention that all who hear and believe should be added to the church through the Holy Spirit spiritually and through open identification with Christ and His body physically. This is the way it happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 41).

iii. The church’s task does not end there. All in the body of Christ should grow to be mature spiritually (Compare Matthew 28:19-20 with Acts 2:42). We do not do that in isolation (see Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

iv. Finally, all who are growing should minister to one another (Acts 2:44-45). Spiritual growth equips us for ministry (Compare Romans 12:1-2 with Ephesians 4:12). Now all this was a result of the gift of the Spirit to the body of Christ (Acts 2:38b).

b. Because the Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others, every believer has something important to contribute (Acts 11:29 compared with 2 Corinthians 8-9). What do you have? You may not have much but if you have anything at all, God expects you to give it. This may include money but it can also include time, strength, talent, insight, encouragement, and prayer. We all though have something important to contribute.

Even a smile and a handshake are important gifts that God allows us to give to one another. I found out this week why after the offering, our men shake hands with each other. Two of our men got that started some years ago. It is a joyful symbol of Christian hospitality. We do not practice the holy kiss here. We are too American for that but when the two ushers smile and shake hands after serving you and serving God through collecting the offering, it reminds us that we are family in Christ, we are brothers and sisters. We are not just gathering money to meet a budget but we are a body of believers who love each other and are committed to each other and to our Lord and to the task which He has given us.

Is that not the significance of the laying on of hands in Acts 13:3? These men were not transferring magic powers to Paul and Barnabas. They were through this symbolic act reassuring these two men and testifying to God that they not only approved but were committed to being a part of their mission to the Gentiles and were through the laying on of hands committing their care and success to God (Acts 15:26-28). This group of men and the church that they led were committed, committed to each other, committed to the Lord, and committed to the task which He had given them to do.

This is an example of the fact that the success of the body is determined by the contribution of many. “At a Midwestern fair, many spectators gathered for an old-fashioned horse pull… The grand-champion horse pulled a sled with 4,500 pounds on it. The runner-up was close, with a 4,400-pound pull. Some of the men wondered what the two horses could pull if hitched together. Separately they totaled nearly 9,000 pounds, but when hitched and working together as a team, they pulled over 12,000 pounds.”

3. Now the reason why the Holy Spirit has decided that it was important to select each of us is clear. The Spirit has decided to make us dependent on each other (Acts 11:29; compare Acts 13:5 with 15:37-40; see also 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Very few if any physical tasks are performed using just one part of the body. Each believer has a unique design and function that is intended for dependence on others.

Dependence demands more than involvement. It demands commitment. Service or ministry is more than involvement. Football coach Lou Holtz once said, “The kamikaze pilot that was able to fly 50 missions was involved – but never committed.”

That defines one of our tasks as church leaders. We must do more than involve you in ministry. We must challenge you to commitment in ministry with this local church.

There are those who use their ministry to the greater body of Christ as a reason not to commit themselves to a local body of believers. Their lack of commitment to an individual body helps them to maintain their independence. They have chosen to remove themselves from the very source of spiritual strength and growth that God intends for them to be dependent on and have isolated themselves from others who God wants to depend on them.

Dependence on each other and commitment to each other is sometimes a very difficult. There are times when we say, I just do not want to be responsible for someone else. There is, however, no time when a body part can withdraw from the body. There are times of rest, yes, sleep is necessary to the health of the body but even at rest there is no part of my body that can become independent from the rest of my body. Dependence on each other and responsibility for each other remains as long as we are part of the body of Christ.

Independence can be dangerous. Two shipwrecked men sat together at one end of a lifeboat, doing nothing. As they watched intently, the people at the other end of the boat were bailing furiously. One man then said to the other, “Thank God that hole isn’t in our end of the boat.”

4. The Holy Spirit has made us dependent on each other, He has uniquely designed each of us for our ministry (Acts 13:1-4).

That is why no member should think too highly of himself or herself. “The most traumatizing condition in the body occurs when disloyal cells defy inhibition. They multiply without any checks on growth, spreading rapidly throughout the body, choking out normal cells… Physicians fear no other malfunction more deeply: it is called cancer” (from Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey). You see cancer is when one cell or group of cells act as if their design is more important than all others. We need to realize that every cell in the body of Christ is uniquely designed by the Spirit of Christ and is necessary to the body.

Four Applications:
1. Thank God for including you in the body
2. Present yourself a living sacrifice.
3. Tell God you’re available.
4. Tell us you’re available.

Next week: Led by the Spirit of God

Taking Our Turn at the Plate from Colossians 1:23-2:3 October 4, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Colossians, Crucifixion, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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Taking Our Turn at the Plate
Colossians 1:23-2:3

As we began our study of Colossians, we found that Paul was praying specifically for the believers in Colosse that the Lord would increase their knowledge of His Father’s will. He knew that they must understand their calling in Christ if they are going to live in this world in a way that is pleasing to God.

After his prayer, he then explained in detail the Father’s plan:

1. His Son would create the universe.
2. Sin would corrupt the universe, especially and specifically mankind.
3. But Jesus would reconcile men to Himself through His death on the cross;
4. …then through His resurrection He gives life to His people, the church.
5. Finally, Paul explained that faith in Christ is necessary to entry into the body of Christ. We find in verses 23b that Paul’s life was given to bringing men and women to faith through the gospel of Christ.

That is what Paul is speaking of in verse 24 when he says, “I…fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” He means it is time to take his turn at bat (verse 24). You see, Paul wrote this epistle from a prison cell. He was suffering bodily in prison but he did not consider this as unusual. After all, Christ suffered death for our sake. Why should it then be thought unusual for a follower of Christ to also suffer for the body of Christ?

What might be consider unusual is that Paul rejoiced in his physical suffering. He said, “In this prison in suffer but I rejoice.” Was Paul nuts? How can he rejoice in suffering? I think his short answer would be, “My suffering is purposeful.”

Now in this, Paul was also like Christ. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “…Jesus…for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” The point of both Hebrews 12 and of this verse in Colossians is that Christ’s suffering had a purpose and because it had a purpose, there was joy even with suffering.

I. We, like Paul, can also rejoice in physical suffering if it results from a spiritual purpose (1:23-27). There are many possible purposes for suffering. Sometimes it causes us to grow in our faith. That is actually the point of Hebrews 12. Suffering can come because God wants to be glorified. When Jesus was asked about the man born blind, He said this man did not sin nor did his parents’ sin but this blindness is to the glory of God. He then healed them man as a sign that He was the Messiah. There are situations where sin is obviously to blame for suffering and there is suffering that goes beyond any explanation. That was Job’s situation. But Paul’s suffering was different. His suffering was the result of his spiritual purpose.

Have you ever asked yourself this question, what in life is worth dying for? How would you answer that question? If we were to go through the congregation this morning, we would have a limited number of answers. God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, family, country, these are the things that would be mentioned most often. Would you mention the church, the body of Christ, the people for whom Jesus Christ died? Paul would have the church right at the top of his list.

I realize that this is first of all applicable to those of us who are preachers and leaders and teachers. I, as pastor, must be willing to suffer for the sake of God’s people. The deacons also bear that same responsibility. The Sunday School teachers, the nursery workers, the Kid’s Klub leaders on Wednesday night, and the pre-school nursery workers all bear this stewardship, this responsibility in a specific way.

A. Yet, the spiritual purpose of every believer, like Christ’s, should be centered on His people, on His body, on His church (1:24-25a). Let me give you some bibilical reasons. (1) The Great Commission and the promises of the Holy Spirit’s power in witnessing and the presence of God wherever we go are given to all of us for the purpose of building Christ’s church. (2) It is the church that is given the responsibility in the book of Hebrews to pay attention to the faith of fellow believers to see if there is something lacking and a need for help in the lives of another believer. (3) It is the church that is given spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying and building one another up. So all of us, like Christ should center on His people, on His church.

B. Our method is to fully reveal the mystery of Christ (1:25b-27). This is why the passage we looked at last week is so important. Everyone of us needs to understand what God is doing in this world so that we can do our part in sharing the gospel with the unsaved and in building and encouraging one another in the faith. We need to understand this mystery that Jesus is the divine Creator but that sin has damaged His creation. He came to the world as a man to die for our sin and to give His church, His people life through His resurrection but we can only access forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in Christ. This mystery is the gospel of Christ. The riches and the hope of glory that Paul writes about in this epistle is Christ, our Creator and our Lord and Savior. This gospel is a called a mystery because it was not fully revealed until Christ came.

Now you might ask, “How can I do this?” I am not a teacher like Paul. Let me give you a simple plan of action. Tell people you are a Christian. They will expect more of you but they need to know that you are a Christian and that you are not ashamed of being a Christian. They need to be watching you, scrutinizing your life. Secondly, invite them to church, to Sunday School, to Great Night services, to anything that you might think is appropriate for them. Then tell them why you became a Christian. If it was fear of hell that drove you to Christ, tell it. If it was the guilt of sin, tell it. If it was frustration with the emptiness of your life, tell it. Whatever or whoever it was that motivated you to trust Christ, let people know about it. Then tell them the mystery of Christ. Tell them that Jesus came to save them from sin and give them new life through His death and resurrection. Finally, invite them to put their faith in Christ alone.

Is it possible that some will not like it? Absolutely! May there be some unforeseen consequences for you? Yes! But the bringing of people into the family of Christ is the greatest task in the world. It is why Jesus suffered and died, to bring people to himself.

II. Not only is it worth any suffering that we might experience, we can, like Paul, continue despite exhaustion (1:28-29). Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer focused on the Body of Christ is not easy but that its purpose is makes the weariness worth while.

A. Our purpose is the presentation of completed believers (vs. 28b). Let me explain what I mean. A game is complete when the game is won. That is what the word “perfect” here means, complete. In baseball a complete game is when a pitcher goes from start to finish. Paul says that his goal is, and certainly this should be our goal also, that every believer to whom we minister should finish the game. We are not responsible to win the game; that is Christ’s responsibility; we are, however, responsible to finish.

B. Our method is public proclaim Christ through warnings and wise teaching (vs. 28a). Now every believer is responsible for his or her own growth in Christ but we as fellow believers can help them to complete the game. Although only the pitcher can throw to the batter, he has fielders behind him and bench players and coaches, all there to help the pitcher to win the game. In the same way, we are responsible to help. Some things we can do personally, others we can do as a church. Verse 28 describes for us what we as a church should do. We need to warn one another and teach one another of the truth of Jesus Christ. That is the one truth that Satan cannot stand, that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Redeemer of all who trust in Him. We must warn against those who deny this truth and teach the truth of Christ as the Scriptures teach it.

III. This responsibility to spread the gospel and faithfully proclaim the truth of Christ, however, extends beyond the walls of Grace Bible Church and even beyond the Lansing area. We can even struggle hard and should struggle hard for saints unknown to us (2:1-3). Now there are many ways that we can do this. One of the key ways is by sending out missionaries. Paul mentions two specific purposes of such work.

A. Our purposes are brotherly love and full confidence in Christ (2:2-3). If we are a family in Christ, one body, then it is imperative that we promote true brotherly love. That is why we support missionaries who plant churches and baptize believers. That is why we support missionaries who are faithful to teach the truth of Christ because it is that truth that promotes love among the brethren and that gives us confidence as we look forward to our eternal future.

These are not just nice things to have but these are characteristics that result from a full knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Paul was thankful that these things were true of the Colossians and he desired that they would be true of all believers. He knew, however, that brotherly love and a confident faith did not just happen but were rooted and grounded in the truth concerning Jesus Christ.

B. Our method is to come to their aid, to encourage them (2:2a). Again there are various ways to encourage one another but Paul is talking about encouraging people who we do not know and perhaps will never meet in this life. He says, I pray for them, I write to them, if there is anything more that they need, whatever it may be, I will strive, I will struggle, I will make it a priority, to meet that need of encouragement.

As you can see, this is a team effort and everyone one of us is in the game. Are you going to follow the example of Christ and of Paul and give yourself to spreading the gospel and encouraging those who believe in the truth of Christ and helping them to complete their game? Are you going to witness and pray and give and warn and teach or enable others to teach the truth of Christ? We only have one life in which to do these things. Let us give our life to Christ as He would have us to, by giving our life to His Body, to His Church.