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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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Now That Jesus Is Risen April 18, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Confession, Covenant, Discipleship, Exodus, First Peter, Holiness, Leviticus, Sanctification.
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NOW THAT JESUS IS RISEN
Exodus 19:1-8

I want to address an important question. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Now that he is risen, what now? The answer is found in Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Salvation we understand. We are saved from sin, death, hell, and the devil. What, however, does it mean to believe unto righteousness? This is one of the great themes of the Bible. We through faith in the resurrected Christ become a holy people, that is, we become saints.

A. To be a holy people means we must keep the covenant of the Lord (Exodus 19:3-6). The children of Israel are a good example of what we are talking about. God saved them from slavery in Egypt. God saved them from certain death by parting the Red Sea. God saved them from Pharaoh and his mighty army.

In verse 4 God says, “You have seen what I did to Pharaoh. You have seen that you are the apple of my eye. I have born you on eagle’s wings. All the world is mine but I have made a covenant with you. Keep that covenant.” Put another way, this is your reality, now obey me.

B. To be a holy people means we must honor the salvation of the Lord (Leviticus 11:44-47). These verses indicate how that we keep the covenant of the Lord. At the end of a chapter of rules concerning what is kosher to eat, God says that the reason for these rules is not because bacon is sinful and hamburger is not. It is also not necessarily because oysters are unhealthy and chicken is not. God tells us why he gave them such strict rules. He says that my works prove that I am different from all other gods so you must be different from all other peoples (verse 44-45).

Now we know that these rules don’t apply anymore. Jesus made that clear to Peter in a dream in Acts 10. Since bacon and jumbo shrimp are allowable to us to eat, how do we honor the salvation of the Lord? Ephesians 4:1-3 tells us, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The world for the most part does not live with this type of attitude. Billy Martin tells how that he and Mickey Mantle went hunting in Texas. Mantle had a friend, who had given them permission to hunt. When they arrived, Mantle went inside and Martin stayed in the car. The friend had a pet mule in the barn, that was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put the animal out of his misery; so he asked Mantle to shoot it for him. Mantle came back to the car pretending to be mad and said to Martin, that permission to hunt had been denied and that he was so mad he was going to shoot one of the friend’s mules. Martin said, “We can’t do that!” Mantle said, “Just watch me!” Mantle rushed to the barn and shot the mule. As he was leaving the barn, he heard two shots. He saw Martin with his gun. “What are you doing?” Mantle said. Martin, himself now truly angry, said, “We’ll show him! I just killed two of his cows.” That is the way of the world. Are you longsuffering as a citizen of God’s holy people or do you get even, as is done in the world?

C. To be a holy people means we must pledge our loyalty to the Lord (Leviticus 20:6-8). To be holy means more than being nice. It also means that our loyalty is pledged to the Lord. God uses strong language here. To depend on a medium or someone who communicates with the spirit world is unfaithfulness to God our husband.

Now most of us do not try to communicate with the spirit world, not because we don’t believe in its existence or in the possibility but rather we have understood that God has forbidden it. There is, however, another way in which we can show unfaithfulness to our groom, Jesus the Christ. It is found in James 4:1-4, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? …You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever there wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

D. To be a holy people means we will not follow the world (Leviticus 20:25-27). God says, “I have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (verse 26). He is not talking about isolation here. Israel was never isolated from the nations. In fact, Israel was intended to be a witness of God’s power to the nations. Rahab, Ruth, Namaan, the city of Nineveh, the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius are all examples of how Israel as the nation of God drew individuals from within the nations to God. If we are not to isolate ourselves from the world, what does it mean not to follow the world?

First John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

E. To be a holy people means we will hope in the coming of the Lord (1 Peter 1:13-21). Peter is saying, because the world will not last and our salvation is eternal, you need to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace…as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance… ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

To hope in the coming of the Lord implies being very careful in this world. Max Lucado tells about an Indian walking up a mountain when he met snake who wanted to be carried up the mountain. The Indian said, “No, you’ll bite me.” “No, I won’t,” said the snake, “I just need a little help.” The Indian picked up the snake and carried him to the top of the mountain. At the top the snake bit him. The Indian fell and the snake began to slither away. “You lied!” he gasped, “You said you wouldn’t bite me!” The snake stopped and looked back and said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

F. To be a holy people means we proclaim the praises of the Lord to the world (1 Peter 2:8b-10). We have been delivered. We are now a holy people. Let’s proclaim his praises, let’s shout from the housetops that there is mercy to be found in Jesus Christ.

This is one of the reasons I believe in eternal security. How can I preach the mercy of God when I am not sure that His mercy is sufficient to forgive me not only of what I have done but also of anything I might do. There is a warning here though. Paul put it this way in Romans 11:20-22, “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches (ethnic Israel), He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” If I say I am in the faith and I do not live accordingly, then, like Israel, I prove am not in faith and that I am doomed to destruction.”

Next Week’s Sermon: Does God Hate Some People?

Last in the Series on Baptism January 24, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Death of Christ, Discipleship, Resurrection, Romans, Sanctification, Sin, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Power, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
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A COMMITMENT TO SPIRITUAL LIFE (Romans 6)

In “Beyond Cigars: Modern ways to announce your baby‘s birth” on babycenter.com, Angela Navarrete writes, “When you were born, your dad might have announced your arrival by handing out cigars…Today’s dads have come up with more creative ways to announce their new progeny…If you want to hand out something more substantial than a card, go for edible birth announcements. Online, you can order personalized candy bar wrappers with your baby’s name and statistics. (The newly wrapped bars look) just like normal candy bars, but the label (reads something like this):
RYAN PATRICK GALLANT
Net wt. 7 lbs. 10 oz.
and on the back:
VITAL STATISTICS
Baked: May 21, 1998
Serving Size: 19.5 inches

Baptism is God’s choice of heavenly birth announcements. When I was baptized, God was announcing to the world, “He’s mine! He’s mine! He’s mine!” Baptism is a very meaningful symbol because I am announcing to the world, I am a new creature. I am different. I have died to sin.

A. Baptism illustrates that we have died to sin (verses 1-4a). To be baptized into the body of Christ is to be baptized into the death of Christ (compare with Galatians 3:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14). [The scriptural development of the doctrine of baptism is (1) John’s baptism as a symbol of discipleship, (2) Pentecostal baptism accompanied by the reception of the Spirit, (3) Paul’s baptism into the body of Christ, and (4) baptism in this passage and in Colossians 2:11-15 as identification with the death of Christ.]

a. This is not present tense—”I am dying to sin!”—That is reformation. A slave does not need reformation but liberation. A man in sin does not need an overhaul, he needs a new engine!
b. Neither is this future tense—”We will die to sin”—Otherwise, something might happen that would prevent me from dying to sin. I am not looking forward to the day when I mature to the point where I no longer sin. Neither am I looking for an experience that will make me so holy that I cannot sin anymore. I am looking back to an experience that has already happened.
c. Notice also that we are not commanded—”Die to sin!” That is our problem. We cannot die to sin. We are incapable of keeping that command until we are connected by faith with Christ’s death. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me. And the life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
d. Finally, it is not an exhortation—”You should die to sin.” Why? Because you are already dead to sin, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and the only hope for salvation and eternal life.
e. This is a simple past tense—”You died to sin.” The simple truth is that if you are a believer, you have already died to sin. It’s a past event, an accomplished fact. What is a Christian? Someone who has died to sin.

In his book 40 Days, Alton Gansky relates this story: “Harry Houdini made a name for himself by escaping from every imaginable confinement — from straightjackets to multiple pairs of handcuffs clamped to his arms. He boasted that no jail cell could hold him. Time and again, he would be locked in a cell only to reappear minutes later.
It worked every time — but one. He accepted another invitation to demonstrate his skill. He entered the cell, wearing his street clothes, and the jail cell door shut. Once alone, he pulled a thin but strong piece of metal from his belt and began working the lock. But something was wrong. No matter how hard Houdini worked, he couldn’t unlock the lock. For two hours he applied skill and experience to the lock but failed time and time again. Two hours later he gave up in frustration.
The problem? The cell had never been locked. Houdini worked himself to near exhaustion trying to achieve what could be accomplished by simply pushing the door open. The only place the door was locked was in his mind.”

B. Baptism illustrates that we are raised to new life in Christ Jesus (verses 4b-11).
1. We walk in newness of life (verse 4b). What Jesus did on that cross makes possible this newness of life reality. He died for your sin so that you might die to sin. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

2. To unite with Him in death is to unite with Him in resurrection (verses 5-11). Physical newness of life begins with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins with death (6:2-4a). Not everyone agrees that humanity begins with conception. That is the whole issue between the pro-life and pro-choice advocates. One thing, however, that everyone can agree on is that something marvelous, something amazing, something beyond our understanding begins at the moment of conception. There is a combining of DNA that is unlike anyone who ever existed before. We are talking about a physical newness of life beginning with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins much, much differently. Spiritual newness of life begins with death.

This concept of death producing life may seem somewhat strange to you. Consider what Jesus, Himself, in John 12:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” In other words, there is no spiritual life possible apart from the physical death of Christ. He died to produce life.

C. Our spiritual relationship with Jesus takes away all excuses for sin (verses 13-23).
1. We as believers decide who to fear and serve (verses 13-21). We can successfully resist the empty and deceitful promises of the world because we are no longer captive to our sinful body. We were captive to our sinful body. We are still in our body which is susceptible to sin but we are no longer slaves to sin unless we decide to enslave ourselves.

“…(Being dead to sin is) like watching a lion roar at the zoo. You may get a thrill from listening to the lion roar in his cage. But as long as the lion is behind bars, you’re safe. The lion can roar all it wants but it can’t do anything to you unless you do something (foolish) like crawl into the cage. Then you have problems. Sin is like a roaring lion. As long as you understand that the power of sin is broken, sin cannot dominate your life unless you choose to let it dominate your life” (Ray Pritchard).

Freedom from righteousness leads to… (verses 19-23).
– Uncleanness (verse 19).
– Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19).
– Shameful behavior (verse 21).
– The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23).

2. The result of freedom in Christ and from sin and from the law is two-fold: holiness and eternal life (verses 22-23). These two are not two separate results but different aspects of the working of God in our life.

You see, when we receive eternal life through Christ, it is not talking just about never ending life. We now have eternal life. My old spiritual deadness exists no more. It no longer has a hold on me. I do not have to live according to my former sinful flesh but now through Christ have spiritual life that enables me to fight against all the evil influences around me. That is one of the reasons that the symbol of baptism is so important. It is a powerful statement of a new reality.

Let me explain that one of the things that you are doing when you are baptized is making a statement about yourself. You are saying, “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Now don’t misunderstand. You are not saying you are sinless in your everyday life. None of us can in reality make that statement but every believer in Christ can say, I do not have to sin because I have put my faith in Christ and I am now a new creature.

INVITATION: Have you died to sin? Not are you trying to. Not do you want to. Have you put your faith in Christ and died to sin and become in Christ a new creature, walking now in newness of life? Have you been born again? Just as a baby cannot conceive and birth itself, you cannot spiritually birth yourself. Jesus has provided salvation for you through His death, burial, and resurrection. You must simply accept it by faith in Him, in the working of God. God did this for you. Will you accept His work in your life? Will you trust what He has done to save you from sin?

If you have died to sin, if you have put your faith in Christ, are you in or out of the lion’s cage? Only a fool would get in a lion’s cage. Only a fool would trust Christ and then let sin rule over him or her. Get out of the cage!

Baptism Series: Part 2 January 17, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Discipleship, Great Commission, Matthew, Trinity.
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THE COMMAND JESUS DIDN’T OBEY
Matthew 28:16-20

John 4:1-2 tells us that the Pharisees heard that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist was. The writer of the gospel clarifies that Jesus actually was not baptizing anyone personally but rather that his disciples were the ones baptizing new disciples. In fact, we have no knowledge of Jesus ever baptizing anyone with water.

It is interesting then that the last command of Christ recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, the Great Commission, includes baptizing new disciples. The actual command is to make disciples of all nations as we go throughout the world and there are two parts to fulfilling that command: baptizing and teaching Christ’s commandments. Since this last command of Christ includes baptism, we need to look more closely at this command.

A. Jesus commands us as His disciples to baptize other disciples (verses 19-20).

1. To become a disciple is a public profession. That is what Romans 10:9-10 teaches us. To believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord God as proven by His resurrection from the dead is to be accompanied by a confession with the mouth. The picture here is of someone at the time of baptism confessing that Jesus is their Savior, their Lord, and their God.

2. To be a disciple is an eternal commitment (verse 20). Stanley Grenz calls baptism and the Lord’s Supper commitment acts. Jesus makes it clear that this commitment into which we enter with Christ is an eternal commitment. It is not limited by our location, the time in which we live, or even the state of our being, that is, whether we are dead or alive. Of course, this commitment although we enter into it is not dependent on our strength or ability to keep it.

Often those who come to Christ are not ostracized by their unsaved family and friends until they take the step of baptism. Why? Because the unsaved recognize the commitment that is being made to Christ. We knew a family once who were saved for two or three years before they were baptized. They shared a house with the man’s mother. Although there were discussions and questions about their new faith in Christ, they were unprepared for the ostracism they experienced when they were baptized. For months the mother, who lived on the first floor, refused to communicate with her son and his family, who lived on the second and third floors. The reason was simple, they had taken a true step of commitment, baptism.

B. Jesus commands us as His worshipers to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (verses 18-20). Certainly it would be impossible to explain the Trinity. To explain God fully would be impossible. Yet this verse helps us to understand the significance of God for our lives. We are to be baptized in His name, that is, we recognize that each person of the Trinity is God, to be worshipped and to be obeyed.

1. We recognize the God of Israel as the God of the nations (verse 19). Deuteronomy commands “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This verse confirms that there is one God at the same time emphasizing that He is not just for Israel to follow, to worship, and to obey but for each man and woman in the world. While not all will believe in His name and be baptized in His name, He alone is God, there is no other.

2. We recognize the universal authority of His Son (verse 18). God became man when He was born of a virgin, but at His resurrection and ascension He revealed that He had been exalted to the position of authority as the Divine Messiah of God.

“Jesus is Lord!” may be the earliest doctrinal statement of the church. When we are baptized, we are proclaiming our allegiance to Jesus as Lord. When an immigrant is naturalized in this country, they are not asked if they have kept all the laws of this country perfectly. That might be impossible. We do ask them, however, to proclaim their allegiance to the United States of America, that is, to submit to our lordship. The difference is this; there are some areas of our lives in which our government is not Lord. With Christ it is different. He is Lord of all!

3. We recognize the eternal union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit (verse 20). Shortly after this commandment was given, Jesus ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. “The ascension [however] did not inaugurate the absence of Jesus. On the contrary, in accordance with [this commandment/promise], this event made possible the continuing presence of the risen Lord with his people everywhere, a presence mediated by the Holy Spirit” (Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz, page 355, edition from 2000).

Has anyone ever said that you are filled with the Holy Spirit? When you are baptized with water you are testifying to the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within you and that you are going to serve God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I read a piece recently written about one of our ladies by her daughter. She wrote that her mom was filled with the Holy Spirit and then she listed the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. When you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are recognizing a union with Christ through the Holy Spirit that is life transforming.

C. Baptism identifies us with God, with Christ, His people, and His commandments. Baptism is a rich ritual full of meaning. That is why we do it publicly. Through we submit ourselves to God, we proclaim Christ to the world, we enter into the fellowship of God’s people (Acts 2:38ff), and begin a life of obedient discipleship of Christ.

Are you a disciple? Have you forsaken all to follow Christ? That is both the prerequisite to baptism as well as the lesson taught through baptism. Will you become a disciple today? He died on the cross for you so that you might take up your cross and follow Him. Will you commit yourself to Him today? Yes, it is an eternal commitment but He will make sure that the commitment is never broken by uniting you to Himself and to His body through the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.

Next week: A Commitment to Spiritual Life – Romans 6

Psalm 78 (part one of three) A Sermon on the passage we are memorizing this year May 17, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Psalms, Religion, Scripture Memorization, Sermons.
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WHY SHOULD WE MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE? (Psalm 78:1-11)
Theme: Hope is the reason we should learn and teach about God’s work about God’s covenant with His people.
This is the fourth year in which I have challenged you to take a specific passage of Scripture to memorize. In connection with this challenge to memorize Scripture, I have preached a series of sermons from those passages. This year we will be looking at Psalm 78, memorizing verses 1-11.
Scripture memorization is a spiritual habit. The purpose of spiritual habits is to develop our discipleship. The strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship is measured by his habitual acts (adapted from Pascal).
This morning as we took the morning offering, we had the opportunity to practice such a spiritual habit. Jesus said according to Luke 14:33, he who “…does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” When we receive the offering each Sunday morning, we have the opportunity to forsake all that we have and to give some of it to the Lord. While tithing does not guarantee discipleship (salvation does that), it is invaluable in developing our discipleship as it relates to our money.
Another spiritual habit has to do with our relationships. In the upper room, Jesus said according to John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Joining a church is a commitment to loving one another. Regularly attending its meetings is an important part of maintaining that love. In other words, the strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship in the area of relationships is measured in part by church attendance.
There is one other main area of discipleship. In addition to demanding our possessions and our relationships, Jesus Christ demands our time. Again in the upper room, Jesus said according to John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” So prayer is a spiritual habit that demands our time. Both private and public prayers fit into the category of spiritual habits that develop our discipleship in the area of time. That is why we set aside time for prayer at 9:15 a.m. every Sunday morning. We are developing our discipleship.
There is another group of spiritual habits that are necessary if we are going to give God our time. They are centered around the Word of God. In John 8:31, Jesus tells those Jews who said that they believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed.” It is necessary that you follow the Word of God and to do that you must know and learn the Word of God and Scripture memorization is an excellent way to learn the Word (some of the ideas above with thanks to Rick Warren).
With all of these habits, people make excuses. “I cannot afford to give, I am not a people person, I do not like to pray, I cannot memorize Scripture.” Let us be honest with ourselves and say, “Being a disciple of Christ is not worth what is demanded of me.”
Although this psalm is not about Scripture memorization per se, this psalm should help us to understand the worth of being a disciple who gives his time to learning the Word through Scripture memorization. I trust that you will endeavor with me and my family over the next three months to memorize these eleven verses together as a church.
Now let’s get into the why of Scripture memorization.
Every generation is responsible for the knowledge of future generations (verses 1-6). The writer of this Psalm is Asaph. Asaph was appointed by David to lead the music when tabernacle worship was established at Jerusalem. His musical specialty was the cymbals. He wrote of number of psalms and took the psalms of David and used them in worship (See 2 Chronicles 16:4-8 and following). In fact, the first psalm he was given, a variation on Psalm 105, was very much like this one in its purpose, presenting publicly to the people the history of the salvation of God’s chosen people.
This is the responsibility of God’s people, God’s church, as a group (verses 1-4). These verses underline that even though the parents have the primary responsibility for teaching children the Word of God, the people of God also bear an important complementary responsibility, that is: (1) to remind believing parents of their responsibility, (2) to supplement the teaching of the parents, and (3) to assist where parents cannot or will not fulfill their responsibility. This psalm was written and used directly for the first of these two purposes and would certainly be useful in fulfilling the third.
This is why I challenge you to not only memorize Scripture but also that you lead your families to memorize these verses with you or that you partner with other believers so that you might build each other up in your discipleship. We as a church are responsible to teach each other Scripture and corporate Scripture memory is a way in which even those who have no teaching talent can help others to learn the Word of God.
This is the responsibility of all people who have a knowledge of God (verse 5). Not every person who was given the Ten Commandments followed God. We will see later that most did not. God still, however, held them accountable to teach their children about the covenant which God had made with them. Their spiritual inadequacies were not excused and neither will ours be an excuse before God. If we know the truth we are responsible to teach it even if we are not perfect in following it ourselves.
This is a responsibility our children should learn from us (verse 6). As you can see, every generation is responsible not only to teach God’s truth but to encourage that generation to teach the next one. We are so shortsighted. We forget that we are responsible to pass down a spiritual heritage to our children. If you do not make memorizing Scripture, knowing the Word of God a priority, then your children will also not make it a priority and your grandchildren will grow up ignorant of the truth of the Word of God.
Why was the word of God scarce before the days of Samuel? Israel had forsaken and not taught the knowledge of God and after a few generations, the truth taught by Joshua and faithfully kept by his generation, the generation that had taken the Promised Land, was forgotten and forsaken.
The knowledge we should pass down is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-11).
What is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-6)? The covenant mentioned in these verses is the covenant of Moses. It contains the Ten Commandments, the moral code, the laws of sacrifices, the laws of purity but all of these things are based on the relationship that God established with Israel. He chose them. Although they agreed to the covenant, God was the one who determined the conditions, the blessings, the curses, the laws, all aspects of the covenant were given by God. It was not a negotiated agreement.
When Jesus died, He established a new covenant through His death. The conditions and the expectations of this new covenant, like the first were given by God. What is this new covenant?
Hebrews 9:26a-28 tells what the new covenant is. Jesus, who “…has appeared to put away sin (that is the guilt of sin) by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ (that is, the Messiah) was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” That is the new covenant in a nutshell. That is the miraculous work of Christ, whereby He established for us a new covenant for forgiveness of sins.
The confirmation of God’s covenant by His miraculous works gives hope to believers (verse 7). Hope in the Bible rarely if ever means wishful thinking. This particular word is actually the word for “flanks.” It is referring the strong group of thigh muscles that not only enable us to walk but to stand erect and strong. Where does our strength and confidence come from? It comes from the Lord. Scripture is a book filled with God’s works and most of the Bible is in some way involved in the works of God. When we memorize Scripture and we teach our children to memorize Scripture, we are strengthening those spiritual muscles that can give them confidence in God, helping them to stand in this evil world, enabling them to climb the highest mountains and to descend into the lowest valleys without falling. That is the great value of memorizing Scriptures. They give you the tools to confirm Christ’s new covenant with you and through that confirmation comes spiritual confidence and obedience.
Inattention to God’s covenant and His miraculous works results in mutiny during difficult times (verses 8-11). If we do not as a church, emphasize knowing the Scriptures, specifically memorization, what might happen to the new generation?
Confidence in God and obedience to His Word will be lacking. In these four verses, we have a synopsis of the rebellion of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea. It was time for Israel to invade and possess the Promised Land after over a year of seeing the confirming works of God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and at Mount Sinai. They had seen the works of God but because of their unbelieving hearts, they feared the enemy more than they feared God and rebelled against His command to possess the Promised Land. As big a mistake as their complaining about lack of water and food and as big a mistake as the golden calf was, this was the test to see if they had learned their lesson and they failed because they did not put their hope in God, they did not find their strength and confidence in Him but rather looked at themselves and saw their weakness and rather than turning to God, they rebelled against Him.
They mutinied. God’s chosen people refused to submit to His will. They refused to keep the covenant He established for them. They forgot His works. The point here is not if you memorize Scripture, you will never sin, you will never backslide, and your children will always be saved. The point is this, these people forgot what they knew. How much harder will it be for the new generation to enter into the new covenant with God if they do not know the works and words of God? It is impossible.
Why is the next generation rejecting God? They do not know His works because no one has taught them who Jesus is and what He has done. We as parents and we as a church are responsible to teach them. We need every tool we can muster. The confidence and strength and hope of the next generation is in how well we do our task of teaching them the truth. Join with me this summer in memorizing Scripture and teaching the new generation and new believers the new covenant and the confirming works of that covenant.

The Feast of First Fruits (Sermon during a special youth service) September 21, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Leviticus, Religion, Sermons.
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FIRST FRUITS

Leviticus 23:9-14

The Israelite festival year began with the Passover which was on the fifteenth of the first month. Passover was also the beginning of eight days of celebration known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was one of three times during the year in which all of the men of Israel were required to gather at Jerusalem to worship their God.

As we have learned, the purpose of Passover was to teach Israel the great deeds which He did for them in the past. The day after Passover was also a special day, the Feast of First Fruits. On this day, the focus was not on the great deeds of the past but the blessings of the present. It was the first of three feasts celebrating harvest, in this case, the barley harvest.

God blesses His people (“the giving of the land,” verse 10a). This command was given while Israel was still at Mount Sinai. They had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, camped at Mount Sinai in the middle of the desert where they received the Ten Commandments, and had built the Tabernacle according to God’s specifications. God is now telling them about their future, they are going to receive the Promised Land as a gift of God. He wants them to remember, when they get into the promised land, that it is God who gave them that land.

We tend to forget the benefits which the Lord has given us. Psalm 103:2 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” This psalm begins by naming spiritual benefits but it does not stop there but continues to name a number of physical benefits which Israel should also expect to receive.

Certainly, we have also been blessed of God. To many of these spiritual benefits, we can also lay claim. Yet the Lord has blessed us also. We are a rich people. Rich financially, rich intellectually, rich in time, rich in talent, rich in opportunity. We need to be thankful for both the spiritual and physical riches. In this passage, we find out how that we can be thankful as well as how we can acknowledge God’s great benefits for us.

When He blesses us, we have the opportunity to give to Him the first fruits (verse 10b). This was symbolic of the priority of God in our lives. The giving of the first fruits was not dependent on the abundance of the harvest but on the fact that whatever was harvested, it came from God.

During the time of Christ, this is how the Feast of First Fruits was celebrated: “The barley being sooner ripe than the other grains, the reaping of it formed the commencement of the general harvest season. The offering described in this passage was made on the sixteenth of the first month, the day following the first Passover Sabbath, which was on the fifteenth (corresponding to the beginning of our April); but it was reaped after sunset on the previous evening by persons deputed to go with sickles and obtain samples from different fields. These, being laid together in a sheaf or loose bundle, were brought to the court of the temple, where the grain was winnowed, parched, and bruised in a mortar. Then, after some incense had been sprinkled on it, the priest waved the sheaf aloft before the Lord towards the four different points of the compass, took a part of it and threw it into the fire of the altar—all the rest being reserved to himself. It was a proper and beautiful act, expressive of dependence on the God of nature and providence—common among all people, but more especially becoming the Israelites, who owed their land itself as well as all it produced to the divine bounty” (from JFB).

The giving of the first fruits was a reminder that everything we have is His. The giving of first fruits do not mean: this is God’s and the rest is mine. The giving of the first fruits means that I give to others to be used for God and the rest that I have is meant for a lifestyle that glorifies Him.

It was also a reminder that of their commitment to God. “God is wise and knows us deeply. He knows that there is something wrong with the husband who answers his wife’s complaint that he doesn’t give her any time by saying, “What do you mean, I don’t give you my time? ALL my time is yours. I work all day long for you and the children.” That has a very hollow ring to it if he doesn’t give her any “especially time.” Giving her some evenings together and some dates does not deny that all his time is for her, it proves it. This is why God declares one day in seven especially God’s. They are all his, and making one special proves it” (adapted from John Piper).

As a church, God has blessed us richly. Today we are emphasizing the gift of young people to our church. Our teens have led us in worship today. They have led us in submitting ourselves to God. I trust that you were following. I hope you were focused on God and not on the young people.

Since God has given us such a wonderful gift, we need to ask ourselves what we as a church should do with this gift. We need to give it to God. In a sense, this service is nothing more than a waving of the sheaf before God with the expectation that he would accept it from us. It is a reminder of the great gift that God has given us, a gift for which we are responsible. It is wonderful to see these young people serving God publicly and we want to use them to the fullest extent possible in this service. What, however, are we going to do with this gift of young people the other 364 days of this year?

Parents, how are you going to guarantee, as best that can be done humanly, that your children are going to serve God? Are you going to pray with your children? Are you going to teach them the Word at home? Are you going to involve them in more than just Sunday School and youth or children’s ministries? Are you going to live before them a life that is pleasing to God? What bad habit are you going to get under control so that your children and grandchildren will see that you are a man or a woman of God? What bad attitude are you going to purge from your life?

Church, we are also responsible. We are responsible to teach them how to be saved. That is why we have Awana. We are responsible to teach these children the truth. That’s why our Sunday School program is geared the way it is. We are responsible to teach them the importance of baptism as a testimony to saving faith in Christ. We are responsible to teach them the responsibility of church membership, which is why we allow and encourage them to join the church. We are responsible to teach them to serve God and others and help them find opportunities to do so. We are responsible to teach them to pray, which is why we encourage our young people to participate in the prayer group. We have been given a great gift and we want to remind ourselves of that gift through this youth service but the reminder is only as good as the follow-up which we practice the rest of the year.

This is my commitment, this is the commitment of our church, to give our young people to God for His honor and His glory and for His service.

Making God a priority in our life pleases Him, it fills Him with pleasure, it is His delight and desire, it is God’s will to make Him a priority in our life, that is what is meant by “accepted on your behalf” (verses 11-13).

God goes to great lengths to describe the offering that is to be given. The purpose for this offering is that it would be acceptable to God on behalf of the nation.

There are two parts to being acceptable before God. The first involves the perfect sacrifice of Christ. He was obedient in all things, even to the death of the cross. Through His death, He made it possible for us to become acceptable to God in that through His death we receive His righteousness when we put our trust in Christ as the only way of salvation. In that way, we become heirs of righteousness with Christ Jesus. We acceptable before God in Him, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

The second part of being acceptable before God involves living consistent with the commitment that is made through the sacrifice. This was true in the Old Testament. Obedience in this offering and other ritual offerings was demanded and commanded but not just in the ritual of the offering but in all areas of life obedience was demanded. There was only one thing necessary in the Old Testament for an offering to be acceptable to God, obedience. That is why in Jeremiah 6:20 and Malachi 2:13, God refused the offering of the people because they were disobedient before God. They apparently thought that they somehow by obeying the ritual law, would be able to get God to look the other way during their every day lives.

We find this concept in the New Testament also. Paul begged the Roman believers on the basis of the mercy of God shown to them through the death of Christ that they would “…present (their) bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which (was their) reasonable service, and (not to) be… conformed to this world but (to) be transformed by the renewing of (their) mind, that (they might) prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 14:17-19 describes more exactly the type of life that is acceptable to God. It is not arguing over what we should eat and drink but rather righteousness and peace and joy, specifically, Paul is emphasizing peace between believers in Christ.

We saw a few weeks ago in Philippians 4:18, that our financial gifts to the work of God is included in what is acceptable before God. Colossians 3:20 teaches us that when children obey their parents, it is acceptable before God. Titus 2:9 teaches us the same about the obedience of slaves to their masters.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 teaches that whether our service is acceptable before God is the basis whereby believers will be judged.

The symbol was individualized through the denying of one’s self (verse 14). The giving of the first fruits served as a reminder against idolatry of the heart. Many of the things that we do or should do serve as a guard against the ungodliness that is constantly lurking around our hearts.

In verses 9-14, in the Feast of First Fruits, these people have been laboring since the end of October or beginning of November when they first planted their barley. They have watched it sprout up out of the ground, grow tall, fill out with grain. But they may not eat it until the first fruits are given to God.

Part of giving to God involves the understanding that you must deny yourself. To deny yourself does not mean to deny your existence. That would be foolishness. Nor does it mean that you give up some pleasure or sin for the sake of Christ. It is simply, which was symbolized by not eating the bread. Your needs, your wants, your desires take a back seat to what God commands.

Again, the message is both to the community and to the individual. Obedience does not mean giving God something so that you can enjoy the rest without fear of punishment. Obedience means a denial of your importance in relation to the things of Christ.

Will you deny yourself and follow Christ? Will you make Him the priority, not a priority, but the priority in your life?

 

 

Philippians 4:2-9 “Spiritual Mind Melding” August 24, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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MIND MELDING

Philippians 4:2-9

Recently there was a commercial for one of the big box stores in which a man goes in and asks one of the associates what type of product he needs to purchase. The associate places her hand on the man’s forehead and they go into what Star Trek fans know as the Vulcan Mind Meld. After a few moments, she releases his forehead, repeats the information that she has gleaned from his mind and tells him what he needs to buy. As she is walking away, he, obviously impressed, asks her how many children he is going to have and she tells him.

Now that is an impressive ability that no one really has, however, in Philippians, Paul tells us about a spiritual mind melding, a meeting of the minds, that is possible for us as believers to have and which we are commanded to practice.

This spiritual mind melding has two aspects.

Our minds are to meld with each other in the Lord (4:2). We are always to be of the same mind in the Lord (see Philippians 2:2 for the definition of what it means to be of the same mind). This exhortation to these two women is a practical application of the truth of Philippians 3:14-16. There are a couple of things that we know about these ladies. We know that they were not getting along. We also know that they were members of the church at Philippi. Paul recognized that these ladies were under the authority of the church. Now certainly this is a spiritual authority but it was also a geographical authority.

We are to be actively engaged as a church in seeking one mind in the Lord (4:3).

Notice who all is involved, his yokefellow with Clement and with the rest of his fellow workers. Although the primary command is to the yokefellow, the implication seems to be that the whole team is involved and to be involved. Paul uses this word, “fellow workers”, thirteen times. Paul recognized that we are not to labor in isolation but to labor together. That is why I encourage people to get a partner in their ministry, whatever that ministry may be. Normally, God does not want you working alone. Why? Because those who work alone do not last. They get tired. They get discouraged. They get grumpy. They burn out.

Notice what they are to do. They are to be helping. They not supposed to just mention one time that there is a problem and they need to get it taken care of. They are to take hold of this problem and to not let it go until they reach a solution. This is the word that describes a posse going out in the wild to find the criminal. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, this is the word the gospel writers used, obviously in a negative sense. Paul is commanding this yokefellow and others who are close to these two women to pursue peace, the same mind, between these two women as if they were chasing down and dangerous criminal and stay at it until these women are of the same mind in Christ.

Philippians 1:27-28 commands this as an essential part of walking in accordance to the kingdom of heaven. Our fellowship with each other is more than just a fringe benefit. It is our strength as believers. Hebrews 10 talks about the church being the entity that keeps people from falling away from Christ. First John makes it clear that our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the primary proofs of our salvation. The quality of my relationship to Christ is seen in the quality of my relationship with other believers. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:23-24) that if the fellowship with your brother is not right then your worship is worthless. Worship, of course, is simply submission to God shown through outward acts. If I do not have a relationship with my brother and sister in Christ, there is a legitimate question about my submission to God.

We do this through the attitude of joy and gentleness knowing that the Lord is soon coming (4:4-5).

Philippians is known as the epistle of joy. Now there are many things over which we should rejoice and all of our rejoicing is in the Lord but one of the key areas that Paul points out should be an area of rejoicing for us is in each other. In fact, based on Philippians 2:17-18 we are commanded to rejoice in our fellow believers in Christ in the same sacrificial way that Paul rejoiced in the Philippians. Our joy is directly connected to other believers (Philippians 2:28 for another example). We are to rejoice in and for and with each other. Philippians 1:4, Paul rejoiced in praying for the Philippians. Philippians 1:25, Paul points out that his purpose on the earth was to increase the joy of other believers. Now what is going on in this letter? Look at Philippians 2:2. Paul is saying to this church, “You have people problems. Take care of those problems and you will cause me to rejoice fully.” At the beginning of chapters 3 and 4 Paul commands these believers to rejoice. Why? On what basis? Because they are in the Lord and they are a part of one another. The reason that many believers are miserable and joyless is because they do not rejoice in each other. It works like this: Paul says, “If you rejoice in each other, you will be able to solve your interpersonal problems and if you solve your interpersonal problems, you will be able to rejoice as you should.”

Not only is our attitude to be one of joy but also of gentleness. Almost every translation translates this word differently. It is found five times in the New Testament and it is never directly explained. However, in the context of Philippians I think we can explain it this way. Gentleness is the way of living that results from a heart that is content to live for others and not for itself.

Why can we do this? Because our Lord is coming. Verse 3 points out that as believers our names are all together in the book of life. The reason I can rejoice in others and the reason that I can live gently, content to live for others and not for myself is because I know that our names are together in the book of life and that the Lord is coming at any moment to take us to be with Him for all eternity. I am content not to be in the “Who’s Who” book because we are together in the book of life. I am content to suffer here in this world because I know that when He comes, our joint-suffering will be our glory. I do not know if there is a literal book but based on the force of this passage, I imagine that we might not be listed in the book individually but rather that there could be one page entitled, “my fellow workers at Fellowship Bible Church.”

Our minds are to meld with God’s (4:5). We are not to focus our minds on this world (Matthew 6) but rather on others (Cf. 2:20 with 1 Cor. 12:25).

We refocus through prayer (4:6-7) guarding our inner being through prayer (Compare 4:7 with Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him in prayer but they could not. Instead they fell asleep. Jesus warned them that if they did not refocus in prayer, they would open themselves up to sin through temptation. Peter, one of the sleeping disciples, learned that lesson as we can see in 1 Peter 4:7. He said, Christ is coming, you need to be serious and watchful in your prayers. Jude 20-21 indicates that prayer is one of the activities that allows us to keep ourselves in the love of God.

He describes prayer as supplication (Philippians 1:4, 19). Ephesians 6:18 talks about prayer and supplication being a guard around the camp.

He describes prayer as thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 brings out the point that thanksgiving is as much a part of watchful prayer as making requests is a part of watchful prayer.

He describes prayer as God listening to our requests. The emphasis in this verse is not on us making requests but on God hearing requests.

We train our minds through meditation on the truth of God (4:8-9). Verse 7 makes it clear that the battlefield is our mind. Verses 8-9 tell us how to win that battle. This involves learning from the Scriptures and learning from other believers. This list of things that we are to think on are all things that are found primarily in God’s Word. There is actually no better description of the character of God’s Word than this list. Paul says, these are the things that you have learned and received from me, that you have heard from and seen in me. Go and do the same.

We need to change the way we think. We do this in three ways.

Through fellowship with other believers: working and praying and worshiping and encouraging one another. Some things are easier caught than taught. Yes, we are to listen and learn but there is a reason why people usually do not grow very much through radio and TV ministries without the support of the local church. There is no fellowship. There are no examples of how to put into practice what one is learning. There is no one to encourage when another stumble. There is no one who really cares about the personal battles. Through fellowship, however, Paul says in Philippians that to the extent that believers invest their lives into each other, their thinking is changed because their minds meld into one in Christ.

Through prayer: There is an old saying that said prayer changes things. On the authority of the Scriptures, prayer changes me. Too long we have said, tell me what I can do to solve my problems and do not tell me to pray. Well, I am not going to do that. Jesus said that there are some things that happen only through prayer and fasting.

Through God’s Word: From God’s Word we learn God’s perspective. We see the world and our lives from a heavenly perspective. We see how things fit together in this world. We are able to discern and judge what is important. We need God’s perspective about work, money, pleasure, suffering, good, evil, family, church, the times we live in, and a host of other important issues. That perspective is found in God’s Word.

What will happen when we change the way we think?

When we do these things we will have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. According to Colossians 3:12-17, we are called to the peace of God in one body. You see, the peace of God is inseparable from fellowship, prayer, and the truth of the Word of God. Remember, the peace of God is not confidence that we are making right decisions. The peace of God is living in a right attitude towards the world and towards other believers.

We have already mentioned protection. What do you fear? What should you fear? Whatever Satan may throw against you, whatever the world may throw against you, whatever your own heart may throw against you, you can combat when you change the way you think. “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

We will be able to handle trials that are thrown against us. These people were suffering persecution but Paul made it clear to them that they could stand fast together in the Lord if they would bring their thoughts in line with God’s thoughts (Philippians 1:27-31). I have had people tell how difficult it is in the workplace to live the Christian life. Some of these same people have told me how that they leave church on Sunday morning, encouraged ready to go but when they get to work, all hell seems to break loose against them. Yet some of these same people neglected the fellowship with other believers. They have time for work and for family and for vacations but they do not have time for the body of Christ and find it difficult to maintain time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer. The very things they need to strengthen themselves so that they stand fast in the Lord are the very things they neglect.

What do we need to change? The way we think. How are we going to change it? Through fellowship with other believers, through prayer with and for each other, and through learning and obeying the Word of God.

The Overflow of the Christian life September 30, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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The Abundance of Giving as Part of the Christian Life

2 Corinthians 8:7-8

No part of the Christian life is isolated from another (verse 7). It is the overflowing presence of all the things mentioned in this verse that indicate an abundant Christian life. For example, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul wrote, “…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Paul certainly did not discount faith but he recognized that a miracle working faith without the active love of God is worthless.

In the same way verse 8 in this chapter indicates the connection between love and diligence and giving. You see, you cannot have one without also having the others. Now this list is not an exhaustive list but things that Paul specifically had in mind as he was writing to the Corinthian church.

FOUNDATIONAL FAITH

Paul begins with faith. Faith in Christ and His work on the cross is where our part in the Christian life begins. We are aware that before the foundation of the world, God the Father planned in Jesus Christ to provide salvation for us by grace alone because we cannot earn salvation. Then God sends the Holy Spirit to draw us to Jesus Christ. We cannot save ourselves, we do not save ourselves, but God in His grace through His Holy Spirit awakens our heart to respond to the gospel of Christ in faith. There are many, many examples we could give from the word of God but I would like for us look at one in 2 Corinthians 10:14-16:

14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ;

15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,

16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

Paul had a vision for these Corinthians. When he and Silas and Timothy came to them to preach the gospel to them, he labored among them for a year and a half. He says, “We came with the gospel of Christ in hopes that you would believe, that you would put your faith in Christ but that our goal was much more than converts but that they would increase in their faith in such a way that the church at Corinth would become their partners in the preaching of the gospel.

FAITH OVERFLOWING 

Most of us have too low of a vision. We want to see people turn to Christ and avoid hell. We want to see people live in a way that is moral and not harmful to themselves or to others. That is how far our vision reaches. We have such a pitiful vision. Paul said, I came to preach the gospel to you so that your faith would drive you to become partners with me in reaching the gospel to the world. Do we care if we young people become passionate for the gospel of Christ? How much do we want their faith to grow? Do we pray for our young people, our new believers, our new attendees, do we care if they are growing in their faith? What is more important to us, that people in our church, young or old, have good lives, good jobs, nice homes, good health or that they have a life of vibrant faith driving them to reach others with the gospel of Christ?

FAITH EXHIBITED IN OUR SPEECH AND KNOWLEDGE 

After faith, Paul mentions two things that had from the very beginning been characteristic of the Corinthian church – speech and knowledge. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:4-7a:

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,

5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,

6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,

7a so that you come short in no gift,

“[The Corinthians were] enriched and lacked nothing (verses 5 and 7a)… by Jesus Christ in all utterance and knowledge (we will come back to this in chapter 8:1). They were capable of expressing the truth and they were capable of understanding the truth. These people had put their faith in Christ and it showed in their speech and in their knowledge. They knew their doctrine. In fact, they debated the finest points of doctrine…These people knew the truth of Christ. They were certain of it and Paul was certain of it” (from the sermon, “Things We Can Agree On”).

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul points out that knowledge, even knowledge that comes from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:5) puffs up but love edifies.  It is important that we be articulate about our faith and proficient in our knowledge of Christ, not that we can flaunt it but because these are gifts that Christ makes available to us as a church and as individuals within the church. These tools like faith do not stand alone.

TAKING OUR FAITH SERIOUSLY 

Paul in this list now moves from the basic in faith and from the obvious in speech and knowledge and moves to an area which he greatly emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 7 and 8 – diligence. In 7:5-11 we see Paul commending them for their diligence in dealing with sin within their church:

5 ¶ For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.

6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Paul recognized that with all the problems that this church had, and they had a lot of them, when they understood that there was a situation to deal with, they dealt with it with diligence, with earnest care, with passion. Obviously, there is a time for dispassionate level-headedness and patience but the Christian life is not only a life of faith, a life of expressing God’s truth to the world, a life of learning Christ in a fuller way, it is also a life of passion. Paul encourages their passion by holding up the passion of the Macedonian churches in their giving. This is not a psychological appeal. This is an appeal to their spiritual being. “Look at the passion (diligence) in which they serve Christ (verse 8)! Look at the passion (earnest care) with which Christ died for you (verse 9)! Live with that same passion, that same diligence, that same earnest care (verses 10-11)! I know you can, you have proven it already. Do it again! Do it again!”

ALL THESE THINGS ARE BOUND TOGETHER BY LOVE.

The oil that makes faith and speech and knowledge and diligence work together is love. Col 3:14 says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

2Co 8:8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love [“for us” Paul said to verse 7] by the diligence of others.

2Co 8:24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

Again we see that love for God and love for fellow believers is inseparable. Jesus Himself taught this when He told His disciples in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is the substance of the abundance of our Christian life. It is not shown not by keeping the rules but by being real in our faith, in this case, as evidenced by our diligence in our giving through love (verse 8). It is impossible to keep rules in abundance. You either obey or you do not obey. It is possible though to abound in the Christian life. This is what the abundant Christian life looks like.

GOD WANTS US TO USE OUR SPIRITUAL AS WELL AS OUR FINANCIAL OVERFLOW FOR OTHERS.

God will use the abundance of our Christian life to fill the lack of another (verses 10-14). Not everyone has abundance in all things. Not everyone is abundant in financial means. Not everyone is abundant in expressing their faith and in their knowledge of God’s Word. Not everyone is abundant in faith, some are even weak in faith. Not everyone has the passion and diligence and earnest care in eternal things that they should. But we can share in the areas where we abound, where we overflow with others. The danger, as for the Corinthians is in not doing it.

Where do you overflow? To whom are you going to give?

Where are you lacking? Commit yourself to increase, to grow, to be enriched by Christ in that area.

Giving yourself abundantly (discipleship) September 23, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF DISCIPLESHIP IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:5-6

So far we have seen the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. We have also looked at the attitude of willingness that joy produces in our giving. Today we want to consider what it is that we actually should give. We must give ourselves totally to the Lord.

BACKGROUND 

Paul realistically had expected a little help from the Macedonians in the benevolence offering that he was gathering for the Jerusalem church (verse 5a). Paul, of course, knew the Macedonians well. He had led many of them to the Lord. He knew the readiness with which many of them had received the gospel (for example, the church at Berea in Acts 17).

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-8 we find an earlier description of some of these people. Paul was probably less than a month in Thessalonica before he was forced out of town. He had fond memories of these people. From the very beginning they received the gospel with joy even in the midst of great affliction. Paul says that in this they were imitators of him and Silas and Timothy as well as of Christ. In fact Paul had set himself up as an example before the church in Thessalonica and encouraged them to follow him, to imitate him and they had done so.

Because Paul had lived before them with joy in affliction he thought he knew what to expect of these believers. He thought that they would react in the area of giving in the way he reacted, laboring to meet this need in some way.

BUT PAUL’S EXPECTATIONS WERE EXCEEDED.

The Macedonians proved their discipleship by their obedience and surrender to God’s will. They gave themselves to God and to others (verse 5b). Instead of giving out of their ability, they out of their poverty gave themselves first to God and then to others and finally, gave financially.

FOLLOWING THEIR EXAMPLE

First, you give yourself up to God. When you trust Christ as Savior you are no longer your own man. You belong to God. You are His.

Look back in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. In those verses Paul is explaining why it is possible to give ourselves to the Lord. “The love of Christ compels us… [to] …live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again.” In fact, Romans 14:7-9 points out that one of the reasons that Christ died is so that we might give ourselves totally to Him.

That is what discipleship is, totally giving yourself to another so that you might learn from Him how to live. Christ died so that you would give yourself to Him. He wants you to leave all and learn from Him.

YOU CANNOT STOP WITH GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD. 

Secondly, you give yourself up to the people of God. I belong to God and then I belong to you. Not because you pay me as your pastor but because Christ paid for me and made me a part of His body of which you also are a member. I know that some were uncomfortable last week with the statement I made about church membership. I have no desire to make you uncomfortable but you need to understand that you are not your own. You belong to the body of Christ.

Now you might say, “But Robert, the context is not the submission and commitment of individuals to the local church but rather the submission and commitment of three local churches to an apostle and his team of missionaries.” If you should say that, you would be absolutely correct. You see the real issue is submission and commitment to each other. It plays out in all kinds of ways. Between individuals. Between churches or groups of churches. Between congregations and leadership. Between churches and their supported missionaries. None of those relationships can replace the others. If I have a bad relationship with an individual in this church, I cannot make up for it by being a good pastor. If we have bad blood between us and another church, we cannot make up for it by being faithful to support our missionaries in Nigeria or Argentina. In the same way, my relationship to the body of Christ at large cannot replace my relationship to this local church. In every one of this relationships submission and commitment to Christ and to my fellow believers is demanded from me.

THE MONEY PART

Finally, after giving yourself to God and giving yourself to fellow believers, then comes the practical parts of putting money in the offering plate, teaching Sunday School, etc.

John Piper put it this way, “It is possible to give gifts to people and to God, and yet keep yourself at a distance. Money, [and if I may interject, preaching, going to the mission field, doing evangelism, teaching Sunday School, church attendance, church membership, Awana service, cleaning the church, keeping the nursery, all these things] which ought to be an expression of personal commitment, can actually be a substitute for personal commitment. Paul does not want that kind of money [or that kind of service]. Of first importance is to give ourselves to God and to God’s people. Then our gifts will be pleasing to the Lord.”

(From John Piper’s Sermon – Christmas Joy and the Kirchensteuer)

PAUL’S NEW EXPECTATIONS OF THE CORINTHIANS 

Paul’s expectations have now changed (verse 6). True Christian performance is now expected (verses 8-11). He is not expecting what he had expected from the Macedonian churches. He is expecting the Corinthians to give of themselves. He knows that if they give of themselves, they will give generously to the benevolence offering for the Jerusalem church.

He expresses this first of all by saying in verse 8 “I want you to prove that you have given yourself to God. I want you to prove that you are a disciple, a learner of Jesus. I want you to prove that you are an imitator of Christ. Prove that you are living for Him. Prove that He is the Lord of your life.”

He does not ask them to give themselves to Christ, to live for Christ. As he mentions in chapter 5, that is a given. It should be a reasonable assumption that when someone says, “I am a Christian,” they have given themselves to Christ. In a way it is like dropping your maiden name. We knew a fellow once who had what we would call a dysfunctional family. This fellow met a young lady, fell in love with her, proposed and made plans to marry. He made an unusual request though. He said to her, “I love your family. Your father is more like a father to me than my father is. Your mother is more like a mother to me than my own mother. I want to take your family name to be my family name.” He asked his bride-to-be if he could take on her name. In other words, he dropped his “maiden” name and took on her name as the family name.

When we trust Christ, we take the name of Christ, it is reasonable for people to expect us to be totally loyal to him and to expect us to prove the legitimacy and sincerity of our love to Christ through our actions.

ALL BECAUSE OF JESUS 

In verse 9 he appeals again to what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross. Everything that Christ did, He did for our sakes, to make us rich in joy and grace and love, to redeem us from our sin, and according to 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, to cause us to overflow in thanksgiving even in times of great trial. Look at these verses, especially noting verse 15. Paul is saying that the troubles we go through will be eternally worth while because of what Christ through grace has done for our sakes. We will be presented along with those to whom we minister to God’s glory for all eternity.

About a year ago I preached from this passage a sermon on avoiding burnout. If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to deny yourself, follow Christ, and serve others. According to verse 16, giving yourself to Christ will keep you eternally motivated.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize it is about Jesus revealed in you and not about your comfort. According to verse 17, giving yourself to Christ will reorder your priorities.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize that the eternal reward will be worth it. According to verse 18, giving yourself to Christ is evidence of an eternal perspective and not a temporary perspective.

BACK AGAIN IN CHAPTER 8 

In verses 10-11 he basically says, “Show your fruit.” There are many who do not want to judge others and sometimes that is the proper thing to do. It is, however, always appropriate to look at your own heart and life and see if you are bearing fruit. Are you proving your love for the Lord Jesus? If you are holding back in any area of obedience then your love is suspect. We should be able to see our own fruit better than anyone around us. We are after all the tree. What does your fruit show? Does it show a love for Christ or for someone else?

SHOW BLOOD 

During the American Civil War there were in both armies, units of soldiers designated as provost guard. These men served as the military police and were engaged in all kinds of duties from guarding military prison camps to protecting boats that were unloading supplies. One of the tasks sometimes given to the provost guard was to prevent an unauthorized retreat. As soldiers clashed in battle, it was common for some to turn and run. If this was allowed too blatantly, discipline would be lost and the battle would be easily lost. The guard would stand behind the lines and when men began to retreat toward the rear of the army, the provost guard would prevent them with the cry, “Show blood”. If they could show a wound, they would be allowed to pass through. If they could not, they would be forced to return to the front lines to fight. My call to you today is, “Show blood.” Jesus Christ shed His blood for you. Show your love to Him and to His church by giving and serving and suffering, if necessary, for Him.

REMINDER

If you are not in the Lord’s army, you cannot show blood. If you are not planted in Christ Jesus, you cannot show good fruit. Jesus died for you that you might become one of His. He shed His blood to redeem you from sin. He wants to make you rich, to give you something eternally to live for but you must come through Him. No man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. You must trust Him as your Savior for salvation.