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Steps to Buying a Church (An Apology for the Church) June 4, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Faith, Gospel, Grace Bible Church, Leadership, Local Church, Paul's Life, Redemption, Religion, Sermons.
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STEPS TO BUYING A CHURCH
Acts 20

Every once in awhile a letter with listings comes across my desk from a realty company, that specializes in selling church buildings. I normally glance over it and then file it away in the garbage can. The church we are talking about buying today, however, is not a church building but rather the congregation of Grace Bible Church in Delta Township, Michigan.

A. Christ paid the down payment for us with his blood (verses 21-28). There are two ways mentioned in Scripture in which we find that Christ has purchased believers in Him. The first is mentioned in Ephesians 1:13-14. There it talks about the Holy Spirit being the down payment to us as believers. One day we will receive our inheritance, the glory of God but right now we have the Holy Spirit of God guaranteeing that when Christ comes, what He has purchased will be in His possession.

1. The second way in which we find that Christ has purchased believers is found here in Acts 20:28. Christ purchased Grace Bible Church with His blood (verse 28). Perhaps you did not see the words “Grace Bible Church” in the text; so let me explain why it is that I do. Paul is talking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He anticipates possibly never seeing them again, so this is a farewell message. He commands them to pay attention to their own spiritual well-being as well as that of the church(es) in Ephesus. They have this position because the Holy Spirit set them over the church of God as shepherds. What church is Paul talking about? The church in Ephesus. What is so important about the church in Ephesus? Christ purchased it with his blood.

Ephesus, however, is not the only church Christ purchased with his blood. There is a church in Delta Township. For over seventy-five years this church has been a witness to Christ. Sometimes a great witness, sometimes not. There have been and there probably still are goats among the sheep or tares among the wheat, perhaps even wolves among the sheep but it is still His church for He has bought it with His blood.

That is why I only baptize people who are joining Grace Bible Church. If baptism is the step that identifies one with Christ and with His body then the believer needs when possible to be baptized by water, by initiation, into the local body of Christ which He has purchased with His blood (sometimes as in the case with the Ethiopian eunuch it is not possible).

2. Our signature is on the contract (verse 21). He has made the purchase, He gives the guarantee through the Holy Spirit but it is not a hostile takeover. We are also involved in this transaction. Through repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. Note that Paul does not emphasize repentance from sin. You see it is possible to turn from sin without turning to God. It is not, however, possible to turn to God without turning from sin. We hear the message of our sinfulness and of Christ’s paying of the purchase price on the cross and we either turn to Jesus for salvation from sin or we reject it and continue on our way to the lake of fire.

B. We invest ourselves into God’s church (verses 18-20, 28-35). Paul puts it this way in verse 24, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself.” Paul had this attitude, if the church is worth the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then it is worth my life also. You can invest yourself in morality, in family values, in political justice, in hard work, in caring for the needy, in all that is good and great in this country and if you have not invested yourself into God’s church, you have wasted your life.

Some wonder why I have given so much time to our teenagers. It is simple. They are the generation to which I will give over the leadership of this church. The twenty and thirty-something’s are not here. God, however, has given us a great gift and rather than crying because of what we do not have, let us invest in what we do. We cannot bury our treasure in the ground so that we don’t lose it. Even if we have only one gold coin to invest, it was given to us to invest, wholly, totally, with great risk, but with the hope of a rich return.

In Wheaton, Illinois there was “in front of a house that had a square marble stone with a brass marker in its front yard…On the marker were these words: On This Spot in 1897 Nothing Happened” (from Hans Finzel’s The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make). Let’s not be like that! Let’s invest ourselves in something worthwhile.

1. We choose to concentrate ourselves on God’s people and not on ourselves (verses 33-35). As in Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul mentions that we have an eternal inheritance through Jesus Christ. This inheritance is referred to by him in 1 Corinthians as a building of gold, silver, and precious stones. Paul says, I don’t want your gold and silver, I want to labor so that you will be vessels of gold and silver pleasing to the Lord. I don’t want nice clothes from you but to teach you how to put off the old clothes of unrighteousness and to put on the new clothes of a life that is honoring to God. I don’t want you to provide for my necessities but rather to allow me to strengthen you in your weakness. Paul concentrated himself on God’s people.

2. We choose to risk ourselves totally, getting the message to people (verses 18-20). There are many groups that are willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. We celebrated last week the men and women who were willing to die for their country. Our sacrifice for Christ and His people, however, is to get the message of the gospel to the people. He says I kept back nothing from you, which was helpful (verse 20). I have testified to the gospel of the grace of God (verse 24). I have preached to you the kingdom of God (verse 25). I have declared to you the whole counsel of God (verse 27). This message is worth dying for, it is worth risking ourselves totally so that everyone both in the church and out of the church can have it and understand it.

3. We protect our investment by the wise use of our personnel and time (verses 28-31). The church’s best people are called to watch over the flock. Why? Because the flock is who reaches the city. The church in Jerusalem was most effective in getting out the gospel when the congregation left town and the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. One possible reason why we are not as effective as we could be in reaching the community is that we have gotten the cart before the horse. It is not the pastor that reaches the community but the church that does. If the church does not do it, then how will it get done in any sort of spiritual way?

Allow me to give you a modern example: “Four couples are meeting for a Bible study on a weeknight. They have been getting together for about four months, since three of them had been converted to Christ. One of the laymen in the church has been leading the study…As they launch into their lesson, the phone rings. ‘Is Joe there? Joe is one of the four-month-old Christians. ‘Yes, but he’s busy right now…’ The voice is desperate, ‘Please! I’ve got to talk with him.’ …Joe picks up the phone and listens. ‘OK,’ he says, ‘I’ll come right over.’ Joe comes back to his Bible study group and explains. His business partner wants him to come over and help him. There’s been a marital fight, and the man’s wife is walking out on him…Joe feels he should go and do what he can.
The leader of the study group [agrees]…The Bible study turns into a prayer meeting… [Joe leads] both husband and wife to Christ… [and continues] leading them in a study of the Scriptures. The leader, in turn, had begun to spend a little extra time with Joe to answer some of his questions now that he and his wife were leading new Christians in a study of the Word of God” (from Leroy Eims’ The Lost Art of Disciple Making).

It will also cost us our time. Three years night and day is a long time. That is a lot of prayers. That is a lot of late nights talking and teaching. Paul obviously was used to that grind. In Troas he spoke so long that a fellow went to sleep and fell out the window necessitating a resuscitation ministry by Paul. If we give five hours a week to serving the Lord, his people, and this community we feel like we have given much. Don’t, however, ask yourself if you are giving enough time. Ask am I giving my all.

He paid the price for us. Spurgeon tells how Roman noblemen whose city was surrounded by their enemies the Carthaginians showed confidence in their success in that they bought the land on which their enemies were encamped. When Jesus died for Grace Bible Church, when He paid the price for us, He was confident that what He bought, He would possess. We can also, because of His confidence invest with great confidence in what He purchased with his blood.

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Are You Called by God? August 17, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Election, First Thessalonians, Grace Bible Church, Sanctification, Second Thessalonians, Sermons, Spiritual Goals, Spiritual Growth.
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ARE YOU CALLED BY GOD?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Sometimes you hear people say, I do not believe in predestination. A strange thing to say if you are a Bible-believer since the word occurs in the New Testament a half-dozen times. To believe in Christ and not believe in predestination would be like walking in the forest and not believing in trees. Basic to everything we believe is that God is in control. That includes the weather and the financial markets but it also includes God’s great plan for eternity. That bothers us because on some level we all would like to think that God called us to salvation because of something we are or something that we did but it is not so. God’s show of grace and mercy to us through Jesus Christ was part of his plan from the very beginning.

It is clear though that not everyone will be saved, not everyone has been called by God. Now it might seem that you could know whether you yourself have been called by God but can you know about others? Paul certainly thinks so. He says in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 4, “We give thanks to God always for you all…knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God…” How did Paul know that these people had been called by God (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)? They had believed the gospel of Christ.

Remember who these people were. They were Jews and YWHW-fearing Gentiles who worshiped at the synagogue. Paul and Silas came and preached from the Old Testament Scripture the necessity of the Messiah’s death and resurrection and that Jesus is that Messiah. Before these people had believed that they were the elect of God because of God’s covenant with Israel but now they have come to understand that the elect of God are those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. That was how Paul determined that they were part of the elect. They trusted Jesus.

Now God was not surprised. Second Thessalonians tells us that “God from the beginning chose you for salvation…to which He called you by our gospel…” From the beginning of what? From the beginning of God’s plan for the universe.

For the persecuted church in Thessalonica, it is easy to see how that would be a comfort but how is that going to help us? We are rich! We can go days without praying! We don’t need God!

“We are a lot like Joseph Stalin. He was short-five feet; four inches tall…a childhood accident left his left arm stiff and his hand slightly misshapen. When the dictator commissioned his portrait, he instructed the artist to paint him form his best angle-from below, a perspective that made Stalin seem to tower over the artist. To add to the image, Stalin folded his hands over his stomach, making them appear firm and powerful- like the name he had chosen for himself: Stalin means “man of steel. We put ourselves in the best possible light but simply adjusting the angel of view does not change reality. God’s Word is a mirror that shows our true condition” (Leadership Magazine).

Oh, He knows the truth. We are poor and blind and naked, but He loves us. He is knocking at the door, calling. When we see ourselves as we really are, not evaluating ourselves by earthly blessings but by spiritual needs, then we can answer the call. It is then that we can be identified as one of the elect from the very beginning.

If elected by God also means called by God through the gospel of Christ, what are we when we respond to the call (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14)? We are sanctified. Now I am throwing out a lot of big words so let’s see if we can clarify what Paul means.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality…that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother…For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” You see God called us out of sin and made us saints. That is what we are and that is how we should live.

That doesn’t mean that we are completely holy. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” In other words, until Christ returns, we need His help to overcome the selfish desires of our heart but He will do it.

How does God accomplish this? Second Thessalonians 2:13-14 tells us how, “…through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These verses tell us how and why. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make us saints so that we might share in the glory of Jesus Christ at His coming.

The Holy Spirit works like this: “If our church copier broke down, I might call the repair shop to see if they could tell me what the problem was and if I could do anything about it. I might discover, however that I don’t even know how to describe what is broken. I don’t know the names of the parts or what they are specifically supposed to do. Perhaps I can’t even describe what is wrong. I just know that the copier won’t work. So the repair shop sends out a technician. While working he calls the shop, just like I did but he or she knows how to describe what was needed. That is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He uses the Word of God to sanctify us and to complete that sanctification for we cannot do it ourselves” (Leadership Magazine).

If we are sanctified by the plan of God, by faith in Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, what makes us worthy of our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)? Living up to our calling.

That is why we need spiritual mentors according to 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Although we are saints and God is working in us; God uses the church around us (and Paul considered himself the spiritual father of this church) to guide us in the right path. In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, we see that Paul is praying for them to be worthy of the calling. In other words, it is possible to live worthy, appropriately to the calling we have received.

How should you respond to the call of God?
(1) You need to open the door to Jesus Christ. “[In] 1991, 90 year-old Harvey Penick showed a red spiral notebook to a local writer and asked if he thought it was worth publishing. The man read it and told him yes. He left word with Penick’s wife the next evening that Simon & Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000. When the writer saw Penick later, the old man seemed troubled…With all his medical bills, he said, there was no way he could advance Simon & Schuster that much money. The writer had to explain that Penick would be the one to receive the $90,000” (Leadership Magazine). What must you do? Open the door. You are poor, blind, and naked before God but Jesus is knocking at the door. Let Him in. Trust Him. Believe on Him for salvation from the wrath to come.

(2) You need to learn to live worthy of the calling. Does your life correspond to your profession? Are you living blamelessly before God? Does your sanctified position reveal itself in your everyday life?
Next week: Looking for the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 1:1-3:4)

November at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan November 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Events, Grace Bible Church, Thanksgiving.
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Adult Sunday School – two classes are being offered: (1) Sickness, Healing, and the Bible, and (2) Reaching the World as A Church (Biblical Evangelism).

November 8 – Sunday Morning Sermon from Luke 18:1-30, “If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day”

November 15 – Operation Christmas Child’s “Parade of Shoeboxes”

November 15 – Thanksgiving Great Night Service at 6 p.m. with refreshments afterwards. Come and thank the Lord with us on this special evening.

November 18 – First of three sessions for teens and preteens on “The Church, Baptism, and Why we Believe What we Believe.” Wednesday evening from 7:15-8:00 p.m.

November 25 – No Wednesday service on Thanksgiving Eve.