jump to navigation

The First Song of Ascent: Psalm 120 October 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Peace, Prayer, Psalms, Temple, Testimony, Worship.
add a comment

GOD HEARS
Psalms 120

This is the first of the Songs of Ascent, psalms that were sung or recited as the Jews made their way to the Temple of Yahweh to worship the LORD their God. This psalm seems to be a strange one to begin with since it certainly seems to be a downer. There is no denial here of the difficulties of life, however, almost half of the psalms, over sixty of them, are like this psalm, a lament.

Often when times get difficult people don’t go to church. They have the idea that you have to feel positive about life to worship God. This psalm reminds us, however, that even when life is miserable you can worship God. Perhaps you are going through a rough time this morning. If so, then this psalm is for you now. The rest of us will need it next week, so we will listen also.

A. Did you begin your morning by testifying to someone that you are anticipating God’s deliverance (verse 1)? These people are on their way to celebrate the Lord’s blessings or perhaps to have their sins from the past year atoned for. The first phrase here is something like, “Nobody knows the trouble I see…nobody but my Jesus.” He is going to deliver. I’m not sure how but he will deliver.

One of the reasons we have a greeting time is so that you can express your relationship with God to each other. Do you take advantage of that opportunity? When you check your email in the morning, do you drop a note to someone expressing joy that God will answer prayer in your life? Does your family hear you sing or listen to songs on Sunday morning that express confidence in God’s working?

Jack Hayford gives four reasons why we should be expressive to each other in our worship of God.
a. “It challenges the culture.” The world believes that religion is a private matter. To openly express your faith to others “….[is] one way to witness to the world about the new and full life that Christ offers.”
b. “It nurtures humility. Many times our emotional reserve is but a fearful quest to retain control of our lives…Expressive worship prevents spiritual arthritis…in the body of Christ.”
c. “It creates a climate of warmth and acceptance. When you develop an expressive atmosphere, you cultivate the spirit of fellowship, which creates a climate for evangelism.”
d. “It fosters commitment. Rather than encouraging people to be placid observers, passing judgment on what is said and done, expressive worship demands participation and , therefore, commitment” (quotes from Hayford’s “Strategic Reasons for Expressive Worship,” Leadership, Spring 1994).

B. Did you spend time yesterday asking for the Lord’s deliverance (verse 2)? This prayer is quite specific, “Deliver me from lying lips and deceitful words.” There are some of you this morning that are being attacked by the spoken word. Perhaps you know this to be true or perhaps you merely suspect it to be true. Either way, you fear the arrows of the wicked word, being burned by the hot coals of the lie. Turn to God in prayer.

C. Are you wondering about how God might deliver you from the situation (verse 3-4)? Steve Harper of Shepherd’s Care in Lexington, Kentucky tells of “a student in [his] theology of prayer course stopped [him] after class one day. ‘My cancer has come back,’ he said. He was a young man who had undergone treatment for a brain tumor four years earlier, and the therapy appeared successful. The tumor had disappeared. ‘I’m in seminary to become a preacher,’ he said, ‘and it looks like I’ll never get to be one.’ He asked me to tell him if he had heard God’s call correctly.’ Prayer is often linked with profound questions about the will of God and the mystery of suffering. Such issues force us into a position of humility. I could not answer his question with any final authority. Nevertheless we talked that day about how deeply the will to live is ingrained in all of us, and I prayed with him for his complete healing” (Leadership, 1994).

D. Are you longing for God to make all things right (verses 5-7)? The Psalmist was not among friends. He was dwelling among pagans from Meshech (in Asia Minor) and Kedar (in Arabia). He was longing and waiting for God to deliver him from this situation. What can you do while waiting for the answer that you know is coming to arrive?

a. If someone is shooting arrows at you or throwing hot coals at you avoid that person if possible.
b. In extreme situations if you can find someone to help, go to them. David went to Jonathan for help against Saul. I’m not talking about revenge but rather legitimate help.
c. Don’t take it personally and don’t shoot arrows and throw coals back at your enemy. “Never wrestle with a pig. For one thing you will become dirty; second, the pig will love it; and third, he plays be a different set of rules” (from When You’ve Been Wronged by Erwin Lutzer).
1. Your character must correspond to that of God’s, a lover of peace (verse 7a)? A lover of peace is not threatened when others have more influence, control, or power than they have. A lover of peace does not seek revenge when removed from a place of power or position. A lover of peace does not desire for someone else to “get what’s coming to them.” A lover of peace does not go around seeking for sympathy or seeking to make another person look bad.

2. Your actions must correspond to those of God’s, a maker of peace (verse 7b)? We need to be strong in the Lord and stand against falsehood. That was the point of 2 Timothy; yet that book reminds us that we should be gentle. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The last phrase of this psalm makes it clear that the one being slandered desired peace and spoke words of peace to those who wanted to war with him.

E. When you cannot make peace, turn to Him who can. “Few preachers have experienced the kind of criticism that Spurgeon did…More than one writer expressed doubts that Spurgeon was even converted? His sermons were called ‘trashy,’ and he was compared to a rocket that would climb high and then suddenly drop out of sight!…Hearing slanderous reports of his character and ministry week after week could have led him into defeat; but he fell to his knees and prayed, ‘Master, I will not keep back even my character for Thee. If I must lose that, too, then let is go; it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil, and am mad, or, like Him, I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber’” (from Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe).

This Psalm teaches us two things: have confidence that God will hear and act according to the character of God. Neither is dictated by the circumstances. Both are necessary not just when going to church but every day of our lives.

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

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Cross of Christ, Glory of Christ, Prayer, Will of God.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

BEING IN GOD’S WILL
Acts 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob Wrestling with God May 29, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Genesis, Jacob, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
add a comment

WRESTLING WITH GOD
Genesis 32:22-32

In the evangelical tradition there has long been an emphasis on a “crisis experience.” Sometimes it has been considered crucial to a true salvation experience and often people have a crisis experience when they get saved. In 1865 a fanatical infidel, who had written a book on infidelity, “…was persuaded to attend an old-fashioned camp-meeting. The preacher challenged the people…to give Jesus Christ a fair trial. When he asked for those to come forward who were willing to make the test, [the infidel] went…While riding home, he got down on his knees in the woods and fought the battle out-and Jesus Christ won. [B. H.] Carroll’s life was transformed, and his great gifts were dedicated to Christ.”

Sometimes this crisis experience comes to someone who is already a believer but is plagued by doubts. “[G. Campbell Morgan] went through an eclipse of his faith. In desperation, he locked all his books in a cupboard, secured a new Bible, and began to read it…The result? ‘That Bible found me!’” (both examples are from Warren Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

It should be noted that not everyone has crisis experiences and certainly not every crisis experience comes at the same time in one’s life or in the same way. In Jacob’s life his crisis experience came in a moment of great fear, his brother Esau was coming to meet him, the same brother from whom he had stolen his father’s blessing, the same Esau who had promised twenty years earlier to kill Jacob as soon as his father was dead. Jacob has now taken a step toward reconciliation (32:3-5). The messengers come back with this message, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (verse 6). Jacob fears now for his life. He divides his company into two groups so that at least some of them might survive and he prays to God for help but he still is fearful. He sends presents ahead to Esau, hoping to appease his anger but he still is fearful. That night he has a crisis experience, he wrestles with God.

A. Like Jacob, even though we have faith in Christ, we still might find ourselves wrestling with God. To have a crisis experience, to be fearful or depressed or doubtful, there is no shame in having a crisis experience.

1. Wrestling with God may happen when you know God’s will but do not know what you at that moment should do (32:1-23). Jacob had been walking with God for twenty years. He had been taken advantage of by his uncle Laban. During those twenty years he had been humbled by God. He tries to do what’s right by reconciling to his brother. And now four hundred men are coming, fully capable of destroying Jacob and all with which God had blessed him. Jacob knew in general that he was in God’s will but he did not know at that moment what he should do. Have you ever been there?

2. Wrestling with God happens when you want God’s will in your life no matter what the cost may be (32:24-32). People who don’t want God’s will done, do not wrestle with God. It wasn’t until Jonah was in the whale that he was willing to do God’s will. We find him wrestling with God in chapter 2 not in chapter 1. There he is simply running.

One of the best examples of someone wrestling with God is our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew God’s will. He may have not known every detail of what would happen during the next twenty-four hours but he knew that he was on his way to die. Yet he was willing to pay the price. The cost was great. The cost was terrifying to Jesus. Jesus faced death with the same emotions that many a man before and afterward faced death with but he was willing to pray the price.

Are you willing to pay the price?

B. When we wrestle with others, we must have God’s help to be blessed (32:26-29). God points out; Jacob has not only prevailed in his wrestling with God but also in his wrestling with men, particularly Esau and Laban. One thing is clear. Jacob prevailed with men because of God’s blessing and not because of his ability or wisdom. Why? Because he was part of God’s royal entourage.

1. We have a position as believers in Christ in a royal family (32:28). That’s what makes the cost worth it. Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” God’s blessing is based not on me but on my position in Him.

2. We know from where our help must come (32:29). Will we depend on Him?

“In 1929 [W. E. Sangster] moved to Liverpool (England) where… he pastored [and filled] two churches…[He] went through a deep spiritual crisis…After his father’s death, [his son] found a handwritten ‘spiritual analysis’ buried in the bottom drawer of the desk…It was the record of [a] spiritual conflict…It begins, ‘I am a minister of God and yet my private life is a failure in these ways…’ Then he listed eight areas of defeat. He concluded: ‘I have lost peace…I have lost joy…. I have lost taste for my work….I feel a failure.’ What was the answer? ‘Pray. Pray. Pray. Strive after holiness like an athlete prepares for a race. The secret is in prayer’” (Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

Are you wrestling with God today? Do you want to do God’s will and don’t know how? Tell it to Jesus. You don’t have to wrestle alone. Paul wrote to several churches including in Rome and Colosse and asked those people to wrestle with him. Jacob wrestled alone but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let us wrestle with you.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation February 7, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Honesty, Materialism, Prayer, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons, Temptation.
1 comment so far

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Proverbs 30:5-9

In Sunday School, our five year olds are learning what is known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer. They are not yet to this part but eventually they will learn, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The prayer we are looking at today is similar. It is a prayer for protection against temptation.

I do not know if you pray for God to deliver you from temptation but you probably should. If you do, however, pray for protection from temptation, you should know more about this type of praying.

A. Our prayers for protection from temptation should be motivated by our faith in God (verses 5-7). Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “All my life I have been seeking to climb out of the pit of my besetting sins and I cannot do it and I never will unless a hand is let down to draw me up.” He understood that he needed help against sin. Now certainly it is good when someone can help us out of the pit but would it not be better to have someone protect us from falling in the pit in the first place?

Agur recognizes in verse 5 of our text that God is a shield for those who put their trust in Him. Now if God can protect us from death and hell, from sickness and Satan, why should we not trust Him to protect us from temptation?

a. Our prayer of faith for protection from temptation is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom (verses 5b, 8b). Agur requests in verse 8b, “Feed me with the food allotted to me.” He is saying, I do not want any special treatment, nor do I want to go through trials. Just give me what I need and that will be enough. Agur believed that God was good and wise. In his prayer He is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom to give him exactly what he needs.

b. Now why would Agur want to pray that way? – Because the prayer of faith for protection from temptation desires a lifestyle of truth (verse 6-8). Truth is a rare quality and always has been. Since Satan lied to Eve in the garden, mankind has been serving the Father of lies and has been busy deceiving and being deceived. (Proverbs 12:17-22 describe for us the difference between the lifestyle of truth and the lifestyle of destruction.) You see, Agur, wanted the Lord to delight in him and he knew that a life of honesty was necessary to gain the Lord’s delight.

Often, when people are struggling with sin, they pray for protection from temptation. I know that I have. The difference, often, is in the motive. Most of us pray to be protected from temptation because we do not want to suffer the consequences of the sin which we keep committing. There is nothing wrong with fearing the consequences of sin. Agur went beyond that. He wanted to please God and He knew that only a life of honesty could please the Lord.

c. Our prayer for protection from temptation recognizes our inner weaknesses (verses 8-9). He recognized how difficult it is to be honest. Most of us make a habit of being honest except when it appears that honesty just does not pay. The one who prays for protection from temptation recognizes his or her weakness and remembers that the final pain will erase the temporary pleasure.

Paul Harvey told a story (It has been repeated in print several times; I got it from a Charles Swindoll book) that illustrates what happens when you fail to recognize your inner weakness. When an Eskimo wants to kill a wolf, he coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. The he adds another lay and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.

Then the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source and discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh-frozen blood. He licks faster, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Still, he licks the blade harder and harder not noticing the sharp sting of the blade on his tongue. The animal does not recognize that his appetite is being satisfied by his own blood. His inner weakness just craves more until it is too late.

Agur recognized the danger of his own inner weakness and prayed for God to protect Agur from Agur.

B. We can flee the temptations of this world through prayer (verses 8-9). There are a number of things that we can and should do but developing a prayer life that is serious about combating temptation is a vital and essential tool in our arsenal against sin.

When I was growing up, there were certain temptations that were constantly pulling me into the pit. With maturity, looking back, I can see that one of the weapons against sin that I neglected was prayer. I memorized Scripture and confessed my sin often but I did not enlist someone to help me to pray in my struggles against sin. There was also a lack of seriousness in my own prayer life. I only prayed about my sinfulness when I felt guilty. There was not a real recognition of what my inner weakness was.

Agur, however, recognized his inner weaknesses. He knew that honesty had to be put at the top of his priority list. He also knew that his economic condition would make him susceptible to certain sins. Not every disease prospers in the same climate. Tropical diseases are not a big problem in Alaska. The reason we have flu season is because certain conditions are conducive to catching the flu. Sin acts in much the same way.

a. The rich are tempted by sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance (verse 9a). Unfortunately, money and the tangible things that money can buy as well as the security and significance that we feel money can provide are the things by which we evaluate our self-worth. It is how we determine whether our lives are worth living. It is no wonder that those with wealth are susceptible to the sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance.

Patrick Morley relates the following example of this truth. In 1976 the “I Found It” Campaign…saturated communities nationwide…The “I Found It!” bumper stickers were everywhere! People who asked what had been found learned the answer: “New life in Jesus Christ.” Sandy, the local director (in a wealthy Florida coastal town), found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean. In other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested. The farther from the water they went, the greater the interest. The wealthy people lived in the condominiums closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast, lived in the mobile home parks farthest from the water.”

In other words, they do not feel they need new life in Jesus Christ. They have their best life now!

b. The poor are tempted by sins of desperation and hopelessness (verse 9b). Certainly, the truly poor are not susceptible to self-sufficiency. They need help.

If we have learned anything from the crisis in Haiti, it is that desperation will cause people to do the unimaginable. I was listening to NPR radio this week about a mother in Haiti who had born four or five children. A couple of years ago, she gave two of her children away and believes they were taken overseas because she is desperate for a better life for her children.

Agur prays, do not let me be so poor that I steal and profane your name. It is interesting that he does not say, do not let me be poor, I do not want to suffer, I could not stand the shame of poverty. No, his prayer is focused on God.

Believer, do you pray for protection from temptation? Why? Because you want to glorify God? How seriously do you take your inner weakness? Would you be willing for God to give you a different lifestyle if that would make you less susceptible to sin and more honoring to God? As believers we will never be condemned to hell for our sin but that does not mean there are no consequences. Are you like a moth drawn to the light of sin? Get into the Word, memorize Scripture, get you an accountability partner but do not neglect daily pleading to God for help and strength against the weaknesses of your flesh.

If you have never trusted Christ, you need to know that Jesus Christ died for your sin. You can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. Turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness today. Come to me after the service and I or one of our people will take you to a quiet place where you can ask questions and understand from God’s Word how to be saved from your sin. Would you do that today?

With heads bowed and eyes closed, I am going to ask you a question and I want you to think about it. Are you going to take temptation seriously? What are you going to do about it? You need a plan. You need a partner, a believer to help you in your fight against temptation. You need a prayer plan. You need a Scripture memory plan. We can help you with all of those things. We can pray for you and with you. Just let us know.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:10-17 “Evaluating a Generation”

Sermon blog: roberttalley.wordpress.com
Church website: http://www.gracelansing.com
Church email: GraceLans@aol.com

Paul’s Example in Colossians for Us as We Pray for Other Believers September 26, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
add a comment

PRAYING FOR OTHER BELIEVERS
COLOSSIANS 1:3-12

This prayer was a pastoral prayer. Paul was not the pastor of the Colossian church. He did not know most of the believers in the church. He had never been among them (Colossians 2:1). Yet he thanks God for specific working in their live and prays for them in very specific ways.

I cannot often identify myself closely with Paul but as I begin today as pastor of the Grace Bible Church, I find that… although I know most of you superficially because there has been a lack of opportunity and none of you outside of my family do I know well …I find that Paul’s example serves me well and I trust that you will indulge me copying him. In fact, I hope that, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will join with me in copying Paul.

1. I am thankful for your initial response to the gospel (verses 3-7). I am glad that you are saved. I am thrilled that God has called each of you who are saints and faithful brethren (verse 2) (and if you have trusted Christ, you are both) to be a part of this organism we call the Body of Christ, to be born into this community we call the Family of God.

A. You have responded with a confident (hope) faith (verses 4a, 5-6). It is important to notice that they responded to the truthful word of the gospel of grace. The Colossians had heard the good news of Jesus Christ. They had heard the God had shown grace to humankind through Jesus Christ. The question is not if they would respond. The question is, would they respond in faith or in rejecting Jesus Christ. Those are the only two responses once you have heard the truth. Once you know the good news, you must either believe it totally or on some level reject. Some try to pick and choose what they would like to believe but that is not an alternative. Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

I am thankful that you have responded to this truth, that is what faith is, responding to that which you are confident is true. This confidence is described as a hope laid up in heaven. This is important. It may not seem like faith in Christ is worth very much in this world but He is our hope for the future. That is what Paul tells us in verse 27. Christ living in me is my hope in glory. I have no confidence in my flesh, it will die. I have no confidence in my friends and family. They also will die. I have no confidence in my wealth. I cannot take it with me and it is easily lost. It must be hoarded or perhaps invested with risk in order to be kept. I have no confidence in my talents, they will fade. I have no confidence in my legacy. The libraries are full of forgotten legacies. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” “My hope in the Lord, who gave Himself for me; and paid the price for all my sin on Calvary.”

Why am I thankful? Because we share that hope, we share that faith, that confidence in Christ, we are faithful brethren, that is brothers and sisters through faith in Christ.

B. You have responded with love for other believers (verses 4b, 6a, 8). This may seem a strange reason to be thankful but there are a couple of reasons why Paul expressed this as a specific reason for thanksgiving. Paul knew what churches were like that did not love each other. Paul had spent much time trying to eliminate the divisions that had caused such chaos in the Corinthian church. About the time of this letter, we know that Paul was addressing through other letters like Philippians and Ephesians the disunity that often comes into churches. Certainly, a love for the saints by the Colossians was a reason for thanksgiving.

I think though that there is another reason why Paul was thankful for their love for each other. The first fruit and the most important effect of the gospel in the life of a believer is the love it produces in that believer for other believers. Jesus said to His disciples in John 13 that the mutual love between believers would be proof to the world that they were truly His disciples. Colossians 1:6 mentions that the gospel produces fruit and verse 8 indicates that the fruit is their love in the Spirit. Paul teaches in Romans 5:5 that the love of God is poured out into the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit. Peter also indicates in 1 Peter 1:22 that love for other believers is directly related to obedience to the gospel of Christ.

Paul heard that these people loved each other and loved other believers and immediately thought, “Yes, these are true believers.” No doubtful statements like he made to the Corinthians when he twice asks, “Are you not carnal?” Are you not behaving like mere men, giving yourselves up to your animal appetites, biting and slashing at each other. That is not the way of true believers in Christ.

When I was a teenager, I helped my uncle out on his hog farm. He had a long farrowing house with room for around twenty sows and their litters. After the little pigs would get to a certain age, I would hold the little pigs for him while he snipped off their tails and then put medicine on them to prevent infection. He said that if you did not do that, they would nip at each others tails and that the wounds would get infected and the piglets would die. You see, that is the only way to stop them, cut off their tails.

But a believer in Christ has the love of God poured out into his heart through the Spirit of God and will restrain himself from nipping at his brother and sister in Christ. Instead he or she will show love to their siblings in Christ. This thrilled Paul to hear because he knew through their love that they were true believer. We need to thrill also when someone shows through their love for other believers the reality of their faith.

2. I am praying for abundance in your lives (verses 9-12). Paul was not just being thankful but he was also praying for these believers who he did not know. He was just asking for the Lord to bless them but to abundantly bless them because they needed the abundant blessing of God on their lives.

A. You need an abundant knowledge of God’s will (verse 9). Abundant blessings are not careers and money and health and family. Those are good to have but a believer in Christ might have to get along without them. A believer in Christ though cannot get along without an abundant knowledge of God’s will.

We are going to talk about this in detail in the weeks to come but I want you to know right know what God’s will is that you need to intimately know. It is found in verses 19-22. It is God’s will that you be reconciled to Him through the death of Christ so that you might be presented blameless before God. That is what you should live for, yearn for, and learn for. That must take priority above all things, to understand fully what it means to be a trophy of His grace, a part of His beautiful bride. God wants more than to save you from hell and take you to heaven, He wants to present you for all eternity as the culmination of His work, the product of the death of His Son.

B. You need a walk worthy of that abundance (verses 10-12). It is good to look forward to such a glorious eternity but God expects us to live that reality now, to live in a manner that fits our eternal destiny. Now how do you do this?

1. You continue your walk in Christ as you began it (verse 10).

A. You are constantly producing good works (verse 10a). Just keep loving your brethren and as your love your brethren, you will begin to produce the joy and the peace and the longsuffering and the humility and all the other things that a walk with God should produce, yea, must produce. You are fruitful.

B. You are constantly responding to the knowledge of God’s will (verse 10b). The knowledge of God’s will is like combustion in a gasoline engine. If you put the right mix of gasoline and air and spark in that engine, it will drive that engine and the more you increase that mix the faster that engine is driven and the faster the vehicle will drive. Knowing God’s eternal purposes, God’s will, will drive you to love other believers and experience the fruit of the Spirit in your life and the more that knowledge increases, the more your love for your brethren will increase. The formula is actually simple but too many of us try to push the car to higher speeds without any combustion in the engine. It just will not work. The best you can do to reach high speeds is push the car off a cliff but that really is not the same as driving a car.

2. You continue your walk in Christ through strength from God, especially during the difficult days (verse 11). There are days when even love for your brethren in Christ taxes your spiritual strength. There are days when our knowledge of God’s will and our wonderful, future in Christ do not move us. There are days when our circumstances and the people around us seem unbearable and we want to strike out at them. On those days, we need God’s power. Paul understood that these people were no better than the factions in Corinth or the ladies in Philippi who could not get along. He knew that they needed help and that help can only come from God.

3. You continue your walk in Christ confidently thankful in the knowledge that your hope is made certain by the Father (verse 12). How do I know that Christ will strengthen me in my walk? How do I know that a more intimate knowledge of God’s purposes will cause me to produce the fruits of love and patience and longsuffering with joy? How can I be confident that God will answer my prayer and cause you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and in the love for your brethren and in the power of His might? Because that is His plan and has always been His plan.

God never intended for believers, as individuals or as a body to struggle in mediocrity. He wants us in our spiritual passing gear. That is how we should pray for each other, that these three elements: knowledge, love, and power. The power is available, the knowledge is to be gained, and the love is to be practiced. Let us become together a church whose prayer requests daily go beyond the common needs that we have and ask God to make us a people worthy of His will.

Beginning a Weekly Series through Philippians – Praying for One Another July 13, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
1 comment so far

PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER

Philippians 1:1-11

Whether or not we pray says something about our confidence in God. More telling, however, is what we pray for when we pray. As we look at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, there are two questions I would like for us to ask ourselves. Our answers to these two questions will reveal much about us.

QUESTION # 1:

Are we thankful for each other (verses 3-8)?

Our thankfulness is based on our knowledge of each other (verse 3). Now the word here is “remembrance” but Paul is not saying, “As I run through my prayer list and I look at your name, I am thankful for you. The basis of his thanksgiving is much deeper than that. He knows where God brought them from. He remembers the young maiden, who was demon possessed and God miraculously cast the demon out of her. He remembers Lydia and her faithfulness to worship God and how that she and other devout women embraced Christ as he preached to them by the riverside. He remembers the Philippian jailor jumping into his cell and asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Over the years he has kept up with these people. He has seen them grow in grace. He has labored together with many of them. He knows what obstacles they have overcome and what victories Christ has won through them. That is the basis of His thanksgiving.

Our thankfulness is based on our partnership in the gospel (verse 4-7).

Their partnership included financial giving.

Their partnership went beyond financial giving. In Philippians 2:25 we find that they sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, to aid Paul in his missionary work.

In 1:29-30 we find that their partnership in the gospel of Christ had even resulted in persecution.

Our thankfulness for each other corresponds to the deep love Christ has for us (verse 8).

Their partnership went beyond the task of reaching the world with the gospel, although that was an integral part of their task.

It even went beyond the natural love that was felt between Paul and the Philippian believers.

Paul’s thankfulness was rooted in the love of Christ. He was obedient to Jesus commandment recorded in John 13:34-35, “…love one another; as I have loved you…” Now Paul was convinced that there was no higher calling than to boast in Jesus Christ. Look at Philippians 1:20. That word “magnify” means to make someone or something large, to build up so that everyone will recognize and respect. There are a lot of ways to magnify Jesus Christ but there is no greater way than to reflect His love toward us to our partners in Christ and to a lost world that is greatly in need of the gospel.

QUESTION # 2:

What is the goal of our requests for each other (verses 9-11)?

“Often we simply don’t know what to say when we pray. I’m thinking especially of those moments when we begin to pray for others beyond our most intimate circle. What do you do when faced with a prayer list of friends, loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, missionaries, and others whom you hardly know at all? Our usual response is to pray like this: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … bless Sally.” Then we go to the next name: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … please bless Bill.” Then we go to the next name: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … I ask you to really bless our missionaries in Ghana.” And on it goes. As one man remarked, if you took the word “bless” out of our prayer vocabularies, most of us would never pray again.” From Ray Pritchard.

An abounding love that is governed by discernment (verses 9-10a). Many of Paul’s prayers include a request for love in the lives of the believers for whom He is praying.

1 Thessalonians 3:12, “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,” (See also Ephesians 3:17-19).

Love, however, without discernment “…is blind..” Love without discernment will not look beneath the surface and see the danger that is lurking there. Love without discernment will not see that are some good things that I may love that should be sacrificed for the sake of better things. This passage, however, points out specifically that we need to recognize and discern the best things in life. We as believers in Christ love many of the things that are better but do we recognize and love what is best for us. That brings us to Paul’s second request. What are the best things in life?

A discerning life that is filled with the best things (verses 10b-11).

The best things in life are sincere, that is, pure. Those things that when they are brought out into the sunlight look just as clean and pure as they do in a dimly lit room. In those days, when potter wanted to show that his wares were without cracks, he would hold them up in the sunlight to show the perfection of his pottery. That is the life that we need to be praying for in each other. Another word for this is blamelessness. Purity and blamelessness are not a goal for heaven but for this life.

Paul admits in chapter 3 that he himself had not fully attained all the best things in life but it is imperative that we strive now for those best things. If we do not, then the next description of the best things in life will not be true of our lives. The best things in life do not cause others to stumble. The best things in life are profitable to others and remain profitable to others until Christ comes. There are some who start well but then they choose the good and the better things over the best things and prove to be a hindrance to others. That is what Paul is referring to when he says that all things are lawful but not all things are helpful. Paul’s life was governed by the recognition that he was a conduit of the gospel and that the best way to get the gospel to the world was to get rid of even the good things and the better things that might keep him from accomplishing the best things in his life.

The best things in life are abundantly fruitful. Now all believers in Christ bear fruit. In God’s kingdom there is no such thing as a tree not bearing fruit. Evil trees bear bad fruit and good tree bear good fruit. There is no mixing of the two from God’s perspective. However, not every good tree bears fruit abundantly. It is disappointing to have an apple tree with four or five apples. What we want from an apple tree is an abundance of good fruit. Now those four or five apples may be fine apples but the purpose of an apple tree is an abundance of apples, an abundance of fruit. Now there are many types of spiritual fruit, fruits of righteousness and Paul does not bother to tell us what they are but it is clear in the context that He is talking about our character in Christ.

The best things in life enhance God’s reputation in the world.

Next Week: Philippians 1:12-30 Cats Have Nine Lives; Christians Only Two

Links to Sermons from Jeremiah 33 November 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Jeremiah, Links, Prayer, Religion, Sermons, Spurgeon.
add a comment

This one from Spurgeon in his 20’s.

This one from Stedman covering chapters 32 and 33. Preached during the time of the Watergate scandal.

Dorcas or Tabitha October 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Prayer, Religion, Sermons, Will of God, Witnessing.
add a comment

SERVANTS IN ACTS: DORCAS – A PART OF GOD’S GREAT PUZZLE

Acts 9:31, 36-43

We have a Bugs Bunny Puzzle. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are fairly large. Other pieces are considerably smaller. Then there are some pieces that are really small. Even though they are not all of one size, they all interlock together to create a complete puzzle.

Some of the pieces are easy to pick out. If you look through the pieces, the ones with Bugs Bunny’s eyes are immediately noticeable. Others you look at and you wonder what could that possibly be. You cannot even tell by looking whether it is right side up or not. Eventually, though, as you continue to work through the puzzle, you come to a point where it is obvious where the piece belongs.

There are corner pieces and side pieces and inside pieces to the puzzle. Which ones do you think are the most important? You are right. Every piece has its place. Without every piece the puzzle cannot be completed.

We have another puzzle of a castle in Germany called Neuschwanstein. This puzzle has several hundred pieces. We have put it together several times and every time that we put it together we remember, there is a piece missing. We have had that puzzle for years and every time we fail to complete it, to finish it because there is one piece missing.

CHRIST’S PUZZLE

Jesus Christ has plan that appears to us as a puzzle. There are big pieces and little pieces. It is clear where some of the pieces belong and other pieces only Christ Himself knows how they fit in. There are corner pieces and there are side pieces and there are inside pieces but there is never a pieces missing.

The Bible makes it clear that from all eternity God had a plan. His plan and His purposes do not always make sense to us but every piece will fit exactly in the puzzle where He plans on it to fit and will result in His glory. We find in the book of Acts in the story of Dorcas a picture of how each individual believer fits into the plan of God.

THIS IS WHAT ACTS IS ALL ABOUT. 

Christ is accomplishing His purposes (verse 31). This is the theme of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus stated His plan and His purpose for the believers. In Acts 9:31, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, takes a short breath to point out that His plan is being accomplished. For the first time we find the word “churches” in the Bible. On Pentecost, the 3000 believers were called those who believed. In Acts 4:32, the believers in Jerusalem are called the multitude who believed. In Acts 5:11, they are first named the church but they are all still in Jerusalem. In Acts 6:2 they are called the multitude of the disciples. Then in Acts 8:1 the church, thanks to Saul, is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. They cannot come together in Jerusalem anymore. What do they do? According to verse 4 those who are scattered are preaching the gospel everywhere.

Saul does not stop in Jerusalem though. He is hunting down the believers wherever he can. On his way to Damascus to find the Jewish believers there, he is struck with blindness by Christ and becomes himself a disciple of Christ. A time of peace comes and we find that there is no more a church in Jerusalem but that there are churches in all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee and at least scattered believers in other parts of the world as far away as Damascus and Ethiopia. In all this Christ is accomplishing His purposes, He is putting together His puzzle. The gospel is being preached, believers are being baptized, and they are gathering together for the purpose of encouragement and teaching and serving and all those other things that Christ commands us to do. Christ’s church is expanding as He promised.

OUR LIVES ARE THE PIECES. 

In the passage we are looking at, Christ uses the lives of people in accomplishing His purposes, in putting together His puzzle (verse 36-43). How then does He do this?

He uses our church relationships (verses 37-38). We do not know a lot about the church in Joppa but we do know that this was a church that cared for each other. There are three indications in this passage that these people truly cared for each other.

HOW DO WE KNOW THEY CARED?

They cared for each other as evidenced by the two messengers sent to get Peter. This woman was important to the church. She did not preach, prophesy, perform miracles, teach, give huge sums of money, or manage important ministries but the church cared for her just the same and went to find Peter for the purpose of having her raised from the dead. They obviously cared for this woman very much.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the ministry of Dorcas to the widows in the church. Widows played a very prominent part in the New Testament church. We find that the first great dispute in the Jerusalem church had to deal with taking care of widows. Paul wrote extensively on the subject. James deals with the subject. Caring for others in tangible ways is of importance in God’s Word.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the fact that Simon the tanner was counted among their number. From the very beginning, although it took a while for the believers to understand it, Christ’s body has included male and female, free man and slave, Jew and Gentile. Simon the tanner worked in an occupation which was considered unclean because he had to handle dead bodies of animals, an occupation which was considered outside of the realm of the holiness of God. This church by including this man and Peter by staying with this man showed that he himself was not outside of the realm of the holiness of God. That is after all, why Christ died, that those who are sinful might be made holy in Christ Jesus.

GOD USES NOT JUST OUR OUTWARD RELATIONSHIPS BUT ALSO OUR INWARD RELATIONSHIP. 

Not only does God use our church relationships but He also uses our character (verses 36 & 39). Notice I did not say talents or gifts although that is also important but what God really uses in our lives is our character. Now God can use you even if you do not have a good character but it will be in a limited way. The limit, however, is not that God is limited or that you have limited God but that you have limited yourself and your availability to be used of God.

He produces in our lives good works. Romans 2:5-7 tells us that good works are the proof that one is continuing in the faith. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that God blesses us and enables us for the purpose of showing good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for the purpose of doing good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the reason for the Scriptures is to prepare us for good works. In this passage we see a woman who was full of good works and God uses these good works.

He uses her good works to produce charitable deeds. The word we use is benevolence. We do not have a benevolence fund to find an inroad into people’s lives. Sometimes it looks like we are wasting our time helping people. They have no spiritual interest. Sometimes they are not thankful for the help they receive but Christ can use those funds to expand His kingdom, to further His purposes, to put a piece in the puzzle. We have seen that here in this church.

This is why we are making special appeals for the benevolence fund and why we participate in benevolent projects like Operation Christmas Child. We want our good works which come from our faith in Christ to produce charitable deeds. This is money that does not go into this church. Benevolence is not an investment in missions but God does use benevolence for His purposes. Not always in the way that you and I might expect but He does use it.

GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS AND PUTS A PIECE IN THE PUZZLE. 

In addition, He uses our prayers (verse 40). Even those prayers for the sick have a higher purpose than getting people well. The point of this passage is not that God answers prayer or that He answers prayer for the sick or that He sometimes answers in miraculous ways. The point of the passage is God’s plan and purposes are advanced through His answer to prayer. Let me make a bold statement. God never answers a prayer that does not further His purposes. Could Christ have raised this woman from the dead without Peter’s prayers? Absolutely, but Christ accomplishes His purposes through His people and one of the ways that He uses us is through our prayers.

We do a lot of praying for sick people here. On Wednesday night at least half of our requests are dealing with physical needs, often of people who we do not know. It is easy for us to discount those requests and not pray for them because we do not know the people (as if that had anything to do with whether God is going to answer our prayers or not). God does not answer my prayers based on whether I am feeling right about my prayers. God answers my prayers because I am His child and He is my God. If I pray to Him, He works in the situation effectually. The main passage of teaching on healing in James 5 uses the example of Elijah as a man of such passions as we are but he prayed and God answered his prayers. James then goes on to say that the effectual prayer of a righteous man makes a big, a BIG difference.

GOD CAN USE BOTH PETS AND POLITICIANS 

Recently, we had a discussion on Wednesday night about children praying for pets and how we should handle that situation. I was reminded this week of what G. Campbell Morgan said when someone said that they did not pray about the little things. The British preacher said that in the sight of God, all our requests are little. Rather than teaching our children to only pray for big and important things, we need to teach them that everything, from sick people to sick pets can be used of God to bring others to them. That is how we should pray? Lord, use this thing in my life to put another piece in the puzzle.

This is clearly how God wants us to pray. When Paul taught Timothy about praying for the government in his first epistle, he made it clear that the purpose of our praying for the government is that we might more effectively reach others with the gospel. If Mike Huckabee will make us better witnesses, Lord, give us Mike Huckabee. If Hillary or Rudy or Kucinich or McClain or whoever it might be, Lord, give us a president that will result in God using us to put the pieces in the puzzle. Forget the Supreme Court and forget the balanced budget and the Iraq War and abortion and all the other issues, God give us a government that will enable us to please you, whether through persecution or peace to be better witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS OR MISTAKES WITH GOD. 

He uses our church, our character, or prayers but, finally, He uses our circumstances (verses 37-42). The circumstances here are not good. This woman is dead. This is a tragedy. She has suffered great pain going through sickness and death but Christ uses these horrible circumstances in combination with a caring church, her good character, and a praying apostle to bring about a situation where more people would come to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Not every tragic situation is used so obviously by God but He does use our circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Think of the circumstances of your life. There are those here who came to Christ because they wanted premarital counseling. Others have come to Christ because they wanted their children to get some religious training. Others were in circumstances where there was no tragedy but God opened their eyes through some sermon or statement or in at least on situation that I am aware of through a rock opera. Some of us were reared in Christian families and God has used that. Others were raised in non-Christian families and God used those specific circumstances to bring us to Him. Circumstances vary as much as people but in every circumstance God’s hand was and is at work.

 THE PIECES

Who was most important? Peter? Dorcas? The men who came and got Peter? The widows that Dorcas helped? The church that cared for each other? Everyone of them was essential in Christ’s plan, to make the puzzle complete.

Whatever He is using in our life, it is a part of the puzzle of Christ’s purpose for the universe (verse 42). We are a vital part in Christ’s plan. Why? Because Christ desires it.

LOOK AT YOUR LIFE! 

What did Christ do to bring you to this service this morning? You might say, well I decided for myself to come this morning and that is no doubt true but God could have kept you away. Christ has given you an opportunity this morning. What are you going to do with it?

There is no guarantee that you will have another opportunity to take what you have heard this morning and apply it to your life. Do you need to trust Christ as Savior? The same power that raised Dorcas from life and that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give you eternal life if you will trust Christ as Savior. Take that opportunity today!

Believer, God is working in your life. Are you working with Him? Some of you need to be involved in this church so that God can work more effectively in your life. Others of you need to begin serving others rather than yourselves. Prayer needs to become a greater part in many of your lives. Whatever your situation, you need to be depending on Christ to use the circumstances in your life for His purposes. God wants you!

Links to Sermons on Dorcas and the Surrounding Context October 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Links, Peter the Apostle, Prayer, Sermons.
add a comment

An Encouraging Sermon from John Piper

The Later Ministry of Peter from Ray Stedman

Sermon on the Early Church from Frederick Robertson

The Joy of the Lord is our Motivation. It Produces an Attitude of Willingness. September 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Joy, Prayer, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Tithing.
4 comments

THE ABUNDANCE OF WILLINGNESS IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:3-4

 

Last week we looked at the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. This week we want to look at the attitude that joy produces in our giving. Joy produces willingness.

“GRACE” AND “GIFT” SYNONYMOUS IN THIS CHAPTER

Before we look at willingness, I want to explain something about the words “grace” and “gift.” The translation in our pew Bible (NKJV) takes the same word and when it refers to God’s work translates it “grace” and when it refers to the Macedonians’ work translates it “gift.” In other words they gave (i.e., graced) just as God had given (had graced) to them (compare verses 1 and 4).

What we do and what God does should not be all that different. He freely gives. We should freely give. As we saw last week, He is motivated by joy and we are to be motivated by joy also. The primary difference between God’s giving and our giving is our ability. God’s ability to give is limitless. Our ability is not. There is no one who has limitless resources. We cannot give as God gives in that sense. How then are we to give?

It is expected that we give (or “grace”) to others according to our ability (verse 3a). Now I am using the word “expected” here instead of “commanded” because Paul was careful not to use that type of phraseology but he does go to great lengths to set down some principles here by which we can live.

WHY TITHE? 

The greatest argument there is for tithing is proportional giving. You give according to what you have. People argue about whether you give according to your net or gross. They ask do you tithe on social security and retirement if you have already tithed on that money when you first earned it. It is interesting that the principle here is not complicated but simple. If you have, then give according to what you have. If I have a dollar and you have ten cents, naturally I should be giving more than you give because I have much more. Certainly, other factors play into the matter and we will speak of those but the principle is clear, give according to what you have. When I get more, I should give more. I don’t need to pray about it. I don’t need to think about it. I give, motivated by the joy of the Lord, out of what I have.

THE ATTITUDE MUST BE CORRECT. 

This is only acceptable if you have a willing mind (verse 12). Now what does Paul mean? Look back a couple of chapters to 2 Corinthians 6:2. Paul is talking in this verse about the day of salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Is salvation a good thing? Absolutely! It is a very good thing. If you want your giving to be a very good thing, it must come from a willing mind. Not from a mind that is seeking God’s blessing and grace but from a mind that is willing because it is motivated by the joy that comes from God’s grace. Paul has nothing against fairness. He talks about that in the next few verses but what makes tithing acceptable and well pleasing to God is not the percentage point but the willing mind. That is, of course, why many people do not tithe. Their mind is not willing. If you want me to do something that I am not willing to do, I can usually find some excuse not to do it. If I am willing then it is not a problem. I must have an attitude of willingness. Where do I get this attitude of willingness? It is motivated by joy in the grace/gift of God.

I’ll never forget one night as a kid with my dad in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We were listening to a big name preacher on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. The preacher made the statement, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.” On the way home, my dad made a statement that I will never forget. Now my dad believed and believes in tithing. In fact, I remember him preaching from the Old Testament that you skipped giving the tithe, you should give another twenty percent. He believed in giving but he said to me on the way home, “Robert, that preacher got it backwards. It is not, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.’ If God has you, He will have your pocketbook.” As I grow in the Lord, I understand better and better what my dad was saying. What I give is only acceptable if I have a willing mind, a mind motivated by the joy of the Lord.

psst!!! I WON’T USE THE WORD “SACRIFICE” BUT THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BELOW 🙂 

Willingness gives (graces) above its ability (verse 3b). This is what I mean by an abundance of willingness, an overflow of willingness. These were “gung-ho” givers. Just as God’s grace overflowed to them and the joy that comes from experiencing God’s grace overflowed to them so also did their willingness to give overflow. Obviously, you cannot actually give beyond your ability, above what is in your power. You cannot give what you do not have but these people were sitting on ready and the minute God gave to them they were ready to give it out. These were people who had nothing but their main concern was not what they had but God’s grace and joy in Christ and how they could show that grace through giving.

Paul then speaks to the Corinthians about their willingness in verses 10-11. He says a year ago you were ready, you were willing to give. Now it is time to put your money where your mouth was. It is after all to your advantage. If you give willingly, if you sit on ready to give, your giving will be well-accepted by God.

NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY 

Again, I want to make the point that this applies to more than just giving. In verses 16-17 of this chapter we find that Titus was of his own free will ready to assist the Corinthians, not because it was an important mission but because of his care and his concern for the Corinthians. He was zealous, he was eager, he was “gung ho” in his readiness to take the offering because he cared for the church in Corinth. An abundance of willingness will not only make you willing to give financially but will make you willing to pour your life into the lives of other people. Often, we are not ready to pour our lives into others, we do not have this attitude of willingness.

MAINTAINING WILLINGNESS 

We find this attitude of willingness difficult to maintain but maintain it we must. This is not a new problem. Remember when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and he took some of his disciples with him. He went a little way from his disciples and when he returned he found them asleep and he said to the “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This tips us off to why we are sometimes not willing to give and to help. We are not watching and praying. We are not evaluating and examining the situation and we are not bringing to God our concerns about the situation. You want to be more willing to serve God? Let yourself be motivated by joy (as we talked about last week) and let yourselves be strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. You must purposefully pay attention to your life in watchfulness and you must be going to God in prayer for yourself and for others. I understand that prayer meeting has at least in my lifetime been the least popular of worship meetings that we have. I understand that there is not a lot of motivation for people to get together and pray but if you want a motivation, this is it. God will strengthen you and make you more willing to give and to serve and to sing and to resist sin if you pray.

 The abundance of willingness not only applies to giving and to caring for other believers and to resisting sin but it also applies to giving out the gospel. Paul was a ready Christian. He wrote in Romans 1:15, I am now ready to preach the gospel in Rome. He had often been hindered from going there but he was ready the moment God gave him the opportunity to rush in and give the gospel. There are a lot of hindrances to giving the gospel in the workplace and in the family and in the community but what God wants to see is a readiness to give out the gospel when the opportunity is there. That is where the abundance of willingness helps, in that we see the opportunities God gives us and we pounce on them and use them to give out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The abundance of willingness also applies to how we receive and react to the gospel. Even at the time of salvation, we see that some of these people were blessed with an abundance of willingness. In Acts 17, the people of Berea were presented by Paul and Silas and Timothy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 11 says that they received the word with a readiness of mind. When you read the Word of God, do you have a readiness to search the Scriptures and respond to them? Do you come to church planning to respond to the message? During the congregational singing, do you come planning to respond to the musical message or are you a spectator?

WILLING CHURCHES 

Willingness demands, implores, begs for the opportunity to give to (to grace) and to commune (to fellowship) with others by serving (deaconing) them (verse 4).

We call ourselves “Fellowship” Bible Church. That word is found twenty times in the New Testament and five of those times it talks about an offering and four of those times it refers to the churches in Macedonia. These people had determined that they were partners with the church in Jerusalem and they were going to help them, they were going to commune with them through a financial gift. We use the term fellowship to mean sharing a good time with each other but how many times do we think of the offering as a show of our fellowship with other believers in Christ. These people not only thought of the offering as a vital method of fellowship but begged to be able to participate with the other churches in it. Yes, fellowship has an emotional aspect and it has a spiritual aspect but it also has a very practical aspect. If we give as He gave to us we will fellowship with other believers through sharing with them what we have.

We were discussing on Wednesday night the meaning of fellowship and how to explain it to teenagers. The youth workers came up with the term friendship. I like that. There is another word that describes fellowship. It is “partnership”. Do you know why we have church membership? Because we are partners together. This partnership we have in Christ, in this local church is a willing partnership and should be motivated by the joy of the Lord.

WILLINGNESS PRODUCES SERVANTS. 

This willingness not only produces fellowship in sharing with other believers but it also produces servants. The word here is where we get our concept of deacons. How would you all like to be deacons? Serve through giving. I want you to notice two quick things about service. In this verse (8:4) we find we do not serve alone but in fellowship with and for other believers. Service in the body of Christ is not a single person serving but the whole body serving. You may be serving in just one particular way but like a body, every move you make is in conjunction with God working in the hearts and lives of others. Secondly, in 9:12-13 we see that service through sharing not only meets needs but results in true thanksgiving. Do you want to be thankful? Learn to share! Learn to give! Learn to serve! Learn to deacon as a church not individually but as the body of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: Did you come to church this morning with a willing mind? Are you willing to respond to God’s message? Perhaps God spoke to you about one of these matters. You need to respond. Today. Not to me but to God. Will you purpose in your heart to respond in that area with which He is dealing. Perhaps you need to start giving financially more or out of a different motivation. Maybe you need to pour your lives into others in a more consistent or in a more sacrificial way. Do you need a willingness to witness of the gospel of Christ? Are you holding back fellowshiping with God’s people? Some of you need to find a church to which you are willing to commit yourself in partnership, a church that you are willing to join as a servant of your Head, Jesus Christ. There are other areas. These are the ones most obviously spoken to by the Bible but there are many areas. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Remember, willingness comes from the joy that God’s grace gives us and is maintained by watchfulness and prayer. If you have been watching during this sermon, evaluating yourself, then what you need to do now is fall before God in prayer.

The Bereans were willing to respond to the gospel of God and because of that response they are in the presence of God right now. That is the only hope of salvation, responding in faith to the message of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to respond to the truth? If you have a willing mind, you will find that God will accept you through faith in Jesus Christ. He will save you today, if you are ready to respond. Respond to Christ Jesus in faith today!