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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!

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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)

Selection by the Spirit exemplified in Acts January 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Led by the Spirit of God

A sermon on practical Christian living from Colossians 3 November 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare.
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How to be Heavenly-Minded and Still be of Earthly Good
Colossians 3:1-17

Have you ever heard the phrase, “His head is in the clouds”? If you have, then you know this is not a compliment. It means that someone is impractical and does not know how to live practically in this world. Another way of saying this is that someone “is so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.” I have been asked by believers, if it is possible to be too focused on heaven. Now that may be code for how do I live for Christ without being obvious. That, of course, is impossible. There is, however, a legitimate concern that we all should have. How should my spiritual reality positively affect my life here on earth?

We saw last week that the keeping of rules and regulations does not necessarily mean that one is living a spiritual reality, that is, that one is heavenly minded. Instead it may mean that one is living an earthly, fleshly reality with religious trappings. Obeying the rules and regulations of a religious group, even one that is true to the Scriptures as we are here at Grace Bible Church does not make us heavenly-minded anymore than wearing a Stetson would make us Texans.

I. You see, in order to be heavenly-minded, we must have an eternal perspective that becomes visible only out of our position in Christ (vs. 1-4). No doubt, you realize that your physical position determines what you can see. Back in August, I flew into Detroit from Philadelphia. My flight was delayed and I ended up flying fairly late at night. I had a window seat on the right side of the plane. As we flew south of Cleveland, I saw the most amazing sight. We were flying south of a huge thunderstorm that was over Lake Erie. You could not hear the thunder but you could see the clouds filled with lightning. If we had been flying through that thunderstorm, it might well have been a terrifying experience but because from where I was sitting, there was no turbulence the thunderstorm not only was not terrifying to me but gave me a sense of confidence that the person or persons who determined the route that we were flying were highly competent. You see, your physical position affects your perspective physically as well as psychologically. Spiritually this is also true. The reality of our relationship to Christ is what gives us an eternal perspective and allows us to be heavenly-minded.

a. Our present reality is connected to the resurrection and ascension of Christ (vs. 1-3). We talked about our present reality last week. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, it is as though we died with Him (after all, it is our sin that put Him to death), were buried with Him, and rose again with Him. This, of course, is what baptism symbolizes. “We are buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life through Christ Jesus.” In that statement there is a commitment that is described with two words in Colossians 1:1-2.

1. The first word, in verse one, is “seek.” Jesus said according to Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Since I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, I am committed to seeking those things that are associated with Christ, specifically with a Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God. You see, Jesus is ruler of this universe and my life is to be given to seeking those things that are associated with His eternal reign. His kingdom has priority, His righteousness has priority. That is one reason why I am a part of a church, because it is through His church, His people that His kingdom is advanced.

2. There is another word, actually a phrase, found in verse two, “set your mind.” That is, exercise your mind. Think on heavenly things, taking great interest in them. Think on God’s Word with the intention to obey it. Why? The reason is this, you are dead to sin and resurrected with Christ. Although outwardly you may look no different than before your salvation, your reality is different and you need to think about the things that belong to your new reality. A believer in Christ who is raised in Christ Jesus and yet is focused on this world is trying to live a fantasy, trying to exist in a spiritual “Land of Make-Believe.”

b. Our future reality is connected to the return of Christ (vs. 4, 6).
 Although we may at the present look no different physically than the unbeliever, there is coming a day, according to verse 4 when we will appear with Jesus Christ in glory. 1 John 3:2 puts it this way, “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When Christ returns, our present reality will be unleashed and we shall, as believers in Christ, enjoy the glory for which God saved, the glory which we will share with Jesus Christ, the one who saved us from our sin.

 Let me remind you of the alternative in verse 6, “…the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” When Christ returns, it will be a time of glory for believers but for those who have not put their faith in Christ, it will be a time of angry judgment. God is not unemotional when He judges men for their sin anymore than He is dispassionate when He glorifies His children for all eternity. God hates sin and He will judge each man’s sin either through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or through His endless wrath on the sinner.

II. Now this is our spiritual reality. The past two chapters have been largely given to describing how that we through faith in Christ are dead to sin, buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life in Christ Jesus, serving our heavenly King Jesus and His heavenly kingdom, looking forward to the day of His coming when we will be glorified with Him for all eternity. What, however, does that mean for us practically? When we go to work or to school tomorrow, when we go home this afternoon, when the stresses and temptations of this world start to press down on us, how do we remain heavenly-minded? The answer is this: to be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually and mentally execute the members of our fleshly being (vs. 5-7).

a. Our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself (vs. 5). The first four items in this list deal with sexual sins. Certainly this is a problem in our society. The problem begins, however, not on the TV or the computer but begins in our sinful flesh. Paul says, take drastic action. This takes constant and conscious effort. It means not watching certain forms of entertainment. It means not spending time with certain people. It means putting your computer in a place where everyone has access so that you cannot hide any sin in which you may be tempted to indulge. It means learning to dress in a way that is not an invitation to the evil thoughts and intentions of others. It means memorizing Scripture and praying much and studying much Scripture and, if your married, focusing on your spouse more intensively. Why go to such lengths? Because our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself.

Now the first four items may not be a temptation for you but there are few of us who do not look at others and long for what they have. That is what covetousness is. Paul says, “That is idolatry.” When I look at what others have and long for it instead of longing for the heavenly things of Christ, I am no better than the tribesman who sacrifices to a rock or a tree. I am an idolator.

b. As we have seen, the satisfaction of the fleshly being is one of the reasons for God’s anger with unbelieving men (vs. 6). Why then would I want to engage in behaviors which make God angry?

c. We are capable in our new life in Christ, our resurrected life, of rejecting our old life (compare vs. 3-4 to vs. 5a & 7). That does not mean it is easy. That is why Paul uses the word “execute”, that is, “put to death” your sinful flesh. It takes drastic action but in Christ it is possible.

III. To be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually clothe ourselves according to our spiritual reality (vs. 8-17). Paul talks here of our earlier “dead” life and compares it to our new “resurrected” life as two suits of clothes. Only one of those is appropriate to our spiritual reality. If the clothes make the man, then we need to pay attention to what we should and should not wear spiritually.

a. Our spiritual reality is a new man (vs. 9b-11). In these verses, Paul describes a spiritual exchange. When I go to the store, I make an exchange. Let’s say that I take a can of beans off the shelves, take it to the cashier who tells me how much the item costs, and then give the cashier some money. Once that exchange takes place, that can of beans is mine. The store cannot say put it back on the shelves. I have a receipt that shows that I exchanged a certain amount of money for that can of beans. The money now belongs to the store owners and the can of beans is mine. When we put our faith in Christ, we exchange our old man and his destructive behaviors (verse 9b) and the destructive words that come out of his mouth (verse 11a) for a new man constantly renewed in the knowledge of God (vs. 10) and unified with the body of Christ (vs. 11b).

b. Our old man is characterized by destructive behavioral sins (vs. 8-9a). Look at this list of sins. They are all verbal and they are all against mankind. Even the “blasphemy” here is not talking about using God’s name in vain but rather “blaspheming,” that is, slandering other people. Paul is saying, the heavenly-minded person will take those things off and put them away.

c. Our new man, however, is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 12-17). Not every fruit of the Spirit is listed here in these verses but most of them are, specifically those fruit that deal with the words of our mouth and the relationships we have with other believers. If I could summarize these verses and the commands in them, I would say it this way, “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!” Let me repeat that. It is so important. “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!”

1. According to verses 12-15, believers are to forgive with the type of forgiveness and under the same conditions with which Christ has forgiven us. Let me illustrate using the first part of verse 13. Paul says there are ways in which we put on the characteristics of verse 12. Endure one another and forgive one another. To endure means to put up with, not to say anything, let it go, it isn’t important, forget about it. Most of us are willing to do that up to a certain point. We will put up with anything except… Most of you have said something like that and it may be that whatever you fill the blank with is an indication of what condition you are not like Jesus Christ. Forgiving, however, goes a step further. It involves action, it involves confrontation, it involves saying something but it also involves showing mercy, giving someone forgiveness that they do not deserve, it involves putting someone else’s needs before your own, it involves being a peacemaker, it involves pain, it involves tears of grief. That is, by the way, how Jesus assuages the wrath of God, by providing through His death, forgiveness. An act on confronting sin and its penalty head on but showing mercy to the sinner who needs peace with God. It cost Christ (1:24). He suffered much but that was the price necessary for my salvation and forgiveness and He paid it thankfully. In the same way that is the price I must pay if I am going to be heavenly-minded and of earthly good and use to the cause of Christ.

2. In verses 16-17, Paul sums up how this is possible. By the knowledge of Christ that makes us, as a body, focused on Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17a says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Commit yourself to saying this verse everyday this week to yourself. Write on the back of the outline insert during the week, ways in which you have a choice between doing or saying something in the name of the Lord Jesus and following the ways of the body of sin.

What is your future? Is it glory or wrath? Is it forgiveness or damnation? Is it the old man or the new man? Jesus is the way to glory and forgiveness. Will you trust Him as your Lord and Savior today?

Heed this Warning and You will Grow in Christ (a sermon from Colossians 2) October 28, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Crucifixion, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth.
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(This is the 4th in a seven part sermon series from Colossians, preached earlier this fall at Grace Bible Church.)

Heed This Warning and You Will Grow in Christ
Colossians 2:4-23 (with 1:28)

Last week, in looking at Colossians 1:28, I mentioned that warning was an essential part of the ministry of the gospel if we are to present one another complete, that is, perfect or mature in Christ Jesus. In the passage we are looking at today, Paul is doing just that.

Last week I used the example of finishing the game. This week, I would like us to think of growing a pear. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter picked a couple of pears off of a pear tree. One was a nice-sized pear. The other was a little bit smaller. They were both hard as rocks, so we set the on the window sill to ripen. After a while I picked up the larger one and felt that it was soft. When I bit into that pear, I found it to be perfect. It was as juicy and as sweet as any pear that I have ever eaten. About a week later, I did the same with the smaller one. It had finally become complete, ripened to perfection. It had passed the taste test which is the only test that matters when you are eating pears.

If we are to grow in Christ, to ripen spiritually, there are various things that we might do but one thing that is important is to heed the warnings of this passage.

Now there are different types of warnings but often in a warning a command is implied if not directly given. In this passage Paul gave the Colossian believers three commands that if listened to and obeyed would enable the believers to become mature in Christ.

I. We should continue to walk according to our faith in Christ (vs. 4-7). Paul began his letter by commending them for walking according to their faith in Christ. He does this again in verse 5. Then he prayed that they would continue to walk according to their faith in Christ. Last week we saw that he sacrificed himself so that they would continue to walk according to their faith in Christ. Paul obviously felt it was essential for them to walk according to their faith in Christ.

a. Such a walk is our defense against deceit (vs. 4 and 6). The main tool of the devil and his allies is deceit. From the garden of Eden until now, the devil has dealt in deceit. He uses persuasive words. They sound logical, spiritual, moral, helpful but they are damning, fleshly, rebellion against God. Our defense against Satan’s deceit is walking according to our faith in Christ. In other words, the reality of your faith is what will keep you from following Satan.

b. Our defense against deceit is built on a steadfast faith (vs. 5-7). I emphasize the word “steadfast” because it is a biblical emphasis.
I came across a wonderful example of this a few days ago. My family and I had the opportunity to meet Pastor Robert Grimwood and his wife, Judy a few days ago. We were discussing youth work. He mentioned to me how that he had grown up in a church that had sixty-five young people in its youth group. He also recounted how that the first church in which he served as youth minister had a youth group of seventeen or eighteen kids. He mentioned all the events and things that the larger youth group had and then how in this smaller youth group, although they had events typical for a youth group, he focused on discipling those kids, especially those who were serious about their faith in Christ. In both cases we are talking about people who were in their teens well over thirty years ago. At a recent reunion of the larger youth group, of those attending only six were still in church. Of the smaller youth group that had focused on building a steadfast faith, all but one was still attending church.

Paul and the other believers realized that faith in Christ is more than an instantaneous decision. There is a point at which one puts their faith in Christ but that faith is to be cultivated, built upon, and confirmed in its reality (vs. 7). It is essential for several reasons. First, it keeps true believers from becoming confused and deceived. This is the matter that Paul, I believe, is directly addressing. Secondly, it helps bring those whose faith is not real to the understanding that their faith is not true faith. I do not try to make people doubt their salvation through psychological or theological tricks but I do want every one of you to be certain of the reality of our faith. That is especially important in our children’s, youth, and young adult but it is important for every age group. It is a matter of eternity.

II. In the second command that Paul gives to the Colossians, we find the specific reason why we should walk according to our faith in Christ. There is the danger of spiritual kidnapping (verse 8). The NKJV translates the word “cheat” but the context of Colossians 1 and 2 brings to mind a much stronger image. We were once according to 1:13 “…delivered… from the power of darkness and conveyed… into the kingdom of the love of His Son,” but there is a danger. We need to take heed to that danger, the danger of spiritual kidnapping (vs. 8-15).

a. The main reason this is a danger is because we are still surrounded by our old ways, the ways of the world (vs. 8). The philosophy of this world continues to promise much. The promises are empty, they are deceitful but they are all around us. They are not lawless, humanly speaking. They seem orderly. They appeal to humankind because they derive from the brilliance of the human heart but they are empty and they are deceitful. The biggest problem with them, however, is this: they are not according to Christ. Any system of belief without Christ is empty and deceitful. Now Paul is addressing religious systems of belief in this passage but this is true of all systems of belief: political, psychological, scientific, educational, and economical belief systems, regardless of where they fall on their spectrum are all empty and deceitful if Christ is taken out of the equation.

b. We can, however, 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 (vs. 11-14).

First, we are spiritually crucified, buried, and resurrected with Christ through faith in the gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. 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.

I understand that there are some young people who desire to be baptized. I am thrilled to hear that and would like you to speak to me about that desire. 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.

Secondly, you need to understand what it is that Jesus did on that cross that makes this new creature reality possible. He died for your sin so that you might be forgiven. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

c. Now there is a second reason why we can resist the influence of this world. We are no longer captive to the forces of evil (compare vs. 15 to vs. 9-10). The picture in verse 15 is of a triumphal return from battle by a Caesar who is leading a parade made up of political dignitaries, sacrificial animals, soldiers in the army, and the captive generals. These generals were to be led to the center of the city and executed. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was not only the victory of Christ over the forces of evil but also the public humiliation of them. These forces beginning with Satan himself do not have any power any more over the believer in Christ because now we are complete in Him, the ruler over every principality and power (verses 9-10).

III. If then we are free from the power of our sinful body and from any evil power, Paul commands, do not then let your old ways, the ways of the world, enslave you again to your sinful body (vs. 16-23).

a. Our old ways through religious regulations try to condemn us and again enslave us (vs. 16-17). This is what religious moralism does. The Mormons with their rules and regulations do this. The Watchtower Society, Orthodox Judaism, and traditional Islam are just a few examples who regulate food and drink and the celebration of holidays. They think that they are freeing themselves from their sinful flesh when actually they are tightening the shackles tighter. The problem is not what they forbid and what they allow. The problem is they lack substance, they lack Christ. Without Christ even the Ten Commandments simply condemn and enslave. It is only through the substance, Jesus Christ that we can be freed from sin, from its penalty, and from our sinful flesh.

b. These old ways lead to following inferior men and beings rather than our Head, Jesus Christ with the result that any professing believer is spiritually kidnapped, their reward is stolen from them (vs. 18-19). It appears that there were some who were teaching the ceremonial reverence of angels, perhaps similar to that of Roman Catholicism’s praying to and honoring of the saints or of some of the Oriental religions burning of candles to their dead ancestors. Paul warns that even in outward ceremony, regardless of how religious and sincere it might be, to depart from sole allegiance to Christ is spiritually dangerous. Why? Because only in Christ is the nourishment and unity available in which we can grow individually and as a body.

c. That is why our new life in Christ rejects religious regulations that do not come from our faith in Christ (vs. 20-23). What Paul is saying here is not, do what you want, it does not matter. No, he is saying, if you keep the rules regarding the physical and do not have spiritual life, you will remain in bondage spiritually. So why do it?

People sometimes ask me, can a believer remain in a false religion after they are saved? The question is best asked, “Why do it?” People in false religions are enslaved to their flesh. One does not release people from slavery by becoming a slave. One shows them the key to their chains, the way of escape. The true believers who stays in a false religion ends up stunted spiritually because he or she has cut themselves off from the only source of life, a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, walking according to the new life that He provided for us through His death, burial, and resurrection.

We need to take this warning as individuals but we also need to heed this warning as a body. What is going to be our priority? Are we going to teach Christ and walk according to the new life He has given us? If we do, then our children are more likely to stay faithful to Christ and we are going to love one another and live in a Christ honoring way. It all begins with rejecting this world’s philosophy, even that of the religious world, and living dead to sin. Will you commit yourself to obeying these commands?

Boldness and Humility in Spiritual Warfare (2 Corinthians 10) February 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Boldness, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Warfare.
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BOLDNESS AND HUMILITY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE

(2 Corinthians 10:1-16)

INTRODUCTION: I remember the first time that I lost sleep because of the ministry. I felt like we had been dropped into the middle of a boiling pot of water with no way out. I had no answers. In fact, the situation over which I lost sleep that night continued for over two years and I never had any answers. I remember how that first night, my wife and I talked over the situation and talked over the situation and how that I looked into the pitch dark of our bedroom with not a sound stirring in the rural area where we lived at the time wondering, fretting, asking God what to do and not getting any advice from Him that I found useful.

It is good to know that others have been where we were at that night and not only survived but were victorious in their battle against Satan. We are going to look at one of those victors in battle, the Apostle Paul, for the next few weeks. I trust that his example will serve for each one of us as a wake up call to what serving Christ means.

There are many aspects to spiritual warfare but I would like for us to look at the attitudes that are necessary for successful spiritual warfare: boldness and humility.

I. Boldness is necessary to assault spiritual disobedience (verses 2-6). Perhaps this goes without saying but boldness is a necessary attitude of warfare of any kind. Paul is careful, however, to define the battle so that we can understand the reason for his boldness.

A. The battle is not personal (verses 2-3). Notice, I did not say physical or mental or emotional. There are definitely physical elements to spiritual warfare. In 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul mentions his arrival in Macedonia, an area north and east of Achaia, the province where Corinth was located. He makes it clear that he was totally affected by the spiritual warfare in which he found himself. It seems likely that, at the time this verse talks about, Paul was clinically depressed. He was in a rough state of affairs.

We tend to view those who take medicine for depression as second-class Christians. Now I am sure that there are times when medicine would be unnecessary if people dealt with their spiritual needs properly. Let us not forget, though, that there is no shame in being troubled and there is also no shame in being physically affected by those troubles. James reminds us that Elijah was a man subject to the same troubles that we are. Our Lord Himself went through extreme physical and emotional weakness so that He might sympathize with our weakness.

This battle then is physical and emotional as well as spiritual but it is not personal. For that reason, spiritual victory is not dependent on an outward show of boldness.

Paul had a few enemies in Corinth who were accusing him, among other things, of being a wimp. They said, “Sure, he can write a mean letter but when he shows up, we will just walk all over him.” Paul admits in verse one that there is some truth to this accusation. He has a tendency to be strong with the pen and weak in presence. Paul says, however, that does not matter. This battle is not about me. It is not about my style, my abilities, or my methods.

If ever there was a lesson we need to learn, it is this one. How many times have we heard people say, if we could just get the right music style, the right atmosphere in the church service, we could see things happen. These things are important but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could just have some miracles for people to see or a powerful preacher or an excellent training program, then we could move our community for God. All of these things are fine and have there place but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could learn to pray like David Brainerd, sing like the Wesleys, preach like Luther, serve like Mother Teresa, organize like Billy Graham, and survey like Bill Hybels, we could have revival, we could win spiritual battles. Revival, however, does not depend on us, it does not depend on our methods, nor does it depend on our style of ministry. Spiritual warfare is not personal.

B. What is this spiritual warfare of which Paul speaks? This war is a spiritual assault with the Christ’s gospel against the stronghold’s of disobedience, the unbeliever and his or her way of thinking (verses 4-6).

In these verses, Paul mentions the goal of our battle (verses 4b-5), tearing down spiritual strongholds and bringing others to Christ. He does not, however, mention what our weapons might be. He simply says (in verse 4a) that our weapons are mighty in God. Paul is not saying that his weapons are superior but rather that his God is superior. Our weapons are mighty in God. Whatever the form that our earthly weapons may take, they are mighty in God (see Mark 14:36). In other words, spiritual warfare is dependent on God. Our warfare is only possible, our weapons are only effective if God is the might behind them. When we pray, if we are effective, it is of God. When we preach and teach, if we are effective, it is of God.

This is basic but we stray too easily from this truth. Paul said, my effectiveness is not dependent on me but on Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). George Morrison once preached, “Men who do their best always do more, though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true; be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness to God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.” We cannot evaluate our usefulness by the response of the world to our personality. Only God can evaluate our usefulness.

II. The second attitude that Paul found necessary seems to be the opposite of boldness. It is humility. Humility, however, is necessary to edify the body of Christ (verses 7-11).

A. Edification is for one’s own army not the enemy (verses 7-9). It is through edification that we are able to as an army rather than as individuals attack the spiritual stronghold’s. That is in some way or another, one of the main themes of almost all of Paul’s epistles. Jesus put it this way, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”

Paul intended to spiritually assault those teachings and those teachers who were preaching a false gospel. Paul speaks in verse 6 of punishing, literally, of taking vengeance on those who preach a different gospel. For those, however, who are Christ’s, that is, those who put their faith and trust in Christ, his goal is different. He is not interested in their destruction (verse 8b), he is not interested in pulling down their defenses. That is reserved for the enemy. Paul’s goal for his fellow-believers is not pulling down but building up.

In this Paul is following the example of Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 describes these characteristics in Jesus Christ, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus did not find it shameful to reach out to us as sinners but rather humbled Himself, made Himself lowly in order to save us. Paul says, my ministry is modeled after Christ. I am not ashamed to humble myself nor am I ashamed to boast. My goal is you edification.

B. God gives us authority to edify with humility one another (verses 8-11). “Why, Paul, do you humble yourself this way? You are an apostle! Why allow these people to treat you this way?” Paul might would answer, because my authority as an apostle is to build up the body and not to pull it down.

It would be easy for us to say at this point, “Sure, that is good for Paul but I have no authority, I have no responsibility, I have no ability to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ!” Let us see what the Scripture says.

Twice in Romans 14-15, Paul commands believers to get along with their brothers in the area of doubtful things so that we might edify one another.

Four times in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says let edification be the determining factor as to whether you use your spiritual gift or not. If your spiritual gift does not build believers up, then leave it at home.

Three times in Ephesians, Paul points out that the purpose of the church, of this church, and how we relate to one another, is that we might edify one another. You and I as believers are commanded to edify one another and this edification is necessary if we are going to grow in Christ. It is not just for the pastor or the teachers or the advisory board or the adults but everyone of us is responsible to build one another up in Christ.

III. Now boldness and humility come from the same source, the ministry of Christ’s gospel (verse 12-18, especially verses 17-18).

A. These spiritual traits do not come from our moral example (verse 12). This is really a repetition of what Paul wrote earlier but Paul wants to remind them that he is not his own standard. He is held to the standard of God. Those who spend their time setting themselves up as spiritual standards are fools. Certainly Paul set himself up as an example but not in the same way as these false teachers did. He said it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The danger of keeping rules is not that you may be too strict. The danger of setting yourself up as a moral example and standard is not that you might not reach your own standard. The danger of setting yourself up is that by doing so you miss the truth. Why do good, moral people go to hell? Because they do not understand that Jesus Christ is the standard. They are looking for ways to outweigh what is bad in their life. Jesus has an empty scale on the bad side of the scale. But when we make Christ our source of righteousness we have the source we need for boldness and humility in spiritual warfare (verses 14-15a). Why could Paul boast? He had the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).

B. The goal of our boldness and humility, of pulling down the enemy and building up the brethren is the expansion of Christ’s gospel (verses 13-16).

You might ask, if Paul has all this boldness and humility from God, why does he keep laboring with these Corinthian believers. Are they not more trouble than they are worth? Paul would answer, “No, they are part of the goal, the boundaries, the sphere of work that God has set up for me.”

The goal of the body of Christ’s faithfulness, that is, Christian growth is the expansion of the gospel. Verse 15 shows us how this should work.

Opportunities are lost when we do not grow in faithfulness to Christ. Paul had been forced to give so much time to issues in Corinth he had not been able to enter some open doors. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, he describes how the necessity of sending Titus to Corinth combined with his own emotional state prevented him from entering the open door in Troas. Even Paul could not go it alone but needed the aid and assistance of the body of Christ to be effective in the ministry of the gospel.

That may seem like a contradiction. Are we not dependent on God and not on man? The answer is yes. Let us not forget though that one of the main tools God uses is His church. We are His army responsible to pull down strongholds of disobedience. We are His body responsible to build one another up in mutual growth in Christ.

NEXT WEEK: THE FACE OF THE ENEMY (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

How do you learn to live the Christian life? Philippians 3:17-4:1 August 17, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership.
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HOW DO YOU LEARN TO LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?

Philippians 3:17-4:1

 

Sometimes I am asked a certain type of question. “How do you overcome fear?” How do you learn to develop faith?” “How do you conquer sin and bad habits in your life?” “How do you gain assurance of salvation?” “How do I get filled with the Holy Spirit?”

There are a variety ways to go about answering that type of question but Paul gives us through three different commands, some often ignored keys that will help us to answer these questions and any other question that comes under the category of “How do you learn to live the Christian life?”

Imitation Together (verse 17). Six different times in the New Testament Paul says, “Follow me.”

“But of all mere men, no one is so often particularly set forth in the Scripture, as a pattern for Christians to follow, as the apostle Paul. Our observing his holy conversation as our example, is not only insisted on in the text, but also 1 Cor. 4:16, ‘Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me’ [to be fools for Christ’s sake, verse 10]. And chap. 11:1, ‘Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ’ [in that I seek the salvation of other people, 12:33]. And 1 Thes. 1:6. Where the apostle commends the Christian Thessalonians for imitating his example; ‘and ye became followers of us’ [because of the way we lived before you]. And 2 Thes. 3:7, he insists on this as their duty, ‘For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us’ [in that we worked rather than taking advantage of you financially] (Jonathan Edwards).”

This command is to the church not to individuals. This command is to the church as a body because Paul wanted them to function as a body. They were a good church that Paul loved but they were some who had problems accepting others because they were overvaluing themselves and devaluing other (2:2-4). There were friendships that were suffering (4:2). For this reason, Paul reminds them repeatedly that they are fellow-workers, that they are to be of one mind and one accord. They are to “join in following” Paul, they are fellow imitators.

Now this brings up a very important part to learning to live the Christian life: “…the Christian life involves more than just believing – it also includes belonging [to Christ and each other as the body of Christ]” (Rick Warren, emphases are his).

Paul was an example to them specifically in the areas of…

…suffering to advance the gospel (1:29-30).

…humility to advance other believers (2:17-18).

…focusing to advance His knowledge of Christ (3:12-16). Paul in his command to follow him was not intimating that he was perfect. He was intimating that he was on the right path and that if you followed the path on which he was traveling, you would end up at the right destination.

Result – the God of peace will be with you (compare Philippians 4:9 with Psalm 37:7-8). Now they needed peace in two areas. Peace among themselves and they needed peace in the midst of persecution. Paul makes it clear to them that if they imitate him, they will have the God of peace with them. They will be able to be rejoice because their suffering is advancing the gospel, advancing the growth of other believers, and advancing their knowledge of Christ.

Paying Attention (verses 18-21): Paul is not commanding blind or slavish imitation but rather thoughtful imitation. This is the same word that is used in Philippians 2:4, which is translated “look out…for the interests of others.”

The Negative Examples (verses 18-19): the reasons their example is negative (verses 18-21). Paul is contrasting these people with those who we are to follow. He does not explain exactly who they are except to say that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. He does not explain because he had repeatedly in the past warned them and was still repeatedly warning them against these people. He does, however, underline some specific characteristics of these people, generally they set their mind on earthly things as opposed to setting their mind on Christ (verses 15-16).

They serve the wrong god, their belly, glorying in their own shame (see also Jude 1:13), raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame. Now the picture is not necessarily of a glutton, although that certainly could be part of it. Paul may have been thinking of a Cyclops in Euripedes who says, “My flocks which I sacrifice to no one but myself, and not to the gods, and to this my belly, the greatest of the gods: for to each and drink each day, and to give one’s self no trouble, this is the god of the wise men” (with thanks to Wuest). In other words living for one’s self.

They have the wrong end, destruction, as opposed to transformation. Now Paul does not explain here why their end is destruction but there are two similar passages of Scripture that help us to understand why they end the way the do. The first is 2 Corinthians 11:15 where it talks about Satan’s ministers transforming their outward appearance into ministers of righteousness but that their end is according to their works. The second is Hebrews 6:6-8 where it talks about the apostates who fall away from Christ by rejecting Him. The writer says they are like thorns and briars, whose end is to be burned.

The Positive Examples (compare verse 18 with Philippians 2:20-30, especially verses 20-22 and 29; and with 1 Timothy 4:12): the reason their example is positive (compare verses 14 with verse 18 and 1 Thessalonians 1-2). They were like-minded with Paul. Their lives corresponded to their gospel.

Now it is important that we as leaders in the church be examples to be imitated. Not that it is preferable or that it is positive. It is essential for leaders to be examples. According to Titus 2:6-8, if we are examples of good works, our young men will learn how to think wisely and the unbeliever will have nothing to say against us. According to Hebrews 13:7, our people should follow our faith because it is obvious what the outcome of our conduct will be, eternal life.

Determination (4:1). This determination like the imitation is a group effort (See Philippians 1:27). God wants us to stand together.

Determined based on our current and future position (3:20-21).

We do not serve our belly but rather are citizens of heaven (see again Philippians 1:27). We stand together for God and against evil and we continue to stand together because we are Christian patriots. We are the body of Christ. We are on this earth for the advance of the gospel and for the advance of spiritual growth in our fellow solders and for the knowledge of Christ. For that reason we can stand and we do stand.

We do not have destruction as our end but rather the coming of Christ and the transformation of our body. There are two kinds of transformations. The one is transformation where what is new comes out of what was old. This is a metamorphosis, what a caterpillar undergoes when it becomes a butterfly. On the inside it was a butterfly the whole time. This, however, is a different meaning for transformation. It is more like taking an earthworm and transforming him into a butterfly. Although the two have some minor similarities, the difference is so great that it is obvious that the only way to get from an earthworm to a butterfly is through a miraculous transformation, the working (the energy) of the capabilities of God in our lives. The authority that allows God to control the earth is what will bring His purpose in our lives to fruition. This is our whole purpose, that we would be conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) and because that is His purpose for us, we stand gladly together firm for Him because we know the glory that He has predestined us, for it is the glorious image of the Son of God Himself.

Determined to imitate together and to pay attention (3:17). Paul uses one little word to tie these commands together. In English it is translated “so”. Imitate me and so, in the same manner, pay attention to others who imitate me and imitate them also and so, in the same manner stand firm with us in the Lord.

What are you following and who is following you?

Next Week: Philippians 4:2-9; Mind Melding

 

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!

 

Hobby-horse time! Is the local church important? With links… September 1, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Church Membership, Religion, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth.
2 comments

What does a pastor do when a subject upsets him? Sometimes he rants about it in his sermon preparation and then deletes the paragraph from the sermon manuscript. 🙂

Seriously, the subject is not easy to deal with and the practical problems of formal church membership against informal church membership are not all addressed directly in Scriptures. Below are some links attempting to do so. I’ve followed that with a rant that was deleted from the sermon because I recognized it as a rant and not pertinent to the text that I am preaching from this Sunday.

From Grace Church

Again from Grace Church

 From Fundamentally Reformed

Again from Fundamentally Reformed 

Earlier Link Categorized under the Body of Christ This link should have been catogorized under Church Membership. Other good categories are Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Disciplines. If church attendance, membership, etc. are viewed from this light, it makes a difference in one’s attitude toward the subject. There is a lack of evidence of formal church membership in the New Testament. There is overwhelming evidence for the necessity of Christian fellowship (church body life) in bringing someone to maturity in Christ. That is the point of the rant below. I would also include Ephesians 4-5 as strong evidence of the importance of involvement in the local church as a spiritual discipline leading to spiritual growth. We are to grow together and not just as individuals. Thus the practical demand for a membership commitment.

THE RANT 

The command to turn to Jesus is mentioned in a number of contexts in the book of Hebrews but two of these are somewhat unique. We find them in 3:12-13; 10:23-25. Both command the people in the church to exhort each other. In the first passage it says daily that we need to exhort each other in the faith in Jesus Christ. In the second passage it says that we are to assemble ourselves together as often as possible so that we can exhort and encourage each other in the doctrine and in the love of Jesus Christ.

It is fashionable nowadays to consider church membership and church attendance as legalistic. Certainly, wrongly emphasized it can be but I am afraid that we have lost my generation and the generations younger than me to the world because Christ was not important enough for us to gather together and to exhort and to encourage each other. We have trouble making time for the fellowship of the body with the church because we have been deceived into thinking it does not really matter. We have all kinds of excuses but when all is said and done, too many things are more important to us than getting together with God’s people for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, service.

The Last of the Terrible Parables: The Flusher August 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Suffering, Terrible Parables.
1 comment so far

I believe all the “Terrible Parables” by Carolyn Houghton are now posted. Most of them are on the Verizon blog (see blogroll) but this and the last one posted are here because Verizon won’t let me edit my blog anymore. I’ve got to contact customer service but am quite busy at the moment.

The Terrible Parable of the “Flusher”

 

Diary Entry from 1968: Bryan, age 18 months and Jeff, age 4, were in a nice, warm, soaky bath when Bryan suddenly grabbed the drain lever. Jeff — horror dripping from his voice–gasped, “Oh, Mommy! Bryan’s gonna flush it!”How many times have you been in a warm, soaky, relaxing tub of life when some idiot reached for the drain lever to flush your happiness down the tubes? It’s happened to me several times. As a Christian through faith in Christ, I know God has a plan for my life. How can these flushings be in His plan for me if He is my loving heavenly Father?The Bible says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 Oh. God is different from man. He thinks differently and acts differently (and given today’s messed up humanity, that’s a REAL blessing!) He’s also “one of a kind.” This theory that “God is in everything, therefore everything and everyone is God” is not something people have picked up from the Bible. Cause that’s not in there. What IS in there is: “For I am God and there is NO OTHER; I am God and there is NONE like Me.” Isaiah 46:9Now, if God acts, thinks, and IS different from man, and if He has a plan for my life, why doesn’t He give me sunshine and happiness instead of flushings? What kind of a Father IS He anyway?

Surprisingly, He’s a lot like our earthly fathers. Tell me something…did your father always make life easy for you when you were a child? Did you have to go to school when you really wanted to stay home and watch TV? Did he make you learn how to clean out the car as well as let you drive it? Did you ever get your canoe paddled when you wouldn’t stop fighting with your brothers and sisters? Did you have to get a part-time job to earn spending money when you got older? It would have been a whole lot easier to turn a faucet attached to your dad’s wallet and watch money pour out into your hands. After all, you were a good kid. Some of the things your Dad made you do were pretty hard! And certainly not much fun. You deserved GOOD things!

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? You wouldn’t have learned anything by doing nothing! You’d have been useless. Now you have turned into a WONDERFUL person by going through hard things in your childhood! (But I’ll check with you about this, just to be sure I haven’t made a mistake here.)

The same holds true in the spiritual realm. If God never made us go through some difficulties, we wouldn’t learn diddly! We’d never grow up spiritually to be good Christians careful to do good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10. Kindly note that we are his “WORKmanship.” It takes a lot of God’s WORK to get us whipped into shape. You think you’re EASY for God to raise!!!??? I’m betting you aren’t any easier to raise than I am. And I don’t like to brag, but I’m QUITE the handful for Him!

And I’ll try to break this next part to you easy….He’s not NEAR done raising you yet. Okay, okay, He’s not done with me yet either. But He does have a goal in mind for both of us. “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...” Romans 8:29 A rather lofty goal He has set for us, isn’t it?

Now answer me something else. Did your Dad make the neighbor kids go to school? Get a job? Help around your house? Paddle their canoes when they were nasty little brats? Never! Why should he? They weren’t his.

Same with God. If someone isn’t His child yet by faith (as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born …of GodJohn 1:12, 13) they aren’t HIS to raise yet. So if your life has been all peaches and cream with no problems to overcome or rise above, don’t get cocky! You might not BE God’s child yet. If that’s your case, I’d look into it if I were you!

God doesn’t raise us JUST with discipline and hard times, of course. The Bible also says that He is a wonderful gift giver. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights….” James 1:17 He’s a really well-rounded Father!

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 28. He’s given me some wonderful sunshiny gifts since I’ve been His child and he’s also given me some pretty hard flushings – some of which I’ve failed; some of which I’ve learned and grown from. I know I’m in for more gifts and many more flushings of my happiness during the rest of my life. But since I know the flushings will be for my own growth and learning, I’m going to do my best to make Him proud of the way I’ll handle those times.

But keep a towel handy for me, will you? I HATE to drip dry.