commitment

MAKING PROGRESS!

 

Earlier this week, I shared Richard Baxter’s list of 20 hindrances to living fully for God.

Today, I have a list from William Perkins, who is often called the Father of the Puritans. His list comes from the positive side. He gives 6 evidences that we are committed to progressing in godliness.

Find encouragement from where you see yourself in this list. And gain wisdom by adopting those you still need.

1.  We have an earnest and hearty desire in all things to further the glory of God.

2.  We show a care and readiness to resign ourselves in subjection to God, to be ruled by his word and Spirit, in thought, word and deed.

3.  We have a sincere endeavor to do his will in all things with cheerfulness, being conscience of everything we know to be evil.

4.  We walk upright in our lawful calling, while by faith rely on God’s providence, so that we are content with whatever He sends.

5.  Every day we humble ourselves before God; wholeheartedly seeking his favor through Christ; being daily renewed in faith and repentance.

6.  To continually maintain a fight between the flesh and the spirit, drawing on grace and resisting what pulls us from God.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.28.16

 Members Care for Their Church

by Eric Huber

The Bible established two offices for the church – elder and deacon. 

Elders are called by God to teach, lead and protect the church and her members through the ministry of the Word. 

Deacons are responsible to ensure proper care is provided to those who are most vulnerable in the church – the sick, the elderly, and the widow.  Deacons are to work alongside the elders to ensure a gospel-centered ministry in the church of both word and deed. 

These are complementary offices in the shepherding of the local church.

Elders and deacons do not do all the work in the church. 

Together, they equip and mobilize the church for ministry.  God calls every believer to commit to some local church in order that we all would experience church life as shared ministry together as we care for one another.

Members of the local church are to be equipped for ministry (Eph. 4:11-16). 

As a church, we build ourselves up in love as Christ works to grow us through our life together.  We grow only as each part is working properly in the context of our shared life together as our leaders equip us for one-another ministry.

We are each gifted for ministry.

God also gives us spiritual gifts for our one-another ministry. 1 Cor. 12:7 tells us, “To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  God gives spiritual gifts not primarily for our personal benefit, but for the benefit of others. They are given for the common good – our life shared together.

God gifts and empowers each of us to serve one another.  When we do not use our gifts for life in the church, then our shared life together is impoverished.

We are also to be obedient for ministry. 

God calls us to submit to and obey the leaders in whom God has entrusted our spiritual care (Heb 13:17).  Those leaders will give an account to God for how well they cared for us as they lead us to fulfill the biblical picture of life together in the church. 

Now, that does not mean that we cannot disagree on how things should be done.  We can, but God instructs us to follow their leadership as they seek to follow Christ.

We are gifted for ministry, and we are to be equipped and obedient for ministry. 

Finally, we are to be involved for ministry. 

We cannot receive or give the care and encouragement God wants for us if we are not living in community with the other members of our local church.  We are a spiritual family called to love and serve one another, which requires knowing one another. 

It can be scary to be vulnerable with others, but the pay-off is greater because God has promised to work in our shared life together. 

May God’s Spirit enable us to see, understand, and live out the truth of the local church as Christ’s loving Kingdom on earth.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.05.16

The Active Presence of the Holy Spirit                        

John 16:5-15

The most under-appreciated aspect of our salvation may be the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In his farewell address, Jesus keeps coming back to the Holy Spirit so we will be mindful of his active presence

 

The Holy Spirit is our great advantage in this world (v7)

Jesus’ leaving was to fulfill the Father’s plan in establishing a New Covenant

Jesus did everything necessary to make the gospel possible and the Holy Spirit does everything necessary to unite us to the gospel

As the disciples in John 16 were to anticipate the Holy Spirit’s coming, we are to expect the Holy Spirit’s work

The Holy Spirit has come and he does abide in every believer

He is being faithful to fulfill all the wondrous purposes of the gospel in us

 

Jesus presents the work of the Holy Spirit in the world (vs 8-11)

Jesus starts here, because this is the Holy Spirit’s necessary starting place with us

The world needs the Holy Spirit’s “conviction” because people don’t see clearly (Revelation 3:16-17)

Even as believers, our motivations and justifications are not as pure as we think

The Holy Spirit brings conviction in three areas  

1. We need conviction about “sin” (v9)

     Sin is always deceptive, evil and foolish. Sin is an act of rejecting God

     If we are not taking sin seriously, we are not taking Jesus who died for sin   seriously

2. We need conviction about “righteousness” (v10)

     A proof of this is that we are not more drawn to holiness, which is God’s own character

     Our goodness is defiled, so only Jesus can make us righteous before God

3. We need conviction about “judgment” (v11)

     People who don’t believe in God’s rule, are not concerned about coming judgment

     How we live should take into account that only what submits to Christ will survive judgment (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

     If you want to see clearly, invite the Holy Spirit to speak by his voice, his word and his people

 

Jesus presents the work of the Holy Spirit in believers (vs 12-15)

1. The Holy Spirit guides us in the truth

We cannot trust other sources to be fully true    

The Holy Spirit always speaks in harmony with Scripture (v13b)

     The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture that is what he will bring to us

     The Holy Spirit never tells you that your sin is ok

The Spirit-filled believer lives in harmony with God’s Word, which means they are engaged with the Bible to test their lives against to it

2. The Holy Spirit draws our attention to kingdom fulfillment

“He declares to us the things that are to come” (v13)

What is “to come” drives our motivations: We look to better job, a bigger house, a fulfilling relationship and a higher reputation

What is “to come” drives our fears: We become anxious over what our kids will do, our doctor will say, or how the economy will turn

The Spirit-filled believer looks to the fulfillment of Jesus’ kingdom, for we know all that is ‘to come’ is ruled by Christ

     Our desires become shaped by wanting to honor and be used for Jesus kingdom

     Our fears are eased by knowing all things are in Jesus’ hands

3. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ (v14)

The whole of God’s plan for this world and for humanity centers on Jesus

Jesus is the answer for the world’s groaning and he is the fulfillment of humanity’s hope

The Holy Spirit will not emphasize anything above Jesus

The Spirit-filled believer spends a lot of time and attention on Christ

     Trusts him  

     Exalts him  

     Obeys him  

     Serves him

     Rests in him

 

FULLY YOURS

absolutely

entirely

positively

thoroughly

totally

wholly

from A to Z

altogether

every inch

heart and soul

all in

Many Christians sing about living fully for Christ on Sunday mornings, but then are hesitant to express the same commitment to him in prayer on Monday mornings.

We know what the Great Commandment says about loving God with “all” of our heart, mind, soul and strength – but we squirm when God presents us with the details.

Yet, the wonderful truth is that God is good, wise and perfect!

Everything that God asks of us, will be for our greatest good

There is no degree of faithfulness that we will exercise now that we will not be wholly thankful for in eternity

There is no half-heartedness or compromise now that we will not regret when the Lord appears

On one hand, as “believers” we believe in the goodness of God, yet at the same time – we don’t believe it as fully as his goodness deserves. We are like the man who called out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief”.

All of us stumble in how we live, but a more serious condition is when we knowingly hold back from even the idea of Great Commandment Living.

We are afraid that life will not be as good. But that is a theological impossibility. Life may not always be easier (in the moment) when we live fully for God – but it will always be better!

Maybe you are aware at this moment of an area where you struggle to entrust your life completely to God. Or, perhaps there is an inconsistency between belief and practice that you have not noticed.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to see obedience clearly. And the Holy Spirit wants to guide us into all that is wise. If we will earnestly ask God to reveal what it means to live fully for him, he will bring increased clarity to us.

But we don’t have to worry about God dumping too much on us at once; he knows we can only take one step at a time.

To help us think through where our steps may need to begin, consider which of these statements are difficult for us to honestly declare before God:

Take the leadership of my life into your hands

Take all my sinful desires away

Show me the practices I need to eliminate from my life

Lead me into gospel sharing opportunities today

I trust whatever you want to do with my life

Sift my heart for what does not belong

Take me out of any relationship that doesn’t honor you

All that I have is for your use

Convict my heart where I need it

Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me

Show me where my life is not consistent with your Word

If you can identify what is difficult for you to declare before God, begin asking him for the grace to step forward in trust. But you also need to take hold of that grace as he gives it. If there is someone you can trust, ask them to pray for this with you.

If all of this seems too hard, consider how wonderful it will be to honestly tell God, “I am fully yours!”

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.16.15

Life Together

Acts 2:42-47

This passage has much to teach us about being the Church. We will examine five 5 dominant themes concerning “Life Together”

 

1. Commitment to the Disciplines of Being Mature Disciples (v42)

We usually think of spiritual disciplines on a personal level such as Bible reading and prayer

These are vital, but those listed here are corporate disciplines that the church was “devoted” to

(1) The members were under the Apostle’s teaching

They were being ‘equipped’ as we saw last week in Ephesians 4:11-14

When the whole body is hearing together the teaching becomes shared truths

The members help each other remember them, dig into them and apply them

(2) The members were committed to “the” fellowship

The context is that it was the fellowship of worship gatherings

The entire experience that takes place when gathered is deepened

We easily experience this in worship, yet the reality is that the Holy Spirit is doing this in all aspects of our gathering

(3) The members were committed to breaking bread (Lord’s Supper)

The Lord’s Supper is primarily a corporate celebration

It helps us affirm Ephesians 4, which tells us we have “one body . . one hope . . one Lord, one faith”

(4) The members were committed to “the” prayers

This again is describing organized times of prayers

Prayer affirms that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit

Prayer “together” helps us to keep focused on Christ’s agenda rather than to our many agenda’s

In these disciplines, we see that the church was led by the Holy Spirit, who was devoted to growing them in the context of community

 

2. They Experienced Wonder Over the Greatness of God (v43)

The realities of our life in Christ are the same regardless of how we feel, but when we have a sense of God, we are better at being steadfast

Awe of God also encourages us to push forward in our mission

Satan continually attacks our perspective about God

Biblical Community reinforces our sense of God, because He is displayed in it

We experience the blessing of the Holy Spirit working through each other’s gifting

We see God’s activity in one another (v43 the apostles works)
And we have it affirmed in us from others

3. They Cared for One Another (vs 44-45)

This was far from casual or mere friendly church engagement

The members of the body were taking responsibility for their role

The care given was what people could do, for those they could serve

People gave intentionally from what they had, rather than from their leftovers

We have different gifts and resources, but we should share a similar commitment

What would be the quality of care at your church if everyone had your involvement?

How effective would the ministry of your church be if everyone served like you?

How well could your church go forward if everyone had your approach to generosity?

4. They Shared Life Together (v46)

They were together in worship (the Temple) and in their ‘homes’

They shared time and life together

We don’t necessarily need to do new things to be together, we can try to be together in what we already do

Christ whom they served, had brought them together in his kingdom

Fellow church members are not part of a life segment, like the circle of friends we know in our kid’s soccer league

The church is our ‘forever family’; these are the closest human connections we will ever have

Biblical community is community based on biblical characterlove, patience, forgiveness, humility, gentleness and reconciliation

However, biblical community is also something much deeper and amazing

Biblical community is part of the supernatural union we have in Christ (John 17:20-23)

What Jesus prayed is beyond our comprehension, and our present experience

But we must get this – because it is God’s mission for us

This realization should radically affect how we approach church life

It should affect our commitment to this body that the Holy Spirit wonderfully formed us into

It should affect our unity which overshadows the fact that we will disagree and fail each other

 

5. The Result is That This Church Had An Impact (v47)

The context of v47 is that God used all we read in vs 42-46 to bring rich fruit

People were forever changed and God was eternally pleased

Let’s seek to become the church Christ made us to be

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.08.15

“Pinned down by Jesus”

Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus’ words take those who say “I live for Christ” and pins us to the ground with challenging descriptions of what living for him actually entails

How will we respond to Jesus’ challenging teaching?

Do we keep moving on until the awkwardness of these words fade?

Do we tell ourselves, “There must be a reasonable (less challenging) explanation”?

Or, are we willing to slow down and accept that Jesus is not asking a lot from us, he wants all that we are

Jesus gives us a new response to being misused

Jesus first quotes the Mosaic Law concerning punishment: “an eye for an eye”

This wasn’t for personal vendettas; it guided the nation’s judicial system

Governments are still called by God to bring justice to lawbreakers (Romans 13:4)

And the gospel is built on the reality that God will bring complete justice against all sin (any “gospel” that ignores eternal justice is false)

Jesus is addressing our personal agenda in a bruising world (v39)

People need to hear God’s justice from us, but Jesus here is concerned that they experience his grace from us

Jesus Provides 4 Illustrations to Clarify and Flesh Out What He Means

1. If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other one (v39)

He is describing a backhanded and stinging slap of insult

Jesus is telling us how to respond to insult and misuse (he is not telling women to accept physical abuse)

What is your “slap in the face”? When your boss takes out frustration on you, or when your spouse harshly corrects you

For the gospel’s sake we not only don’t strike back – we remain engaged in their lives with grace

2. If your tunic is taken, give your cloak (v40)

A tunic was regular clothing, and the cloak was an outer robe which

Mosaic law said could not be taken away even for legal purposes

What is your cloak? What are you holding onto as “mine”?

For the gospel’s sake, we show grace even when what is dear to us is taken – because God is the owner and we are stewards

3. If you are forced to walk one mile, walk two miles (v41)

This referred to the compulsory labor Roman soldiers could force on citizens

We are to go beyond what is expected, and do what we can to serve others

This includes giving time and effort to serve people when it doesn’t seem to benefit us

For the gospel’s sake we astonish those who misuse us with attitudes and actions of grace

4. Give to those who beg and borrow (v42)

Jesus is not asking us to enable sin or laziness

Our default position is to be generosity to others, rather than ourselves

We do this knowing that sometimes our generosity will be abused

The picture Jesus creates for us is not that we should become passive doormats

He is moving us to be powerful influences for the gospel!

The gospel is otherworldly and how we live should show it!

What motivates such an uncommon approach to life?

#1. Our love for Jesus: we know this is how he lived, and this is how his kingdom operates

#2. Our view of eternity: we know the book of Revelation will soon be accurate history

Love is never set aside (vs 43-47)

The famous description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 climaxes in v8 saying “love never ends”

The true character of love is not modified by people’s responses

When Jesus says, “You have heard it was said, ‘hate enemies’”, he is not quoting the Old Testament, he is quoting people’s hearts

In v47, Jesus bluntly asks, “What more are you doing than others?”

How are we showing love that is beyond the ways that unbelievers show it?

There is nothing in these verses that Jesus has not already done

We cannot follow Jesus, or be like him, if we don’t love our enemies

We love our enemies, to be like our Heavenly Father (v45)

What does love for our enemies require of us?

This has to be more than an idea we accept – it is a call to take action

The leading action that love takes is prayer (v44)

God’s example in v45, indicates that we should show what grace we can

Who are your enemies?

Are there categories of people you dislike (ethnic, political, social etc.)?

Who has misused or offended you? Where do you bear grudges or hold to bitterness?

To love our enemies, we need to see these people through God’s eyes: they were created in his image, but now they are deceived, broken, and without hope

v48 is the culmination to this entire section

This call to ‘perfection’ is referring to our behavior, not in our capacities

It reminds us that our standards have nothing to do with the standards of our world

Becoming complete in the character of Christ is our measurement

Does all this overwhelm or discourage you?

Instead let it lift your heart!

There is an old saying; “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”

We have been grafted onto a new tree and we are now children of our Heavenly Father

Rather than look at these things as hard, see them as heavenly!

A WEEKLY DECISION WORTH MAKING

index

On Thursday, I wrote about how we should love going to church.

I am following up with thoughts from another article that reminds us of the graces that come to us by consistently showing up at church – whether we feel like it or not.

Or, whether our kid’s sports league has a game or not!

Putting God first -yes that IS the decision involved- will be worth it.

Josh Thiessen at the Cripplegate Blog writes;

“I want to encourage other pastors and people to embrace the monotony of weekly attendance by looking at some of the grace that rubs off on us.”

Hopefully the word “monotony” doesn’t describe your general church experience. But certainly going to church every week can seem like an ordinary practice that doesn’t always make much difference in our lives.

The truth is that if we have the Spirit of God at work in us, then ordinary Sundays are at work in extraordinary ways.

Josh’s article gives us a few of those simple, yet important graces that will increase with a consistent commitment to our local church.

HOW DEEPLY DO YOU LOVE HER?

How deeply do you love The Church?

The Church WAS . . .

Created by God

Purchased by Jesus blood

Indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit

The Church IS . . .

The Body of Christ

The Beloved of God

The Bride of Christ

The community where we are called to serve

The community where we are called to grow

The community we are called to love

A place where we are expected (by God) to commit ourselves

The Church is NOT . . .

An invention of religious people

Simply a gathering of spiritually-minded people

Optional – that is if we want to live in obedience to God

In existence to keep you happy

Meant to provide a menu of activities for your browsing pleasure

Perfect – at least not yet!

The Church is dearly loved by God, is the Church dearly loved by you?

How does your church experience your love for it?

Ryan Shelton has written an article for the Desiring God blog that encourages us in loving our church. It is entitled, “Are You Leeching the Local Church?”

WHAT IS YOUR HABIT?

There are a number of cultural trends which have deeply affected the Church.

People have less respect for authority and institutions – which means they are unwilling to commit deeply or accept preaching and responsibilities that challenge them

People are less “churched” – this means they have little church background and virtually no biblical reference

People are over extended – this means they are so over scheduled, that they are hit and miss with involvement

For all of these reasons and more “regular” church attendance has a different meaning in people’s minds. It used to mean that people only missed church when they were sick or away. Today people consider regular attendance to be showing up once or twice a month.

The results of these trends is less spiritual maturity in the lives of those who think they are churched, and difficulty for churches who are trying to serve the whole church body, but only receive back commitment from a smaller portion of the congregation.

How do you define your commitment to God and to your church? Kevin DeYoung helps us to think through these issues in this article “The scandal of the semi-churched”.

THE BEAUTY OF UNFAILING LOVE

Infatuation is effortless. Romance involves some effort, but we are typically motivated for it – at least early on. While love in the context of a lifelong relationship can be hard and takes work.

However, when our perspective about love  flows out of clearly seeing God’s love for us, the labor to love becomes a labor of love.

One of my favorite biblical statements about love is at the end of the famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13. In verse 8, Paul sums up his description with the declaration “Love never ends” or “Love never fails” depending on your translation. The phrase can literally be translated as “Love never falls off”. The picture is that of a flower whose blossom never ends – fails – falls off. This is the kind of love God always has for His people, which means His people can always express this love for others.

How wonderful to meditate on the truth that the blossom of God’s love never falls off. It is ever beautiful and fragrant.

Do you find it hard at times to carry out the labor of love for someone God has placed in your life? More pointedly, does your love for the one you vowed to love still carry its flower and fragrance?

Recently I heard a beautiful and poignant story of the love between the grandparents of Peter Guirguis, which he posted on the Not Ashamed of the Gospel Blog. You can read about it and (make sure you) watch the moving video testimony here.