Archive | January, 2015

Focus on the Cross by Focusing on the Word.

18 Jan

Sometimes we just need to stop and think about the Cross.

I know. That sounds like a cliche. Something you’d expect to hear in church or from a Pastor.

But I wonder how many of us really get the significance of the Cross?

How many of us don’t tune out the preacher the minute he starts talking about that?

“Yeah, yeah! I’ve heard it, preacher!”

And because we’ve heard it. We focus on other things during the message. We mentally balance our checkbook. We get out our phones and get on Facebook or play a game. We text. We look at how the Pastor is dressed.

We are so easily distracted.

But the Cross is something that deserves our full attention.

It represents the single greatest event that ever occurred and was brought about by the greatest Being to ever walk the earth.

We talk about Jesus all the time.

We sing about Him.

We pray to Him.

We yell his name as a curse word.

We talk about Him but we don’t really know Him.

We tell people that they need to have a relationship with Jesus. We say that is the mission of the church.

Yet do we really have a relationship with Him? Do we know Him?

Oh, I know .  Most of us know about the fact that He was born of a virgin.

Why is that even significant?

Basically , Jesus could not have a Mortal farther because a Son was born with thy Fathers “Sin”,
And ALL men have sinned.
And the son of God could have no sin.
And being born to a Virgin would assure that Jesus Was born with no sin.

And so Jesus was born sinless. And walked through this world sinless.

And when the time came that the penalty for our sins had to be paid, only Jesus could make that payment.

Because, we are all sinners. If you have ever lied, stolen, lusted, said the name of God in vain, or got jealous of someone’s stuff, then you are a sinner. Everybody who has ever lived (except for Jesus) has sinned at one point or another in their life. The Bible says that sin separates us from God, and so everybody deserves to go to Hell. There HAD to be some kind of punishment for sin. Even in the Old Testament, there was always some kind of punishment for sin. Jesus took the punishment for all of us, so now if we will repent from our sins and trust in Him then we can go to Heaven and be reconciled with God.

John 3:16 makes that clear.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

So far, you probably haven’t heard anything you don’t know.

But we are told to model our lives after Him so that we can live for Him.

But most of us only have the basic knowledge that i just mentioned.

“Isn’t that enough?”

Not really.

If we are to pattern our lives after Him, shouldn’t we know more than that?

So many things get pinned on Jesus that are contrary to who He actually was.

I hear it all the time.

“My Jesus would not have a problem with that. He wants everyone to be happy with someone they love.”

My Jesus would not want a young woman to go through a unwanted pregnancy.”

“My Jesus would understand why I can’t forgive that person.”

Jesus would really not want nothing to do with me. I’ve made too many screw ups. My life is too messed up.”

And everyone of those statements is wrong.

How do we know that? Because those understandings of Jesus do not match up with the Jesus of scripture.

All through the New Testament, Jesus affirmed scripture. He did not want us to just focus on His Words, but to look at the writings of the entire canon of Scripture.

That is why you constantly heard Him say “It is written”. That is why He referred to the characters of the Old Testament such as Abraham, Moses, and Jonah.

To know Jesus and His teachings, one has to study scripture.

Check out Psalms 119:11.

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Yet most of us don’t.

We carry it in here as a decoration.  Or we lamely tell the preacher that we have it on our phones.

But the truth is that it is our most unopened app.

The Word of God lies unopened in our home, on our phone, and in our lives.

And so we have no grounding in our faith.

We don’t understand the will of God because we don’t read His Word.

We don’t understand about His position on any issues because we never read His Word and what it has to say.

We don’t really know Him.

So our understanding of Jesus never increases.

Our understanding of the will of God never increases.

And so we never truly live for Him because we don’t really know Him.

And we don’t know Him because we never read His Word.

And since we don’t know what it says, we can’t stand on it!

We can’t defend it.

We can’t live by it.

And our world gets further and further away from it and is allowed to redefine Christianity and what Jesus stands for.

Because those who claim to know Him don’t know His Word.

This is a challenge.

When was the last time you seriously read your Bible?

I don’t mean when someone asked you to open it and read a verse in church. I mean taking time and getting alone by yourself and gleaning from His Word?

Don’t understand it? Get a better translation.

Still don’t understand it? There is a myriad of resources out there to help you do that.

But our world is crying out for a change. And true change can only come from the Word of God.

And in order to change the world, we must know the Word.

We can’t understand the power of the Cross unless we understand human nature and the very nature of God. And we can’t understand God unless we understand His Word.

And we can’t understand His Word unless we read it.

This week I challenge you.

Honor what Jesus did on the Cross.

By seeking His will… in His Word.cross

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BE REAL

4 Jan

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.

A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon entitled “Welcome to FBC Lillian”  I had been looking at the condition of our world, our society, our country and it culminated into what I call one of my “I’m Tired” sermons.   But this sermon could well be called that as well.

Now don’t misunderstand. I do not intend to rant and rave today (much).  But I do intend to call us to something .  I want to call us to realness.

Now, in so many ways, that is exactly what we are as a body. We have nurtured here an environment where there are no pretenses.  We want people to come here just as they are and not feel like they have to pretend to be anyone else. If you’re struggling, we don’t want you to lie about it. We promise to love on you and not judge but encourage.  If you’re angry at God, we want you to say so. He is not going to strike you down but guide you to a healing in your relationship with Him. We want to walk with you on that journey.   Time and again, many of you have told me that you like coming here because you feel like you can be real about where you are in life and in your relationship with God.  You have invited others who have strayed away from church because they felt like it was about being fake. You have told them that they are allowed to be real here.  Sherri Pekrul once called us “The First Baptist Church of Real People”. I think that fits us perfectly.

So I guess what I am asking is for us to take “real” up to a new notch.  Most of you by and large a group of people who are either new in their faith or have returned in recent days to their faith after a period of backsliding away from it.  You have rejoiced in your “new identity” as believers.   You are not the same as when you first started coming here.  But you have not adopted a “fake Christianity”.  What you see is what you get. You are a real person.

But let’s get just a little more real.

Let’s get a little more real in our faithfulness.

These verses represent the final command of Paul to the Church in expectation of the rapture. It is the command to be Real! Because our nature tends to slide toward unfaithfulness, as time passes.

Is it ok to be faithful once, some times, most of the time; or does God really ask that we are faithful to Him all of the time?

If your car starts once every three tries do you feel satisfied that it is faithful as a reliable car? Is up for every day delivery? Does your boss consider you a reliable employee if you only miss work a few times a month unannounced? If your refrigerator stops working for a day or two every now and then do you find yourself saying, “Well, it works most of the time, I’m happy with it?” If your water heater provides an icy-cold shower every now and then, is it dependable? If you miss a couple of loan payments every year does the bank say, “Ten out of twelve isn’t bad! If your wife or Husband is faithful most of the time is it ok?” –How then does God view your service and loyalties to The Lord … are you really faithful? How do you view it!?

This text teaches us that we must value faithfulness while we are in expectation of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faithfulness is something that must be guarded and worked on to keep us strong in expectation of the rapture.

LET’S BE REAL IN OUR SERIOUSNESS ABOUT OUR FAITH.

Where does the decline of faithfulness begin?

1 Thess. 5: 19 says it … “Quench not the Spirit.”

The decline of faithfulness begins when the fire is dying down!

Paul was warning us to not put out the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was not warning them of something that might happen, but something that was happening.

Some of the believers in this church had quit their jobs and mooching off their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Laziness of some members who were waiting for Christ’s return was at work then.

… Paul wrote to them.

2 Thess. 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work neither should he eat

11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.

GOD DOES NOT LIKE LAZINESS.

Prov. 6:10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep

11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth and thy want as an armed man.

Some were complaining about the gifts of the Spirit and only wanted a ritualistic type of worship … “Don’t be too enthusiastic in worship!”

SOME PEOPLE WANT TO ATTEND AN ENTHUSIASTIC WORSHIP SERVICE  AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT GET TOO RADICAL

This church had the opposite problem from the church in Corinth …

In Corinth the ones who thought they were the more spiritual saints were those who had experienced many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In Thessalonica those who did NOT express these gifts thought of themselves as more spiritual!

Paul warns the church of the danger of “COOLING” off the fires of the Spirit and their need to get hot again!

Consider Revelations 3:16:

So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth.

One little boy attended a cold church one day and after returning home he prayed, “Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there!” The lack of enthusiasm was understood in the child’s mind as an absence of God’s Spirit or fire!

GET RID OF THE CRITICAL SPIRIT

A critical spirit is like a disease when it hits a Church.

It will get the focus and purpose of the church turned to the things that are not perfect and destroy the church from the inside

More churches are destroyed from the inside than was ever destroyed from the outside.

Paul was telling them “Keep the enthusiasm … and get rid of the critical spirit!”

But also be real in your commitment to the body of Christ.

This church is on the brink of something. I can feel it. Many feel like they can feel it as well.   God wants to do something amazing in this church.

But He can’t do it through half-hearted commitments.

Quit only gathering to be in service when it is convenient for you.

Quit only fulfilling your commitments to building and grounds, teaching, etc., when you want to give the time and nothing else is on your schedule.

Can I just be transparent with you? It is very tough on your staff to plan something but go through the list and finding the people you can depend on growing shorter and shorter. We have some wonderful members. There is not a one of you I don’t love.

But we need to depend on you. God needs to depend on you.

Be real in your faithfulness.

BE REAL IN OUR TESTING OF THINGS

I Thessalonians 5:21.. Prove all things…

We are called upon to be faithful not only for enthusiasm, but also to test everything

The idea of “test” here is to “check” or “evaluate” something … not so much in terms to criticize, but to clarify.

“Testing” is something all Christians should do, the Pastor’s messages should be checked out by you, all things are to be evaluated in the light of God’s written Word!

They were to be faithful to test the prophetic messages and to test everything to be sure it lined up with God’s revealed Word.

To fail to test would leave them open to being deceived.

Don’t just swallow everything, check things out; it will help you with your walk with God!

All things are to be tested in the light of God’s written Word!

Nothing is taken at face value alone … or is decided upon by personal experience!

But here is the thing: you can’t test things by the Word of God unless you read the Word of God.

We have said it from the beginning .. “If you don’t have a Bible, ask for one.” We will give you one.  Everything we initially understand about God is in His Word.  As we begin to grow, He reveals to us new things about His character, about who He is.  About what He wants for our lives.  But if what we think He is revealing to us ever contradicts His Word, then it can’t  be from Him. He will never contradict the Bible.  He will never contradict what is written in the Scripture.

But so many of you don’t spend any time in the Bible. You don’t pick it up. You don’t read it. When it comes time for me to read it during the message, you half listen.

We put out these devotionals on youtube. We are currently encouraging you to read the Bible through in one year.  Your staff and lay leadership wants you to know that in order to grow spiritually, you must read the Bible on a regular basis.

But most of you don’t.  Why?  Because of the language of it?  All the fancy Shakespearean English scares you.  Well, realize there are other translations as well. There are versions of the Bible written in everyday language. Find one that you can understand or ask us to help you.

And some of you don’t like to read it for the same reason that I don’t always enjoy it. Because it’s like looking into a mirror and I don’t always like what I see.  Because I have some definite opinions and I don’t like anything, not even the Word of God to get in the way.  But I must take the Scripture as a whole.

It is not a matter of picking which spiritual truths I like and then ignoring the rest… all things need to line up with God’s Word, even those we find hard to accept or practice

It means embracing what the Word teaches even if my experience doesn’t fully line up at present … if the gifts of the Spirit are taught in the Bible they are embraced even if I haven’t experienced them personally yet. The Word is the final authority, not what I feel comfortable with.

LET’S BE REAL IN OUR ACTIONS

I Thessalonians 5: 21 .. “hold fast that which is good…”

Now that Paul has encouraged them to keep the fire burning and to test everything he moves to the actual commands to be faithful in 2 ways:

“Hold on to the good.”

“Avoid every thing that even looks evil.”

“HOLD ON TO THE GOOD.”

It is not always easy to “hold on to the good” especially when everything seems to be going against us!

This is where faithfulness comes in!

How do I hold on to the good when there is no way out or when no answer or miracle seems forthcoming!?

“HOLD ON TO THE GOOD” — FAITHFULLY!

If we are to show the nature of Christianity as being different from the world It will require faithful effort!

Don’t just serve God when things are going well and then blame Him and run away when things are going bad.  Don’t say how much you love Him but abandon Him and seek your own way when He doesn’t do things exactly like you want to.

“But I thought he was there for me.”

He is. Because of Him, you don’t ever have to go to Hell.

“Feels like Hell right now”

Really? You know better.  Hold on to God. Hold onto Him in faith. In the storms and in the sunshine, be real in your faith.

I Thessalonians 5: 22… Abstain from all appearance of evil

WE MUST LEARN NOT ONLY WHAT TO DO … BUT WHAT TO STOP DOING!

Faithfulness in being an example includes avoiding those things which look like evil!

The world is watching you. You might be the only Christian that some may know.

We must set the example, not try to see what we can get away with.

There is a danger if we cause someone to fall.

I Corinthians 8:12-13

12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

WE might hold to many good things … but if we also embrace some evil things our witness will be compromised to the world!

Thus we need to “hold on the good” … and also “AVOID THE APPEARANCE OF EVIL.”

Faithfulness to God includes both!

Let’s remember to “BE Real”.

As we enter 2015, may become more real than ever before. The church needs it, the world needs it.

God needs it.

hny