Archive | February, 2015

THE CREATION AND JESUS

22 Feb

GENESIS 2:1-3

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Everything points to Jesus.

I know. That’s what you would expect a preacher to say.

But for me, it does. Everything in my life points to Him. When I am depressed or upset, He is my strength. When I am excited and enjoying life, He is the One who gets the glory. As the song says, “Without Him I could do nothing”.

And none of that is something anyone should consider abnormal. If we are truly followers of Christ, then everything should point to Him. That was the way it was for the Apostle Paul when he said that for him, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Phillipians 1:21). Everything in his life pointed to Jesus.

And that’s the way it is with scripture as well. Everything in the Bible points to Him.

In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted.

In the Gospels He is revealed.

In the Acts, He is preached.

In the epistles, He is explained.

And in the Revelation, He is expected.

This morning, we’re going to see a clear example of how Jesus is predicted in the passage we just read.

Our passage today shows a picture that God painted to point to Jesus as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was an actual event that actually happened. On the literal seventh day after six literal days of creation, God literally rested.

But that automatically begs the question—why?

Why did an all-powerful God have to rest? Was He tired? Of course not. His rest wasn’t for His benefit, it was for ours. Jesus said as much to the Pharisees.

Remember the time that the disciples picked some grain to eat on the Sabbath because they were hungry ? The Pharisees came up to Jesus and accused them of breaking the Sabbath laws. Jesus came back and told them in Mark 2:27,

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

So God rested for our benefit—not His. So that begs a second question. What benefit do we receive from God resting on the Sabbath? Is it primarily for health reasons? It’s true that we need to rest sometimes, but that’s not the primary reason. The primary reason God set aside the Sabbath was two-fold. He set it aside to look back on the marvelous work of His creation. And He set it aside to look forward to the marvelous work of His Son.

I want each of us here to recognize the finished work of God in creation and His Sabbath rest as a foreshadow of Christ’s finished work on the cross and the rest we have in Him. In order to do that, we’re going to look at three parallels between the finished work of God in creation and the finished work of Christ on the cross. The first parallel is that a work was finished.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done

A work was finished in creation. Those who hold to evolution have no choice but to eliminate, ignore, or rewrite the first part of Genesis.

Evolution isn’t science. We are taught that it is, but it isn’t.

Evolution is a philosophy. And the data has been collected to support that philosophy. It is a philosophy that teaches that things go from a less organized state to a more organized state. In other words, things get better and better all the time. That is wrong on so many levels.

First of which is that it contradicts Scripture. There are dozens of different theories of evolution. Each one is a little bit different from the others, but one thing they all have in common is that they are continual, ongoing processes. By nature, processes never end. They are never finished.

But what does the Bible say? It says, “The heavens and the earth were finished.”

Look at the words God used: finished, ended, had made. There is no mistaking the fact that this passage teaches that when the six days were accomplished, creation was complete. That’s what the passage clearly teaches. So we are faced with a choice. Either evolutionary philosophy is true or God’s Word is. I believe the Bible. I believe the Bible when it says that all of God’s creative work was finished after the sixth day. Everything that could be or ever would be created was finished. Nothing could be added. There is nothing we could ever do to add to God’s creation. We can rearrange parts of it and use it, but we can’t add to it. I would contend that we can’t take anything away from it either. The doomsday environmentalists will disagree with me. But my Bible tells me that man will not destroy the earth. God will eventually judge the earth, but man won’t destroy it. We can dirty it up and abuse it and choose to live in our own squalor. But we can’t destroy it. We can’t do anything to add to or take away from God’s creation. Because it is finished. The work was finished. There is another time in the Bible when we read about a work being finished.

JOHN 19:28-30

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

A work was finished in Christ. God completed His work of creation by declaring it is finished. Jesus Christ did the same thing. When He completed His work on earth—His atoning work on the cross, He cried, “It is finished.”

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He declared that everything necessary for salvation was complete. We can add nothing to His finished work. He is the author and finisher of salvation. It is His work, His grace, His love that saves us. And it was His sacrifice that made it possible. It made it possible for us to not only be saved, but to stay saved. For just like the fact that we can add nothing to His finished work, we can take nothing away from His finished work. Just like it is His work that saves us, it is His work that keeps us saved. His grace keeps us saved. And His love keeps us saved.

Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus began a good work in you. He is performing a good work in you. All because He has already finished His work on the cross. He’s finished all the work that is necessary. The work is finished. It’s finished in creation and it’s finished in Christ. But not only was a work finished, a rest was entered.

GENESIS 2:2

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

A rest was entered in creation. We’ve already said that God rested on the seventh day for our benefit, not His. Later on, when God gave the Law to Moses, He commanded that the Israelites remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Of course, like most of the commandments, the Israelites ignored it. They ignored it until God punished them for it. He sent them into captivity for 70 years to remind them of all the Sabbaths they had broken. It must have worked, because from that time on, the Jews began creating all these laws which would keep them from breaking the Sabbath. The laws were so ridiculous by Jesus’ day that you could only walk a short distance on the Sabbath. If you walked any more than that, you would be driving the nails that held on your shoe soles. Of course, that would break the law, because it was forbidden to drive nails on the Sabbath. That wasn’t why God set the day aside. He didn’t do it to make it a legalistic burden. He set it aside to provide a day of rest and reflection for the Israelites. On that day, they were told to rest in reflection of all of the wonderful works of God. They were to rest in the fact that God had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt. They were to rest in the fact that He had saved them from Pharaoh. They were to rest in the fact that He delivered them from their enemies. Later on, as God punished them for not remembering the Sabbath, He sent them into exile. While they were in exile, God gave them prophets who tied the idea of Sabbath rest to the coming Messiah. God moved from the picture of rest in Genesis to the promise of rest through the prophets. The rest was pictured in Genesis. It was paid no heed by Israel. It was promised in the prophets. And it was provided in Christ.

HEBREWS 4:1-10

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“As I swore in My wrath,

They shall not enter My rest,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“Today if you hear His voice,

Do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

A rest was entered in Christ. We miss the boat so badly when we try to reinstitute the Sabbath law of the Old Testament. As the church, we don’t remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. It’s not even a matter of disobeying the law and calling it grace. If that was the case, we would be wrong. The Law didn’t go away simply because of God’s grace. The Law still applies. It applies in the same way it always has. Paul calls it a schoolmaster. The Law applies to show us our need for grace. It is God’s standard that we can never hope to achieve. That’s why we need grace.

So the Law hasn’t gone away. But some parts of the Law have been fulfilled. The Sabbath laws are one of them. They have been fulfilled. Remember why God put them there in the first place. To look back on His creation and to look forward to His Son. His Son has come. And in His coming, the Sabbath has been fulfilled. Instead of finding our rest in the Sabbath, Hebrews tells us we are to find our rest in Christ. The writer goes through the explanation of how all throughout the Old Testament, no one ever found God’s true Sabbath rest. They didn’t find it in the wilderness. They didn’t find it when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. They didn’t find it with David, or Solomon, or any of the kings. They certainly didn’t find it in the exile. That’s because the only place that true Sabbath rest can be found is in Jesus Christ. So what is that rest? Is it laying down doing nothing? Of course not. It is doing our works out of praise and thanksgiving instead of obligation. It’s knowing we’re not working for our salvation. We’re working because of our salvation. It’s knowing that when we mess up, we know that we have an advocate. We have an advocate, because He’s the one who did all the work in the first place. He did all the work so we can enter into His Sabbath rest. We can rest because all the work for our salvation is finished. A work was finished, a rest was entered. Finally, the third parallel between the finished work of God in creation and the finished work of Christ on the cross is that a blessing was pronounced.

GENESIS 2:3

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

A blessing was pronounced in creation. All throughout chapter 1, God is pictured as speaking and working. All through the first six days, God is actively creating. But here, on the seventh day, He’s not. Over and over, Moses repeats in these three verses that God was finished. He was done. His work was ended. To recognize the goodness of His handiwork, He pronounced a blessing. Verse 3 says, He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.

Back in 1:31, the Bible says, “And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good.”

On that seventh day, God looked back over all that He had made. He saw the goodness of His creation. He saw all the stars and planets. The earth and all of its unspoiled majesty. The birds and fish and animals. And there He looked and He saw Adam and Eve—the crown of His creation. He knew what they would do. He knew they would rebel against Him. He knew what their posterity would do. He could see the flood. The Tower of Babel. Sodom and Gomorrah. Pharaoh. The rebellious Israelites. Nebuchadnezzar and Darius and Cyrus and Alexander the Great. He could see Caesar and Herod and Nero. He could see the atrocities of the Crusades and the Inquisition. He could see Napoleon and Stalin and Pol Pot and Lenin. He could see the Holocaust and Hitler. And He could see you and me. And as He looked down and saw that, He knew that He loved His creation so much that He would send His only begotten Son to die on a cross, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God saw all that as He pronounced a blessing in creation. When He blessed the seventh day. When He sanctified it—made it holy. He sanctified it and made it holy because it pointed to His Son. The blessing that was pronounced in the beginning at creation pointed straight to the blessing that will be pronounced at the end in Christ. Turn with me to Revelation 21:6-7:

REVELATION 21:6-7

6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

A blessing was pronounced in Christ. Once again, we see the words, “It is done.” On the seventh day after six days of creation, God proclaimed, “It is finished.” Creation was complete. Nothing could be added to it or taken away from it. Some 4000-8000 years later, after being mocked, spit upon, beaten, humiliated and hung on a cruel Roman cross, Jesus Christ proclaimed “It is finished.” All that was needed for salvation was complete. Nothing could be added to it or taken away from it. Sometime in the future. We don’t know exactly when, but we know it’s closer today than it was yesterday. Sometime in the future, after a time of tribulation like the world has never known. After a 1000 year period where Satan is bound. After a season where he is released to deceive the nations once again. After the final battle where Satan and his minions are cast forever into the lake of fire. After these things, a new heaven and a new earth will appear. They will appear and will be followed by a blessing. A blessing where Jesus Christ pronounces for the final time, “It is done.” All who have believed in Jesus Christ and are thirsty will drink of the water of life freely. All who have overcome the devil by trusting in the righteousness of Christ will inherit all things. We will walk with God and He will walk with us.

REVELATION 21:4

4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

What a blessing! Our eternal Sabbath rest. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made. Creation was completed with a blessing of rest. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from His.” Salvation is completed with a blessing of rest. “And He said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.’” His rest is available. Have you entered into it?

christians

WHY SHARE THE GOSPEL?

8 Feb

Luke 8:26-39

2Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. 28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “[a]What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. 30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter [b]the swine. And He gave them permission. 33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. 35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. 36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been [c]made well. 37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. 38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might [d]accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,39 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.”So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

I want to talk about sharing the Gospel. Now, that’s a big “churchy term” that means telling others about Jesus Christ. It means to let others know that the only way to eternal life in Heaven is through Jesus Christ.

To tell people that, you have to believe it.  That is the first thing that needs to be established.  We live in a day and age where that is being widely disputed. I have noticed lately even people that I consider friends telling me that it was just absolutely stupid to believe in only one God. Only one Jesus. Only one way to Heaven.

But with all the religions that are out there, it doesn’t make sense that everyone of them could be right. There has to be one authority.   And the Word of God has stood the test of time.  It has been burned, outlawed, destroyed.  And yet it still survives. It is without error and it is the ultimate authority. And it says that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. If you don’t believe that, then you really can’t share it. Let me instead encourage you to get into the Word, talk to me, talk to other pastors, ask for the Holy Spirit to lead you.

But the majority of those that call themselves Christian do believe that. And the truth is that we need to be sharing it with others.

You might say, ‘Well, pastor, there are lots of reasons not to share the gospel.’ For instance, I might strain my relationship with someone. Or, what if they ask a question I can’t answer? Or, I’m just not good at talking to people.

Now for sure, with regard to straining relationships, we should be careful how we share. We don’t want to be rude, manipulative or overbearing. We want to have wisdom and grace. And it is certainly okay to be honest and say hat you don’t have all the answers but you do know that Jesus is alive and can change lives.

And don’t worry about your speaking ability. We’re not asking you to preach. Just share. You don’t have to be eloquent for God to use you powerfully.

So, these are all concerns, but they can be dealt with.

What is most important is that you are not ashamed to share about Jesus..

Jesus talked about this in Mark 8:38,

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

We must be bold in our witness to Jesus and the salvation he brings. We should be like Paul, who said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” And he lived his life by these words.

But enough about reasons why we don’t share. Now lets look at why we should share.

Reason #1 – Because you want to be faithful to Jesus

He certainly does call each of us to bear witness of him to others. He said, “You are the light of the world” – Matthew 5:14. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” -Matthew 28:19. He said, “You will be my witnesses” – Acts 1:8.

And so we share because we love him and want to be faithful to do what he says. We want to hear from him on the final day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In our story in Luke 8, Jesus told the man, “declare how much God has done for you” – v. 39. Jesus sent him back to share the gospel. (After all they had just sent Jesus away, so who else would do it?)

And it wouldn’t have been an easy assignment. He would surely get a hostile reception. But he was faithful to Jesus nevertheless. It says, “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city . . .” – v. 39.

Reason #2 – Because you want to tell others about what God has done in your life

The psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” – Psalm 96:2-3.

We are to tell others about what God has done – his salvation; his marvelous works.

Has God done something in your life? Are you forgiven? Have you been set free? Do you have new life? Joy? Love? Well, in our world – this is news! It’s something to be shared. God is alive and well and working in people’s lives. And people need to hear this.

Now sometimes we think that the best witnesses are new Christians. You know, it’s fresh in their hearts and they are eager to tell. But we aren’t just sharing something that happened at our conversion, maybe 10 or 30 or 50 years ago. It’s about what God is doing in your life right now.

Is God still working in your life? Then you have something to share. And that’s what you should share.

Once again, in our story in Luke 8, Jesus told the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you” – v. 38. If we focused on the word “declare” before, now the focus is on what he is sharing – “how much God has done for you.”

He was demonized, he was enslaved, he was tortured. It must have been horrible, running around naked, out of control and miserable all the time. And now, because of Jesus, he is free, he is at peace and he is in his right mind. And this is what he shared. He proclaimed to everyone “how much Jesus had done for him” – vs. 39.

Reason #3 – Because you love people and want them to experience God’s salvation

It is certainly possible to have wrong motivations, like to win an argument or simply to make the church grow. But the right motive is love.

Jesus was motivated by love. In Matthew 9:36 it says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

And because he had compassion, he shared the good news with them. And then in Matthew 10 sent out his disciples because there were so many people.

Jesus had compassion. Do you have compassion for those who have not heard about Jesus?

Paul also was motivated by love. This is him talking about his fellow Jews who have not responded to Jesus: Romans 9:1-3 – “I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Do you have “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in your heart for those who don’t know Jesus?

We share because we love; because we are concerned about others. And we want others to know the grace of God, just as we do.

In our story in Luke 8, the man clearly loved Jesus. He sat at his feet, wanted to go with him and then obeyed what he said.

But he also loved the people of his city. For when the man told what God had done for him – he wasn’t just relating facts. He wanted them to experience Jesus, like he had. He wanted them to receive help from Jesus, like he had. For if Jesus could help someone in a situation as bad as his – he could surely help any one of them with their needs.

So we have here three good reasons to share the gospel:

  • You want to be faithful to Jesus because you love him.
  • You want to share what God has done in your life
  • You love others and want them to know Jesus too.

Who do you think God wants you to ask? Who is God putting on your heart?

TheGospel

CONNECTING AND SERVING

1 Feb

Hebrews 10:22-25:

22 let us draw near with a [a]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

This is a scripture we preacher guys often use when we are encouraging others to be in church.

Naturally, we believe it is important to be plugged into a local body of believers. We believe, and scripture bears it out, that it is important that you be part of a group of Christians gathering together in order to grow in your relationship with Jesus.

In fact, I will go as even far as to say that it is impossible to reach your fullest potential without the church.

There is something to be said for being around others who love Jesus. There is accountability. There is encouragement. There is the bearing of one another’s burdens.

Yes, we can read scripture at our house alone. Yes, we can watch some quality preaching online and even some on television.

But there is no substitute for the relationships that can be formed by gathering in a place of worship on a regular basis to study the Word of God and discuss together.

And yet, most of us are inconsistent with our attendance when it comes to church. This is not said to put a guilt trip on anyone or make anyone feel “called out”.

But I truly believe that we miss out on being our optimal when we’re not here as much as we can be.

It has nothing to do with wanting to boast great attendance figures. It is not about driving up the weekly offerings. It has everything to do with the fact that as Pastors, we truly love our flock. We want to point you in the direction of the One who died for you. We want you to grow in Him.

The world is lying to you. There has been a gradual push over the last several decades that has intensified in recent years to totally discount the Word of God or the need for church.

The enemy is telling lies. And no matter how long he’s told the, there are always going to be people that will believe them.

One of the biggest lies is this:

“I won’t fit in at a church. Those people would not understand me. Those people would not get me. I’ve got too many skeletons in the closet. I’ve got a past.”

It assumes that everyone in church is perfect. Maybe you’re one of those. Maybe you don’t come that often because you don’t feel you identify. Maybe you come to church occasionally in an effort to appease someone else. Or maybe you’ve come to church because you’re seeking something and you’re willing to come and listen but you’re quiet skeptical you’ll find anything.

Today, I want to invite you to look beyond the perceptions. To look beyond the stereotypes. To look beyond your inhibitions. See the members of the body of Christ for who they really are.

Check out the man who had put more drugs in his body when he was younger that some of us even knew existed. It costs him much including some relationships and even at least one marriage.  Somewhere along the line, he decided it was time to seek out the local church and see what could be done to make his marriage right and put his life on a better path. Now to not see him or his wife here is a rarity. This is his family. He belongs here.

There is the couple that spent much time together when they were each married to someone else. Their marriages destroyed, their lives broken, they came to a church expecting to be harshly labeled. They actually looked forward to it.  When that preacher shoved his self righteous, judgmental talk at them, they could then flip him off and walk out and be justified in their attitude against the church.

But that’s not what they got at all. Rather, they got love. Now, nobody told them they were okay. In fact, quiet the opposite.  They were definitely told what scripture had to say on the issue. There was no sugarcoating or whitewashing. But it was done with an attitude of compassion. It was said in such a way that they knew they were not being judged but cared for in spite of everything.

Steps were taken toward repentance and restoration. Today, they have a Christian marriage and they can’t imagine being anywhere else.

There is the one who had her first child at 15, who saw more garbage in her young life then most will ever see in a lifetime.  She resolved to one day make something better of herself but soon found that she couldn’t do it alone. So she embraced Jesus and what He has done in her life has been absolutely amazing. If you could have told her fifteen years ago that she would be sharing Jesus with people every chance she got, she would have laughed at you. But today, that’s exactly what she does.

There is the one who had an abortion. The one who has struggled with same sex attractions. The one who has a prison record. Every single one of them with a past.  Every single one of them thinking at one time that the church would not be accepting of them as they were. Every single one of them finding that there were people who loved them and understood them and were willing to walk with them in their journey to become children of God.

And don’t just look at the ones in the audience. Look at the music minister who once was so drunk that his wife in a fit of rage knocked him off the front porch with a frying pan. Look at the Pastor who was once such an incredible liar that his wife wanted to leave him.

My point? Not to drag out skeletons. Not to expose anyone. But for you to understand that there is nobody in a church that is spiritually superior. There is nobody who “has it all together”. We are all spiritual misfits. We are not here because we have all the answers. We are here because we are seeking answers.

We have discovered that we need Jesus. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the beginning and the end. He is the Answer.

But we have also discovered that we need each other. Satan invades our lives daily. When we are left to our own thoughts, our own devices, and our own ideas, we are prone to make the wrong decisions.

But when were together with Christian brothers and sisters, we hold each other up. We keep each other from falling. We remind ourselves of Who it is really all about!

Consider Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Consider Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.

But you don’t know the blessing of that if you only attend half-heartedly.  It can only come through consistent, committed attendance.

I know not everybody here is a Duck Dynasty fan. Though I don’t understand why.

When I first heard about that show, I was resistant to it. All I heard was that “they pray at the end of the show”. I had heard that kind of thing before. Rap artists who have all sorts of vile lyrics and yet dedicate their album to God, that sort of thing.  I figured it was going to be the same thing.

But one day, they had a “Duck Dynasty” marathon going.  I watched the first episode and it was okay but it wasn’t what I considered spectacular. But I kept watching. Before too long, I was DVR’ing it. I was buying the books. I went to see Phil Robertson and WIllie and Korie speak live. I was so excited when we went through West Monroe, Louisiana just so I could have my picture taken under the sign. I just may be the biggest Duck Dynasty fan ever!

But it didn’t start that way.  It grew on me.

That’s the way it is with the local church. You come into the building. The people are unfamiliar. The ideas don’t mesh with culture. You’re intrigued by what you hear but you’re not in love with it. But you keep coming back and God begins to work a change in your heart. Soon, you can’t imagine life without your church family.  God usually uses them to change your life.

But trust me, you won’t undeCrstand until you begin trying to connect.

And then you get a bigger blessing in the body of Christ when you start looking for ways to serve.

Consider Acts 20:35:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Our whole mission as a church, according to Matthew 28:18-20 is to tell others about what Jesus can do for them.  That means willing to be give more than we get.  The church does not exist for our entertainment but if we are believers, it exists as a vehicle for which we can carry His message.

Sometimes we have to feed and clothe them first. That’s what the Agape Food and Clothing Ministry is all about. Every Thursday from 5-7, over 60 people gather to receive food and sometimes clothing. Then we have an opportunity to tell them how God is the ultimate provider.

That is why we support prison ministries like Kairos and No Turning Back. We know that it takes different methods to communicate the truth of the Gospel to different people and we are not going to relate to everyone. So we allow others the chance to work alongside us and let us work alongside them.

That is why we have Sunday School, the more you know about the Word of God, the more you can share it with others. That is why we have small groups, so that we can further strengthen a connection and attract people who normally wouldn’t come into church so that they can hear the truth about Jesus.

That is why we have Thanksgiving in the Homesteads, that is why we have youth group, that is why we have children’s camp, that is why we have Vacation Bible School, that is why we adopt families at Christmas. That is why we put together a fantastic Easter production every year. Nothing is about our recognition. Everything is about Him.

Now, let me ask you something…. where are you serving? There is so much to be done in the body of Christ. We have so many needs. But they are not our needs. They are the needs of Jesus. He calls us out. He says “my fields are white unto harvest but my laborers are few” (John 4:35). He is calling us out to serve His kingdom.

And one of the reasons that the church is ineffective is that the majority of the church is not actively serving.

It’s time to grow up in your faith. And you cannot grow in your faith if you’re sitting idle.

I grew up on a ranch.  I loved that place. But one of the reasons I loved it is because every Saturday morning, Dad made us work on it. We helped with landscaping, building barns, building fences, feeding cows, gathering eggs,.  When we finished a day, we had the satisfaction of knowing we had made a contribution. If we didn’t do anything, weeds would grow up, animals would starve.  And it would lose its value.

It’s the same way with church.  We sit on our blessed assurance and much goes undone but when we have a part in the general upkeep, the ministering to others, the saving of souls, the value of this place grows in our hearts.  Otherwise, attitudes decay and spiritually, we starve.

How are you serving today?

Let 2015 be a time for you to relate differently to the body of Christ.

CONNECT

then SERVE!