It Is a Matter of Priority

Posted by on October 31, 1999 under Sermons

I want you to concentrate as we read 2 Peter 3:8-13.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

  1. If we fail to examine the context of this scripture, we miss Peter’s major emphasis.
    1. In chapter one Peter emphasized the need for Christians to mature and grow as they lived in this evil world.
    2. In chapter two Peter stressed that this evil world would become increasingly wicked.
      1. Influential teachers would declare that they were speaking for God, but their message was not God’s message.
      2. They would declare that God really did not care how you lived, when the truth is this: how you live is basic to belonging to God.
      3. Peter said there was nothing new about this; there have always been people who lived as though God did not care what they did.
    3. In chapter three Peter said things would become so horrible, so evil that Christians would begin to wonder.
      1. “Where is Jesus Christ?”
      2. “He promised that he would come back.”
      3. “Why doesn’t he come?”
    4. The scripture we read is Peter’s response to two things.
      1. He responded to the fact this is a wicked world.
      2. He responded to the fact that Jesus had not yet returned.
    5. This is his response:
      1. First, God does not look at time in the same way people look at time.
        1. With people, time is a key consideration in virtually everything; with God, time is a key consideration in nothing.
        2. Peter was not saying, “Let me tell you how God calculates time. A thousand human years equals one God year.”
        3. He made this simple statement, “God does not look at time like people look at time.”
        4. People measure faithfulness and promises in the terms of time.
        5. God does not; time has no influence on God’s faithfulness or His promises.
      2. Second, God is not slow; He is patient.
        1. To a human, slow typically means that you are irresponsible, forgetful, negligent, and uncaring.
        2. Patient means that you are responsible, mindful, and care deeply, but that you will take as much time as necessary to achieve your purposes.
        3. God’s patience appears to be slowness to people who are frantic about time.
        4. But that is a human impression because we humans impatiently think primarily in terms of our physical existence.
      3. Third, this physical creation was completely perverted and distorted by evil.
        1. Our physical world has not served God’s intended purposes, and evil makes it impossible for the world ever to serve those purposes.
        2. There is one solution, and it is the only solution.
        3. To eliminate evil and wickedness in our physical world, the entire creation must be destroyed.
        4. There will be an enormous roar and a heat so intense that everything will burn.
      4. Fourth, you Christians know that is true.
        1. Since you know this physical creation will be eliminated with extreme heat, that must determine the way you live your life.
        2. You should focus your daily life on holy conduct and godliness.
      5. Fifth, when the world is destroyed, it will not a terrible moment, but a good moment.
        1. If it were in our power, Christians would have this happen sooner instead of later.
        2. We want to live in that existence where there is righteousness but no evil.
  2. Today, look around you, be totally aware: anything that you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is not permanent.
    1. This whole day be aware of this truth: everything around you is temporary.
      1. One of two things is be true of everything.
        1. Either it will die.
        2. Or it will evaporate with intense heat.
      2. In human existence, there is only one exception: the person.
        1. When you became a living being, God placed in you a touch of the eternal.
        2. The person who lives inside your body will never die.
        3. When you as a person began to exist, you began a journey that will never end–the person who lives inside your body will never stop existing.
      3. My body will either die or evaporate, but I won’t.
        1. Your body will either die or evaporate, but you won’t.
        2. Your child’s body will either die or evaporate, but your child won’t.
    2. I ask you two questions.
      1. Question one: will this congregation have the leadership it needs after you die?
        1. If it does, someone’s children will provide it.
        2. Children who are alive right now will provide leadership for this congregation when all of us adults are dead.
      2. Question two: will their leadership teach people how to live in Jesus Christ?
        1. Peter said their world would become increasingly evil because people did not know how to live, because they believed that God did not care how they lived.
        2. That has already happened many times, and it is happening again now.
        3. Will our world become increasingly evil because people do not know how to live? Will people think God does not care how people live? Do the majority already think that? Do you think that?
    3. Your child is completely surrounded every minute of his or her life by things that will die and things that will evaporate.
      1. Is everything that your child considers important in his or her life something that will die or evaporate?
      2. Does your child know that anything exists besides things that die or evaporate?
      3. If your child has heard that eternal realities exist, does he or she think these things are real or does he or she think such things exist only in Mom and Dad’s imagination?
      4. If your child becomes an adult who lives by your priorities, what will happen?
  3. What I now share with you I share by permission.
    1. I do not know the name of the teenager who wrote this.
      1. I know that this teen is a Christian, a member of this congregation.
      2. I know this teen is a high school student, not a junior high student, and is a very good student.
    2. Consider:
      This student has a lot of questions about heaven and struggles in trying to find a trustworthy concept of heaven.
      1. “Also I wonder, where is heaven? Not exactly but close to where it exists.”
      2. “Another thing I have been thinking of, is how uncomprehensible heaven actually is, how no human being could ever really understand the magnitude without actually being there … For some reason it scares me, probably the fear of the unknown, but Heaven scares me.”
      3. “I mean I totally believe in God and totally want to go to heaven, but it is just weird. We’re all raised with different views of heaven some we get from ourselves and some we get from others. I went to so many different types of churches when I was little and heard so many different views. But all the views they said came from the Bible, but they were pretty much all different. I understand them saying it differently when we are kids, but what does that really do but confuse us now; case example one: me.”
      4. “… Sometimes we need someone to push us or help us understand; not mislead me like when I was a child …”

[Prayer: Help us understand and trust.]

Our children live in a world that changed radically before they were born. Our children live in a society that changed radically before they were born. Most of us adults do not live in the same world our children live in. The truth is both simple and frightening. The older we are, the less we have to live every day in full exposure to our world and our society. Age gives us the luxury of isolation.

But our children live in that world every day. And our children do not have the luxury of isolation. We older Christians can be puzzled and baffled and shocked and even deny that this radically different world exists. The only thing that puzzles, baffles, and shocks our children are Christian adults who know nothing about the world they are forced to live in every day.

Consider a great irony of Christianity today. God sent His Son Jesus to be the Christ, to be our Savior, to prove His enormous love for us, and to destroy our fears. Almost 2000 years later, the church has many older Christians who believe in God but are afraid of Him, and has many younger Christians who believe in God, but are afraid to live where He lives. That is not what God intended when He sent us Jesus. God sent us Jesus to give us security by destroying our fear.

Our Mission

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This congregation’s conscious goal is to be caring and supportive. How caring? How supportive? Our goal is the level of caring and support seen in Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say that he was the great rejecter. He said he was the great doctor. He healed the sick and the diseased. He restored healthy bodies to the lame, the blind, and the paralyzed. He threw the demons out of people whose bodies, actions, and minds were demon controlled. (See Matthew 4:23,24.) He offered living water to a divorcee living with a man (John 4). He told a known prostitute, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). He invited himself into the home of a dishonest tax collector by declaring, “Today, salvation has come to this house …” (Luke 19:9). He associated and ate with Jews who collected taxes for the Romans (Luke 5:29-32).

He invited the struggling and burdened to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He declared that he came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He said that He came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). In his genuine concern for such people, he revealed that all heaven celebrated when one sinner repented (Luke 15:7).

We seek to be Christ’s church. That is more than a determination to keep words on a sign or a building. We want to follow Jesus Christ doing the things he did, caring about all people as he cared, showing his concern and compassion.

Our desire to be Christ’s church involves two basic commitments. The first is to bring people to Christ anywhere we can. The second is to help those in Christ spiritually grow and mature.

A part of this commitment is seen in our understanding that Jesus is the world’s Savior. Each year in November we have “Missions Sunday.” We collect a special contribution to help fund our mission efforts in such places as Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Guyana, Romania, and New Zealand. These funds support evangelistic teaching, medical missions, missionary training, the training of indigenous teachers/missionaries in their own country, and supplies. Our mission committee takes excellent initiative in its constant activity.

Remember Sunday, November 14: “Missions Sunday.” Remember the special contribution. In recent years, the contribution for missions exceeded a hundred thousand dollars on that Sunday.

Fundamental Messages From 1 Timothy 2

Posted by on October 17, 1999 under Sermons

This evening I encourage you to think. I hope the things I share with you will encourage you to think beyond the time of this evening’s assembly. I want to state clearly that you do not have to agree with me. If you sincerely disagree with me, that is fine. I have no “hidden agenda,” no “ulterior motive.” I want to share some information that can advance understanding and deepen commitment to God’s message in God’s word.

When we discussed 1 Timothy 1, I stated that an understanding of the situation in the city of Ephesus was basic to understanding Paul’s letter. The city of Ephesus was the dominate influence in that region and probably beyond. What Paul wrote to Timothy was understood by Timothy in the context of the religious and social systems formed by the culture, economic realities, and social environment at Ephesus.

  1. This is my understanding: every writing in the Bible should be understood in the context of its age and its culture.
    1. The objective of establishing and respecting the context of a Bible writing is to better and more accurately understand the message.
      1. The better I understand the message, the better I can obey the message.
      2. The better I understand the message, the better I can live by the message.
      3. As I better understand the message, I reduce the likelihood that I will either pervert the message, abuse the message, or substitute my convictions for the message.
    2. If I am to increase the accuracy of my understanding of Paul’s message to Timothy, I must increase my understanding of life and the culture in Ephesus.
  2. All of us understand this need when we seek to understand our world; I can illustrate that fact.
    1. Over a hundred members of this congregation have worked at least briefly in other countries in either medical or evangelistic missions.
      1. Is the culture and social system in any other country identical to the culture and the social system in the United States?
      2. Cultures and social systems are not only dissimilar, in many specific situations they are strikingly different.
      3. Let me give you some specific illustrations.
        1. When I lived in Cameroon, West Africa, men at times carried purses and held hands with men as they walked down the road.
          1. That had nothing to do with homosexual conduct.
          2. They were required to carry so many documents with them at all times that the best way to carry them was in a purse.
          3. Best friends frequently held hands as they walked.
          4. Holding hands with the opposite sex was never permissible; the only women that held hands with men in public were prostitutes.
        2. In Poland, anytime that I was invited into a home as a guest, it was a common courtesy to take fresh cut flowers to present to the hostess.
          1. But do not take red roses.
          2. Red roses had a specific, unique meaning.
        3. If you are invited to a home in Canada, it is customary to take your shoes off at the door.
          1. In the house you walk about in your socks.
          2. Or, you wear house shoes.
          3. Some people carry house shoes with them when they visit.
      4. We know that, we understand that, we respect that, and we make allowances for that when we are the visitor in other cultures.
        1. We understand without question that we must learn the basics of another culture if we are going to treat people within that culture with respect, understand them, and not offend them.
        2. Do we not realize that if such is necessary to create understanding in the cultures and social systems of today, it is certainly necessary if we are to understand letters written to social systems and cultures that existed 2000 years ago?
    2. Let me try to put this in full focus.
      1. Is the Bible the word of God? Absolutely.
      2. Is it “God breathed,” inspired? Absolutely.
      3. Does it reveal the will of God? Absolutely.
      4. Did God through His Spirit guide this revelation? Absolutely.
      5. Does that mean when Paul, Peter, John, Luke, Matthew, or Mark wrote one of the letters that is a part of the New Testament, that the writers of these letters were thinking of us, our world, and our situation as they wrote? No.
        1. They were writing to people who lived then in that world teaching them how people who belonged to Jesus Christ lived and acted in their culture and their social systems.
        2. Can we learn and understand God’s will from their writings? Absolutely.
        3. But the more that we understand their social systems and cultures, the more accurately we will understand their messages.
        4. Perhaps more importantly, the more we understand their social systems and cultures, the less likely we are to take what they said and create our own message.
        5. We really object when another religious body takes a scripture out of its context and creates a doctrine or theological principle.
        6. It is just as incorrect for us to do that as it is for any other group to do that.
  3. Paul likely had to leave Ephesus quickly after the riot.
    1. To put it in accurate terms that we understand, conversions to Christ were having a significant negative impact on the economy of this very wealthy city known for its luxurious living.
      1. One of the major industries in Ephesus centered around the temple of Artemis.
        1. The temple, one of the 7 wonders of the world, was the center of a world religion.
        2. It was a major economic institution that served as a major bank in the Roman empire.
      2. The riot occurred because some of the Ephesians did not like the impact Christianity had on the economy of the city and region.
    2. Paul wrote Timothy about matters he did not want Timothy to forget or neglect as Timothy remained in Ephesus.
      1. Problem one is the focus of chapter one: people were teaching strange doctrines, genealogies, and the law.
        1. The “strange doctrines” were strange to Christ’s teachings, not strange to the thinking of people.
        2. You had people teaching as though they really understood what they were saying, but they actually did not know what they were talking about.
      2. Problems two and three are the focus of chapter two.
  4. I want to address the context of problems two and three. My conclusion is that you need to be aware of the context before you approach the text.
    1. There is nothing in the text that suggests that either of these problems concern worship assemblies.
      1. Our primary assumption is that Paul is talking about worship.
      2. Our primary application has been to a worship situation.
      3. We assume that Paul is talking about worship, so we just naturally think worship when we look at this chapter.
    2. Christians had a major image problem in Ephesus.
      1. They were not seen as being good citizens or a beneficial social influence.
      2. As far as many Ephesians were concerned, if Ephesus was primarily Christian, it would be a disaster for the city.
    3. Why were Christians seen to be this kind of people, this kind of influence?
      1. One basic reason: the men did not offer sacrifices at any of the three temples dedicated to the Roman emperors.
        1. A basic act of good citizenship was to go to one of these temples and pray to and for the ruling Caesar.
        2. Responsible citizens did that as a matter of routine practice.
        3. Christians did not do that, so Christians were seen as bad citizens and enemies of the government.
      2. A second basic reason was seen in the conduct of Christian women.
        1. The goddess Artemis was said to be the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo.
        2. If my understanding is correct, in the time of Paul this goddess was principally known as a virgin fertility goddess.
        3. Again, the city was a place of wealth and luxury.
        4. My understanding is that the behavior and status of significant women in Ephesus was not typical of women in the Roman empire.
        5. Women who were Christians seemingly behaved in ways that were more typical of the Ephesian women.
        6. Thus there were people that did not regard Christian women to be good influences representing stability in home, family, and social relationships.
  5. Paul addressed each concern.
    1. “Men, while you cannot pray in the temples dedicated to the Roman emperors, you can pray in public for all government authorities.”
      1. For Christian men to be regarded as bad citizens did not serve the purposes and objectives of Christ.
        1. Jesus came to offer salvation to everyone and to call all to the one God.
        2. For people to see Christian men as enemies of the government who were not good citizens would not help achieve those objectives.
        3. Christians were not enemies of the government; they were not bad citizens.
      2. Paul’ s instructions to Christian men in Ephesus seem strange to us; we would feel very uncomfortable doing what Paul said do.
        1. In public assume the common, recognized posture of humility and prayer: raise your hands.
        2. In public, pray for authorities and those who are not Christians.
        3. For this to address their image problem, people had to hear and understand their prayers.
        4. My conclusion is that Paul is instructing them to do this audibly in public.
      3. Paul’s instructions to women also seem strange to us.
        1. Do not reflect wealth and affluence in the way you dress.
          1. Paul was not referring to clothing that exposed the body.
          2. He was saying to not reflect the image of the affluent women of Ephesus.
        2. Be known for the good you do, not the clothes and jewelry you wear.
        3. Be respectful of men, not domineering.
        4. The model for determining respectful, appropriate conduct is not the culture and social system of the affluent women of Ephesus.
        5. The model is Adam and Eve.
    2. There are two powerful, much needed lessons for us in Paul’s emphasis.
      1. Christian men must not live in isolation and build an image that declares that they are a threat to government and society.
        1. Christians are good people who exist as a blessing in society.
        2. They are responsible citizens who promote what is good and stable.
        3. Make that truth evident to all.
      2. The difference between women who belong to Christ and women who are devoted to the affluent lifestyle must be obvious.
        1. Women who belong to Christ are known for doing good.
        2. Women who belong to Christ are respectful.
        3. Women who belong to Christ are assets to marriage, to respectful behavior, to stability in society.

1 Timothy 2 is not about what happens in worship assemblies. It is about the way that Christian men and women conduct themselves in an alien society.

God Could Have “Given Up”

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Would you be genuinely honest with yourself? How many times have you said within your own mind and heart, “What is he really up to?” How many times have you said within yourself, “What does she really want?”

This is an extremely skeptical world. We live in extremely skeptical times. We are suspicious of everything. We tend to think that everything is guided by ulterior motives. We tend to believe that true openness and genuine honesty do not exist.

Our skepticism profoundly impacts the way we look at God. We do not place as much emphasis on what God said as on what God did not say. We are devoted to determining what God actually wants. We often attempt to determine God’s true desires by “reading between the lines.”

I sincerely doubt that any of us are capable of imagining the enormous frustration that we inflict on God.

  1. Have you ever considered how easily God could have “given up” on humanity?
    1. Have you ever considered how easily God could have decided that one of the worst mistakes He ever made was creating humans with a free will?
      1. If God were human, He would have cut His losses a long time ago.
      2. To me the greatest evidences that God is not human are seen in His patience, His forgiveness, and His mercy.
      3. No human, not even the best of the best, can endure as much abuse, misrepresentation, and neglect as does God, and remain patient, forgiving, and merciful.
    2. God could have “given up” when Adam and Eve were deceived by evil and perverted His creation.
      Genesis 1:31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Satan in the form of a serpent told Eve that God would not kill her if she disobeyed God.
      2. Eve considered the benefits of disobedience.
        1. She defied God.
        2. She encouraged Adam to defy God.
      3. Genesis 3:8-21 states that their surrender to temptation literally changed everything.
        1. It perverted relationship with God.
        2. If perverted our sexual natures.
        3. It perverted our role on earth.
        4. It perverted the husband and wife relationship.
        5. Nothing is as it was when God brought His good creation into existence.
      4. And that is just the beginning. God could have “given up” right then.
  2. The Bible reveals situation after situation when God could have “given up.”
    1. God could have “given up” when the world degenerated into total wickedness.
      1. Genesis 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Oh, yes, God could have “given up.”
    2. God could have “given up” when the adult Israelites that he rescued from Egypt returned to idolatry.
      1. After the ten catastrophes God brought on Egypt, after allowing Israel to cross the Red Sea, after providing Israel food and water in the wilderness, after speaking to Israel in a human voice when He gave the ten commandments at Mount Sinai, they turned back to idolatry.
      2. Moses was on a mountain receiving instructions from God for Israel.
        1. Israel grew very impatient while they waited for Moses to return.
        2. They gave Aaron, Moses’ brother, their gold ear rings for the purpose of making them an idol.
        3. He melted the gold, sculpted a calf, presented the calf to Israel, and the people accepted the idol with these words:
          Exodus 32:4 They said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Oh, yes, God could have “given up.”
    3. God could have “given up” generations later when He gave Israel Canaan for their own country, and Israel became so ungodly they were gross.
      1. The book of Judges ends with two examples of how horrible Israel was.
        1. Judges 17 and 18 tell about a Levite who made himself a priest by worshipping idols and became the spiritual leader of the tribe of Dan.
        2. Judges 19 and 20 tell about a Levite on a journey who spent the night in Gibeah with his wife.
          1. A neighborly old man invited him into his home.
          2. That night some men of the city demanded that the host give them the visitor so that they could homosexually assault him.
          3. The host gave them his virgin daughter and the man’s wife, and they raped the man’s wife to death.
        3. Why were people so ungodly, so gross? In places like Judges 21:25 the writer gave this explanation:
          Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Oh, yes, God could have “given up.”
  3. There were so many times when God could have “given up!”
    1. God could have “given up” when the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms and one of those kingdoms turned totally to idolatry until they no longer existed.
    2. God could have “given up” when Israel rejected and killed His Son.
    3. God could have “given up” when so many of the early churches miserably failed to be the people God wanted them to be.
      1. The church at Rome struggled as Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians completely misunderstood God’s purposes in salvation.
      2. The church in Corinth had the worst kinds of division and ungodliness.
      3. The Galatian churches did not understand what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
      4. The church at Ephesus did not understand that godliness was to be reflected in Christian relationships.
      5. The church at Philippi had major problems respecting each other.
      6. The church at Colossae created their own brand of Christianity by combining parts of Christianity with parts of popular pagan teachings.
      7. The church at Thessalonica thought that Jesus was coming back so soon that they could quit their jobs and do nothing but sit around and meddle in other peoples lives.
      8. The church at Pergamum adopted idolatrous practices.
      9. The church at Thyatira had an influential member who taught Christians that it was all right to commit adultery.
      10. The church at Sardis was dead.
      11. The church at Laodicea made God sick to His stomach.
    4. Oh, yes, God could have “given up.”
  4. And then there is today’s Christianity and congregations.
    1. Would you rank Christianity and congregations of today as a plus or a minus?
      1. Do you think that God looks at Christians today and says, “It was frustrating, but it was worth it!”
        1. I am afraid that we American Christians are terribly arrogant before God and do not even realize it.
        2. We tend to think that God sees the church in America as being what He always wanted.
      2. What is the probability that God looks at us and says, “They are exactly what I wanted!”
        1. “They place the emphasis exactly where I wanted it.”
        2. “They are exactly the kind of people I wanted.”
        3. “They have the kind of marriages I wanted.”
        4. “They have the kind of homes I wanted.”
        5. “They respect and care about people just like I wanted.”
        6. “They are forgiving, merciful, and compassionate just like my Son was.”
    2. Does God watch us “reading between the lines” as we try to decide what God really wants.
      1. We cannot listen to the emphasis in the New Testament and fail to see the enormous stress placed on our attitudes, our hearts, our treatment of others, our morality, our ethical behavior, and our relationships.
      2. You see this emphasis in the teachings and the actions of our Lord Jesus.
      3. You see this emphasis in the letters written to the churches.
      4. Love your wife; love your husband; love your children; love fellow believers; love your neighbors; love people who are strangers; even love your enemies.
      5. Help people; do good; share; treat other people like you want to be treated.
      6. Be a merciful people in an evil world because your God is committed to showing mercy to an evil world.
      7. Show compassion; show kindness; be patient and forbearing; forgive; encourage the strong; help the weak; never discourage those who seek God.
    3. And we say, “Yes, I have read all that in the New Testament. But this is the real question: what does God really want?”
      1. And God replies, “If I wanted tabernacles or temples, I know how to command people to build.”
      2. “If I wanted rules and regulations, I know how to give people a law code.”
      3. “If I wanted rituals, I know how to command people to follow details.”
      4. “I know how to tell people to do what I want them to do.”
      5. Do you believe that God knows how to tell us to do what He wants us to do?
  5. I would like to share two observations.
    1. Observation one: so much of what we emphasize when we do “church things” is about us, our likes, our desires, our preferences, and our personal priorities, and not much about God.
    2. Observation two: I often fear that in our determined effort to restore the New Testament church that we have little desire to restore New Testament Christianity.

Next Saturday and Sunday Bill Smith and Alan Robertson will spend quality time with us just to give us information on the small group ministry. We need you to be a part of that weekend experience. We need you here Saturday and Sunday. Why? We want to understand everything possible about encouraging and helping people. Why? Because God loves people. That is the only reason that God never “gives up.”

[Prayer: God, thank You for not giving up on us. Help us understand that You do not want us to give up on others.]

The only reason God has not “given up” on you and on me is because God loves us. What do we do to encourage God not to “give up” on us?

How Does a Wish and a Goal Differ?

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Commonly, people are wishers. Wishing thinks, “It would be wonderful if this happened. I hope it does!” Wishing has no specific plan to make a desire a reality. If the desire becomes reality, it just happens.

Some make goals. A goal is specific and can be defined. It proceeds to occurrence in planned steps. “I want this to happen. I will work to make the goal a reality. I will do these specific things to help it happen. I intend for it to become reality by this time.”

God does not wish. He sets goals. Our eternal salvation was a goal. For salvation to become reality, a specific means for human atonement, redemption, sanctification, and forgiveness had to exist. To liberate His grace and mercy, God had to satisfy justice.

(1) God selected a people. His objective: develop a people who trusted Him and understood His actions. (2) Through this people, He would send His Son. (3) Justice would be satisfied when He sacrificed His Son. (4) Through that sacrifice, God would atone and redeem. (5) Those who accepted His sacrifice would be forgiven and sanctified. (6) By resurrection Jesus would become Lord. These would accept God’s sacrifice and Jesus’ Lordship. God’s goal became our reality.

We have congregational goals. We plan to become what God wants us to be. We plan to reach those who have not accepted Christ. We want them to be a part of this congregation. We plan to encourage and sustain those in this congregation. We want to promote the spiritual growth and spiritual maturing of every Christian.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 22-24, two men from the White’s Ferry Road congregation in West Monroe, Louisiana, will spend quality time with us as we learn about the small group ministry. Bill Smith is an experienced elder. Alan Robertson is their director of small groups. Their congregation is about our size.

This is an informational visit. It is the time to ask questions, to learn purposes, to examine problems, and to evaluate possibilities. The purpose: to equip us to make an informed decision.

If we add this ministry, it will replace nothing. It will be an addition to meet specific needs, not a substitution. It would be a specific step taken to move us toward our goal.

This congregation needs your ears, your mind, and your heart Saturday and Sunday, October 23 and 24. Help us be goal driven, not wish oriented.

Giving God Deserved Praise

Posted by on October 10, 1999 under Sermons

Think of a person that you know well whom you profoundly appreciate and deeply respect. It can be anyone from any period in your life. Focus on that person. Do you have him or her in mind?

Do you admire this person? Could you explain to me how this person touches your life? Could you list the qualities that you admire in this person? Could you illustrate what an exceptional person this man or woman is?

Could you talk to me about this person? Could you compliment this person? Could I hear your respect and admiration in your words and voice?

  1. Do you ever talk about God the way you talk about this person?
    1. I want to talk to all Christians this morning. From young Christian to old Christian, I want you to think with me.
      1. Do you realize the good experiences that you have in your life that exist because you made peace with God?
      2. The most distressful times I ever experience are the direct result of the loss peace with another person.
        1. When peace dies, my stress and anxiety are horrible.
        2. The absence of peace with someone affects my whole life–my eating, my sleeping, my attitude, my thought process, my anxiety level.
      3. If God had not made peace with you through the blood of Jesus Christ, one of two things would be true of your life.
        1. Either you would have no conscience at all.
          1. You would be hard, indifferent, uncaring, selfish, and mean spirited.
          2. Or you would be consumed with guilt–guilt would eat you alive.
        2. What would your life be if you never worshipped, never prayed, never had a godly thought, never knew any Christian, and had nowhere to turn when times get tough and bad things happen?
      4. You would do what most people do who live that existence.
        1. You would enter a deep depression that made you angry at the world.
        2. Your life would be a hell, and you would make other people’s life a hell.
        3. You would try to escape the pain and misery of your existence by running to alcohol, or running to a pill, or smoking a joint, or involving yourself in the kinds of pleasures that temporarily make you numb and unfeeling.
        4. You would probably work hard five days a week doing something you hate just so that you could try to escape for two days a week.
    2. Do you have any idea of what God does for you every day of your life?
      1. Do you think the only things God does for you are hypothetical religious things that are not real and have no every day value?
      2. Because God is not your slave, because He does not do everything you want the way you want when you want, do you think He really does nothing?
      3. Do you have any idea what your life would be like for just twenty-four hours if God did absolutely nothing for you?
    3. When Noah climbed off the ark with his family and stepped on dry land, Noah knew what God had done for him.
      1. Maybe Noah was like us–while building the ark, maybe he thought about all he was doing for God.
      2. When he climbed off the ark, he knew he did nothing for God, and that God did everything for him.
      3. While he was building the ark, Noah lived among extremely wicked people.
        1. How wicked?
        2. Genesis 6:5,6 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
        3. Those wicked folks did not offer sacrifices to God; in fact those folks did not “waste” their time thinking about God.
      4. Do you know the first thing Noah did when he climbed off that ark on dry land? He offered a sacrifice.
        Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.
        1. Why did Noah offer a sacrifice?
        2. Did God command, “Noah, when you get off the ark, offer me a sacrifice!” No.
        3. Then why? Noah was grateful, and he thanked the God who was worthy of all the honor and praise that he could give him.
        4. And his sacrifice arose as a soothing aroma to God, an aroma that God treasured.
      5. “I guess that God likes the smell of burning meat.” No.
        1. Noah was profoundly grateful to God for what God did for him.
        2. God was touched by Noah’s gratitude.
    4. That is the heart and soul of the sacrifices offered to God that touch God and deeply please Him
      1. Why do people give sacrifices to God?
      2. “Because they have to in order to obey God!”
        1. There is no question about the fact that people who believe in and trust God must obey Him.
        2. But to think that they do it because “they have to” misses the point of the sacrifice.
        3. You can do exactly what God commands you to do in the name of obedience, and still insult and deeply offend God.
        4. If you doubt that, you need to go home and read Isaiah 1.
      3. Sacrifices given to God that do not express sincere gratitude insult God.
        1. If the sacrifice does not come from the heart, it is an insult.
        2. If the sacrifice does not come from sincere appreciation, it is an insult.
        3. If the sacrifice does not honor God, it is an insult.
  2. Christians offer a different kind of sacrifice to God, but they offer sacrifices for the same reasons, the same purposes.
    1. The author of the book of Hebrews talked about the Christians’ altar and sacrifice in Hebrews 13.
      1. God sacrificed Jesus on our altar.
      2. Because God sacrificed Jesus, we can offer sacrifices to God.
        Hebrews 13:15,16 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
        1. The fruit of our lips is our continual sacrifice to God.
        2. Our lips praise God for all that He did and is doing for us in Jesus Christ.
        3. To prove the sincerity of our praise, we also offer the sacrifices of doing good and sharing.
    2. The primary way that Christians praise God publicly today is through songs.
      1. The primary place that we praise God by song is in our worship assemblies.
      2. We sing without musical instruments because all evidence indicates that the early Christians sang without musical instruments.
      3. Does the New Testament specifically condemn using musical instruments while singing praise to God? No, the New Testament does not even mention musical instruments in Christian worship.
    3. There are only two brief references that talk about Christians singing.
      1. In Ephesians 5:17-20 Paul said this to the Ephesian Christians:
        Ephesians 5:17-20 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
        1. The context of this instruction does not focus on worship but on life.
        2. Instead of being foolish, understand God’s will.
        3. Don’t fill yourself with wine and go around singing the drunkard’s songs.
        4. Fill your life with the spirit, and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that come from your heart and honor your Lord.
        5. Constantly give thanks to God in the name of your Lord Jesus Christ.
      2. Paul said this to the Christians in Colossae (Colossians 3:14-17).
        Colossians 3:14-17 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
        1. The perfect cord that unifies Christians is love.
        2. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful.
        3. Let Christ’s word live in you richly; use wisdom in teaching and encouraging each other.
        4. With hearts that are thankful to God, teach and admonish each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
        5. Let everything that occurs in your life honor the Lord Jesus, and through him give thanks to God.
  3. In our emphases on worship, we missed an emphasis of basic importance.
    1. Before Jesus died for us, it took many correct things for God’s people to worship collectively.
      1. It required the right place, a tabernacle or a temple, a priesthood, an altar, and animals to be sacrificed. All those were necessary for Israel to assemble and worship.
      2. For Christians to assemble and worship, it takes hearts, minds, and voices.
        1. We are the priests (1 Peter 2:9); we are the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16); and we are the sacrifice (Romans 12:1,2).
        2. The true worship of God depends on nothing more than the hearts, minds, and voices of Christians.
    2. Consider carefully:
      1. Many of you would be deeply offended if we used a musical instrument this morning because the New Testament says nothing about musical instruments in Christian worship.
      2. But some of you who would be offended by the use of musical instruments do not sing.
        1. The New Testament says nothing about musical instruments in worship.
        2. The New Testament instructs Christians to sing.
      3. We need to understand that it is not the melody of the voice that thrills God; it is the melody of the heart. You sing to praise. You sing to say “thank you.”

Consider all God does for you each day of your life. Together, let us offer a sacrifice to God with the fruit of our lips. Let us praise Jesus with our songs.

Sitting Duck

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

We have an expression to describe the person (a) who is in serious danger and (b) has zero chance of escaping that danger. The expression is “sitting duck.” The sitting duck has no chance of escaping the hunter. Ducks fly with agility and speed. Ducks swim gracefully, but not with speed. Ducks run ugly and slow. A duck sitting in the water or on land has zero chance of escaping the undetected hunter.

The uncommitted Christian who is not actively serving God is a “sitting duck.” Satan is the hunter. When we choose an existence that spiritually “sits” rather than “serves,” 100% of the advantage is given to Satan. The “sitting” Christian will be wounded. “Sitting” certainly will result in great pain, and it can result in death.

Serving God is not merely a spiritual responsibility. Committed service to God in Christ gives God 100% advantage. God delivers us from evil in Jesus Christ for specific reasons. (1) It allows God to express and fulfill His love for us. (2) It allows us to express and fulfill our love for God. (3) It allows us to receive forgiveness. (4) It gives us the privilege of being members of God’s family and citizens of God’s kingdom. (5) It permits God to use us and our physical existence to achieve His purposes. We must never forget Christians exist to serve God’s purposes.

Nothing will transform you or your life as will serving God. Congregations filled with servants grow. Christian individuals who are servants grow. Christian servants advance the purposes and objectives of our loving God and forgiving Savior. Every achievement God has accomplished in this evil world used human servants. Every achievement God will accomplish in this evil world will use human servants.

In the year 2000 we wish to dedicate Sunday Bible classes to a study of Christian service. We want to encourage each Christian to be God’s servant. This is a clear, stressed, major theme in the Bible. God’s Son, our example, was a servant. As God’s sons and daughters, we are to be servants. To be God’s servants, we must (a) surrender to God and (b) become “whole life” stewards. Beginning in January, these four themes will be the basis of our adult Sunday morning Bible classes.

Next Sunday, there will be a special meeting of all men who teach or are interested in teaching in the Sunday adult Bible class program in 2000. Adult teachers, Ted and I encourage you to meet with us. Please come. Consider the objectives. Consider the resources. Examine our materials and the plan. Help us begin preparation for our adult classes now.

Stabilize the Situation

Posted by on October 3, 1999 under Sermons

That is an extremely difficult commitment to make. There are things that we can understand today that were not known 20 years ago. There will be things that can be understood in twenty years that we do now know about today. The more that is discovered about Greek and Hebrew, the basic languages of the Bible, the more accurately we can translate the emphasis and the meaning of the texts. The more we can know about the worlds, the times, and the historical context of the writings, the better we can understand the message of the author.

  1. In my understanding and judgment, the accuracy of our understanding of and use of the material in the letter we call 1 Timothy should be significantly influenced by our understanding of the situation in the city of Ephesus.
    1. When Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia, he left Timothy in Ephesus.
      1. This letter was intended to remind Timothy of his focus among the Christians in that city.
      2. Paul may have written this letter shortly after Acts 20:1 when Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia.
      3. The riot that occurred in Ephesus marked the end of Paul’s stay.
        1. The circumstances created by the riot may have left Paul too little time to give full instructions to Timothy.
        2. Or, Paul may have thought about things he needed to tell Timothy after Paul left.
    2. Ephesus was the most important Asian city in the Roman empire.
      1. In every way, from architecture to business, it was a very impressive city.
      2. At that time its population is estimated to exceed 300,000 people, almost four times the size of Fort Smith.
      3. Its amphitheater located in the middle of the city could care for approximately 25,000 people.
      4. It had three temples that were built for the purpose of worshipping the Roman emperor.
        1. In fact, Ephesus was the center for emperor worship and strongly promoted the practice.
        2. The book of Revelation was addressed to seven congregations in this area when emperor worship was a major threat to Christians.
    3. Paul had an important relationship with this city.
      1. He made a brief stop in Ephesus in Act 18:18-21.
        1. On that visit he left Aquila and Priscilla there.
        2. He also briefly studied with receptive Jews in the synagogue.
      2. In Acts 19 Paul returned as he promised the Jews and continued studying in the synagogue with them.
      3. In Acts 20:17-38 he met with the elders of the congregation in Ephesus.
        1. Paul had serious concerns about the future of the congregation.
        2. They would be successfully invaded by savage people who would destroy Christians.
        3. Some of the elders themselves would teach perverse teachings in order to create their own disciples.
    4. Acts gives us a lot of insight into the complex religious situation in Ephesus.
      1. Paul baptized twelve men who had been baptized with the baptism practiced by John the baptizer but who had never heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6).
      2. The Jews in the synagogue hardened against Paul’s teachings and Paul left the synagogue (Acts 19:9).
      3. Paul spent two years teaching his disciples in the school of Tyrannus which resulted in the message of the gospel being shared with all Asia (Acts 19:20).
      4. Paul performed so many miracles that people brought pieces of cloth for Paul to touch, and when those cloths were used with the sick, the diseased, or the demon possessed, these people were cured (Acts 19:12).
      5. Some Jewish exorcists figured that if Paul could use Jesus to do this, they could use Jesus to do this (Acts 19:14-16).
        1. They tried to cast the demons out of a possessed man by invoking Jesus.
        2. The spirits said they knew Jesus and Paul, but not them.
        3. The men were attacked, stripped naked, and fled wounded.
      6. People who had magical arts books for spiritual practices burned those books–the books were worth 50,000 days wages (Acts 19:19).
      7. Christianity was growing so fast that it cut into the living being made by those who profited from the temple of Diana, and they started a city wide riot (19:23-41).
    5. Religiously, these are the key factors we need to remember about the city.
      1. The temple of Diana was a powerful religious force in the world.
        1. The temple building itself was the largest single building in the Greek world.
        2. It was one of the seven wonders of the world.
        3. It also functioned as a wealthy banking institution.
      2. This area served as the core area for supporting and advancing emperor worship.
        1. Many years later, the book of Revelation was addressed to seven of the congregations in this area.
        2. The first congregation mentioned is Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).
        3. It sounds like they got a great report card: they worked hard and persevered, they did not tolerate evil men, they tested false apostles, they endured without getting tired, and they hated the evil works of the Nicolaitans.
        4. But they did not love Jesus as they did at first, and if they did not restore their love for Jesus, they would be removed.
      3. Jewish Gnosticism seemed to be a religious influence.
        1. It stressed the importance of genealogy.
        2. It could easily get Christians to focusing on the kinds of speculations that would hurt the congregation.
  2. With that background in mind, I call these things to your attention in 1 Timothy 1.
    1. Timothy was urged to stay in Ephesus for these specific reasons:
      1. To instruct certain Christians not to teach strange doctrines (verse 3).
      2. Or to pay attention to myths–myths (legends or fables) played an important role in idolatrous teachings as well as Jewish teachings.
      3. Or to pay attention to endless genealogies which played an important role in one of the early heresies.
      4. These things encouraged Christians to devote their thought and spiritual concerns to speculation instead of building faith in God.
    2. Paul reminded Timothy of the goal of their teaching (verse 5).
      1. The goal of their teaching was to produce love.
      2. The love their teaching produced came from:
        1. Pure hearts.
        2. Good consciences.
        3. Sincere faith.
      3. It was when Christians stopped pursuing the love that came from pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith that they turned to the fruitless discussions of strange doctrines, myths, and endless genealogies (verse 6)
      4. It was the desire to speculate that created a desire to turn to the law [as opposed to Christ] (verse 7).
        1. These people made confident assertions, but did not understand what they taught.
        2. They did not even understand the purpose of the law.
        3. The law did not exist to direct the righteous man but to control the evil, lawless man.
      5. Paul had been entrusted with the glorious good news of the blessed gospel–God’s power to use Christ to rescue sinners from sin.
    3. Paul clearly understood the purpose of creating love through understanding the power of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection to rescue the evil person.
      1. What God did to save him was proof positive.
      2. Only God’s mercy and grace could serve a person like him.
      3. God had a special reason for saving an evil man like him–to prove that God could save anybody.
      4. That is why Jesus Christ came–to save sinners.
    4. Paul trusted Timothy enough to give Timothy “this command.”
      1. What command? In my judgment, the urging to stay in Ephesus and pursue the goal of their instruction: teaching people to love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
      2. In doing this, Timothy was to care for two things.
        1. Take care of your own faith.
        2. Keep your good conscience.
        3. Anyone who fails to do this will spiritually shipwreck.

In some ways, little changes through the centuries. In every generation, in every century, Christians spend more time promoting speculations than in creating love from pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith.

The consequence is that too many Christians do not know how to love. Not their families, not their friends, not their neighbors, not those who have not escaped evil, not their brothers and sisters in Christ. Too many Christians see love from pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith as either weakness or as being of minimal importance.

Love sent Jesus to this world. Love put Jesus on the cross. Love kept Jesus on the cross. Love raised Jesus from the dead. Love shared the gospel with the world. Is that weakness? Is that unimportant?

If Paul left a preacher in Fort Smith to spend time teaching and working with us, what would he command him to do?

Communion: Insult or Honor?

Posted by on under Sermons

Has something at some time completely changed your life and who you are? Probably. Many of us have a list of different things that totally redirected our lives and changed who we were.

Examples? It might be something as simple as an event: a graduation, or marriage, or the birth of a child. It might have involved a person: a teacher, a mentor, a counselor, or a neighbor. It might have involved an act of grace that centered in a second chance opportunity, an illness, a disaster, or a death.

  1. Christians in the New Testament powerfully had their lives changed.
    1. They understood that God changed everything when He made Jesus the Christ.
      1. God spiritually changed the world when He made Jesus the Christ.
        1. At that very moment, God made it possible for him to be just and to forgive the sins of every person on earth.
        2. At that very moment, God was totally free to use His mercy and His grace without restriction through out every nation.
      2. God completely changed life when He made Jesus the Christ.
        1. The changes that occurred in lives when people became Christians could not happen before God made Jesus the Christ.
        2. Every joy, every blessing, every assurance, every promise they had as Christians did not exist before God made Jesus the Christ.
      3. Eternity changed when God made Jesus the Christ.
        1. Before God made Jesus the Christ, death was to be feared.
        2. After God made Jesus the Christ, death became the door to eternal life.
    2. In the New Testament, the Christian who understood what God did when He made Jesus the Christ also understood who and what he or she would be if there was no Christ.
      1. The Christian knew who and what he/she would be if Jesus had not come.
      2. He or she knew who and what he/she would be if Jesus had not become the Christ.
      3. How could they know and understand that so clearly?
        1. Simply because many of them lived before God made Jesus the Christ.
        2. They had lived in a world that had no Christ.
    3. God directly intervened in the affairs of the world by Jesus the Christ, and He designed the Christ to do at least four things.
      1. Jesus Christ was designed by God to change the world; the world would never be the same after Jesus died and was resurrected.
      2. Jesus Christ was designed by God to change human life; no person who understood what God did and trusted what God did would ever be the same.
      3. Jesus Christ was designed by God to change relationships.
        1. God and believers would share a relationship that had never existed before.
        2. Believers who belonged to Jesus would relate to people in new ways with a new kind of love and respect.
      4. Jesus Christ was designed by God to change eternity.
        1. By making Jesus the Christ, God defeated Satan.
        2. By making Jesus the Christ, God made it possible for the judgment to be a time of mercy as well as a time of condemnation.
  2. Never, never were Christians to forget the importance of what God did when He made Jesus the Christ.
    1. “Well, David, when did God make Jesus the Christ?”
      1. First, God sacrificed the physical life and blood of Jesus on the cross to be a sin offering for us.
      2. Second, God raised Jesus from the dead to be the Christ.
      3. Third, when Jesus ascended into heaven God placed him on the throne to rule until the day of judgment.
    2. “Are you sure?” That is what scripture says.
      Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. You killed him.
      2. God made him Lord and Christ.
    3. The night before he was killed, Jesus designed a simple memorial to be a continual reminder of what God and Jesus accomplished.
      1. Jesus established a living memorial to the significance of his sacrifice.
        1. We commonly refer to that memorial as the Lord’s supper or communion.
        2. Jesus established this memorial as he ate his last meal (prior to death) with his disciples.
        3. Luke 22 states at least three times that this meal was the Jewish Passover meal.
    4. While this is a very simple memorial (in no way elaborate), it is filled with powerful symbolism (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14;22-25; Luke 22:19,20).
      1. Jesus based the memorial on the two foods that sustained life throughout the Mediterranean world at that time: bread and the juice of the grape.
        1. Bread and wine sustained life in the world as they knew it.
        2. Just as bread and wine sustained daily life, Jesus sustains daily life.
      2. I understand this meal to be an observance of the Jewish Passover.
        1. God commanded that Israel without fail should observe this meal once a year on the date that they left the slavery of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-14; Deuteronomy 16:16).
        2. The Jewish Passover celebrates their deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
        3. The Lord’s supper symbolizes a greater deliverance: God gave the world the opportunity to escape the slavery of sin.
      3. Jesus said that the bread was to be a continual reminder of his body.
        1. He said the juice of the grape was to be a continual reminder of his blood.
        2. Every time they observed this memorial they were to remember Jesus.
        3. The juice of the grape not only represented his blood, but it declared that God was making a new agreement, a new covenant because Jesus’ blood would be sacrificed to destroy sin (Matthew 26:28)
  3. Forty-nine days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter presented to a Jerusalem multitude the fact that Jesus was the Christ.
    1. Christians now understood, and they never wanted to forget.
      1. Eternal forgiveness existed as an established fact when God made Jesus the Christ.
      2. New life in Jesus was a reality because God made Jesus the Christ.
      3. A new relationship with God that never existed began because God made Jesus the Christ.
      4. Those who placed their lives in Jesus by trusting what God had done were delivered from the judgment of condemnation by being made children of God.
    2. All evidence and information that we have verifies that early Christians met to share this memorial each first day of the week.
      1. Sunday was the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
      2. That is why every Sunday we share this memorial.
      3. We just want to be Christians, nothing more and nothing less.
    3. When Paul explained communion to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), he said the Lord’s supper served these specific purposes.
      1. It promoted unity among Christians by reminding them of what Christ has done for each one of them (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).
      2. It declared their faith in the fact the Jesus died for them (1 Corinthians 11:26).
      3. It declared their faith in the fact that the resurrected Jesus would someday return (1 Corinthians 11:26).
    4. Paul said that every time a Christian takes communion, he or she either remembers Jesus and thereby honors God, or he or she insults God in the manner communion is taken and passes judgment on himself or herself.
      1. Nothing is more serious than what happens in our hearts and minds as we take communion.
      2. We can do nothing that is of greater insult to God than to take communion without having our hearts and minds focused on Jesus.
      3. We honor God and Jesus when we take communion in remembrance of him.
    5. At this time, may we remember Jesus and honor God.

    [The congregation takes the Lord’s supper together.]

  4. Communion is both simple and difficult.
    1. The most difficult communion challenge I ever faced I encountered almost on a weekly basis in West Africa when I took communion with the Christians there.
      1. In the rural areas where I was, grains that make bread were not grown; they did not eat bread; they had no baking ovens of any kind.
      2. Grapes did not grow there; the only grape juice available was the cheapest wine you can imagine.
      3. There was no refrigeration, so the cheap wine turned to vinegar in the tropical heat in about a week, and I cannot describe the taste.
      4. Due to poverty, they drank from a single glass; to honor missionaries, they served us last.
    2. From experience, I know it is much easier to create habits, traditions, and rituals than it is to think and feel.
      1. It is much easier to stress procedures and details than to focus on content and substance.
      2. May I illustrate that fact?
        1. If we served loaf bread in communion this morning, many would be angry and offended.
          1. Does the New Testament command us to use bread without yeast? No.
          2. Do the actual words of scripture place emphasis on the kind of bread we use? No.
          3. Why do we use bread without yeast?
            1. Because Jesus was eating the Jewish Passover meal when he instituted the Lord’s supper.
            2. In the Passover meal it was specifically commanded that the Jewish people use bread without yeast (Exodus 12:8).
          4. We correctly conclude that Jesus used bread without yeast.
          5. Because we want to do what they did, we use bread without yeast.
          6. I certainly agree that is appropriate.
      3. We would be very upset if loaf bread was used when the actual words of the New Testament place no emphasis on the kind of bread used.
        1. But many are not bothered when the emphasis is on “getting communion over with as quickly as possible.”
          1. “What can we do to shorten communion time so we can dismiss quicker?”
          2. “We are not going to beat the crowd to the restaurant today.”
          3. “We are going to miss the first quarter of the ball game.”
          4. “We just will not have time for all we planned this afternoon.”
        2. The New Testament does say clearly, plainly, that if our minds and hearts are not focused on remembering Jesus we are guilty of killing Jesus, and we pass judgment on ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27,29).
        3. We can be very emotional about matters the New Testament says little or nothing about, and very indifferent about matters it emphasizes.
        4. The fact that we can do that should deeply concern us.

In Jerusalem, Peter spoke to some of the people who shouted for the death of Jesus. He used evidence they accepted to prove that God made Jesus Lord and Christ. Many of them believed Peter’s evidences and cried out, “What should we do?”

Peter told them that if they wanted forgiveness, they needed to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).

Do you believe that God made Jesus the Christ? Will you accept the forgiveness you need and that God offers you? If you believe, will you repent and be baptized?

We Have Something Special!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

This congregation has many special things. One of the many is found in our staff. It should never be taken for granted. The staff works together well as a team. We genuinely like and enjoy each other. We never “tiptoe” around each other. We never “put up” with each other. We share a marvelous spirit of openness and cooperation. It is a joy and privilege to work with Brad, Ted, Roy, Debbie, and Myra.

I hope that you feel a deep sense of gratitude for the events this weekend. Crosswalk is a major happening. Brad began serious work and planning for Crosswalk before his surgery. It is truly an area event. Area youth ministers work together to make Crosswalk a successful reality. Youth groups from three states attend. Our facilities and location make West-Ark ideally suited to host the event.

On Saturday, 625 teens and adults assembled for classes, for challenges, for direction, for worship, and for repentance. Encouragement was given. Hearts were touched. Commitment and resolve were renewed. Faith was strengthened. Two were baptized into Christ.

Besides caring for his own responsibilities, Ted provides excellent help and support. In all the preparation, Ted helped Brad in every way that he could. On Friday, his day off, he came to help with the countless last minute things demanding attention. Ted was here all day Saturday. Of his own accord and thoughtfulness, he video taped the events of Saturday and early worship Sunday morning.

Debbie or Myra never ask, “Is this in our job description?” They never hesitate to offer assistance. Their normal (for them, normal does not exist!) workload is often overwhelming. Yet, they always are willing to make the time to help.

Each staff member would confess quickly that we receive wonderful help and support. So many of you are willingly “there for us” with real assistance and support. Thanks! To all of you who housed young people in your homes Saturday night, thanks! To all of you who took responsibilities and gave assistance, thanks!

Take joy in the good Crosswalk accomplished. Lives were focused on Jesus Christ. Minds were challenged to battle evil. Hearts were touched for eternal purposes.