Satisfying the Need

Posted by on February 23, 2003 under Sermons

What is the hungriest you have ever been? I am serious. I want you to remember a time when you were so hungry that you could not stop the hunger pains. Your stomach growled. Your body ached for food. Your yearning for food controlled your mind, controlled your body, controlled all of you. Can you remember such a time?

What is the thirstiest you have ever been? Again, I am serious. Can you remember a time when you were so thirsty that all you could think about was drinking? Your mouth was so dry that your tongue stuck when it touched anything inside your mouth. The saliva inside your mouth was non-existent. Your lips were so dry that they cracked. You were so dehydrated you could not even sweat. Can you remember such a time?

When we are genuinely hungry, genuinely thirsty, we will eat and drink at our first opportunity. Give us any choice you wish. However, if the choice is between food and water and anything else, we will choose food and water.

In the mid-eighties, I was invited to teach some Bible lessons to a military congregation in Stuttgart, Germany. When the teaching was concluded, Joyce and I bought some travel passes good inside Germany, took two backpacks, and took four days of vacation going anywhere we decided inside Germany. We would have a continental breakfast early in the morning, decide where we wanted to spend day, take a train, and go. We would not have another meal until that evening.

One day our travels (late in the day) took us within seeing distance of the Austrian border. One of Joyce’s dreams has been to visit Austria. Though it was late, she wanted to cross the border just to be able to say that she was inside the country.

I was hungry. I was so hungry that I was weak. I was so hungry I was hurting. There was nowhere to buy food. Joyce still has not visited Austria!

  1. Once Jesus taught a lesson that contrasted his concepts (which are God’s concepts) of righteousness with the prevailing concepts of righteousness in Jewish culture and society.
    1. He began the lesson by describing God’s concept of a righteous person in Matthew 5:3-12. We commonly refer to his description as the beatitudes.
      1. In that description of a righteous person is this emphasis in verse 6:
        Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
      2. The righteous person wants to be a righteous person.
        1. He or she is not righteous because he or she is forced to be.
        2. He or she is not righteous “under protest.”
        3. He or she is righteous by personal desire and commitment.
      3. He or she is hungry and thirsty to be righteous, and he or she gives nourishment to that hunger and thirst.
    2. Jesus realized that what he was to share could be (and likely would be) misunderstood by many people.
      1. The religious scholars and teachers were certain they had God’s concerns all figured out–they emphasized what they were certain were God’s concerns in a person being righteous.
      2. Jesus knew he would share a number of emphasis that would not agree with what was publicly emphasized.
      3. He began with two things they must understand.
        1. If they were to be God’s righteous people, they had to come to an understanding of who they were.
          1. They were God’s salt and light.
          2. They were to function as God’s power to preserve and God’s power to see.
        2. If they were to be God’s righteous people, they also had to understand who he was.
          1. He knew many significant people would declare he was trying to destroy God’s law.
          2. He was not there to destroy the law.
          3. He was there to be the living embodiment of what God always intended the law to produce.

  2. Then Jesus’ began a lengthy series of contrasts.
    1. The first thing I challenge you to understand is this: many, many of those who heard Jesus’ contrast would react by saying, “That can’t be right!”
      1. For almost 100 years there had been a powerful religious force and influence in Israel to get the people to return to God’s laws and God’s ways.
        1. This group of people began as the Hasidim influence.
        2. Among their concerns was this one: they were certain the influences of Greek culture would destroy Judaism if those influences were not stringently opposed.
        3. One of their mottoes was, “Restore the old paths.”
        4. By the time Jesus’ ministry began, these people were certain that is exactly what they were doing.
      2. They were certain that Israel needed teachers who bound that return upon people, not teachers who made people think.
    2. Listen to the contrasts Jesus made to accepted practices:
      1. Jesus said: seek peace.
        1. Prevailing thought: use the court system.
        2. Jesus said using the court system produced serious consequences.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      2. Jesus said: The desire for adultery in a person’s mind is the foundation of the problem of adultery (adultery was a real problem then and it is now).
        1. Prevailing thought: unless there is a physical act, there is no adultery.
        2. Jesus said if the intent is there the evil is there.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      3. Jesus said: divorce produces spiritual disaster.
        1. Prevailing thought: divorce is okay because Moses allowed divorce.
        2. Jesus said that divorce produced adultery.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      4. Jesus said: be truthful with people.
        1. Prevailing thought: it is okay to deceive people as long as you do it the right way.
        2. Jesus said deceit is deceit, and it is ridiculous to attempt to involve God in deceit.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      5. Jesus said: instead of being just, be merciful.
        1. Prevailing thought: if someone hurts you, make them suffer the consequences.
        2. Jesus said be dedicated to mercy instead of being dedicated to justice.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      6. Jesus said: pray for those who hurt you.
        1. Prevailing thought: show kindness only to people who are kind to you.
        2. Jesus said if that is all you do, you are just like everyone else.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      7. Jesus said: do godly acts because you have godly motives.
        1. Prevailing thought: if a person does godly acts it does not matter what his or her motives are.
        2. Jesus said if the motives are not godly the acts cannot please God.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      8. Jesus said: if your life’s purpose is focused on material things, your life will not belong to God.
        1. Prevailing thought: things are God’s blessings, and having them proves God is with you.
        2. Jesus said life’s purpose is found in letting God rule you, not in pursuing material things.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      9. Jesus said: instead of judging people, help people.
        1. Prevailing thought: pick out the people who are not serving God and condemn them.
        2. Jesus said treat other people like you want to be treated.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
      10. Jesus said: be careful how you live your life; choose carefully.
        1. Prevailing thought: because of who you are and who you are related to, your position with God is secure.
        2. Jesus said the kind of influence you have on others proves who you are.
        3. A lot of people said, “That can’t be right!”
    3. Jesus closed his teaching with this emphasis:
      1. It is not enough to listen to me.
      2. It is not enough to agree with me.
      3. The wise person listens to me and acts on what I say.

  3. We need to understand God’s objective in our lives.
    1. God’s objective is not to make life impossible.
      1. God does not want you to say, “Oh, I could never lived up to God’s expectations.”
      2. God does not want you to say that it is impossible for you to be a righteous person.
    2. God’s objective is to help you understand what righteousness is, and to hunger and thirst for it.
      1. God does not want you to be deceived about godliness.
      2. God wants you to have full encouragement to try.
      3. His forgiveness and grace are big enough to cover you if you will hunger and thirst for righteousness.
    3. Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah told Israel that they needed to understand God’s objective in their lives.
      1. What they needed to understand was simple: God specializes in recovery, not in destruction.
      2. Listen to this touching statement in Isaiah 42:1-4:
        “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

God does not crush or extinguish people. Jesus Christ does not crush or extinguish people. People who are ruled by God do not crush or extinguish people.

While each of us surely must hunger and thirst for righteousness, each of us also must understand that God does not crush or extinguish people. In God there is responsibility, but also in God there is hope.

Hope: For What?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Are the moments ever uncertain! An orange alert indicates a terrorist attack is a serious possibility [maybe]. Economic struggles suggest some businesses will not survive [perhaps]. The deployment of men and women place lives and families at serious risk [sometimes]. Add to those question marks the loss of jobs, rising family crises, mounting loads of indebtedness, and a myriad of moral struggles, and uncertainty definitely seems to characterize the emotional climate of right now.

If terrorists attack, can Christians suffer and be killed? Yes. If businesses fail, can that include some Christians’ businesses? Yes. Can deployments include Christians? Yes. Can a Christian lose his or her job? Yes. Can Christians experience family crises? Yes. Can Christians burden themselves with debt? Yes. Can temptations lead Christians into moral crises? Yes.

Then what is the use of being a Christian? If we regard Christianity to be a form of a spiritual insurance policy, there is no reason to be a Christian. If the primary reason for our being Christian is a desire to purchase a spiritual insurance policy to protect us from “bad physical things” occurring in our lives, we have no godly reason for being Christian. Following Jesus Christ does not prevent struggles. Jesus never promised that protection.

People must become Christians because they believe in Jesus Christ’s resurrection. They must become Christians because they believe their resurrection will inaugurate a new existence in a righteous world free from struggle. They trust God’s promise of strength as they struggle in this world until they are a part of His world. They should not and must not become Christians because they consider it a form of “physical struggle prevention” in this existence.

Paul encouraged struggling Christians in Rome with this statement in Romans 8:18:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

A few sentences later, Paul made this statement to those same struggling Christians (Romans 8:23):
“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

We, as Christians, reflect God as we endure physical struggle because we wish to live with God where there is no struggle. With God’s strength and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, we shall!

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Skip Over” Scriptures: Romans 16, Part 2

Posted by on February 16, 2003 under Sermons

There is real reason to give attention to the statements that come at the end of letters such as Romans. Why? Some of those scriptures provide us small windows for a glimpse into the Christian community in the first century. Some of those scriptures are not windows, but peep holes that call our attention to some possibilities.

To me, the “today” values of these scriptures include two benefits. (1) They provide us some insight into the relationships that existed in the Christian community. To me it is fairly obvious that relationships among Christians in the first century church and relationships among Christians today are perceivably different. (2) They caution us about being too dogmatic in our conclusions. Sometimes it is too easy to conclude that we have figured everything out. Sometimes it is too easy to defend a conclusion produced by our reasoning as though it were a first century practice. Sometimes it is too easy to decide that the way we do a particular thing is precisely the way the first Christians did it. These scriptures caution us against being so definite in some of the conclusions we have drawn.

  1. Let me begin with a brief review of the things we noted in Roman 16:1-15.
    1. We spent some time taking about Phoebe in verses 1 and 2.
      1. The original language of the letter indicates she was a patroness in the city of Cenchrea and a deaconess in the Christian community there.
        1. She served significantly both in the city and in the church.
        2. In both roles she was a servant–she helped a lot of people, including Paul.
      2. She likely took this letter from Paul to the Christians in Rome.
        1. Paul asked them to help her in any way she needed help.
        2. Paul basically asked them to care for her in the manner she cared for people including Christians.
    2. We talked about Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila.
      1. We discussed how they left Rome and likely returned to Rome by using the information in Acts 18.
      2. We talked about Paul’s relationship with them.
    3. I asked you to note some of Paul’s emphasis in the first 15 verses.
      1. I called your attention to Paul’s emphasis on Christian service, work, or labors.
      2. I called to your attention that in Rome there were gatherings composed of Gentile Christians.
      3. I called to your attention that Paul mentioned several Christian women in his greetings.

  2. This evening I want to call to your attention some of the other things Paul said in these 15 verses.
    1. I want to call your attention again to Priscilla and Aquila.
      1. Paul not only spoke of the churches of the gentiles in Rome, but he mentioned the fact that the gentile Christians had an appreciation for Priscilla and Aquila.
      2. He also noted a church (some of the Christian community in Rome) met in their home, and Paul sent greetings to those Christians.
      3. The problem that commonly existed between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians in the first century was often a very serious problem of significant consequences.
        1. Priscilla and Aquila were among the Jewish Christians who were part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
        2. Their encouragement and commitment to gentile Christians placed them among an unusual group of Jewish Christians: Paul (the apostle to the gentiles according to Galatians 2:8), Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark to name a few.
        3. Priscilla and Aquila were part of a unique group of Jewish Christians.
      4. I would also like to note a couple of things about this unique husband and wife Christian team.
        1. This couple is mentioned by name six times (Acts 18;2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; I Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 4:19).
          1. Three of those times (50% of occurrences), Prisca or Priscilla is listed first.
          2. That is unusual.
          3. It is significant, but we do not know precisely what the significance is.
        2. In those six references, twice it is acknowledged that a church met in their home.
          1. Each of those times they were living at a different place.
          2. They obviously were hospitable and involved in the Christian community at different places.
    2. I would also like to call your attention to Andronicus and Junia in verse 7.
      1. Junia is a woman’s name.
      2. This is perhaps another husband and wife team who are active in the Christian community and who seek to encourage others to become Christians.
      3. Paul’s use of the word “kinsmen” probably notes that they are Christian Jews as is he. (Remember that Paul called Timothy “my true child in the faith”–1 Timothy 1:2.)
      4. The fact that they had been his fellow prisoners does not have to mean they were in the same prison at the same time; it can mean that they were willing to go to prison for their faith in Jesus Christ just as he had done.
      5. The fact that they were in Christ before him indicates they became Christians before Paul did.
      6. I especially would like to talk about the phrase “who were outstanding among the apostles.”
        1. To begin, I want you to think about something you know and understand: most English words have more than one meaning.
          1. Merely as a extreme example, consider the English word “post.”
          2. “Post” can mean a piece of wood or metal that is firmly fixed in an upright position to stabilize or support–like a fence post.
          3. “Post” can mean a marker that gives indications or information–like mile markers on a highway.
          4. “Post” can mean a public notice or declaration–like the notices displayed in a court house or police station.
          5. “Post” can mean an advertisement or listing–like when a teacher in college posts grades.
          6. “Post” can mean to prohibit–like posting your land.
          7. “Post” can mean a courier–like someone who transports a message.
          8. “Post” can mean a station–like a military post.
          9. “Post” can mean a variety of things that are related to a national mail service–like postman or post office or post box.
          10. “Post” can mean an assignment–like you are given a new post.
          11. “Post” can mean to hurry–like post haste.
          12. “Post” can mean to make an entry in a book or ledger.
          13. “Post” can mean a prefix that means “after”–like a post dated check, a post operative procedure, or a post war event.
          14. Then it can become a part of all kinds of words like post card, poster, post-graduate.
        2. The word “apostle” is used in more than one way in New Testament writings.
          1. The word “apostle” and its verb forms were common words long before Jesus was born.
          2. Jesus did not invent the word, nor did the New Testament writers.
        3. When some of you hear that word, you likely think immediately of the twelve men who followed Jesus (with Matthias replacing Judas after Judas’ death–see Acts 1:15-26).
          1. Jesus clearly, undeniable made these men apostles.
          2. The twelve were unique in the early church, and one of the uses of the word “apostle” refers to them.
          3. Jesus said these twelve men would sit on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel when Jesus sits on his throne (Matthew 19:28).
          4. When describing the new Jerusalem as a walled city, Revelation says the walls have twelve foundation stones and on those stones are the twelve names of the twelve apostles. (Revelation 21:14)
          5. These twelve men were unique and hold a unique position among those who belong to Jesus Christ.
        4. The word “apostle” is also used in the New Testament to describe Christians who were sent on a mission by God or sent on a mission by other Christians.
          1. To me, the first clear use of the word in this manner is found in Acts 14:14 when it refers to Barnabas and Paul as apostles.
          2. Likely when Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15, he distinguished between the twelve in verse 5 and “all the apostles” in verse 7.
        5. In most English translations the Greek word apostolos is not always translated with the English word apostle.
          1. In Phillipians 2:25, Epaphroditus was called “your messenger and minister to my need. . .”; the point is not that this is a poor translation; the point is the word messenger in the Greek is the word apostle.
          2. In 2 Corinthians 8:13 Paul referred to “the messengers of the churches” (the representative of the congregations participating in the fund being sent to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem) and again in the Greek the word is apostles.
      7. It is quite possible that Andronicus and Julia are a husband and wife team, just like Priscilla and Aquila, and that a group of Christians who are recognized as apostles have high regard for them.
        1. If that is correct, this group recognizes a Christian woman as being one of them.
        2. In fact, this group recognizes a Christian woman among them as being exceptional.
    3. In this section, verses 1-15, Paul also stressed relationships.
      1. He commended Phoebe to them and acknowledged she had helped many including him.
      2. He said Prisca and Aquila were his fellow workers who risked their lives for him.
      3. He called Epaenetus his beloved.
      4. He referred to Andronicus and Julia as his kinsmen and fellow prisoners.
      5. He called Ampliatus his beloved.
      6. Urbanus was a fellow worker, Stachys was beloved, Herodian was a kinsman (Christian Jew), and he regarded Rufus’ mother as though she were his own (remember he regarded Timothy to be his son).

Two closing thoughts for you to think about. (1) Look at the faith of these people. Being a Christian was not a part time consideration or a once day a week commitment. (2) Paul felt very close to these people, and he wanted them to feel the same closeness to each other. There is power and strength in Christian closeness.

Eyes That See, Ears That Hear

Posted by on under Sermons

Have you ever made one or both of these statements? “I heard what I heard!” Or, “I saw what I saw!” Each statement affirms, “It happened! He said that! She did that! I am not speculating, I was there! I heard it with my own ears! I saw it with my own eyes! Believe it! It happened!”

Have you personally ever had this experience? You are with some other people who hear a speaker. After the speech is over, you listen as the others who heard the speech discuss what the person said. You listen carefully to their comments. The more they share their comments, the more you wonder if they heard the same speaker and the same speech. What they heard the person say and what you heard the person say are quite different. The meaning they assign to the speech is definitely different from your understanding. What it meant to you and what it meant to them is not at all the same thing.

Such experiences teach a powerful, important lesson. A person must be ready to see. A person must be ready to hear. What the person sees and hears is often powerfully influenced by his or her readiness to see and hear.

Read with me God’s call to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-8.
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

  1. The context:
    1. Isaiah is likely a young man in his early 20’s living in Jerusalem.
      1. Jewish tradition says Isaiah was a descendant of the royal family.
        1. He may or may not have been related to the royal family.
        2. However, evidence indicates that he had access to Jerusalem’s highest social circles.
        3. In our terminology, Isaiah would have been a listing in Jerusalem’s “Who’s Who.”
      2. For a number of reasons life was “really worth living” in Jerusalem when Isaiah was a young man.
        1. It was a very prosperous time.
        2. The upper level of society was primarily focused on living a physical life of luxury.
      3. However, as often the case, living luxuriously and living godly do not walk hand in hand.
        1. Two of the means that let the upper social level focus their lives on luxurious life styles was exploiting the poor and taking advantage of those who were powerless.
        2. Isaiah 1 begins by describing how sick the nation is.
        3. It continues by declaring that their worship offends God.
        4. It urges them to cleanse themselves, stop the evil behavior, and to be just in protecting the widow and orphan.
      4. The people who were living well thought it was a wonderful time, a wonderful life, and everything was great–and that may have included Isaiah.
    2. Then Isaiah had a life-altering experience.
      1. His experience occurred in the temple area in Jerusalem.
      2. After it occurred, everything about life was different.
      3. The experience changed the way he saw himself and the way he saw others.

  2. What was this experience? Isaiah saw God and realized that God was truly King.
    1. The first thing Isaiah realized in his experience was Who and What God is.
      1. I have no doubt that prior to his experience he was confident he knew Who God was.
      2. I am also confident that prior to his experience he was certain he knew God’s position.
      3. When he was enabled to see a manifestation of God, Isaiah realized he knew nothing–God is King; no human was king in the sense that God is.
        1. It is very human to think that we can create the ideal physical life.
        2. It is very human to think that we are in control.
        3. It is very human to think life is good because of what we make happen.
        4. The first thing Isaiah realized is that none of that is true–God is the King of kings sitting on the throne as the Ruler of all rulers, the only true King.
      4. The enthroned God is attended and praised by seraphim.
        1. These seraphim declare two truths about God.
          1. God is holy–totally separated from any form of evil, totally superior and beyond anything that existed in Jerusalem.
          2. God’s presence was not confined to Jerusalem or Israel–His presence filled the entire earth.
        2. These revelations were profound to Isaiah–Isaiah’s seeing and hearing were overwhelmed, and he got the message; he saw and heard the point.
          1. Isaiah did not comprehend how horrible evil was until he saw the holiness of God.
          2. Isaiah realized as never before that God is God over the earth, not merely God over Israel

  3. However, Isaiah’s new revelations do not end with seeing and hearing Who and What God is.
    1. When Isaiah realizes Who and What God is, he also realizes who he is.
      1. When he saw and heard about God’s holiness, he immediately realized how full of evil he was.
        1. When he saw how holy God was, he knew immediately how evil he was.
        2. He was beyond hope. He was pitiful. There was nothing he was capable of doing that could recover himself.
        3. He could not ask for forgiveness and cleansing–his evil was beyond forgiveness and evil.
        4. There was no way to see the holiness of God and not see himself for who he was.
      2. He not only saw himself for who he was, but he also saw Israel for who they were as a nation.
        1. It was not just he that was evil and ruined.
        2. Israel was also evil and ruined.
        3. The man of unclean lips lived among the people of unclean lips.
        4. His eyes has seen the King, the Lord of hosts–Isaiah knew and understood the truth about God, the truth about himself, and the truth about Israel.
    2. Only when he sees God’s holiness is he ready to be God’s messenger.
      1. He is cleansed of his iniquity, forgiven of his sin.
      2. Then he wants God’s message.
      3. Only then is he entrusted with God’s message.

  4. Nothing exists in our nation or our experiences to begin to capture the ruin Isaiah felt when he saw God’s holiness.
    1. Isaiah compared himself to a person who had leprosy.
      1. The condition of leprosy gave a person a pitiful existence.
        1. That person could not live at home, could not have contact with anyone who did not have leprosy, could not even have contact with his own family.
        2. Leviticus 13:45 stated the person with leprosy had to wear torn clothes, had to let his hair be unkempt, and had to cover his lips.
        3. If anyone seemed to be approaching, he had to cry out, “Unclean, unclean!”
    2. Seeing God’s holiness made Isaiah realize just how spiritually filthy he was.
      1. Had we interviewed Isaiah before this experience, he likely would have declared how good life was.
        1. He was alive at a great, prosperous time in history.
        2. He knew all the right people and moved in all the right circles.
        3. He was a part of the chosen people of God who had God’s temple.
        4. He was one of the good guys: “Look how God is blessing us!”
      2. An interview with Isaiah after the experience would have been totally different.
        1. Now he realized that he lived in an incredibly evil time.
        2. Now he realized that the only good association was association with God.
        3. Now he realized that Israel did not even know what it meant to be God’s chosen people.
        4. Now he understood that their use of the temple insulted God instead of honoring God.
        5. Now he realized that their luxurious life styles were the result of self indulgence, not the result of properly using God’s blessings.
    3. I call two things to your attention.
      1. Isaiah was not ready to be cleansed until he realized just how evil he was.
      2. Isaiah was not ready to be God’s messenger until he realized how holy God is.

  5. A primary objective of our worship every Sunday morning when we assemble is to come into the presence of the holy God and see His holiness.
    1. Why?
      1. Only when we see God’s holiness do we see our evil.
      2. Only when we see God’s holiness do we see our need.
      3. Only when we see God’s holiness do we see our unworthiness.
      4. Only when we see God’s holiness do we realize the blessing of being justified and sanctified before God.
      5. Only then do we begin to appreciate the incredible things God does for us in Christ Jesus.
    2. Are we too much like Isaiah before he had his experience of seeing God?
      1. Before that experience there is no reason to believe that he did not regard himself as a godly Israelite who did the right things as he followed the right system.
      2. Do we say, “It is a great time to be alive! Just look at all the good things we have known!’
      3. “We live at the right place at the right time!”
      4. “Just look at how richly God has blessed us with the many things we enjoy!
      5. “Hey, we are the Lord’s church and the Lord’s people, and it has never been easier to be the Lord’s church and the Lord’s people.”
    3. I want us to read two statements made by Jesus and reflect on some questions.
      1. The first is in Jesus’ parable of the talents. It was the master’s response to the slaves who devoted themselves to his purposes in his absence.
        Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
      2. The second is a statement Jesus made in his sermon on the mount.
        Matthew 7:22,23 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Are you the Lord’s slave dedicated to his purposes? Are you in his name doing the things you want to do? Do you see God in His holiness? Have you seen your sinfulness? Do you allow God to use Jesus Christ to cleanse you?

“What Can I Do? I Am Only One Person!”

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These are the “times of insignificance.” “What are ‘the times of insignificance’?” In my life time there was the feeling that “one person made a difference.” Remember this statement: “for the lack of a nail, a war was lost”? A nail was lost from a horse’s shoe. The horse lost the shoe and became lame. It was a chain reaction: a lost nail, a lost horseshoe, a lame horse, an essential message not delivered, a battle lost, the war shifts, and eventually the war is lost. The message: “An insignificant person is important!”

This sense of “personal importance” has seriously eroded. Horseshoes, horses, hand delivered messages, etc., belong to past, personal eras. The “now” era is impersonal. Too often commitment to employees is replaced by profits. Too often personal loyalty to a company is replaced by dollar signs and benefits. Too often “until death parts us” is replaced with “until life bores me.” Too often friendship is temporary and “me centered.” Too often guarantees are momentary understandings intended for now.

We are overwhelmed by a sense of personal insignificance. Often a person feels like an impersonal number in a lengthy list of impersonal numbers. Often a person feels like an expendable commodity. Often a person feels used, violated, or taken for granted. Often a person feels like a small voice in a noisy room. Thus each easily can feel a sense of utter futility because “I am just one–and what can just one do?”

God built the nation of Israel starting with just one [Abraham]. In transitioning a large family into a people, God used just one [Joseph]. When God gave this people a law, He used just one [Moses]. When God gave this people a land, He used just one [Joshua]. When God revived this nation, He used just one [David]. When God warned this nation of the consequences of their choices, He often used just one [the prophets]. When God gave the world a Savior, He used just one [Jesus]. When God informed non-Jewish people of that Savior, He sent them just one apostle [Paul]. What a collection of “just one’s”! A nomad! A prisoner! A traitor! A former slave! An outcast! The unpopular! The rejected! The murderer! Who could use that bunch to change the world? God did!

Jesus described the beginning of God’s kingdom as a mustard seed, a small amount of yeast, a hidden treasure, etc. God functions by using the small in unexpected ways! What God can do with just one when that one has God’s values, lives by God’s morality, and is dedicated to God’s love, compassion, and forgiveness is incredible.

God did not say, “Change society.” That is His business. God says, “Have enough faith to be My ‘just one.'” Do you have the faith to be God’s moral person living by God’s values as God teaches you how to love, be compassionate, and forgive? Do not worry about changing society. Trust God to do that. Merely be what He desires–be a person of faith in Jesus who is God’s “Just One.” It is a matter of faith, not a matter of significance.

Sobering Reminders

Posted by on February 9, 2003 under Bulletin Articles

The past several weeks I find this thought to be common as my week begins. “I wonder what totally unexpected happening will become a part of this week’s awareness?” Every week it seems jobs are lost. Every week we hear of someone we knew who died unexpectedly. Every week we hear of someone strong in faith experiencing personal struggles. Every week we learn of a family in crisis. Every week the news from North Korea is increasingly serious. Every week we are reminded the Afghanistan war is real. Every week indicators suggest we move closer to war with Iraq. Then something occurs like the Colombia space shuttle exploding in its attempt to return to earth.

Doom and gloom? No. Sobering? Yes. For years we were so comfortable in our lives, so comfortable in our faith, so comfortable in our plans, even so comfortable in our anticipated futures that we tended to be blind to reality. We defined security in terms of possessions and lifestyles. We defined God’s promises and blessings in terms of our material desires. We defined relationship with God in terms of affirming the correct practices as we followed the correct system.

Disappearing jobs, disappearing lives, disappearing strengths, disappearing relationships, disappearing peace, and the unexpected confront past tendencies. If we are not careful, when such confrontations assault our past tendencies they also assault our faith. If we are not careful, such assaults on our faith quickly become assaults on our relationship with God.

Consider these reminders repeatedly stressed throughout the Bible.

1. God is the only certain reality. Nations rise and fall. Cultures rise and fall. Societies rise and fall. Leaders rise and fall. The strong rise and fall. The wealthy rise and fall. Those who live for pleasure rise and fall. The God Who created endures. He was before this world began. He will remain when this world ends. Wise is the man or woman who is in relationship with God.

2. Relationship with God promises the strength to endure struggles, not freedom from struggles. Abraham lived in dangerous situations. David fled to the wilderness. Jesus was a target. Paul faced unimaginable hardships. Yet, each found the strength to endure from a relationship with God.

3. The greater our dependence on God, the greater is our strength from God. Paul thought his effectiveness in his God-given mission significantly would improve if opposition ended. If God removed his opposition, he could get so much more done for Christ! The Lord’s response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Lord’s way of looking at Paul’s situation totally changed the way Paul saw his situation. “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (above verse).

4. Never forget the goal is to follow Christ as you place life in God. Never forget that you are in this world, but not of this world.

“Skip Over” Scriptures: Romans 16, Part 1

Posted by on February 2, 2003 under Sermons

This evening I want to think with you from what I shall refer to as “skip over” scriptures. “Skip over” scriptures, in these lessons, refer to scripture that occur near the end of New Testament book that we typically read through quickly so we can “skip over” them and get to something important to think about in scripture. Usually these passages contain a number of names that mean little or nothing to us in our reading or study, so our tendency is to salute them as we quickly pass by.

As we begin, there are some basic understandings I would like to stress. I challenge all of us to be encouraged to seek understanding without fear.

Understanding # 1: God’s word is inspired. God was involved in revealing His thoughts and His will through the Bible writers.

Understanding # 2: Each New Testament epistle was written to a first century Christian community or individual. There was a human writer and human recipients who lived in specific situations.

Understanding # 3: The meaning of a scripture must include a knowledge of the people who received the letter and an understanding of the situation the writer addressed. No scripture is properly understood simply because “I always looked at in this way” or “I was always taught it meant this.”

Understanding # 4: We have more tools, more insights to work with right now in understanding scripture than has existed in centuries.

Understanding # 5: We must be honest in seeking to understand scripture. No matter what “I always thought,” I must be honest in my desire to understand scripture. We do not decide our convictions, and then go to scripture to “prove” them. We study scripture as completely and openly as possible, and then we determine our convictions.

Understanding # 6: When I use better tools to gain better insights into the meaning of scripture, I am not condemning honest seekers before me who did not have today’s tools.

Take your Bible and turn to Romans 16. Much of Romans 16 is often treated as a “skip over” scripture.

  1. This chapter begins with Paul’s personal commendation of a Christian woman named Phoebe.
    1. Evidently Phoebe lived in Cenchrea.
      1. Cenchrea was the sea port town/city about seven miles east of the city of Corinth. It allowed ships access through the Saronic Gulf to the Aegean Sea.
      2. Phoebe was a part of the Christian community in Cenchrea and was Paul’s friend and helper.
        1. She was an important part of the Christian community in Cenchrea.
        2. Depending on the translation you use, this sister was considered a “servant” or “deaconess” in that Christian community.
        3. The Greek word here correctly can be translated with either servant or deaconess, though the root word is often translated as “deacon.”
        4. Basically the function of a deacon was the function of a servant–a deacon served.
      3. I understand that the word “helper” in “the helper of many” is more accurately translated “patroness of many.”
        1. In recent lessons we have focused on the role of patrons in Roman cities.
        2. This role would indicate that she was a wealthy person who used her money and position to help many people, and that included Christians.
        3. Paul included himself in those she helped; it is probable that, at times, she helped support Paul.
    2. It is concluded that Phoebe took Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome (there was no mail service available to the general population).
      1. She is a servant, a deaconess, in the Christian community of Cenchrea.
      2. She used her position and wealth as a patroness to assist many including Paul.
      3. So Paul asked the Christians in Rome to “receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints.”
        1. He requested the Christians at Rome to be attentive to her needs while she was there.
        2. He asked Christians in Rome to help her in whatever manner she had need of them.
    3. Insights:
      1. In his personal closing to the letter to Christians in Rome, Paul commended a Christian woman who likely brought Paul’s letter to those Christians.
      2. Paul affirmed this woman was wealthy, active, influential, and significantly involved in the local Christian community at Cenchrae and in his work.
      3. What she did for many Christians made her deserving of the consideration and help of the Christians at Rome could give.

  2. Next, from verse 3 through verse 15 Paul greeted some people he knew.
    1. Paul in this section is sending greetings to people in Rome that he likely has met at other places.
      1. Remember, Paul personally has not at this time visited the city of Rome (Romans 15:22-25)
      2. Though he has not been there, he knows some people there.
    2. How can Paul know people there if he has never been there? Let’s illustrate that possibility with the first two people he greets, the husband and wife team of Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila.
      1. Consider the circumstances of Priscilla and Aquila’s situation.
        1. Acts 18:1,2 states Paul met this Christian husband and wife team in Corinth.
        2. They were in Corinth because the Roman Emperor Claudius had commanded all Jews to leave Rome.
        3. So Aquila and Priscilla are Christian Jews who had to leave Rome.
        4. Paul became close to them in Corinth (according to Acts 18:3) because all of them made their living in the same trade–making tents.
        5. The kind of edict that Claudius issued to make it necessary for Jews to leave Rome ended when Claudius died.
        6. Thus, when Claudius died, this husband and wife team of Christians returned to Rome and were in Rome when Paul sent his letter.
      2. In Romans 16:3-5 Paul stated this about this husband and wife:
        1. They were his fellow workers in Jesus Christ (remember that they that they heard the eloquent Apollos speaking about Jesus in the synagogue in Corinth and privately explained to him the way of God more accurately–Acts 18:26).
        2. They risked their lives for Paul–he did not say when or where.
        3. Paul was very grateful for them.
        4. The churches of the Gentiles were very grateful for them.
        5. A church met in their home, and Paul sent greetings to those Christians as well.
    3. Insights:
      1. A Christian husband and wife team were active among Christians in the city of Rome.
      2. Though these Christians were Jews, they were valued by Gentile churches.
        1. That was not always the case.
        2. To be reminded of the tensions between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians, remember the situation in Acts 21:17-26.
        3. Also remember the Judaizing teachers in Galatians (note Galatians 1:6-10).
        4. Not all Jewish Christians were the loved friends of Gentile churches.
      3. A church met in their home.
      4. Her name is given before her husband’s name.
        1. In most (but not all) references to this Christian husband and wife team, her named is listed first.
        2. That fact is significant, but it is difficult to attach the specific significance to it.
        3. To say the least, Priscilla served in significant ways in the team’s efforts.

  3. I ask you to note three things in the two sections that begin in Romans 16:1 and continue through verse 15.
    1. Note the frequent coupling of a greeting from Paul with an emphasis on service, work, or labors.
      1. Phoebe was a deaconess who was a patron to many.
      2. Prisca and Aquila were Paul’s fellow workers.
      3. Mary “worked hard for you” (verse 6)
      4. Andronicus and Junia (probably a woman) were “outstanding among the apostles” (verse 7).
      5. Urbanus was a “fellow worker” (verse 9).
      6. Tryphaena and Tryphosa were “workers in the Lord” (verse 12).
      7. Persis “worked hard in the Lord” (verse 12).
    2. Note there are Christian groups assembling who are Gentiles, “church of the Gentiles.”
      1. In Rome there were churches that were Jewish, churches that were gentile, and churches that were mixed.
      2. If you lived in another country, would you feel more at ease in your worship if you worshipped with American Christians living in the same city?
        1. It happens commonly now in many countries with an American military presence–sometimes a regional congregation and an American congregation will use the same building at different times.
        2. It even happens here in Fort Smith–why does West-Ark have a Hispanic outreach on Johnson Street?
    3. I want you to note how prominent Christian women are in Paul’s greetings.

“Why spend time examining these ‘skip over’ scriptures?” These scriptures often provide us windows into first century situations and relationships. Sometimes they challenge our assumptions and conclusions. That is good if our goal is to be honest and to let scripture be our guide.

The Goal

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No one’s work is easy. In fact, one of the certain ways to irritate most anyone is to suggest that he or she has a “nothing job” that involves no demanding responsibilities. That is almost guaranteed to make anyone angry.

It is extremely important to me that my opening thoughts this morning are in no way considered to be a sob story. I am not looking for sympathy. My goal is to increase your insights into your own life.

Just like most of you in your work, what I do is becoming more and more difficult. My objective [in my understanding of God’s commission to me as a Christian who is alive in Jesus Christ] is to challenge your thinking, challenge your emotions, and stimulate you to grow in Christ.

That is a demanding, difficult thing to do. Many of us do not want changes in the way we think, or changes in the way we feel. Many of us do not want to grow. Most of us want to be who we are where we are–we would like for everyone else to change in ways that make us more comfortable.

Sometimes there is a lot of joy in what I do. When someone is helped and grows because I challenged his or her understanding, I rejoice. Sometimes there is a lot of sorrow in what I do. When someone is resentful because I challenged his or her understanding, I grieve.

There are times when a person thinks I “have it made.” Sometimes I encounter the suggestions that say, “You have been preaching a long time. You now work for a sizable congregation. Why don’t you just say what people want to hear and take it easy?”

Why don’t I? I cannot do that for two reasons. The number one reason is enormous. It is based on this understanding: I have to answer to God for everything I teach. What I teach and how I live must represent Him, must reveal what He does through Jesus Christ, must cooperate with the Spirit’s work, and must be true to the full message of the Bible.

The number two reason is also enormous. It is based on this understanding: I must encourage you to live for God and to die in Christ.

After Paul declared that his ambition was to be pleasing to God, he made this statement:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

If we are to live for God and die in Christ, what is our goal?

  1. The journey toward God begins by becoming a person of faith.
    John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
    1. The journey begins by believing that a loving God did send His son to make it possible for us to have eternal life.
      1. The journey begins when a person understands that Jesus came to help people escape condemnation, not to be judged.
      2. The journey begins when a person understands that God sent Jesus to enable us to see ourselves for what we are.
      3. The person who has faith in this loving God and His son Jesus Christ is willing to examine his or her life, is willing to see self for “what I am,” and understands that Jesus came to provide me the way to escape what I am.
    2. Faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God is much more than accepting a fact or a set of facts.
      1. It is the understanding that God is the source of life and existence.
      2. It is the understanding that evil separated us from the God of life and existence.
      3. It is the understanding that God promised to reverse what we allow evil to do in our lives.
      4. It is the understanding that God used Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to build a bridge for us to cross back to relationship with God.
      5. It is the understanding that I can be in relationship with God because of what God reversed in Jesus Christ.
    3. Unless I trust what God did in Jesus Christ, the journey cannot begin.

  2. The journey continues with my repentance.
    1. Basically repentance is waking up to the fact that my life is going in the wrong direction and is being lived in ways that are destructive to me.
      1. Because of that awakening, repentance is the resolve to turn my life around and redirect it.
      2. It is the simple understanding that I cannot continue to live, to act, to think, and to feel like I am doing.
      3. When I repent, there are things I cannot do through that repentance.
        1. I cannot remove the evil that already has occurred in my life.
        2. I cannot remove all the flaws that were created in me by evil influences of an ungodly world.
        3. I cannot destroy the guilt that is rightfully mine, cannot perform God’s action of justification.
        4. I cannot make myself pure, spiritually clean.
      4. When I repent, there are some things that I can do.
        1. I can redirect the way I act, think, and feel (a continuing process).
        2. I can redirect my emotions.
        3. I can assume responsibility for the way I use my life.
        4. I can turn my life toward God.
    2. One of Jesus’ better known emphasis on the importance and nature of repentance is found in his teachings in Luke 15.
      1. Jesus’ first two stories were about the lost sheep and the lost coin.
        1. In both stories, something of important value to the owner was lost.
        2. Serious effort toward recovery was made.
        3. When recovery occurred, it was not a moment of frustration but a moment of celebration.
        4. The point is plainly made that heavenly hosts celebrate when repentance occurs–God places a very high value on the recovery we know as repentance.
      2. The third story stresses God’s joyful willingness to receive the penitent.
        1. There were clearly things only the lost son could do.
          1. He had to come to himself.
          2. He had to resolve to return to his father.
          3. He had to climb out of the pig pen.
          4. He had to walk the road back to his father to make his request.
        2. There were clearly things only the father could do.
          1. Only the father could welcome him joyfully.
          2. Only the father could receive him as a son instead of a slave.
          3. Only the father could clothe him as a son.
          4. Only the father could order the celebration.

  3. The journey enters a new road with baptism.
    1. Baptism is the point of commitment that occurs because a person believes what God did in Jesus and because a person has resolved to redirect his or her life.
    2. God committed, showed His resolve, demonstrated His seriousness in Jesus’ death.
      1. God’s commitment to our salvation is never at issue–God is committed to us.
      2. Our commitment to God is the issue–are we committed to God?
    3. Just as God revealed His commitment to me in Jesus’ death, I reveal my commitment to God in baptism.
      1. When my faith and my repentance lead me to be baptized, I by baptism declare my trust in God’s promises.
        1. I trust God to forgive me.
        2. I trust God to let His Spirit live in me.
        3. I trust God to clothe me in the pure, sinless Jesus.
        4. I trust God to make me a part of His family, His people.
        5. I trust God to place me in the salvation He promised to those who accept the atonement provided by Jesus.
      2. Baptism gives voice to my faith and demonstrates the resolve of my repentance.
    4. However, just as Jesus’ crucifixion was not the end of God’s commitment to our salvation, neither does our baptism end our commitment to our salvation.

  4. Baptism is only the point of our spiritual birth, not the end of the journey.
    1. If we use the birth analogy, conception occurred when we placed faith in God’s work in Jesus Christ.
      1. But the objective is far more than merely to be born.
      2. The objective is to grow to spiritual maturity.
      3. Spiritual maturity is not achieved in a couple of years of growth.
    2. The writing we know as Hebrews was written to Christians who lived difficult, troubled lives for several years.
      1. The reason that caused them to live very difficult lives was their faith in Jesus as the Christ. That faith caused so much difficulty they were seriously considering renouncing Jesus to escape some of their troubles and stresses.
      2. To illustrate how tough things had been for them, read with me Hebrews 10:32-36:
        But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
      3. From our perspectives, these Christians had their confidence and endurance challenged in fundamental ways!
    3. Please give serious consideration to what the writer had to say to these Christians in Hebrews 5:11-6:2.
      Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
      1. The writer wrote [not in a condescending attitude] part of your problem is the fact that you have regressed back into infancy.
        1. When you should have spiritually matured, you have allowed yourselves to become babes again.
        2. All you are eating is milk, baby food.
      2. “What are you talking about?”
        1. You do not distinguish between good and evil.
        2. All you want to focus on are baby subjects:
          1. Repentance from works that have been killed.
          2. Faith toward God.
          3. Teachings about washings.
          4. Teachings about the laying on of hands.
          5. Teachings about the resurrection of the dead.
          6. Teachings about the eternal judgment.

How many of those subjects would you include in your list of spiritual baby foods? Would you think you were pretty mature if you understood everything that could be understood about those subjects?

How is your journey? Where are you on that journey? Because you continue to believe, because you continue to repent, because you continue to commit, do you continue to grow?

The “Who” and “What” of Our Identity

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

A common challenge faces each of us as individual Christians and all of us collectively as a congregation of Christians. This challenge causes each of us to struggle as a person in Christ and as a part of a congregation dedicated to Christ. What challenge? It is understanding that the questions of “who we are” and “what we are” are different questions. To treat the “who” and the “what” questions as if they are identical questions is to invite painful crises into our spiritual objectives.

Look at the “who” question from the all too common view of “who” we say we are. The problem is created when our dedication to “who we say we are” differs from our dedication to God’s objectives in His people. If we are not quite careful, human determinations of “faithfulness” may be based on our concerns instead of God’s concerns. Giving “approval” may be more concerned about our standards than God’s standards. It may have more focused on “our” criteria than God’s forgiveness and mercy.

An example? Sometimes we can be more concerned about being “Church of Christ” than we are concerned about being Christian. Question: “Speaking religiously, who are you?” Answer: “I am Church of Christ.”

It is impossible to imagine Peter, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Lydia, Philip’s daughters, Phoebe, Dorcas, or Aquila and Priscilla spiritual identifying themselves as “Church of Christ” to those inquiring about their spiritual identity. It is biblical to imagine each of them referring to themselves as Jesus Christ’s disciples, saints, those redeemed by Jesus Christ, those “called out” by God through Jesus Christ, or Christians.

Today those who are dedicated to being “Church of Christ” frequently identify themselves by referring to “Church of Christ” things and ways. Those things and ways may or may not be God’s things and ways.

We have a rich, wonderful spiritual heritage. That heritage is based on seeking to be God’s people and seeking salvation in Jesus Christ’s atonement. It is a heritage that has been unafraid to understand the Bible. It is a heritage that began as the commitment to be “Christians only.” It is a heritage that not only was willing to examine God’s full teachings, but a heritage that was willing to make spiritual corrections when God’s objectives were better understood. It is a heritage that always placed ultimate and final leadership in God’s hands as He directed us through Jesus Christ.

To understand what we are, a person must know who God is, who Jesus Christ is, who the Spirit is, and the message of the Bible. Never be content to be “Church of Christ.” May your life’s objective in all its aspects be this: “I am a Christian. That is all I want to be. I want God through Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His word to control my life.”