Worship Assemblies Worship

Posted by on September 28, 2003 under Sermons

[The morning assembly began with the audience standing and reading aloud together Psalm 96 from the overhead projection.]

What is worship? “David, that is a ridiculous question! Every adult and most children here this morning know what worship is!” Since that is such a ridiculous question and the answer is such common knowledge to the vast majority of those in this assembly, quietly answer that question to yourself. If you were to answer the question, “What is worship?” what would your answer be?

The New Testament does very little to either define or describe worship. In fact, the Old Testament does more to define and describe worship than does the New Testament. Jesus talked very little about worship. The book of Acts describes the beginning of Christianity, but does not describe Christian worship in detail. The epistles do not contain major sections on worship. The New Testament book that says more about worship than any other New Testament writing is the book of Revelation. It in symbolic terms makes several statements about worship in heaven.

  1. I ask you to do two things.
    1. The first thing I ask you to do is to call to mind your definition of worship.
      1. I am quite serious.
      2. Think about your definition of worship.
      3. I want you to consciously hold on to that definition.
    2. The second thing I want you to do is this:
      1. While you keep your definition of worship firmly in your awareness,
      2. I want you to read with me several worship scenes from the book of Revelation.
      3. So I want you to do two things at one time: stay constantly aware of your personal definition of worship and listen to what Revelation says about worship.
    3. Read with me.
        Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

      Note the stress on God’s holiness.

        Revelation 4:9-11 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

      Note the stress on God’s worthiness.

        Revelation 5:8-10 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

      Note the first two passages involved the worship of God, Who is the central figure in heaven. Note the shift in this passage: the worship of the resurrected Jesus, God’s sacrificial Lamb. Note the emphasis is on the worthiness of Jesus because he accomplished God’s basic objective.

        Revelation 5:11,12 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

      The Lamb is still the focus of worship here. Note again the stress is still on worthiness.

        Revelation 5:13,14 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshipped.

      Now the focus is both on God and the Lamb. The stress is on their praise worthiness.

        Revelation 7:11,12 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

      The focus of worship is now back on God. Again, note God is praised for His worthiness.

        Revelation 11:16-18 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

      The focus is still on God. Note the stress is on thanksgiving. There was an outpouring of gratitude because God has used His power to rescue them from all that tried to destroy them.

        Revelation 14:6,7 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

      The focus is still on God. The stress is on reverencing (fear) God by giving Him glory as the source of judgment and creation.

        Revelation 15:2-4 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

      The focus in still on God. They sang. God’s greatness and holiness is honored.

        Revelation 19:1-6 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,”Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”

      The focus is still on God. It is a scene of praise. Four times God’s throne rings with the sound of creatures declaring, “Hallelujah!” [Literally, “Praise the Lord,” a joyful expression of thanksgiving.] God won! He did what He intended to do! He defeated even the strongest centers of wickedness and evil, and He rescued all who would turn to Him! The result was an incredible outpouring of gratitude to Him.

    4. Do a little comparing.
      1. Do you still have your definition of worship clearly in your mind?
      2. How does your definition of worship compare to what happened in heaven in worship of God and of the Lamb (Jesus Christ)?
      3. Where in your definition of worship do these things fit in?
        1. The holiness of God.
        2. The worthiness of God.
        3. The praise worthiness of God and the Lamb.
        4. Reverencing God for His holiness.
        5. Glorifying God.
        6. Saying, “Amen,” and declaring, “Hallelujah” with joy.

  2. Let me make some personal observations–you do not have to agree with me, but I surely hope that I challenge you to think.
    1. My first observation is that there is not a whole lot that occurs in our worship assemblies that prepares us for heavenly worship.
      1. There are not many “Amens.”
      2. Too rarely is there this powerful sense of gratitude because our God of power has forgiven us and rescued us.
      3. Too rarely is there this powerful sense of joy that flows from the gratitude of what God has done.
      4. There are almost no hallelujahs, or obvious expressions and declarations of praise because of God’s great worthiness and holiness.
      5. There is little evidence that we who belong to God feel compelled to fall before God.
    2. My second observation is that we have through the centuries changed worship.
      1. We have made worship assemblies primarily about education instead of primarily about praising God.
        1. We are so busy there is no time for spiritual education.
        2. There is not convenient time to study–individually or with a group.
        3. I wonder if for some of you the only time you seriously think about the Bible is when you come here on Sunday morning.
      2. The core of our worship focuses on the sermon, a human accomplishment, rather than the Lord’s Supper, a divine accomplishment.
        1. If you are typical, you are more likely to react to your opinion of the sermon than your opinion of what God did in Jesus Christ.
        2. Your faith is more likely to be affected by what is said in a sermon than what God did in the death of Jesus.
    3. My third observation: one of the key reasons [not all the reasons, but one of the significant reasons] that we are losing so many people is this: we have made too much effort to convert people to the church and too little effort to convert people to Christ.
      1. We are the church–the church is not some institution that exists apart from us.
      2. If a man or a woman is in Christ, he or she by an act of God is part of God and Christ’s church.
      3. The power of God and the glory of God will be seen in the church when the power of God and the glory of God is seen in our lives.

  3. The basic objective of worship is simple.
    1. First, worship should call all who are in Christ closer to God.
    2. Second, worship should fill those who belong to God through Christ with a sense of joy and gratitude.
    3. Third, worship should make every Christian feel closer to every other Christian because the one thing we all have in common, the unifying element, is that we are in Christ Jesus.

Question: how often to you leave a worship assembly without worshipping?

Question: how often do you leave a worship assembly feeling joy and gratitude because you feel much closer to God?

Question: have you felt joy and gratitude toward God this week? How did you express it?

Worship on earth should prepare us for worship in heaven! Because we have been a part of praising God on earth, praising God in heaven should be a natural joy.

Meet Chris and Karen Benjamin

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The first thing you must know is this: Chris and Karen were content where they were. The elders recruited Chris. Chris and Karen responded to their approach. The Benjamins hope to move to Fort Smith as a part of this congregation and its staff in late October. They are working diligently toward that objective as they prepare their house in Lake Jackson, TX, to be placed on the market this week. When they arrive in Fort Smith, they plan to rent for a while.

Chris and Karen met in Razorbacks for Christ at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, as sophomores. Chris attended UA all four years. Karen spent a freshman year at Harding University and three years at UA. As a freshman, Chris participated in a mission trip to Scotland as an outreach in Razorbacks for Christ.

Though Chris graduated as an outstanding student with a degree in art, he and Karen [then married] moved to Abilene after graduation. Chris spent the next four years in the ACU graduate program acquiring a Master of Divinity degree. With that degree, he, Karen, and Wyatt moved to Russellville, AR. There he worked for three years with the West Side congregation as a campus minister at Arkansas Tech University. In late 1997 they moved to Lake Jackson, TX, where Chris has worked the past 6 years as their pulpit minister. He is close to finishing his Doctor of Ministry degree at ACU. [Classwork is finished.] In addition to his class and congregational work, Chris has served in a leadership capacity on several boards and has spoken at several lectureships.

Chris and Karen’s roots are in Arkansas. Chris was introduced to the church through Center Street’s bus ministry in Fayetteville. Home is Winslow, AR, where his parents live and his father is an elder. Karen’s parents live in Hot Springs, AR, where she spent some of her pre-teen years and all of her teen years.

Karen is quite involved also. Besides encouraging Chris in his work and studies, she is active as a leader in women’s and children’s ministries [including church pre-school and women’s prayer ministries]. She is primarily a homemaker for Chris, Wyatt, and Ethan.

A significant comment was made by one of his elders to one of our elders. He declared that the congregation at Lake Jackson regarded themselves to be part of the universal church. If God’s purposes are better served by using Chris and Karen’s talents here, God’s will be done. While that congregation deeply regrets their leaving, they obviously continue to love and appreciate Chris and Karen.

The transition for the Benjamins will not be small! Keep them in your prayers and give them your encouragement. It is our blessing to have them. May we all live and work together to bless God. Help them move from love to love!

Great Parallels, Part 1: Exodus and Jesus

Posted by on September 21, 2003 under Sermons

This evening I want to share with you the first of a few lessons. These lessons basically will call your attention to parallels with what God did for Israel in the book of Exodus and what God does for the Christian in Jesus Christ. Each lesson will be independent. While it should be insightful to consider all the lessons together, we should be able to understand each lesson in and of itself.

I would like to begin by asking God to open our hearts and bless our understanding. Would you please pray with me?

The first thing I wish to do is to read from the book Exodus. Please read with me from Exodus 2:11-14.
Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”

  1. Moses knew who he was and what his roots were, and he wanted to help his people.
    1. The fact that Moses wanted to help his people was a good thing, not a bad thing.
      1. Not wanting to help his people would have been a bad thing.
        1. Becoming such a selfish person that he felt no responsibility to help them would have been bad.
        2. Becoming such an ashamed person that he preferred to be in denial would have been bad.
        3. Becoming such an arrogant person that he would not consider his people’s needs would have been bad.
      2. Wanting to help his people was a good thing.
        1. He knew that he had roots in an enslaved people, and that was good.
        2. He was neither ashamed to help them nor “too good” to help them, and that was good.
        3. Though he had a very privileged life, he could feel the pain and humiliation of their abuse.
    2. The problem: Moses viewed himself as the solution; he wanted to help his people.
      1. The solution would arise from him.
      2. He was confident that his people would respond positively to his concern.
      3. He was confident that his people would identify with him without shame just as he identified with them.
    3. The situation:
      1. One day he was watching, noting how difficult and inhumane the Israelites’ work was.
        1. He watched as an Egyptian beat a Hebrew brother.
        2. Whatever was occurring, Moses regarded it a gross injustice, a totally unreasonable act.
        3. As he looked around, there was no one within sight except the Egyptian doing the beating and the Hebrew being beaten.
        4. Thus Moses took advantage of the situation–he killed the Egyptian and hid the dead man’s body in the sand.
      2. The next day he went out to observe again.
        1. This time two Hebrews were fighting each other.
        2. He asked the Hebrew who was the attacker, “Why are you striking your companion?”
        3. The response shocked him:
          1. “Who made you a prince over us?”
          2. “Who made you a judge over us?”
          3. “Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?”
          4. Instead of feeling any sense of gratitude toward him for what he did the day before, they resented him!
      3. And Moses was afraid.
        1. He was afraid because his secret was now an “open secret.”
        2. Instead of quietly appreciating Moses’ help, the delivered Hebrew man told other Hebrews what happened.
        3. If these slaves were talking about what he did, it would just be a matter of time before the Egyptians knew what happened, and then Pharaoh would know what happened.
    4. Instead of helping his people, he only brought trouble on himself.
      1. What he did was not enough.
      2. He could not do what he thought he could do.
      3. Moses had some critical lessons to learn, and he had to learn those lessons the hard way.
        1. Before he could be used by God, he had to lose all confidence in himself and his position.
        2. Before he could be used by God, he had to have a much better understanding of who God was and what God willed to do.
        3. Before he could be used by God, he had to learn that power belonged to God, not to himself.
        4. Before he could be used by God, he had to become totally dependent on God.
        5. Before he could be used by God, he had to realize that nothing he could do of himself was enough!

  2. This evening, I want you to compare Moses’ self-reliant efforts in this incident with Jesus’ earthly ministry.
    1. It is my impression that many of us conclude that if we saw Jesus’ earthly works and heard Jesus’ earthly teachings, we, collectively, would have reacted positively.
      1. I do not think that is true.
      2. “David, don’t be ridiculous–of course that is true!”
      3. Let me explain why I do not think it is true.
        1. We form our conclusion about our hypothetical response by looking back.
        2. We know about the resurrection.
        3. We know about what God had in mind in creating a universal people.
        4. For us, the New Testament has been in existence for centuries, and some of us have know parts of its message as long as we have been alive.
        5. However:
          1. The Israelites could not look back as we do.
          2. The resurrection had not happened.
          3. Consistently, God had worked through nations in the past, and primarily through the nation of Israel for centuries–they had no concept of the church as we understand it.
          4. The New Testament had not yet been written.
        6. In no way was Jesus or his ministry what they expected.
          1. God had never taken action in precisely the way He acted in Jesus.
          2. Sure there were prophets in their past, but there had never been anyone with the unique relationship with God that Jesus had.
          3. Jesus was extremely different, and what he taught about God was radically different–he simply did not fit expectations and what he said was just too different, too extreme to represent God as they knew him.
      4. As much trouble as we have in reacting to change, as reactionary as we are to things that are different, as upset as we get when spiritual things do not meet our personal expectations, I conclude we would have reacted to Jesus and his ministry in the same way they did.
    2. Let me clearly state that Moses and Jesus had one clear difference: Jesus always relied on God and put God’s divine will before his human desires.
      1. Whereas Moses had to learn to rely on God and put God’s will in the forefront, Jesus always relied on God and always kept God in the forefront.
      2. Jesus knew what Moses had to learn.

  3. This is the primary point I want you to consider: Jesus’ ministry was precisely what God wanted it to be, totally focused on God, but Jesus’ ministry was not enough!
    1. Jesus lived among, worked among, served among, and taught among the people who knew God better than anyone who was alive at that time.
      1. Though they knew God [and in their thinking knew Him well], they did not [as a nation] recognize Jesus as coming from God.
      2. Though they had heard and studied scripture all their lives, they did not [as a nation] recognize that the source of Jesus’ teachings was God.
      3. Though they were certain they understood the correct meaning of scripture [as a people], they did not recognize Jesus’ emphasis as accurately reflecting God’s emphasis.
    2. If anyone in the entire world was teachable in the time of Jesus’ ministry, it should have been the people he lived among.
      1. Yet, he performed all kinds of miracles, and that was not enough.
        1. He healed every form of sickness, including the impossible ones–and that was not enough.
        2. He raised the dead–and that was not enough.
        3. He fed many who were hungry–and that was not enough.
        4. He walked on water, stopped a windy storm, and walked away from angry people unharmed–and that was not enough.
      2. He was an unselfish servant of others.
        1. He did not use his power to make money.
        2. He did not use his power to gain prestige.
        3. He did not force people to listen to him or to follow him.
        4. Yet, his unselfishness was not enough.
    3. He wanted so desperately to help the people he taught–and he could have.
      1. But they were jealous.
      2. And they were arrogant.
      3. And they were selfish.
      4. He could help, but they would not let him help.

If you have not realized how deeply Jesus wanted to help these people through his ministry, listen to these words spoken by Jesus near the end of his life:
Matthew 23:37-39 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

I am personally convinced that Moses really wanted to help his people, but it was not in Moses power to help. God could help. The power had to come from God.

I am personally convinced that Jesus really wanted to rescue his people during the period of his earthly ministry, but it was not in Jesus’ power to help. God could help. God could do things in Jesus’ death that Jesus’ could not do in his ministry.

I hope that you, as a Christian, want to help people. Let Jesus and Moses teach you a lesson. You are not the answer. The power is not in you. The power is in God. Connect people to God. God is the power and the source of answers–you are not!

“Lord, Help Me Accept What ‘I Cannot Handle'”

Posted by on under Sermons

For every single one of us in this room and for every single person outside this room, there is at least one thing (and likely many things) that we just cannot handle. Whatever that thing is, we are “handled” by it instead of “handling” it.

For some, that thing is money. For others, it is credit. For others, it is power. For others, it is control. For others, it is popularity. For others, it is pleasure.

For everyone, it is knowledge. May I anticipate the response of many people? “David, that is absolutely ridiculous! Knowledge is basic to existence! Knowledge is highly valued in this culture! We seek to educate all our children because knowledge is important. We stress knowledge on our jobs and careers. We even have Bible classes because we want children and adults to have Bible knowledge.”

I definitely agree that knowledge is basic to existence. I understand the value of an education. I realize how essential knowledge is on jobs and in careers. I totally endorse the pursuit of knowledge in seeking to be a godly person.

Listen to me carefully. I did not say knowledge was unimportant. I said people cannot handle possessing knowledge. The most ungodly problems each of us have are created by what we know.

I challenge you to think about that truth. When are you powerfully tempted to feel superior to someone? Is it not when you know something they do not know? When are you powerfully tempted to “look down” on another person? Is it not when you regard them to be incredibly ignorant? More than money, more than power, more than control, more than popularity, knowledge creates an arrogance that makes self big and important and makes others small and insignificant.

Consider a specific illustration. All I ask you to do is be honest with yourself as you answer to you silently. Do you personally “look down on” many people in the Middle East? If you do, why do you? See if any of these statements sound familiar. “I do not understand how anyone could be a suicide bomber!” “I do not understand how people can hate people so intensely just because of their nationality.” “I do not understand how people can attack jeeps and guns by throwing stones!”

You do not understand those things? “NO!” Why do you not understand those things? “Bottom line, those are stupid acts!” Would you do any of those things? “NO!” Why? “I know better!” So, what you know makes you superior?

Please pray with me: “God, teach us how to have minds and hearts filled with the love that comes from you. In our love for You and others, never let us use our knowledge to destroy those for whom You sacrificed the Jesus.”

  1. Both Christianity and Judaism traces the root of all our personal problems and all the world’s problems to humanity’s inability to handle knowledge.
    1. The first book in the Bible makes two bold declarations.
      1. The first temptation was based on the human inability to handle knowledge.
      2. The first act of evil was based on the human inability to handle knowledge.
    2. Read with me from Genesis 3:1-10.
      Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
      1. We could spend a lot of time focusing on talking snakes and eating a fruit that provides knowledge–but if we did, I fear we would miss the lessons.
      2. “What lessons?”
        1. In contrast to God, humanity has never been able to “handle” the knowledge of evil.
          1. In contrast to God, the knowledge of evil deceives us–not God, but us.
          2. In contrast to God, the knowledge of evil tempts us–not God, but us.
          3. God can handle the knowledge of evil because He cannot be deceived (Galatians 6:7) or tempted (James 1:13).
        2. Before humanity had the knowledge of evil, there were some basic problems we did not have.
          1. It was the knowledge of evil that produced shame.
          2. It was the knowledge of evil that produced a sense of guilt.
          3. It was the knowledge of evil that produced fear.
          4. How different would your life be if you never felt shame, never knew guilt, and were never afraid?
        3. Nothing good resulted from the human knowledge of evil.
          1. Why?
          2. We could not handle knowing what evil was!
          3. Evil deceives; God does not; and we are easy prey for skillful deception!
      3. The highest form of deception is an addiction.
        1. I am speaking of any form of addiction: to alcohol, to drugs, to sex, to power, to money, to control, to pleasure.
        2. Either an addict denies an addiction, or an addict abandons himself or herself to an addiction.
        3. Basically an addiction is any form of destructive escape–the attempt to flee rather than face or endure.
        4. The addict often becomes a powerful advocate for his or her addiction.
        5. He or she often does so with the words, “If you only knew. . .”

  2. If as a Christian you really doubt the fact that humans cannot handle knowledge, I ask you to consider a couple of statements.
    1. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul discussed the most important and enduring qualities of human existence.
      1. He named three: faith, hope, and love.
      2. He declared that the greatest of the three is love, which he discussed in detail.
      3. Would you please note that knowledge was not one of the three.
    2. Please read with me as we look at 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
      Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
      1. For us, nothing is more black and white than idolatry–there is only one God or there is not, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
      2. Those who had knowledge and were quite correct in their knowledge knew there was only one God.
        1. They knew that an idol did not represent an existing, living god, and they were correct in their knowledge.
        2. They knew that a sacrifice offered to an idol was offered to nothing, and they were correct in their knowledge.
      3. And Paul said that correct knowledge was the foundation of arrogance.
        1. Knowledge was the foundation of arrogance.
        2. Love built people up.
        3. Paul said if you are going to know something, know the importance of love.
      4. Then Paul said something else that was most strange to the people to whom he wrote and is incredibly strange to us.
        1. Not every Christian knows there is just one God and idols are nothing.
        2. Some Christians know that, but all Christians do not know that.
      5. So Paul said that he would not wound their consciences by eating a food given in sacrifice to a nonexistent god.
        1. “Why, Paul? If you have correct knowledge and they are the victims of ignorance, why would you let their ignorance control your behavior?”
        2. Bottom line: he understood how much God paid in Jesus’ blood for their salvation, and he would not allow knowledge to destroy the saving work of God by destroying someone for whom Christ died.
        3. Love is the ultimate, in God, and in those who follow God.

  3. I want to share a couple of things with you and I have a very specific purpose in my sharing: I want your thoughts to penetrate to the inner core of your being.
    1. I want to begin by stating that I take confidences very seriously.
      1. Unless I have permission from the person, I do not even share confidences with my wife.
      2. The first thing I want to share with you I have permission to share.
    2. When I returned from vacation, a lady I deeply respect told me that while I was gone she acquired a specific set of knowledge.
      1. I have worked with, encouraged, and tried to help people for decades.
      2. I can assure you that the knowledge she learned would have devastated most Christians.
      3. The knowledge she acquired had the potential of bringing major devastation to her life.
        1. There was zero question about the authenticity of her knowledge.
        2. Her new knowledge was based on unquestionable fact.
      4. But in her situation, her love is greater than her knowledge.
        1. So instead of her new knowledge bringing devastation,
        2. Her love is growing in spite of that knowledge.
    3. The greatest challenge that we Christians have is allowing God’s love to become the most powerful influence in our lives.
      1. It is extremely challenging to let God’s love teach us how to love.
      2. In no situation or in no relationship will any of us be as forgiving just one time as God already has forgiven each of us in Christ.
      3. Never will being compassionate to others cost us as much as God’s compassion toward us cost Him–it cost Him the life of his only son WHEN HE COULD HAVE STOPPED IT!

Please do not let this happen to you on judgment day.

Us: “Lord, that Christian who was baptized into Christ was doing something the wrong way–so I stopped him!”

God: “You do realize that I gave Jesus to die for him. Did you love him as much as I do, or did you destroy someone that I sent Jesus to die for?”

1 Corinthians 8:11,12 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.

Do not let your spiritual knowledge destroy you–or any one else!

Searching For Peace

Posted by on September 14, 2003 under Bulletin Articles

Few things are wanted more by individuals than an inner sense of personal peace. Since so many value and want this sense of personal peace, we might decide that it is commonly experienced. With that reasoning, we might conclude that many want it because they see it in others and “want what they see.” Not so!

Few have the peace for which so many search. It is sought in many, many ways: over-involvement, escapes, pleasures, achievements, addictions, isolation, money, resignation, etc. The search for inner peace is common because the vast majority sense this uncommon inner peace can be found and should be experienced. In their search, most people could finish this statement: “I would have genuine peace of mind and heart IF…”

The IF usually focuses on changing a personal situation or condition believed to be the culprit that destroys inner peace. In this conviction, reasoning often proceeds in this manner. “I would have peace IF I were married” (but many of those who are married do not have peace); “IF I were single” (but many who are single do not have peace); “IF I had children” (but many who have children do not have peace); “IF I had no children” (but many who have no children do not have peace); “IF I had money” (but many who have money have no peace); “IF I had less money” (but many who are poor have no peace); “IF I had health” (but many who have health do not have peace); “IF I lived in America” (but many who live in America have no peace); etc.

All of us frequently are reminded that an inner peace of mind and heart are not dependent on things or external conditions. Two realities frequently remind us of this. (1) Many who have the things or are in the external situation we claim is the “key” to peace live with an enormous emptiness. (2) Some who do not have things or “desirable” external situations do find inner peace. Obviously, the “key” to peace is not a matter of having. One may have much and still possess an empty life, and one may not have much but find peace.

This is not irrelevant! A primary objective of God: provide those alive in His son with an inner peace. One way Christians reflect God’s light in a dark world is through reflecting God’s peace in their lives. Why should anyone become Jesus’ disciple if he or she will experience greater guilt, increased anxiety, and a larger inner emptiness? What attracts people to Jesus Christ more than the assurance of genuine peace of mind and heart?

Consider two statements Jesus made to his twelve disciples less than a day before his death. After reading these statements, reflect on your personal concept of inner peace.

(John 14:27) Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

(John 16:33) These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Salt and Light

Posted by on September 7, 2003 under Sermons

The Sermon on the Mount = Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

  • What Jesus proclaims is a vision for the people of God, the kingdom people, and it reveals what we must be for the sake of the Lord’s mission. What Jesus declares though is not an idea that will simply change the church, it is an way of life that seeks to transform all the world.

Read 5:1-16

  • Jesus tells us that those whoreceive his teaching and "put it into practice" are like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. His teaching is the foundation of a blessed, kingdom way of living.
  • This is a way of life that goes beyond rule-keeping. This is more than regulations on what to do and not do. He is calling us to BE salt and light – to let our light shine so that the good things we do glorify God. What does it mean to BE salt and light? …

Who Are You? Salt and Light

  1. [The NATURE of Salt and Light]
    • Salt is a seasoning and a preservative. The presence of salt in food makes a difference. It creates zest and prevents decay.
      • Contradictions of language: jumbo shrimp, late advance registration, mild hot sauce.
      • Unsalty salt is just as much of a foolish contradiction.
      • It is the nature of salt to be salty!
    • Light overcomes darkness and illuminates. It reveals dangers and shows the way to safety.
      • It is ridiculous to light a lamp and then cover it. The purpose is for the lamp to shine.
      • It is the nature of light to shine!
    • "Salt and Light" say something about the nature of God’s kingdom people. Notice also that Jesus declares these as true! Without reservation or qualification he declares that WE ARE salt and light.
      • Salt and Light are not projects or programs that we undertake; this statement is not meant to describe an achievement or a goal, it describes our character as the people of God!
      • Jesus is saying that this is our being! The nature of salt is saltiness. The nature of light is illumination. When a city is placed on a hill, it is not hidden.What we do emerges from who we are!

        • In the film, Weapons of the Spirit, Pierre Sauvage tells the story of a village in Nazi-occupied France, Le Chambon. 5000 Jewish refugees were saved from the terrors of the Holocaust by the 5000 people of Le Chambon. Sauvage was born in that city and he had to know why this village of Christian people would risk their lives and the fate of their village to shelter Jewish refugees. Sauvage found that the people of Le Chambon had a strong sense of self and history – they knew who they were. The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider themselves heroic, they did not agonize over the decision to help the refugees. They simply did what was natural! What they did emerged from who they were!
    • Our good works emerge from our identity as the blessed children of God. When people see those sort of good works, God will be glorified because the light than shines from us is reflected from our God who is light.

      • Mars is one of the brightest objects in the sky right now, but it has no light of its own.
    • God is described as light and in him is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 9:5). These describe the character of the God and Christ. In the kingdom we share in that divine character. Kingdom people are like their king …

  2. [The Higher Righteousness of the Kingdom]
    • But that can seem so intimidating! When Jesus tells us to "be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5:48) – is that even possible?
    • Jesus must have believed that such righteousness was possible for he makes it essential to being a part of God’s reign. He insisted that our righteousness had to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees … (Matthew 5:20)
    • The problem of the scribes and Pharisees was that they used the law and prophets as binding legislation to react to situations. We do the same thing when all we strive to do is find the legislative bond or loophole that justifies or confirms our actions. But this sort of rule-keeping does not generate godliness or holiness.
      • The external image is met, but the internal character of BEING a disciple is weak. Col. 2:23 – "Such regulations look good, but lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
      • The law and the prophets were not regulations given so we could make distinctions among people. The intent of the law and the prophets was to shape the character of a people – a people with godly character would by nature be distinctive!
    • That’s why Jesus declares (5:21-48 – Class material) that it isn’t enough to say, "I’ve never killed anyone." You need to overcome anger. It isn’t enough to say "I’ve never committed adultery." Maybe so, but is your heart pure or is it corrupted with lust? Have we just kept the rules, or are we reflecting the nature of our Father? That’s the test of kingdom righteousness …

  3. HOW exactly does our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees? Kingdom righteousness differs from the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees (ancient or modern) in two important ways:

    1. First, kingdom righteousness is for the sake of others; not simply for our select group and certainly not to earn a reward. Notice that we are the salt of the EARTH and the light of the WORLD. In his declaration, Jesus declares that the presence of the kingdom is for the world!

      • April 1912 – Lifeboat 14 did what no other life boat did – They went back to save others. They knew that a lifeboat was for much more than the safety of the saved, it is for the rescue of the dying.
      • As righteous people, we are called out – not in contempt for the world, but for the sake of the world!
      • We overcome anger, lust, lying, and revenge, because like our Father we love others – including those who hate us. We do this not because he told us to; we do this because he told us who we are!

    2. Second, it emerges from our being and not just our doing. When we ARE salt and light our righteousness becomes a reflex and a discipline. It is our nature to be salty. It is our nature to shine.
      • We live in response to God’s grace and mercy. Our good works are not an attempt to claim salvation or earn God’s favor. The Holy Spirit is a gift. Those who have been baptized are new creation – and their good works, their righteousness, flows from who we have become in Christ.

  4. WHY exactly must our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees?
    • The first teaching in Matthew anticipates the final teaching. In Matthew, Jesus leaves his disciples with a mission and a promise. He promises that he will always be with them, and their mission is to make disciples. [“Making Disciples Eager to Serve Others”]
    • But how can we make disciples if we are not disciples ourselves? We can only share the joy of the gospel and the blessings of the kingdom if that is who we are. This is why Jesus declares that we ARE salt of the earth and light of the world.Point Bolivar Lighthouse in Texas
    • The Point Bolivar Lighthouse [Texas]. It has the structure, form, and the appearance and the history of a grand lighthouse that has saved many. But it has no light! We need good form, solid structure and thank God for healthy heritage – but we need His Spirit to ignite our light!

I think a lighthouse is needed in Western Arkansas even though we are not on the coast. Good news! Jesus says – We Are that Lighthouse!