He Has Risen

Posted by on January 25, 2004 under Sermons

If we really want to know Jesus, then we will want to know the end of his story. However, Jesus’ story never ends …

  1. Read Mark 16:1-8
    1. Debate over the longer ending.
    2. Mark and the Story – He is intentionally leaving it hanging. Why does Mark do this?
      1. Resurrection is not the end of the story – Jesus is raised and his life and story continue to this very moment.
      2. What will these women do? What about those sad and disappointed disciples who are going back to fishing?
      3. The story does not end – it has just begun!
  2. Going ahead of us to meet us in Galilee
    1. Galilee – (Jesus is already there)
      1. For the disciples, Galilee is worse than death. They are returning to their old life with broken dreams and dashed hopes. They are going back to mark time until the final ends comes.
      2. They are ending it, Jesus is just beginning it
      3. They’ve gone back to the past, Jesus meets them with a new future
    2. What about these disciples who suddenly find that the end is just a new beginning? (Luke continues their story in Acts and the message of the resurrected Jesus fills every sermon and mighty act).
    3. What about us?

Death is certain, but Not Final

  1. The question is not “will we die?”, the question is “will death be the end?” (Not just for eternity, but even the metaphorical "deaths" and losses we experience even now)
    1. When death (loss) is the end then it will lock us into the past with no hope for the future
      1. That may lead to bitterness,
      2. That may lead to a 3-D view of reality: depression, despair, and denial.
      3. That may lead to nostalgia (a very subtle trap of the past).
    2. When the disciples lost hope, they returned to their past (Galilee). They are in survival mode. They return to the life they know – even if that life is just the end awaiting death …
  2. We see a very picture in Paul’s words in Galatians. For Paul death is not the end, but a door to a new beginning. He let’s go of self and the world he thought secure to gain a new life. Dying to self is living with Christ (Galatians 2:20) –
    1. Paul realizes that he has already died – to self. His life is now a new life in Christ that is filled with a hopeful future.
    2. Paul is expressing a theme that becomes real when we know Jesus – that resurrection follows death, and before resurrection there must be a death.

Before there is a resurrection there is first a death …

    • The caterpillars, the gray husks, the cecropia moths. This is a theme God has woven into the fabric of the universe.
      Thursday’s Resurrection
      by Chris Benjamin
      Thursday, April 13, 2000
      Ten days before Easter Sunday

      This morning I witnessed a miracle. I stepped out into the gray morning to see how my plants and bushes were doing and I noticed the faintest, quietest motion inside one of the bushes. Two large fiery colored Cecropia moths were stretching their wings. Their wings had a velvety cat’s eye pattern and their scarlet, feathery antennae were stroked back on their heads majestically. Their bodies were colored with beautiful, white and fire-red furry stripes. My first thought was not, "Where did these come from?"; rather it was "They’re here! They’re finally here!" I rushed back into the house to tell Karen and the boys that the caterpillars had hatched.

      Last spring, we were visited by two unusual guests. They didn’t ask if they could stay. They just showed up one day – two funny-looking little fat green caterpillars. The red and blue knobs gave them the appearance of having a face – a clown face. They showed up on our red-tip bushes and just began eating. I wasn’t very fond of those bushes and had thought about pulling them up, so I gave the caterpillars permission to eat all they wanted. They took me up on my offer and they swelled to four times their original size. They did contribute to the entertainment of my family. Wyatt, my son, thought they looked just like Heimlich the caterpillar in the movie A Bug’s Life – and I must admit they did! So almost everyday we came to see what they were doing, how they were growing, and just wondering if the bushes were still there and if any of their friends had moved in.

      Then came the day they made their cocoons. We really didn’t know what to suspect, but we noticed that they were getting less active. Then they started spinning their silk for the cocoon and pulled the leaves up around them. It was fascinating to watch them form the cocoon until they were finally encased in a brownish grayish shell that perfectly matched the color of the tree bark. From that time on, we began to wonder how long they would remain in the cocoon. As the months rolled on, we were certain it be through the winter. We slowly began to forget about the caterpillars. Every once in awhile when I was trimming a bush or mowing, I would look to see if perhaps the cocoon was split or if something was moving. No change. Never. We just got used to the two cocoons being in the bushes.

      Then yesterday, Wyatt brought home a reading book about Gus. Gus is a caterpillar and he becomes a butterfly. Of course this made us think about the Heimlich’s. Wyatt asked about them and Karen glanced at me. I told her in parental semaphore that they were likely "d-e-a-d." After all, those gray husks had gotten weathered and who knows how much pesticide they had been exposed to as I was killing chinch bugs, fire-ants, mosquitoes and every other pest. I would expect that if they were alive there would be some sort of sign, at least maintenance of good color. Karen said, "Let’s give them a while longer and then we can cut down the branches." I really didn’t care one way or another. After all, I had gotten used to the gray husks.

      This morning [April 13, 2000] was a symbol of God’s power to make life. The gray dead-looking husks that we had almost given up on were now the center of vibrant beautiful life. We had waited and grew impatient rather quickly. We just expect things so soon. The lovely creature stretching its wings was a reminder of God’s power and promises. Some may think it only coincidence or romanticism on our part to believe that the metamorphosis of a caterpillar has any sort of connection with the Resurrection. The cynic may say that the Resurrection of Christ is just a myth inspired by the scientific processes of nature. It seems more likely to me that God, the cosmic Artist, has inserted an important theme, a motif, into all of His creation.

    • In Jesus we see that theme in a person … and by knowing him we can display that theme in our life and church …
    • Some ministries end, only to begin new ones – that’s resurrection hope and power at work

      • LJCC – I had to leave so that a new ministry can begin there and so a new ministry can begin here. In Christ, endings are never just the end, they are the beginning.
      • Lions For Christ – they leave behind the youth group but this isn’t the end, it is just a new beginning
      • Tired, worn out servants can be filled with new life and power (Ezekiel 37)
    • Marriage – broken, dead marriages can be revived. [So the classes we teach are an extension of this principle that God can bring life and hope where we only see death and hopelessness.] Don’t pronounce the time of death until you pray! But even then, there can still be a resurrection.
    • Knowing Jesus we can experience resurrection in Personal Life – Career, finance, purpose …
    • But we have to submit to death (dying to self) so that there can be new life (baptism) – Romans 6. We need to let go of that which we are going to lose anyway (our mortal life) to receive the life that God gives as an eternal gift – now and forever

New Creation even Now – Eternal Life begins now! 2 Corinthians 5:17 – I Corinthians 15:57-58 (the connection between the resurrection and discipleship) – Jesus after his resurrection did not just float up to heaven like a ghost. In fact he had a hefty agenda and was quite busy for over a month …

Invitation: Before there is a resurrection there is first a death.

Philippians 3:10 – I want to Know Christ and the power of his RISING share in his suffering and conform to his DEATH

Will your death be the final end, or will dying to self be a new beginning? Would you like to know the power of resurrection that can change the gray husk of suffering, pain, and loss into new creation even now (not just in that great getting up morning)? Then meet Jesus. Know him!

Good Things, Not Bad

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

My personal joys in being in this congregation are many! Is it perfect? No. Is it stimulating people to grow and mature in Christ? Yes. That challenge is issued in a variety of ways. The call is for each person to grow continuously closer to God through Jesus Christ. The call is not: “Grow closer to God by submitting to my personal agenda.”

This congregation offers an incredible variety of stimulating challenges. No, we do not offer enough. Yes, we will grow and are growing in the variety we offer as God’s community. How many forms of challenge should we offer? How many human needs exist? The God who knows the number of our hairs always is interested in the “whole person.” Those who recognize their needs can hear His call in Christ.

We need as many challenges as there are needs around and among us. Every realized, addressed need opens realizations to our need for God in our life. Every life reality can focus a person on his/her need for a relationship with God. Such needs represent an enormous variety! They also represent enormous spiritual opportunity!

Never be intimidated by our variety of encouragements/outreaches. Please consider these insights and, if possible, make them your own.

  1. Christians and those who have yet to commit to God through Christ learn and understand by following different paths. “Faith” is not confined to one method of learning. “Spirituality” is not confined to one procedure for understanding what God did and does in Jesus Christ. “Godliness” is not the result of a single method. If someone learns truths about God’s work in Jesus Christ in a manner that differs from the route my understanding took, it is okay. Whether my route to understanding was through lectured understanding or knowledgeable sharing/interacting is insignificant.

  2. Thus, paths that arrive at the same genuine understanding may take different routes. For example, the objective is to (a) understand that Jesus is the Christ, and (b) to understand how that affects who I am and how I behave. The route to that understanding is not primary if I understand he is the Christ and let him be Lord.

  3. Different Christians travel at different speeds to a mature understanding. If one is able to travel toward maturity at 70 mph, wonderful! As far as God is concerned, if the best one can do is travel toward maturity at 10 mph, that is equally wonderful! Speed does not define the objective! The destination does.

  4. Thus we always remember Christian variety exists to encourage, not to rival.

Please accept a warning! Never falsely assume, “Someone will do it,” or, “Our size means it is covered–all I need to do is enjoy the options.” Nothing happens here by “accident.” We always need help. Enjoy the variety, but do something to help sustain it.

A goal: create hard choices. Oh, that God would bless our efforts so much that everyone wants to be more places than he or she can be! Be somewhere as part of something!

Worshipping God Who Gave Us Christ

Posted by on January 18, 2004 under Sermons

I hope this study’s emphasis on worshipping God now has your attention. I hope it challenges you to think. Some of the most important aspects of the meaning of Christian acts are held as assumptions. For example, we assume that if we are Christians we understand what worship is. We may often defend what we do in worship, but we rarely study worship as a concept.

We might conduct lengthy studies about prayer, and declare prayer is a part of worship, but we assume we understand the concept of worship. We assume if we have determined the correct way to pray in public assemblies, we understand a correct part of worship.

The assume the same thing for communion, or for giving, or for sermons, or for singing. We assume if we champion the correct forms of these things, we understand the correct concept of worship. Thus if we put correct prayer, and correct communion, and correct giving, and correct sermons, and correct singing together we produce worship. The assumption is this: if we do all the correct things in worship, then worship must occur and be correct.

In the first two lessons I challenged your concepts of worship by taking you to Cain’s sacrifice in Genesis 4 and God’s condemnation of Judah’s worship in Isaiah 1. I had a reason for doing that approach. I wanted you to admit to yourself that maybe there are some things about the concept of worship you have not considered.

If I ask you to consider something biblical that is distinctly opposite of what you thought for a long time without first challenging you to recognize the need to learn from scripture, you are likely to react rather than think. I do not want you to spend your time reacting and determining ways you can counter what scripture says. I want you to spend your time thinking and understanding the concept of worship. I want you to think about realities from scripture that perhaps you have never considered before. I want you to form a biblical concept of worship instead of assuming you know and understand the biblical concept of worship.

  1. Let’s begin with the obvious question: what is worship?
    1. Please do not confuse this question with another question.
      1. The question is: what is worship?
      2. The question is not: how does a Christian worship?
      3. There is an enormous difference between those two questions.
        1. There is a world of difference in “what” and “how.”
        2. The first question deals with a concept.
        3. The second question deals with procedures.
        4. The first question deals with a basic purpose.
        5. The second question focuses on how that purpose is accomplished.
      4. These two questions suggest the unthinkable to far too many Christians.
        1. We can do all the correct “hows” in precisely the correct forms and ways, and still not worship–and to many that is unthinkable.
        2. In fact, that runs counter to an emphasis that I have heard or been aware of for as long as I have lived.
        3. This is the common emphasis from my past (a continues to be a common emphasis in too many congregations): if we do the correct things in the correct ways, worship happens and God is pleased.
        4. For far too long our emphasis has tended to be on “how the church worships,” not on “what is worship.”
        5. It almost has been as if the concept of worship is unimportant if the procedures in worship are correct.
    2. Our failure to understand and stress worship as a concept apart from the “hows” has produced disastrous results that produces problems that continue attacking us.
      1. I am going to make some controversial observations.
      2. The foundation reason that some Christians find their confidence in being physically present in a church building on Sunday morning when they make no attempt to worship begins with this: they do not understand the concept of worship.
      3. The foundation reason that some Christians come really get involved in all the worship “hows” on Sunday and live very ungodly lives the rest of the week is this: they do not understand the concept of worship.
      4. The foundation reason that some Christians freely substitute “going to church” for godly attitudes, godly emotions, and godly behavior is this: they do not understand the concept of worship.
      5. The foundation reason that some Christians would not dare miss communion on Sunday morning but frequently miss the rest of worship’s fellowship with their spiritual family is this: they do not understand the concept of worship.
      6. The foundation reason that some Christians by design and personal desire come as late as they can and leave as quickly as they can is this: they do not understand the concept of worship.
    3. In the first two lessons I hope two things leaped out at you from scripture.
      1. Genesis 4: from the Bible’s first recorded acts of worship (and continuing throughout all history to today!), the first step of worship that pleases God, that God has regard for, is that the worship begins in a person’s heart.
      2. Isaiah 1: even if you are God’s people, acceptable worship must have a primary influence on the way you treat people.
      3. Both of those understandings lie at the inner heart of the concept of worship.

  2. Do human feelings determine if worship does or does not occur?
    1. The answer to that question is “yes and not.”
      1. Perhaps your response is, “David, that is ridiculous! That is no answer at all! The answer cannot be both yes and no!
      2. My response is this: whether the answer is yes or whether it is no depends on what is meant by the question.
    2. For the specific reason of making a contrast and creating understanding, allow me to look first at “no” as an answer.
      1. Have you ever been to what was regarded as a Christian worship assembly and left making this comment: “I do not feel like I have been to worship!”
      2. What did you mean by that statement?
        1. Did you mean, “I disapprove of what occurred! I personally resented what occurred so much that I found nothing about the experience worshipful.”
        2. Was the criteria for what occurred–your personal feelings?
      3. Let me give you a specific example.
        1. Suppose you attended an assembly of 200 baptized believers on a Sunday morning that was definitely “high church” in tone in every way.
        2. The five things you ordinarily do in worship were done, and no more–singing without instruments, praying, communing, giving, and a sermon from scripture.
        3. But:
          1. There was a massive, ornate pulpit elevated about 18 feet high above the congregation.
          2. Those directing the assembly wore special clothing.
          3. Christians lined up in front to take communion.
          4. The communion bread was unleavened but in the form of a loaf.
          5. The communion juice was real wine.
          6. The rows of pews were short, uncomfortable, old, and ornate.
          7. When the collection was taken the collect plates were attached to long wooden handles, and no one touched the plates.
          8. When scripture was read everyone stood.
          9. When prayers were offered everyone stood.
          10. There was quiet before the assembly and after the assembly–talking was permitted only when you were outside the building.
        4. If that was the situation, if you remarked in the car as you drove away that you did not feel like you worshipped, would the fact that you had those feelings mean no worship occurred in that assembly?
        5. No! It might mean you did not worship, but your feelings would not prove that no one else worshipped.
      4. Years ago I met a very troubled man in a very prestigious position.
        1. The man had a religious background, but all his religious experiences were in a “high church” context.
        2. For months we studied, and for months he worshipped with the congregation I then preached for.
        3. After several months of study, he was baptized by his request and his initiative.
        4. For at least six months he continued to worship with us, recovering from his troubles, and becoming more and more spiritual in his focus.
        5. One day he came to me and said, “I mean no disrespect to you, but I just cannot continue worshipping here. It is not a theology problem; things are just so informal that I do not feel like I have worshipped when I come.”
        6. The congregation I was in at that time was visibly more dedicated to tradition than this congregation is.
        7. Did the fact that he did not feel like he worshipped when he assembled with us mean no worship occurred when we assembled?
      5. If by the question, “Do human feelings determine if worship occurs?” one means that his/her feelings are the criteria that determines if worship does or does not occur, the answer is “No, human feelings do not determine if worship occurs.”
    3. If by the question, “Do human feelings determine if worship occurs?” one means are human hearts gratefully honoring God as the Creator of life and the One who re-created spiritual life in us, the answer is yes.
      1. The fundamental purpose of worship is to honor God for all He has done and does in giving us life–which includes both physical existence and life in Christ.
      2. If hearts are honoring God through Jesus Christ [understanding that this act of honor is expressed in numerous ways], worship occurs.
      3. Worship occurs because of the manner Christians feel toward God.
      4. Human feelings that express gratitude as they honor and glorify God are expressing worship.

  3. This brings us to the second reality regarding the concept of worship.
    1. The second reality: in the concept of worship, there is a conscious understanding of the fact that God is the sustainer and we are the dependents.
      1. We worship Him because we are totally dependent on Him.
      2. That dependence:
        1. Is not a matter of debate.
        2. Is not a matter “to be determined.”
        3. Is not a matter to be questioned.
    2. That dependence is understood and accepted.
      1. He brought life and us into physical existence.
      2. He made promises that He kept.
      3. Those promises expressed themselves in absolute completion in Jesus Christ.
      4. He is the Father who sent His son Jesus.
      5. Jesus is my only way to go to the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5,6)
      6. The only access I have to God’s grace and mercy expressed in forgiveness, justification, redemption, and sanctification is through what God did for us in Jesus Christ.

Christians worship because they are genuinely grateful for what God has done for them. It is impossible to separate human gratitude that seeks to honor and glorify God from Christian worship.

The Heart of Christ

Posted by on under Sermons


  • Getting to know people means getting to know what they do (work, hobby, or cause).
    • It’s inevitable that someone will ask "So what do you do?"
  • Getting to know people means getting to know what they do …
  • Knowing Jesus means knowing what he does …
  • Luke wants us to know Jesus. He recalls Jesus telling people what he does – and there is a reaction!
    • Home in Nazareth to preach in the synagogue Jesus is going to use Scripture to answer the question everyone wants to ask the young man who’s come back home: "So what are you doing now Jesus?"
    • This is his mission statement – If you want to know Jesus and what he does, then this is it …

Read Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Soon he became well known throughout the surrounding country. 15He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says:
18    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim
        that captives will be released,
        that the blind will see,
        that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors,
19        and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently. 21Then he said, “This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!”

The Heart of Jesus – Jesus has opened his heart to us. Shown us his passion …

  1. The Spirit of the Lord Upon Him
    1. Preaching and Proclaiming – Word and Action are one & same – He speaks with authority – What he says is what he does.
    2. The Kingdom Conquering a Broken World – Jesus’ ministry is all gospel and it involves …

      1. Casting out evil (Luke 4:31-37) – The end of evil’s power is being proclaimed
      2. Healing (Luke 4:38-41) – The curse upon humanity is being lifted
      3. Preaching (Luke 4:42-44) – The love of God and the call to a new way of life
  2. The Gospel is not just saying and hearing – it is also being and doing

    1. Ministry is not just bait on the gospel hook – it is the visible sign of the good news of the rule of God
    2. We have wonderful ministries at West-Ark that demonstrate how the proclamation of the gospel is both word and action …

      1. Guyana Medical Missions – the treatment of broken bodies and souls are both works of gospel proclamation. The gospel is not a hook we have to bait with free medicine. That sort of approach leads to an evangelistic bait and switch. Jesus demonstrates to us that every healing touch can be a proclamation of the good news.
      2. Community Outreach Day
        Tell those in need about it.
        Everyone welcome!
        West-Ark Church of Christ Family Life Center
        Saturday, January 31, 2004, 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
        All clothing and household items are FREE!!
      3. Community Outreach Day – Why do we do this? To "lure" people in? No, because we are transformed by the good news of the kingdom breaking in. We use our resources in a "gospel-ed" way. We believe the kingdom establishes a new order and rule over the way we do things and over the way we own things. The Spirit of our Lord is upon us and we use our resources for kingdom purposes …
    3. The Gospel transforms reality because the Kingdom is breaking in …
      1. Jesus is more than just the Master teacher, he is the living embodiment of the truth he proclaims
      2. And he calls on his disciples to be the same thing …

If you want to really know Jesus and do what he does then our belief and action are one in the same; they are turned inside out …

Turning Inside Out – Read Luke 4:22-30
22All who were there spoke well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that fell from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” 23Then he said, “Probably you will quote me that proverb, `Physician, heal yourself’–meaning, `Why don’t you do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum?’ 24But the truth is, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. 25“Certainly there were many widows in Israel who needed help in Elijah’s time, when there was no rain for three and a half years and hunger stalked the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a widow of Zarephath–a foreigner in the land of Sidon. 27Or think of the prophet Elisha, who healed Naaman, a Syrian, rather than the many lepers in Israel who needed help.” 28When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29Jumping up, they mobbed him and took him to the edge of the hill on which the city was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30but he slipped away through the crowd and left them.

The Heart of Jesus in Us –

  1. We cannot hoard the blessings of the gospel or limit access to them.
    1. Where do you find Jesus? Among the people we sometimes want to forget about.
    2. Knowing Jesus means doing what he does and caring about the things he cares about.
  2. The Weightier Matters of the Law (Matthew 23)
    1. The things that really matter to Jesus, are not just his pet projects – they must shape what we do, even when it is difficult or risky. …
    2. The theme of the 1960 ACU lectures was “Christian Faith in the Modern World.” One of the speakers was a professor of Bible at ACU, Dr. Carl Spain. Spain was a soft-spoken and humble man. His lecture had the rather innocuous title, “MODERN CHALLENGES TO CHRISTIAN MORALS.”
    3. Spain noted how philosophies such as naturalism and the origin of species informed the politics of Nazism and Communism, but then he brought the message home and pointed out that segregationist attitudes in the church are no better …
    4. And then Spain challenged ACU to change it’s official policy of not admitting African-American students …
    5. " … I feel certain Jesus would say: ?Ye hypocrites! You say you are the only true Christians, and make up the only true church, and have the only Christian schools. Yet, you drive out one of your own preachers [from your school] because the color of his skin is dark!" "We fear the mythical character named Jim Crow more than we reverence Jesus Christ."
  3. The cynical or critical might say that this is so much political correctness by a liberal college professor. Recall however that this is 1960, in Texas. This is three years before Martin Luther King’s march on Washington and four years before the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
    1. Could it be that disciples of Jesus who share his heart’s passion for the kingdom of God do in fact believe as he does in the weightier matters of the law – and they will do what he does to proclaim and live out kingdom justice, mercy and righteousness – And could it be that this in fact might make a difference?
      1. [One year after Spain’s speech. ACU changed its policy and admitted African-American students]
  4. If you want to really know Jesus and do what he does then inside turns out …
    1. Come into my heart Lord Jesus! Jesus will turn us inside out by asking, do you have room for my little ones?
    2. It is better to turn inside out with the heart of spirit of Jesus filling us, than to decay from the inside out like the hypocritical Pharisees. The good news of the kingdom proclaims help and healing from the Lord to those who will turn to him.

The God Who Sees and Is Moved By Motives

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Paul wrote this statement to Christians living in Corinth. The majority of them (a) had idolatrous backgrounds and (b) were converted from pagan lifestyles. With those backgrounds and lifestyles, sexual immorality was sanctioned and often considered “godly.” Some temples [depending on the god or goddess worshipped] maintained sacred prostitutes in order to worship that god or goddess through sexual acts.

Paul informed these Christians this was an ungodly concept. That which belongs to Christ cannot be shared with a prostitute. Their bodies belonged to God through Christ. God’s Spirit lived in their bodies. They belonged to God, not to sexual immorality. They could not unite themselves with sexual immorality and continue to belong to God.

The point called to your attention: while sexual immorality could not continue, the fact that in their confusion they were [as Christians] practicing this lifestyle did not immediately, automatically remove them from Christ.

Paul made the same point to the same congregation in 1 Corinthians 8. Some Christians thought idols represented actual gods. Some Christians knew better. Some Christians thought diet made one spiritual. Some Christians knew better. The Christian objective: do not allow correct knowledge to cause the weak to fall from Christ (verse 11). Does this sanction ignorance? No! It condemns the destructive use of knowledge.

Bottom line: we do not know how far God extends mercy and grace to those in Christ. God extends mercy and grace to every one of us! In all our situations, our personal ignorance is viewed by someone else as inexcusable stupidity! We must never forget it is God’s mercy and grace, and He alone determines its limits in specific situations.

On what basis does God extend mercy and grace to an ignorant Christian? He extends both on the basis of that Christian’s motives. If that person is in the process of growing toward spiritual completeness and understanding, God is patient. If he/she is justifying ungodly acts in defiance of God, God holds him/her accountable and responsible for the defiance. Our motives as Christians determine if God is patient with us or insulted by us.

Worship Illustrated

Posted by on January 11, 2004 under Sermons

Last Sunday evening we dedicated ourselves to better understanding God’s concept of worship. These were the points I asked you to think about:

  1. What we call the Old Testament (the New Testament called those writings “scripture”) is the foundation of God’s perspectives. The Old Testament predicts what the New Testament confirms regarding God’s love, salvation, faithfulness, and godliness.
  2. Christianity did not “invent” the concept of worship. If Christians of today are to grasp the biblical concept of worship, we must understand the intent and purpose of worship in the Old Testament.
  3. With Cain and Abel, God provided us our first introduction to worship.
  4. Genesis 4 and the worship incident regarding Cain is not about “obedience” or doing things the “correct way.”
  5. Genesis 4 and the incidents surrounding Cain confirm the first reality of worshipping God the Creator: worship always begins with the heart of the person.

In tonight’s study, I want to use scripture to illustrate the core point of the first lesson. The core point: worshipping God always begins in the heart of the person. An individual does not worship because he/she is physically in the place where worship occurs. He/she may be surrounded by people who are worshipping and not be a worshipper. No matter what is occurring around the person, no matter what is occurring as an act of worship, if he/she does not seek to involve himself or herself in honoring God, he or she is not worshipping. More than physical presence is required.

  1. To illustrate this fact from scripture, let’s read together Isaiah 1:1-20.
    The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the Lord speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. “An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him. Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick And the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it, Only bruises, welts and raw wounds, Not pressed out or bandaged, Nor softened with oil. Your land is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire, Your fields–strangers are devouring them in your presence; It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers. The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts Had left us a few survivors, We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies–I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. “If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; “But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
    1. Lets begin by noting the obvious:
      1. First, God is genuinely upset at these people who are supposed to be His people (Judah).
      2. Second, the people [spiritually] are genuinely sick.
      3. Third, their worship disgusts God.
      4. Fourth, they desperately need to repent–who they are and how they behave is anything but godly.
      5. Fifth, if the situation was to change [and it could!], major changes in the way the way the behave must occur.
      6. Sixth, God wants them to change, and will cleanse them if they do, but they must want to change–what happens depended on their desire.
    2. Now I want you to focus on their worship.
      1. Their worship stands as a symbol of their entire spiritual problem.
        1. Worship clearly illustrated God was genuinely angry with them.
        2. Worship clearly illustrated the fact that they were truly sick.
        3. Worship clearly illustrated God’s disgust with them.
        4. Worship clearly illustrated their desperate need to repent.
        5. Worship clearly illustrated their lives needed to change.
        6. Worship clearly illustrated that what happened hinged on their desires.
      2. “What was wrong with their worship?”
        1. Technically, nothing was wrong with it.
          1. They were doing what they were commanded to do.
          2. They were doing it at the right place.
          3. Nothing was condemned about the “forms” they follow–their “forms” were not the problem.
        2. Yet, it is quite clear that God was insulted by their worship.
          1. God viewed their “correct acts” as a disrespectful trampling in His courts.
          2. He regarded their sacrifices as worthless.
          3. He regarded their offering of incense as the height of godlessness.
          4. He regarded their worship assemblies as a declaration of their commitment to evil–and hated those assemblies!
          5. Their acts of worship are described as a burden to Him that exhaust Him! Fascinating–forgiving the penitent does not exhaust Him, but the worship of His people who live ungodly lives exhausts Him!
          6. So He will not listen to their prayers.
          7. So He will not pay any attention to them.
          8. The way they live make their worship an insult to Him!
      3. For their worship to cease being an insult to God, two things must happen.
        1. They must repent–that means they must turn their lives around.
        2. In their behavior, they must begin to obey God instead of rebelling against God.

  2. “What was it in their worship that so offended God?”
    1. “Where they not doing precisely what God commanded them to do?”
      1. They absolutely were!
      2. Everything mentioned about their worship that offended God was commanded by God.
    2. Consider:
      1. Leviticus chapters 1-6 give specific instructions from God about what is to be offered, when it is to be offered, and what parts of the animals belong to God.
      2. The offering of incense was commanded in the special annual day of atonement [in the Most Holy Place] in Leviticus 16:12, 13 and was commonly offered on the altar of incense in the Holy Place (Exodus 30:1-10; 2 Chronicles 26:19).
      3. The worship at new moons, Sabbaths, and appointed festival days was commanded (Numbers 28:9-15; 1 Chronicles 23:30,31).
      4. All the men of the nation were to attend the commanded national festival occasions of worship (Deuteronomy 16:16).
    3. “Then what was the problem?”
      1. The very fact that this question is asked by many Christians illustrates the “why” of the problem.
        1. A common concept of worship that a definite segment of Christians not only endorse but accept as the essence of worship is this: “if Christians do the right things, acceptable worship occurs.”
        2. It is a small step from that conclusion to this conclusion: “if a Christian is physically present where the right things occur, he/she worships.”
      2. The end result is distressful.
        1. We substitute “did you go to church today” for being a Christian–“going to church is the important evidence that you are a Christian.
          1. If you go to church, it is assumed that you worshipped.
          2. If you go to church, it is assumed that you believe.
        2. There may be people all over the building doing anything but worshipping, but from their perspective that is okay because they were at church.
          1. Thus “church” becomes a place, a building, an address.
          2. “Church” ceases to be what it was in the first century–a people, a community, a fellowship [not a place, not an address, and certainly not a building].
        3. Christians come for only one activity–they take communion because that is all that is important.
          1. That conclusion is a complete misunderstanding of the biblical worship of God.
          2. Certainly, communion done with God’s focus is worship that flows as life to all other expressions of worship.
          3. As important as communion is, it is not the entirety of worship.
        4. “Let’s come as late as we can and leave as quick as we can–we did church, we do not need association with people.”
    4. Worship occurs when hearts gratefully glorify God–and if hearts have no desire to glorify God, worship does not occur–not matter how “right” the things are that occur.
      1. There is a thin line that separates insulting God and worshipping God.
      2. That thin line is drawn by the motives of the hearts that are present.
      3. The objective must be much more than getting people in a church building.
      4. The objective can be nothing less than causing people to believe, and in believing to honor God for what He has done for us.

  3. Consider a New Testament example that is familiar to the majority of Bible students.
    1. Read with me Luke 18:9-14.
      And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
      1. I want you to look at “the big picture” instead of the details. [Much of the time we consider only the details.]
        1. Were both of them at the right place? Yes! They were in the temple court yard.
        2. Were both of them involved in a worshipful act? Yes! Both were praying. Remember Solomon’s prayer when he dedicated the temple in 1 Kings 8:22-53.
        3. Were either of them condemned because they violated the form of acceptable prayer? No!
      2. Then what was the primary difference? Hearts!
      3. Because of hearts:
        1. The recognized religious man was not heard, thus he did not worship.
        2. The sinner was forgiven (justified)–he worshipped.
      4. And what was the difference? Hearts!
    2. If anyone should understand the importance of hearts to worship, we should!

Worship occurs only when the heart of the worshipper is moved to glorify God. If our hearts are not correctly involved, there is no worship.

Because that is true, we as Christians must be as concerned about touching hearts in worship as we are concerned about doing the proper things.

Submerged in Christ

Posted by on under Sermons

Introduction: Standing in the place of a famous person. Long ago that person was there.
Baptism – Jesus was Here!

Text: Luke 3:15-22

Paul, like the Gospel writers, affirms that there is a connection between Christ’s baptism and our baptism …

  1. Galatians 3:26-27 – We are baptized into Christ. We take on the character of Christ. We assume his status as a son. One area of unfinished business is to articulate better what it means to be baptized into Christ.
  2. Colossians 2:11-14 – We are unified with Christ in death and resurrection. It is described as a circumcision done by Christ. He has initiated a new covenant with us. When God makes us alive with Christ (again note the unity with Christ) he forgives us of all sins and cancels the written code that testifies against us. This is a new order of life. Paul describes it earlier by saying that we are rescued from the dominion of darkness and placed into the kingdom of the Son. (Colossians 1:13). The implication for ethics has to do with the rule exercised over us.

  3. Romans 6:5

He became what we are that He might make us what He is. – Athanasius

In His Baptism, Jesus identifies with us …

  1. In our humanity

            What is so appealing about baptism in an age where nothing seems important?
            First, baptism is holistic and experiential and this appeals to our age as something authentic. The post-modern culture may be more receptive to this than the modern rational culture was. God wants to baptize minds, but he demands more than that. Furthermore, God is interested in baptizing more than just feelings. Baptism is a total experience.
            Our culture is desperate for real and total experience. Why the rise of tattoos and piercing? Perhaps because it is real, bodily, and symbolic. It is event based – a marker of something significant. Why the popularity of extreme sports? Extreme sports may be so popular because in an age of meaninglessness it is assumed that the only way one can truly feel alive is to risk death.
            We live in an age where nothing seems to matter very much. And that which does matter doesn’t matter for a very long time. Nothing seems permanent. This includes human life. So many question the meaning of their existence. They are confused about their worth, their value, and their identity. My generation (Gen X) has not witnessed the global turmoil that previous generations have. We did not live through wars and depressions. We are not the greatest generation, and therein lie our problem. We were not faced with monumental decisions or titanic struggles that demanded great sacrifice. Our greatest struggle is the question of our existence. Our greatest dilemmas are infused into our being born. We are the first generation to know that our parents could have legally chosen to abort us. We are the first generation commonly raised by institutions as much as families. We are the first generation to be born without God as a significant part of the culture. How this generation longs for a new birth and a tangible spirituality – a faith that has flesh! We find that in Christ and in baptism (a very tangible event!)

  2. In our sinfulness

    German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn, was not a handsome man. In addition to his short stature, he also had a hunched back. When he met a young lady named Frumtje, Moses fell madly in love, but Frumtje was repulsed by his appearance.

    Finally getting the courage to talk to her, Moses asked, “Do you believe marriages are made in heaven?”

    When she said yes, Moses said, “In heaven at the birth of each boy, the Lord announces which girl he will marry. When I was born, my future bride was pointed out to me. Then the Lord said, ‘But your wife will be humpbacked.’ Right then and there I called out, ‘Oh Lord, a humpbacked woman would be a tragedy. Please, Lord, give me the hump and let her be beautiful.'”

    Frumtje reached out and gave Mendelssohn her hand, and later became his devoted wife.

    He became sin that we might become righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21)

  3. Our hope for a new beginning

            A few years ago I met a member of my generation whose thirty-something years of life had not been as blessed as mine. Her name was Grace. She had come to our church building to pray. She felt the urge many times to come in and pray. She was obviously longing for God. I sat down to talk with her. I listened to how she was unloved by her parents and men. She had had many relationships but they had been mostly bad. Yet, she wasn’t bitter or angry, she was afraid. She was afraid that she would never be a success in life and that her life would be meaningless. She was going to school, turning her life around and doing all the things that would give her applause and admiration. She was doing everything that she thought she ought to do. But the fear and confusion, the lack of purpose, future, and identity was still there.
            After much discussion and coming back to this theme in her life again and again I finally asked her "How would you like a new life?" We discussed baptism, but not in terms of what she must do to be saved, but in terms of who she could be by the grace of God. I told her what God’s grace could do with Grace – how He would bury her sins and the past then recreate her as new as a newborn child. All of her fears and confusion would be gone, because she would have a life that was a gift from the Creator.
            She asked how it felt to be baptized. The Scripture I shared with her to answer her question was Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
            Only the language of new birth, a new beginning, and the promise of a new identity in Christ and a baptism that was the work of God, a symbol of the gospel could have spoken to Grace. All of that is pictured in Jesus’ baptism as he shares with us the event that marks a new beginning – a moment in time when heaven breaks open and the future of all the earth is blessed.

In Our Baptism, We identify with Christ …

  1. In his divinity (sharing in the divine nature) – 2 Peter 1:3-4 – We’ve been equipped! We have new value!

    1982 TOPPS baseball card         There is a Baseball card called “Baltimore Orioles Future Stars” and it is valued at $100. There are three players on this card: The first is Jeff Schneider. Schneider played 1 year of professional baseball, pitched in 11 games. The second player is Bobby Bonner, who played 4 years of baseball but only appeared in 61 games and 0 home runs.
            The third “Future Star” played 21 years for the Baltimore Orioles and appeared in 3,001 games. He came to bat 11,551 times, collected 3,184 hits and 431 home runs, and batted in 1,695 runs. His name is Cal Ripken, Jr. Bobby Bonner and Jeff Schneider’s baseball card is worth $100, not because of their statistics, but because of what someone else has done. They get to share in the value of Cal Ripken, Jr.

  2. In his righteousness (Matthew 3:15)

            Baptism is God making a statement. He claims the baptized one. His historical work of reversing the Eden disaster is evident: he buries another sinful Adam and gives birth to a new child of God. God justifies and sanctifies. Yet, despite this profound revelation from God we are still riddled with doubts as though we are spiritual orphans or God’s foster children.
            I never believed that I would have to perform "last rites" as a minister in a church of Christ, but I did just that. A man came to me whose wife was dying. He wanted to be assured of her eternal destiny; but her baptism, her submission to God’s saving grace, was not enough to ease his troubled mind. I agreed to go to her deathbed and give her the chance to confess any unresolved sins. I was relieved when I got there and she had nothing to tell me. The man loved his wife, that was obvious, but his concern was that the law might have been broken. In contrast, her confidence was in the one in whom she believed and I think she was persuaded that he was able to keep his commitment to her.
            Now I was able to turn to her husband and say, "She was baptized. She belongs to God. Christ is her Lord. Whatever we may think, he’s already spoken." Her husband was truly comforted by the certainty of the Lord’s approval. It wasn’t all about her righteousness – it was finally about his!

    Jesus was baptized not simply to follow orders or to set an example. He baptized so that we might meet him through baptism and take up his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was baptized so that all righteousness might be fulfilled! Furthermore, as we perceive baptism as God’s covenant and declaration of love and relationship, then the natural attitude and approach to baptism will be one of joy and gladness.

  3. In his resurrection (now and to come) – Romans 6
    1. Buried in Baptism – We die with Jesus. We put off the body of flesh.
      • This is graphic language: The change is so drastic; it is not the cutting away of a small amount of flesh. It is death.
      • Baptism looks back to Jesus, who dies and leaves behind his mortal existence before being raised in a spiritual body and an immortal existence. Christ in his resurrection was living a new type of life and existence. Our life after baptism anticipates this.
    2. Raised in Faith – We are raised by faith in the power of God to give new life
      • Our life after baptism is described as a rebirth. It is more than just erasing a mistake or working on a few faults. It is total renewal. Not a new leaf, but a new life!
      • The break from the old life is severe. This is not a new resolution, a new habit, a new phase, or new idea. It is a new life, a new creation.
      • How can we change so drastically?
    3. If we have become united with Christ in his death, we will be united with him in his resurrection (v. 5)
    4. Our baptism points us to the future – to the Second Coming of Christ. This we believe:
      • If we have died with Christ, then we will live with him! [This ought to mark our lives with such joy, confidence, and hope! These are the marks of distinction that the lost are looking for!]
      • Why do we believe this? Because we know that Christ was raised (v.9) and no longer dies. Death does not rule Christ!

Conclusion: Submerged in Christ – God’s plan to sum up everything in Christ! (Ephesians 1)

Our baptism binds us together. We are so different. We make distinctions. We judge. But the rebirth of baptism is God’s gracious way of giving us a new birthright. We are sons of God. We are born into his house. That makes us brothers and sisters. The one baptism that we were all baptized into makes unity. No more distinctions, no more political, racial and religious tension.

Think about it! What if all the warring factions in Iraq were baptized into Christ? What if the Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East were baptized in to Christ? The things that they base their identity on would have to change! This is the solution for hatred and enmity in America. When we put on Christ, the things we base our identity on change. There is no longer black or white. There is no longer Hispanic and Anglo. Your income doesn’t matter, your education doesn’t matter, your past history of sins doesn’t even matter! By the grace of God you are given a new life – the life of God’s son Jesus Christ.

Because of this, we don’t get to make excuses. You can tell me about your past and I will listen because that explains who you are. But once you’ve been born again, you don’t have to make excuses. In fact have something much better – a new identity (newness of life) that brings joy and hope and peace that passes understanding. We ought to be bold and adventurous in doing good. We can experience a foretaste of resurrection if we are submerged in Christ …

"But I was born on the wrong side of the tracks." No, you were baptized and born in God’s house!
"But I have led a horrible life!" That life is gone. You have a new life – you were baptized.
"But I was born with this bad temper!" No, you were born again with his spirit!
"Nobody cares about me." You were baptized! God adopted you!
"My family has turned against me." You were baptized into the body. You are never alone.

You see baptism doesn’t put a claim on God. It puts a claim on us!

We should know that our baptism was the place we encountered him. Baptism – Jesus is there!

Who Owns You?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I hope every person who considers himself or herself a Christian quickly has a ready answer. I hope the answer is a shared answer: “The Lord owns me!”

I grew up in a rural congregation on the western edge of east Tennessee. Several songs frequently were part of our worship. They were sung at least once a month. One (written by Fanny J. Crosby) was, “I am Thine, O Lord.” In my mind, I still can hear us sing the chorus:

“Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.”

It is an affirmation, intent, and awareness. The singer affirms he/she wants the Lord to bring him/her closer. The singer wants to come closer and closer to the Lord. The singer is aware that the crucified, bleeding Jesus is the means of closeness to God.

That is a wonderful affirmation, intent, and awareness. If it is only an inner conviction, it is simple to voice. If it is an inner conviction expressed as the daily focus of one’s life, it is sobering and costly to voice this song.

Perhaps the greater our conviction, the more difficult is our challenge. Jesus draws us nearer through his sacrificial suffering and bleeding. By coming closer to Jesus, we come closer to God. Why does Jesus attract us? He bled for us! How do we come closer to God? The same way Jesus did! As he, we come closer through self-surrender by sacrifice and suffering. That is a hard, serious decision, not a simple, casual decision.

That decision involves many things! It involves different things for different people! For some, it involves rethinking “whom I allow to be my Lord.” For some, it involves a major commitment to repentance, a genuine redirecting of life. For some, it involves allowing “my theology to affect my daily behavior.” For some, it involves relationship issues. For some, it involves letting faith in God be bigger than fear of the past. For some, it involves the determination to endure pain for God.

For all it involves an enormously difficult challenge: the challenge to grow. To grow in what? Understanding, wisdom, purpose, faith, realization of what is eternal. Never will come the moment when we do not seek greater understanding, wisdom, purpose, faith, and realization of the eternal. The issue is not, “Am I comfortable where I am?” The issue is, “Is God pleased with where I am?” Are we constantly willing to grow, to be drawn nearer to the cross and the precious bleeding side?

Matthew 26:39, 42 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” … He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Worship Introduced: A Study About Cain

Posted by on January 4, 2004 under Sermons

This evening I want to begin an emphasis that will continue for several weeks. There are three basic reasons for this emphasis. First: we genuinely need to examine our worship concepts by the Bible. Second: as we focus on concepts, we hope our small groups also will focus on the same concepts. Third: hopefully, that will allow many to consider the same thoughts and concepts and stimulate our understandings as a congregation.

I approach this study with some fears. They have little to do with the material. They have a lot to do with emotional reactions. Emotions are a good thing. We should have strong feelings. But our strong feelings must not be allowed to override Scripture’s thoughts and teachings.

I may suggest you examine things from scripture you never have considered before. If I do, your first feeling may be to react instead of think. First, I want you to clearly understand that I do not seek your agreement. Second, I do make a request: think from a biblical perspective.

May we begin from the same foundation. I have reason to believe that most of us, if not all of us, believe the Bible is inspired by God. Most, if not all of us, believe the writings of the Bible are God’s revelations. Most, if not all of us, believe that if we are to understand God’s thinking and will, we need to constantly grow in our understanding of the message of Scripture. I certainly believe all three of those things.

  1. I want to begin with an observation: the common approach we have used in the past to determine the meaning of Scripture is frequently backwards.
    1. “What do you mean by backwards?”
      1. First, we decide what God wants from the back of the Bible.
      2. Second, we go to the back of the Bible to prove what we already conclude.
      3. Third, as a final deed, we go to the front of the Bible to either prove our conclusion or to explain away contrary incidents.
      4. We place great confidence in any statement from the New Testament, and little confidence in any statement from the Old Testament (unless it agrees with what we are saying).
    2. Let me give you a specific example.
      1. Where did you acquire your basic concepts concerning worship? From what source did your concepts come?
      2. Are you certain that you know the correct way and the incorrect way to worship? If you are certain, why are you certain?
      3. Are you sure that you can recognize the correct way and the incorrect way to do a specific act in worship? If you are certain, why are you certain?
      4. If you wanted to document your conclusions regarding worship, would you go exclusively to the New Testament? Why would you go to exclusively to the New Testament?
    3. Let me ask you to think from scripture itself.
      1. When Luke, or Paul, or Peter, or James, or Jude, or John wrote their messages you and I recognize as parts of the New Testament, that was the first time those writings ever existed.
        1. The first letter written that we now recognize as a part of the New Testament was likely written by Paul around 49 or 50 A.D.
        2. All of the letters or writings that we call books in the New Testament were likely written between 50 A.D. and 100 A.D.
        3. There were no printing presses, no publishers as we know them, no mass distribution of books as we know mass distribution.
        4. Just for the sake of a starting point, let’s say Christ died in 33 A.D. and the church was established in 33 A.D.–that is almost 20 years before the very first writing of what we call the New Testament was written.
        5. That means some Christians died (for example, Stephen and James–Acts 8:1; 12:2) before they saw a single writing of the New Testament.
          1. A study of what books should be in the Old Testament or the New Testament is a study of the cannon.
          2. The New Testament that you have was not an agreed upon collection of writing until the 4th century A.D.
          3. That means a lot of Christians died prior to even knowing the New Testament as a collection.
        6. The books that we call the New Testament spread through sharing hand written copies, so the process was slow and was not uniform.
      2. Your reaction might be, “Well, that is all very interesting, but is it important?”
        1. My answer would be, “Yes! It is very important!”
        2. Why?
        3. It is important for this reason: references to the scriptures in the New Testament are primarily to what we call the Old Testament.
          1. What we call the Old Testament was the scripture of the early church.
          2. That was what they used and studied.
        4. Consider these statements:
          • Romans 1:2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.
          • Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (a reference to Genesis 15:6)
          • Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” (likely a reference to Exodus 9:16)
          • Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (a reference to Isaiah 28:16)
          • Romans 11:2-4 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
          • Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
          • Romans 16:26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.
          • 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
          • There are three references to Scriptures in Galatians (3:8; 3:22; 4:30).
          • 1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
          • 2 Timothy 3:16,17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
          • There are three references in James (2:8; 2:23; 4:5).
          • 2 Peter 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

          All these are references to Old Testament Scripture that affirm (1) they were written for the instruction of Christians, (2) they affirm the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, (3) they should be read publicly by Christians, (3) they are inspired by God and can equip Christians for every good work, and that the only meaning God’s prophesies have is the meaning God had.

    4. “What is your point?”
      1. My point is this: if our concepts of worship are to be God’s concepts of worship, our understanding must begin with worship in the Old Testament.
      2. We cannot base our concepts on our views of New Testament teaching and either ignore the Old Testament or force it to fit our concepts.

  2. Christians did not “invent” the concept of worship. Our “forms” have changed, but the basic “concept” of worshipping God has never changed.
    1. After Adam and Eve sinned and received God’s consequences for their rebellion, the first thing recorded is Cain and Abel’s worship.
      1. I personally do not think it is possible to read Genesis 4 in its context and conclude that this chapter is about obeying God by doing the right thing when we worship.
        1. There is no recorded command given to them to worship.
        2. There is no recorded command given to them about the way they were to worship.
        3. There is no mention of obedience.
      2. Those facts have not been given a place in our typical approach to Genesis 4.
        1. Typically we use the New Testament to go back and decide what Genesis 4 meant.
        2. Our basic concept is that Christians show respect for God by obeying, that faith is the product of knowledge, therefore God had to give Cain and Abel a command which Cain violated.
        3. So we go to Hebrews 11:4 (though the passage is about faith), declare it to be a commentary on Cain’s obedience.
          1. We basically declare sometime before the worship incidents in Genesis 4 occurred God told Cain what to do. Cain rebelled against the clear instructions of God.
          2. In my understanding, if that is what we do, we miss the point of Genesis 4.
      3. May I call some things to your attention?
        1. First in Genesis 4 there is no mention of a command to Cain and Abel.
        2. Second in Genesis 4, the impression is that each of the men decided to worship by sacrifice–it would seem the idea came from each man.
        3. Third in Genesis 4, it says God had regard for Abel’s offering and had no regard for Cain’s.
      4. Look carefully at Cain’s reaction.
        1. Verse 5–Cain got very angry and depressed.
        2. Verse 6–God told Cain he had no reason to be angry or depressed (does that sound like condemnation and rejection?)
        3. Verse 7–God said sin was crouching at the door (sin had not entered him, but was at the door).
        4. Verse 7–Cain had the challenge to be master over sin; it did not have him yet!
      5. Cain verified he was a selfish, self-centered, ego driven man–everything was about Cain!
        1. He killed Abel–it was all about Cain.
        2. He lied to God, refusing to accept responsibility for his action–it is still about Cain.
        3. When God announced the consequences of his act, he responded, “My punishment is too great to bear!” –it is still all about Cain.
        4. “Others will kill me!”–it is still all about Cain.
        5. Cain left “the presence of the Lord” and never attempted to return.
        6. Never was there any expression of regret or repentance in Cain!
      6. May I suggest to you that the evidence at least suggests even in the act of worship, Cain was focused on Cain, not on God.
    2. In Genesis 4 I see the # 1 reality in regard to worshipping God: worship always begins with the heart of the person.
      1. No matter what you do in worship,
      2. No matter what worship forms you follow,
      3. No matter how technically correct those forms are,
      4. If a man or woman does not have as a foundation for worship a heart truly seeking to honor God, that worship does not please God.

One significant problem we have concerning worship in the Church of Christ is the conviction by many that if you do the “right thing” in “the right way” at “the right time,” your worship pleases God. Surely worship should seek to be correct, but that is not enough!

That has never been true! Worship must begin in the worshipper’s heart!

I Want to Know Christ

Posted by on under Sermons

A Story about “Who you Know …”

  • When I was a boy, a new family moved in on the other side of the county road out on our mountain inBrentwood. The new family had built a large house for his family on a great expanse of land. The housewas well off the road and was only accessible by a smaller road that was gated. I remember my familytalking about the strangers who were moving in. We heard he was a wealthy Texan moving out to thecountry for seclusion. My uncle knew the older man who tended the new homeowner’s farmland. Whenmy cousin and I were selling candy for our school we asked the farmhand if we should sell to the man- it only heightened the mystery of these newcomers when the farmhand told us that the Texan probablywouldn’t care to be bothered by such stuff. We assumed that to mean that he was some sort of recluse,so though my cousins and I could roam just about anywhere on the mountain, we were instructed notto disturb the new family and don’t go through the gate to their land.
  • Well imagine my concern the day my cousin David, bored and looking for something to do, suggestedwe go over and visit the new house.
    “But we aren’t supposed to go there David,” I said.
    “Don’t worry, we’ll be able to get in – and I hear he has a swimming pool!”
  • So we set off on our bikes and down the narrow shaded road to the new house. When we came to thegate, we climbed over and slid our bikes underneath. And farther down the road we came upon thishouse that was amazing to me – it had large picture windows and two stories – the only other two storystructure on the mountain was our barn. None of our houses were so amazing. This was the kind ofhouse you see on movies. I was a bit nervous when we came to the door, but David was truly confidentand pressed the doorbell (no one on the farm had doorbells!) I wondered what old the man who ownedthis house would be like. Would he meet us with a shotgun? Would he shout at us? Would he call thesheriff?
  • I was surprised when a rather ordinary and kind looking fellow in a sweater and spectacles came to thedoor and said “Hello.”
    David said “Hello, we live over across the road – we’re friends of your son.”
    “Of course,” said the older man. I’ll tell him you’re here, come in.”
    And as we entered into the house a tall boy, only a few years older than my cousin David, with blond hairand glasses greeted us. This was the man’s son, and he showed us around his house and even showedus the swimming pool. It was all quite an adventure.
  • When I finally got home and my mom asked me where we had gone today she did a double takewhen I said “We went to the new house across the county road.” Sensing her shock andconcern I then said, “It’s okay; we know his son.”

It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know!

  1. Knowing Christ is important for our destination (at the judgment, it’s not what you know, but whoyou know – Do you know Christ?)

    This is Paul’s sentiment in Philippians 3 … (see the context, Paul would gladly dispose of everything he knows just to know Christ!)
    7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I considereverything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sakeI have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having arighteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousnessthat comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and thefellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to theresurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11

    Paul’s vision is on the destination (judgment, eternity) but he also has his sights on the current moment ashe communicates in the next few verses:
    14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15Allof us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that tooGod will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. – Philippians 3:14-16

  2. Knowing Christ makes a difference in the journey.

    • (allusion to story – knowing the son made a difference in the way we were received, but italso made a difference in what we did that single day – he set out on an adventure withconfidence, we overcame barriers, we were inspired by a vision of marvelous, mysteriousthings)
    • The Christian Life is a journey …

Ephesians 1 – “Christian Life” is “A Life In Christ”

  • God has blessed us through his son – Jesus Christ. Christ is God “up close and in person.” ReadEphesians 1:3-12
  • Eleven times Paul praises God for what we have received “in Christ.” What are these blessings? Here are five definite blessings mentioned in this text (watch these closely as they will come upagain in our future worship preaching)
    1. IN CHRIST, He chose us and
    2. has made us holy and blameless in God’s presence
    3. THROUGH CHRIST, he adopted us as his children
    4. THROUGH HIS BELOVED SON, He has poured out his grace on us …
      • Which means that IN CHRIST we have redemption through his blood.
      • Which means that IN CHRIST we have forgiveness for our sins – allbecause of his grace.
    5. He has made known to us the mystery of his plan to sum everything up IN CHRIST – thingsin heaven and also on earth

      • If God has made himself KNOWN to us IN CHRIST, then shouldn’t we wantto know him?
      • To share in the divine nature even in our everyday human life, isn’t that wasJesus – God in the flesh was about? These blessings are related to ourknowing Christ and sharing in the divine nature

I Want to Know Christ –

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become therighteousness of God. We’ve always noticed the first part but have we paid attention to the second part?
  • At the heart and core of salvation is a relationship – a relationship with Christ. He takes up ournature so that we might take up his nature.
  • Knowing Christ = a purpose in life even now – Jesus Christ has given our life incredible value andpurpose – to be the righteousness of God. He took up our nature so we can take up his. We can beborn again as a new humanity. (more on this next week.)
  • The Christian way of life – [A Life In Christ – Becoming the Righteousness of God] – It is a way of lifefor the here and now and not just the hereafter. It is about concrete streets as much as it is aboutgolden streets. In fact, if the Christian way of life has nothing to do with right now, then why didJesus come to us in the flesh – fully human, though fully God?

CONCLUSION – [Challenge]

  • The old doomsayer’s slogan was “Prepare to meet thy God.”
  • The best way to prepare to meet him is to know him – even now!

Meeting is not the same things as knowing!

The most important person you can ever know is Jesus Christ. . .

I want every person here to be prepared for more than just meeting God! I want you to know God! I want you to know Christ!

    This is the journey I’m inviting you to share with me. We’re going to pass through some barriersand we may go through places where fearful people say we shouldn’t go, but don’t worry – weknow the son – that will make the reception at journey’s end sweet – but it will make the journeyeven better!