Focusing On Our Purpose as a Congregation

Posted by on February 29, 2004 under Bulletin Articles

Permit me to begin by asking some questions we do not often ask. What are the purposes for convincing men and women that they should “enter Jesus Christ” and have “Christ in them”? What purposes do men and women who are “in Jesus Christ” have? Why do we exist as a congregation? Are there purposes in being a congregation? Are those purposes ours or God’s? Do they exist because of our concerns or God’s priorities?

Do we exist as Christians merely to exist? Do we exist as a congregation merely to exist? Is the purpose of being “in Christ” no more than staying out of Hell? Is the purpose of being a congregation no more than survival?

If those questions seem trivial, “too thoughty,” or too concerned about issues you never consider, may I give you a guarantee? The guarantee: any elder who takes serious his role of leadership in a congregation never regards any of those questions trivial, “too thoughty,” or focused on insignificant matters.

This Sunday morning as we consider God’s importance to our lives in the worship of our physical and spiritual Creator, our shepherds/leaders will challenge us. It will not be a business meeting. It will be worship. These men thought long and hard about God’s purposes in us as individuals and a congregation. They want to briefly share their thoughts with us. Their sharing will be in the form of challenges rather than the form of directives. They will seek to lead us rather than control us. They will focus on our purpose and our goals to the glory and honor of God, Christ, and the Spirit.

    Our Purpose:

    • Making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others.

    Our Goals:

    • To daily focus on Jesus and His Cross.
    • To nurture spiritual growth to transform all into God’s holiness.
    • To increase love and godly behavior.
    • To recognize our spiritual gifts and use them to glorify God.
    • To proclaim a biblical worldview that is obedient to Christ.

These men sacrifice much to be our shepherds. They want to share with us what these things mean to them. They want us to think and focus as we make God the core of our daily lives. They want us to think and focus as we seek to be God’s people-nothing more and nothing less. See you Sunday as we honor God by thinking about who we are!

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds?” (Hebrews 10:24)

The Moods of Worship

Posted by on February 22, 2004 under Sermons

Those of us who are older have long accepted as fact that there is only one appropriate worship mood. The only appropriate mood is solemness. Anything other than being solemn in worship is a human invention that is unknown to God.

People are to approach God with reverence. In the Churches of Christ [and in many other churches as well] in the 20th and 21st century, reverence meant solemn. Any worship mood that failed to be solemn was declared totally inappropriate for worship. The common opinion: proper worship is founded on death [sacrifices, and Jesus’ crucifixion]. There is only one appropriate mood to be associated with death. That appropriate mood is solemn.

Jesus’ birth as recorded in Luke 2 was a time of celebration, but we have no occasion for celebration in our worship. Jesus’ presentation as an infant at the temple was a moment of joyful thanksgiving for Simeon and Anna in Luke 2, but we have no occasion for joyful thanksgiving. The baptism of Jesus an occasion of joy in which God Himself declared that He was well pleased, but we have no occasion for expressing joy in worship.

I have difficulty believing that the marriage feast at Cana or many of the healings were not occasions for spiritual celebration and joy. God acted in wonderful ways! It is difficult for me to imagine that a leper being healed, or a blind man seeing, or a lame man walking, or a demon possessed person being freed, or a dead person being raised to life would produce only solemn spiritual thoughts. It is impossible for me to see these people worshipping God in anything but joyful thanksgiving for the great blessing received.

One of the earliest Christian miracles occurred in Acts 3. When Peter by Jesus’ power gave the gift of walking to a man lame from birth, the man stood up with a leap and entered the temple walking, and leaping, and praising God. He was in the holiest place they knew, but what he did was not solemn. Neither was it irreverent. God enabled this man who had never taken one step to walk, and he was thrilled beyond words! He had to praise God for his gift!

  1. The fact that worshipping God includes many moods comes from God Himself.
    1. Jewish expressions of worship were either commanded by or sanctioned by God.
      1. Some of their special occasions of worship included these:
        1. Passover and the feast of unleavened bread.
        2. The feast of weeks, also known as the feast of harvest or the day of first fruits.
        3. The feast of tabernacles, also known as the feast of booths or the feast of ingatherings.
        4. The Sabbath occurring on the seventh day of each week.
        5. The day of blowing the trumpets.
        6. The day of atonement.
        7. The feast of Purim.
        8. Jubilee
      2. Most of these were feasts that involved worship centered around sacrifices and eating with joy.
        1. God commanded His people to have occasions of celebration as they honored and praised Him–a part of remembering was celebration!
        2. The idea and thought of people joyfully praising and glorifying Him have never been foreign to God.
    2. We truly need to distance ourselves from the human idea that God is offended when His people worship Him in the joy of gratitude for His kind and gracious gifts and blessings.
      1. All the men of Israel made pilgrimages from all over the land on special festival days, which we would call occasions of worship.
        Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.
      2. It was a sight unlike anything we have ever seen as thousands and thousands of people flooded the roads to the Jerusalem temple.
      3. As these thousands and thousands of people made their pilgrimage, they sang as they neared Jerusalem and the temple.
        1. Their songs were know as the songs of Ascents.
        2. As thousands of Israelites sang as they “went up” to Jerusalem, these songs echoed through the valleys with increasing volume as they neared their destination.
        3. Psalms contains some of those songs, and those songs reflect a variety of moods–and one of those moods is joy.
        4. Listen to some of the words in those songs:
          Psalm 121:1-4 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.
          Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
          Psalm 126:1,2 When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Probably a song sung after the captivity.)
          Psalm 135:1-3 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him, O servants of the Lord, You who stand in the house of the Lord, In the courts of the house of our God! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.

  2. I want you to think and consider as we note some of the holiest Jewish occasions of worship.
    1. The Passover and feast of unleavened bread:
      1. The Passover primarily was a time of remembrance in Israel when they celebrated the fact that it was God with His great power who freed Israel from slavery.
      2. Think about it! It celebrated the wonderful things God did for them, not the horrible things they did to God.
        1. God acted powerfully on their behalf–that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        2. God ended their existence as slaves–that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        3. God made them a nation–that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        4. God led them to a country of their own–that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
      3. Listen:
        Exodus 12:14 Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
        Exodus 13:11-16 “Now when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
      4. Passover was about the joyful memory of God’s deliverance through God’s powerful act.
        1. They are to never forget what God did for them.
        2. The feast of unleaven bread was a continual memorial to remind every Israelite yearly of how quickly Israel left Egypt.
        3. It was a feast, a meal, not a fast.
        4. It remembered how deeply indebted Israel was to God.
    2. The feast of weeks [also known as the feast of harvests or the day of first fruits]:
      1. Notice again that this is a time of feasting.
      2. It was held at the completion of the spring grain harvest.
      3. Listen:
        Deuteronomy 16:9-12 You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
    3. The feast of tabernacles [also known as the feast of booths or the feast of ingatherings].
      1. Again, notice this was a time of feasting.
      2. This was a festival that occurred at the end of the harvest which also marked the end of their year.
      3. It was a week of joyful remembrance: God brought us out of Egypt; God preserved us in the wilderness; God gave us this harvest; God is our Provider Who Protects us.
      4. Listen:
        Leviticus 23:39-43 On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
    4. The day of atonement (Leviticus 16):
      1. I want you to notice the contrast.
        1. Passover, the feast or festival of weeks, and the feast or festival of tabernacles were occasions of joy combined with feasting which celebrated the powerful acts and blessings of God.
        2. The day of atonement was a day for the nation to focus on their sins, their failures, their unholiness before the holy God.
        3. There was no feasting; only a remembrance of their failures and their need for atonement [forgiveness].
        4. The high priest cleansed himself, then cleansed the sanctuary, and then cleansed the nation.
      2. Listen:
        Leviticus 16:17-31 When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it. When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. Then he shall offer up in smoke the fat of the sin offering on the altar. The one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp. But the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp, and they shall burn their hides, their flesh, and their refuse in the fire. Then the one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, then afterward he shall come into the camp. This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.

  3. I focus your attention on this fact:
    1. There is no “refocusing” of the concepts of worship in the Christian age–worship of God was worship of God.
      1. Forms for expressing worship changed, but worship as a concept did not change.
      2. Lessons learned from the concepts God gave Israel for worship are truly relevant for our Christian concepts of worship.
    2. In worshipping God, there were occasions to joyously celebrate the gifts and power of God–by God’s own choosing and direction!
    3. In worshipping God there are occasions to mourn our sinfulness–by God’s own choosing and direction!

The basic understanding in worship is simple. If the focus is on God and His powerful acts and blessings, the mood is a joyful celebration. If the focus is on us and our sinfulness, the mood is somber. This is what God revealed, not what we decided.


Posted by on under Sermons

I want to focus our thinking by reading Hebrews 12:1-3.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

  1. In modern America, in the church, we have taken much of the brutality and violence out of Jesus’ crucifixion.
    1. Crucifixion was a common method for executing people who were not Roman citizens.
      1. Jesus and the two thieves who were crucified on the same occasion were only three of hundreds of first century Jews crucified by the Romans.
      2. Nor was this method of execution used by the Romans only with Jewish people–it was a common means of execution by the Roman troops.
      3. It was a very violent, brutal, cruel way to die.
    2. Twentieth and twenty-first century Christians have removed much of the violent brutality and cruelty from Jesus’ crucifixion.
      1. We tend to be much more comfortably focusing on artist’s renditions of the crucifixion which are “pretty” but not violent or cruel.
      2. We know Jesus suffered when he died, but we much prefer to focus on his enormous love rather than his real suffering.
      3. Many of us are just plain shocked when we are confronted with the violence and cruelty of Jesus’ execution.
      4. It was a brutal execution witnessed by a crowd of onlookers, much like the crowds that witnessed hangings in our western movement.
      5. It was a contemptible, disgraceful way to die–the intent was to disgrace the execution victim by destroying his humanity in death.

  2. A question I asked myself for many years was this: “How did Jesus do it?”
    1. He made no physical attempt to avoid it when he knew before the event it would occur.
      1. In fact, he consciously did the things he knew would lead to crucifixion.
      2. He knew it was coming.
      3. He knew it would involve enormous suffering.
      4. Yet, he did not run, did not hide, did not defend himself.
      5. How is it possible to do that when you are not guilty of anything?
    2. The “how” is addressed at least twice in New Testament writings.
      1. One is given in 1 Peter 2:23.
        And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
        1. As Jesus endured enormous injustice in his death, he used his strength to focus on being [in suffering!] the person God wanted him to be.
        2. He did not have the strength [nor do we!] to focus in suffering on the injustice and on being the person God wanted him to be.
        3. So he entrusted the injustices to God to let God care for them.
        4. He just focused on being the person God wanted him to be–he did not let injustice distract him!
        5. That is one of the “hows!”
    3. The other “how” is given in the reading we shared at the beginning (Hebrews 12:1-3).
      1. That “how” was this: he was motivated to endure the cross and despise the shame for the sake of the joy in front of him.
      2. Our reaction is, “Joy? What joy? What possibly could be worth going through that experience?”

  3. For a moment, I want you to focus on joy.
    1. “What joys did Jesus know that were ahead of him that made the experience of crucifixion endurable?”
      1. I am certain I do not know all of them.
      2. I am confident that they included:
        1. Being the means through which God’s promise made much more than a thousand years earlier was kept.
        2. The resurrection.
        3. Being enthroned by God on God’s right hand (kingly language).
        4. Being made Lord of lord’s and King of kings by God Himself.
        5. Interceding for every man or woman who trusts him and his death.
    2. Here are my questions to us.
      1. If Jesus found joy in being our ransom by giving his blood for our redemption, do we find joy in being ransomed?
      2. If Jesus found joy in becoming our Savior, do we find joy in being saved?
      3. If Jesus found joy in making our forgiveness a permanent reality, do we find joy in being forgiven?
      4. If Jesus found joy in the right to intercede for us, do we find joy in realizing that is what he does for us every day of our lives?

How do we respond to this great gift provided in the brutality of his execution? Surely, in many ways. Yet, one of those ways that must not be absent is with joy! Our joy to be alive in Christ must be real and must be expressed! How do you express this joy?

Making Disciples Eager to Serve Others

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I express my personal thanks to all who made our banner possible! To make it required enormous work by a lot of people! Ladies, thank you for all the time and skills you dedicated to it! Personal schedules had to be coordinated for months. Since it is so large, finding a place to work on it was not simple (this is a very used facility!). Hanging it from the rear balcony area was a major task (thanks Mark Hite, Denise Lusby, Martha Walker, Debbie Belote!). In such a large room, it is large enough to be seen, but not an “overpowering” display. It is simply a readable reminder as we leave our worship assemblies.

A few months ago our elders suggested to us as a congregation that our purpose statement be, “Making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others.” That is a statement reflecting an understanding of our purpose as declared in Titus 2:14.

We exist to make disciples who follow Jesus. We seek to call people to Jesus as Lord and Christ. We want these people to enter Christ because they want to follow Jesus as their teacher. We want them to allow Jesus to guide them in a Christian lifestyle.

We exist to encourage every Christian to make discipleship in Jesus a core purpose in every area of personal life. We want every one of us to follow Jesus in the personal desire and commitment to allow him to remake us. We are to do more than seek to escape the consequences of our evil. We want Jesus to teach us how to live in ways that reflect God, our Creator, in our lives as we serve others to God’s glory.

Our commitment to Christ is not a selfish commitment. Just as he lived, died, and was resurrected to serve, we as his followers want to have his eagerness to serve. Just as we benefit from Jesus’ commitment to service, we want others to benefit from our commitment to service. Just as he became our Savior through giving and serving, we want to be his followers to God’s glory through serving and giving.

Now, each week as we leave after assembling to praise and honor God for His gifts to us through Jesus, we are visually reminded to (1) be disciples of Jesus and (2) eagerly serve others. We want to be a people whom God can use to make differences in the lives of others and each other. We exist as God’s people in order for God to use us for His purposes. That is our purpose just as it is Jesus Christ’s purpose.

If we are on the journey to live with God as an eternal part of His family, a physical lifestyle can never define us, nor can this physical existence ever be our home. We seek the faith to be like Jesus in the ways we live and the courage to allow Jesus to be Lord.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

The Creator God

Posted by on February 15, 2004 under Sermons

The Bible opens in Genesis 1 with the creative act of God. The entire first chapter of the Bible is devoted to the acts of the Creator God. Basically it says that everything Israel saw and knew began with the creative acts of the Creator God.

In my life time [and certainly not confined just to the period of my life] Genesis 1 has been analyzed, dissected, debated, and refocused in terms of our concerns. Most of our analysis, dissection, debates, and refocusing have been about our modern, scientific concerns and issues, not about the expressed concerns of Genesis. We have spent a lot of time seeking answers to questions that (a) are not in the book of Genesis and (b) were not a part of the concerns of the original Israelite recipients.

Neither Genesis nor chapter one was written to address 20th and 21st Century concerns about our scientific questions and issues. To me, efforts to make Genesis chapter one [or the book] about our questions and issues miss the primary message of that chapter and the book.

This is my conclusion: if we make Genesis one and Genesis about our questions and issues, we will either miss or misunderstand God’s message in Genesis one and the book. The result is that we hear ourselves speaking for God and not hear God speaking for Himself.

When the Israelites who first received the Genesis message heard it, there are certain questions they did not ask. They did not ask, “What do you mean by the word day, and how long was this period of time?” They did not ask, “What method was used to create, and what process did the creative acts follow?” They did not ask, “How are we to look upon and explain strange life forms?”

To them, the information addressed two simple questions: (1) “How did we as human being and as the nation of Israel come into existence?” (2) “For what purpose do we exist as the nation of Israel?” The answers: “We came into existence as people and as Israel through the intended, direct, creative acts of the Creator God. We exist as a nation to serve the Creator God.”

They had a clear, foundational understanding: “We owe everything to the acts of the Creator God. It is only right that we belong to Him, listen to Him, and serve Him.”

  1. I accept as fact that the original recipients of Genesis were Israelites, perhaps the Israelites who left Egypt.
    1. What was Genesis’ messages to these original recipients?
      1. “You are to understand that your origin is in the Creator God.”
        1. “The God Who created brought people (including you!) into existence and gave them life.”
        2. “The God Who created brought you into existence as human beings and as a nation.”
      2. “You live as human beings because in God’s goodness and kindness He did not destroy human beings when they rebelled against Him.”
        1. “The reason you have difficulties is found in human rebellion, not in the Creator God.”
        2. “When the Creator God finished this physical creation, everything–including humanity–was good.”
        3. “Human rebellion through human choice gave evil a place in human existence.”
      3. “You exist as Israel because of God’s great love for Abraham, the man of faith.” (Consider Deuteronomy 4:37-40; 7:6-8)
      4. “You do not exist because you are wonderful–you are not wonderful! You are forgiven because it is the nature of the Creator God to be merciful and kind. You are Israel because the merciful, kind Creator God loved Abraham, your forefather who was a person of faith.”
        Deuteronomy 9:4-6 Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.
      5. “Because you owe your existence in every dimension to the Creator God, you have every reason to belong to Him and serve Him. It is right that you listen to Him and obey Him.”
    2. I want you to focus on something quite simple–yet extremely important.
      1. If God creates it, it is good.
      2. If Satan or evil perverts what God has created, it is bad (sinful, evil).
      3. Satan cannot create, only pervert.
      4. We humans cannot create, only be perverted.
      5. The only hope humans have of moving toward goodness is moving toward God.
      6. We were “good” when the Creator God brought us into existence.
        1. By our choice, with our permission, humans moved from their created goodness to evil’s perversion.
        2. The only hope humans have to move toward their original goodness is an act of God in their individual lives. [God is the power source, not they themselves.]
    3. With that understanding, I want you carefully to listen to two New Testament statements given by Paul to Christians in the first century.
      1. The first statement is given to Christians at Ephesus:
        Ephesians 4:20-24 But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
      2. The context makes this statement both fascinating and insightful.
        1. Paul wrote to Christians, men and women who already have come to Christ, who because they believed already have been baptized into Christ.
        2. He said, “Understanding Christ means understanding a specific message that is consistent with what and who he is.”
        3. “You may think you understand Christ, but you surely have missed an understanding of the message.”
        4. “If you understood the message, you would not live the lives you live or behave in the manner you act.”
        5. “Truth is found and understood by understanding Jesus the Christ.”
        6. “This is the simple message:
          1. “There was a way that you lived and acted prior to coming to Christ.
          2. “When you come to Christ you do not live and act that way any more; you cannot continue to live and act as you did when you were a Christless person.
          3. “That way of living was based on being deceived by your perverted desires–you must intentionally abandon that way of life.
          4. “Instead of having a deceived mind, you are going to have a renewed mind.
          5. “You must be a new self which is dedicated to God and seeks to reflect God’s likeness–others will not look at the way you live and act and be deceived about Who God is or what human behavior is when it is consistent with the nature and character of God.
          6. Please carefully note: “This new self exists because the Creator God has created this new self in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
        7. If you place this passage in a larger context of what is said both before and after it, Paul’s point is simple: “You cannot continue the behavior and lifestyle of people who do not know God because God has created you to be righteous and holy as is He.”
        8. What a powerful commentary to those who have transformed worship into a physical presence at a church building and transformed communion into a ritualistic act!
      3. The second statement is also given by Paul to Christians at Colossae:
        Colossians 3:1-10 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
      4. Again, the context makes this passage insightful and fascinating.
        1. Again, Paul wrote to Christian men and women.
        2. “Belonging to Jesus Christ refocuses your entire life.
        3. “Before you were Christians you were focused on your desires; after you become a Christian you are to focus on Jesus Christ.
        4. “If you want to be ready to receive Christ at your resurrection with joy and glorious anticipation, you set your mind (thinking) on spiritual realities in the place where Christ is, in heaven where he is at God’s right hand (the choice place of the one whom the King favors).
        5. The new attitudes of the person who is in Christ:
          1. “I have died, and my life is now hidden in Christ.
          2. “I will not worship immorality, impurity, a passion for evil things, or evil desires–letting those things rule my life amount to idolatry.
          3. “Nor will I be a person controlled by anger, wrath, malice, slander, or abusive speech.
          4. “All those things characterized who I used to be, not who I am hidden in Christ.
          5. “I will treat people with mercy and kindness, just as the Creator God treats me.
          6. “I will deliberately abandon the life I lived before I believed in Christ.
          7. “I will put on the new self which is God made, not continue in perversions produced by evil’s deceptions.
          8. “I will renew this new self through the true knowledge which imitates the Creator God.
          9. The Christian has this new self because the Creator God through a creative act gave it to him.
        6. There is a striking contrast between their behavior and values prior to knowing Christ (in verses 5 and 8) and what their behavior should be as people who have been created by God in Christ (in verses 12, 13).

  2. Think about these factors:
    1. Only God can create good in human existence.
      1. In Christ God creates us to be the new humanity, those people who choose to belong to God.
      2. As those who choose to belong to God, our entire lifestyle (which includes our thinking) is dedicated to reflecting the nature and character of God.
    2. We are in Christ because we choose to be new selves, God’s new humanity.
    3. Some obvious observations:
      1. There is a direct coupling between worshipping God and living lives that reflect the character and nature of God daily–neither can be substituted for the other.
        1. To disconnect the way we live from our worship of God is to be deceived.
        2. The dedication of our daily lives to ungodliness will make our worship an insult to God.
      2. Only the creative acts of the Creator God can provide us a new self that allows us to honor the God Who created humans and Who created us to be His people.

We are God’s new humanity. We need to learn to worship and act as the people who belong exclusively to God.

Appreciation and Cornerstone

Posted by on under Sermons

What is the nicest thing a person has ever done for you? I would hate to answerthat question aloud! So many nice things have been given and done for me, I wouldhate to single out just one. So many nice things have been done for me, I know I donot remember all of them.

When something really nice is done for me, I have a very real problem. Actually,I have two problems. The first problem: if what is offered to me is much too kind, muchtoo generous, much too thoughtful, I really struggle with accepting the kindness.

Back in the 1960’s when I preached for the Senatobia congregation inSenatobia, Mississippi, a Christian friend came to me and said, “Why are you soselfish?” The question astounded me. I muttered back, “I don’t know. How am Iselfish?” The friend answered by asking another question: “Do you really enjoy doingnice things for other people?’

I knew the answer to that one! I quickly replied, “Certainly!”

He then asked, “Why won’t you let others have that feeling when they want to dosomething for you?” I had not thought about it that way, and obviously I never forgot it.

The second problem I have is found in how do I show gratitude for something Igenuinely appreciate. What is the appropriate way to show gratitude?

  1. One person in the Old Testament who knew how wonderfully God blessed himwas the psalmist, David.
    1. I am going to ask you to do something with me if you feel comfortable doing this.
      1. Many think David wrote Psalm 118 when he was a king.
      2. In the first four verses and in the last verse, there is a thanksgiving phrasethat is repeated five times.
        1. The phrase is, “His mercy endures forever”
        2. We will project the reading on the screen.
        3. Each time that phrase appears, I would like for all of us to say it togetherout loud in the first 4 verses and in the last verse.
        4. After verse 4, I want to continue reading some sections of the Psalm thatdo not include that phrase.
        5. However, I ask all of you to join with me by repeating the phrase in thelast verse of the Psalm.

      Psalm 118:1-4 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because HIS MERCYENDURETH FOR EVER. Let Israel now say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOREVER. Let the house of Aaron now say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER. Letthem now that fear the Lord say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER.
      Psalm 118:5-9 I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me ina large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? TheLord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon themthat hate me. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better totrust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
      Psalm 118:19-29 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, Ishall give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; The righteous will enterthrough it. I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You havebecome my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chiefcorner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day whichthe Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, do save, we beseech You;O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in thename of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God,and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks tothe Lord, for He is good; For HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER.

  2. In the New Testament, the Christian Paul was deeply appreciative of God’sblessings in Jesus Christ.
    1. Listen to Paul’s words:
      1 Timothy 1:12-17 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, becauseHe considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly ablasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy becauseI acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, withthe faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement,deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me asthe foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example forthose who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal,invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
    2. Paul knew what he was before he believed in Jesus Christ, and Paul knew whatGod made him after he believed in Jesus Christ.
      1. Before he believed in Jesus Christ, Paul was a devoutly religious person, buta very ungodly religious person.
      2. After he believed in Jesus Christ, Paul through Jesus Christ was truly aservant of the Most High God.
      3. Paul said God patiently, mercifully saved him to prove that in Christ God cansave anyone.
    3. How can we say, “Thank you!” to God for the redemption, the forgiveness, andthe resurrection God gives us in Christ?


Thanksgiving for Bread
[Bread served.]

Thanksgiving for Cup
[Fruit of the vine served.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 15 February 2004

Our Response

by Chris Benjamin

1 Peter 2:2-10

Rockwall Recollections –

As a child on the farmland in Brentwood, weekends and summers were spent building the houses and other structures on the land. I recall the genesis of the old barn from its time as nothing more than a wooden framework rich with the smell of sawdust and construction materials. We used the resources available to us on the land. For a time we even had our own sawmill and made planks from the trees on our land. Using the resources from our 400 acres meant using rocks and stones. Stonework is a common feature of the structures my family built. It is a part of every building – the well house, the garage, the chimneys of houses and the patio walls.

I remember our old rusted metal trailer wagon. We hitched it to the back of the Massey Ferguson and chugged out to a clearing in the woods or to a place near the little canyons that cut through our land. The men would fan out and begin gathering rocks of all sizes and shapes. My father told me that as he would walk along scanning for rocks he would look at all sorts of rocks – some of them moss-covered, some of them rough, some of them slick and smooth, some of them light-colored and others black as coal, some buried deep in the earth and others just standing free as if they had just tumbled off the slide of a cliff. He said that as they gathered the rocks he could begin to see the entire wall formed in his mind. After filling the trailer, they would bring the haul of stones and spread them out at the building site. Like the pieces of the puzzle the rocks are combed through to find the rock that is destined to fit. Nothing is forced to fit. There’s a rock for every part of the wall. And every rock will find its place in the wall – some rocks are . My father has a rock shaped like the state of Arkansas in his rock pile at home. One day it will be a part of a wall. Not right now. But one day he will place it into a wall, or chimney, or walkway – in his own time, in his way.

My father tells me that during the gathering of the stones and in the sorting of the stones there is a subconscious search for the stone. The builder knows it when he sees it. It has the right shape and size; just the right height and width. This stone becomes the cornerstone of the wall or chimney. Dad says that when he finds this stone he can see the whole structure projecting from it. Just by looking at that one stone he can see how every other stone fits and stacks to build the whole structure. You can search for rocks all weekend, but only when you find this one rock can the construction begin. It is the key to the whole project.

Because of God’s mercy and kindness, we have been gathered. He has a vision for us. He has a project in mind and we are the materials for that project. It’s a work of restoration – a new house built on ancient foundations.

God had the entire project in mind when he placed the cornerstone.

What is this project God visualizes? For what purpose and for what project is he gathering us and building us?

One way to express this project/purpose might be – "Making Disciples for Jesus who are Eager to Serve Others."

    • Yesterday the elders of the West-Ark congregation spent time in prayer, study and conversation. Their aim was to discern how we might communicate the mission of this congregation. They affirmed the statement above.
    • They also spent time discerning how we can go about making disciples for Jesus eager to serve others. What sort of values and goals ought to be at the forefront of who we are and what we do?
    • The statement of goals and strategies to put the mission statement into action is ongoing – you will be hearing more about this through the next six months, but today I think we can take a look at some of the encouragement Peter gives us …

  1. Come to Christ … (v. 4)
      Christ is the cornerstone of our fellowship and community. We are oriented and supported by him.
      We are being built into a spiritual house by the master builder – God.
      Every member and every ministry of West Ark must be oriented and supported by Jesus Christ. If Christ isn’t cornerstone to all that we do here, then why are we doing it?
  2. Crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation (v. 2)
      Christ is the source of our growth and nurture as a church. We don’t just rely on ourselves or one another. We’ve tasted the Lord’s kindness and we recognize that God in Christ is the source we need for spiritual nutrition. "Making disciples" means more than just initiating people into salvation – it also means growing into and living out our salvation. We need the gospel not only at our spiritual birth, but throughout our life.
  3. Offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ. (v. 5)
      We show our appreciation and thanks by offering all that we are to the kind, merciful God whose loves endures forever. Every stone fits into the project. Every piece is important to the building of the spiritual house.
      Everyone here has a gift as part of the body. That gift is for the encouragement of the body and is for serving others. We need to recognize one another’s gifts and encourage one another to use them.
  4. Proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (v. 9)
      We have a message – not about ourselves, but about God who has done so much for us. We have a message about Christ, our Lord, God has chosen him and has done and is doing something wonderful through Christ.
      We have an identity – We know who we are because we know whose we are. We are a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. We are chosen and called out – but not for our sake but for the sake of the world.

Why do we do all this? Why does God do it? Because his mercy endures forever! He’s kind and good.

1 Peter 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

  • Out of gratitude to God for what he has made us in Christ, make disciples for Jesus and be eager to serve others.
  • If the first disciple you need to make is yourself, then come to Christ, the living stone. Don’t reject him.

Consequences and Blessings

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I often wonder, “Why do I always have to learn so many things the hard way?” What does that mean? For most of us, it means “I have to make a huge mistake before ‘it gets my attention’ and causes me to realize ‘uh-oh! That was dumb!'” I find neither comfort nor delight in realizing that “the hard way” is the precise formula many, many others follow in “learning life’s difficult lessons.”

So, why do so many of us learn “the hard way”? Allow me to suggest some responses to that “why.”

Reason # 1: we are humans, not God. As humans, we prefer falling prey to imagined deceit rather than learning from truth. As humans, we like to pretend we are god. As humans, we like to believe we are “the masters of our own fate” [when we are, commonly it is bad, not good!]. For those who prefer deception, for those who consider themselves god, for those who think they “know best” about most things, the only way to learn (and remember!) is by learning the “hard way”! Others’ mistakes mean nothing! Our hard experiences mean everything!

Reason # 2: we remember what we live through and survive. It is almost like we have internal juvenile arguments with ourselves: “Is too! Is not! Is too! Is not!” The fact that someone we know already learned the “hard way” means nothing to most of us. “We” are different! That experience would not produce the same outcome and results in us! We are [take your pick] wiser, more alert, more gifted, more intelligent, more discriminating, have better judgment, etc., than “they”! Only when we repeat their failure do we “own” the consequence! What a crash when we finally realize we really are not different!

Reason # 3: some of our richest, most appreciated blessings rise from the ashes of our failures. It is true that “we do not know how to appreciate what we lost until we lose it.” Learning the “hard way” teaches us to appreciate what we take for granted. In fact, blessings we consider curses suddenly become invaluable treasures. We know how to appreciate what we lost–if we get it back!

Reason # 4: learning “hard lessons” from horrible experiences equips us to (1) use those experiences to teach the few who will listen [if we are willing to share our failures] and (2) be an invaluable source of encouragement to those who need to rise above their mistakes.

The downsides of learning the “hard way”: (1) the mistake may destroy us before we learn the lesson; (2) the education hurts others as well as ourselves; (3) it is a wasteful way to learn; and (4) it leaves God’s wisdom and guidance out of our learning process.

Fortunately, the Christian belongs to the God who produces blessings from mistakes–even big ones! His biggest blessings are discovered in allowing Him to guide us away from the “hard way”! Unmade mistakes are invaluable!

The Difference Between Worshipping God and Worshipping Idols

Posted by on February 8, 2004 under Sermons

In last week’s lesson, we read over thirty scriptures in understanding that God first acts, then calls for our response. A primary form of our response is worship. Christians worship and serve God in response to what God had done in acting in human history.

Tonight I want to make application of last week’s reading by noting three distinctions between God and idols that are evident in the contrast of worship of Jehovah God and worship of idols.

There is a distinction! Christians must realize there is a distinction! A failure to understand that distinction can [and often does!] misdirect our worship and our the way we live our lives.

First, you must understand the contrast throughout the entire Bible is the contrast between Jehovah God and idolatrous gods. The worlds of the Old Testament were worlds of idolatry. Israel often was attracted to and caught up in the focus of those worlds. Every time Israel was caught up in idolatry, they forgot the contrast and they lost memory of Who God is. We as Christians must never forget the basic contrast in the Old Testament is the contrast between the living God and the gods idols represented.

The world of the New Testament was a world of idolatry. The call of the New Testament is to see the living God in His distinctiveness, to see Him in contrast to the gods represented by idols. If we fail to see that contrast, if we lose memory of Who God is, just like Israel we will lose contact with God. The contrast did not change when God gave the gift of Jesus in his incarnation, his death, and his resurrection.

Second, you must understand that it is very easy for us to lose sight of the contrast because the common idols of 21st century America are quite different to the idols of the Bible worlds. Our idols exist in secular institutions and pursuits, not in religious temples dedicated to nonexistent deities. While their idols represented those nonexistent gods they worshipped, our idols usually exist in secular forms that encourage us to worship ourselves. Our idols are greed, jealousy, self-indulgence, selfishness, pleasure, addictions, pride, arrogance, injustice, hate, anger, and such like. Our symbols of nonexistent gods take forms like money, controlling power, drugs used for pleasure, alcohol, abusive speech or acts, exploiting the weak, and such like. Because we see our idols only in a secular context, we too often do not recognize them as spiritual forces.

In the worlds of the Bible, people commonly associated the same attitudes with idolatrous forces. Commonly the characteristics of our secular gods were the characteristics of their religious gods. Where we make artificial distinctions between what we declare secular and spiritual, they did not make such distinctions. For them, the secular was merely an extension of the spiritual.

This evening I want you to consider three basic contrasts between the living God and idols. It is in seeing these contrast that we can understand another basic truth about the concept of biblical worship of the living God.

  1. Contrast # 1: the living God acts in human history before He calls for a response from people.
    1. Let me challenge you to consider two illustrations:
      1. The first is found in Exodus 19, 20 with Israel.
        Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
        1. This statement occurs just before God spoke from Mount Sinai and gave Israel the ten commandments.
        2. Why? Why did God make this Exodus 19 statement first and then give the ten commandments to Israel in Exodus 20?
          1. Remember the exodus from Egypt was history–God delivered Israel.
          2. Remember the crossing of the Red Sea was history–God delivered Israel.
          3. Remember all the nurturing/preservation deeds in the wilderness were history–God delivered Israel.
        3. God declared Exodus 19:3-6 to remind them that Israel had reason to respond to Him.
          1. Please note it is their choice to see and respond to what God did.
          2. Please note they had reason to respond positively to God.
        4. He already had acted in delivering them from Egypt.
        5. He asked them to respond to Him on the basis of what He did for them.
      2. The same emphasis is seen in the New Testament.
        1. In explaining the concepts of righteousness and justification through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul wrote these words in Romans 5:6-8.
          For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
        2. Before we were righteous, God acted on our behalf.
        3. While we were helpless, God acted on our behalf.
        4. While we were sinners, God acted on our behalf.
        5. God intervened in human history for our benefit.
        6. How? He sent Jesus. He permitted Jesus’ death for our sins. He raised Jesus from the dead.
        7. Our worship and our service is in response to what God already has done.
        8. God acted for our benefit; we respond to His action.
      3. The first contrast between the living God and idols is that God acted in history for our benefit before He asked us to respond to Him.

  2. Contrast # 2: the living God cares and expresses His caring; idolatry commonly was based on fate.
    1. The concept of fate in regard to the action of idolatry’s gods is a concept of inattentiveness and unconcern–a general disinterest.
      1. It is the basic view of “what is going to happen will happen”–good or bad.
        1. Thus if something good happened to you, the gods smiled on you for whatever reason.
        2. If something bad happened to you, it was going to happen and you could not prevent it.
        3. Your behavior or decisions had nothing to do with the outcome.
        4. Fate determined the outcome.
      2. To me, one of the best revealing of the attitudes common to the Baal gods in the region of Canaan is declared in Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18:25-29.
        So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
        1. Context:
          1. The ten tribes of northern Israel rarely worshipped God but frequently worshipped Baal.
          2. Elijah wanted them to return to God and abandon completely Baal.
          3. He proposed a contest of sacrificial worship.
        2. Listen to the words of Elijah when the prophets of Baal received no response from their god.
          1. “He is a god” (gods are disinterested).
          2. “Use a louder voice” (you do not have his attention).
          3. “He is occupied” (you are not his priority).
          4. “He is gone somewhere” (he is too removed from you to hear you).
          5. “He is asleep and you need to wake him up” (he has no consciousness of you).
        3. Gods are inattentive to human concerns even if humans seek to worship them.
      3. Compare those statements to what is declared about God.
        1. David, Psalm 139:7-12: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
        2. Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23:23,24 “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off? “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
        3. Jesus, Matthew 6:25-32 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
        4. Paul, 2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;
      4. The gods functioned on impersonal fate, but Jehovah God functions on constant awareness.

  3. Contrast # 3: Jehovah God is compassionate; the gods of idolatry are indifferent.
    1. My term for worship objectives in idolatry would be manipulation.
      1. “The gods do not care what happens to you.”
      2. “First, you must get their attention.”
      3. “Second, you must get them concerned about your problem.”
      4. “Third, you must convince them to act in your behalf.”
      5. Thus commonly the idol worshipper tried to do those three things:
        1. Get the gods attention.
        2. Get the gods concerned.
        3. Get the gods to act in their behalf.
    2. In contrast with the idolatrous gods indifference, Jehovah God is compassionate.
      1. Consider two examples:
        1. Example one:
          • The story of Jonah, ending in this statement: Jonah 4:9-11 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” [God is compassionate even when His people are not.]
          • 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. [God does not wish to destroy people.]
        2. Example two: Jesus Christ.
          1. The coming of Jesus shows how compassionate God is.
          2. The death of Jesus shows how compassionate God is.
          3. The resurrection of Jesus shows how compassionate God is.
          4. The role of mediator and intercessor that Jesus Christ serves shows how compassionate God is.

Romans 8:31-34 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

We as Christians worship God as a response to His acts which rescued us. He acted in Jesus Christ, and we in worship respond to His actions. We worship Him because He is the God of involvement, not a god of fate. We worship Him because He is the God of compassion, not a god of indifference.

Thus Christian worship is inherently a declaration of gratitude.

Solution and Forgiven

Posted by on under Sermons

#121 – “Come Let Us All Unite to Sing”
#122 – “The Love of God”
#123 – “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”

A Permanent Solution
by David Chadwell

We all have pet peeves. I want to share one of mine this morning. I reallydislike having to do the same thing twice. It really bothers me to think that a situation issolved only to discover that what I thought was a solved problem was never solved.

One of the biggest disasters we could experience is this: to be convinced thatJesus solved our problems before God, and find out on the day of judgment that Jesusdid not solve those problems. Scripture repeatedly declares that because of what Goddid in Jesus, through Jesus you and I can have relationship with God. What a disasterit would be to find out in judgment that is not true.

  1. Some of us who are Christians do not believe we are inrelationship with Godright now.
    1. There are a lot of reasons for having those feelings.
      1. Some of us carry around this huge burden of guilt.
        1. Because we will not forgive self, we are certain God cannot forgive us.
        2. No matter what God did for us in the resurrected Jesus Christ, we live ourlives with an enormous burden of guilt that we carry around every day.
      2. Some of us carry around a huge sense of meaninglessness or unworthiness.
        1. We feel “good for nothing.”
        2. We are certain we are “good for nothing.”
        3. We have such contempt and disrespect for self that we are absolutelyconvinced God could not love us.
      3. Some of us carry around this huge sense of failure.
        1. We know the truth about ourselves.
        2. We know the horrible mistakes we made in our past.
        3. We are convinced that God saves only good people, and we are sure weare not one of those–we are just a sorry excuse of a person.
    2. Read with me Roman 8:31-35.
      What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who isagainst us? He who didnot spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Himfreely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the onewho justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, ratherwho was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who willseparate us from the love of Christ?
      1. Let me share with you my understanding of this statement that was written toChristians who were really suffering through hard times.
      2. Paul said there are three reasons that Jesus Christ is our permanentsolution.
        1. First, we represent the greatest investment God ever made.
        2. Second, God’s use of Jesus Christ to justify us means Satan cannotaccuse us.
        3. Third, the resurrected Jesus is right next to God interceding for us.
      3. The result: nothing external of ourselves can separate us from Christ’s love.
      4. What does that mean?
        1. It means nothing is bigger than God, and God will protect his investment.
        2. It means Satan cannot do to us what he did to Job–God will not listen toSatan’s accusations against us because in Christ God Himself justifies us.
        3. It means that no matter what we endure or go through, Jesus Christconstantly represents us to God–there is absolutely no way that we canbe misunderstood.
      5. It means that the only person who can remove me from Christ’s love is me.
        1. There are all kinds of things in life that can make our lives miserable.
        2. But if my heart belongs to the resurrected Jesus, not one of those thingscan remove me from his love.

  2. Think about these words in Hebrews 10:11-14.
    Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after timethe same sacrifices,which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for alltime, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemiesbe made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time thosewho are sanctified.
    1. The priests’ work was never over because the solution of animal sacrifices wasatemporary solution.
    2. The resurrected Jesus sat down at God’s right hand because his solution waspermanent.
    3. By God’s sacrifice of Jesus on the cross there are two things given to everyonein Christ:
      1. Sanctification
      2. A permanent solution.
      3. What God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection is a permanent solution.


Thanksgiving for Bread
[Bread served.]

Thanksgiving for Cup
[Fruit of the vine served.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 February 2004

Our Response

#68 – “Give Thanks”


#691 – “Make Me New”
#429 – “Oh, To Be Like Thee”

by Chris Benjamin

Sanctification –
Read Mark 2:1-12

Jesus has a curious response to the man’s condition: He doesn’t spend much time diagnosing the illness.

  • Perhaps the need of this man is obvious as he lowered on his mattress with his withered limbs tucked in closely. It should be obvious, but that makes Jesus’ response all the more curious. He forgives the man’s sins.

Forgiveness of sins? Did the man even want to be healed? Or did he want to be saved? Why does Jesus offer forgiveness of sins right off the start? Usually we offer benevolence or healing then proceed to deal with other’s sin problems.

  • What’s being said here about sin? It’s crippling. Condemnation paralyzes and numbs. Unable to walk righteously. Unable to speak to others truthfully and lovingly. Unable to move, to worship, to serve.

But, the Scribes have a point don’t though? Isn’t it God’s prerogative to forgive sins? We do not want to be too presumptuous. If we start handing out forgiveness like candy, no one will want to be holy. Let’s not talk forgiveness to the point that we forget responsibility. Maybe it’s best we leave forgiveness to God – and so that means we will just have to hope for the best in the judgment, right?

"Wait!" says Jesus to the scribes, "Why all this discussion? Why are you thinking these things? Why do you doubt my authority to forgive?"

There are two different views of forgiveness in conflict: We see it in the way the scribes question Jesus’ bold proclamation of forgiveness. We know it in the way Jesus bold proclamation of forgiveness is too often doubted by our own condemning hearts.

I John 3:19-20.

  1. The way our condemning hearts view forgiveness: God’s work of forgiveness is much more active and transforming than simply passing a sentence. We cannot equate God’s forgiveness with the pardon given by presidents and governors. Presidents issue pardons upon leaving office and they are usually the stuff of scandals. Why? Perhaps it is because we sense that nothing has changed. The label has changed, but the contents are the same – and they are spoiled. Yet, God’s forgiveness works much deeper than that. It has to! "Our forgiveness is not some judicial fiction, but a reality being worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit."
  2. Jesus and the Apostles’ view: a transforming reality within and without, sanctification! Assurance of God’s grace and the power to change our hearts. [John – "So that you may know!"] – God’s forgiveness is good news for us when we feel the burden of condemnation and guilt because it allows us to be defined by God’s righteousness and not our guilt. We may even accept the fact that God forgives us, but we remain so guilt-ridden that we are spiritually paralyzed.
    • Even if we do not assume that death is the only outcome, our guilt may condemn us to a spiritual paralysis. Rather than risk the possibility of doing anything wrong we do nothing. As long as Jesus forgives us, we should just sit down, shut up and be still. We quietly accept the forgiveness and keep our head bowed low. However, Jesus did not become sin so that we might become mediocre. We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We were not created to stay out of the way and be unobtrusive.
    • Jesus: "Which is easier to say?" Either way the result is the same – a soul with the ability to walk! And Jesus wants us to walk – spiritually. This man who may have never walked in his life – Jesus instructs him not only to walk home, but to carry his bed with him too. Jesus did not forgive us so we would stay out of the way. [2 Corinthians 5:21 – "God made him who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."] Christ became sin – why? So that we might become righteousness! God’s forgiveness is not just a change in verdict – it contains the power to actually enable us to live differently! And that can be just as astounding as a paralyzed man walking!

We may think that without God’s forgiveness we will die, but the fact is that without God’s transforming forgiveness we will never truly live!

  1. We may choose to respond to God’s forgiveness like the scribes – with doubt and hesitation. We are our own worse scribes. Our hearts condemn us. And then we may, if it gets really bad, condemn others. So we need to hear and see an amazing authority. We need to confront a reality that is much greater than even our own hearts
    • This greater reality is God. In the face of this greater reality, there can be no flippant forgiveness. We confront this reality through the cross of Jesus. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper participate in the crucifixion and resurrection – When we are baptized, when we share the common meal with Jesus we see how Christ becomes sin so that we might become righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s forgiveness creates a new reality. The word sometimes used to describe it is sanctification. God forgives in such a way that sinners might become holy and righteous.
  2. We may choose to respond to God’s forgiveness like the paralyzed man and his friends who brought him to Jesus – with faith and trust. Trusting in God’s transforming forgiveness is not oppressive, but liberating. In fact, we can only experience true freedom as we rely on the spirit of God.
    • In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul describes the ongoing work of salvation as moment to moment God is transforming us into his likeness. We are never set free just to do anything we want! Removing sin is meant to heal, to empower, to free – to convert! Crippled with sin, we are empowered to walk in righteousness …

So who has the authority? Our condemning hearts? Our guilt? Our scribal tendency to doubt and deliberate while we lie paralyzed on our mattress? Or does the Lord have the final authority? Jesus is greater than our condemning hearts. His view of what’s real and right and greater than the wisest scribe or the most cynical, self-hating critic. How ridiculous then that some of us would still allow our own heart to rule over the word of God …

  • Some of us cannot worship because we doubt the authority and grace of God.
  • Some of us have wounds that will not heal because we continue to pick at the scab.
  • Some of us listen to "the inner-scribe" that keeps condemning us and has fooled us into thinking that it is God!

Once the scribes stopped dissecting the authority of Christ, the people praised God. We can too if we will let go and trust in his power to save. We are paralyzed so long as the focus is on us. But that changes when we focus on Jesus’ authority to heal and forgive. He’s greater than our condemning heart.

  1. And we ought also to glorify God when we see his amazing grace. When the sick are made well, they want to return to life. Likewise the forgiven need to return to life.

    • Can you imagine if the paralytic had allowed his friends to carry him home after he was forgiven and healed? "No thanks Lord, I don’t doubt your power and authority to forgive, but I’m just not sure about myself. You see, I’m no good at the walking thing and to walk and carry my mattress, well, that’s a lot too soon. I probably need a few months in transitionary care to make sure this is for real. Thanks for the forgiveness and healing, but I had better go at this slow."
  2. But Jesus’ gives a command – without any doubt he said – "Your sins are forgiven!" And without any qualification he said, "Get up! Take up your bed and walk home!"
    • Christ forgives us so that we may walk in righteousness. If Christ has forgiven you then why would you let yourself be carried home on your mattress?

Take Heart!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)

The problems in congregations in the Roman province of Galatia were extremely difficult. Two features in Paul’s letter to those congregations reveal how discouraging the problems were. A group of Jewish Christians followed behind Paul when he established congregations in non-Jewish areas. Basically, these Christians (Judaizing teachers) made two points. # 1: Paul was not a genuine apostle; neither this man nor his message were to be trusted. # 2: Since you were converted through a “faulty” message about Christ, your conversion is invalid. Thus, you still need to be saved.

What a discouragement to Paul and to the people he called to Christ! With great personal sacrifices, Paul made his mission trips [2 Corinthians 11:21-33]. With enormous personal patience and kindness, he taught people of idolatrous backgrounds [1 Thessalonians 2:5-12]. Paul cared about the people he taught! Those responding to Christ by redirecting their lives were of great encouragement! For Christians to cause these people to doubt their salvation was an enormous personal discouragement.

When Paul heard what happened in the Galatian congregations, it defied belief! He was so upset that he began his letter in a unique manner. In virtually all his letters to congregations, Paul began by giving thanks for them. He did that even with the deeply troubled Corinthian congregation [1 Corinthians 1:4-9]. Yet, he did not begin Galatians with a statement of thanksgiving! He started with a declaration of disbelief. “I cannot believe you left Christ for a message falsely presenting itself as good news!” [Galatians 1:6-9.] He then (1) defended his spiritual credentials and (2) verified his message.

As discouraging as the situation was to Paul, have you considered how discouraging it was to the few who were not deceived by the Judaizing teachers’ false message? Would that not be reason to give up? Would that not make you feel pointless in your conversion and commitment? Would your mind not constantly declare: “Just quit! Just give up!”

Near the end of the letter he wrote the above statement. “Do not stop doing good! Do not faint! Do not let weariness win! The harvest is certain! Doing good glorifies God!”

Why in the face of discouragement continue to do good? (1) This is the only way those in Christ can say “thank you” to God. (2) Those who know God through Christ need encouragement. (3) Those who do not know God need to see Him in your life.