Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Using Them to Glorify God – Part 1

Posted by on November 28, 2004 under Sermons

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Misunderstandings about spiritual gifts – We can become hung up on controversies about spiritual gifts or conscious of abilities and experiences we don’t have …
There have always been two dangers with spiritual abilities (not just in Charismatic and Pentecostal movement):

  1. Reduce spiritual gifts and spirituality to a set of particular items (i.e. speaking in tongues =the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or business success and public influence for elders – a certain church had 27 qualifications for elders with the result being a loss of vision for future growth – they just wanted to be absolutely right!);
  2. Ranking gifts -Problem is people either get too ambitious or not ambitious at all – the result when we forget that the source of the spiritual gifts and that they are given for the church

There were misunderstandings in Corinth about spiritual gifts. We have our own misunderstanding as well. Paul used the body language of 1 Cor 12 to explain what spiritual gifts are all about …

  1. We Are One Body With Many Members
    1. Every member partakes of the same spirit – (not just a fortunate few)
        v. 13-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
    2. The variety of spiritual abilities (gifts, services, activities) are for the common good
      • This is a new standard for the Corinthians
      • Public display or individual experience are not the highest standard
      • v. 7- To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

  2. We Are All Vital
    1. God has arranged us intentionally to make a "body"
      • 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
    2. So no more overconfidence and underconfidence
      • Our view of our abilities is too often self-centered
      • And the greatest temptation among us is not that we will be arrogant or elitist like some at Corinth, rather we will tend to devalue our worthiness.
      • Do not do this! You are underestimating the God, Lord and Spirit that works in every member of the body in some way.
      • Were you baptized? Then God has given you some gift, service or experience for the common good. Do not boast about it, but do not bury it either!
    3. Challenge: What would happen if we honestly believed that each member is gifted and invaluable to the spiritual health of the community?
      • Things like the 80/20 rule would be rejected
      • Comparisons would end – No one would be considered less needed or more needed (v. 24)
      • Anxieties would go away – we wouldn’t be dependent on a select few or worried about who is in charge – we would be focused on using what God has given to glorify him and make disciples!
      • We would understand that our gifts are meant to work together

  3. We Need One Another
    1. We are not independent, we are interdependent
      • No one is an island – we are the less when we lose a small part (link to John Donne)
      • This is why disassociation hurts
      • The health of the body depends on every part
  4. God has assembled us so we can share the blessing of unity –
    • A unity with diversity but without discord – A mature community that shares in sorrow and joy –
    • In the church, the center is Jesus Christ – not me or you. We cannot separate ourselves because we "get nothing from church." That is a customer/consumer attitude.We’re more loyal to sports teams than church – because we feel a connection!

    But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

  5. I challenge you to recognize your gifts so that you can glorify God – Each gift expresses love

    • Illustration about my children and their gifts. And if they love each other and their family, then they will use their gift to express that love (1 Corinthians 13)

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 November 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Using Them to Glorify God” – Part 1
November 28, 2004

  1. Because of the diversity of spiritual gifts, they are often misunderstood. This results in two common problems regarding spiritual gifts:
    • R______________ spirituality to a preferred set

    • R______________ the gifts within the body

  2. We Are One B_________ With Many P_____________. (12:12-17)
    • Every part partakes of the one s__________. (12:13)

    • The variety of spiritual gifts is for the c___________ g________. (12:7)

  3. We Are All V__________. (12:18-24a)
    • God has a__________________ us intentionally to make the "body." (12:18)

    • So we should not be o_________________ or u__________________. (12:22-24)

    • Do not b___________ about your gift; but do not b___________ your gift.

  4. We N________ One Another (12:24b-31)
    • We are not independent, we are i___________________.
      • This is why we h__________ as a church when we lose a part of the body.

      • The h____________ of the body depends on every part.
    • God has assembled us so we can share the blessing of u_________.
      • A unity with diversity but without d____________ (12:25)

      • A unity that s___________ in sorrow and joy (12:26)

  5. We Use Our Gifts to Express L___________ (12:31-13:13)

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
“Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Using Them to Glorify God” – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
November 28, 2004

  1. Read 1 Corinthians 12 and discuss the following.

  2. How did the church at Corinth misunderstand spiritual gifts?
  3. When you hear the term spiritual gifts, what comes to mind? What attracts you to the concept of spiritual gifts? What concerns you about the concept?

  4. Can you think of a way that spiritual gifts have been reduced to a limited set of preferred gifts? Have you done this?

  5. Can you think of a way that spiritual gifts have been ranked? Have you ever done this?

  6. What would happen if we honestly believed that each member is gifted and invaluable to the spiritual health of the church body? Be specific about this.

  7. Name some spiritual gifts and then describe how they are for the common good of the church body. Are there gifts that we don’t normally recognize that are vital to the health of the body?

  8. Do you think you have a tendency to boast about your gift or to bury it? Be honest. Share this with someone else then discuss a way you can overcome "boasting" or "burying."

  9. What spiritual gift has God given you? After you think about your answer ask someone else to answer this question for you. Don’t be disappointed if they cannot give you an immediate answer. Allow them to think about it and pray about it.

  10. Once you’ve recognized your spiritual gift, think about ways you can use this gift to 1) glorify God and 2) serve the church body.

  11. Read 1 Corinthians 13. How does your spiritual gift allow you to demonstrate the love of Christ?

Prepare for Dec. 5 – “Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Using Them to Glorify God – Part 2

    Read Romans 12:1-8

How Do We Address Evangelistic Concern?

Posted by on November 21, 2004 under Sermons

We want to make disciples for Jesus Christ who are eager to do good works. Most of us are disciples of Jesus Christ who are not ashamed to serve him. We want other people to be disciples of Jesus Christ because we want them to have the blessings in Jesus Christ that God has given us. The greatest blessing anyone can receive is the blessing of discipleship in Jesus Christ.

A common concern weighs heavily on most of our hearts. This concern is growing bigger, not smaller, and the concern is getting heavier, not lighter. What is this common concern? It is our concern for the salvation of other people.

Let me acknowledge two focal points of concern from the start. #1–We want our children to be saved (become disciples) very quickly. In fact, we would prefer that our children be saved before they are lost. The route we desire is from safe to saved, not from safe to lost to saved. It is very simple to want our own children to be forgiven before they have ever committed any sin. We feel that way because we love them very deeply.

# 2–We want people that we love and care about to be in a saved relationship with God whether they want to be or not. So it becomes imperative that we convince them to be baptized. Believing is not an urgent matter if they are baptized. Repenting is not an urgent matter if they are baptized. For us the key is to convince them that they needed to be baptized. If we convince them to be baptized, we can assume they believe. If we convince them to be baptized, we can assume they repent [if we are not careful, repentance becomes an attitude of sorrowfulness rather than a redirection of life].

Therefore, the key question to us is not “do you believe?” or, “Have you repented?” The key question is, “Have you been baptized?”

May I make an observation: there are no “faithless” paths to salvation in Jesus Christ. I cannot receive forgiveness from the one who died for me if I do not believe in the result of his death. I cannot receive atonement from the one who was resurrected to assure my resurrection if I do not believe in his resurrection. I cannot receive redemption and be freed from evil by God and Christ’s forgiveness unless I believe in the one who redeemed me. If Jesus Christ is to provide me the blessings of salvation, I must believe in God’s work in Jesus’ death. I must believe in Jesus’ resurrection. If my baptism is not based on faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus, my baptism has no meaning.

The power is not found in what I do in baptism. The power is found in what God does in my baptism. God can and will act in my baptism because of my faith in Jesus Christ. But for God to act in any person’s baptism, he or she must have faith in Jesus Christ.

That brings us to an important problem. The problem: how are we going to encourage people to be disciples of Jesus Christ? I am going to share a reading with you. You can follow the reading on the overhead screen, and that is fine. But I also would like for you to take a Bible and mark Galatians chapter 5. I want you to see something for yourselves in Galatians chapter 5.

First, the reading from Galatians 5:16-21. Read with me.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

  1. Let’s begin by admitting the obvious: we are scared.
    1. We are afraid for a lot of reasons.
      1. We are afraid for our children.
        1. Will they have the courage to be a source of godly influence, or will they be influenced by ungodly forces?
        2. Will faith in God be the primary force in their adult lives, or will they as adults abandon faith?
      2. We are afraid for our marriages, and the marriages of our children, and the marriages of our friends.
        1. We seemed surrounded by a sea of failed marriages.
        2. Today people as casually commit adultery, fornication, or have affairs as people a few decades ago had a meal.
        3. It seems increasingly true that people do not know how to be people of integrity, how to be responsible, how to commit.
        4. Couples successfully married have been a minority for a long time.
      3. We are afraid of the future.
        1. We have no idea what yet lies ahead.
        2. We have no idea where the American society is headed.
        3. We have no idea about the kind of society or the kind of world our children and grandchildren will be in as adults.
        4. For a long time we have watched “ways of life” die in this country.
      4. We are afraid because it is becoming increasingly obvious we are not in control of anything.
        1. The world does not seem to like Americans, or Christians, or us.
        2. Too often we as a church are regarded a curse instead of a blessing.
        3. We just do not like the feeling and awareness that we are not in control.
    2. So, what shall we do? How shall we react to all these fears? Is there a solution?
      1. Solution # 1: “Let’s get people to turn to God.”
      2. Reaction # 1: “Let’s make it happen fast!”
        1. It took 25 years for God to give Abraham the son He promised–“that is too slow!”
        2. It took almost 1500 years for God to send Jesus into this world–“that is way too slow!”
        3. It took approximately 30 years for God to offer Jesus for our salvation–“that is much too slow!”
        4. “We want a quick fix!”
      3. Two questions:
        1. How will we produce a quick fix? What route do we need to take?
        2. How will we know when it happens–is getting everyone to “think and do like we think and do” the gauge?

  2. Suggestion # 1: we need to scare people to God to fill our church buildings, and make people afraid to do evil things!
    1. I realize I run a considerable risk in being misunderstood.
      1. I know fear often is a constructive, helpful emotion when we repent.
      2. I am not talking about the fearful awakening to the need to redirect life and accepting responsibility for our mistakes.
      3. I am talking about replacing faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the fear of eternal consequences.
      4. You cannot scare people to a godly existence and a heavenly destination.
    2. May I anticipate a response: “But you just read how that people who practice any of that list of ungodly things will not inherit God’s kingdom!”
      1. “Just look at that list! Paul condemned sexual immorality, all forms of idolatry, all forms of division, ungodly attitudes, and ungodly forms of indulgence in pleasures!”
      2. “He made it quite clear if those things were practiced, the person would not inherit God’s kingdom!”
      3. “Those verses look like an attempt to scare people away from ungodly things!”

  3. Earlier I asked you to take a Bible and mark Galatians 5; now I ask you to turn there and let me call some obvious things to your attention.
    1. First, I ask, “To whom did Paul make the statement in verses 19-21?”
      1. Paul made the statement to Christians, specifically to Gentile Christians.
      2. These were not presented as a text for an evangelistic gospel meeting.
      3. It is very important to note and to understand that Paul was talking to Gentiles (like us) who already converted to Jesus Christ.
      4. The problem was that those Christians were not living like people who belong to Jesus Christ.
      5. That is our problem right now in this society–Christians are not behaving like Christians.
    2. Second, I ask, “Why did Paul make this statement to these Christians?”
      1. For a full answer we need to go back to the basic reason Paul wrote the letter of Galatians to the churches in the area of Galatia.
        1. Jewish Christians visited them and convinced them they were not saved unless they adopted Jewish teaching and ways.
        2. Many of these Gentile Christians were convinced and turned to Jewish indoctrination.
        3. Basically Paul said, “I cannot believe you abandoned the gospel that saved you in Jesus Christ for another teaching that is seeking to take advantage of you.”
      2. In keeping with that emphasis, let’s focus on chapter five.
        1. Note verse one: Christ gave you freedom (we don’t discuss that freedom much).
        2. Note verses 2-12: if you Gentile Christians adopt Jewish teachings and ways, you destroy the freedom Christ gave you.
        3. Note verses 13-15: if you Gentile Christians act like Christians, Christian behavior will fulfill God’s emphasis in Jewish law: you will learn to love your neighbor as yourself.
        4. Note verses 16-18: You must understand a basic truth: there is a war going on inside you (Paul was concerned about the war inside these Gentile Christians)
          1. You cannot live like the pagans you once were!
          2. Pagan lifestyle and behavior is not Christian lifestyle and behavior!
          3. If you revert to a pagan lifestyle in the name of Christian freedom, God does not rule you and your abandon God’s inheritance!
      3. Now I please ask you to notice something that should be very obvious.
        1. The war going on inside Christians is the conflict between the physical and the spiritual.
        2. Verses 19-21 focus on the physical lifestyle these people had lived before they became Christians.
        3. Immediately following in verses 22-24 is an emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit which must characterize the lives of people who belong to God through Christ.
    3. It should be obvious that there is a basic contrast.
      1. There was a pagan then and a Christian now.
      2. There was a pagan way to live, and a Christian way to live.
      3. Paul said Christians cannot claim the freedom in Christ to revert to living a pagan lifestyle.
        1. The answer was not the traditions, practices, and lifestyle of the Jews.
        2. The answer was not the traditions, practices, and lifestyle of paganism.
        3. The answer was living like a Christian, guided by God’s Spirit, and behaving like a person who belongs to Christ.
      4. Christians kill their old way of life–deliberately–so they can live by the Spirit.

We will not succeed in scaring people to a godly lifestyle of faith in Jesus Christ. If that approach worked, this society would have become a godly society a long time ago. It does not work with us–never mind the people who are not Christians! I have preached a long time. There has never been a time or a place I have worked in the church that there were not incest, affairs, adultery, failed marriages, pleasurable indulgence, hate, jealousy, division, and ungodly attitudes among Christians.

The problem has not changed! It has just continued to grow and become increasingly open. The greatest single problem in attracting people to Jesus’ cross and Jesus’ resurrection is found in the fact that too many Christians live and behave like people who do not belong to God!

If God is to work through us as His people, we must live and act like His people. If we do not, there is no contrast to see! If there is no contrast to see, there is no power to attract people to godly living!

Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness – Part 2

Posted by on under Sermons

Last week we introduced our fourth objective as a church – to nurture spiritual growth to transform everyone into God’s holiness. I wouldn’t blame you at all for thinking that is a mighty lofty goal. Let’s be honest, how does the average person have time to nurture holiness in others much less oneself? How does one make the time to grow spiritually in the midst of the sort of busy-ness of the work week? Not only is there the ever growing demands and stress of the workplace, but we have housework as well. There are bills to be paid, rooms to be cleaned, cars to be serviced, and any number of repairs to the house and our labor-saving devices – which don’t seem to be saving us that much labor. How can all that buzzing and whirring of activity contribute to holiness and spirituality?

I wouldn’t blame you at all if you told me that it is hard to fit in the daily routine of bible study and prayer. I understand, about the only time we can find for spirituality is at church – and even church can seem like a lot of activity that may or may not promote spiritual growth. There are potlucks to cook for, there are projects to work on, there are plans to meet over, but where’s the spiritual growth? Is holiness a realistic goal for the average person? Maybe it is something that will come in retirement? Maybe it is just for the ministers and church leaders? Maybe the only ones who can really be holy are monks and hermits who go off to a mountaintop to contemplate God?

I wouldn’t blame you if you felt a bit intimidated by words like "nurture, spiritual growth, and holiness." What I hope you will not do is cast this goal aside secretly because you fear that your life is just too busy, too ordinary, or too important to experience spiritual growth and holiness. I do believe it is possible for each and every Christian to experience spiritual growth and holiness. And I don’t think it is something only for the elite or exceptional Christians. Why? Because God makes every Christian exceptional and there are no elites in the body of Christ for Christ is the only head of the body. Spiritual growth is an inherent quality of life in the church. You will grow as a Christian because you are connected to the head of the church (Christ) and to every other member of the body. You will grow just as an infant cannot help but grow as long as it is part of a family. You will grow just a garden of wildflowers grows as long as it is connected to the earth. This is Paul’s message in Eph. 4:1-16. Just to preface this reading, let me say that Paul has indicated in chapters 1 – 3 that God has accomplished his work of salvation in Jesus Christ. Not only are we saved through Jesus, but we are given purpose, identity, and belonging. All things in the created order – including us – are to be redeemed and woven together through Jesus. And so Paul utters a praise to God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He is the source of our growth and holiness. So in chapter 4 Paul describes how God’s power and work enters into our experience … (Read Ephesians 4:1-16)

Organic Growth Cycle – The view of spiritual growth that Paul describes in this Scripture is not mechanical or institutional. It is organic and natural. It is interconnected with Christ and with other disciples who are also growing and becoming holy. I have a diagram that might help us understand how this works. 1) First, notice that the process of growth and maturity flows from Christ. Every stage and experience in this process is linked to Christ. Christ is the blood and oxygen that is essential to the process of spiritual life. 2) Each of us and all of us experience four stages of growth through this process. Our calling, the unity of the church body, spiritual gift given by the Lord, and maturity in Christ. Do not be too linear with these "stages" It would be a mistake to put time frames on each one as if six months of unity prepares one for a spiritual gift. It doesn’t work that way. These are cyclical and we are always experiencing and re-experiencing each stage. [Illus. from Preaching Today] – Spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor. It involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean. Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting is effective in bringing about spiritual transformation. A better image is the sailboat, which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly.

Calling – "Lead a life worthy of your calling" – (4:1) – Have you ever thought of your Christian identity as a calling? This alone could be a major shift in perspective that enables us to grow spiritually. Our life has meaning and purpose. We have all been called by God (4:2) and he has a vision for our lives. Like a Father who has a vision for his children, God has hopes and dreams for us and he is calling all of us to share in the same glorious future (4:4). God is doing something with creation. He has a plan that is headed somewhere definite and you and I – all of us – are called, invited to be a part of it.

Unity – "Keep yourselves unified in the Holy Spirit" – (4:3) – This plan isn’t just for a select few. That’s why spiritual growth in Christ is for everyone and not just a few worthies. This work of God, his vision and plan, involves all of us because his objective is to unite all of us in love and peace. When sin entered the world, it disturbed the peace that God enjoyed with his creation and the peace of God that ran through all creation. The restoration of this peace, or shalom, is the work of Jesus Christ. So, in the body of Christ we ought to be experiencing a foretaste of the peace that is to come.
We ought to love one another and be patient with one another, even though we are imperfect, because the same God is over us, in us, and living through us all (4:6). Paul affirms the unity we have by noting that we share in one "body," one Spirit, one future; we have the same Lord, same faith, and same birth (one baptism) (4:5)
This unity in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit that results in love and peace facilitates our spiritual growth and transformation into holiness. But this unity also allows for a certain diversity that also facilitates spiritual growth …

Gifts – "However, he has given each of us a special gift" – (4:7) – Even though we have some important things in common, we are not all the same. Unity is different from uniformity. Uniformity is based on conformity, in which everyone must become exactly alike. But unity is actually based on diversity in which unique parts combine to form a unified whole. We see this in marriage in which dissimilar individuals – male and female – unite to become one. In the body of Christ, in which the process of spiritual growth takes place, Christ gives each of us unique gifts. The diversity is nothing to be concerned about because Christ is the source of all the gifts (4:8-11).And the diversity of gifts maintains unity and depends on unity because the purpose of each gift is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church (4:12). All of us have a gift that contributes to the spiritual growth of the whole church. The apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers within the church are not leaders who are meant to limit the growth of the church. They are there to enhance it. They equip us for service and inspire us and that builds up the church.

The Importance of all gifts (John Maxwell, in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, wrote): During World War II, when Britain was experiencing its darkest days, the country had a difficult time keeping men in the coal mines. Many wanted to give up their dirty, thankless jobs in the dangerous mines to join the military service, which garnered much public praise and support. Yet their work in the mines was critical to the war. Without coal, the military and the people at home would be in trouble. So Prime Minister Winston Churchill faced thousands of coal miners one day and told them of their importance to the war effort; how their role could make or break the goal of maintaining England’s freedom. Churchill painted a picture of what it would be like when the war ended, the grand parade that would honor the people who fought the war. First would come the sailors of the navy, the people who continued the tradition of Trafalgar and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Next would come the best and brightest of Britain, the pilots of the Royal Air Force, who fended off the German Lutwaffe. Following them would be the soldiers who fought at Dunkirk. Last of all would come the coal-dust-covered men in miners’ caps. Churchill indicated that someone from the crowd might say, “Where were they during the critical days of the struggle?” And the voices of thousands of men would respond, “We were in the earth with our faces to the coal.” It’s said that tears appeared in the eyes of the hardened men. And they returned to their inglorious work with steely resolve, having been reminded of the role they were playing in their country’s noble goal of pursuing freedom for the Western World.

Maturity – "We will be mature and full grown in the Lord " – (4:13) – As we become more like Christ, we develop holiness. The goal of being more holy is not so we can rest easy feeling that we’ve arrived. We are mature so we can help others share in the unity that comes as a result of their calling by God. United with them we help them use their gifts to build up the body so that more of them become mature. Maturity enables spiritual growth become we outgrow spiritual childishness (4:14). Maturity is a desirable condition when a group is confronted by deceitful teachings that sound right, but just are not. We are connected by Christ and do our work to help others grow (4:16).

4:16 sums it all up"Under Christ’s direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."
Mature Christians serve the church with their gifts and this helps the church grow and become healthy and more loving. Maturity in Christ – holiness and spiritual growth – is not something that only elders, ministers and deacons achieve. Every part of the body works to bring out maturity in every other part of the body.
Gifts of the Spirit are not something that only a few in the church have. God’s gives gifts to all the members of the church. But it is a gift that is meant to be used for the sake of the church, which is here for the sake of the world’s salvation.

Here’s the invitation – If you have been baptized, what gift do you have to use for the church? We are inviting you to live out your calling. We are inviting you to use your gifts, to grow as you use them. We are inviting you to use your gift for the glory of God and the building up of the body.

If you haven’t been baptized, don’t miss out on the blessed life that God calls you to. We welcome you to come and be like Christ. Receive a gift from Christ and be added to the church – a healthy, truthful, loving unity where you will belong.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 November 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Nurturing Spiritual Growth to Transform All into God’s Holiness” – Part 2
November 21, 2004

  1. Read Ephesians 4:1-16
    • Growth Cycle of Church

  2. "Lead a life worthy of your c_____________" – (4:1)
    • We’ve all been called by G______ (4:2)
    • We’ve all been called to the same glorious f___________ (4:4)

  3. "Keep yourselves u___________ in the Holy Spirit" – (4:3)
    • One God over us, in us, and l__________ through us all (4:6)
    • We share in o______ "body," Spirit, destiny, Lord, faith, and birth (baptism) (4:5)

  4. "However, he has given each of us a special g________" – (4:7)
    • Christ is the s__________ of all the gifts (4:8-11)
    • The purpose of each gift is to e___________ God’s people to do his work and b_________ up the church (4:12)

  5. "We will be m__________ and full grown in the Lord " – (4:13)
    • We outgrow spiritual ch__________________ (4:14)
    • We are connected by Christ and do our work to help others g_______ (4:16)

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
“Nurturing Spiritual Growth to Transform All into God’s Holiness” – Part 2
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
November 21, 2004

  1. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 and discuss the following.

  2. What does it mean to live a life worthy of your calling? In what ways do you sense that God has called you to a glorious future? How have you responded to that calling?

  3. What is the difference between unity and uniformity? How can there be diversity in unity? How do the distinctions between man and woman actually provide for a unified marriage? Can a diverse group of people really be unified as the church? Do we all have to become exactly alike? (See Galatians 3:26-29.)

  4. Why is love important to maintaining unity? (See Ephesians 4:2.) What is the basis of our unity as fellow Christians? (See Ephesians 4:4-6) How does this create unity among a diverse people?

  5. Why would Christ give gifts to the church? Why not give every single Christian all the gifts possible?

  6. What gift have you been given by Christ? Do you doubt that you’ve been given a gift? (see Ephesians 4:7) How can your brothers and sisters in Christ help you recognize your gift?

  7. Why did Christ give us gifts? (See Ephesians 4:12-13.) How does this purpose for gifts define the role of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers? Is their role different from yours? How are they alike? How are they the same?

  8. How are spiritual growth and maturity related? How are holiness and maturity related? How is spiritual childishness not like holiness? (See Ephesians 4:14.)

  9. What is the goal of spiritual maturity? Who are we to be like? (See Ephesians 4:15.)

  10. What will you do to become more like Christ? How will you help others to become more like Christ? How does this fit into our purpose statement? (Making Disciples for Jesus who are Eager to Serve Others)

Prepare for Nov. 28 – “Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Using Them to Glorify God – Part 1

    Read I Corinthians 12:12-31

The Great Opportunity

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Making a message multi-cultural and relevant for successive generations over hundreds of years is extremely difficult. Generations have different priorities and concerns. As time produces changes, it is easy for a current generation to transpose its current concerns on the old message.

That always has been true. The gospels’ Judaism and the Judaism at the end of the Old Testament are distinctly different. Approximately 400 years (and a lot of history!) passed between the last writing in the last Old Testament and Jesus’ birth. When Jesus’ message directed Judaism’s leaders to a God-centered understanding, he met resentment and ridicule. Jesus’ concerns and first century Judaism’s concerns were radically different. God’s intent and first century Judaism’s concerns frequently were unrelated!

In the first century Roman Empire, the exposure of infants was an accepted practice. In this practice, a newborn infant was abandoned to the elements to die. We call that murder. Though a sanctioned cultural practice, a discussion of this horrible custom is not mentioned in the New Testament.

Slavery is mentioned — as a fact, a reality. Yet, the slavery then was distinctly different to early American slavery. Their slavery was not a racial matter. Some of their most accomplished people were slaves — and some of those slaves actually owned slaves! Though the New Testament makes it obvious that slavery did not prevent one from becoming a Christian, it never condemns slavery.

Horrific circumstances produced incredible opportunities. Christian values displayed in daily life successfully opposed exposure of infants. The values demonstrated in daily existence successfully opposed slavery.

If you love people (even if they are enemies!), your daily existence rejects exposure. (See Matthew 5:44, 45 and 1 Corinthians 13:13.) Are you a Christian slave? Use your slavery to glorify God! (See 1 Corinthians 7:21, 22.) Is your faith in Christ causing suffering? Use your suffering to illustrate your hope! (See 1 Peter 3:14, 15.)

The American dream is wonderful! American freedom is a priceless gift! But do not interchange commitment to God and Christ with the American dream. Christian faith is not declared because “everything goes right.” Christian faith is declared by our behavior when things are not right. Christian faith is not declared by a pain free life. Christian faith is declared by the way Christians react to suffering.

Worship gives Christians strength to live daily life! Daily life reveals the value of faith in God and His resurrected Son! It is through living daily life that we reveal what it means to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The primary issue is not, “Do I worship?” It is, “Who does trust in Christ make me?”

Our Challenge

Posted by on November 14, 2004 under Sermons

Years ago my family and a good friend of the family took a wilderness trek. It was truly a wilderness area. We were walking the only path in or out of the area. To illustrate how remote the area was, we walked the better part of fifteen miles and saw no one else.

In the course of the walk, my middle son jumped mid-stride and shouted, “Snake!” I looked ahead on the path and saw a copper head snake stretched across the trail. Our friend, who was right behind that son, had little exposure to the country or to a wilderness area. He immediately thought we were teasing him and trying to make him afraid. It took all the pleading we could muster to keep him from moving ahead and stepping on the poisonous snake. He tried hard to see the snake, but he could not. Since he could not see the snake, he was certain there was no danger. We finally convinced him not to move ahead, but he never saw the snake, not even as the snake crawled off.

Spiritual danger is quite often like that snake and my friend. It can be right in front of us with the power to cause us serious hurt. Yet, if we do not see it, we are convinced there is no danger. In that ignorance, we often inflict heavy, unnecessary pain on ourselves.

I want to begin by reading and commenting on a familiar passage. After that reading and those comments, I want to make some applications.

1 Peter 1:13-21 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

  1. Peter was writing to Gentile Christians (predominantly) who lived in northern Asia Minor who had suffered because of their relationship with Jesus Christ and whose suffering soon would intensify.
    1. Peter said, “You people need to prepare to be even more serious about your devotion to Jesus Christ.”
      1. “Prepare your mind to go to work!” [As we might say, “Put on your work shoes and your work clothes!”]
      2. “Get serious about your spiritual commitment!”
      3. “Make sure that your hope is founded on the correct thing–the grace of Jesus’ resurrection when Jesus Christ comes again.”
        1. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope money!
        2. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope physical pleasure!
        3. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope a desirable life style!
        4. Make the foundation of your hope the grace made available in Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
    2. Peter wrote to Christians who lived in an idolatrous environment that embraced a pagan lifestyle [a lifestyle that often encouraged physical indulgence].
      1. “You are now God’s children, not children of idolatrous gods.”
      2. “You now seek to be obedient to God, not in rebellion to God.”
      3. “Because that is true, you will not allow the motives and attitudes which controlled your lives before coming to Christ to continue to control your lives.”
      4. “Those past things controlled you because you did not know any better–now you know better.”
      5. “Now you have a new reason to exist–the holiness of God.”
      6. “If you belong to the holy God, you WILL partake of His nature–you WILL commit yourselves to holiness.”
      7. “Slaves are freed [redeemed] with money. However, God did not use money to give you your freedom–He used the precious blood of his son!
      8. “It is God’s resurrection of Jesus that gives you your faith and hope.”
    3. Were I to summarize Peter’s challenge to those suffering Christians in this reading, I would do it in this way: “Following God is serious business! You need to be as serious about being God’s holy people as God was about inviting you to be His people! Get serious, and stay committed!”
      1. It did not take a lot of effort to be a person who worshipped the pagan gods–that was pretty much a matter of indulging yourself while you did what was popular in that pagan environment.
      2. However, to embrace God’s holiness takes all the effort of a serious commitment.
      3. The only thing that makes that commitment possible, that makes it work, is God’s grace revealed in Jesus’ resurrection.
      4. Your hope is not in yourself or anything you do!
        1. You cannot merit a relationship with God!
        2. Your hope is God’s grace revealed in Jesus’ resurrection!
        3. Surely you responsibly obey–but your obedience merely declares your appreciation for God’s grace!

  2. Allow me to make some applications to us and to our current lives.
    1. We are walking in the wilderness, and we are about to step on poisonous snakes we are untrained to see.
      1. I often think of my past and am astounded at how much visible change this society has experienced in less than 50 years.
        1. No, I have no desire to roll the clock back to 50 years ago.
        2. No, I do not think 50 years ago was the ideal age.
      2. Many of us here lived in some degree of poverty 50 years ago.
        1. Just as a matter of curiosity–and you do have permission to look around–how many of you were not alive in 1954? How many of you were at least 18 in 1954?
        2. These thoughts are addressed to those alive in 1954.
        3. In 1954, where did you live?
        4. What size house did you have as compared to where you live right now?
        5. Think of the things in your house in 1954, and think of the things in your house today. Is there any difference?
        6. How many cars did your family have in 1954? How did that car or those cars compare to what you are driving right now?
        7. What was your income in 1954? What is it today?
        8. What did you wear in 1954? What do you wear today?
        9. How often did you and your family eat out in 1954?
        10. Where was the church building located [the one you attended] in 1954? What was it constructed of? What kind of educational facilities did it have? What kind of family life center did it have? How many ministers did it have? What were its commitments and involvements?
      3. Take a moment to think and reflect–how much have things changed in this society in 50 years?
        1. Are you aware of the first time you realized that our society surely has changed?
        2. Or, has it changed so gradually that you just woke up one day to the fact that virtually everything is different.
          1. Do you realize that many of the common medications used today did not even exist in 1954?
          2. Do you realize how many people died of heart attacks in 1954 caused by conditions we repair today?
        3. It truly is a whole different world today!
      4. For over 50 years we have gradually become more and more prosperous–for most of us that did not happen all at once.
        1. As we got more prosperous, we lived better and better.
        2. Fifty years ago there were many things congregations could not do because we just did not have the money.
        3. Then, gradually, congregations had more money.
        4. We built buildings we could not afford to finance in the 50s.
        5. We involved ourselves in ministries we could not afford in the 50s.
      5. And at the same time, we could improve our life styles and support the church in growing works.
        1. For years we were so prosperous we could give generously out of our surplus and improve our life styles at the same time.
        2. And now, noticeably, that is coming to an end.
        3. Whereas we had decades that we did not have to make a choice, now increasingly we have to make a choice.
        4. For a long time we thought we could do everything, and now we are forced to realize that we cannot do everything.
        5. Increasingly, we will face the choice–personal lifestyle, or personal expression of faith?
    2. I think Peter’s directive we read is very applicable to us.
      1. Peter said, “Folks, it is time to get serious about your commitment to God.”
      2. “Remember who and what you were before you were a Christian, and who and what you are now as a Christian.”
      3. “Your commitment is not to a godless lifestyle of personal indulgence.”
      4. “Your commitment is to the holiness of God, the One who saves you through Jesus Christ.”
      5. “You will exist here as a physical creature for only a short time–so do not allow money or pleasure or lifestyle to determine and define who you are.”
      6. “There is only one thing that defines who you are–that is God’s grace revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
      7. “Because of that grace, you are free to allow God to remake you and your life.”

There is coming a moment when God will give all in Christ Jesus a gift. At that moment we will realize as never before that we are totally unworthy of the gift. At that moment we will realize with understanding just how unworthy of God’s consideration we are. At that moment we will know how totally dependent we are on God’s kindness. At that moment will look back at this life with regret as we remember how stupid our priorities were. At that moment we will understand how little faith we had, how selfish we were, and how blind we were to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that moment we will realize that the greatest concept was not the freedom of nations, but the freedom to become what God wanted us to be.

Are you what God had in mind when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead?

Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness – Part 1

Posted by on under Sermons

The portrait of a nation in crisis. The people have lost their way. The law and the courts are no longer concerned with justice and righteousness. Rather, everything is settled in terms of money. Its people are consumed with wealth and they will use every means legal and illegal to acquire more. Call it greed or call it stealing, it works the same. Ethics and morals are no longer based on what is right and wrong, but they are defined in terms of financial loss and gain. What is profitable is of greater value than what is true. This is the portrait of a nation in crisis.

Families are falling apart because relationships have very little meaning. Adultery and infidelity are taken for granted. Marriages are collapsing for any number of reasons so much so that many people choose not to marry. Homosexuality, casual sex are highly regarded. Children are not considered a blessing, but a financial liability or asset. Children are born to parents who neither love each other nor are they committed to one another. The law even supports a woman’s choice to destroy her unwanted child as long as she adheres to certain rules about notification. This is the portrait of a nation in crisis.

Honesty is something rare or laughed at. Most people agree that honesty makes you vulnerable. Military leaders and politicians are using their own people for nothing more than financial profit. Greed and dishonesty are considered necessary in business so much so that no one trusts anyone. This is the portrait of a nation in crisis.

The Situation on First Century Crete
It would be easy to assume that this portrait of a nation is our USA, but I am in fact talking about civilization on the island of Crete over 2000 years ago – in the middle of the first century A.D. But the similarities are stunning! Perhaps this will help us learn how the people of God are supposed to thrive in a nation in crisis.

In the rest of the world regarded Cretans as reprobates, dishonest, and uncultured. In Paul’s letter to Titus (which we will get to in a moment) he quotes one of their own philosopher-prophets, Epimenides (6th century B.C.) who said "Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons." Paul wasn’t alone in this view. It was a widely held view among first century writers.

  1. The courts of law were not interested in justice, but in financial compensation. (Law Code of Gortyn) For instance, a crime as serious as rape did not incur punishment, but a fine. On Crete, mothers could choose to leave their children to die, but only if the father did not want the child. And when a mother killed an infant without the father’s consent, she was charged a hefty fine.
  2. Crete’s major industry was piracy. The northern shore of Crete was a haven for pirate bands that terrorized the Mediterranean. “The Cretans both by land and sea are irresistible in ambushes, tricks played on the enemy, night attacks, and all petty operations which require fraud”Polybius.
  3. The Cretans were well known for being greedy and dishonest. "Cretanize" was first century slang for lying. Writers describe their materialism: “So much do the lust for wealth and underhanded gain prevail among them that they are the only people in the world among whom no stigma attached to any sort of gain whatsoever”Diodorus of Sicily. “Cretans are devoted to riches as bees are to a honeycomb.”Plutarch. “The Cretans do everything in hope for cash”Livy. Writers describe their dishonesty – “Cretans even consider highway robbery to be an honorable profession”Cicero.
    The story is told of a military officer who betrayed his men to the Romans. The Roman general offered the man the honor of Rome to which the Cretan laughed. The Cretan was only interested in cash.
  4. Sexual deviancy was held in high esteem. Its impact on families has been noted. In his travelogue, Strabo noted that homosexuality was held in high esteem by the Cretans during 1st century A.D.

How do you bring the gospel into a culture like this? Where do you begin? Is there any hope?
Paul and Titus stopped in Crete on one of their journeys. Paul departed and Titus was left there to complete what remained to be done (1:5). The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. He encounters opposition from a group of charlatans (Cretans who are using the faith and Jewish teaching as an opportunity for profit and power) who capitalize on the immature faith of the new converts. They distract the young missionary from his proper task. Paul is aware of this problem and is writing to give Titus advice on the situation.

Paul’s advice to nurture spiritual growth and holiness is proactive – not reactive! Paul urged Titus to teach sound – that is healthy – doctrine. The best way to overcome sickness is to keep oneself healthy – that’s proactive. Rather than focusing his energy and effort on disproving and discrediting the trouble-makers, Paul urges Titus to focus on proclaiming the grace of God and the hope of Christ’s rule so that people will get in touch with the transforming message and Spirit of the gospel.
Titus needs to spend his time finding the sort of leaders and elders who can model this type of life for the others. If he spends all of his time in stupid controversies, the trouble-makers will always outmaneuver him. But if he nurtures godly leaders then Titus can actually change the environment.

Read Titus 2:1-8 to get a look at the practical application of this approach to nurturing spiritual growth and holiness.

Perhaps in examining Crete we do not look at the past, as much as we see our own possible future as a nation. For instance, we wonder how we will ever influence our society for good with the gospel. Why can’t we follow the same proactive strategy the Paul gives Titus.

We have lost our influence because we have become reactive. We know what we are against, but we don’t know what we are for. Think of how the enemy has outmaneuvered us. How much time have we wasted by getting involved in "foolish controversies, arguments, quarrels, and fights about the law." Paul says that, "These things are useless and worthless." But we still think the goal of nurturing Christ-like people is more information! In fact, the grace of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life we have calls us to something more! – We have a much better goal that calls us to devote ourselves to doing good – this is excellent and profitable for all. This is spiritual TRANSFORMATION, not just INFORMATION.

Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness – What can we learn from Paul’s advice to Titus?

  1. Leaders that help us live right – Notice that Paul’s vision of leaders has very little to do with managing institutions. Paul doesn’t describe administration. That seems to be Titus’ responsibility more than anyone else’s (straighten out what remains to be done). The work of the leader on Crete is to keep people spiritually healthy. Spiritually healthy people will grow. But what about the work of the church? Who manages that? Spiritually healthy people are eager to do what is good. It doesn’t have to be managed. Why put limits on what is good? Leaders are not enforcers of rules. We are not called to be rule-keepers. We are called “to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age.” (2:12) Lists of rules can change from generation to generation. They change with styles and cultures. They are not absolute. Rules and lessons can become outdated or inappropriate in some circumstances – but self-control, righteousness, and godliness are always appropriate!
  2. Loving Relationships – Notice that Paul wants Titus to encourage what is good for everyone. In a hostile environment, the people who are being changed by God’s grace will need one another. The teaching that goes on between the generations has to be in the context of a loving relationship. If the older generation assumes a role of arrogance or power – then the transformation and spiritual growth is lost. If the younger generation is resentful for the older generation then the same. Their good deeds are not just for their own sake, but for the sake of others. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have put their faith in God may devote themselves to good works. These things are good and helpful to other people (3:8). When all of us work together to nurture spiritual growth and holiness we become living lessons …
  3. Living Curriculum – Paul’s advice to Timothy on Crete: Forget the debates, don’t get anxious and worried. Don’t suppose that you have to have better, snappier curriculum than your opponents. Develop a living curriculum! Older men who model the healthy teaching. Older women who model the healthy teaching and form loving relationships with the generation women. Younger men who hold one another accountable and strive to be like the older men who live out God’s grace and healthy teaching. Why? Why do it like this? Wouldn’t it be better to create a code of behavior? [It’s interesting that one of the earliest extra-biblical documents, the Didache, is not canonized.]

    • Personal Example: Campus Ministry

    • Example: Wild Elephants Why do we find it so difficult to understand the importance of mentoring across generations. It is important in nature – even elephants need mentoring … The park rangers at a South African wildlife preserve were concerned about the slaughter of 39 rare white rhinos in their park. It turned out that the rhinos were killed not by poachers but rather by juvenile delinquents-teen elephants.
      • The story began a decade ago when the park could no longer sustain the increasing population of elephants. They decided to kill many of the adult elephants whose young were old enough to survive without them. And so, the young elephants grew up fatherless. As time went on, many of these young elephants roamed together in gangs and began to do things elephants normally don’t do. They threw sticks and water at rhinos and acted like neighborhood bullies. Without dominant males, the young bulls became sexually active, producing excessive testosterone and exhibiting aggressive behavior. A few young males grew especially violent, knocking down rhinos and stepping or kneeling on them, crushing the life out of them. Mafuto the gang leader eventually had to be killed.
      • The park rangers theorized that these young teen-aged elephants were acting badly because they lacked role models. The solution was to bring in a large male to lead them and to counteract their bully behaviors. Soon the new male established dominance and put the young bulls in their places. The killing stopped. The young males were mentored-and saved.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 November 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Nurturing Spiritual Growth to Transform All into God’s Holiness” – Part 1
November 14, 2004

  1. First Century Crete
    • "Cretans are always l_______, vicious b_______, lazy g_________." (Titus 1:12)
    • Paul is quoting a Cretan prophet-philosopher, Epimenides.
    • Cretan courts of law were interested in f______________ compensation, not j__________.
    • Lying was typical and being h___________ was considered weakness.
    • S___________ deviancy was held in high esteem.

  2. Titus and the Mission to Crete
    • Titus remained on Crete to c_______________ what remained to be done. (1:5)
    • This included the appointment of e___________ in every town. (1:5)
    • Titus is distracted by Cretan c____________ who are using Christian teaching as a profit-making scheme with disastrous results. (1:10-16)
    • Paul urged Titus not to get involved in stupid c_______________ with the charlatans and trouble-makers. (3:9-10)
    • Rather, Paul urged Titus to devote his energy to n_________ spiritual growth and h___________ in order to form people who are e__________ (zealous) to do good deeds. (2:14; 3:8)

  3. How do you do this? In a place like Crete?
    • Read Titus 2:1-8

  4. Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness
    • The goal of spiritual growth and holiness is t__________________ not just i_________________. (See Titus 3:1-8)
    • Because of God’s grace and his Holy Spirit, Titus has resources that the Cretan trouble-makers do not have (2:11-14). We have these resources also …

      1. L_____________ that help us live right (1:9, 2:1)
      2. L_____________ relationships (2:2-8)
      3. L_____________ curriculum (2:2-15)

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to renounce ungodly living and worldly passions so that we might live sensible, honest, and godly lives in the present world as we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every wrong and to cleanse us so that we could be his special people who are enthusiastic about good works." – Titus 2:11-14

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
“Nurturing Spiritual Growth to Transform All into God’s Holiness” – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
November 14, 2004

  1. Read Titus 1:5-16. In today’s sermon, you heard a brief description of the first century culture of Crete. If you were a missionary to Crete and had to deal with Titus’ problem with the trouble-makers, how would you begin?

  2. Why are we sometimes reactive rather than proactive in our faith?

  3. Read Titus 2:1-8. Who are the people that taught you how to live right? Who in your life has been a living curriculum of God’s grace and salvation?

  4. What characteristics and qualities did you learn from these people? How did they teach you these things? How are you sharing that with people younger than you?

  5. Read Titus 2:11-14 and 3:4-8. How does the grace of God and his Holy Spirit nurture spiritual growth? How does it make us eager to do good works?

  6. Why is spiritual transformation superior to spiritual information?

Living the Lesson Application:

  1. How will you nurture spiritual growth and spiritual transformation? In yourself? In others? Be specific about your context – in your family, in your small group, in your ministry, in your congregation.

  2. How will you encourage your leaders to help you live right? Do we sometimes ask our leaders to do things we ought to do ourselves? Give an example. Do we make demands on our leaders that really aren’t part of their calling? Do we sometimes neglect to ask them to help us live right? Why?

  3. What sort of relationships do you have that help you to grow spiritually and become more holy? How can you build these relationships?

  4. Who do you mentor? Are you more interested in communicating spiritual information or nurturing spiritual transformation? How can you emphasize the latter without ignoring the former?

Prepare for Nov. 21 – “Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness – Part 2

    Read Ephesians 4

The Great Deceit

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The election is over. However, anxiety is not subsiding. It merely shifted to a different segment of society. Prior to the election, anxiety rested in the hearts of those concerned about “moral values.” After the election, anxiety rests on the minds of those who fear the meaning of “moral values,” who define moral concern differently.

Before the election there was great concern for the direction of this nation. After the election there is great concern for the direction of this nation. The only change: the identifiable groups of “the concerned.”

What is the great deceit? This conviction: spiritual goals are achieved through political means. Christianity began among a people with centuries of allegiance to God, but who failed to recognize God’s Son or God’s message. Christianity spread through a Mediterranean world and Roman empire that were thoroughly, visibly pagan. It was impossible to ignore the prestige of idolatry in any major city of the first century!

The first Christians did not have favorable laws or champions in high political places. Their lifestyle, faith, and commitment were misunderstood. They often were considered atheists because their God excluded other gods. They often were seen as a threat to the empire, to “peaceful” community life, and to businesses that had a patron god or goddess. Families in both Jewish and Gentile communities often disowned a family member who converted to Christ. Opposition was so severe in Asia Minor that Revelation indicates those Christians wondered if the Christian movement was doomed. In the first century Roman Empire, Christianity was an illegal, “undesirable” religion.

Yet, Christians endured and Christianity as a movement prevailed. Through a triumphant political plan of action? No. Then through what? Through faith in the God who raised Jesus from the tomb and made Him the Christ; through an unconquerable love for God, people, the Christian community, and enemies; through an enduring hope for resurrection.

It reasonably can be affirmed that a grave blow inflicted to the Christian movement was Emperor Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the early 300’s A.D. Shortly after that, “church buildings” appeared. “The gods had their temples — how can there be an official religion of the Roman Empire that does not have a building?” Oh, the woes, debates, and confrontations within the Christian movement because of buildings! In time, the movement became synonymous with its buildings instead of its people!

Interesting! Was the emperor’s pronouncement of legalization a blessing? Spirituality is achieved when personal faith is nurtured to the level of absolute commitment. If we think spirituality is achieved through a political process, we are deceived. We are blinded to more fundamental moral problems. Surely we should seek the peace to follow God’s purposes (1 Timothy 2:1,2), but we should never confuse God’s eternal objectives with our physical desires and wishes.