Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Welcome...in Honor of the Lord

This past April, our church hosted a week’s worth of events between the Sunday we traditionally call Palm Sunday and the one in which we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. We had a guest speaker, participated in a Seder Meal, and watched four different movies that week – all relating to the life death, and resurrection of Jesus. I know some may oppose movies being shown in the church, but it is the content of what is shown that is important.

Yet, one of the movies we showed was rated R, and, in fact, might have warranted a stronger rating. Is it acceptable to show an R-rated movie in church? Again, what was the content? The movie in question is The Passion of the Christ. Many of you have likely seen the movie since it was first released in 2004. But the issue of whether Christians should see it or not was a topic of much discussion during that time. Some Bible-based colleges and seminaries have strict policies against seeing R-rated movies. If a student or faculty watches one they can be removed from the school.

So, what to do when a movie is made about Jesus and yet receives an R-rating? I am not talking about a movie with heretical viewpoints. I am talking about one which is largely based upon the Bible. Should we prohibit Bible students from seeing a movie about the Bible? And while movies are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, abstaining from evil and other such commands are certainly biblical, and many R-rated movies are evil. Thus, the conundrum.

But what if the command is more specific? What if a command relates to idolatry or worship? What do we do when Christians, even of the same church, have opposing viewpoints on matters of interpretation? Well, this week’s passage from Romans gets at that very issue.




Today, I am discussing the seventh step of this particular development theory. Previously we:
  • have moved through trust by looking at how different groups opposed one another in 1 Corinthians.
  • discussed the idea of autonomy and Paul’s life as he shared his ambition in Philippians.
  • we observed that we must take the proper initiative to accomplish what God has for us in 2 Corinthians.
  • saw our need to be industrious by imitating God from Ephesians.
  • saw our need to understand our identity is in Christ because it is He who made us free.
  • discussed the need for intimacy within the body of Christ.

Once we achieve intimacy, the next step is to determine whether or not to reproduce. Reproduction in this instance is not only the idea of having children (although that is certainly included in Erikson’s model), rather, it also includes the passing down of information, tradition, and values. To be generative (as the image shows) is to pass on to the next generation what is important to the current generation. To do so means that thoughts, dreams, hopes, purpose, etc. continue. To refuse to do so means a lack of growth, a lack of hope, and eventually a culture that is stagnant.

Relating this thought to our current study, being generative is to heed the call of Jesus to “go, make disciples.” On the other hand, churches that are stagnant, are filled with people who favor comfort over their calling, who prefer a mentality of “ya’ll come” instead of “Yes, Lord, we will go.” A stagnant culture can develop in a church for a variety of reasons and comprise a plethora of excuses. As we have done each week throughout this series, let me remind of us the (now) four overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples.
  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
  • We don’t know how  (But it is our responsibility to learn how)

As we look at the letter to the Romans, we could almost add a new reason – churches often fight over petty stuff. But really, this is an extension of some of the above. If making disciples is our first priority, we deal with the petty, but we do not let it get in the way of what is most important.

Last week, our Next Step was Love. In a sermon that focused on the need for intimacy it had to be love. I suggested that each of us should strive to do everything for this past week in love. And, following the words of Paul, I challenged us to do everything – EVERYTHING! – for the Lord. I failed. How about you? But, although I failed, I found myself more focused on that end. My words, which were Paul’s words, which is really God’s Word, kept coming back to me. Letting the Word of God dwell richly within me challenged me to be more focused on doing what He wanted me to do and doing it how He wants me do it. Of course, this is not a one-time or one-week exercise, but this last week I may have failed in various ways, but I did better in my focus on this area than I have in quite some time.

But, and this is important, when we focus on our love for others and working for the Lord, a lot of petty stuff gets pushed aside – and rightfully so. We will see this specifically in a few moments, but for now, before we recite our GPS, let me provide a brief outline of Romans so we have the context for our passage today. I am keeping this very broad because my current plans are to preach through this letter in 2018.

Ch 1-4: No One is Righteous Except Through Faith in God
Ch 5-8: Peace With God Is Not Through the Law, But By the Spirit
Ch 9-11: God is Sovereign and Has a Plan
Ch 12-14: Live According to Your Faith
Ch 15-16: Paul’s Plans and Final Greetings

Now, join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.

VISION
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)

MISSION
Exalt the Savior (John 12.32). 
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13). 
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).

STRATEGY
Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.

STEPS
Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

To Evangelize the Sinner (see Roger’s Teaching Moment here) is to share the good news and even mature Christians need to be reminded of that good news. And evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand. When Jesus said to make disciples, He did not first say, evangelize the people and then make disciples. Rather, He infers that we must evangelize as we make disciples. And then those new disciples will do the same. This is generativity at is finest. But of whom should be make disciples? People who are like us? People who are different? Well, let’s look to Romans 14 for some answers.

Disciple-making churches welcome others who may disagree with them. (vv. 1-12)

Let me begin by teaching you a Greek word – adiaphora (meaningless). That is, things outside the moral law. We argue over matters like this all the time – who is the best…? Which product is the best? Etc. The answers may be important to us, but they truly have no real bearing on the ultimate outcome of our lives.

Paul begins this section by talking about arguing over opinions. This first argument is due to some people eating only vegetables and others who are eating meat. The likely issue is that the meat may have been first sacrificed to idols. We see similar ideas expressed in 1 Corinthians 9. If so, it was considered by the Jews to be an abomination to eat any such meat. Thus, the Jews were likely the ones eating only vegetables. The Gentiles on the other hand did not have the same historical understanding of Scripture and thus ate the meat. We will come back to this thought in the next section, but notice that Paul uses terms weak and strong here – with the weak person being one that only eats vegetables (see v. 2).

The issue at hand, however, is that both groups are claiming the actions of the other prevents fellowship. This is why the concept of intimacy was discussed last week. Certainly, the more we know about people, the more we will discover that they are different from us and that we may not like everything about them. And then we begin to judge them for not being like us. Paul says this is foolish – these matters are insignificant as it relates to the gospel – and therefore to pass judgment is not only unnecessary, but foolish.

Then Paul turns to worship. Verse 5 says that some only worship one day (let’s say Sunday, although we are not told), and others worship all days. Now, it is a fact that if we only worship one day per week, we will miss out on better knowing God and appreciating who He is. But again, we must consider that Paul’s statement refers to “one person” and “another” but these two “individuals” really represent groups of people. Thus, this idea is about when to meet corporately. Is one day each week enough or should we meet together every day (like the early church did)?

The answer to both of these items is found in verses 6-8. Whatever side you choose, be convinced. God is the Master and we will give an account of our lives one day to Him (v. 12). So, as we saw last week – whatever you do – do EVERYTHING to the Lord. Our living and our dying should all be for Him.

Therefore, whether we agree or not, we can welcome others in honor of Jesus. We can listen to others, learn from others, and then have a chance to share our thoughts as well. Specifically, this passage is talking to believers on both sides of the issue – and that is important. We are to guard against false-teaching and false-teachers. But the principles involved here extend to all who need to be made disciples – including you and I.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we concerned with petty matters or with Godly ones? Are we willing to welcome others in God’s name in order to learn more about them, how they believe, and how live out their beliefs? Or will we be close-minded and think our interpretation of Scripture is the only one? Will we forsake fellowship and the opportunity to grow as a follower of Christ by judging other Christians without really knowing anything about them? Or will we seek opportunities to learn from others who may be different from us in many ways, but share a love for Jesus? Let us be a church known for being faithful to the truth, while also welcoming the opportunity to discuss the gospel to make disciples and be made into a better one.

Disciple-making churches welcome others to strengthen their faith. (vv. 13-23)

While the first point was really about strengthening our own faith, this one is about the faith of others. In verse 13, for instance, Paul talks about our actions being a stumbling block for others. We may not mean to be an issue, and may not even realize when we are causing a challenge to the faith of another. But many of us do it all the time. An issue happened to me this week, that when I learned of a situation that happened later, I wondered if I had any part in the development. I truly do not know, and I did not do anything wrong other than, perhaps, not helping someone enough. I simply do not know, but for me it is an opportunity for me from which to learn whether or not I had any fault.

The scenario Paul wrote about specifically addressed the strong – or the ones who ate the meat and presumably drank something that may have been offensive to others (v. 17). Paul says that true freedom isn’t a matter of doing what we want to do whenever we want to do it. Instead, real freedom is having the choice to not do something because it might not be understood or may even be offensive.

Again, we must remember these are matters of opinion. Paul did not say it was ok not to worship, he said how often public worship was needed was less important. In today’s world, some Christians will not eat at a restaurant on Sunday because that keeps others from honoring the Lord’s Day. But just because someone is working does not mean that they cannot honor the Lord. In fact, that is the connection between last week and this week. What we do – and think – should always be in honor of the Lord. So, as Paul wrote in verse 18, don’t worry yourself about eating and drinking – pursue peace and building of the Kingdom.

The reality is that too many people focus on one issue and use that issue to divide people, communities, and especially churches. Paul wrote that we should not let these types of issues destroy what God is building (v. 20). Before leaving this section, let me make a quick point of clarification on verse 22. READ 14.22. This verse does not mean that we are not to share our faith. In the context of Paul’s argument, he is writing that we should not impose our opinion on one another. We should clarify our hearts and minds by speaking with God on the matter until we are convinced of God’s truth, or else we are being sinful (see 14.5 and 23).

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we a church that is known for what we are against or Who we are for? Are we a people that use words like, “Well I think you should...!” or do we know our own convictions as they relate to the Word of God, causing us to say, “The Bible says...!” When we spout opinions, we are lifting up ourselves which might persuade someone for awhile until a better argument is made. When we proclaim God’s Word, and use our freedoms to NOT do what might cause others to stumble, then we lift up Jesus and show that we welcome others – because He did so first!

Disciple-making churches welcome others because the Lord has welcomed us. (15.1-13)

This last section has two parts, both of which I will cover briefly. First, Paul says the stronger should build up the weak. This is only natural for the weak do not have the strength to uphold others. In verse 2, Paul reminds the reader that it was in our weakness that that true Strong One – Jesus – upheld us. He continues by stating our hope (as weak ones) comes from ancient Scripture (the strong word of God) and is held together by Christ (the Strong One). Therefore we are to welcome others, and uphold them, because that is what He has done for us (v. 7).

Paul then turns his attention to the unreachable in verses 8-13. Paul shows how the mighty Christ humbled Himself for the sake of serving those who the Jews thought unworthy. Paul quotes from four different passages, each representing one part of the Hebrew Scriptures to show that God’s plan all along was to reach the Gentiles. And that plan was to be enacted by the people of Israel. However, the people of Israel chose not to be the light they were called to be. They chose to insulate themselves, and instead found themselves hauled off to foreign lands. Eventually, they found themselves without a homeland and even without a temple – the place where they were to worship God. Why? Because they did not welcome others and make disciples of those who were in their midst.

Fairfax Baptist Church, will we suffer a fate similar to the ancient Israelites? Do we seek to insulate ourselves from those who need to hear the message of God’s love? Are we willing to show our strength and welcome others who are weak or have we forgotten that we are still at the mercy of Jesus – who, as the true Strong One, welcomed us when we were at our weakest? Will we see God’s commands to welcome others and make disciples with the message of God’s love that rings true throughout Scripture? Or will we ignore the full counsel of God, and the exact words of Jesus that we need to make disciples of all those that God intends to welcome into His Kingdom?

Truly, the choices are ours, and the letter to the Romans serves as a staunch reminder to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the gospel message because it is about the main person – Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

CONCLUSION

Paul’s letter to the Romans is a truly amazing effort. But the focus of the letter is not so much about sin and justification, or about the sovereignty of God, or about matters of Christian living, per se. Yes, the letter includes all of those aspects, but it does so to remind both the Jews and the Gentiles of Rome of their mission – to live according to the truths of the gospel message and to share that message with others. Thus, we have the great verse near the beginning of the gospel that says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1.16).

Are we ashamed of the gospel? Are we fearful of what might happen to us if we share the gospel? I know I can be at times. But I also know that the Bible says we need not fear man who can hurt the body, but rather we should revere God who controls the destiny of our soul (Matthew 10.28, paraphrased). Thus we need to be generative. And with that, we need to:

JOURNEY:  EEngage

NEXT STEP(S):  Lead:  Pray for yourself that God would strengthen you and make you ready to welcome others.

This week, watch for opportunities to engage in discussions about the Bible, and share openly – unashamed! I would urge you to be especially ready to engage in a discussion with someone who needs to feel welcomed – by God and by you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“Evangelize the Sinner”, A Closer Look by Roger Martin

Let us first define the subject:

Evangelize – “to convert or seek to convert [someone] to Christianity” (Google definition), to teach the gospel.  The word “evangelize” is an action word.

Sinner – a person who transgresses against divine law by committing immoral acts.  KJV – one that has voluntarily violated the divine law; a moral agent who has voluntarily disobeyed divine precept or neglected any known duty.

The idea of “evangelizing” will often bring up thoughts of having an evangelistic crusade and asking a professional evangelist to come and assist a church in presenting the gospel. The evangelist is, in some ways, a performer on a stage seeking to convince others of the error of their present lifestyle. In years past, we have had “revivals” to stimulate the church and community by introducing the gospel from the perspective of a fresh voice in the church. Revivals are great and many people can point to such an event as the catalyst for their Christian faith but I am not sure we can depend upon such grand galas as the primary source for sharing the gospel.

The “who” of our evangelistic endeavors may be very close to home. James 5:19 says, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” The “wanderer” is either a professing Christian whose faith is not genuine or a sinning Christian who needs to be restored.  

The results are no different, but evangelism on a personal level often takes much more time and the development of a relationship with the person being witnessed to. These persons may or may not have affiliation with the church of any kind. The most influential evangelists often have a story to tell about coming to the Lord; we are no different. Again, evangelism should strive to convince others of the error of their present lifestyle and point them to the answer – Christ Jesus. The very real result is the promise of eternal salvation and presence with the Lord.

Many times in our minds we justify our inaction by thinking potential followers would never believe because of their present lifestyle. But remember, we did, I did, you did.
Jesus preached to the average man and woman, boy and girl. They weren’t special people with preferential treatment (although some were more willing to receive than others).
1 John 4:19-21 says, “We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

While on a mission trip to Huatulco, Mexico I asked if there would be greater effect if the money spent on the mission trip was just sent to the missionary. The reply was that those native to the area needed to know that we came because we had an interest in them and were willing to invest time and energy in them. The personal contact has a greater effect than the money.

This idea is no less true for those across the world than those close at hand.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Call to Intimacy

What comes to mind when I mention the word intimacy? Perhaps you think of your family or a particular member of your family. Perhaps a close friend comes to mind. It is quite possible that some will think of sexual intimacy and some may consider this idea as less than wholesome. But the truth is that intimacy is a natural aspect of life and we are called to be intimate with others. And that is certainly true of the church. Of course, I am not talking about sexual intimacy in this case, but if the Bible refers to us as a body, and as children of God, then shouldn’t intimacy be the norm for a church. More directly, the Church is called the Bride of Christ. One bride for our one Bridegroom who intimately loves us which means we should intimately love one another.

Many people in many churches do have intimate relationships. Several in this church do. Many of you contact one another daily. For some, this is a matter of practicality, because of age and concern for one another. But you would not do it if the concern was not real and the concern is a definitive sign of intimacy. But for all of us, this intimacy can be further developed and must be if our identity is truly in Christ.

Last week, we looked at the letter to the churches in Galatia and the focus was on their understanding of their identity in Christ. Paul wrote that the people were free because of Christ, but they had to realize that freedom and live accordingly. Thus, their freedom was in Christ and they, therefore, need to live for Christ. The book of Colossians has a different theme, but the idea of how we live because we are in Christ is very evident in Colossians as well. In fact, let me read Colossians 3.3-4 here. Verse 3 says “Our life is hidden in Christ” and verse 4 says “Christ is our life.” You cannot get any more intimate than those two sayings.

Again, I offer you this development theory put together by Erik Erikson in the 1950s. This theory regards a person’s development, but specifically considers the development in light of their interaction with others.




Today, I am discussing the sixth step of this particular development theory. Previously we:

  • have moved through trust by looking at how different groups opposed one another in 1 Corinthians.
  • discussed the idea of autonomy and Paul’s life as he shared his ambition in Philippians.
  • we observed that we must take the proper initiative to accomplish what God has for us in 2 Corinthians.
  • saw our need to be industrious by imitating God from Ephesians.
  • saw our need to understand our identity is in Christ because it is He who made us free.


Each of these phases builds from the previous. At the risk of oversimplification, because we learn to trust, we are able to exert our will and take initiative. As we then learn various skills we discover much about ourselves and forge an identity. Once we know ourselves, we are then ready to make a decision about our relationships with others. That is the step where we are today, and it is a step that has vast implications towards discipleship. Will we be intimate with others and seek to make disciples? Or will we choose isolation and withdraw from the world?

As I just mentioned above, if our life is in Christ, then we should follow His lead. There are no doubts that Jesus isolated Himself on occasion but this was always to seek God through prayer. At other times, Jesus took just a few with Him for certain reasons (e.g. Transfiguration and even healing others). But whether with a few or with the crowds, He was engaged with people for the purpose of sharing God’s message and building the Kingdom. In other words, He was busy making disciples. As His followers, we should do the same.

So why don’t we? Well, again, let me remind us of the (now) four overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples.

  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
  • We don’t know how  (But it is our responsibility to learn how)


As we look at the letter to the Colossians this week, let me say that our first reason – not understanding Jesus – takes on a new meaning based upon last week’s message and this week’s message. Last week, I said many forget what it means to be free in Christ. This week, we look at the letter to the Colossians who were absorbed with worship – although that worship was often the creation, not the Creator. When we lose our focus of worship, we cannot find intimacy with God or with one another. However, as we worship our Creator we become better identified with Christ which allows us to become more intimate with others.

Before we recite our GPS, let me provide a brief outline of Colossians so we have the context for our passage today.

Ch 1: The Preeminence of Christ; The Ministry of Paul
Ch 2: Because we are identified with Christ, let us hold fast to Him
Ch 3: Be who you (plural) are in Christ
Ch 4: Final commands and concluding remarks

Now, join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.

VISION
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)

MISSION
Exalt the Savior (John 12.32). 
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13). 
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).

STRATEGY
Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.

STEPS
Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

To equip others means we need to know who they are and how God has gifted them. This is a part of Nurture which is why our verses for Equip the Saint from the Mission and Nurture from our Strategy both use the reference from Ephesians 4. Reggie takes a closer look at Ephesians 4.11-13 here.) Equipping for the work of ministry is about learning how to fulfill certain responsibilities, but it is also about recognizing the need to merely be compassionate towards others. In our look at Colossians 3 today, we will see that truth quite plainly.

Paul makes an argument in the first half of Colossians that those who have faith in Jesus truly belong to Him (cf. 2.9-13). But we must realize that truth for ourselves. Like last week in Galatians where we saw that being free and living free can be two different truths; Colossians shows us that we must be intentional about focusing our life toward Christ. As we do, we will find that we can become more intimate with others who do the same.

This begins by focusing on heavenly matters, not earthly ones. Colossians 3.1-2 should remind us of Jesus words to seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness. When we do that, we get our needs met too. However, when we focus only on our physical needs, we often miss the person of God. We saw verses

Disciple-making churches become intimate when worldly vices are abolished. (vv. 5-9a)

In these next verses, three times Paul mentions the idea of ridding ourselves of something. In verse 5, we are told to put to death certain vices. In verse 8, we are to put away other negative characteristics. And in verse 9, we are told that we have put off the old self.

The first list is similar to the one we reviewed two weeks ago in Ephesians 5. These items are self-explanatory – sexual immorality, impurity, passion (elsewhere this word is translated as degrading or evil passion), evil desire, covetousness (idolatry). Consider what these vices do in our lives. But in the context of this passage, and in the context of our series, consider what they do for a church! Imagine making disciples where we are teaching others to be sexually immoral, or to degrade others, or to idolize what the world offers. It is no wonder that Paul says these characteristics should be put to death, for these qualities will destroy us individually, and collectively, if we are not careful.

If we remind ourselves of Colossians 3.1-2, we must ask ourselves are these characteristics from above or things of the earth. Of course, these are sinful qualities – and thus of the earth. Therefore, we must not only remove them from our midst, but do so violently so as to ensure they do not return.

But then Paul continues. He includes anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Whereas the original list may demoralize others, the ultimate destruction is on ourselves. In this list, these characteristics may make us look bad, but the impact is on others and thus should be put away.

Thus, in two short lists Paul has dealt with several primary vices that will either destroy us or are used by us to destroy others. Neither of these sets of vices is God-honoring and therefore should not be a part of the life of a believer. As they are allowed to continue, people cannot come together out of fear and pain – which is the opposite of what we should experience with intimacy.

Therefore, Paul reminds the reader that their old self is gone – it too has been put off. It is Christ that clothes us now. As we have seen countless times in this series, Paul is talking to a group. This is not about an individual having put off their old self; this is the full church having taken on a new identify – casting off their old and embracing the new.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we still holding on to ill-feelings towards ourselves or others? Do we hold contempt in our hearts for others – especially other who are part of this church? Do we seek to tear down others for our own benefit? Or do we degrade others and invite evil into our lives which ultimately destroys us? If we are to be a church that makes disciples, we must cast aside and put to death all that holds us back from being intimate with one another. We must abolish all that holds us back from finding our collective identity in Christ and therefore our full intimacy with one another.

Disciple-making churches become intimate when heavenly virtues are apparent. (vv. 9b-14)

Paul immediately contrasts the idea of putting off with the command to put on. Again, Paul’s verb choice is a plural one suggesting it is a collective putting on of this new self. When we do we do not see the differences that we once before us. We might paraphrase verse 11 for our day as follows. There is not American and foreigner, black and white, Democrat, Republican, Baptist, Methodist, old, young, etc – we are all a part of Christ and Christ is found in all.

Paul knows if we do not replace the old, we will return to it. So, here, He provides a list of virtues which show this new self to be seeking things which are above. These virtues include compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. These items are all a part of us but for the benefit of others. We are not compassionate toward ourselves, for instance. Although we might care for ourselves, Paul is saying we show compassion towards others. And humility and kindness, etc.

Why do we do this? Because the Lord has done so for us. Specifically, Paul uses the idea of forgiveness here, but has not the Lord been compassionate towards us? Kind towards us? How about being patient with us? Therefore, just as God has shown these characteristics towards us, we are to show them towards others.

And once we begin to do so, we bind all of these characteristics with love. Paul uses the imagery of a belt here which keeps all of the other clothes in place. I have recently learned the value of a belt. I almost always wear one, but more for looks than anything. But over the past couple of years I have lost so much weight, I now realize the value of a belt. In fact, last week at camp, I forgot my belt and had to go to Walmart to buy one or it would have been a very challenging week.

That is what Paul is saying here. We can be compassionate and kind and humble, but to do so without love is very difficult. When we cover these virtues with the greatest virtue – love – then we are more naturally meek and patient and kind, etc. More importantly, we are becoming like Christ and modeling for others what they should do as His disciples as well?

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we a church that is known for these heavenly virtues? Do others know us to be compassionate or combative? Are we kind toward others or as self-seeking? Are we humble or do we humiliate others? Are we a church that is known for love or for loathing? More important than how others view us, how do we rate on God’s scorecard? We cannot be intimate if we are combative, self-seeking, etc. Are His virtues present within us? Are we becoming more like Him? If so, we should find ourselves more intimate with Him, with each other, and learning to include others as well.

Disciple-making churches become intimate when the living Word becomes our all. (vv. 15-17)

The last three verses we will look at today are probably familiar to many of you. Paul continues his theme of what it means to live with a heavenly perspective, and with the idea of being intimate with one another.

First, he wrote, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The world rule is in the sense of an umpire. A decision must be made (often quickly) and Paul says we should let our decision be for peace. If we contrast the lists from earlier in this chapter, we have evil desires, coveting, anger, malice, and lying (for instance) compared to compassion, kindness, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. The former lists reflect the work of the devil, the latter lists reflects the peace of Christ. Paul says we should choose Christ because we are all one – and malice towards another is actually malice towards oneself (for instance).

Then, Paul says to let the very word of Christ dwell within us. Not just a little bit, but richly. So, let the peace of Christ rule you and the word of Christ guide you. We are enriched with the Word, by the Lord, for the benefit of others. God’s Word will teach us to be right, admonish (or correct) us when wrong. As we learn, we then teach and correct others with the Word of God as well. In addition, our songs, hymns, and spiritual songs can be used to teach one another as we praise God and give Him thanks.

Finally, Paul says that everything – EVERYTHING! – we do should be done for Jesus. We may pray “in Jesus name” but do we live that way? We may consider what Jesus might do, but do we follow? Paul shares this idea last in this particular passage because without Christ’s peace ruling us, and without His Word dwelling within us to guide us, we can never be successful at being fully devoted to, and living fully for, the Lord. Such learning and living is definitely a process, but one to which we must aspire if we are to become intimate with our Lord and thus, intimate with one another as well.

Fairfax Baptist Church, who rules our heart? Is it the peace of Christ or something else? Does the Word of Christ dwell richly within us or are we more focused on seeking the world’s riches? Do we do what we do – in both word and deed – for the Lord? Or do we talk the talk without walking the walk – doing in word, not deed? If we are to be the people and the church God wants us to be, we must, as a church, allow God to have more of us than He does at present.

CONCLUSION

Most of you are familiar with the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s of no earthly good.” Colossians 3 teaches otherwise. Paul provides many earthly traits and contrasts them with heavenly ones. I would argue that only because Christ was so perfectly heavenly-minded was He able to be of any earthly good. If we are made in the image of God, and we are (Gen. 1.26-27), and if we believe that Christ has redeemed us, then shouldn’t we seek after the things above (Col 3.1) and set our thoughts on things above as well? Being heavenly-minded is not to forsake the world, it is to properly understand the world and to then have the focus to do what God wants you to do about it.

JOURNEY: NNurture

This is where the idea of Nurture comes into play. As we know what we should do, the question then becomes do we know how to do it? Nurture certainly involves those heavenly virtues in Colossians 3.12-14, but it also requires an equipping of any necessary skills to accomplish certain ministry tasks. The more we know about each other (i.e. the more intimate we become) the better suited we will be to help one another and accomplish the goals God wants us to accomplish.

So, for this week, we must consider our Next Step to be that of LOVE.

NEXT STEP(S): Love: Paul said to “put on love” in order to bind all of the other positive traits. This week, focus on doing everything you do with a measure of love. You may not like the actual task you are doing in the moment, but consider the greater possibilities of what, and why, you are doing what you are doing. As you think of the greater impact, it can help you to better understand what it means to do everything – EVERYTHING – for the Lord!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

“Equip the Saint”, A Closer Look by Reggie Koop

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” – Ephesians 4.11-13 (KJV)

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” – Ephesians 4.11-13 (ESV)

Upon Christ’s ascension He gave gifts to men and He gave gifted men to the church for building it up. The first are apostles. This is the official title given to the twelve disciples.

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not” – Matthew 10.1-5

Apostles are to preach the word, be ambassadors for Christ, be witnesses to all nations, and make disciples.

The second group of called men are prophets. These men were both foretellers and forthtellers. They receive their message from God and deliver it for God to man. They have deep insight into spiritual truths as they interpret God’s message under the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Next are evangelists. They travel from place to place preaching the gospel.

The final group is pastors and teachers (KJV) or shepherds and teachers (ESV). Some Bible scholars look at these as one office and others look at them as two distinct offices. Pastors are to guide, instruct, and feed the church and teachers are to also preach the gospel and to instruct the people by way of exhortation.

Breaking down the rest of the passage,
“For the perfecting of the saints” – equipping Christians for service. The purpose of Christ’s gifts is to completely prepare them to be vessels unto honor, sanctified and satisfying to be used by God.

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” – 2 Timothy 2.23

“For the work of the ministry” – preparing Christians to do their work, not doing the work for them. “The work” is spiritual service. One commentary said it this way, “The church is not a spiritual rest home but a barracks for training soldiers of the cross.”

“For the edifying of the body of Christ” – this is a view of building up of the whole body of Christ. All Christians are to be equipped for the work of edification and then be engaged in the work of edification (building up).

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith” – this refers to the whole body of Christ; no one should be neglected. Our goal is to attain unity, not uniformity. This work is far from being accomplished.

“And of the knowledge of the Son of God” – as Christians we are to have a true, accurate, and full knowledge of God so that we are able to work together to work out God’s plans and purposes.

“Unto a perfect man” – we can never be mature Christians if our faith in Christ is imperfect.

“Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” – the goal here is to become a full-grown person in Christ. To achieve Christlikeness.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29

If the church is divided, broken, or immature, it will do little in the way of evangelizing the world, as we are commanded by Jesus to do.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mistaken Identity

This week, Americans celebrate the founding of our country 241 years ago.Recently, I have been learning more about the challenge related to our independence. Of course, we refer to the war as the Revolutionary War, and most of us can name a few important places or events from that war (Bunker Hill, the Shot heard round the world, Washington crossing the Delaware, etc.) But for those living in the day, the idea of independence was not a cause for celebration, it was a time of misery and confusion. Misery for many reasons, but confusion because both loyalists and rebels lived side by side, worked together on farms or in the mills. The loyalists (those loyal to the King in Britain) were free, but feared what might happen if the rebel army won. For most of the war, the rebels were fighting for a free nation that really wasn’t so free – or wouldn’t be if the war was lost.

The war was truly a battle for freedom, but freedom was understood differently by each side. Again, the colonies had declared their freedom, but had to fight for it against a massively superior army and, especially, navy. They were free, but really weren’t. Freedom had been declared, but it was not recognized by Britain. The British, on the other hand were free, but had to fight to preserve what they felt was rightfully theirs.

How might our country’s independence relate to Christianity? Jesus declared freedom for all who choose to believe when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished.” But most people are unwilling to believe that truth. In fact, 71% of people believe that each person must contribute something to their salvation. 71%. For the early Americans, their freedom had been declared, but they had to fight to secure it. But a major difference must be noted.

In 1776, the Continental Congress declared themselves free from the king.

At the cross, the King declared all people free (if we simply believe).

In both instances, the issue the belief of the people involved. The reality is that as a follower of Christ, you are free, whether you realize it or not. On the other hand, nothing you can do can earn God’s grace no matter what you may believe. In either case – the Christian who does not believe s/he is free or the non-Christian who thinks they are based upon their merit – the issue is mistaken identity, and perhaps even an attempt at identity theft.

If we are confused about who we are, then we will be confused about what we should do. Having identity confusion is a form of either not understanding Jesus or not believing God – two of our four reasons for not making disciples. Before we dive further into this idea, let me remind us of the (now) four overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples.

  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
  • We don’t know how  (But it is our responsibility to learn how) 





Currently, we are discussing the fifth step of this particular development theory. Previously we:

  • have moved through trust by looking at how different groups opposed one another in 1 Corinthians.
  • discussed the idea of autonomy and Paul’s life as he shared his ambition in Philippians.
  • we observed that we must take the proper initiative to accomplish what God has for us in 2 Corinthians.
  • saw our need to imitate God from Ephesians.


This week, we need to understand our identity is in Christ, so we turn to the Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Before we recite our GPS, let me provide a brief outline of Galatians so we have the context for our passage today.

Ch 1: Paul’s call by God and the message of God
Ch 2: Paul confirmed by apostles; justification by faith
Ch 3: Faith or Works vs the Promise
Ch 4: Co-heirs with Christ
Ch 5: Freedom in Christ; Spirit-living vs living in the flesh
Ch 6: Living by the Law of Christ; Concluding remarks

As I have each week of this series, I now submit our GPS as a reminder of our purpose and process – ultimately with an aim at making disciples.

VISION
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)

MISSION
Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).

STRATEGY
Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.

STEPS
Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

Leon provides a brief overview at what it means to Exalt the Savior. To properly exalt Christ, we must know Him. As we better know Him, we become identified with Him. And eventually, we find our full identity in Him. When this happens, we cannot help but make disciples. With that understanding, let us turn to the idea of disciple-making churches.

Disciple-making churches live freely because of Christ. (vv. 1-6)

Christ has set us free. Do you believe that? OK. Free from what?  Free from sin? Free from the wrath of God? Sure, maybe. But in Galatians 5, freedom certainly includes not being under the requirements of the law. Specifically, Paul refers to circumcision, and in verse 6, Paul equates circumcision with the law of Moses.

A few weeks ago, I posted about Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In Philippans 3, Paul wrote about the Judaizers who were a group of Christians that insisted that all Christian males should be circumcised. Circumcision was an important part of Jewish custom – it was an external sign of being the people of God. Circumcision did not originate at the time of Moses, but rather hundreds of years earlier with Abraham. Yet, circumcision came to be equated with the law and following God. So, the Judaizers wanted this tradition carried forward and went from town to town to convince new Christians that to be a “true Christian” you needed to be circumcised.

But Paul taught that God’s grace, not the law, was what truly mattered. Paul states this unequivocally in Galatians 5.1. You are free! And the freedom is because of Christ.

In fact in the next few verses, Paul says to accept circumcision as a means of salvation is to cast aside the work of Christ – to cast aside the grace of God (i.e. to cast aside the freedom Christ provided). Notice Paul’s argument. In verse 3, one chooses either circumcision (and thus the law) or Jesus. This is not to say that circumcision is wrong. What is wrong is being circumcised for the sake of salvation. For salvation, it is Jesus or circumcision, not Jesus and circumcision.

Paul continues by saying if you choose circumcision, you choose the whole law. That is, you are obligated to keep all 613 commandments perfectly. And if that is the path chosen, then grace means nothing. That is what is meant here when Paul says you have fallen away from grace – not that salvation was lost, but grace was of no use to them – at least in their minds. The choice is freedom in Christ or a return to being a slave to the law.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we free in Christ? Do we find our freedom in Him and extend that freedom to others or do we impose strict requirements for people to belong to Jesus? Don’t misunderstand, obedience is necessary (see the next section), but not for salvation. Obedience should be our response to salvation; it is not a requirement for salvation. As Paul writes in verse 6, the idea of circumcision – either way – means nothing, only faith through love truly counts.

Disciple-making churches live obediently to Christ. (vv. 7-12)

Notice verse 7. “You were running well.”

The church knew the truth, but had moved away from it. Paul uses imagery of being tripped up in a race. The truth they were following was not God’s truth. It was from a different persuasion. The truth is that we can follow God’s truth or our thoughts. And our thoughts will not always be consistent with truth. And it doesn’t take much to get us off course.

Paul was confident the people could return from the truth, but only if they were to seek the truth. Paul is also confident that whomever is sowing these lies about the need for circumcision would be punished appropriately in God’s timing. And a part of the false teaching was a claim that Paul was teaching that people needed to be circumcised. The truth is that Paul had taught the need to be circumcised – but that was BEFORE he met Jesus and began to follow Him. Verse 11 provides insight that not much has changed in nearly 2000 years. We know that people can change, but we hold their past against them, and use past words and actions to prove our point even if we know that we are wrong in doing so. We see this in advertising snippets during election season, for instance. Again, Paul acknowledges he had taught the need for circumcision in the past (as a Jew), but he no longer did so (notice the word “still” in verse 11). Paul knew that requirements for salvation apart from the cross made the work of Jesus obsolete. As he wrote in verse 11, the cross carries an offense with it and we must not minimize that offence by forgetting the true work of Christ.

However, just because we are free does not mean that we have complete freedom. Notice verse 7 again. You were running well. But now you are not obeying the truth. But does this contrast with verse 1? Verse 1 says we are free because of Christ. Verse 7 says we must obey the truth. Freedom vs. Obedience. But remember to obey the truth is to obey Jesus because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14.6).

As has often been said, freedom is not free. Christ paid the price for us to obtain it. And our obedience to Him is what He desires from us because of it. Absolute freedom leads to anarchy. But, as Paul wrote elsewhere, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).

The reality is that we will obey someone or something – ourselves, others, or Jesus. But, as Paul wrote here, to gain eternity with God, you either trust what Christ has done and thus become obedient to Him, or you must keep EVERY law of God completely every day for the entirety of your life.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we a church that desires to obey Jesus? Are we willing to respond to His call to “Follow Me” whatever that may mean? We just completed a year looking at the life of Jesus and explored what it meant for those in the 1st Century to follow. Circumstances may have changed over twenty centuries, but Jesus hasn’t. Are you willing to follow? Are we willing to follow as a church? If you say yes, how will you keep running well?

Disciple-making churches live in love for Christ. (vv. 13-15)

Now we move to the idea of identity.

In last week’s post, I shared that Paul challenged the church at Ephesus to imitate God. As I mentioned, sometimes it is difficult to imitate others, and our greatest challenge is to imitate God. But here in Galatians 5.13, we see one reason why imitating God is possible. We were called. Specifically, Paul says we were called to freedom. But first, and foremost, we were called – by God. If you are a follower of Christ, if you are truly free, then it is not by accident. It is because God was intentional in calling you. I repeat, GOD CHOSE YOU.

So, if your identity is defined by God, then what does He want us to do? Ultimately, He wants us to love. We show our love for Him and others by:

  • Serving others (v. 13)
  • Loving our neighbors as we do ourselves (v. 14)
  • Not backbiting others (v. 15)


Paul is trying to communicate that we have been made free so that we may benefit others. Christ was free, but was obedient to the Father for our benefit, and now wants us to be obedient to Him for the benefit of others. Again, make not mistake that a Christian is truly free.

Free from what? From the penalty of sin which is the wrath of God.

Free for what? To love and serve Christ by loving and serving others.

When we understand that we are called by God we can begin to understand our identity is truly in Christ. When we understand our identity is truly in Christ, we begin to live like Him – i.e. we begin to imitate God.

Fairfax Baptist Church do we realize we were called? Do we serve one another? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Or do we gossip and backbite, tearing down one another? Do others in our homes, in our community, in our lives wherever that may be, recognize us as people of God? Do they recognize that our identity is in Christ? We do not claim to be perfect, but we must claim to be His.

CONCLUSION
At the beginning of this message, I spoke of two kinds of people whose homes were in America during the Revolutionary War. Both were free, but in very different ways. The loyalists, or tories, were loyal to the king and Britain. The other group were known as rebels and wanted a new country of their own. The freedom of the rebels had been declared by them, but it was yet to be realized. They had to fight to secure that freedom against a king and a kingdom that would not grant it.

But our freedom was proclaimed by the King. Our freedom was purchased by Christ, our freedom is secured in Christ, and our freedom is sustained by Christ. But only for those who are in Christ. The question for each of us is do we claim our freedom in Christ or do we wish to fight a battle that cannot be won?

So, where is your identity? In yourself? In your family? In your job? In your country? In your church? Or is your identity in Christ?

If it is in Christ, live freely, yet obediently, knowing He has already won the victory.

JOURNEY: RRevere

The most complete way we can revere God is to realize the freedom He has provided and live accordingly.

NEXT STEP(S): Love: Paul concludes this section of Scripture by reminding us of the need to love. We are to obey Christ who said the greatest commandment is to love God and love others (Mark 12.30-31). Making disciples requires loving others. This week, how can you express God’s love to the individual(s) you chose to disciple? Once you know the how, to fulfill God’s command, you must then do.