Saturday, November 24, 2012

Genuine Love Or Hypocrisy 121125

Romans 12:9-13, Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another in the same manner that he loved them. Jesus told them that such love would be the evidence that they were his disciples. In John's first letter, again and again, we are confronted with the fact that God is love and the love he has given us flows through us to other people. You may be a Christian who says, "Well, I just don't feel love!" Don Francisco's song, "Love is Not a Feeling" gives an answer to that. Love is an act of the will not a feeling. In other words, love is what we do! Feelings are involved but they should always be secondary to actions. In fact, acting in a loving manner towards another person will usually cause feelings to begin. Acting out love is not hypocrisy it is obedience to Christ's command. Hypocrisy is intentionally pretending what is not real. The love we have for one another is real because it is in imitation of God, implanted by the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The English word "love" is used so casually that it has lost its deeper meaning. I expect it was the same way in the first century because Paul uses the phrase, let love be genuine. This certainly implies that love might not have always been "genuine" in their society as well as in ours. People say things like, "I love a rainy night", or, "I love chocolate". It seems that to say, "I love ice cream" has about the same value in the English language as, "I love my wife". What we need in the world we live in is…
Genuine Love. And it needs to be…
Our aim, or goal. Let's look at what Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:5, The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Goals are very important. It has often been said that most people aim at nothing in life and with amazing accuracy, they hit it! What is the goal of your life? Is it to be healthy? Rich? Well liked? Successful? Or is it, love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith? I don't believe you can improve on that goal for your life.
In sports the goal is pretty much the focus of attention for both teams. In NCAA basketball a new record was set last week when Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scored 138 points in a single game! Do you suppose he did that without having a goal in mind? Oh, by the way, David Larson, of Faith Baptist Bible College, (the opposing team) scored 70 points in the same game! Both these young men focused on the goal and were equally successful.
Paul encourages Timothy to focus on the goal of love — genuine love. That should also be…
Our pursuit. Later, Paul writes Timothy along the same lines in 2 Timothy 2:22, So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Things have not changed much over the centuries. Paul's balance is between "youthful lusts"and "righteousness, faith, love, and peace". We are to run away from one and run towards the other.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks someone said that the heroes were those who ran towards the destruction in an effort to help others. In fact, emergency workers can do amazing things when they focus on the problem and not allow themselves to be distracted by the chaos around them.
We need to know what to run towards, for sure, but equally important is the ability to know what to run from. Joseph, in the Old Testament, was confronted by the temptation to commit adultery with his boss' wife. She grabbed his coat to pull him towards the bed and he let her have the coat and ran away. Joseph should be one of our heroes! We need young men and women who were willing to run from "youthful lusts". At the same time, those men and women need to have a goal to run towards. Joseph, obviously, had a goal for his life of remaining pure and honorable. The society we live in doesn't seem to respect honor and purity anymore. Pray for a return to solid moral values in our society. If we're going to be pure it's going to be done because of…
Our obedience. Listen while I read the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:22, Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,…
In order to express a sincere brotherly love we need to have purified our souls by obedience to the truth.
On the night before Jesus' crucifixion he said to Pilate, "I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate's reply to Jesus was simply, "What is truth?" Jesus didn't answer him at that time but he had addressed the question earlier. When Thomas asked him, "Lord, we do not know where you're going. How can we know the way?" Jesus answered him with these words, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
A sincere brotherly love is accomplished by a purified soul acting in obedience to the truth. That love must never be passive! We're not called upon to "feel" love we are called upon to willfully choose to love! Our love must be an…
Active Love. Expressed in…
Brotherly affection. Listen while I read the words of John found in, 1 John 4:20-21, 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.
Since God is love, and he comes to live in the life of every believer, it would be very natural for love be the standard of Christian Fellowship. In his letter to the Colossians the apostle said that we are to put on love because it binds everything together in perfect harmony. Every Christian church should be known in it's community as a place where love resides. John recognized that it is impossible to truly love God and hate his brother. James expressed the same idea when he said, "(the tongue) is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things are not to be so." (James 3:8b-10) We are to actively love one another with brotherly love. There once was a time when, at least in a Baptist church, men would be called "brother" and women would be called "sister". Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song about it:
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
You will notice we say "brother" and "sister" 'round here, It's because we're a family and these are so dear; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, I'm not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
That song expresses very well the attitude we should have for one another. It's impossible for us to like everything about everyone but we can love them and know that God will change them, or us!, as we grow closer to being like him day-by-day. One way we express our love is by…
Actively honoring them. Listen while I read, Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Remember, Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve. He took the lowest place rather than the highest. In the upper room he washed their feet and that was the job of the lowest servant in the house. Peter was embarrassed that Jesus would wash feet. As you probably know, I am president of the board at Core Values. One of the things I do regularly as part of my work there is to haul the trash that cannot be put in the dumpster. A while back I found myself hooking up the trailer alone. A friend came by and saw me and asked to help. As we were going to empty the trailer he said to me, "A man of your stature shouldn't be doing this kind of work." I assured him that this was simply something I should do because of the call of God in my life.
We are to actively honor other people and seek to pick them up rather than put them down. We must always consider other people as important because they too are made in the image of God. We're not just to be active in honoring others we are to exercise…
Fervent activity — lukewarm won't do. While John was on the isle of Patmos he received a message to be given to seven churches. At the beginning of the letter there was a personal note to each of the seven churches. Listen while I read from the message to the church in Laodicea, Revelation. 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. …"
Notice that Jesus seems to commend "hot" or "cold". On a cold day it is nice to have a hot drink. Maybe, cocoa or coffee or tea, but usually we like it "hot". Any time I have ever heard a sermon on this passage of Scripture it is always about the need for us to be "hot" in our service for the Lord. But here John quotes the Lord Jesus is saying that we are to be "hot" or "cold". On a hot dry day most of the time people desire a cold drink. So, comfortingly hot or refreshingly cold is what we want. Well, that's what God wants too! Lukewarm just won't do! I am told that Jesus may have chosen this illustration because it would be understood very well in Laodicea. The church there was familiar with the hot springs and cold springs in the vicinity of their city. There also is lukewarm springs that were offensive to the taste.
We are to show a genuine love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are to aim at such love, we are to pursue such love, and, we are to do it out of obedience. We are to actively love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are to show honor to others in the body of Christ, and, we are to be fervent in our love. When we do that the result will be a…
Joyful Love. Which is...
A fruit of the Spirit. Joyful love is part of the fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
I believe it would be proper to understand this passage as saying that the fruit of the Spirit is love. Such love is expressed in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Jesus taught us that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Two commandments, in the words of Jesus, express the entire law and the prophets. Total love for God and selfless love for neighbors are the basis for all the rest of it.
For several years I worked with my Dad in the heavy equipment business. One day I was approached by a salesman hoping that we would buy his lubrication products. He saw that I had in my shirt pocket something attached to a cross because the cross hung over the side of pocket. He questioned me about it. He quickly turned the conversation towards the necessity of keeping the whole law. He belonged to a group that worships on Saturday and believed that was part of the process of salvation. After all, one of the 10 Commandments says to keep the Sabbath day holy. I listened to him and told him I would be glad to talk to him next time he came through. I went to the Lord in prayer and asked what I should share with him. Jesus' statement of the two greatest commandments was one of the passages. The other was found in Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Paul lists four commandments not ten. And the four he lists does not include keeping the Sabbath day. Then he adds to it love your neighbor as yourself because love does no wrong to neighbor and is the fulfilling of the law. Paul understood that with the change in the priesthood there was of necessity a change in the law as well.
Love that is the basis of the fruit of the spirit has been…
Poured into our hearts. Listen while I read, Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
We are not ashamed of the hope that we have, which has been produced by endurance and character. We are not ashamed because this joy-filled love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us! Think of it! We don't have to work up the love or any other aspect of the fruit of the spirit. In fact, we can't work it up! It is gifted us by God and we should accept the gift and begin to life it out in our day-to-day activity. Our love is genuine because his love is genuine. You see we're not reflecting something that we have learned or inherited from our parents. Instead, we are reflecting something that God has given us! All who receive Christ and believe in him are given the right to be called children of God! And, if we are children then we should reflect certain character traits of the family. We should rejoice in our active love for our brothers and sisters in Christ…
As God rejoices in doing good. Listen while I read from the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 32:40-41, I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
Most Christians, and the vast majority of people in the world, are totally unaware that the God who created the universe, placed mankind in the garden of Eden, delivered him from his sin through symbolic sacrifice, guided him throughout history, and sent his son to die on the cross for our sins, is a God of love! We sing a chorus written and performed by Third Day and it goes like this:

Your love, oh Lord, Reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide,
I will lift my voice, To worship You, my King,
I will find my strength In the shadow of your wings

Love produces joy every time. The love of God is poured out on his people in the Lord Jesus Christ. Love is the greatest expression of our faith. First Corinthians 13 sheds light on the kind of love we are to have. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; love is not arrogant or rude. Love is not self-centered nor is it irritable and resentful. Love rejoices in the truth and not evil. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes in all things, endures all things. Love is eternal because God is love and he is eternal. Remember, God rejoices in doing good to his people! And, it is the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. Have you felt the goodness of God? Do you need to come to him in repentance?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

God's Gifts to His Church 121118

Romans 12:3-8, For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Some people seem to think they are God's gift to the world. That's one side of the coin. The other side is that some people, perhaps we could say many people, think that somehow they are God's curse on the world. In other words they think of themselves as being without worth. As we've studied Romans we've seen that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Further, we've seen that the wages of sin is death. Too often we stop short at this point and fail to recognize that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. In today's passage Paul calls on the believer to think with sound judgment. We who are Christians need to confess, about ourselves, that we are children of God and are equally worthy in Christ Jesus. We're not to put ourselves above others instead we are to act as our Savior did. Jesus said that anyone who would be first among us must be the servant of all. He himself washed the feet of the disciples and said we are also to serve in that way.
I don't intend, today, to talk about the individual spiritual gifts given to believers. Instead, I want to talk about the grace behind the gift as it is given to the Apostle Paul, and to us, and then the gifts themselves. Perhaps at a later date I might take each gift and talk about how it applies to the church, but not today.
So let's begin with…

The grace given to Paul. Paul began this letter with a statement about himself found in… Romans 1:1, listen while I read, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,...
For a part of Paul's life he was known as a persecutor of the church. He arrested men and women and caused the death of some of them. He called himself a blasphemer and an insolent opponent of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, because of the mercy of God, and the grace that God poured out upon Paul, he became instead…
A servant of Jesus Christ. During the last recorded trial of Paul in the Book of Acts he told his own story. He said that he had left Jerusalem with arrest warrants to go to the city of Damascus. He planned to find the believers in this new faith in Jesus Christ and drag them back to Jerusalem for trial. On his way, he was struck down by light from heaven and heard a voice speak from that light. The voice asked, "Why are you persecuting me?" We find Paul's dialogue with this voice in, Acts 26:15-18, And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Paul could never say that he was not warned by God! From the very beginning he was told that he was appointed as a servant and a witness. He could understand from the statement, "delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles" that he would be in need of deliverance. He was blinded as a result of the brightness of the light. He spent three days in total darkness to help him understand that he had been in spiritual darkness. Part of what he was told was that he was being sent to open the eyes of his own people as well is those of the Gentiles. Not, of course, the physical eyes but instead he would open spiritual eyes. He would bring people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. He would do this as a servant of Jesus Christ. A servant who is…
Called to be an apostle. Listen while I read Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,…
Notice that in this list apostles are first followed by prophets, evangelists and shepherds and teachers. We can understand that the apostles were first in point of time because they were the ones who followed Jesus. Twelve apostles were chosen by Jesus to be with him and learn from him. Paul wasn't one of those twelve but Judas was! The eleven who remained immediately chose a successor, Matthias, and he was numbered among the twelve. From then on, in the Book of Acts, he is recognized as one of the apostles. Since Acts is inspired by the Holy Spirit, as is the rest of Scripture, his selection was okay with God. But God still had one more man to add to the group. That man was, by his own testimony, a blasphemer, a persecutor and an insolent opponent of the church. Later, Paul would say that he was not worthy to be named as an apostle because he was a persecutor of the church! But when he found others boasting of their "apostleship" Paul asserted that he was not inferior to the "super-apostles"! He humbled himself, supported himself, and preached the gospel without charge. Yet he was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the apostle to the Gentiles and he was…
Set apart for the gospel. When Paul was struck down on the Damascus Road he was brought into the city of Damascus totally blind. God showed him in a vision that a man named Ananias would come to him. Then God told the man, Ananias, that he was to go to the street called "Straight" and seek out a man named Saul from Tarsus. God assured Ananias the Saul was praying. But Ananias knew that Saul had come there to arrest the believers and he protested in fear. Let's pick up the story in, Acts 9:15, But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.…"
Yes, Paul was set apart to the gospel! But it didn't happen on the Damascus Road, and didn't happen later in Damascus, it happened a good while before. Paul later came to understand, and stated to the Galatians, that God had set him apart before he was born.
God revealed his grace to Saul of Tarsus and changed him into Paul the Apostle who traveled across the Roman world planting churches and winning people to faith in Jesus Christ. He was God's chosen instrument! He was appointed to carry the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, people he had been taught all his life to hate! He would stand before kings and proclaim the gospel and he would stand before crowds of Israelites and do the same thing. Saul, the Pharisee, had persecuted the church. He found himself later being persecuted by the Pharisees. But that only happened when God allowed it as part of his greater plan to bring the gospel to Rome. So that Paul could later write to the Philippians sending greetings from all the saints and especially those of Caesar's household! You see, as a prisoner of the Emperor he would be guarded by the Praetorian Guard. In his years in chains in Rome he met many at the highest levels of the Roman government and some of them became Christians because of that contact. God ordained Paul's imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. God often ordains circumstances in our lives that seem at the time to be painful and frustrating but they result in God's best. Remember, we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Don't let difficult circumstances draw you away from our Lord and Savior. He has a purpose and a plan for everything that comes into our life! So let's look at…
The grace given to us. There are two kinds of grace, common grace that affects all people and special grace, or saving grace, that affects those who place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! First we will look at…
Common grace. Let's look at the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5:44-45, But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
The goodness of God brings people to repentance. His common grace lets the sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
I am reminded of a story of two farmers whose farms lay side-by-side. The soil was pretty much the same and of course the weather would be the same. One farmer was an atheist who believed that he got everything by his hard work. The other farmer was a devout Christian who believed that he got everything by God's grace and goodness. Being as self-centered as we are we would usually think that, of course, the Christian farmer's crop would always equal or exceed that of the atheist. One year, when they brought their produce to market the unbeliever had a much larger crop than the Christian. Boastfully he said, "I suppose you know what this means don't you?" The Christian brother replied, "Yes, I do, this means that God doesn't settle his accounts in September!" God's common grace comes to all people, in all places, all the time.
Common grace influences saving grace in a number of ways. If it were not for the grace given to carpenters and other builders there would be no church buildings. If it were not for the grace given to farmers, fishermen and ranchers there would be no food on our table. Apart from common grace given to bookbinders and printers there would be no Bibles.
On the other hand, saving grace has brought people to the place where they can bring positive influence on society. In other words, people who have been influenced by special grace make a very positive change in the world they live in and affect the common grace of all those in society influenced by the church. The rewriters of history would write out of all the textbooks the tremendous influence Christians have had throughout history. Establishing democratic government, ending the slave trade, providing medical care for the poor, etc. etc. would not have happened without the Christian church. There is common grace for all. For the believer God has special grace or…
Saving grace. Listen while I read, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,...
A lady by the name of Julia Johnson wrote a hymn that teaches us to be grateful for grace. It goes like this…
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, yonder on Calvary's mount out poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.
The second verse goes like this:
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, what can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide; whiter than snow you may be today.
The third verse leads us to worship the marvelous grace of God!
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe; all who are longing to see his face. Will you this moment his grace receive?

We were not saved and called because of our good works! We were saved and called because of God's own purpose and grace! Look back at 2nd Timothy and see the remarkable statement. Grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began! The grace of God abolishes death and brings immortal life to light through the gospel! We should never cease to praise the God of heaven who wrote our names in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world! And when he bestowed that grace upon us he also bestowed…
Grace gifts. Paul gives a list of gifts in Romans 12 verses 6-8; but Peter cuts to the chase. Listen while I read 1 Peter 4:10-11, As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Remember, "each" has received a gift. And I venture to think that each one has received more than one gift. Spiritual gifts are given, not for the thrill of the fill, or to benefit the recipient of the gift. Spiritual gifts are given to serve one another! Speaking and serving is the way Peter saw the gifts. When you speak, remember that the Spirit of God dwells in every believer and whatever we say or do is to be for the glory of God. And when we serve others remember, we do not have to serve in our own strength we serve by the strength that God supplies. In everything God should be glorified through Jesus Christ! Gifts are not given to individuals for the individual's use instead God gives…
Grace gifts to the church.
Gifts that are Powered by one Spirit. Turn to first Corinthians chapter 12 and listen while I read 1 Corinthians 12:11, All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
There is only one godly spirit. But there are many spirits. The spirit world is either of God or of Satan. We are to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. And then glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in the use of the spiritual gifts he gives to us. It doesn't matter what gift we have. It only matters that we have the giver of the gifts. And He gives the gifts…
For the common good. Look back at verse seven 1 Corinthians 12:7, To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
The same message that Peter gave — gifts are to be used to serve one another. We are to be good stewards of the gifts that God gave us using them always for the common good!
There seems, to often, to be an emphasis on the gifted person. It would appear sometimes, in some circles, that spiritual gifts are given to enhance the popularity of a person and to increase their importance in the church. Nothing could be further from the truth! Again I say, gifts are not given for the person, gifts are given…
To build up the church. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 14:26, and listen while I read, What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
This follows a lengthy presentation about spiritual gifts in chapters 12 and 13. Some have taken the idea that Paul is criticizing the church here. I don't take it that way at all. He is simply making a statement, when they come together one has a hymn, another has a lesson for teaching, one has a revelation, another a tongue or an interpretation. He's not saying this is good or bad he's just saying, "it is what it is". In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul goes to great lengths to show how important it is for us to remember that we are part of the body. We are each individually members of the body and as such must do what is good for the body. In chapter 13 he goes beyond all the self-centeredness of spiritual excess and comes to the heart of the matter. There he tells us that if he, himself, had all the gifts and excelled in them all and had no love he would be an empty shell of no value to himself or anyone else.

There are many gifts of grace given to the church. Eight gifts are listed here in Romans chapter 12. In first Corinthians chapter 12, nine gifts are listed. Peter, on the other hand, refers to speaking and serving as gifts of the spirit. There are many different opinions about spiritual gifts. I don't enter into controversy about this because it is just foolish to waste our time arguing with each other about things that only God understands.

The most important gift of grace is salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and it is a gift of God. We are not saved by our works of righteousness. Instead, works follow after salvation — at least the works that count follow after salvation. Have you put your faith in him? Have you felt God's Spirit tug at your heart? If you have, you need to step out, come up front, and make a public confession of your faith. Jesus said that if we confess him before men on earth he would confess us before the Father in heaven. This could be your time of salvation.

All Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shepard's Haven of Rest Ministries

Cherlyn and I just got back from a weekend retreat with Charlie and Suzanne Grigsby of the Shepherds' Haven of Rest Ministries.

We stayed at the Cornerstone Victorian B&B in Warrensburg New York. The retreat began on Thursday at dinnertime. We got to know three other couples who had come to share the blessing. One couple was a pastor and his wife from our association. Another couple came from a neighboring Baptist Association. And one couple are Youth for Christ Missionaries in Honduras.

Everything was provided for our comfort. Breakfast at Cornerstone is always unique. Doug and Louise are the host family at Cornerstone Victorian. Louise prepares breakfast with delicious fresh baked goods along with granola and side dishes. Coffee, tea and other drinks are always available. Each room has its own bath and is graciously appointed for guest comfort. On Saturday morning we had a very special five course breakfast that was a real treat. Suzanne Grigsby prepared lunch and supper. She is an excellent cook! On Saturday night we went to a nice restaurant nearby. Again, everything was paid for for us.

(The following is copied from:

The purpose of Shepherds' Haven of Rest Ministries is to provide a ministry of spiritual help and encouragement to pastors and wives (including staff members and wives) that serves to rekindle the fires of their passion for God and ministry as well as their love for each other.

To renew their spiritual lives, their walk with the Lord, their marriage, and their ministry through worship, relaxation, solitude, counseling, and encouragement.

To refresh their bodies, minds, and spirits.

To refocus their sense of God’s calling and purpose for their lives.

To restore their passion for God, for their marriage, and for ministry.

The long-term goal of the ministry is to help curb the dropout rate of pastors and to see men serve the Lord in power and joy.

Each couple who are invited to attend are asked to relax, enjoy the area, and be present at supper with the other guests. All expenses are paid for or provided for by Shepherds'. Haven of Rest. The one other "requirement" is to spend an hour or two with Charlie and Suzanne so they will understand how to pray for you and your ministry. The prayer time with very special and uplifting.

We attended church Sunday morning with the host family, the Grigsby's, and the missionary couple at New Hope Baptist Church in Queensberry, New York.

We added new eternal friends and were refreshed and encouraged. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a SHOR retreat I hope you do so.

Waylen Bray

Saturday, November 3, 2012

God's Good, Acceptable and Perfect Will 121104

Romans 12:1-2, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is a familiar passage of Scripture. It is used in many ways to teach so many wonderful things. Most teaching seems to "rush" into the living sacrifice that we are urged to be, or, the renewal of the mind that comes from nonconformity to the age and the transformation it brings about. I don't want us to miss God's mercy. After all, God's mercy is what Paul uses to appeal to us. In fact, I fear that we very often forget that we are only here by God's mercy and grace. There is a large emphasis in the Bible on mercy! Man's response to the mercies of God should be an unhesitating surrender and a willingness to seek a renewed mind.
We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Other places in Scripture refer to our bodies as, a temple of the Holy Spirit, God's field or God's building. Peter referred to us as living stones being built up as a spiritual house. All of these examples point us to the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, in the life of the believer. We are bought with a price and that price was Jesus' death on the cross. We are not our own we belong to the living God. If you are a Christian, you came to know God through his kindness. Often the presentation of the gospel seems to focus on some kind of trembling fear of God. We should be respectful in our awe of God but not trembling in fear, unless, of course, we have sinned and not sought forgiveness. I loved my parents, now I love their memory, and respected them. Only experienced fear when I knew what I deserved for what I had done. Then I asked for mercy — not justice! We should be aware that we have salvation only because of…
The mercies of God. Anytime we are in trouble we need mercy. Mercies…
Are needed when we are in distress. Listen while I read, Hebrews 4:14-16, Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Mercy is one of the primary characteristics of God. We need to remember that God has many aspects of his character. We cannot just use one characteristic, or a set of characteristics, that we are comfortable with. We must include them all. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology tells us, "God’s whole being includes all of his attributes: he is entirely loving, entirely merciful, entirely just, and so forth. Every attribute of God that we find in Scripture is true of all of God’s being, and we therefore can say that every attribute of God also qualifies every other attribute.".
The Bible does not present two Gods, one for the Old Testament and the other for the New. God is always the same. He is not presented as a God of wrath and then later is a God of love. All of his attributes are with him all the time. The so-called God of wrath in the book of Genesis rescued Lot and his family from Sodom, before its well-earned distruction, because he is a God of mercy. We should not hesitate to call on God when we are in need.
When in need we should ask. Look what happened when two blind men sought mercy. Listen while I read, Matthew 9:27-31, And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Other words for "mercy" are: "compassion" or "kindness". The dictionary defines compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. A number of times in the Gospels Jesus is referred to as having compassion on the people. In other words, he had a deep feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the problems the people had and had a willingness to do something about it. Here we find Jesus having compassion on two blind men who followed him home. He asked them about their faith. Did they believe that he could heal them of blindness? They answered, "Yes, Lord". And they were healed according to their faith. Then we see Jesus asking them to not spread the news about their healing. Immediately, they told the story everywhere they went.
As we have already seen…
Mercies are part of God's character. Look what Paul called God in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort! Granted, in order to get our attention God will gladly allow us to be uncomfortable. Humans need very much to know that they need God. I can assure you, God has put into every person's life enough discomfort to make them seek after him. Sadly, it seems that the majority of mankind push back and rebel against God when confronted with God-given affliction.
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort has a plan that includes our affliction, or sufferings. Once he has delivered us, and moved us in the right direction, his plan involves our being able to comfort others with the same kind of comfort that God has comforted us with.
His mercy is to give us comfort but it's not all about us! We benefit immensely but we are to pass it on just as we received it. The Bible says we are to become…
A living sacrifice.
"Living" implies active not passive participation. One of the greatest dangers to the church is passivity. Listen while I read, Romans 8:12-14, So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
We are debtors! Yes, our debt before salvation was enormous. All have sinned and the wages of sin is death! But, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord! You see, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He became our substitute and atoned for our sins. A man named Elias Crum wrote a little, but powerful, gospel song: He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And, now, I sing a brand-new song "Amazing Grace", all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!
Yet, we are debtors! We owe our eternal life to Christ. As a result, we must take an active part in living the Christian life. The Spirit alone doesn't put to death the deeds of the body. Romans 8:13, says, "if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. We are not to be passive, instead we are to be very active in paying our debt. We are to be a "lively" sacrifice not a passive one. Our sacrifice is…
Acceptable to God because it is holy. Listen while I read, Colossians 1:21-22, And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Once we were alienated and hostile in mind but now we are reconciled to God. That reconciliation was worked out by Jesus Christ on the cross. He took our sins in his own body and nailed them to the tree. With his death he buried them in the grave and rose again leaving them there. Just as God had promised in the Old Testament to bury our sins in the bottom of the sea, and Corrie ten Boom said that he posted a "No Fishing" sign there. Further. he said he would put our sins as far away from us as the East is from the West. And the distance between East and West is infinite. Our living sacrifice is holy and acceptable to God because HE made it holy. Not because WE have made it holy! It is the God of peace who sanctifies us completely. He is faithful He will surely do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:24-25) When we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) We are holy and acceptable because he has made us so!
If we could have made ourselves holy, then God is unjust and we know that is not true. Why do I say that? Because in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39) If we could have made ourselves holy then Jesus died for nothing. Clearly, he was saying that if there was any other way to atone for the sins of mankind that way should be taken. The fact that the Father let him go to the cross is evidence that there was no other way.
We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is…
Your logical, spiritual worship. Presenting ourselves to God is an act of worship. Listen while I read, Romans 6:12-14, Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Paul goes on say, in the next few verses, that we choose who we serve either sin or righteousness! We are to present ourselves to God. There is no middle ground. Either we serve God resulting in righteousness and life or we serve the flesh resulting in unrighteousness and death.
Verse 14 gives us one of the greatest promises in Scripture. Sin will have no dominion over you! Some days, I know, this promise sounds hollow because we have stumbled into sin again and can't seem to shake it off! But the promise is sure — sin WILL HAVE NO DOMINION over you! Remember, he who calls us is faithful he will do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
When we present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, it is our reasonable, logical, spiritual worship. The result will be that we are not conformed to this world but instead are transformed by the renewal all of our mind. Now what is A renewed mind?
This age is ruled by the enemy. Everyone is born in need of a renewed mind. As part of the world we were subjects of Satan. See what Paul told the Ephesians in … Ephesians 2:1-3, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Writing to Christians in Ephesus, Paul could use the past tense, "you were dead", because by grace they had been saved. Before salvation they were subjects of the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself!
In Romans 12, when Paul writes about our not being conformed to this world he is not talking about the material universe. A much better translation would be that we should not be conformed to this age. This age is ruled by Satan. Hallelujah! There is coming of age entirely ruled by God! But we live in the now — not the then. Everything around us seeks to shape us, to conform us, to the spirit of the age. We are not to present ourselves to sin or to the desires of the body and the mind like the rest of mankind. We are to present ourselves to God as subjects of righteousness. We must not be conformed to this age.
Not conformed to this age. The world is too much with us. Conformity to the world is a dangerous thing. Listen to Peter's injunction. 1 Peter 1:14-16, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Have you ever wondered why an unbeliever just simply doesn't "get it" when we try to share our faith? Peter hits the nail on the head! We are not to be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance! We are to be obedient children trusting in our father in heaven to guide us into his righteousness day by day. We are to be holy in all our conduct.
I know, we are saved by grace not by works. But we forget too readily that the same passage that tells us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast." Also tells us, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Yes we are saved by grace through faith that is a gift from God! When we were created anew we were created for good works! Those works can't save us but they are evidence that we are saved.
All of this is the work of God. All of our righteousness acts, apart from him, are like dirty clothes at a dress-up party!
When we surrender, and Christ becomes our Lord and Savior, then he begins a process of Transforming us from glory to glory. We begin with the glory of God and we are moved on to greater glory. Listen while I read, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
We are being transformed! That's what that feeling is we do something wrong or even think a bad thought! That's why we feel guilty about things we never felt guilty about before we became a Christian! We are being transformed! We once were a caterpillar crawling on a leaf then a process began, for some it is a long time, for others, it is very quick! Then we emerge as a beautiful butterfly!
Peter's counsel to us is to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. That is the process of Christian maturity.
Just as in the physical realm, a person is born a baby. And no one expects anything else! In the spiritual realm we are born immature, spiritual babies. Sadly, some Christians never seem to grow much beyond the the day of their salvation. I'm sure God intends for all of us to grow in grace and the knowledge the Lord. Remember, once a person is born from above, his nature is already Christlike. But that new nature is infantile in maturity.
I quote from Bill Gillham's book, Lifetime Guarantee. He is like an oak sapling that can mature into a fully grown, fruitful oak tree. He is not half oak and half briar bush. I reiterate, just as an oak sapling does not get oakier as it matures, neither does a new creature in Christ get holier, more forgiven, more accepted, etc. Through obedient faith, as he begins to live consistently with his new nature, he will mature more and more into the image of Jesus.
If anyone is in Christ Jesus he is a new creation! Not, he will become a new creation! At salvation, we do not become a little bit Christian, and then, little by little, become more and more Christian. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Once that blessed event occurs we begin to grow spiritually. The glory of God comes upon a person at salvation. And then, we begin the process of being shaped like him. It is not always, or even often, a joyful, painless, process.
There's a story about a great sculptor who stood before a huge piece of stone. He was asked by person standing nearby, "How do you know what to do with the stone?" The sculptor answered, "It's really quite simple. You see, this block of stone is going to become a horse! Now, all I have to do is chip away everything that doesn't look like a horse!" That's a preacher story, and it may have happened and it may not have happened but it makes the point very well anyway.
God takes us in our unsaved condition and, by his grace, through his gift of faith, he makes us a new creation! Then, spiritually, he begins a process of chipping away everything that doesn't look like Jesus! We are being transformed into the same image. God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29) We are made to die to our old nature so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11) John tells us that we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but when he appears we shall be like him. (1 John 3:2) This is really a continuation of the promise that sin will have no dominion over us!
We can present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is reasonable, logical, and spiritual worship because it is not our works that makes us holy and acceptable it is the work of God! He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Old 100th, or, The Doxology, should flow from a heart that has seen the mercies of God, then has been offered up to Him as a sacrifice, and been transformed by a renewed mind. If you've never surrendered your life to Christ. Please, do so now! Now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation! If you have surrendered your life to Christ but have never made a public confession of your faith I urge you to do so now. We need to let the world know where we stand.
All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.