Friday, September 11, 2009

A Life of Service in Christ Jesus

II Timothy 2:1-4

I. Grace is the Source of the Christian Life is Christ Jesus
A. It is a life whose strength is derived from the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,”
B. It is a life that is to be shared with many others who will share Christ Jesus.
2 “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful
men who will be able to teach others also.”
C. It will be a life with its fair share of suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
D. It is a life that is single-minded; its one pursuit is to please Christ.
4 “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who
enlisted him.”

It is the grace that is in Christ Jesus that empowers a Christian to be all that he is capable of being for the glory of God. The Apostle Paul wrote it another way in I Corinthians 15:10,
10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”.

II. Suffering is Part of our Service to Christ Jesus
A. As a good soldier of Christ Jesus, we are to suffer.
3 “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Ti 2:3 ESV).
B. To receive a grant of suffering from Christ is a high honor, indeed.
29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phi 1:29 ESV)”
C. Knowing that it is God’s will for his soldier to suffer at times only increases the soldier’s faith in this Captain in knowing what is best for His men.
19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1Pe 4:19 ESV).

III. A Life of Service is a Life of Standing in the Grace of Christ
A. With the full armor of God on, we can stand against the schemes of the devil.
11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11 ESV).
B. Our stand is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil.
12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 ESV).
C. Having all the full armor of God on, not only will we be able to withstand, but also to stand firm in the evil day.
13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph 6:13 ESV).

Who Will You Depend Upon?

There is a great battle going on in the world relative to the question: “Who can you believe: the Lord Jesus Christ or man?” Whether you are a Christian or a pagan, the question is relevant. It does matter. There are some who may disagree with the statement “…the question is relevant;” nevertheless, it is a true statement. Just for a moment, I would like for you to consider what hangs on the truthfulness of God’s Word:

I. The heavens and earth will be destroyed, but the truthfulness of God’s Word will stand: Matthew 24:35 35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

II. According to His Holy WORD , the heavens and the earth are being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly:
2 Peter 3:7 “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

III. According to God’s promises made to His people, new heavens and a new earth will be made in which all of God’s people will dwell for all eternity: 2 Peter 3:11-13: 11 ¶ “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

You have a choice, Pilgrim. You can either choose to trust God at His Word and live your life for Jesus while on this earth, or you can choose to reject Jesus and His Word and live your life for yourself while on this earth. What you must understand is this: the choice you make on this earth has eternal consequences. Those people, who choose to live their lives by the Word of God, will live in a state of anticipation and holy resolve. They know lives of holiness and godliness do make a difference to God. They know this because God’s Word states it so: v.11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness.”

On the other hand, you can live your life for yourself. Do you really want to base your future on yourself or on what man says? You don’t know what is going to happen in the next five minutes of your life – nor do you know whether you will be here on this earth, or standing before the judgment seat of God. Does it make sense to depend upon the changing values of mankind, which change from generation to generation? Or does it not make sense to depend upon the Word of God, whose character and integrity comes from the God Who spoke the very Word of God?!

Concerning your soul and your destiny, who will you depend upon: God or man?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Pastor/Teacher

11 "And he gave … the shepherds and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 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,
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."
(Eph 4:11-14 ESV)

In other bible translations (KJV, NKJV, NAS, etc) the phrase “the shepherds and teachers” is translated “pastors and teachers.” The Greek word ποιμένας (Eph 4:11 BGT) doesn’t look familiar to us. But when you look at the Latin Vulgate, you will find a word that does look familiar: pastores (Eph 4:11 VUL). It is an easy step into the English language to find the plural noun – pastors.

So, why have we taken the time to give this little lesson in word origins? It’s simple. Without the clear understanding that a “Pastor” is really to be a “Shepherd,” then God’s people will not clearly understand what to expect from their Pastor. Stay with the above text and you will see how the meaning helps you understand what a Pastor does.
1. Instead of being the janitor, the church-greeter, the hospital visitor, and the driver to youth camp, the Pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
2. Instead of building up his own power base, to secure his own ministry, and to guarantee good financial packages, a Pastor is to be “building up the body of Christ.”
3. A Pastor is to be focused on growing God’s children into strong people of faith, knowledgeable in the Word of God to the point of reflecting Christ Jesus in every aspect of their lives.
4. A successful Pastor is one who has fed God’s people on the whole counsel of God; their lives will not easily be swayed by false teachings or crafty schemes that continually come down the denominational turnpike. The Pastor will have trained God’s people to test everything by the Word of God – to be good “Berean Christians” (Acts 17:10-11).

To understand what Pastor really means is to fully appreciate what Jesus was saying to Peter in John’s Gospel:

15 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
16 He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.”
(Joh 21:15-17 ESV)

Knowing that Pastor means Shepherd, it now makes sense why Jesus would say to Peter
1. in verse 15 – “feed my lambs.”
2. in verse 16 – lit. “Shepherd my sheep.”
3. in verse 17 – “Feed my sheep.”

Along with prayer (Acts 6:4), there is no greater task of the Pastor than to “shepherd” God’s sheep, by feeding them the whole counsel of God – The Holy Scriptures!

To fail in feeding God’s people, is to fail as a Pastor/Teacher.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Will Give To Each of You As Your Works Deserve

The title of this literary piece is taken from Revelation 2:23 where Jesus is speaking to the Church in Thyatira.

18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 "'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,
23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works”
(Rev 2:18-23 ESV).

Many will be surprised when they read of this Church in Thyatira. Jesus commends them for their love, faith, service, and patient endurance – and that their latter works exceed their first. That is no mean accomplishment. Yet, for all that is right with this church, there is something terribly wrong – the practice of sexual immorality and spiritual idolatry. Is it possible that this can happen in a Christian church?

Wherever you have saved sinners filling the pews, you have the potential of having unrepentant sin in the pew as well. The same holds true for so many pulpits in today’s churches – there are pastors who have no holy unction in their preaching because they carry unconfessed sin in their hearts.

In the Thyatira Church they had a woman Bible teacher, who passed herself off as being a prophetess with special knowledge. She is leading believers away from the truth with her false teachings. This is happening in churches today. God will bring judgment against churches who put up with such false teachers in their congregations, as He did the Church in Thyatira. God will bring sickness and illness upon the false teachers and all those who follow their teachings. The Lord also promises to bring great tribulation to those churches who are committing spiritual idolatry.

God will not tolerate any of His churches to fool around with sin. The Lord made it very clear:

7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life”
(Gal 6:7-8 ESV).

God will not be mocked. And He won’t play the fool. And anyone who tries to play God as the fool is a fool, indeed. What you sow is what you will reap – this principle applies both to churches as well as to individuals.

You will reap what you sow!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Day of The Lord

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.
2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3 While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.
8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
(1Thess. 5:1-11 ESV)

What are you concerned most about in your life? Is it the economy, politics, the greenhouse effect or global warming? Or are you worried about the insanity that is going on in North Korea, our beloved troops fighting overseas; maybe closer to home – where is the next crazy person going to pop up and start shooting innocent U.S. citizens? Each of these subjects carries a certain measure of merit over which you can justifiably be concerned. But I am asking you to consider a more personal matter – your destiny.

Something of much greater import is approaching and the question is, “Are you ready for it?” In the above Scripture passage, the Apostle Paul refers to it as “the Day of the Lord” (verse 2). What is it? It is a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It will happen when you least expect it. It will be sudden and final. Once Jesus returns, there is no asking Him for second chances. Sudden destruction will come upon the person who is not living for Jesus Christ. The unbeliever will not escape the wrath of God. You can continue to sleep your life away. You can get drunk and live in a fantasy world all your own. But the fact of His Coming will not go away.

The Day of the Lord is close in two ways:
(1.) you could die without Christ today or
(2.) Jesus could visibly come to bring judgment of this earth.

The Scripture says,

27 “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:27-28 ESV).

If you die, then you face the judgment. If “the Day of the Lord” occurs, you will still face the judgment. The question is, “How will you face the judgment?” Jesus came the first time to deal with the sin of His people on the Cross. Are you of the Light or are you of the Darkness? Do you eagerly await His return, or do you try to deny the truth of it? The fact is, whether you look for Jesus to come, or deny His existence, He is still coming.

Are you ready for “the Day of the Lord?”

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Nature of Man's Will and Heart

Christians know that man’s will is predisposed to evil because man is a fallen, sinful creature. Man’s will is not separate from man’s nature. If man has a fallen nature, then he has a fallen will. And man’s will is free to act according to its nature. Since man’s fallen nature is in rebellion against God, so, too, the will of man is in rebellion against God. This is why we hear the Holy Scriptures declare:

Romans 3:10-12 10 “as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

According to the Scriptures above, no man seeks for God – it is not his nature. As the Scripture states, it is man’s nature to turn aside from God. Left to himself, lost man will never choose Christ as his personal Savior. Even Satan cannot force man to turn away from Christ Jesus. The Evil One can tempt man to reject Jesus, but he cannot make him reject Jesus. Satan knows he doesn’t have to make man reject Jesus. Man is left to freely choose Christ, but because of man’s fallen nature, man will always reject Christ. Man cannot say, “The devil made me do it,” when it comes to turning aside from Jesus’ offer of salvation. Man is responsible for his own decisions and his own actions.

Man does not choose his desires, man chooses according to his desires. Where do the desires of man originate; they originate in the heart of man. This statement is validated by an observation made by the LORD concerning man:

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5 ESV)

The average man, when given the choice between a plate of salad and a plate of French fries, will choose the French fries over the salad every time. He may say in his mind, “I desire the salad because I know that it is better for me; yet, he will still choose the French fries. Why? Because his heart wasn’t in it. It was not the desire of his heart – no matter what logic or reason his mind was presenting to him at the time. The same thing occurs when it comes to man rejecting sin and asking God to forgive him of his sins.

Man will acknowledge his sinfulness, but that doesn’t keep him from sinning. He may mentally desire to change his ways, his habits, etc. and reform himself, but he will never be successful at it. Why? Because it is NOT the desire of his heart to change. And when it comes to the heart, man cannot change it! He cannot change his heart because that change is not the true desire of his heart. As a hog loves slop, man loves his sin. His will is enslaved by the desires of his heart. Speaking of his human nature, the Apostle Paul wrote:

15 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
(Rom 7:15-19 ESV)

Paul was confessing that, even with a changed heart, though he has the new desire to not want to sin, apart from the grace of God, he will continue to sin. For by grace through the enabling faith that Christ provides you, can a person live the Christian life.

Man cannot change his heart, only Christ can. By the grace of God, man must repent of his sin and Jesus Christ will give him a new heart that will beat for God.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers

Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers

In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul warns about godlessness in the Last Days:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,
7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men” 2 Timothy 3:1-9.

We are told in verse 5 that these false prophets and false teachers will have an appearance of godliness, but they will have no real power. They are fakes, charlatans and deceivers of people who are beguiled by their faith and prosperity gospel. In verse 6 we are told they creep into households (by way of television and the radio) and capture weak women, burdened down with sins and led astray by various passions. These women go to seminar after seminar, buys CDs, videos and books, “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” They never find truth in these conferences, meetings and gatherings because what is preached and taught there (by women and men false preachers and teachers) is nothing but lies, half-truths and twisted Scriptures. They are promised wealth and prosperity, but it is the false teachers and preachers who are getting wealthy off of these poor, misguided souls.

I plead with you to listen to the words of God as recorded by Jeremiah His prophet:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” Jeremiah 23:16.

False teachers such as Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Charles Capps, Robert Tilton, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Marilyn Hickey, Paula White, Rod Parsley, Joel Osteen and many others have visions that are delusions of their own minds, and are not representative of the Lord God of heaven:

25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!'
26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart,”
Jeremiah 23:25-26.

God exposes the fact that these charlatans did not get their teaching from God, but they are simply repeating lies and stories that they have heard from one another:

30 “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another.
31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the LORD.'
32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD”
Jeremiah 23:30-32.

The only people who profit from their heresy and blasphemous teachings are the false teachers and preachers themselves.

We need to heed Scripture’s warning to be good Berean Christians (Acts 17:11); Christians are to make sure that a Bible verse is being taught correctly in light of the whole counsel of God:

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve”
Romans 16:17-18.

God warns His shepherds to

“…hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers…
11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” Titus 1:9-11.