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Ephesians 4:2

I hope you all are doing well with your reading plan and especially with your memorizing of scripture. This week’s and next week’s are particularly exciting memory verses because we are learning, with last week’s verse, a set of three verses found together. When we memorize a bit larger section of scripture we get all the benefits of memorizing scripture that we already spoke about (see Memorize It, for examples and tips on memorization), along with the added benefit of more depth of content and some additional context. This week’s verse is a great example of both of those points.

Last week we were urged to walk worthy of our calling, this truth is profound in and of itself. Yet, the verse this week speaks to that calling giving us a greater depth of insight. Some times when we think of that calling we are urged to think and act upon in verse 4:1 we get high minded thinking “I have been called to this great thing” or we get bold thinking “I have God on my side” or we get brash thinking nothing shall stop me nothing will hinder me” (p.s. we say words like “shall” and “hinder” when we get really noble).There is not a period at the end of verse 4:1 so we know that verse 4:2 relates to it in some way. Verse two warns us to walk worthy with humility and gentleness.  A worthy walk is not bold. brash, and high minded. Though the thoughts stated above, are true, I hope we see that there maybe an attitude issue there, so we are still urged to avoid that by seeking humility and gentleness.

A few translations have a semi-colon or a period after gentleness but most just have a comma. This indicates that the idea continues. The verse includes patience in how we are to walk and ends with acceptance and love. It is fairly clear that patience is directed toward accepting because that act often takes much patience. However, this section of patience, acceptance and love are all part of our urge toward calling. In other words we are to walk worth of our calling with a unique character, of humility, gentleness, and love,  all the while accepting others.

Inherent in this is that others will not be in the same place on the road to righteousness, that is walking toward a worthiness of ones calling, and some maybe on a completely different road. (Notice I said the road to righteousness not to God, there is only one road to God that is faith in Jesus). We tend to think that how we got to where we are spiritually is the same road others should walk, weather: Mission’s trips, bible studies, certain books, or youth camps. Know that we all are on our own journey we all end up in the same place but we started in different places with different struggles and issues to overcome. We also tend to forget where we came from and how far we have come. Don’t expect people to be right where you are, accept them in love with grace and humility as God does us. After all we are all much further up the road from him.

 

Give Up NOW!!

 

In Antony’s sermon on Sunday he gave us a fantastic introduction to the book of Ephesians and really to the Ephesian church. There was a point in Acts where the work in Ephesus by the church made such a profound impact upon the community around those of the church that major changes were seen. I just want to focus a bit more on of these instances.

There is a story of some people that practiced magic. When these people came to Christ they burned all of their books on magic. These books would have been education on what was a false religion and thus idolatry. Now, I know that the church has gotten a bit worked up over this idea of magic and calling everything from Harry Potter and Magic cards, to the teletubbies “of the devil”. I have no intention of elaborating on this fact other than to say we should be wise in what we expose our selves and families to because the devil is real and he does work in this world. I would also say that some times Christians go to far, and demonize things and people. There is a point of being wise and avoiding what you might see as being bad but in doing so we should be careful that we aren’t being unloving to people associated with those things. Don’t forget that loving others is just as much (and I would argue more so) a part of your sanctification as fleeing from evil is, so do both wisely.

So now that I’m sure I have everyone mad I digress. The magicians burned their spell books. Anthony did the math for us on what kind of value these books had. In really rough numbers these books were worth some 6 Million dollars in today’s money. There are two points that I find interesting about this. First is that they burned them. I have no doubt that there were those in Paul’s day, and would be today, that would suggest we sell the books and use the money for the kingdom. Judas did this with Jesus in a very similar situation. The issue here is two fold. First, God doesn’t need our resources he calls us to be good handlers of the resources we have. Secondly, if these books were sold then they would continue to lead people away from God. This goes back to loving others. If we didn’t love others we would care more about the money then we would care how it might effect others. If we cared more about people then we would give up the money for someone else’s benefit.

The second point I find particularly significant about this even is that these people made a great sacrifice to follow Christ. There is a good chance that magic was all these people knew and these books were the source of their income, and their possession of greatest value. But they gave that all up to follow Christ. To often we think that we can come to Christ and make minor adjustments in our life. But truly following Christ is a life of great sacrifice, suffering, and self denial for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t say “just add me to your life” he said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24).

The Christian life is a self denying life of sacrifice. That isn’t to say that it is supposed to all be hard and miserable but it isn’t going to be easy and super all the time either. What are you sacrificing? What should you sacrifice? What have you been unwilling to give up for the cause of Christ?

 

 

Response to the Unsaved

How do you view unsaved people? Do you look down on them as terrible people. Ridicule them in your mind. View them as something other than what you are, we aren’t all people, children loved by God, we are saved and they are unsaved (heathens). Here are a few ways people respond to the unsaved world around them.

1) Evade: Run away
We build our Christian sub-cultures where we go to a Christian book store, we have Christian friends, we only hire the Christian plumber to work on our house, we only do church social events… Etc. Many of you don’t have any Friends that are unsaved and the only unsaved people you know are at work or your neighbors. How are you going to be the light to the world if you never leave your house? Jesus went where the unsaved where. If you want to catch fish you go where the fish are.

I heard a preacher telling the story of some of the men in his church wanting to start a softball team. The preacher said sure that sounds great. The men responded that it would be really fun, they could join the local church league. To this the preacher responded no, they wouldn’t join the church league they would join the “beer” league the open league because if they were going to reach people for Christ they had to go where the people far from Christ were. The first game came and one of the players came up to the preacher and pointed to the other team saying “they are huge and I know some of those guys they cuss and drink and they do stuff you just shouldn’t do.” To make matters worse the name of the other team was the nasty boys. Well the church team beat the nasty boys, and they beat every other team in the league and won the championship. But that’s not the great part of the story. The great part is that three families from the nasty boys ended up coming to that church that very year and were saved and baptized.  If your going to be a witness of God you have to do so where someone can see you.

2) Pervade: Overpower them.
We weren’t sent into this world to make it conformed to a certain set of actions, behaviors or thoughts. We were sent into this world to be the servants, to be the slaves, to love people in such a way that they might  know the love of Christ, see our good works and glorify God in heaven because of it. Why is it that we get mad at lost people for acting lost.

3) Invade: This we do.
We Go where the world is. We Love how Jesus loved and we preach and live the gospel to every one we meet. We are intentional about witnessing in seeking someone else’s salvation. In the church if we do any witnessing, and evangelism, if we talk about the gospel at all it is often defensive. If someone where to come to you and ask how to be saved you would likely share your faith. If someone visits church or a church event we will talk about Jesus and the gospel. But we don’t need to wait for people to come to us we need to go to them. We must be offensive. WE are to storm the gates of hell. The gates of hail will not prevail we will. We will rescue people from eternal damnation. We will.

 

In God’s eyes

Anthony spoke on giving on Sunday, specifically about giving within the church.

My question is what do we give out of. Some give out of abundance, some give out of lack. Some give out of obligation others give out of guilt. God would have us give out of love. This is why God gives to us, because he loves us, so shouldn’t love be the reason, the motivation, and the inspiration for our giving to those that would have a need among us, LOVE?

Doesn’t John 13:35 tell us that love for other Christian’s is one of the greatest tools for spreading the gospel that the church has?

That being said Anthony addressed our giving from the stand point of stewardship. God has given us wealth, resources, possessions, abilities so that we can be good stewards of it. We might think that being a good steward means saving, or investing, and sometimes it does. But we once again must be reminded that the way we view somethings is not the same as how God would view the same thing and our thoughts on a subject are not the same as what God’s thoughts would be on the same subject. So what would God’s stewardship look like?

God would call us to put to use, save and invest in the things that he sees as important. The very purpose of our existence, the reason he established the church. God would have us build community, and relationship with other people. Rebecca and I have opened our home on Saturday to invite people over to have a time to glorify God. We are using our resources for God’s purposes. God would have us reach out and grow in our relationship with him. God has given us more than enough to work with the problem is, in God’s eyes, we are just wasting it on trivial things.

Adult discussion:

  1. What are you wasting your God given resources on?
  2. What do you think God’s view of your stewardship has been?
  3. When are you going to do something about your lack of obedience?
  4. What is a small step you can take to being a more Godly steward?

Family Discussion:

  1. What are somethings God has blessed us with?
  2. What are some of our resources, abilities, etc. as a family?
  3. How can we better use what we have to glorify God?
  4. What are some areas we are wasting some of what God has given us?
 

Un-Felt to Felt

In Acts 6 there is a telling illustration of the church providing for the needs of others. In fact this pursuit was such an important endeavor to the church that there was a structure established for seeing to it that those with needs have their needs meet and that this work would be done well.

The church doesn’t have another purpose or mission but rather an obligation to come together, pool our resources and see to it that those among us and as many others that we may touch are shown the love of Christ through having their needs meet. When God and his church work in this manner there is a collision between a persons felt needs and a persons primary need.

Perhaps first we should recognize what a felt need is. A felt need is anything that a person could verbalize to someone else that they need. That is to say it is something the person recognizes as a need they have. A person might say I need food or gas in my car, or they might say I need significance or a friend. The meeting of felt needs is a cornerstone in the work of the church in our community. This is especially true in the area of outreach. God has called us to have compassion on those hurting around us and because we have God we have the means to meet those needs.

On the other hand there is a much greater need than most people’s felt needs and that is their primary need. Every person’s primary need is for salvation. Many of you reading this blog have realized your need for a savior and received the one that can meet that need. However, there are many people who do not realize this need. In the work of the church we must realize that we practice humanitarian work because we love and have compassion on people, but we should never lose sight of the fact that a person’s greatest need is their need for a savior. In many ways evangelism is merely helping a person move their need for a savior from un-felt to felt.

 
 

To 2013 and Beyond

I hope We are all Excited about the possibilities that 2013 holds for New Life. We have the opportunity the ability and command to reach our community for Christ the only question is do we have the motivation.

I truly pray that we will be a church that does: see those that have been turned off to God and hurt by the church included in to an active, equipping, biblical church community.

New Life needs your help. We are all in this together. We are all part of the body of Christ and even if only a small portion of the body isn’t working it impedes the whole thing. We all have gifts and abilities that God has given us to bring him glory, to impact the kingdom, and empower the body of Christ. We all have a circle of influence that God has given us to make a difference, and be a representative of Christ.

As we move ahead it is the desire of myself and the elders that we see 100% involvement in ministry. We can all do a small part in connecting people to people and people to God. We might can be a greeter, or a children’s church worker. Maybe you can lead a small group, or teach a class for spiritual growth. There is much to be done and much that can be done to bring the most glory to God. But it is not our desire at New Life just to see church involvement rise but rather to see ministry involvement rise. We desire church to happen whether it’s as individuals or as a group. We are all called to be God’s representatives. We are all called to discipleship, community, outreach, and worship in our own lives. The church is called to equip the body to do these purposes together, and as individuals.

As we look ahead to 2013 I would like to challenge you for two things.
First how can you get involved in New Life. There are many things you could do. See any of the elders or Daniel for some ideas.

The second is how can you represent Christ more or better in the coming year.

 

3500 Churches Die in America every year. I don’t think that anyone can hear that statistic and think that that is a good thing. Perhaps there was a time that we had enough churches. But today the local church is falling further and further into a state of irrelevance. There is another shocking statistic I shared Sunday that explains by and large why these local bodies are closing up shop, and that is that only 2% of people that claim to be Christian ever share their faith.

Why Church? Some times the reason why church is so that we can feel like we don’t have to do something. I mean if we read Acts 1:8: “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” We might actually believe that we are to be witnesses, or representatives of Christ in this world. I mean what a thought. Its a good thing that we have the church so that someone else can do that instead of us. (sarcasm added)

The problem with this thinking is that even though God has not called us all to be Peter the apostle  Billy Graham, or Jerry Falwell he has called us to be his witnesses his representatives.

We are also called to be the church. So what is Church? Is it a building? An organization? NO! It’s a group of Christians that agree to partner together to fulfill the purpose of the church.

So what is the purpose of the church? Ephesians 4:10-11 says that the church is to equip Christians and seek the betterment of the Christians that comprise it. So the church has to help the individual do what the individual has been called to do. In Acts 1:8 and Matt. 28 Jesus calls his followers to tell people about him and that is what the church is to do.

Adult discussion:

  1. How much do you hate your un-saved friends, neighbors, and family?
    Why aren’t you showing them the Love of God?
  2. How much do you hate your un-churched friends, neighbors, and family?
    Why aren’t you showing them the support, encouragement, and benefit of a church community?
  3. What are we afraid of?
  4. What does the church have to offer those that aren’t church people?

Family Discussion:

  1. Who are some people we can invite to church?
    If you don’t know anyone not going to church who can you reach out to?
  2. Why should people go to church?
  3. How can people be saved?
  4. How can we show people that we love them and Jesus loves them?

 

 
 
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