Sunday, September 18, 2011
Sermon from August
I preached at Rocky Mount Baptist Church about a month ago, and Pastor Jeffrey Robinson posted my sermon on their web page. If you want to hear me preach, feel free to check it out. The sermon is on John 11. Here is the link: What Does Worship Smell Like ? Comments are welcome!
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Keys to Christian Fellowship, Philippians 2;1-4
Keys to Christian Fellowship
•A couple of weeks ago we addressed Acts 2:41-47 and asked whether or not we are complacent or committed
•In Acts 2:42, we saw that the early Christians committed or devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship and the breaking of bread, and to worship.
•Last week we talked about devotion to God’s Word, and this week we will look at some keys to fellowship
•The church in Acts spent time with each other and worked diligently to meet each others’ needs
•Today we want to ask how we can develop a similar fellowship
•The church today is a bit more focused on separation than on unity or fellowship
•We focus on minor details that lead to division
•While God calls us to focus on more important things
•Diversity doesn’t have to lead to a lack of unity or fellowship
•We don’t have to try to divide ourselves over minute (and possibly unnecessary) details
•We don’t have to be all alike, but we should strive to have the same mind and be like Jesus
•Our passage today discusses true Christian fellowship
•In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul gives us two keys to Christian fellowship:
1) Solid Resources
2) Right Attitude
Let’s look at our passage
1) The Resources
•Philippians 2:1—True fellowship is founded on what Christ gives. The resources for fellowship are fourfold and are founded on our horizontal relationship with God through Christ
a) Encouragement in Christ
b) Consolation of love
c) Communion of the Spirit
d) Affection and Compassion
•Paul lists these four resources in “if” statements, but these should not be read as hypotheticals. They should be read as “since” statements. Paul thinks that the Christians in Philippi had experienced these
a) Encouragement in Christ: Have you gotten anything out of following Christ?
•The word for “encouragement” here has a similar root to the word Paraklete, which is used to describe the Holy Spirit as one called alongside to help (John 14:16-17)
•The word can mean “exhortation” or “encouragement”
•When life gets unsettling and we are shaken, Jesus is our foundation and stability (1 Cor. 10:4)
•The idea here is that our relationship to Christ is a source for encouragement
•Christ is our sufficiency
•He is our foundation
•His work of grace encourages us to share his love
b) Consolation of love: How has Jesus’ love made a difference in your life?
•His love is an example
•His love comforts us
•His love controls us
•“Consolation” has the idea of comforting someone who has experienced grief or loss
•Strained relationships or lack of fellowship gives a sense of loss to others
•The love of Christ is a means of overcoming loss
•The love of Christ can mend strained relationships
•God does not abandon those who grieve, he intensifies his love and concern for them (Hebrews 13:5-6; Deut. 31:8; Joshua 1:5)
•Love does not depend on the other person’s response (Rom. 5:8)
•Love expresses itself without expectation of recognition or even acceptance
•Love simply loves
•We should abide in and tap into God’s love in our relationships
c) Communion/Fellowship of the Spirit: What does being in communion with God’s Spirit offer to us? What does it mean to you?
•Communion or Fellowship of the Spirit is a two way street
•It has a horizontal part—we receive God’s Spirit and learn to have communion with God through his Paraklete (1 Cor. 12:13)
•It has a vertical part—we share with others as God shares with us (1 John 4:20)
•Being in communion with God’s Spirit should be revealed not only in personal holiness or “spirituality,” but also in how I relate to others God brings in my life
d) Affection and compassion: Since we have the resources above, we should have a heart and care for others (John 15:17)
•Affection and compassion flow from a proper understanding of our foundation in Christ (1 John 4:19-21)
•Jesus loved even when he was offended
•He showed compassion even to those who hated them
•How can I act any differently?
•If I have tasted Christ’s affection and compassion, I should be marked by the same kind of life
•These resources give us the basis or foundation for true fellowship
•But for true fellowship to happen, we need a right attitude
2) The Right Attitude
•Philippians 2:2-4—Paul reminds us that Christian fellowship flows from a proper attitude or mindset. In these verses he offers two basic attitudes we must adapt: 1) an attitude of unity, and 2) an attitude of humility
•In truth, you cannot have one without the other
•True fellowship is revealed in unity, not necessarily uniformity
•We need to be “like minded,” but not mindless drones
•Paul gives us three requirements for unity
a) The first requirement for unity is being like minded or having the same mind
•The idea is that we think on the same important things—our focus is on the same Lord
•The idea here is not that we agree on every little detail of doctrine, but rather that we should approach life with the same biblical or Christ-like worldview
•This is the mindset of loving God and loving others (Remember Acts 2:41-47—they met each others need and worshiped together)
•This is how Christ lived (Matthew 20:26-28; Mark 10:43-45)
•We will never agree completely on doctrinal issues, but we can agree on the importance of Christ
•Major on the major issues, not the minor ones
b) The second requirement is a shared love or a shared heart (1 John 3:11-12; 16-18)
•This speaks of the love of God and love for others that we mentioned above, but more importantly it refers to God’s love for all of us as expressed in Phil. 2:5-8
•Acts 2:44-45 is a great example of this love expressed in real life
•We must have the love of Christ as our central focus as our most heart-felt way of life
•Without the same love, we will never have true fellowship
c) The third requirement is to be one in spirit and purpose
•The Message says it like this: “Be deep-spirited friends”
•The idea is something like being “same souled” or even (to some degree) being “soul mates”
•This is such a deep unity that we are unanimous in our love for God and others—our respect for each other will know no bounds
•A. T. Robertson describes this kind of fellowship as being “like clocks that strike at the same moment.”
•Think of a football team—many positions with one goal
•We need a shared heart, a shared mind, and a shared goal
•This is the attitude Paul wants for the church, but to accomplish it we must learn a bit of humility
•The world in which we live espouses a self centered approach to life: “Assert yourself” or “Build up your own self esteem” and even “Don’t let others take advantage of you” is the primary approach to living a “full life”
•Such an approach is not only self-destructive in many ways, it is also the opposite of the life to which God calls us
•The attitude that Paul espouses here is one of humility
•It is the idea of lowering myself to serve others
•It is the idea of putting someone else before me
•Paul tells us that this attitude of humility will reveal itself in how we see ourselves and how we see others (Ephesians 4:1-3)
•How do we see ourselves?
•Paul calls us to have “lowliness of mind” or to be careful how we think of ourselves
•This was not the typical approach in the first century—Paul turns this negative in his day into a Christian virtue
•We must learn humility
•Augustine: The mark of true religion is humility
•This means we must remove from ourselves any self-seeking or high minded or selfish ideas (Col. 3:13-14)
•We must be humble
•Of course, how we see ourselves affects how we see others
•Serving others requires me to see them as important, and humility helps
•How do we see others?
•Paul calls us to think more highly of others than we do of ourselves
•He encourages us to think about the other person and his needs and interests rather than just think about things from our own perspective (Acts 2:44-45)
•How do we get there?
•First, we must admit our pride
•Second, we must follow Christ’s example
•Finally, we must obey God’s Word
•We must consider others, not just ourselves
•If we want true fellowship, we must put God first and others second
•How then do we respond? What can we do this week to build true fellowship?
•First, we must make sure we are on the right foundation, we must focus on the resources that God has provided us. This requires us to spend time with the One who provides these resources. Make sure this week you are tapping into the Source by spending time with God and his Word.
•Second, we must act on what we have heard. Where can you practice true fellowship this week? In what situations can you show Christ’s humility and grace? Put into practice the right attitude Paul discusses. Put others before yourself. Practice humility. Do not focus on your own interests only, but find creative ways to focus on the needs and interests of others.
•True fellowship is not easy, but what a blessing it will be if we practice what God prescribes!
Thanks for reading!
Thursday, September 01, 2011
What's the Good Word? The Importance of the Bible
I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on August 21, 2011. This lesson focuses on the need for Christians to be devoted to the Word of God by looking at the importance of Scripture and the impact it has (or should have) in the life of a Christian. I hope you get something from it! If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
What’s the Good Word?
The Importance of the Bible
A couple of weeks ago we addressed Acts 2:41-47 and asked whether or not we are complacent or committed
In Acts 2:42, we saw that the early Christians committed or devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship and the breaking of bread, and to worship.
We mentioned that the devotion to the apostles’ teaching today would translate into a commitment to the Bible
Since the teaching and writings of the early apostles came from the Old Testament and in many ways became the New Testament, for us as Christians today to be committed to their teachings means we must have a commitment to God’s Word
This commitment requires knowledge and action
We must know the Bible
This requires time
The truth of Scripture will not simply enter our hearts by osmosis, we must go looking for them
We must act on it
Obedience is not an accident
As we learn God’s truth, we must do it
Today I want us to consider the importance of God’s Word by looking at four truths about the Bible
1. It is the inspired Word of God
2. It is sometimes difficult to understand
3. It is powerful
4. It must be studied
So, what do you know about the origin of the Bible?
1. The Bible is the Inspired Word of God
2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is inspired by God”
What does it mean that the Bible is inspired?
The Holy Spirit exerted his influence upon the writers of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21)—the writers of the Bible were moved by God’s Spirit to write
The Bible does not contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God
Every word of this book is inspired by God’s Spirit, yet it is written in the language/tenor of a variety of human authors
The Bible is free from error and absolutely trustworthy (Ps. 119:89-91; Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35)
The Bible is our trustworthy source of God’s self-disclosure
As a result of its inspiration, the Bible is a rather unique book
It is a library of 66 books written by close to 40 different authors
These authors were from a variety of backgrounds, some educated and some not so educated
There were farmers, fishermen, tax collectors, kings, teachers, physicians, and others
They wrote in different eras over thousands of years
In spite of this diversity, the book has a single focus—God’s revelation of himself to humanity
The Bible agrees on its primary topic—God—because it was inspired by him to reveal himself to us
2. The Bible is Sometimes Difficult
What areas of the Bible do you find most difficult? What are the books you tend to avoid?
2 Peter 3:14-16
Peter writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and acknowledges that some of Paul’s letters contain things “hard to understand,” all the while encouraging diligence in pursuing an understanding of God’s ways
Just like Paul’s letters, there are other places in the Bible that contain things difficult to understand
That is why we must be filled with the Spirit of God
God’s Spirit often guides us to a better understanding of God’s Word (John 16:12-15)
We must read the word, but we must also rely on God to help us to understand it
We should acknowledge the Bible’s difficulties rather than run from them
We cannot exhaust the knowledge of God, but we can act with obedience on what we understand—but are we?
3. The Bible is Powerful
God’s Word is living and active
How is God’s Word alive? Active?
The Word is like a scalpel, it can cut and divide and discover
Like a sword, it can separate
Like a scalpel, it can heal
It reveals to us God’s nature and our own nature (James 1:22-25)—by doing what it says, we show God’s life in our lives
It is the judge of our very thoughts and intentions
God’s Word can keep us from sin (Psalm 119:9-11)
The Bible can cleanse us (Ephesians 5:26; Psalm 51:2)
God’s Word is a seed of life, producing the redeeming life of God in us when we respond in faith (1 Peter 1:22-25; 1 John 3:9)
The Bible is our nourishment and spiritual food for us (1 Peter 2:1-3)
Like natural food, it can strengthen us and empower us for life in God
God’s Word, like the promises of God, are certain and true and will accomplish all the God intends (Isaiah 55:10-11)
When God speaks, things happen. God’s spoken revelation (his Word) contains what every human heart needs to flourish with a garden of God’s virtues and grace. The Word provides life and nourishment (cf. Luke 8:4-18)
4. The Bible Must be Studied
2 Timothy 2:14-15
This verse is a command, not a suggestion
Studying the Bible, digging into its heart and soul, accomplishes several things
As we act on it, it keeps us from being ashamed
Reading and heeding its instructions helps us avoid worldly and vain chatter that leads to ungodliness
It makes God’s will known to us and show us how we ought to live
As you study the Bible, ask:
Who is speaking here?
To whom are they speaking?
What is the main principle or truth revealed in this passage?
How can I apply this to my own life?
Reading the Bible is fine, but we are called to cut a straight path in our study of the word
We are called to diligence in plowing into God’s Truth, the Bible
Since we are commanded to be diligent in properly understanding and obeying God’s Word, the application is rather obvious—we need to spend time with the Bible
This does not mean that we can be content with merely reading what the words say. We must learn to dig deeper. As Luther said, “I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb--study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.”
We must study Scripture like Martin Luther, taking it as a whole and interpreting its pieces as thoroughly as possible. Remember, the Word can never mean what it never meant. We must keep it in its proper context
This week I want to you spend an extra 15-20 minutes a day not simply reading the Bible, but studying it and digging deep into it. To help facilitate that, here are some on-line resources that may help:
These resources are not exhaustive, but they are pages I trust
The most important thing this week is to be diligent in properly understanding God’s Word and then acting on what you learn
What we really believe, we live. All the rest is just religious talk. (Peter Lord)
Will we live what God says?
Thanks for reading!