Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 25, 2014
For several weeks now I have been promoting our upcoming four week church membership class that will begin next Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. Because of this upcoming class, I have decided to take another break from preaching on the Sermon on the Mount to talk about the Biblical foundation of Church Membership. At this point, I would guess that there are some of you who are inwardly groaning and you are thinking to yourself, why didn’t we skip today, and this is exactly why a sermon on Church Membership is necessary.
As I was pondering this topic, I decided that there are at least three groups of people in our Church when it comes to membership.
The first group of people are the ones who do not like the idea of membership. It rubs you the wrong way. In fact, today you may leave and discuss whether Cornerstone is the place for you. For you prefer the loose connection, autonomy, independence. You would rather be a lifelong attender, but never a member. Perhaps you see membership as old school, that we have moved beyond membership, and to something better in this day and age. Or perhaps you believe that Christ is worth following, but you could take of leave the Church.
The second group of people are those who believe that Church membership should be automatic, that anyone and everyone should be on the roles. Or that if your parents were members, then you are a member. That membership is free for everyone, almost like a rotary. If you pay your dues, you should be welcomed.
The third group of people are the ones who don’t care. If I were to guess, this would include the majority of you. These are people who haven't really thought about Church membership. It is something that you could take or leave it. Church membership is not something you have thought much about. You are not for it or against it. You have a “whatever” mentality. Maybe you will be a member, maybe you won't You will just wait and see how you feel next Sunday night.
If you were to ask me, I would say that over my life I have found myself in all three groups at one time of the other, but I want everyone to know that all three of those groups are wrong. Church membership matters, and it plays a significant role in the New Testament.
With that said, I want to spend a Sunday talking about the Biblical design of Church membership for Christians, and to argue that it is not optional for born again believers. That's right, I said not optional. In my reading of God's Word, I do not see where one can make an argument that Church membership is voluntary. I believe the evidence of the necessity of Church membership is overwhelming, and as I say over and over again, here at Cornerstone we want to be Bible people. We want to submit to all that God says, and we want to do it not because we have to, but because we love God and want to obey Him, for His Glory and for our good.
The text I will use to launch our discussion is Matthew 16:15-19, however, like always, I will be all over the New Testament. Therefore, let us read our text, pray that God would soften our hearts to His will, and see what Christ has to say about this topic.
So how is it built? Jesus tells us.
The “this” is Peter’s answer to the question of who do you say Jesus is. This is the main point of the entire passage. Jesus is explaining this new thing called Church and telling them that the Cornerstone of this structure is the understanding of who Jesus is.
So right away, we see that being a Church member is not automatic. It is not something you can sign up for like you sign up for a card club. Being in the Church is determined by God revealing to you who Jesus is. If you deny Jesus is the Son of God, then you are not in the Church. If you do not believe Jesus is the Christ who came to take away the sin of the world, you are in the Church. If you believe Jesus is one of many ways to God, then you are not in the Church. A church member is not determined by walking in these doors, it is determined by Christ himself. Remember, it is he who builds His church. Jesus is not talking about building, he is talking about people.
Having said all this, here is the tricky part. Who has God chosen to reveal His Son to? When God turns the light on in someone’s heart and they place their trust in Christ alone for their salvation and submit to Him as their Lord, there is not a halo that all the sudden, appears above their head. Jesus does not hand out jerseys that say, “The Church” that we can wear around town. How do we know who is in and who is out? The same way Jesus did. You ask.
The best analogy that I have seen for this is by a guy named Jonathan Leeman in his book Church Membership. He compares the local church to an embassy.
If I am in India and I lose my passport, I have to go to the American Embassy. The embassy is an outpost of America. It is in the midst of foreign soil, but inside the gates is US territory. For me, the purpose of the American Embassy is not to make me a citizen, but to vouch for my citizenship. They testify to the reality that I am a US Citizen.
The local Church acts in the same way. Cornerstone Church does not grant people citizenship in Heaven; this is not the local Church’s role. The local church’s role is to be an outpost for God’s People in the midst of foreign soil. The local Church is to vouched for Heaven’s citizens. When God saves a person, and they are wondering around in the world, the begin to look for fellow citizens. One day they arrive out our front doors and they realize that there is some commonality, so they want to join our Church. The Church then asks them, who do you say Jesus is? If they answer like Peter, then we vouch for them. We declare to the world that this person is one of us, that they speak like us, they think like us; they love like us; they are part of our family. We testify that they are a citizen in Heaven.
The way we achieve this conversation, is through Church membership. For everyone who wants to be a member, you will have to proclaim who you say Jesus is. Just like Jesus, we are not taking it for granted. Peter had to speak it, and you will have to speak it. If this is enough to scare you off, then that may be evidence of your lack of citizenship in Heaven.
Having said this, the local Church's acceptance of your citizenship in Heaven is only one side of the coin. Not only does Church membership give an opportunity for the local Church to proclaim something, but it also give the individual something to proclaim also. Turn with me to Acts 2:42-47. This is the first picture we are given of the early Church.
Right away what do we see in this text? Devotion. The Greek word for this is proskartereō. In addition to meaning devoted it can also mean adherent, steadfastly attentive, to be constantly ready. The early church was not casual, or nonchalant, about Church life, they were serious. It was important to them in their life. So what were they devoted to?
First of all they were devoted to the apostles' teaching. The people in the early Church committed themselves to be Bible people. By joining the Church they were enrolling in God's University. That meant they were submitting to authority in their life. They were agreeing to be students under a teacher.
When you become a member of a Church you are committing to the same. You are enrolling in the class that meets regularly in this building, taught by Elders of this Church. You are saying teach me, guide me, help me know more about the immeasurable riches of Jesus Christ. This is a hard thing for many people to do, because it requires humility. For you are saying that when I am wrong, you need to correct me, you need to admonish and rebuke.
The word we use in Church lingo is accountability. Unfortunately, in many Churches accountability has gone out the window, with the rest of the Bible. But this is one major aspect of Church, teaching people to think and live in a way that is consistent to who you are in Christ. I think it is interesting that the only other time Jesus talks about the Church, he talks about Church discipline. He does this in Matthew 18. He says that if a person is sinning and they won't repent after one person confronts them, and they won't repent after a small group confronts them, the the matter must go before the Church and if they still won't repent, then the Church is required to kick them out. Once again, when you become a Church member, you are telling a local body of believes to help be Christ-like, even to the extent of Church discipline.
Second, we see them devoted to fellowship. The early Church was together. Verse 46 says they were together every single day. The shared not only a common interest in Christ, but they shared themselves. They literally sold their stuff, so they could give to to others in the Church. This was a group of people who deeply cared for each other. Doesn't it sound awesome? Unfortunately, for many Churches, this is not the picture. Churches are regularly plagued with apathy. People show up late and rush out early. Some people go weeks, and sometimes months without coming to Church. Very few people every socialize with others in your Church, perhaps you will invite you neighbors over, or your co-workers, but someone at Church? No thanks.
Third, we see prayers. How many of you are praying for this Church? Why not? Because you are not committed to a people, you are instead committed to a schedule. Church is about Sunday morning, it is not about the faces you see. When we look around this room you should not see acquaintances, you should see your brothers and sisters. This is your family. Pray for them. This is another thing we see in the life of Christ. He prayed for his flock; early in the morning and late at night. Praying for their protection. We must do the same. Once again, when you commit yourself to a local Church you are saying that I will pray for you. I care for you. I want the best for you. I love you.
Becoming a Church member is so much more than than a title. It is so much more than a certificate. It is so much more than a line on a resume. It is devotion to pursing an awesome God with those you love.
Acts 2 as it relates to membership is just the tip of the iceberg. Becoming a Church member is about using your gifts that were given to you by God to build up and encourage the body of Christ. Being a member is about crying and rejoicing. Being a Church member is about rebuking and admonishing. Being a Church member is about being a family. A Christ-exulting, Bible believing, devoted family. Doesn't that sound good? I hope it does, and I hope all of you see that Church membership is not about committing to an institution, but to a people.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 18, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 6:1-4. Today we are, once again, examining our hearts and we are looking at our motivation for doing good deeds. The timing of this sermon could not be better in light of Cornerstone's recent mission trip to Martin County, Kentucky.
As I was preparing for this week's sermon, I ran across a quote from CS Lewis who was responding to a critic concerning his lack of caring for the Sermon on the Mount. This is what Lewis stated,
“As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledgehammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.”
What a great Illustration by Lewis. The moment in life we stand a little higher and stick out our chest a little more, God's Word comes along and puts us in our proper place, flat on our face before God. God's Word cuts us open like a surgeon's blade and and shows us our sinful flesh. Therefore, with that said, let us read the sharp words of Christ, pray, and let the great physician work upon our souls.
In Chapter 5, we saw Jesus laying out what it looks like to be a real, authentic Christian. Each week as we have unpacked Jesus' sermon verse by verse, it has hopefully led us to one conclusion, we need Jesus. We can see this best in last verse of chapter 5.
Thankfully, he gives it to us freely. We merely have to place our faith in Him, and it is ours. Hopefully, the last three months of preaching on the Sermon on the Mount has expressed that fundamental truth to you, over and over and over again, and you have accepted it.
Having said that, in chapter 6 we see a slight turning of the page. In chapter five Jesus proclaims to us no to be angry with a brother, don't lust, don't get a divorce, don't take hallow oaths, don't retaliate, love your enemies, be perfect, and then Jesus in our text today says. “beware.” Jesus, after pointing out how a true born again disciple lives, warns them. What does he warn them about? Jesus warns them to not to let the righteous pendulum swing too far. Why does Jesus do this? Because he knows the heart of man.
Leaven is an ingredient that is put into dough to make it rise. It is something that is foreign to the bread and works its way through the entire dough, and with the passage of time, this leaven reacts with the dough and produces gas, or air, and the bread becomes puffed up. It is still the same bread, but it now appears much greater than it really is, because it is now full of empty air.
Once again, what a great illustration of what Jesus was warning his disciples about. For the leaven of the pharisees is a man made, made centered, man pleasing religion. It puffs up the chest of a person and makes them look greater than they actually are. It included sitting in the best seat, praying the greatest prayer, giving the most money, hanging out with the right crowd. The pharisees were all about pleasing man, not God, and this was the primary problem Jesus had with the Pharisees. Jesus starts by saying:
In this day in age, I fear our communities are filled with hypocrites, people performing for people. Not only that, I fear that Church is most fertile soil to produce this hypocrisy. We are a people who are told to be like Christ. We are to be pro-life, have a fish sticker on our car, listen to 101.9, and go on Mission trips. All of these things are good things, but the real question that should always be in our minds is why, why are we doing these things? Are we doing it for God's glory, or for my glory.
This question regularly runs through my mind as a pastor, but not often enough. For each minute I spend working on sermons, blogs, and Bible study preparations, is it because I love God, or is it because I love your accolades, the praise of men. Do I read God's word to impress you, or because I hunger and thirst for more of God in my life. I confess, there are times after posting a sermon on the website and sharing it on facebook, I look to see how many likes it gets. Who cares? The only thing I should be concerned about is was God pleased with what I said, and how I said it.
As I was thinking about examples of this in the Bible, the one text that comes to my mind is the scariest set of verses in the Bible. We have talked about them several times here at Cornerstone. Interestingly, it is how Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount. He says this in Matthew 7:22.
They were doing all the right things, for all the wrong reasons. The prophesying, the casting out, the mighty works was for the applause of men, not the love of God. These people were list keepers. You can almost see them reaching into their back pocket ready to recite to Jesus how awesome they were. You almost have to wonder if Jesus was thinking about Isaiah 64:6 when he spoke these words.
So what are we to do? Are we to be ninja Christians, sneaking around, lurking in the shadows, hoping that no one sees you do something nice. Absolutely not. Don't forget that Just several verses earlier, in the same sermon Jesus said this.
Is Jesus schizophrenic. Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth? No. Remember, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is always about the condition of your heart. If you take our text today, and make it a rule to follow, then you are no different than the pharisees. For they were just rule keepers. Every teaching of God, they turned into a rule, and added it to the list. Jesus is not about rules, he is about your heart.
The issue before us today, is not who sees you help the needy. The issue is why are you helping the needy. What is the reason behind what you do? Are you helping the needy for your glory, or are you helping the needy because God's light has illumined your heart and it radiates out into everything you do?
Do not assume that your actions come from pure motives. The heart is desperately sick, nothing good dwells in our flesh. I believe it would be wise if we regularly checked ourselves and asked ourselves some hard questions before we become a good Samaritan to our neighbor. As a Church, I think we need to ask this question before we reach out into the community. Are we doing it because the love of God compels us, or are we doing it because it is good marketing? Don't get me wrong, I look forward to the day when our Church picks up their shovels and their rakes and goes from door to door in this town helping those in need, but I want nothing to do with if it is all about us.
I want it all to be about Him! I do not want the people to come in contact with the darkness of man in the wretchedness of our pride. I want them to be blinded by the light of Jesus pouring out of our hearts and into their homes. I want to them to say one thing and one thing only. To God be the Glory!
With that said, how do we achieve this? What should be our motivation to achieve this? The reward of God.
First let's star with the reward. What is the reward that Jesus is talking about? To answer this, let us look at Jesus himself and see what his motivation was to giving to the needy, specifically giving to the needy by dieing on the cross for us.
The reward for you and for me is for God to be pleased by our actions. This is the greatest joy available to us in the Universe. The joy you feel when someone on this earth slaps you on the back and says nice job, is mathematically immeasurable compared to the eternal joy of the Creator of the Universe saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To exchange the praise of God for the praise of man, is pathetically illogical, so don't do it!
Which leads me to what you exist. By this time, regular attenders of Cornerstone should know what I am going to say. We exist to glorify God. This is why God created us. This is why you breath. This is why you work. This is why you graduate. This is why you get married. This is why you have children. This is why you eat and why you drink, to give God glory. If you don't like what I just said, then you are not a Christian, and Hell is waiting to receive you. God made you to give Him glory.
Having said that, nothing is more glorifying of God, then to live your life with the ultimate purpose to please Him. There is no greater glory that can be given to God than to perform for an audience of One, God. This is why God has cast you in his play. You are created and designed to live for Him. He has placed you on this planet to do His will, not the will of you and not the will of people.
Living for Him, pleases Him, and it not only pleases Him, but it gives you the greatest joy imaginable. So let us examine our hearts this morning and ask ourselves, why are we here? Are we here for others or are we here for the Sovereign God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on Mary 11, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 5:38-48. Today we are turning our attention back to the Sermon on the Mount. Prior to Easter, we were examining the words of Jesus' famous sermon verse by verse. I have to admit, as much as I loved to preach the explicit Gospel over the last three weeks, I have missed finding the deeps treasures in Matthew 5-7.
In our text today, Jesus shows us what Kingdom love looks like. We will very quickly see that this love Jesus is describing is foreign, or alien, in this fallen and broken world. We will see that this love is a radical love. So as always, let us read our text, pray that God would open our hearts, and then allow God to mold us into Christ-likeness.
Your biggest problem in this world is not your circumstances, it is not your finances, it is not your relationships, it is not your government. The biggest problem that you have in your life is you. You are the problem. Likewise in my life, my biggest problem is me. To use a common phrase, “I am my own worst enemy.”
Why can I say this? Why do I feel comfortable pointing the finger? Because the Bible is my source. We have examined these text many, many times.
At the center of all of these versus lie our hearts. At the core of your heart is your self. We are the problem.
The question is, what is going on in our hearts when we do the sinful things we do? Yes, we know that we are sinners, and we are separated from God and we are desperately sick spiritually, but what is happening? I think the best verse to explain this is James 4:1.
Another word for what James 4 is describing is entitlement. We believe we are entitled to stuff. We believe we are entitled to comfort. We believe that we are entitled to respect. We believe we are entitled to honor. We believe we are entitled to respect. In fact, we don't just think we are entitled to all these things, we demand it. When we don't receive these things we are upset. We are offended. We kick and scream and complain and retaliate. It is as if we are spoiled little Kings and Queens yelling, “Off with their heads.” And this is the problem that Jesus is addressing in our passages today. It is the problem of self. It is the problem of self-centered-entitlement. It is the problem of the world.
Now that we know what problem Jesus is addressing, let us now take step back and understand who Jesus is preaching to. Let's start by looking at verse 45.
These descriptions are not description of the citizens of the world, they are descriptions of citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is preaching not to those who dwell in the dominion of darkness, but who dwell in the dominion of the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and make no mistake, these two groups of people live differently, or at least should live differently. There should be something very distinct about followers of Jesus.
What is interesting about these two groups of people, those who are worldly and those who are children of God, is that geographically they live in the same physical territory. The Kingdoms simultaneously coexist. For example, this sermon was for the disciples, yet on that mountain that day there stood both believers and unbelievers. There was a mix, and this is is still true today. This reality is all part of God's plan.
The response stands at a stark contrast to the initial action: turn the other cheek, give him your cloak as well, go with him two miles, give your money away. These responses are night and day different from the evil response. They are almost the opposite. Explicitly, Jesus tells us that we are not to resist the evil. We are suppose to accept what is dished out.
And if that was not enough, not only do we have to not resist the evil that is dished out, we are to love and pray for the people who dish it.
What is crucial for us to understand is that Jesus is not asking his disciples to do something that he is not willing to do. This is exactly the life of Jesus when he walked the earth. He is the ultimate example of this lifestyle. His own town rejected him and attempted to throw him off a cliff, but he did not retaliate. He was mocked by Herod, Pilate, Roman guards, the Sanhedrin, and he opened not his mouth. With holes in his hands and feet, thorns in his brow, his flesh torn open, slowly suffocating on a cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How wild is that? Jesus was praying for the people who, not only struck him on the right cheek, but who were accomplices to his murder. This is radical love. This is love that the world does not have. This is love that is blinding as compared to the darkness of revenge, and this is their King of the Kingdom.
I love that we have a King who fearlessly leads the way. He does not sit back and tell us to do something that he has not already done. He is a King who rides into battle, leading the charge. He loved to the fullest, even unto death. This love is a love that the world had never seen. It is a scandalous love. It is an explosive love. It is a radical love, and it is the love that our King wants us to have filling our hearts.
How? How can we display the same radical love as our King. How is it possible to be like Christ? There is only one way, we must be born of God.
Verse 8 goes so far as to say that if you don't have love, then you don't know God. And we are not talking about intellectual know, but intimate know. Meaning that if you don't love, then you are not his child. It is impossible to be God's child without having love. Being born of God and loving as Christ loved are inseparable.
So this begs the question, how do we become born of God? We must deny ourselves and trust Christ.
We must lay down our lives, so that we can save our lives. We must die to self and live for Christ. When we stop living for ourselves, we will stop acting like the world and stop feel entitled. No longer will there be fighting and quarreling, because it takes two to tango. If one person refuses, the fight is short lived. When Jesus becomes you greatest treasure, someone stealing your coat is insignificant.
A guy by the name of George Muller, who was a mighty follower of Christ said this: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame of my brethren and friends and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” If you get a chance do some study on George Muller. This man wreaked of love.
This is what people don't get. People love to proclaim love, and hold up peace signs, and sing songs like “We are the World,” and “All We Need is Love” yet they don't get it. Love is not something that is manufactured by jingles and ad campaigns. Love is not something that can be conjured up in a sinners heart. The heart is desperately sick. No matter how hard you try to love, you can't. The only way this world is filled with love is through repenting and placing your faith in Christ Jesus. Love is a fruit of abiding in the vine of Jesus Christ.
So what happens when people start to love like Jesus loved? Simple, hearts are changed. When we live like Christ and radically love those who are unlovable, mountains are moved and sinners become saints. Why? Because when the citizens of the Kingdom of God act like their King, the world is coming into contact with the King himself. And it is the love of Christ that can break hearts of stone.
I can't recall what book I read this story from, but it moved me. There was a young man in a village who became a Christian. As you can expect he was full of joy and excitement and he wanted to share the Gospel with his family and his village. He went to his village and began to share the message of Jesus Christ with them. The immediately began to beat him. The beat him so bad that they knocked him out and drug him outside the village. He awoke and thought to himself he must have wrongly shared the Gospel or perhaps they just misunderstood, so he went back to them and shared the Gospel again. They did the same thing. They beat him up and drug him outside the village again. Once again, he woke up and went back a third time to share Christ. They began to beat him again, and then they stopped and they began to cry, for they recognized that whatever had captured his heart and gave him the radical love that compelled him to come back over and over again, must be worth listening to, so they did, and his entire village was saved. Why? Because of the love of Christ that dwelled in his heart and was poured out onto the lives of his family and friends.
Have you done something like that? Could you do something like that? What if all of us lived a life as radical as that young mans? What do you think would happen? Revival is what would happen. If we denied ourselves and followed Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit then hearts would break and people would not only hear the Gospel, but they would see the Gospel. They would not be able to deny the evidence that the God of radical love dwells in our hearts.
So let us commit to follow Christ. Let us die to self and live for Christ. Let us lay down our entitlements and be filled with the love of Jesus Christ and let us live like him.
Preached it Richardson Missionary Baptist Church in Martin County, Kentucky on May 7, 2014.
This evening I would like to preach from John's Gospel, chapter 17, starting in verse 13 and going through verse 20. If you have your Bible's, please turn with me there. We will read our text, pray that God open's our hearts, and then we will feed upon His Word.
What is our purpose? What does Jesus want from us? What is his will for our lives? In this text Christians find the answers to these questions. We see the plans that Christ has for us.
When you dwell upon what is unfolding in John 17 it is somewhat overwhelming. In this section of the Bible we are seeing an amazing picture of the Trinity in action. Jesus is with his disciples on the night of his arrest in the upper room. He has already washed their feet, dismissed Judas, spoke of the new covenant, implemented the Lord's Supper, encouraged his followers, and preached an amazing sermon. John spends five chapters writing about this special evening. One has to wonder if this was one of the greatest nights in John's life. I suppose for John it was bitter sweet.
In chapter 17 we see Jesus finish the evening in prayer. It is the longest prayer of Jesus' that is recorded in the Bible. We know that Jesus prayed frequently, usually late into the night and early in the morning, but we are never given a window into the prayers themselves, that is until now.
What do we see? We see intercession. Jesus is speaking to God for us. The Son of God is addressing His Father on our behalf, for our good. In that moment, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, he is praying for you.
So what does Jesus pray for? First he prays for protection.
Oh how we need this prayer. We are in a state of war, and our enemy the devil is prowling around us like a Lion waiting to devour us at any sign of weakness. Looking for a small little foothold to sink his claws into and bring you to the ground. No one is immune to the attacks of the Devil, not even Peter.
Oh, the power of prayer. We have a God who hears us, do we not? He desires us to call out to him. To lift up our voice for our brothers and sisters. To intercede on their behalf. So are you? Are you praying for your spouse, are you praying for your Pastor, are you praying for your children, are you praying for your fellow Church members. Satan desires to sift every single one of them, don't sit by idly and watch, hit your knees and pray before you hear the roar of the lion.
The second thing we see in the prayer of Jesus is sanctification.
This word, sanctify, is just a fancy way of saying being Holy, or being like Christ. At the time of Jesus departure, the disciples were far from who they needed to be. There was still work to be done in their hearts. Yes, they were followers of Jesus, and yes they had left there homes, and yes they had walked side by side with Christ for three years, but perfect they were not. Just a few hours after this prayer, their scattering upon Jesus arrest was evidence of this. No there was work that needed to be done, and Jesus knew it, so he prayed for it. He prayed that God would sanctify them in his truth.
What an interesting prayer. Jesus desires his disciples to be more like him and he says the key to being more like Him is to have knowledge or understanding of what is true. There is something about “getting it” that makes you behave in a way that Jesus behaved. Why is this?
I think the best way to understand this is a parable that Jesus used in Matthew 13:44-45
And this is why truth, knowledge, understanding is so crucial in sanctification, in becoming more like Christ. Because the more you mine the riches of the Gospel, the more you lay aside every hindrance and weight and more freely run the race that God has set before you. The more you see Jesus clearly, the more you wake up to the reality that Christ is all you need.
How do we do this? How can we be sanctified in the truth? Jesus tells us as plain as day, “Sanctify them in your truth, your Word is truth.” Where do we find the truth, the knowledge, the understanding of the worth of being a child of the King? The Bible.
This is why Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “"'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" This is why the author of Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” This is why Paul tells the Church in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This is why Paul tells Timothy and Titus to rightly handle the word and teach what accords to sound doctrine.
They key to sanctification is the Bible. This is what Jesus prayer for you, to read you Bible. Jesus wants you to read your Bible. Every day, multiple times a day. Soak in it, study it, wrestle with it, grow in it. Do not be spiritually malnourished, eat the bread of God daily.
Of course this begs the question, for what purpose. Why do we need to be sanctified, why do we need to be equipped? What good work are you talking about? This is the third thing we see Jesus pray for.
If those 11 disciples in the upper room did not obey Christ and go and make disciples, we wouldn’t be here today. Them being sent and subsequently obeying is the beginning of all Christianity on the planet. I don't say this in vain when I say, Thank God that they obeyed. If they had instead saw the great commission as the great suggestion, we would all be doomed to Hell.
With that said, how many of us have been obedient? Jesus is sending you, just as he send them. How may of you have taken the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, schools, state? If you haven't, what are you waiting for?
Jesus has prayed for this moment. Jesus has prayed has asked God to protect you, sanntify you and has already sent you, so let us go.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 4, 2014
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Today will be the third week we look at this particular text. Some of you may be asking why? The reason is because it is saturated with piercing and convicting truth, and at the core of this passage is the Gospel, and there is no end to the unsearchable riches of the Gospel. Today we are looking at 1 Corinthians 15 with the lens of evangelism and missions. So let us read it, pray, and ask God to give us His vision.
The person who wrote this text is the Apostle Paul. I cannot think of anyone else in the Bible that is more Biblically radical than the Apostle Paul. You can get a sense of this in our text today. Look at verse ten.
The question then becoems why? Why was Paul the way he is? Why did he risk so much? Why was he so driven, so radical? Paul tells us why: God’s Grace.
But what does Paul mean when he says it was the grace of God that was within him? Is he simply waxing poetically? No. When you receive the gospel through believing the Gospel, something changes in you. Jesus calls it being born again. Paul calls it being a new creation or passing from death to life. In the moment of having faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God comes and lives in your heart. Let me say that again in case it didn't sink in. The Sovereign God of the Universe, who makes stars explode, comes and lives in your heart. Listen to these verses:
When we repent and believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God comes into our lives in a way that flips our world upside down. We go from being a slave to our sinful passions and pleasures, to slaves of God. And yes, I truly mean slaves of God. We are His possession, we are his people.
With all this said, what did Paul do? What were his works? What was his primary purpose of his beatings, shipwrecks, and stoning? It was preaching the Gospel.
I am not trying to be mean, or polarizing with this comment, but how many places in the Bible have you read of Paul or any of the other disciples partaking in mission trips digging wells, or building schools? Perhaps they did, and it never made it into the Bible. Don't misunderstand what I am saying, those things are not bad. We should be good Samaritans, no doubt about that, but is that the main things, or the only thing we should be doing in this world? Is this what Jesus meant when he said go and make disciples, did he really mean go and make schools? Absolutely not! Remember what we talked about two weeks ago. What is the most important thing to every human on the planet, the Gospel.
This week, read through the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the story of the early Church and its significant growth in the first 30 years of existence. In the 28 chapters of Acts, you see one common and strategy for Church growth, preaching of the Gospel.
Perhaps you have heard it said that the book of Acts should be retitled the book of the Holy Spirit or the Acts of the Holy Spirit. This reason for this is because it is in the book of Acts you see for the first time the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers.
With that in mind, what you see in the book of Acts is not a book filled with speaking in tongues, or miracles in every chapter, or wells being dug, and schools being built. What you see all over the place is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this makes sense, because the Gospel is the Holy Spirit's favorite topic. Listen to what Jesus says in John 15:26.
I think it comes down to, do we trust the Gospel. Do we believe 1 Corinthians 15, do we believe Romans 1:16, do we believe the entire book of Acts, do we believe Jesus. Our King does not hide the ball from us. He tells us what our mission is. He tells us how to expand the borders of his Kingdom, it is not by digging wells, or building schools. It is by testifying about Jesus Christ and him crucified.
We must proclaim it in our homes, in our work places, in our neighborhoods, on facebook, in Kentucky, in India. If you are a Christian, this is the primary reason that God has left you here on this planet, to proclaim the Gospel.
However, in addition to your testimony, on your seats is what is called a tract. In my opinion, this tract is one of the simplest and perhaps best ways to explain the Gospel. It is simple, it is true and it is easily learned. Take this tract home and memorize it. Memorize every word of it, the scriptures, the pictures, and the explanations. Then practice. Practice in the mirror, practice with your brothers and sisters, practice with me. Then go and do it. Look for opportunities to weave threads of the Gospel in your conversations and see what stage God sets for you. I think you will be amazed how simple and how powerful it is.