Setting Our Priorities for 2022

Welcome to this last Sunday of 2021, as we look forward to and make plans for 2022. My message starting point is Acts 20:22… and you may be thinking, I see what you’ve done there… 2022, anyway, let’s look at what Dr. Luke writes. Paul is addressing the Ephesians elders in this chapter…

Acts 20:22 – And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

Just as Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago, we are also setting out on a journey into 2022, not knowing what is in store, other than we continue to be a part of a world that doesn’t care much about the God we serve or want him to be found anywhere in the public square. Christians are prime targets for negative press, especially after there has been some sort of public failure done by some mega-church or a high-profile popular pastor. Sometimes the church gets a black eye because of how church people behave. I pray every day for my integrity and Christian witness to match my personal faith.

For much of the world, the gospel still is illegal or brings significant persecution in many parts of the world. According to Open Doors USA, their World Watch List for 2021 has information on the top 50 countries where it is difficult to follow Jesus. Most of the persecution comes from communist oppression, local clan oppression, and Islamic oppression.

So, to put this into context, Paul set his priority to go to Jerusalem in spite of what awaited him there. But for most of us, we just want to be a faithful witness for the Lord making a difference in our circles of influence. Basically, we want to bloom where we are planted. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, we will never make a difference in our culture if we don’t embrace the mission of Jesus with intentionality.

The Great Commission and the Great Commandment will not manifest itself in our lives by accident. So, in this week of making resolutions, what commitments are we willing and ready to make for the cause of Christ, and to demonstrate our faith in Christ?

Paul writes these words and includes what I call a mission statement. Perhaps you have chosen a Bible verse to reflect your desire to live life on mission with God.

  • Some people have chosen Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
  • Others might choose Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • For me personally, I have chosen Acts 20:24 – But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

At the end of all things in this life, may people remember that I chased after God with my whole heart and took seriously the calling he has on my life to faithfully testify to the gospel of God’s grace.

What about you? I challenge you to find a verse that sums up your desire to follow Christ with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Here we are at the very end of 2021, so, what changes can we make for 2022? I’m going to help you consider adding a few things to your New Year’s resolutions, or at least modify your life-priorities list. And yes, there’s an acrostic… F.A.I.T.H.

I have chosen this acrostic because faith appears to be an important part of the Christian experience. For example…

  • And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Notice the word, “impossible” to please him.
  • Or how about Second Corinthians 5:7, that says, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

So, with my acrostic FAITH, let me suggest five ways we can set priorities for 2022.

Faith in God

I think most of us would like to be remembered as a person of great faith. A couple of times in the New Testament, Jesus was amazed at the faith of the people.

One time Jesus was entering Capernaum and was approached by a centurion whose servant was lying paralyzed at home and racked with pain (Matthew 8:5-10). Jesus tells him that he will come and heal him, only to hear the Roman officer tell him that he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his home, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed because he had not seen such great faith in all the land of Israel. He tells him to go home because what he believed has happened. Jesus marveled at this man’s faith. I want to be that guy, that Jesus would say, “of all the people following me, that Chafee guy has great faith. He believes what is written in that book we call the Bible. He trusts me with his life, his future, his salvation, and his daily decisions.”

But, there was also another time when Jesus was amazed at people’s faith. It was also in Galilee, in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). He was teaching in the synagogue and the people were astonished, saying, “where did he get these things, his wisdom and the miracles? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” At the end of this story, Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed (or he marveled or wondered) at their unbelief. It appears that familiarity really does breed contempt. They were so familiar with Jesus and his earthy family that they couldn’t see him for who he was, the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the promised Deliverer.

Great faith was found in a Roman centurion Gentile while among the chosen people of God, the Jews, there was a deafening lack of faith that even prevented Jesus from doing many miracles in their midst.

Which guy do you want to be? In 2022, will you grow into a person of great faith, or will Jesus be unable to do anything through you because of unbelief?

Remember that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So, our first priority in 2022 is to develop into a person of strong faith. But faith cannot stand on its own. Faith must be acted upon, or it is simply a belief. So, here is our next priority…

Action for God

James is very specific when it comes to faith and action. In James 1:22, he tells us, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. Did you catch that? Faith must be proven, and it is proven through actions. He goes on to write in James 2:17-18, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith WITHOUT the works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.”

On a practical level, faith that is not proven is not really faith. Think about it. I may have faith that this chair will hold me up but unless I am willing to sit down on it, there is no faith, there is only belief.

I’m sure you have heard this story at some point in your life but there was this high-wire walker who stretched his wire across Niagara Falls and walked from one side to the other, and back again. The crowd was amazed at what this guy could do. He then told the crowd he would do it again, but this time pushing a wheelbarrow, all the way across, and back again. He then asked a question of his raving fans, “Do you believe I can go one more time with someone sitting in the wheelbarrow?” and they all cheered that he could. Then came the tough question that separates faith from simple belief, “Who will get in this wheelbarrow and go with me?”

This next year, how will you grow your faith and step forward in action? What is God asking you to do by saying, “Just trust me. Have faith. Walk in obedience and let me take care of you.” This action step will move you from simply believing the right stuff about Jesus, to trusting him with your life and future. Let’s grow in 2022.

The next priority helps us to develop credibility among the people in our circles of influence. Nothing will honor God more than his people BEING the disciple we are called to be, rather than just CLAIMING to be his disciples. This involves living for God and walking in obedience even no one is looking. It’s about walking in integrity with God…

Integrity with God

How often do we slide into sin simply because we know that no one else is watching? This is about a businessman traveling in a strange city and knowing that no one will ever know what he might be doing after hours. It’s about the movies we stream or the images we see on our smartphone that no one will ever know about. It’s about flirting with someone not your spouse knowing that your work life and personal life will never intersect with church people.

I’m reminded about the story of David who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and made the wrong decision. We read about this episode in King David’s life in 2 Samuel 11. The king was not where he was supposed to be, off at war with his troops. He was at home, on his rooftop, and discovered a beautiful woman next door. After a series of poor choices, this “man after God’s own heart” walks down the path of lust, adultery, and eventually conspiracy and murder.

Remember that no one ever starts out to destroy their life or family or marriage, but like David, we make a series of poor choices and lack the necessary accountability to someone else, that essential relationship we need to keep ourselves on the narrow path of God’s will.

Why am I such an advocate of men’s ministry? Because deep inside every one of us is the potential to compromise our beliefs. There is strength and safety in numbers. Why would I not do everything in my power to keep myself on the right path?

And this is not just about men’s ministry, because our women get together on Tuesday morning and Tuesday evenings (as well as at other times through the year) to grow in faith, support one another, pray for one another, love on one another, and to bear one another’s burdens.

  • Here is a great verse that supports personal accountability, Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. The Men of Steel embrace this verse and want to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Sharp knives don’t happen by accident, it takes work.
  • Remember that this godliness doesn’t happen by accident. Check out the foundation of our Noble Man Group, Isaiah 32:8 – But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands.

So, do you desire to stand when all those around you fall? It’s about being intentional with your spiritual growth. This passage tells us to devise a PLAN. And how can we devise a plan without using good material? That’s where the Bible comes in. We walk with Jesus by allowing his Word into our heart; we must embrace teaching about God.

Teaching About God

The Bible is our only source for faith and practice, so how effective can we expect to be when we don’t get into God’s Word? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the Bible. When I stand before a holy God, I’m not sure that saying, “I never knew” will be a good excuse.

We have more access to God’s Word than any previous generation. We have multiple copies of God Word in our homes. We have access to dozens of different translations in the palm of our hands. The YouVersion Bible app has been installed on over 500 million devices worldwide – and it’s totally free (as of November 2021).

Will this be the year that you get involved in a small group? There’s nothing like getting together to open the Bible and discuss what it means and how it applies to life. Spiritual truth is so relevant to life.

A lot of people generally avoid Bible study because they don’t know much about that mysterious book, but I submit to you… does that argument make any sense? If you DON’T know that much about the Bible, why would you NOT get involved in a small group.

It’s almost like saying, “I’m not going to college because I don’t know much about my chosen major.” Students go to college to learn. They’re not there because they’re an expert. Same thing about being a disciple of Jesus. The word disciple literally means pupil, learner, student, not master or expert.

The point of our life in Christ is to conform to the image of Jesus over a lifetime. That’s what we call, the process of sanctification. If we say YES to Jesus, get baptized, and join the church, and the only thing we do from that point is sit on a pew a couple of times a month (or for some, a couple of times a year) we are missing the point of being a Christian.

Christianity is not just a belief system but it’s embracing another worldview. Now that our faith is in Christ, how we view the world comes from what we read in the Bible. It’s called having a biblical worldview. We take everything we learn from the world and hold it up to the teachings found in the Bible. And with a biblical worldview, we trust what the Bible says over what our present culture teaches. God’s truth does not go out of style; he doesn’t change with the times. We don’t make God into OUR image; we are made in HIS image.

Teaching from God happens best in the context of a small group of believers who are on the same journey in life, together. We read, learn, discuss, and seek to apply the teaching we receive from God’s Word. If you’re not a part of a small group, you are not in a position to be all that you can be as a follower of Christ. Maybe this is the year when you surrender to God’s will and get involved in a small group.

If you’re already involved in a small group, maybe your next step is to teach others about God. It is an interesting fact that when you teach others, God opens up your mind and heart to learn so much more than you could ever teach to your class. It really is a blessing to teach others, a privilege, and a responsibility.

Hey, none of us is an expert on the Bible, but every time I open this book, I put myself into a position to hear from God through his Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Which leads us to the final priority for 2022…

Hearing from God

The Scripture is full of language like, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 15, 16), “He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2-3), and “For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.”’ (Acts 28:27).

It is totally possible to have a keen sense of hearing and still not hear from God. Often times we are just satisfied to live on the fringe of God’s influence and involvement in our lives. If heard it said, “If you can live without revival in your life or church, you will.” How much time do we spend on chasing after God? Like, if we don’t hear from him, we are ruined?

Sometimes we settle for a casual glance in God’s direction and feel that is all God wants from us. But there is so much more if we would only chase after him. And he’s NOT playing some cosmic hide-and-seek game because his Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”

Not everybody gets it. When you hear from God, you know it. People around you may never understand you stepping out in faith, but from God’s perspective, you will be a success in the kingdom of God, even if those around you can’t see it. God wants our faithfulness, so we leave the definition of success up to him.

So, how will we be successful in 2022? Perhaps setting a few priorities will help us journey toward exercising greater faith… have…

  1. Faith IN God
  2. Action FOR God
  3. Integrity with God
  4. Teaching ABOUT God, and
  5. Hearing FROM God

What area do you need to grow in faith right now? How can your church family help you? What commitments are you ready to make right now? Let’s talk to God about it…

PRAY: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. You know our hearts, motivation, and attitudes. You know where we fall short better than we know ourselves. As we enter this new year, may we rekindle our passion for you, your Word, and the mission you have in our lives. Help us to live a life of significance. Help us to know your will and your ways and give us the courage to stand up for the cause of Christ.

Thank you for being a part of this online service. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us through the church website (kgbc.us/more). If you live in the Virginia Beach area, we invite you to stop by for a visit on Sundays at 9am or 11am or join us for midweek activities on Wednesday evenings (kgbc.us/midweek). Until next time, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you soon.

How to BLESS Other People

On November 7, Scott talked about how we can be a blessing to other people. The base passage was Genesis 12:1-3 but we found a lot of Scripture to support this blessing lifestyle.

1 Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. – Genesis 12:1-3

The B in BLESS means Begin with Prayer – make a list of those for whom you are praying on a regular basis – And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” – Luke 10:2

The L in BLESS is for Listen – discover who they are and where they are by asking questions and listening – This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; – James 1:19

The E in BLESS is for Eat – share a meal with someone each week in hopes of getting to know them better – And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. – Mark 2:15

The First S in BLESS is for Serve – seeks ways to serve them in some way, demonstrating your love for them – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

The Second S in BLESS is for Story – you have two stories to share: YOUR story (which is your testimony) and HIS story (which is the gospel, the plan of salvation) – 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. – Acts 1:8

The Masks We Wear

On October 31, Scott talked about the Masks We Wear, from Romans 12:9-13. It’s fun to pretend to be something we know we are not in real life. However, pretending to be someone or something we are not must never be a way of life, especially in the church. We tend to hide behind the masks we wear, because if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me, and I’m not ready to take the risk of the pain of rejection.

M is for MEETING – we must be connected to one another relationally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, and this is best done in the context of a small group experience.

A is for ACCOUNTABILITY – we must be connected to other followers of Christ who will hold us accountable for our spiritual life, marriage, and integrity.

S is for SACRIFICE – we know it will cost us something to live out our Christian faith. We live out our faith inside the church and outside in the community.

K is for KNOWLEDGE – we must seek to know all we can about living faithfully as a member of the body of Christ rather than believing that old saying, “ignorance is bliss.”

S is for SALVATION – we must embrace the fact that when we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we now have a responsibility to act on that faith (to live it out) in front of a lost and dying world.

 

We showed this video at the beginning of the message:

Strengthening Your Mind


As Ken has been teaching in this series, we are reminded that the mind is the ultimate battlefield in this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.

We need to understand that the battle that’s raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it’s a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, like what we find in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.

Today, I want you to know that…

  1. You don’t have to LOSE this battle for your mind!
  2. You don’t have to be DEFEATED in your walk with Christ.
  3. You don’t have to BE A SLAVE of worry, anxiety, your thoughts, feelings, or fear.
  4. You don’t have to BE CONTROLLED by the desires of the body!
  5. However, you CAN live your life under the control of the Holy Spirit, which allows you to win this battle for your mind!

How, might you ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will ALLOW IT to happen in your life, (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13).

As we take the steps in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord can renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done TO and IN the child of God.

Secondly, we need to know that we don’t have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or discipline). So, today, I want to take these few verses in Philippians 4 to show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.

I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all about Strengthening the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. These steps will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggles that we all face.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4) – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

This repeated phrase in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it’s also important to note that he immediately repeats the command. This word means, “to be glad.” While not a Greek scholar, I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”

Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and the events of modern life don’t bring much happiness! But let’s put this into context. When Paul penned these words, he was chained up between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, and God never forsakes us. That’s why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change, and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.

Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember these facts…

  1. God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
  2. God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
  3. God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
  4. God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
  5. God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build this wall of praise around your mind! So our first step is to build a wall of PRAISE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5) – Let your gentle spirit be known to all men...

The word “gentle” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:

  • New Living translates the word “considerate”
  • Holman translates the word “graciousness”
  • King James translates the word “moderation”
  • The ESV translates the word “reasonableness”

This word has the idea of being patient with other people; or yielding to the rights and wishes of others. It does NOT mean we make compromises in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4 – thinking of others as more important than yourself.

Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is all about US, then when people hurt us, we’ll have a desire to retaliate and get even.

Paul wants us to take the focus off ourselves and put it onto other people. When we are focused on the people around us, we’ll be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so badly because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation, or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So, when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.

When we adopt the mentality of self-love (which is all around us) we will always look at the things people do and say, as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.

This will also cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on WHAT was done or WHAT was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook what they have done to hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!

The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, as in Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of other people! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger! So, our second step is to build the wall of PATIENCE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7) – The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “worry.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with HAVING concerns (we all have them) but it’s when your concerns have YOU, that’s when the problems begin to spring up!

Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to create false ideas about God, others, and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.

When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.

  1. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5b) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
  2. Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication, and requests. These might be thought of as, 1) general praying, 2) specific praying, and 3) detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the POWER and the WILL of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
  3. Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through ALL of them. Nothing brings God nearer (or drives the devil away any faster) than a genuinely thankful heart!

The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of everyday life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build this wall of prayer!

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8) – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Ken talked about this verse at the beginning of this series, so I won’t go too far into this point, but all of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honorable, it is right, it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely, it’s of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (meaning, that which leans toward worship).

We must fix our minds upon the things of God. The SOURCE for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God, and a mind led by the Word of God, is a stable, fortified, and strong mind!

So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to get it done is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and challenge our mind to dwell on God’s Word and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or even our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a strong mind.

This is something that you have to do for yourself!

  • The church cannot strengthen your mind.
  • The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.

No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external. Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish the race, I will give up, and will stop short.

The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or if I fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.

How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and renewed mind? Strengthening your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you. So, build the wall of PURITY.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9) – The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught. We grow and live within a faith community.

Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things they had seen and heard in his life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, because it will never happen this side of heaven.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, that statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in a modified phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you HAVE to get it right before you practice, practice, and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will always play it wrong.

If you want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.

So, we have spent the past few minutes building walls in order to strengthen our minds:

  1. THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)
  2. THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)
  3. THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)
  4. THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)
  5. THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)

So, let’s have some time for reflection. Maybe bow your head in the quiet of this moment and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart and mind. What are your next steps?

NEXT STEPS: Consider these questions…

  1. Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
  2. Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out this week to help you grow in that area.
  3. How will you begin to make changes in your life so you can strengthen your mind?
  4. WHO will you tell about this personal commitment, and the need for accountability?
  5. WHEN will you seek out this accountability person?

Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil, and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by YOU! No one can control your mind, but YOU. We are told in the Bible that we need to strengthen our mind, it is OUR job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person. We are in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of Christ. We can’t outsource that responsibility.

This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – remember the words of James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!

Let’s Pray About It: Lord Jesus, you know better than anyone that I need a stronger mind. I recognize that apart from you, I can do nothing, so please, help me to grow in my faith, renew my mind, and become more effective in my Christian walk. I confess my failures and seek your forgiveness. Lord, help me submit to your lordship, embrace your ways, and do your will.

Father, for those who have not yet begun their journey of discipleship, let them seek you earnestly, because your Word tells us that you WILL be found when we seek for you with all out heart.

Father, this time is yours. Help us to make commitments and give us the strength to follow through, especially when life get hard. We pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN

CLOSING: Thank you for joining us today. If you made any commitments this morning, let us know about it. You can contact us using the church website (kgbc.us/more). Know that your staff prays for you, and we hope that you’ll make prayer for one another a regular activity each week.

Anticipate Eternity

2 Corinthians 4:13-15

Pastor Ken’s series, Beyond the Faint Heart, is all about this challenge from the apostle Paul to live life to the fullest, in God’s will, being a part of the Lord’s calling and commission, and to not lose heart or become faint when life gets difficult. At times we feel that following Jesus ought to be rewarded by God and that life could be a little easier, with less struggle, after all, we are doing what God’s desires. We’re the one following Christ! We’re the ones who are seeking to please God in everything we do. We’re the ones trying to sin less. We’re the ones seeking to live in obedience. And because of this, life can be hard and we can easily get discouraged.

Hard times ought to be for those who refuse to follow Jesus. We totally understand the Proverb, “the way of the transgressor is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15). But in real life, it seems the transgressors have it easier than those who have been adopted into God’s forever family. There’s little wonder why many of God’s people might lose heart.

Down through the ages, God’s people have been persecuted, for nothing else than for just being God’s people. As it was for the Jews, so it is with the church throughout the centuries. In the grand scheme of things, it really has little to do with the church and more to do with sinful humanity rebelling against any authority that God has over their lives. If people want to eliminate an invisible God from the public square, the next best thing to do is to attack his visible representation, his church. People may attack us, but deep down, their hatred is for God more than it is for us. Remember the words of Jesus when he spoke to Paul of the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

So, how do we NOT lose heart when life gets difficult? When the world seems to go against us at every turn? We all tend to get discouraged at times, but what are we supposed to do?

Ken has been addressing this topic over the past 6 weeks, but today, I want to challenge you to anticipate eternity. It really is amazing what people can endure when they have hope that something in the future will make our life experiences worth it. Remember our Savior, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). We ALSO can endure a lot when we have our eyes fixed on Jesus, fixed on eternity.

Let me tell you a story about hope…

When I was in college, I read a book written by Viktor Frankl called, Man’s Search for Meaning. I pulled it out again a few years ago and was reminded of its significance in my life.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy which describes “a search for a life meaning” as the central human motivational force.

I personally admit, as a high school student so long ago, it was this search for meaning in life that brought me to Jesus, but THAT is a story for another time.

Frankl’s book is about survival. Like so many prominent German and East European Jews who thought themselves secure in the 1930s, Frankl was cast into the Nazi network of concentration camps. Miraculously, he survived, but his story in this book is less about his own struggles, (what he suffered and lost), than it is about the sources of his strength to survive. Several times in the book, Frankl quotes the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a WHY TO LIVE FOR can bear almost any HOW.” He vividly describes fellow prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future, and were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or medicine than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for. By contrast, Frankl kept himself alive and kept hope alive by summoning up thoughts of his wife and the prospect of seeing her again, and by dreaming at one point of lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from the Auschwitz experience. Clearly, many prisoners who desperately wanted to live did die, some from disease, some in the crematoria. But Frankl’s concern is less with the question of why most died than with the question of why anyone at all survived.

Now here we are. Ken has been teaching us over the past 6 weeks, Paul’s spiritual lessons on how to not lose heart, how to overcome discouragement, and today the lesson is on anticipating eternity.

For Christians, we are people of hope. When Jesus was born into this world through the incarnation (God becoming Man), the first Sunday of Advent is all about Hope. God’s people patiently waited for the promised Deliverer, the Messiah to come. He would be that person who would act like a great hinge on the door of history, finally making right all that had gone wrong in the world. God’s people would be set free forever, no longer in bondage to any other nation or power. Christians get this because we recognize that this world is not our home, as it says in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Eagerly waiting for our Savior… that is anticipating eternity… knowing that heaven awaits us. This life is not all there is. The best, really is, yet to come.

So, what are a few ways in which we anticipate eternity? Our passage for today reminds us that, He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:14)

To help us remember what I talk about today, let’s use the acrostic HEAVEN. Let’s get to it…

H – is for Heaven itself. Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word “heaven” is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. Scripture refers to three heavens. The apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven,” but he was prohibited from revealing what he experienced there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9).

If a third heaven exists, there must also be two other heavens.

The first is most frequently referred to in the Old Testament as the “sky” or the “firmament.” This is the heaven that contains clouds, the area that birds fly through.

The second heaven is interstellar or outer space, which is the home of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects (Genesis 1:14-18).

The third heaven is apparently the dwelling place of God. Jesus promised to prepare a place for true believers in heaven (John 14:2). Heaven is also the destination of Old Testament saints who died trusting God’s promise of the Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). Whoever believes in Christ will never perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In heaven, the paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored: the river of the water of life flows freely and the tree of life is available once again, yielding fruit monthly with leaves that “heal the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). However eloquent John was in his description of heaven, the reality of heaven is beyond the ability of finite human beings to describe it (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Heaven is also a place of “no mores.” There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow, no more separation, because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:4, 6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of Jesus (1 John 3:2). We will eventually be face to face with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and because of HIM, we can enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.

E – is for Evangelism. This is how we secure our ticket into heaven. Paul tells us in Romans 10:13-15, for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent?” Evangelism is nothing more that telling others about the good news of God’s salvation. As believers, we all have a story to tell of what Jesus has done for us. We are his witnesses (Acts 1:8) and have the awesome responsibility and privilege of telling others how to find the life that we have experienced.

A – is for Anticipation. It’s not that we are ready to pack our bags and head off to heaven right now, after all, we have a life to live here and now. The Bible has many references to “eagerly waiting” for the Lord’s return. A few moments ago, I mentioned Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Did you catch that? Eagerly waiting.

The return of Jesus Christ will be like the coming of a thief in the night. Two passages use the wording “a thief in the night”:

Matthew 24:43, “Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into,” and

1 Thessalonians 5:2, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

How is the second coming going to be like a thief in the night? Just as a thief catches a household by surprise, Jesus will catch the unbelieving world by surprise when He returns. Before they know it, Judgment Day will be upon them, and then, it will be too late.

As believers we don’t fear, but rather anticipate his coming, so it should not catch us by surprise. Christians are in a separate category: (1 Thessalonians 5:4) – “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.

These who are unsaved should listen to Jesus’ warning: “Be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44). How can you be ready? Well, God has provided the way for you to escape the coming judgment. The way to the Father and everlasting life in heaven … is Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” By accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are guaranteed forgiveness of sins, mercy, and salvation.

V – is for Victory. If we plan to overcome discouragement, the Bible tells us point blank how to be an overcomer… in Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him (the devil, Satan, the accuser) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony …” We have victory through the blood of Jesus, by what he did on the cross to provide salvation. We also have victory by the word of our testimony. When the accuser comes after us, we SPEAK UP to remind him of OUR salvation, and the devil’s ultimate destination. As we share our testimony with other people, we also remind ourselves what God has done for us, and that we have made the conscious decision to follow Jesus. The enemy really has no power that we don’t give him.

E – is for Entreaties. I know, that’s a weird word. But take a look at 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” King James translates this word “entreaties” as supplications. It’s an old-school word meaning “asking God for stuff” but I’m seeing this point in the outline as communicating with God. When we communicate with God through prayer, we are developing our relationship with him, and because of THAT, we are preparing ourselves to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior.

We need to “be a praying people,” more than just “people who pray.” Let me explain the difference. We can easily become people who pray. We pray at mealtimes, during church services, and when we find ourselves in a jam needing God to bail us out. Christians pray. But we know plenty of people who are NOT Christians, they also pray. The next level for believers is to “be a praying people.” This is when we stop and pray for those who ask for prayer. Right then and there. I’ve been with people who hear my prayer concern and the next thing I know this other person is talking to Jesus! I want to be that person. We need people who will spend the hour of 9am and 11am each Sunday praying for our pastor, his message, for the congregation as we engage (or for some, disengage) with the service; let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to move among us. May we be a praying people, and not just people who pray. Finally…

N – is for New Birth. If you really want to anticipate eternity, you have to be born again. This new birth is not automatic simply because of John 3:16 (that God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son) or because of Romans 5:8 (that God demonstrated his love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us). At our physical birth, we are all born with a sin nature that separates us from our Creator. We were designed in His image (Genesis 1:27), but that image was tarnished when mankind fell into sin. As sinners, we cannot fellowship with a holy God the way we are. We cannot be repaired, restored, or rehabilitated. We need to be reborn. No one makes it to heaven without this new birth through Jesus. Paul reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith, it’s not about any good works that we might do. We cannot earn our salvation but must receive his grace and the gift of salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. The shed blood of Jesus brings forgiveness from sin and reconciliation with God.

Maybe you just today have come to understand that in order to overcome discouragement and move beyond the faint heart, is to anticipate eternity, but you realize that you are in no way prepared. Let’s talk about how you might respond to the message you’ve heard today.

It may be that you’re responding to God’s offer of salvation.

You may be making a decision to change and allow God to transform your life into what he desires.

Maybe you sense God leading you toward membership in this church. Let God have this time as we consider what he has to say to each of us today.

Let’s pray about it…

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. Many of us have entered this place with heavy hearts, ready to give up in discouragement. Through your word you have reminded us that our best life is yet ahead of us. The joy we have in this life is that we do not go through this life alone. Thank you for walking with us, giving us meaning in life, giving us a community of faith, and preparing us to one day spend eternity with you in heaven. Help us to keep our vows of transforming into the image of Christ. Forgive us when we have failed you. Help us to repent of our desire to go in our own direction rather than allow you to lead us through life. May we submit to your lordship and the mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a lost and dying world around us. Forgive us for not keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It is in his holy name we pray, AMEN

Thank you for joining us today. If you’ve made a commitment to Jesus, we’d love to hear about it. Check out this website and use our digital connection card or prayer request form. We’d love to hear from you. Ken is back next week to finish this series “beyond the faint heart” – don’t miss it.

If you have not yet done so, maybe consider joining us for live worship on Sundays at 9am or 11am. We’d love to see you in the house.

If you’ve not found a small group, I can help you find one, after all, life change happens in small groups.