The Knowledge of God – F260

2 Peter 1:2-4 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.” 

Today I want to focus on knowledge, the knowledge of God which is a foundational principle of our spiritual growth. So, how do we gain knowledge about God? That’s where the Bible comes in. 

1. George Muller, who established many orphanages throughout England, said… “I believe that the one chief reason that I have been kept in happy useful service is that I have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has been my habit to read the Bible through four times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it to my heart, and practice what I find there. I have been for sixty-nine years a happy man; happy, happy, happy.” 

2. Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.” 

3. Missionary Amy Carmichael said, “Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well.” 

4. And this may be the most direct, author unknown, “A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase.” 

If you don’t hear anything else I say today, get this: Let’s make 2021 the best year ever in your spiritual growth by reading the entire New Testament. That is the reason I have organized this Foundation 260 initiative. Let’s read the New Testament together. 

I don’t think there is anything more basic to knowing and loving Christ, and obeying him, than to hear God speak to us though his Word and then to speak back to him with the prayers and praises and obedience which flows from our hearts. 

The reason for that is because it is so plain that today God reveals himself to us by the Word.  

  1. The living Christ in his bodily form is not here. He has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of God.  
  1. Neither are his inspired prophets and apostles here. God has ordained for himself to be known primarily by the Word that was recorded from those prophets and apostles—especially those who knew the Lord himself in his physical form—and preserved what we need to know in this book. 

But let’s face it, reading through the entire Bible or even committing to reading a daily portion can be difficult. It can be a struggle to stay with it every day. That’s the way it is with most new things that we make a commitment to start; fitness, exercise, college, dieting. We begin with enthusiasm but somewhere along the way we give up. We lose focus, the excitement wanes. 

We may feel that we don’t have the time for reading the Bible every day.  But Dr. Tony Evans reminds us that we always have time for what is first on our list. The question then becomes: Is the Bible first on our list? 

Why is the Bible important? 

1) The Bible is enduring and lasting. (Because God is enduring) – Psalm 119:89 says: “Your Word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” 

We live in changing times. Fads come and go, social mores change and we tend to drift away from God’s Word and lean more toward society and the culture around us.  

But the Word of God is enduring! Isaiah contrasts it with flowers and grass. Flowers and grass may be here today and we enjoy them, but we know that they are short-lived. Their beauty is fleeting. The same is true of us, our time on earth is short. Our earthly “wisdom” is usually shortsighted. God’s Word endures and stands firm in the ups and downs of life. 

The purposes of God, as published in these sacred writings, will never be stopped (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:25; Mark 13:3; Luke 16:17). Remember the words in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So, the Bible is enduring, but it is also trustworthy… 

2) The Bible is trustworthy (Because God is trustworthy) – Psalm 111:7 says, “All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy.” In Ezekiel 12:25, “For I am the Lord! If I say it, it will happen.”  

God will fulfill what he says. He will honor his promises. He is faithful and just and we can depend on what he says. You can build your life upon the foundation of the Bible. 

In our world it can sometimes be very difficult to find a trustworthy and reliable person. Whether a car mechanic or a doctor or a plumber, a trustworthy person can be hard to find. People often go back on their word. They fail to live up to their commitments. Have YOU ever been burned by an unreliable person? Have you put your trust in something or someone and they let you down? Most of us have and that makes us a little hesitant to trust. But God has always been and always will be faithful, and because he is faithful, his word can be trusted. Since he has been faithful in the past, he can be trusted to be faith in the present.  

Why am I challenging you to read the Bible? 

Let’s start with the negative: we don’t want to be ignorant of what God has told us.  

  1. Paul often warned his readers that he did not want them to be ignorant about important subjects, like when he wrote to the Romans in 11:25 pleading with them not to be ignorant regarding the dealings of God with Gentiles and the nation of Israel. 
  1. He warned the Corinthians repeatedly about not being ignorant of several different theological subjects. He said in 1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” He was also disappointed with them regarding their divisions in the church and he was saddened that they were still needing milk like infants when they should have been pressing on to more substantial “meaty subjects.” 
  1. He warned then not to be ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11).  
  1. He warned the Thessalonians to not be ignorant concerning Christ’s second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

The writer to the Hebrews grieved over their lack of spiritual progress in Hebrews 5:11-12 – “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” 

Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their lack of Bible knowledge, like in Matthew 22:29 – “Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” 

Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12:3 by saying, “Have you not read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” 

God speaks to us through his Word and we dont want to be unaware of what he is saying to us. That is why it is important that we spend time reading His Word. 

Now let’s look at some positive reasons: 

Reading God’s word gives us: Education, Endurance, Encouragement and Hope. 

Look at Romans 15:4 – “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

The Scripture is given for our EDUCATION. That presupposes that we will not only be reading the Bible regularly but that we will also be studying it for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on the teaching of others. We need to be in the Word ourselves. Reading, meditating, and memorizing, and digging into the parables and the narrative sections and the doctrine and the theology. We need to be listening to God speaking through his Word. 

The Bible is given for us to ENDURE – We need to read God’s Word in difficult times. When the news is bad. When things are not working out like we had hoped. We don’t need endurance when times are good. Contained within the pages of the Bible are stories of endurance. Check our Hebrews 11 and read about the Hall of Faithfulness.  

These are stories of men and women whose faith endured in the midst of difficult times. We have wonderful records of the prophets who endured all sorts of treatment and lack of results for their effort.  

And coming to the New Testament we see Jesus who endured ill-treatment and abuse and yet he endured. And going further we observe the Apostles and the early church who through faith in God and his Word, they were able to persevere when the whole world seemed against them. 

Knowing the Bible gives us ENCOURAGEMENT – Many times I have been encouraged by the Scriptures and I’m sure that you have as well. There have been times when it seemed like just the right verse came along at the right time to lift me up and to help me keep going. I don’t see how lost people are able to deal with tragedy and difficulty. How does a person who does not know God deal with loss, suffering, and hardship? Many turn to alcohol or drugs or other forms of abuse to deaden the pain. But those things don’t solve the problems, do they? In fact, they make the problems worse. 

When I am feeling down, I know that I can turn to God’s Word and be lifted up out of that pit. But I need to be regularly in that Word in order for the Holy Spirit to bring out the help that I need.  

Finally, knowing the Bible gives us HOPE – You can live for weeks without food. You can go for days without water. But how long can you live without hope? Ken recently reminded us of the words of Dostoevsky who said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Shakespeare said, “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope”  

Theologian Ken Boa wrote, “People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution, and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.” 

We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). 

Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit..” 

Maybe you agree that having the habit of daily Bible reading is a good idea. Maybe you struggle with being able to carry it out long term. In the past maybe you have started out well only to struggle somewhere along the path. 

In previous years, we have challenged you to read the whole Bible in a year. That may be nothing new for you; I’ve begun to read the whole Bible in a year on many occasions… the emphasis is on “begun.” But with all the best intentions, we sometimes aren’t able to finish the whole Bible in a year.  

This year, let’s try something different. Rather than focusing on reading through the Bible in a year, let’s focus on getting to know the God of the Bible. Let’s not read these chapters to check it off our reading list but focus on what God wants to teach us through our daily reading.  

Foundation 260 is all about reading a chapter a day, focusing on that one verse a day that jumps off the page for you, reading Monday through Friday. The New Testament has 260 chapters, and when we read 5 chapters a week, we cover the entire New Testament in the 52 weeks of 2021.  

You can do this on your own, if you choose. I have a few helpful tools in the foyer.  

Or, you might prefer the accountability of reading with other people who will challenge and encourage you to keep up with your reading, and also rejoice with you as you share how God is speaking to you through reading the Bible. Here is a link to join my Monday group.

There is a YouVersion App with an F260 reading plan, what could be easier? You can invite your friends to read with you and to hold each other accountable. I have also developed a few tools to help you succeed. 

1) This one explains the process and gives a lot of information to help you dig into the text.  

2) This one is the reading plan itself, reminding you what you will read each week to stay on track, and  

3) This one is the monthly reading and application guide to record your reading and actually write down what God is teaching you each day.  

This next year, won’t you join me in reading through the New Testament? We all understand that Bible study is so important, but hearing God speak is even greater.  

Let’s do this in 2021. Will you make the commitment to be a part of Foundation 260? Will you read the text each day? Will you join or start a group to discuss what God is teaching you?  

Let’s pray about it. 

Lord Jesus, we need to hear from you. We confess that we have not advanced toward maturity as we first hoped, and that we have become distracted and stagnant in the worries and cares of this life. Father, help us to make this commitment in good faith, and help us to trust you to keep us on track, because you have said through your Word that, “…I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Father, we cannot do this on our own, and it would be futile to try to make it happen, but with all praise going to YOU, we can do this together with your help. Lord Jesus, speak to us, and make our lives useful to you. AMEN 

During this next song, seek God’s direction about your involvement in the challenge. 

I won’t shame anyone who is not ready to make this commitment, but perhaps you have been waiting for such an opportunity to do something like this. So, if you are on board with F260, would you stand up right now and show this congregation the desire of your heart to take on this challenge.  

Seriously, if you’re not ready to do this, I understand, people around you understand. Please don’t stand up if you need more time to consider this commitment.  

Closing Remarks: Find out more at the church website, come up and talk to me about it, join the group through the church groups app, and let’s make 2021 the best year ever for your spiritual growth. 

Follow – a Practical Calling

In keeping with Ken’s theme in this summer 2020 FOLLOW series, the chosen passage today also contains the word FOLLOW – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” from 1 Peter 2:21. The title and emphasis today is very compelling, to follow is… a practical calling. At first glance, I see three things that grab my attention. The first is that we are CALLED.

We are CALLED For a Purpose – From reading the gospels, we easily see that Jesus gives us an invitation to follow him, just as we have seen in the messages and in the passages Ken has unpacked in this series. Jesus shows up in everyday life and offers an invitation to discover that he is someone worth investigating. He has a message for all people and will meet the needs of all those who are willing to allow him to enter into their lives. Upon entering the life of a person, Jesus puts his claim on their life. They are called for a purpose, which is to allow the mission of Jesus to become THEIR mission. It is all about obedience to the one who has called us.

The focus in this verse is on being called for a purpose; salvation not just about going to heaven after we die. So many believers think about heaven as their final destination, but they fail to remember that we have a job to do right here and now. The kingdom is upon us. The King has called us into his service. The King tells us that we are to be his ambassadors, to represent him as we live in this earthy world. We don’t do whatever we desire and pray that Jesus will bless it. We are called for a purpose, to build his kingdom on earth, to spread the message of salvation to those living in darkness, to recruit players to join God’s winning team, showing up at practices, working hard at the drills, getting better at playing our positions. We need to get off the sidelines and into the game, and develop the passion to win, not just be content with wearing the team jersey.

Not only do we have a CALLING with a purpose, we have our CHRIST as our example.

Jesus – He is the example set before us. The text mentions that he left us an example to follow. In context, Peter is talking about suffering in this life, but let me bring in a little theology. Jesus was the God-Man, 100% divine, 100% human. I know the math doesn’t add up but sometimes theology can get a little complicated. The point is that Jesus is the unique Son of God, (as described primarily in the gospel of John) and he is also the unique Son of Man, (as described in Book of Daniel and the four gospels). He lived a life worth imitating. That which Jesus teaches and does, we are to follow in his steps, allowing him to be the example for us. The best way for us to follow his example is to KNOW his example, meaning we are to know his life and his teaching so well that we can believe and behave in a similar fashion. Check out these passages about following the example of Christ…

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” – 1 John 2:6 NASB

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; – Colossians 1:10 NASB

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NASB

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” – 1 Peter 2:21 NASB

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB

It’s very difficult to defend that we can say YES to following Jesus just enough to get into heaven, yet still live a life of open rebellion by how we act, the attitudes we possess, the things that we say, how we treat other people, our failure to make disciples. We live in open rebellion when we fail to walk in obedience to the Scriptures, and in some cases, we flat-out embrace sinful activity, promiscuous behavior, racism, sexism, and even mixing American patriotism of God and Country with the authentic gospel of Jesus.

We are called to live and love as Jesus did. Paul says to “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” To me, this statement is like saying, “if you want to know what a Christian looks like, what a follower of Jesus looks like, look at ME. Since I am following Christ, you can look at me and see an authentic Christian.” Who among us is ready to make such a claim? Probably none of us because we each know the darkness that resides within. But what if we constantly dealt with that darkness and daily laid our sin at the foot of the cross? What if we confessed our failings and sinfulness as in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What if we look back at our lives over the past year and we see progress toward conforming to the image of Jesus? What if we looked more holy today than we did last month or last year? If you are not ready to say, “be imitators of me,” what is it going to take for you to grow in godliness?

And did you know that you don’t have to do all this on your own, that’s what the church is for. We exist as a community of faith to extend the love of Christ and His Kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. We are in this together, helping each other to grow in godliness, eliminating from our lives everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. There is strength in numbers. There is success in numbers. There is sanctification in numbers (becoming more and more like Jesus over a lifetime).

Let me remind you that all of this is simply head knowledge unless we internalize it. The way we internalize our faith is to develop conviction.

We will never follow in his steps without CONVICTION.

Just what is conviction? Is it knowing the right thing to do? That certainly is a good start, but the dictionary defines conviction as “a fixed or firm belief.” But with this definition, we can easily believe something and still not act on it.

Christianity is a faith that is constantly being put into practice; it is more active than it is passive. There are many things in which we BELIEVE but we are called to OBEY because of our belief. It is not obedience that saves us, because we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not obedience that saves us, but how can we say we are saved without it? (James 2:14) Let me illustrate conviction…

I had a friend in high school that joined the Marines that summer after graduation. He was in the 6-year reserve plan, and Parris Island was his starting point. He learned discipline, how to defend this country, fight, shoot, work as a team, and likely he learned how to kill a man just by using his thumb.

Now, when he came to my college town for work, we roomed together for a while. You would think that a man who learned how to keep his uniform perfect, his shoes impeccable, and his rack neatly tucked in with tightly fitted sheets, that he would not have been such an untidy roommate. I love this guy, but I learned an interesting spiritual lesson – good behavior does not continue without the conviction that it is the right thing to do. You make your bed each day and clean up after yourself only if you have the conviction it is the right thing to do, otherwise, without the threat of a drill instructor, some things just might not get done.

So, we need conviction to do what Jesus has called us to do. And it starts with understanding that you are CALLED for a purpose (and that purpose is NOT just to go to heaven when you die). Jesus has work for you to do no matter what your station in life, or your livelihood, or your chosen career. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) representing our King, Savior, and Lord. We carry out HIS marching orders!

You know, we cannot carry out his marching orders if we don’t know what those orders are, so without holding up the entire New Testament, let me show you the abridged version. We find it in Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I love the way Jesus looks around and then looks right at the camera, at us, right in the eyes. And then the invitation for join him, to follow after him…

His last words are supposed to be our first concern. What does this Great Commission mean for us today? Let me suggest a few things, because if we want to follow his in his steps, according to 1 Peter 2:21, it might be a good idea to look at what he did with his disciples.

Let me point out a few observations I see in the Great Commission.

First is the TASK in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 – we are called to make disciples. That’s what Jesus spent the past three years doing, investing in these 12 men who would in turn spread the gospel and change the world. Because of their obedience, they transformed the lives of billions of people around the world since the first century. Remember that a disciple is a learner. A disciple learns FROM Jesus, learns ABOUT Jesus, and then actively helps others to do the same. It is one thing to receive knowledge and instruction on biblical matters, but we are challenged to be the providers of biblical knowledge and instruction. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there were some who ought to have been teachers by now (Hebrews 5:12). What about you? How are you making disciples? The Great Commission is given because we are CALLED for a purpose. Let’s not stop short.

The second thing to notice is the PROCESS in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20 – we are to make disciples with the aid of three helping words in the text.

We are to GO – but as a participle, this means more accurately, “as you are going…” make disciples. We make disciples as we live out everyday life. It is not about involvement in a discipleship program, it is a part of who we are. We must be disciple-makers. Follow me as I follow Christ. In short, we are to put in a good word for Jesus as we find lost people in everyday life.

Not only are we to go but we are to BAPTIZE – This means to baptize in water but also has the understanding that we will help to establish these new converts in their newfound faith. As followers of Jesus, they now have a new identity and must make progress toward spiritual maturity. Those who are secure in the faith need to help those who are new to the faith. How are you doing this in everyday life?

Not only are we to go and baptize, but we are to TEACH – Many times we think that teaching is the goal, but it’s not. The verse actually tells us to “teach them to OBEY all that I have commanded you.” This verse appears to be all about obedience. Are you obeying Christ? What areas in your life are yet to be surrendered to Jesus?

This also tells us to teach them to obey all THAT HE HAS COMMANDED, so what are the commands of Jesus he expects you to obey? He then gets even deeper because he wants us to teach them to obey all that he has commanded YOU. That makes this very personal. You can’t teach something that you have never experienced. How is Jesus dealing with you? What is he teaching you? Then pass THAT on to others.

The third thing I see in this passage is the SCOPE of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 – here it tells us to make disciples of all nations. This is not just to become a missionary to another culture somewhere around the world. For some, that may be exactly what it means, but for many, we are called to reach those in our circles of influence. Who are the people around you who don’t know Christ? Who is unchurched? Who appears to be far from God?

The fourth thing I see in this passage involves the RECIPIENTS of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:6 – While Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples, there is evidence that the crowd may have been much bigger. 1 Corinthians 15:6 mentions Jesus being seen by over 500 at one time. Could this be that time? Matthew 28:16 tells us that some who gathered there, “doubted.” Who of the eleven could Matthew be talking about? Thomas doubted for a week but when he saw the risen Jesus, he made the most significant declaration ever, “My Lord and my God.” I can’t imagine that any of the eleven doubted, after what they had witnessed. So, it IS plausible that there were more people present at the Great Commission than just his closest men. Certainly, this is something to think about.

The fifth this I see here is the FUEL for the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and Revelation 7:9 – when the eleven saw him, they “worshipped.” The fuel for the Great Commission is worship. I love what I read in the book called, Let the Nations Be Glad, that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” We are a missionary people because all nations need to hear about the saving message of the gospel. Missions will one day end, but worship will continue into eternity with Jesus!

Finally, we see in this passage the DURATION of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:20 – until the end of the age. He is with us to help us to make these disciples and spread the gospel around the world, and to all those in OUR part of the world. Remember that he is with us, and apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).

So, I’ve spent the past 25 minutes talking about how we are CALLED for a purpose, that CHRIST has left us an example to follow in his steps, and that in order to be an effective witness, we must develop a spiritual CONVICTION that people are lost without Jesus. When we finally get this truth, our focus is forever changed.

Perhaps you have been challenged in a new way by the familiar story of the Great Commission. Maybe you now see some things a little differently than you did before. Ken’s series is FOLLOW, which is all about how to better follow Jesus, and my challenge today is to follow the leader, follow Jesus, who has set before us an example for us to follow. Commit to being a disciple and discovering how to better make disciples.

You know, the Bible never calls this commission “great.” This commission is an everyday commission for everyday kind of people who offer themselves to be used by our risen Savior. Will you allow Jesus to use you to do great things in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Let’s pray about it…

Dear Lord Jesus, we humbly come before you to submit to your lordship. Help us to embrace your calling on our lives. May your Spirit shake us out of complacency and burn deep within our souls. Work through us for your kingdom’s sake. Plant deep within us a holy discontent, knowing that we are not fully surrendering to your calling on our lives. May you be glorified as we follow you every day. AMEN

If you need to talk about where you stand with Jesus, I would welcome that conversation, as would any of us on the leadership team here at King’s Grant. Just contact us on our the website you see here, or text the word MORE to our church mobile number. We’d love to hear from you!

I love you a lot. How can we help you grow in your faith? How can we help you get connected to a small group community (even in these days of COVID-19)? How can we help you find a place of service, and live your life on mission for Jesus’ sake? Let us know.

Benefits of Small Group Attendance

Last week and this week are closely linked together because we’re talking about attendance or gathering at church being one of the essentials in the Christian life. Ken talked about Hebrews 10:19-25, the LETTUCE passages regarding this New and Living Way:

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Life groups and Sunday School classes are an essential part of church. In a broad sense, these groups and classes are a way to share life together as we travel together on this journey toward Christian maturity. Baptists have discovered that if you want the church to grow, and the gospel to spread, a small groups ministry is the key.

So, this begs the question: what should be the purpose of a small group ministry? Believe it or not, the purpose of a small groups ministry is the same as the church—to make and develop disciples of Christ by reflecting and living out the Great Commandment. Here is Luke 10:27: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” These two greatest commandments emphasize three areas that make a strong foundation to any church, small group, or individual Christian: spiritual growth, learning, and serving.

For these three things to happen, it is essential that you show up. Growth, learning, and serving don’t just happen by reading a book, or by accident, or by individual resolve and determination. These happen, and are carried out, in the context of Christian community.

From the very beginning, God called to himself a people; starting with one man and his family that God blessed into a great nation. Ever since Abraham, God has emphasized the community. God doesn’t want rouge individualism, that’s more of an American characteristic. God wants his people gathered as a community of faith; to worship, to live life, to share with and support, to encourage and lift up, to admonish and correct, all in the context of community. For a community to be a community, it is essential that we show up.

Consider the challenge of Hebrew 10:24, “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” THAT will not happen by accident. We need others to guide us on this journey. Left to ourselves, we will drift away, and eventually crash and burn. We cannot be an obedient Christian on our own.

Consider this homework assignment: do a word study on all the “one another” passages in the New Testament and see if any of them can be accomplished by staying at home, or even by sitting in a place like this, looking at the back of someone else’s head. It is said that Christianity is best living in circles, not rows. Rows will separate us and allow us to hide from one another, while circles invite everyone into participation.

Let’s get back to the Great Commandment and how small groups attendance is essential:

To love God with all our heart and soul is to love Him with passion, with priority, and with trust. We can’t go out into the world and work at our jobs, and deal with the family, and at the same time keep our passion for God without help.

Think about it, we can’t be bombarded by media, and ads, and strange noises in our car, and keep God first in our priorities. We can’t listen to the news, and to the politicians, and worry about paying our bills, while naturally keeping our trust in God.

We need to see the example of others and receive their encouragement. We need others who know us who can remind us how God has taken care of our needs in the past, so he will take care of us in the future. A small group can provide all of this in a way a large congregation can’t.

To love God with all our mind is to learn about Him through his Word, and to see the world from His perspective. The best preacher in the world is still limited by the fact that sermons have NO interaction.

With a small group, people can ask questions, give illustrations, even express doubts, and know that other people are listening. Loving God with our mind is taking biblical truths and applying them to our lives. While good preachers add application to their sermons, it’s also important to have a fellow believer who can look at our particular situation on a personal level and speak directly into our lives.

To love Him with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves are related. Small groups should be a place where we can freely “love our neighbor,” whether through prayer or meeting a physical need. Small groups also provide encouragement and a place of rest so members can love God with all their strength OUTSIDE the group. When members serve God as a group or as individuals, the small group can be a place to recharge and share how God is working in their lives.

God knows we are fragile and fallen creatures who need constant reminders of what we are supposed to do. Obedience tends to leak out of our buckets.

A small group is a key tool to help us stay focused. Regularly meeting with a committed group of believers allows us to reinforce the core of what we believe so we can live it out, learn more about God, and maintain the strength to serve others. Small groups are the best and most effective way to make and develop disciples of Christ.

King’s Grant Baptist is about building the Kingdom through making disciples, which means helping you to become a devoted follower of Jesus. Small groups are the key in your spiritual growth process. Here, I am going to share some positive benefits in becoming involved in a small group; yep, you actually get something out of being in a small group.

I am going to finish this message by helping us to better understand GROUPS…

G – Gain knowledge and Growth toward maturity.

Gain Knowledge – You will understand the Bible better in a community of faith.

Have you ever listened to a message from the Bible at a worship service and wanted to stop the speaker and say, “But what about?” or “I don’t understand!” If so, then a small group is for you. The message that is taught in our worship service is one-way communication. You listen while the speaker speaks. It’s fine for imparting knowledge, but not as effective for personal application as a small group. In a small group setting, you can ask questions, participate in a discussion of the text, and hear others share their insights and illustrations of the truth you are trying to grasp. The Bible must be applied to your own personal situations and that happens best in small groups.

Growth Toward Maturity – You will grow spiritually faster in a group than when you are alone.

We have been “predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Spiritual growth involves life change. Life change is optimized in the context of a small group. 2 Timothy 2:22 teaches that we are to “run after” godly character and “run away” from the passions of youth. This verse instructs us not to do this alone but “with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.” God wants us to stop “trying” and start “training.” It’s always easier to exercise physically or spiritually in a group than alone (1 Timothy 4:7b).

R – Relationships

Experiences – You will begin to really feel like part of God’s family.
We believe it is imperative that as a church grows larger, it should also grow smaller at the same time. It should be the desire of growing churches to provide a small group for everyone that wants to get connected. In a society that is increasingly mobile and where families are fragmented, small groups can provide a family atmosphere where no one needs to stand alone.

Encouragement – You will receive customized care.

Each member of a small group provides care for the other members of the group (1 Corinthians 12:25). The group leader oversees the pastoral care of the group through the sub-group leaders. The group, rather than church staff, becomes the first line of resources. This is accomplished as believers in the group see themselves as contributors and not just consumers, givers and not just attenders.

O – Opportunities.

Example – You will be a New Testament Christian.

The early church met as a large group for corporate worship at the temple and then as small groups from house to house (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). The New Testament is very clear about how God intended for His people to meet in small groups so they could experience authentic biblical community. The New Testament is also very clear to point out that these were communities with a purpose. They used these small groups to fulfill the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way. They weren’t an end in themselves.

Evangelism – You will have a natural way to share Christ with friends, neighbors, classmates, relatives, and co-workers.

It may be that some of your friends who don’t know the Lord wouldn’t be caught dead in a church. They have a preconceived idea and just the thought makes them defensive. But those same people may be open to an invitation to a casual Bible discussion in a home or office setting. In a small group, your unbelieving friend can ask questions and express honest doubts without feeling “put on the spot”. When your friend sees the love and warmth and honesty of your group, it will make him more receptive to the good news (John 13:35; Acts 5:42).

U – I’ll come back to this one at the end…

P – Prayer will become more meaningful to you.

Many people are hesitant to pray in front of others, especially in a large church. In a small group of 6-12, you will learn to participate in prayer by having a conversation together with God. No one is pressured to pray, but as you become comfortable, you’ll be able to pray sentence prayers and join in. There are many promises in the Bible related to group prayer. In praying together with a few others, we are drawn together, and we find answers to the needs in our lives (Matthew 18:19).

S – Support, Skills, and Service.

Support – You don’t have to go through struggles alone.

It’s not only possible but also probable that you could walk into and out of a large group event with hurts, heartaches, and soul-searching questions but never connect with someone that will show an interest in you or identify with your difficulty. In a small group setting the principle of “commonality” is often experienced. Many of us think our struggles are unique to us, but in a small group we find out that personal problems are universal. It’s exciting to find out that the members of your group have not only struggled with common problems but have found common solutions in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Skills – You will develop leadership skills in a small group.

Many people are scared of the word “leadership.” John Maxwell says, “Leadership is just influence.” Most believers would say without reservation that they want to influence their world for Christ. They would love to be used by God to lead someone to Christ and see that person grow up spiritually and reproduce himself. Acts 4:13 says “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” These men had obtained the confidence they needed to lead others to the Savior because they had been discipled in Jesus’ group. Discipleship ultimately produces leadership skills in you. One day you will be discipling a small group of believers.

Service – You’ll have a place to discover and use your spiritual gifts.

When people are born into their physical family, they are given natural talents, but when they are born into the family of God they are given spiritual gifts. These gifts are God-given abilities that enable believers to effectively serve one another. Attending a spiritual gift workshop and taking a gift assessment is a vital step in discovering your gift mix, but it is the members of your group that provide confirmation of your gift after watching you in action. People that have no arena in which to exercise their gifts struggle to identify them. A neighborhood group is a wonderful place to steward the gifts God has sovereignly given you (1 Peter 4:10, 11).

So, these past two weeks at King’s Grant have been about the importance of attendance @ Church. After all this time and teaching, perhaps you now see that your attendance in corporate worship (and some sort of small group) is way more than numbers on a spreadsheet. We are talking about the God’s people moving closer toward conforming to the image of Christ, growing into full maturity.

So, what is missing in the outline? Look at your notes. What blank is left out? U = YOU.

I suppose, there may be really just one question left to ask regarding attendance in a small group: “How are you doing with that?” Are you doing all you can to take advantage of spiritual growth opportunities? Or are you just happy to be where you are? Your staff can’t make you desire spiritual growth or maturity. We can’t make you practice hospitality. We can’t make you invite others into our community, faith, and love here at King’s Grant. I suppose it all comes back to another question, “Are you here because of what you get out of the community, or what you can give back to others?” THIS is the difference between being a consumer and being a contributor.

Are you ready to move toward something greater than where you find yourself right now? What will it take to get you out of a row and into a group? What are the barriers that prevent you from getting into a small group? What is holding you back? Are there fears? Issues of time? Not enough Bible knowledge to get into a group with those long-time believers?

Think of it this way, you don’t refuse to go to college because other people know more than you. That’s the whole point of college. You go there to learn new things, experience community, and grow toward proficiency in your profession. Is not your salvation the most important thing ever? Then why do we accept the lie that ignorance is bliss? The more you get involved, the more you realize you have a lifetime of learning ahead of you.

I see a barrier that one day, King’s Grant will have to address: space. We can’t get everyone into a Sunday School class, so, who in our classes is willing to say that space and seats will no longer limit the growth of King’s Grant Baptist Church? Would there ever be a time when half of the people in your class will say, “We are going to meet in homes, to free up space for our classes here on campus to reach people not yet connected”?

Who is ready to start something in your home, using the Life Group model, asking questions about the preacher’s message and text, then seeking to apply the Scripture to real life? THAT is community life. THAT is what Life Groups are about. Not a teacher, then don’t try to be one; allow the Holy Spirit to guide your group. When you run across something you don’t know how to answer, just say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Then come talk to me about it.

Attendance @Church – one of the Essentials in the Christian life. If you need to talk about how to get this part of your life straightened out, I’d love to talk with you about it.

May the Spirit of God move in your soul to take seriously the command to Love God and Love People in a community of faith.

The Need for Peace

PEACE that Overcomes and Overwhelms

JESUS CAME TO BRING PEACE – AS FORETOLD AND PROCLAIMED IN THE SCRIPTURES…

  1. By Isaiah, the messianic prophet. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
  2. By the heavenly host, at the birth of Jesus. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:13-14

— The Prince of Peace came to bring peace to men of good will.

What is that peace? Here is where the outline in your bulletin begins…

THE PEACE THAT JESUS OFFERS

According to Luke 2:14, this PEACE is…

Personal – “Peace among men with whom he is pleased” Personal peace can come in two ways…

PEACE WITH GOD…

  1. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” so this reminds us that since we have been made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.
  2. James 4:4 tells us that “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” When you are an enemy of God, there can be no peace. He requires total surrender, coming to him on HIS terms, not our own.
  3. Paul says in Colossians 1:20 – “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

— The bottom line? Without peace with God, no real peace is possible

PEACE WITH MYSELF…

  1. Jesus offers peace inside, unfazed by the world around us. Consider Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:6-7, “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.”
  2. In a world of trouble and distress, Jesus encourages his followers in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
  3. Also in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
  4. Jesus also gives us peace even in the task (or the mission) that he has for us to do, in John 20:21, “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

— Jesus provides peace that surpasses all understanding

Finally, according to Luke 2:14, this PEACE is also…

Practical – “On earth peace among men…” we are not alone on this planet, rather we love in community.

PEACE WITH OTHERS…

  1. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28 that Jesus breaks down the barriers between other people. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
  2. Paul tells us the same thing in Ephesians 2:14 he tells to “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,”
  3. Peter tells us to “be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11 “He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.” – 1 Peter 3:8-11

— Jesus makes peace between mankind possible.

CONCLUSION:

So, when the Old Testament Scriptures ascribed to Jesus the title, “Prince of Peace,” He was proclaimed as One who forever has a rule of peace (offering a right relationship with God, with one another, and with ourselves).

The standard of peace becomes a great way to spiritually measure our lives: am I at peace with God, with others, and with myself.

Can you imagine being so affected by the Prince of Peace that you daily walk in peace with God, with others, and with yourself? This is the message of Christmas: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among men…”

If you need peace, I’ve attempted to reinforce that there is only one place to get true peace, in the person Jesus Christ.

Three Key Relationships

RELATIVE – Three Key Relationships
John 15:1-11

The last verse in chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the disciples are about to leave the upper room, John 14:31 says, “Arise, let us go from here.” This small band of brothers is headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray his great High Priestly prayer and will later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus speaks the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 in route to the garden.

In this chapter, Jesus is pictured for us as the True Vine. I can imagine Jesus and his men going through the darkened streets of the city, and then passing beyond the city walls into the surrounding countryside. During this time of year, mid-April, the grape vines would be beginning to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest. As Jesus walked with his disciples, perhaps he reached out and took a vine in his hands and used it to teach an object lesson to his men. It was this night that his desire was to teach them about the most vital relationship they have in their lives, their connection with Jesus and the Father, each other, also the world.

We might ask ourselves, “Why did Jesus give them this teaching NOW?” The answer is simple: They needed it! Jesus had just told these guys that he is going away, but that his work is going to continue… through them and their lives, John 14:12. If they were to carry on the work of the Lord, then they needed to know how to produce fruit in their lives.

This morning, we are 2,000 years removed from that night, but we know the work of Jesus continues. Our vision is to extend the love of Christ and his kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. That is a God-sized task. We know that God is still working through his followers to accomplish his work and his will in the world today.
Many of us may sit here and wonder HOW we are supposed to do the work of the Lord and HOW we can produce the proper kind of fruit in our own lives. Well, the answer is found in these verses. THIS passage is all about being becoming a genuine disciple and about how to bear fruit that Jesus expects. Let’s dive into this passage on the True Vine and see how we can become more like Jesus.

The BRANCHES – WE MUST ABIDE – John 15:1-8 – the believer relates to the Son.

The SYMBOLS – John 15:1, 5a-5b

  1. The Son is the true vine – John 15:1a, 5a – First notice that Jesus alone possesses life within Himself, John 14:6. All other vines are counterfeit. He alone is the true source of everlasting, abundant life.
  2. The Father is the gardener – John 15:1b – The word “vinedresser” refers to the the gardener, the one who has the responsibility of caring for the vineyard. Jesus is saying our Heavenly Father is the Gardener.
  3. The believer is the branch – John 15:5b — Some things just jump out at me, notice the phrase in John 15:2, every branch “in me” or every branch “of mine.” This tells me that we are dealing with genuine believers, not just people who claim the name of Christian, but actual followers of Jesus.

The STEPS – John 15:2-4, 5c-6

1. We must submit to pruning by the Father – John 15:2-3 – pruning is the Gardner’s method of protecting and purifying the vineyard. He does this in one of two ways:

  1. He Challenges the Branch – Several years ago we had several sermons on “The Secrets of the Vine” so you may remember that the phrase, “takes away” means to lift up or to raise higher. The Gardener will take the unfruitful branch and lift it from to dirt, giving it a better chance to be productive. On a personal level, this means that when we get to a place in our Christian lives where we are barren and unfruitful, the Lord will have to reach into our lives, disturb our casual carelessness and lift us up to challenge us and shock us toward growth. There are times when the Lord can only accomplish this through discipline. He’s got to get our attention. So, if we respond with repentance, this process will help us to be fruitful for his glory. If, however, we choose to go on in our sinfulness, God may deal with us more severely. Has God been challenging you lately? If so, don’t run from his challenge. Instead of running FROM God, turn around, and run TOWARD him. After all, his discipline has always been proof of his love (Revelation 3:19, and of your relationship to Him, Hebrews 12:8).
  2. He Cleanses the Branch – The Gardener removes things from the branch that sap it vitality and strength. Things like sucker branches, useless buds, misdirected shoots, spots, discolored leaves, stuff like that. Anything that consumes life but produces no fruit has to go! This is so true in the life of the believer. When we allow things into our lives that hinder our following after Jesus, then we are in danger of a divine pruning. “Pruning,” by its very name sounds painful, and it isn’t always easy to cut the junk from our lives, but if WE don’t do it on our own, the Lord will deal with it through pruning! So, has the God been speaking to you through His Word? If so, have you been listening? Are there areas in your life that need to be pruned: a habit you are unwilling to give up? An attitude that you will not change? A relationship you will not forgive? A lifestyle you will not forsake? If not, I challenge you to deal with it before the Lord prunes your life. If you don’t deal with it, God may very well take further and far more drastic measures.

2. We must abide in the Son – John 15:4, 5c-6

  1. John 15:2 The Branch Must be Attached to the Vine – If you are not in the Vine, then there is no way for you to share in the Vine’s life. This is all about that vital connection between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ, the True Vine.
  2. John 15:4-5 The Branch Must Abide in the Vine – That means, we must maintain close fellowship with the Vine if Jesus is to live through us and produce fruit in our lives. This happens only by “abiding” in Jesus! How do we abide in him? Prayer, Studying the Bible, Deny yourself, Drawing near to God! The closer we abide to the Vine, the more his life can flow through us to produce the fruit that he desires. Could THIS be the reason that many church members aren’t bearing fruit? They are near the Vine but not actually connected to it. Sound familiar? Is God speaking to YOU right now? So, perhaps you feel that you ARE attached to the Vine, and you are abiding in the Vine, there is a third possibility…
  3. John 15:5 The Branch Must be Available to the Vine – Look at the concept of fruit bearing. It is a passive activity on the part of the branch. If the branch will simply abide in the Vine, then the Vine will produce the fruit on the branch. I don’t know about you, but I find that truth liberating! I am not required to grow my own fruit. It is the Vine’s responsibility to produce his fruit in my life. That frees us from having to work and labor to get his approval. If we will yield, submit, and surrender to Jesus, he will live through his followers!

So, as a believer who is not bearing fruit, you have to ask yourself this question, “Am I available to Jesus, so he can bear fruit in me?” Have I truly yielded to him? Have I surrendered to Jesus? Have I denied myself, taken up my cross, and really following him? You may be thinking, “When I speak of fruit, what do I mean?” What will be produced in our lives when we surrender to Jesus? How will we know if fruit is being produced through us? There are three basic fruits the Lord bears in the lives of His children. They are:

  1. Sanctification – That is, we become more like Him – Romans 6:22; Phil. 1:11; Col. 1:10.
  2. Spirituality – That is, we behave more like Him – Gal. 5:22-23.
  3. Souls – That is, we are burdened for others like Him – Rom. 1:13.

Ok, before I leave this section, What about John 15:6? I Have a Question about Unfruitfulness – Not every branch abides in the Vine as it should. It is still attached, but it has ceased to draw life from the Vine. As a result, the branch is fruitless and withered. When this happens, the passage tells us there will be a certain results. GET THIS: Cast out why? – For Not Abiding. Is this loss of relationship or fellowship? The withered branch still possesses the same nature as the Vine, but it is no longer attached to draw life from the Vine. For those who are HIS, they are secure in Christ. We don’t wake each morning wondering if we are saved. It is called “security of the believer. The Bible challenges us to test and examine ourselves to see if we are of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we still saved even if we don’t bear fruit? I’ve heard it said, “The faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty at the first.”

The SUCCESS – John 15:7-8 – what are the results in bearing fruit?

  1. 1. It results in our bearing fruit – Ask whatever you will and it will be done for you. John 15:7 refers to An Unhindered Prayer Life – (John 14:13-14) Why? When we are abiding as we should be, and when we are drawing our life from Jesus, then HIS will becomes OUR will. That is, every time we pray and everything we pray for will fit perfectly with God’s will and he will grant our requests. This leaves no room for selfish or shallow prayers; only prayers that align with his will. How do we know his will? We can discover it right here in this book.
  2. 2. It results in glorifying the Father – John 15:8a – We recognize that this life is all about Jesus; which brings glory to the Father. Always remember that the Christian life is not all about US and OUR salvation; it is about embracing GOD’S mission for the world, it’s about THEIR salvation.
  3. 3. It results in proving we are disciples of Jesus – John 15:8b. Others will see connection with God, which will become evident in the way we love one another, treat one another, and as we carry on the mission that Christ has given to the church.

The BELIEVER – WE MUST OBEY – John 15:9-17 – the believer relates to others

The PRIORITY – John 15:9-12

  1. The Father loves the Son – John 15:9b, 10b
  2. The Son loves the believer – John 15:9a, 10a, 11
  3. The believer is commanded to love others – John 15:12-17 – Can love be commanded? Remember that love is not a feeling but an act of the will, which results in actions that demonstrate that love.

The PROOF – John 15:13-15 – proof of his love for us.

  1. What Jesus will do for his disciples – John 15:13 (lay down his life for his friends)
  2. What Jesus does for his disciples – John 15:14-15 (he calls Them friends, not servants) “Friends” here means one of the inner circle, one who knows the king’s secrets. Maybe even the best man at a wedding. That is a very close relationship. He is not talking about acquaintances on the fringe, but people who “get it” – the things that Jesus taught us about the Father (John 15:15).

The PROMISES – John 15:16-17

  1. That HE chose US – John 15:16a – I think that is a pretty good promise even though it may not look like one at first.
    That branches will bear permanent fruit – John 15:16b – he appointed us that we would go and bear fruit, fruit that would remain.
  2. That prayers will be answered – John 15:16b – again, the key is not just asking in the Father’s name, but also asking according to the Father’s will.

The BATTLE – WE MUST ENDURE – John 15:18-27 – the believer related to the world

LIFE will be hard – John 15:18-21 – All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

  1. If the world hates you, it hated Jesus first – John 15:18 – Get this: not all hatred and strife comes from the enemy, sadly, some hatred and persecution comes from friendly fire; from religious people, from people inside the church. Those who are part of the fellowship. It is a sad day when people actually leave the church because they see “church people” acting in an unlovely manner, and causing strife and division in the body.
  2. What about if the world loves you? – John 15:19 – Ask yourself, “Where do you stand with Christ?” Have I compromised my faith to be successful in the world?
  3. Jesus tells us not to expect better treatment from the world, than the way it treated him. John 15:20
  4. The reason for the world’s behavior – they don’t know Christ. The reason for a fellow church member to mistreat others and stir up dissension… (John 15:21 – they do not know the One who sent me) they don’t KNOW and ABIDE in Christ.

LOVE has come – John 15:22-25 – and they hated him without a cause, so the world will hate us for the same reason.

  1. “If I had not come and spoken to them…” (John 15:22) refers to the incarnation, that fact that LOVE has come into the world to save people from their sin. Jesus tells us that people have no excuse for their sin since he has come into the world, because he has come and spoken to them.
  2. One cannot love God and not love Jesus – John 15:23 – How often to people what to come to God on their own terms, and reject the plan of salvation that the Father has offered through Jesus? Those who reject Jesus are rejecting the Father as well.
  3. All this was done to fulfill the prophecy, written in the Law, “They hated me without a cause” (Psalm 69:4) – Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies;

LEAVING a Helper – John 15:26-27 – Remember that the Holy Spirit is a HE rather than an IT. He is God and has a mind, will, and emotions. He is the Helper, the Paraclete, the One who comes along side. This Helper will come, sent from the Father. I see three things in these two verses:

  1. Truth – he is the Spirit of truth
  2. Testify – he will testify of Jesus
  3. Testimony – we, who know him, will testify of Jesus as well.

ENDING: Jesus is the True Vine. His desire is to live through your life so that you might bear fruit for the glory of God.

As we close, there are a couple of questions that need to be asked right now.

  1. Are you “in the Vine”? Have you ever been saved and grafted into the Vine? Are you connected to Jesus?
  2. Are you “abiding in the Vine”? Are you drawing your strength from him so that he is able to produce his fruit through your life?
  3. Are you bearing fruit today? Where do you stand with Jesus? If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be pruned back or other wise dealt with today, then I challenge you to come to Jesus and let him take care of your need. If you have never been saved, please come and let me show you how you can be connected to the Vine and become a child of God.

This entire message has focused on relationships: with Jesus, with others, with the world around us. I pray that we will walk in the light as HE is in the light, and allow the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us and guide us in the way we relate to God and others.