Life On Purpose

Life on Purpose, from Matthew 28:16-20

Why in the world am I here, today, on this planet, at this point in time? That is a question that people spend a lifetime trying to answer. For many, they discover their gifts, talents, and passions early in life and spend their lives pursuing their dreams. For others, they constantly drift from one cause to the next, which spills over into their work life, their marriage, degrees to seek, new relationships… where does it end? They question the point of life.

After all, it IS a very good question. Why we human being spend some 70-80 years on this planet, struggling through hurts and difficulties, enduring suffering and injustice and poverty, and health issues? What is the point of life?

The writer of Ecclesiastes had the same observation, that life is pointless, all vanity, chasing the wind. There is nothing new under the sun; and just when you think you see something new, like a vapor, it’s is gone.

That, in fact, is my testimony.

While in high school I thought about the purpose of life and I came to the conclusion that THIS temporary life was preparation for the everlasting NEXT life. If there is no heaven at the end of this life, then there is actually no purpose for our existence other than to eat, breathe, sleep, and procreate. Life is then no better than a dog, a flea, a monkey, or an amoeba. If preparation for everlasting life is the purpose of our lives, basically, God’s original intent, then it is extremely important to tell other people about how they can prepare for heaven.

Enter the Great Commission.

These famous words are not just for pastors and missionaries, they are for every follower of Jesus Christ. The question then becomes, will I accidentally carry out the Great Commission or will I approach it with intentionality? By accidentally, I mean going through life and reacting to others around, putting in a good word for Jesus only if someone asks us a question. By intentionality, I mean walking through life with an agenda, no matter what our vocation or position in life, seeking ways to get involved in spiritual conversations with unchurched people.

One clear fact in the early days of the Christian movement is that disciples shared the story of Jesus with other people.

The passage at the end of Matthew’s gospel can be divided into three sections:

  1. The Mountain (Matthew 28:16)
  2. The Mixed Reaction (Matthew 28:17)
  3. The Mandate (Matthew 28:18-20)

MOUNTAIN: One of the last meetings that Jesus had with his disciples was this mountaintop meeting in Galilee. The angel told the women at the tomb on that first resurrection morning to go tell his disciples that he had risen from the dead and that he was going ahead of them into Galilee where he would meet them. Some people interpret this event to be the appearance of Jesus to more than 500 of his followers (1 Corinthians 15:6). But from the mountain in Galilee we get a mixed reaction.

MIXED REACTION: The text says that when they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. The fact that Matthew 28:16 says that, “some doubted” is evidence to me that this gathering was probably with more than his eleven closest men. The text mentions the 11 present, but it does not exclude the possibility of more being present. It doesn’t say ONLY the eleven. But the phrase jumps off the page at me because these guys spent so much time with Jesus, had seen the miracles, heard the teaching, failed to understand the predictions, but witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection appearances…

HOW COULD SOME DOUBT? I suppose for the same reasons that many of US doubt today. It’s an incredible story. It’s hard to believe someone is actually raised from the dead. I choose to deny the reality of what I see in front of me. I think I could come up with a better plan to connect with God than this resurrection and faith thing. But the point of the passage is that we have in our possession, GOOD NEWS, so this leads me to the mandate of Jesus.

MANDATE: Have you ever considered why this passage is called the Great Commission? Is this information any greater than the other stuff Jesus taught? Like the Sermon on the Mount? The parables of the kingdom? His prophetic words to his disciples that he was going to be mistreated, abused, and killed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem?

Perhaps it is because this is the last statement of Jesus before the ascension? It is so true that his last command needs to be our first concern. This declaration applies directly to believers, sort of giving us marching orders, explaining the reason and purpose, and the procedure for the task before the church. By the church, I mean those who are born again and who make up the body of Christ. The task is given to each of us, not just to a select few who are deemed to be professional ministers or exhibit a special call of God in their lives. The Great Commission is for ALL of us, but what is the key information that Jesus leaves for us to understand and obey?

In this mandate, we have three sections to chew on…

We have Jesus’ Authority (Matthew 28:18)

The word POWER actually means authority, the right to use the power. Some people actually leave this part out of the Great Commission, choosing to quote only Matthew 28:19-20, but the authority of Jesus cannot be left out.

The entire gospel of Matthew stresses the authority of Jesus to the primarily Jewish audience of Matthew’s gospel.

  1. There was authority in Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:29) for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
  2. There was authority in Jesus’ healing (Matthew 8:1-13) There is the story of the Centurion who was under authority, just say the word and my servant will be healed.
  3. There was authority in Jesus’ forgiving (Matthew 9:6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
  4. There was authority in Jesus’ dealing with Satan (Matthew 10:1) Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
  5. Here Jesus declares that he has ALL authority (Matthew 28:18)

What is a good reason to emphasize the authority of Jesus?

  1. If he has all authority and power, what do we have to fear?
  2. Wherever he leads, we really can go. No matter the circumstance, we know that we are covered by his authority.

Christianity is a missionary faith, and his last command must not be taken lightly.

  1. He does not desire for ANY to perish but ALL to come to him in faith.
  2. We have a message that the whole world needs to hear, even those who live on our streets, in our neighborhoods, offices, community centers, co-workers, classmates, and friends.
  3. We really have the “good news” that a lost world needs to hear. They may not accept it, but they need to hear it.

In the early church we see that they operated on the basis of Jesus possessing authority.

  1. They ministered in his name.
  2. They depended on his power and his guidance.
  3. They did NOT engage a lost world in their own power.

We have Jesus’ Assignment (Matthew 28:19-20a) the activity in which we must become involved.

GOING – this is actually NOT the command in the sentence, but a present participle (going). The only command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.”

  1. “While you are going, make disciples of all nations.” The definition of a disciple – a learner, not an expert.
  2. No matter where you are, we are to seek ways to witness for Jesus and lead others to him (Acts 11:19-21)

BAPTIZING – Baptize them, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Evangelism – sharing the gospel, the gospel cannot be mimed, it must be spoken.
  2. What is the gospel? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
    1. The Gospel is Missional: we must not keep this good news to ourselves. We are under direct orders from the head of the church to share the gospel with every created being (Mark 16:15). “I PREACHED to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, said twice).
    2. The Gospel is Christological: It is about Jesus – HE died, HE was buried, HE was raised, HE appeared, HE appeared, HE appeared.
    3. The Gospel is Historical: The gospel is an undeniable fact of history, even referenced in non-biblical sources (Josephus and Tacitus) (note the verbs) – he died, he was buried, he was raised, he appeared…
    4. The Gospel is Theological: Theology is the study or talk about God. The gospel is theological because it addresses the offensive nature of man’s sin toward a holy God (Habakkuk 1:13)
    5. The Gospel is Scriptural: The good news about the death and resurrection of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament, two times in this text it says, “according to the Scriptures” (Romans 1:1-2, Isaiah 53:5, 10-12, Psalm 16:10)
    6. The Gospel is Personal: Christ’s death was for “OUR sins.” Jesus died for my sins and your sins, that is why it is good news… it must be personally appropriated: “I preached to YOU, which YOU also received, in which also YOU stand, by which also YOU are saved, if YOU hold fast the word which I preached to YOU, unless YOU believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

TEACHING – TEACH all that I have commanded you…

There are scriptural models.

  1. The example of the early church (Acts 2:41-47)
  2. The example of Paul (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

It is fine to have a systematic discipleship program, but let’s face it, many people in the church are educated far beyond their obedience.

  1. We make it to all these Bible studies and small groups, but we have made them an end unto themselves.
  2. The goal of any believer and any small group is to be missional. That simply means that we embrace the Great Commission and seek to advance his kingdom with intentionality.
  3. How can we get involved with lost people around us? Or impact those in our circles of influence? There is no impact without contact.

Teach what Jesus has commanded – faithful teaching from the Scriptures. Why teach the commands of Jesus?

  1. John 15:14 – to be Jesus’ friend
  2. John 15:10 – to enjoy God’s love
  3. 1 John 3:22 – to see your prayers answered
  4. John 14:15 – to prove your love for God
  5. 1 John 2:3 – to experience security of salvation
  6. John 14:21 – to know Jesus more deeply
  7. John 14:23 – to have close fellowship with God
  8. 1 John 5:2 – to genuinely love others
  9. 1 John 5:3 – to avoid many of the burdens of life
  10. John 13:34-35 – to be known as a disciple of Jesus Christ

Teach what Jesus has commanded YOU – this makes it personal. We are able to teach only that which Jesus has taught us. How are you growing individually? Personal devotion time? Personal Bible study and worship? How do you talk with other people about the things God is teaching you?

Perhaps a tool can help: The Bible App Initiative… you can find it in the Information Center and online, notice the web address in your outline ( Here is a quick list of what you can do with the Bible App Initiative this week:

  1. Attend worship and take notes on the pastor’s message.
  2. Sunday afternoon or evening, go to this webpage and select the proper page of questions (choose by book, then chapter or section of chapter).
  3. Print the questions to have handy throughout the week, perhaps leaving the page near the family dinner table.
  4. At a meal (for example) intentionally read the Bible passage, and then ask several questions to have a discussion with your spouse or family.
  5. You might have a question in mind to ask someone during the day (perhaps at school, at work, or in the neighborhood).
  6. Bible knowledge is one thing, but strive to discover the “take away” of this weekend’s passage, asking, “How can I apply this truth to my life?”

We have Jesus’ Assurance (Matthew 28:20b) which gives us an ability to get the job done.

  1. Jesus is not only in our midst when we get together, but he is with us when we scatter all over the world.
  2. Had Jesus stayed on earth, he could not have fulfilled his promise of sending the helper, the Holy Spirit to guide and remind us of all that Jesus said and did.

Biblical examples of Jesus being with his followers:

  1. While obeying this Great Commission, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1) and won many and baptized them (Acts 18:8) and taught God’s word (Acts 18:11). When it got tough, Paul got a special visit from the Lord (Acts 18:9-10) “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
  2. The end of the age: this indicates that the Lord has a plan, he is the Lord of history.

One way to be able to TEACH others is to be a LEARNER ourselves.

  1. Who are your favorite Christian authors?
  2. What are you reading in order to grow spiritually?
  3. Leaders are readers…

All this is designed to lead us into making disciples of all nations, to help others to know God and to love God; to be intentional witnesses and disciple-makers. We will not win the world by accident, we will not make disciples by simply inviting them to church. In our society today, we often equate evangelism with an invitation to church; but in reality, the Christian faith is more caught than taught.

Right now, as we think about the significance of the gospel message and our part in the Great Commission, we are moving into a time of reflection before taking the Lord’s Supper. This is a time of confession of times that we have fallen short, times when we have failed to be all that God desires for us to be, times when we have served ourselves before considering the needs of others.

As we partake of these elements, they represent the body and blood of Jesus. It is a meal that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus during that special Passover celebration, and that Jesus had now become the sacrificial lamb who would take away the sins of the world. No longer would our sins be covered, our sins would now be cleansed.

These elements, and our participation in this ordinance, proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus until he comes back. This is the first step toward our proclamation of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Lead through the Lord’s Supper…

Now that we have experienced communion together as the body of Christ, may we make the commitment to continue the proclamation of the gospel until the second coming. The times are urgent, and short, may God challenge us to make a difference in the lives of those around us, for his kingdom sake. Let this be a purpose for existence, to know Christ, and make him known.

Next Steps:

  1. Get involved in the Bible App Initiative –
  2. How is it that we continue to doubt, (which keeps us from being missional)?
  3. In what ways are you making disciples, and fulfilling his last command?
  4. What specific teaching of Jesus do you need to obey more consistently?
  5. How might you become more bold at putting in a good word for Jesus?
  6. In what ways are you a continual learner, yet living out your faith in practical ways, passing on faith to others?

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Singleness and Divorce

Today’s passage is all about the topic of divorce and the positive and effective use of one’s singleness, taken from Matthew 19:1-12. Our command passage is in Matthew 19:12 (“let him except it” – present imperative).

Opener Questions:
1. What was (or would be) Mom’s advice to you about marriage? What was Dad’s?
2. Who has the best marriage you have ever seen? Why is it so special?

Purpose of This Study: To teach that God intended marriage to last a lifetime and those with the gift of singleness ought to embrace that wholeheartedly in order to advance the kingdom of God.

Historical Background: As Jesus continues to make his way toward Jerusalem, the crowds get larger. The Pharisees, always lurking in the background, come to the front with a question. They aren’t looking for an answer but an opportunity. They want to trip Jesus up with a difficult question of divorce. It was as much of a hot button back then as it is today. Everyone stops and listens; all eyes are on Jesus. His words are typically stunning. He applies to men, for the first time, the same absolute restrictions on divorce that had always applied to women. This offers women unparalleled protection from the ravages of men who, like these Pharisees, want to have their cake and eat it too.

Since His second year of ministry, every time Jesus attracts a crowd He also attracts Pharisees. They are not disciples; they are informants’ obvious enemies. This is even more true since the Sanhedrin openly plotted to kill Jesus (John 11:53) and put out a “warrant” for his arrest not more than a month earlier (John 11:57). That’s what sent Jesus to this area in the first place (John 11:54; Luke 17:11). Their question is designed to trap Jesus (Matthew 16:1; Mark 10:2; Luke 11:53). Divorce was a raging debate.

Discussion Questions:

1. Geographically, where was Jesus when the Pharisees tested Him? (Matthew 19:1-2) “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.”

2. What were the Pharisees hoping to accomplish by testing Jesus? The Pharisees wanted to ultimately destroy Jesus. The clever Pharisees were well aware that Perea, where Jesus now ministered, was under the rule of Herod Antipas. He was the tetrarch who had John the Baptist imprisoned and eventually beheaded for condemning his unlawful marriage to Herodias, whom he had seduced away from his brother Philip (see Matthew 14:3-12). No doubt the Pharisees hoped that, by denouncing divorce for any cause at all, Jesus would thereby publicly condemn Herod’s adulterous relationship just as John had done and suffer John’s fate.

Two Rabbinical Schools of Thought on Divorce:

The School of Shammai: This school taught that the sole ground of divorce was mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:1- “some indecency in her” [Hebrew literally is “nakedness”]. The School of Shammai applied this expression only to moral transgressions, and exclusively to adultery. It was declared that if a woman were as mischievous as the wife of Ahab (Jezebel, 1 Kings 16:31; 18:4-19; 19:1,2; 21:5-25; 2 Kings 9) or (according to tradition) as the wife of Korah, it were well that her husband should not divorce her, except it be on the grounds of adultery.

The School of Hillel: This school took the words “some indecency in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1) in the widest possible sense, and taught that a man could divorce his wife for the most trivial of reasons, for such things as taking her hair down in public, or talking to other men, and even for burning the bread, or putting too much salt in the food. For her to speak ill of her mother-in-law or to be infertile were more than sufficient grounds for divorce. Rabbi Akiba (early second century) thought, that the words, if “she finds no favor in his eyes” implied that it was sufficient if a man had found another woman more attractive than his wife. The words “some indecency” are translated in the Talmud as “obnoxious.” Josephus would fall into this school of thought, he was deserted by one wife, divorced his second wife being displeased with her behavior… afterwards he married a woman of Jewish extraction who had settled in Crete.

3. What rabbinical school of thought on divorce did the Pharisees’ question represent? (Matthew 19:3) “Some Pharisees came to Jesus….” These Pharisees are probably from the stricter rabbinical school of Shammai. They are basically asking Jesus, “do you think the laxer rabbinical school of Hillel has the correct interpretation of Deuteronomy 24?” Their exact words, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” They hope He sides with them and says something that would get him in trouble with Herod Antipas or say something contradictory to the Law of Moses so the people would reject Him.

4. In what way was Jesus sarcastic in answering the Pharisee’s attack? (Matthew 19:4a) Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have you not read…?” and then quoted Genesis 1:27, 2:24. This was an insult since the Pharisees claimed to be scholars and experts of the Law of Moses (The Pentateuch). Jesus says, “Are you not aware of what God Himself declared from the beginning of creation, (Mark 10:6)? Don’t you know the very first thing God said about marriage?

5. Which Rabbinical school of thought did Jesus side with? (Matthew 19:4-6) When the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to side with one of the rabbinical schools of thought on divorce, Jesus rejected both schools (Matthew 19:3-10). Both Rabbinical schools were based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus didn’t side with either interpretation but instead went back to Genesis and re-emphasized God’s original creation order in which there was no divorce. He even added a warning to it. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

6. What verses does Jesus use in reaffirming God’s law against divorce? (Matthew 19:4-6) Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27, 2:24 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

7. What was God’s intention in creating only one man and one woman? (Matthew 19:4) The distinction of the sexes, established at creation, underlies the institution of marriage and is the foundational for the human family and well-being of society. “Male” and “female” are without an article and singular, “a male and a female” indicating that the reference is to a single pair, Adam and Eve. God did not make provision for either polygamy or divorce by making more men than women or more women than men, nor did He make provision for a homosexual or lesbian couple.

8. What four reasons does Jesus give to show why it is not lawful to divorce? (Matthew 19:4-6)

First, Jesus said, God “MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.” In the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:27, both “male” and “female” are in the emphatic position, giving the sense of “the one male and the one female.” In other words, God did not create a group of males and females who could pick and choose mates as it suited them. There were no spares or options. (There was no provision, or even possibility, for multiple or alternate spouses. There were only one man and one woman in the beginning, and for that very obvious reason, divorce and remarriage was not an option).

Second, Jesus said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE.” Since Adam and Eve had no parents to leave, the leaving of father and mother was a principle to be projected into and applied to all future generations. The Hebrew word translated “joined” or “cleave” refers to a strong bonding together of objects and often was used to represent gluing or cementing.

The third reason Jesus gives for divorce not being in God’s plan is that, in marriage, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” As Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 7:4, spouses belong to each other in the physical relationship of marriage: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Consequently, Jesus said, when a man and woman are joined in marriage they are no longer two, but one flesh. They are therefore indivisible and inseparable, except through death. One is the smallest indivisible unit. God’s marriage equation is not 1 + 1 = 2 but 1 + 1 = 1. In God’s eyes a couple becomes the total possession of each other, one in mind and spirit, in goals and direction, in emotion and will. When they have a child it becomes the perfect emblem and demonstration of their oneness, because that child is a unique product of the fusion of two people into one flesh and carries the combined traits of both parents.

The fourth reason Jesus gives for divorce not being in God’s perfect design is that, in the creative sense, every marriage is made in heaven. From the very first marriage of Adam and Eve, God has joined together every husband and wife. Marriage is first of all God’s institution and God’s doing, regardless of how men may corrupt it and deny or disregard His part in it. Whether it is between faithful believers or between pagans or atheists, or whether it was arranged by the parents or by the mutual desire and consent of the bride and groom, marriage as a general social relationship is above all the plan and work of God for the procreation, pleasure, and preservation of the human race. Whether it is entered into wisely or foolishly, sincerely or insincerely, selfishly or unselfishly, with great or little commitment, God’s design for every marriage is that it be permanent until the death of one of the spouses.

9. Did Moses give a command to divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as the Pharisees insisted? If not, what did he legislate? (Matthew 19:7) Jesus rejected the teaching on Deuteronomy 24:1-4 that had been passed down to the Jews of His day. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:31,32a). The very word structure emphasizes that His teaching is in sharp contrast to what they had heard. The words “LET HIM GIVE” is a single Greek verb that is an aorist imperative. The Pharisees had turned this into a command, but the legislation of Deuteronomy 24 doesn’t start until verse 4.

The Deuteronomy 24 passage, upon which “marital unfaithfulness” is based, is designed to regulate an existing condition not to condone divorce. Verses 1 through 3 contain a series of conditional clauses “if” in the original Hebrew that establish a case situation. If this case situation existed then the legislation (command or prohibition) of verse 4 applies.

“When [if] a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that [if] she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and [if] he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and [if] she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and [if he] writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.”

The Pharisees that came to Jesus said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND HER AWAY?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives…” God never commanded that people get a divorce, He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Furthermore, the Deuteronomy 24 passage cannot be construed to include “some uncleanness” after the marriage has been in existence for any length of time. Provisions had just been given two chapters previously for a man to contest the marriage at the beginning if he believed his wife was not a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

10. Why did Moses allow for divorce? (Matthew 19:8) Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives.” The word “hardness” describes a heart dried up, hard and tough.

11. What is the difference between immorality and adultery? (Matthew 19:9; 15:19) Immorality is violating God’s moral law before marriage and adultery is violating God’s moral law while married. Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries [Gr. moichos], fornications [Gr. porneia], thefts, false witness, slanders.” This verse demonstrates that Matthew didn’t use these two words interchangeably as mere synonyms but saw them as distinctly two precisely different sins.

12. Does immorality or adultery cause divorce? (Matthew 19:9) The text says that immorality [Gr. porneia] causes divorce, not adultery [Gr. moichos]. To teach that divorce is permissible on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness” [Gr. moichos] is to build a doctrine on one word using the wrong translation for the word! The word fornication [Gr. porneia] cannot be restricted to “marital unfaithfulness.” The word adultery [Gr. moichos] would have been used if Jesus meant only “marital unfaithfulness.”

13. What does remarriage cause a person to become? (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Romans 7:2-3) The Bible teaches that when a divorced person remarries they become an adulterer or adulterous. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife…, and marries another woman commits adultery'” (Matthew 19:9). “And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery'” (Mark 10:11-12). “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man” (Romans 7:2-3).

14. What does the “exception clause” mean? (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) Jesus said the only cause for divorce is porneia, which means:

1) Incestuous marriage – the man in the Corinthian church who married his father’s wife was condemned by Paul for his incestuous marriage). His sin is named as “immorality” [Gr. porneia] in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Incestuous marriages are condemned in Leviticus 18.

2) Sodomite marriage – a “marriage” between two men or two women was also condemned in Leviticus 18:22. The word “fornication” [Gr. ekpomeuo] is used for sodomy in Jude 1:7.

3) Betrothal unfaithfulness­ – if a man found that his wife was not a virgin at the time he married her, he was given the option in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 to divorce her. Matthew alone has the “exception clause” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) because only a Jewish audience understand the betrothal period. This situation was illustrated in Matthew 1:19.


A MAIDEN, A VIRGIN: Joseph’s father, Eli, probably made the decision and choice of Mary to be his son’s wife. A father could make this decision alone (Genesis 38:6) but a mother could play a role (Genesis 21:21; 27:46) though it was not essential, the bride’s consent was at times asked for (Genesis 24:5,58). Romance was involved in some of the matches (Genesis 29:20; Judges 14:1-3; 1 Samuel 18:20, cp. Song of Solomon). The text is silent concerning how Joseph and Mary were matched. It only reveals that Mary was a virgin (Matthew 1:23,25, Isaiah 7:14).

DOWRY NEGOTIATED: Joseph the son of Eli traveled to the home of his prospective bride. Mary’s father then negotiated with Joseph. A price was negotiated which had to be paid to purchase his bride. Once again the text is silent concerning these details. Note: In Genesis 34:12, Shechem is willing to pay any bridal payment (dowry) for Dinah. In Exodus 22:16-17 one who has seduced an unbetrothed virgin has to pay a dowry. In 1 Samuel 18:25 Saul demands a dowry of a “hundred foreskins of the Philistines” for his daughter. Instead of silver or goods, an act of valor or of service was at-times performed to win a bride (Genesis 29; Joshua 15:16-17; 1 Samuel 17:25).

COVENANT ESTABLISHED: When Joseph paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was thereby established. At that point Joseph and Mary were regarded to be husband and wife, even though no physical union had taken place. The paying of the dowry created a legally binding relationship. Even before his marriage to Mary, Joseph was called her husband (Matthew 1:19). Note: Before marriage Jacob called Rachel “my wife” Genesis 29:21, cp. Deuteronomy 22:23-24: “his neighbor’s wife” cp. 2 Samuel 3:14 “give me my wife Michal, to whom I was betrothed.”

BETROTHAL BENEDICTION: The moment the covenant was established, Mary was declared to be set apart exclusively for Joseph. Then Joseph and Mary drank from a cup over which the betrothal benediction had been pronounced. This symbolized that the covenant relationship had been established.

BETROTHAL PERIOD: After the marriage covenant was in effect, Joseph left Mary’s house and returned to his father’s house. He remained there for a period of twelve months, separated from his bride. During this period of separation, Mary gathered her wardrobe and prepared for married life. Joseph was busy preparing living accommodations in his father’s house for his bride. Matthew 1:18 states that “Mary had been betrothed to Joseph.” The verb “betrothed” in the active voice would signify to woo a woman and ask for her hand in marriage. But the verb here and also in Luke 1:27, 2:5 is in the passive voice, describing this period of being set apart and promised in marriage, (“espoused” KJV).

15. Does Scripture illustrate a just divorce consistent with the “exception clause”? (Matthew 1:18-20; John 8:41,48) Matthew 1:18-20 says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband , being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away [Gr. apolusai =divorce] secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”‘ Joseph was considering divorcing Mary when he became aware of her pregnancy. Despite the apparent betrothal unfaithfulness he did not want to disgrace her publicly but was intending to divorce her privately. A writing of divorce was required to break this covenant arrangement. The angelic messenger from the Lord changed Joseph’s mind and he “took Mary as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).

The Pharisees some 33 years later falsely accused Jesus of being illegitimate and the product of Mary’s unfaithfulness to Joseph during their betrothal period. Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 8:39-41 was questioning the Pharisees as to whether they were truly descendants of Abraham. The text says, “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.’ 40 ‘But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.’ 41 ‘You are doing the deeds of your father’ They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication [Gr. porneia]; we have one Father: God.'” In John 8:41 they Pharisees sarcastically lash out and imply that He was the product of betrothal unfaithfulness and in John 8:48 they accuse Him of being a “Samaritan.'” They called the Holy Son of God an illegitimate bastard who had a demon and was the product Mary’s promiscuous behavior with some Gentile. If this had been true, Joseph had every right to divorce Mary.

16. How did the disciples react to Jesus’ teaching on divorce? (Matthew 19:10) The response of the disciples indicates that Jesus’ interpretation of Old Testament Scripture on divorce was much stricter than what they had imagined. The disciples were aware of the rabbinical schools. Their astonishment at Christ’s teaching would hardly be in order if He simply said, “You can only divorce for marital unfaithfulness.”

17. Why does Jesus use this occasion to address the topic of singleness? (Matthew 19:10-11; Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 7:7-9; 9:5) Based on the disciples’ response in Matthew 19:10, it appears that the disciples were considering a life of singleness if divorce wasn’t an option. Jesus used this occasion to address singleness because the general rule is that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Although the disciples concluded, “it is better not to marry,” Jesus said, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.” The Apostle Paul talked about being given “the gift of singleness” or “celibacy” in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Although the disciples boasted of remaining single they all married except Barnabas and Paul (1 Corinthians 9:5-6 cp. Mark 1:30).

18. What three categories of singleness does Jesus mention in Matthew 19:12? “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mothers womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven…'”

  1. First “are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” These are people who are born with congenital deformities that involve undeveloped sexual capacity.
  2. Second “are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men,” such as were male harem guards of that day. In some ancient religions, castration was considered a way of pleasing and serving a pagan deity and parents sometimes even had their infant sons castrated for that purpose. Obviously castrated men do not have normal desires for a woman.
  3. Third are “eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Unlike the other two forms, this one is not physical. Mutilation of the flesh in order to please God is a purely pagan idea. Jesus is speaking of the voluntary celibacy of those to whom that gift has been granted by God (Matthew 19:11). In that case, celibacy can indeed be for the sake of the kingdom of God and be pleasing to Him and used by Him.

19. What does Jesus command a person to do with the gift of singleness? (Matthew 19:12) Jesus said “He who is able to accept this, let him accept it (present imperative).” Totally embrace it and continually use it to advance the kingdom. The word “accept” has the basic idea of making room or space for something. Metaphorically it means to completely embrace an idea or principle with the heart and mind so that it becomes part of one’s very nature. Singleness cannot be wholeheartedly accepted simply by human willpower or sincerity. Nor can it be successfully lived out simply by applying the right biblical principles. Celibate singleness is a kind of spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 7:7) and only those to whom it has been given can hope to spiritually survive in it, much less find happiness and be effective in the Lord’s service.

20. What is this gift to be exclusively used for? (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35) 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 says, “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

21. What areas of compatibility are non-negotiable when evaluating a potential marriage partner? (1 Corinthians 7:39; 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Amos 3:3) Spiritual compatibility is a non-negotiable for a Christian single looking for a mate. When Christians marry unbelievers they forfeit a common treasure found in a relationship with Christ, they also miss out on a common blueprint (the Bible), common strength, and common values. The following verses require a believer to marry a believer.

  1. “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:30).
  2. “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5)
  3. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  4. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

The answers to the questions above have been drawn from the following resources:

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. Rebuilders Guide by: Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1992
  3. Rebuilders Supplement by: Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1978.
  4. When You’re Serious About Love: straight talk to single adults by: Kay Kuzma Here’s Life Publishers, 1992
  5. The Divorce Myth: A Biblical Examination of Divorce and Remarriage by: J. Carl Laney, Bethany House Publications, 1981
  6. Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications, 1983.
  7. Lawfully Wedded by: Ronald Showers, Philadelphia College of Bible, 1983
  8. Meant to Last: A Christian view of marriage, divorce and remarriage by: Paul E. Steele and Charles C. Ryrie, Victor Books, 1986
  9. Call it Love or Call it Quits: The single’s guide to meaningful relationships by: Tim Timmons, and Charlie Hedges, Word Publishing, 1988.
  10. Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 135 No. 539 July-Sept 1978. Theological Quarterly published by Dallas Theological Seminary. “Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World,” Edwin M. Yamauchi pg. 241-252
  11. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by: W.E.Vine, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pp.114, 371, 908.
  12. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol.3, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956, pp.1996-1999.
  13. The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Betrothal,” Editor: Isidore Singer, Funk & Wagnals Company, 1907.
  14. The Role of Women in the Church, “The Teaching on Divorce,” by: Charles Ryrie, Moody Press, 1958, pp.40-50.
  15. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by: Gerhard Kittle, translated by Geoffrey Bromley, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967.
  16. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia – “Marriage,” by: Isaac Landman, Universal Publishing House, 1948.
  17. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 4 by: Merrill C. Tenny, Zondervan Publishing Company, 1975, pp.92-102.

On Divorce: 1

Matthew 19:7–10 / If divorce runs counter to the divine intention, then why, asked the Pharisees, did Moses give the law allowing a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? Is Moses guilty of writing laws that run counter to the mind of God? Such an idea would be blasphemous in the religious culture of first-century Judaism. Jesus answers that Moses’ injunction regarding divorce came as a result of their hardness of heart. Williams translates, “It was because of your moral perversity that Moses allowed you to divorce” (Matthew 19:8). But that was not what was intended in the beginning. Actually, the requirement of a written notice of divorce made the process more difficult. Prior to that time a marriage could be dissolved by the man simply declaring it to be so. A written notice would give time for anger to dissipate and common sense to regain control.

Jesus continues by pointing out that whoever divorces his wife for any cause other than marital infidelity and marries another is guilty of adultery (Matthew 19:9). In the parallel passage in Matthew 5:32, divorce is said to cause the woman who is put away to commit adultery. In the culture of that day a divorced woman would very easily find herself trapped into a life of prostitution. In the present passage it is the man who commits adultery by remarriage. The point is that in God’s sight the man who divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness is still married to her.

If that’s the case between a man and his wife, respond the disciples, then it would be better not to marry at all. The difficulty of achieving a perfect marriage becomes an argument against marriage itself.

On Singleness: 2

Matthew 19:11–12 / Jesus’ response to his disciples’ conclusion about marriage is that not all men are able to accept, “to make room,” thus, in a mental sense, “to comprehend or accept,” BAGD, p. 890) this saying, but only those “who have the gift.” Commentators differ as to what this teaching refers to. Some take it as a response to the disciples’ saying in the previous verse. For example, Knox translates, “That conclusion … cannot be taken in by everybody.” The problem here, however, is that God is held as agreeing with the disciples’ conclusion that it is better not to marry (Matthew 19:10). This runs counter to the divine intention in creation (Genesis 1:28).

It is better to take Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:11 as referring to his teaching on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:3–9. Not everyone is able to accept his strict position on the subject, but only those to whom it [the ability to accept] has been given. It is not a question of whether or not a person should refrain from marriage for the sake of evangelism or because the end of all things is not far off. The issue has to do with true disciples who have had to divorce their wives for immorality and “out of obedience to Christ’s law concerning divorce they do not remarry” (Gundry, pp. 381–82). Those who cannot or do not accept the teaching are non-disciples and false disciples.

There are several reasons why men do not marry (or are unsuited for marriage). Some have been disabled from birth. Others were made that way by men (Matthew 19:12). It was not uncommon for servants in the royal harems to be castrated in order to protect the women. Also, in certain Mediterranean cults priests dedicated themselves to a mother goddess by self-emasculation (Beare, p. 391). Origen, one of the most influential thinkers of the early church, castrated himself, although in time he came to realize his error.

A third type of eunuch is the man who has renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. This is voluntary celibacy, and, if one follows Gundry’s argument, these are those who “live as eunuchs after they have had to divorce their wives for immorality” (p. 382). So Jesus concludes, The one who can accept this (teaching on divorce and remarriage) should accept it. It is the mark of a true disciple to live in obedience to God’s best intention for human beings.

1 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 181). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (pp. 181–182). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Question: “Is remarriage after divorce always adultery?” 3

Before we even begin to answer this question, let us reiterate, “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). The pain, confusion, and frustration most people experience after a divorce are surely part of the reason that God hates divorce. Even more difficult, biblically, than the question of divorce, is the question of remarriage. The vast majority of people who divorce either remarry or consider getting remarried. What does the Bible say about this?

Matthew 19:9 says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” See also Matthew 5:32. These Scriptures clearly state that remarriage after a divorce is adultery, except in the instance of “marital unfaithfulness.”

It is our view that there are certain instances in which divorce and remarriage are permitted without the remarriage being considered adultery. These instances would include unrepentant adultery, physical abuse of spouse or children, and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse. We are not saying that a person under such circumstances should remarry. The Bible definitely encourages remaining single or reconciliation over remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:11). At the same time, it is our view that God offers His mercy and grace to the innocent party in a divorce and allows that person to remarry without it being considered adultery.

A person who gets a divorce for a reason other than the reasons listed above, and then gets remarried has committed adultery (Luke 16:18). The question then becomes, is this remarriage an “act” of adultery, or a “state” of adultery. The present tense of the Greek in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; and Luke 16:18 can indicate a continuous state of adultery. At the same time, the present tense in Greek does not always indicate continuous action. Sometimes it simply means that something occurred (Aoristic, Punctiliar, or Gnomic present). For example, the word “divorces” in Matthew 5:32 is present tense, but divorcing is not a continual action. It is our view that remarriage, no matter the circumstances, is not a continual state of adultery. Only the act of getting remarried itself is adultery.

In the Old Testament Law, the punishment for adultery was death (Leviticus 20:10). At the same time, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 mentions remarriage after a divorce, does not call it adultery, and does not demand the death penalty for the remarried spouse. The Bible explicitly says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), but nowhere explicitly states that God hates remarriage. The Bible nowhere commands a remarried couple to divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not describe the remarriage as invalid. Ending a remarriage through divorce would be just as sinful as ending a first marriage through divorce. Both would include the breaking of vows before God, between the couple, and in front of witnesses.

No matter the circumstances, once a couple is remarried, they should strive to live out their married lives in fidelity, in a God-honoring way, with Christ at the center of their marriage. A marriage is a marriage. God does not view the new marriage as invalid or adulterous. A remarried couple should devote themselves to God, and to each other – and honor Him by making their new marriage a lasting and Christ-centered one (Ephesians 5:22-33). ]

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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The Keys to the Kingdom

Perhaps you have asked yourself questions like these: What does God want from me? How does he want me to live? I remember my early days as a believer, and I would often ask God to show me his will, reveal what he wanted from me. I remember finding verses like Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” or 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification;” or Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” The goal back then was to be the best Christian I could be, walking in faith, walking in the light, walking in purity, but notice that the emphasis was always on ME.

But there are much bigger questions that believers must wrestle with. What is God’s global purpose and how do I fit into that? How does God expect me to do the work of evangelism? How am I making disciples? The preacher is always talking about the Great Commission and the need and responsibility that we believers have to be an intentional witness for the risen Savior Jesus Christ. I’m no Peter or Paul or Timothy; I’m just an average Joe who believes the story of Jesus, his work on the cross, and have put my trust in him alone for my salvation. I’m not ambitious enough to think that I can change the world, nor clever enough that God would use a person like me to make a difference. So, where do I fit in the Kingdom of God? How will I find my place in the Kingdom, which is our theme for 2015?

Perhaps you have been watching the NBC series on Sunday night called AD, the Bible Continues. While there are some portions embellished for story sake, the main story of the early days of the Christian church is great to watch. Those people had to stand up for what they believed in while the threats of imprisonment and death were constantly on their minds. God can’t expect us to live that way in this modern society.

Today, we seek out every possible way to be free from discomfort, and when we sense the need to go deeper with God, we use phrases like, “getting out of our comfort zone” or “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat” or we read books like “radical.” In actuality, we are NOT called to be RADICAL, but rather “radical” is a term that should describe the NORMAL Christian life. When we are not radically sold out to Jesus, we are living out some other gospel, not one that we read about in the New Testament.

Let’s get into First Thessalonians:

The first thing I want you to see in this passage is that Paul brought to the church a message with kingdom authority.

  1. Kingdom Authority:

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

The first thing I want you to see in these verses is…

The Manner of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2, 4)

  1. Paul was not a quitter (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2) He spoke with boldness, he suffered, he was mistreated, but he was dedicated to God, he continued to preach with a lot of opposition or contention.
  • He was jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) so he was a man with a police record, an ex-con, a jail-bird.
  • He was accused of being a man on the run from justice, and who would listen to such a man? There were people who twisted his message, his motives, and his methods.
  1. Paul was a steward (1 Thessalonians 2:4) he was entrusted with the gospel.
  • A steward owns nothing, but possesses and uses everything that belongs to his master.
  • A steward possesses faithfulness to his Master (1 Corinthians 4:1-2), we are not to aim for pleasing men, but pleasing God.

The people had no less than three charges against Paul. Let’s take a look at…

The Message of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3a). Paul’s message did not come from error; it was true and contained no deceit. This message came directly from God. People would accuse him of being mad, a crazy man, like…

  • Early in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21), “When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.
  • Later in Paul’s life when Festus thought has was insane (Acts 26:24), “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.

We need to have the same burning passion of constantly talking about Jesus, what he has done for us, and sharing what we know and have experienced.

The Motive of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3b). Another accusation came that Paul was preaching with impure motives. It is possible to preach the right message with the wrong motives. The early church had a practice of what is called “agape meals” which had been called “love Feasts” according to Jude 1:12. You can imagine how critics could take that term and reduce it toward something immoral, but Paul’s motivation was clean; it was pure.

The Method of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3c). There was no guile or trickery to win converts to faith in Jesus. The word has an image of “baiting a hook;” yet Paul did not trap people with cleaver salesmanship. Salvation does not come at the end of some cleaver argument or subtle presentation, salvation is the result of God’s Word connecting with the power of the Holy Spirit … for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In this passage, we see there was no deceit in Paul’s method.

His message of kingdom authority came out of his kingdom authenticity.

  1. Kingdom Authenticity:

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

First Thessalonians tells us that Paul invested his life into this community, and made a difference. People knew the truth of his word and his words. He was not a cheap peddler of elixir, or a feel-good gospel, or a prosperity gospel. People accused him of flattery speech and being greedy, but Paul’s readers knew that he told the truth, just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Paul also appealed to the witness of God (1 Thessalonians 2:5, 10) and to their witness as well (1 Thessalonians 2:11). A person with flattery speech will manipulate rather than communicate. In America, we are getting used to being manipulated and lied to, especially during an election year. We see this regularly happening today in the mainstream media, if you repeat a lie often enough, and loudly enough, it will be accepted as the truth.

Authenticity means being who you claim to be as well as being who you ought to be. This is a challenge for all of us. There has to be authenticity in our pulpit ministry, corporate worship life, and in our individual and family lives, too.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude.

  1. Kingdom Attitude:

7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

This section begins and ends with two great illustrations: he behaved as a mother with her child and a father with his children. This reveals the care and concern that parents have for their kids, and as kingdom people, we should have toward those inside and outside of the faith. A kingdom attitude understands that we do not live only for ourselves. The church does not exist for itself. The church is probably the only organization that exists solely for the benefit of those who are not members.

Think about how Jesus treated his disciples. He lived among them, coached them, taught them, challenged them, encouraged them, all these things are done in close proximity, as the body of faith. Babies are not birthed only to let them fend for themselves; neither are we to do the same with the children of God.

Believers in Jesus Christ must invest their lives into the next generation; it is imperative for human families, it is essential with our spiritual family. We must be of the same attitude, to work day and night, proclaiming the good news of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This type of investment of life and involvement in the lives of other people is different than church business as usual.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude; so to make this happen, we need a kingdom approach.

  1. Kingdom Approach:

12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

This verse tells us that the way in which we walk (meaning, the way we live our lives) must be in a manner worthy of God. The old approach is that we simply believe in the facts about Jesus whether we end up living according to that standard or not. It was all about right belief and praying a prayer of salvation. This approach has led us to the point we find the church today.

Think about the evangelism of the past, we were taught to go to strangers, knock on doors, or go to the unchurched people you know to make sure they hear a clear presentation of the gospel. We want them saved, to believe in the resurrected Jesus, the only way to the Father (John 14:6). That may be well and good, but I question the effectiveness of this approach. A kingdom approach involves living our lives in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom.

I’m not talking about lifestyle evangelism, which is generally translated as, “I won’t speak up and say anything about Jesus, I just let my life speak for me; after all, my actions will speak louder than my words.” The problem is that no one is perfect and lost people will be disappointed in other human beings in the long run.

While it is true that Jesus said to let your light shine before me so they will glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), Paul said in Romans 10:17, that faith comes from hearing. People need to hear you putting in a good word for Jesus. Lifestyle alone is not sufficient.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” It sounds good on the surface but let’s think about this logically. Doing acts of kindness for others will not invite them to fall on their knees and repent, it takes our speaking up so they can HEAR the gospel and follow Jesus. As an example of the importance of action, consider this, “Feed the hungry at all times, and if necessary, use food.” Being an advocate for hunger issues is different from feeding hungry people. How will people taste of the Bread of Life if we don’t provide the necessary food?

So, this new approach is all about getting involved in our community and impacting our circles of influence, more than creating the next great event designed to attract people to our church in hopes they hear the gospel from a professional pastor. In this attractional model, evangelism has become synonymous with an invitation to church.

So finally, Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened when possessing a kingdom attitude; employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity.

  1. Kingdom Activity:

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,

Paul sums up this entire section by thanking God that the Thessalonians received his message and accepted the message for what it was, the Word of God, and not the word of men. The challenge he has in this section comes right out of verse 14, that they would become imitators of the churches in Judea (1 Thessalonians 2:14). So, what is the church supposed to be doing?

One of the best places in Scripture to read about the activities of the early church is in the book of Acts 2:42-47. Back in April I was able to preach about Praying for the Church’s MVPs (the church’s Mission, Vision, and Proclamation) so I won’t revisit that today, but the point is, we are to be on mission in this life. The church must be active and on the move, we have marching orders, and HIS last command needs to be OUR first concern.

We have been entrusted with the gospel, and we must be good stewards of that which the Father has given to us. We are gifted in various areas, different people are able to serve in different capacities. It is important to find a place to give back, make a difference, and impact the kingdom of God.

We have kingdom authority and are challenged to live with kingdom authenticity; which can only happened when we have a kingdom attitude, employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity. This is how we make a difference in the lives of others, for the kingdom’s sake. These five things really are the keys to the kingdom.

Next Steps:

In what ways can you BLESS your neighbors and co-workers each week? Remember this means to

  1. Begin with prayer, then
  2. Listen, or
  3. Eat a meal that week with an unchurched person, or
  4. Serve someone in Jesus’ name, or
  5. Share YOUR story or HIS story.

How can you make sure that you are trying to please God rather than trying to please yourself or other people?

Into whom, and how, are you imparting the gospel of God and your own life to others (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)?

What is the difference between accepting a message as the Word of God and responding to it? (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

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Make Friends to Make Disciples

The idea of living the Christian life is to impact those around you for the kingdom of God. Check out this challenging word from Rick Warren, based on Romans 12:16.

Everybody’s looking for a true friend — not just acquaintances but people who are there with you when you need them most. God wants you to build true friendships with the people that are already in your life so that you can share the gospel with them. God has put these people — your co-workers and classmates, neighbors and teammates — in your life specifically so you can share with them about the most important decision they will ever make. If you don’t tell them about what Christ has done for them, then who will?

The Bible says to “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16 NLT)

Christians tend to fall into one of two extremes: isolation or imitation. Some Christians say, “I don’t want to get polluted by the world. I’m just going to isolate myself. I’ll build a wall and my own little culture.” Isolation doesn’t work! How are you going to build any friendships that way?

The other extreme is imitation, which says, “Let’s be just like the world. We’ll dress like the latest pop star. We’ll say whatever we want about other people. We’ll have whatever values and goals popular culture tells us we should have. We’ll be no different from the world.” That’s not what God wants you to be, either. He doesn’t want you to give in to the lowest common denominators of society.

The answer is not isolation or imitation. It’s insulation and infiltration. The Bible says you’re to be salt and light in the world. You’re to penetrate the world with God’s goodness.

When I go out to dinner and order sea bass, the first thing I have to do before I can eat it is put salt on it. That fish has lived its entire life in salt water, yet I have to put salt on it. What’s going on? That fish is insulated. If God can take a fish and keep it in salt water its entire life and not have the salt permeate the fish, then certainly God can take any believer, put us in the world, and keep us from being corrupted by the wrong values.

God wants you to be holy and secure in your faith. He also wants you to walk out your door into the world and get to know the people he’s placed in your life. As you build relationships with people around you and share Truth with them, you are to be in the world but not of the world.

“The Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

Talk It Over:

  • Why is it sometimes easier to isolate ourselves rather than get to know other people on a deeper level?
  • What are some ways you have fallen into the trap of becoming an imitator of the world?
  • If you were the only representation of Jesus Christ that someone had in his or her life, how would they perceive Christianity? How does that make you want to change?

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The Optional Gospel?

What part of the gospel is optional? This is our mission, God’s global purpose…

This book takes you on a transforming journey in authentic discipleship. During his time as pastor of a large and wealthy congregation, David Platt began to see a discrepancy between the reality of his church and the way Jesus said his followers lived. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt examines how American Christianity has manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences and challenges us to rediscover the path.

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Why Does a Church Decline?

Why is it that churches tend to slip into decline? A vibrant and growing ministry becomes “plateaued” or begins to lose the numbers or excitement it once had. How about these steps to find a solution:

1. Return to Your First Passion (Revelation 2:4-5) – But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

Churches don’t realize how far they have fallen, then “church” simply becomes routine, going through the motions, and going into maintenance mode. If we will only remember the first days of our relationship with Christ, the excitement, the purpose, the mission, the commands, the new insights; perhaps we will be restored to our earlier fellowship, and make an impact on our community and others around us. The key in this passage is a single word… REPENT. While that is so humiliating, (to admit that we have fallen away, or drifted), that is the solution the angel provides through the apostle John.

2. Remember Your Foundational Purpose (Matthew 28:19-20) – Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This passage talks a lot about mission and purpose; we are to be about our Father’s business of evangelism and discipleship. How often do we begin to cool in our desire for God’s kingdom to increase?

I recently read Brian Moss* who writes, “Churches plateau and decline due to missional drift.” I cannot think of any church that ever drifted and kept the main thing the main thing. In order to get the church moving in the right direction we’ve got to figure out which direction we need to go! Moss again writes, “Too often plateaued churches focus on growing the church numerically before they correct the drift philosophically. If you focus on growth before depth you’ll be tempted to adopt gimmicks, quick fixes and copycat tactics. Don’t change anything until your core leaders are thoroughly committed to the biblical purposes of the church.”

The Great Commandment is essential as well; to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). These are the reasons for worship and ministry. We worship due to our love for God and we are involved in ministry because of our love for others. Let’s rekindle our focus on the primary purpose of the church, to know Christ and to make him known.

3. Refocus on Your Favorite People: by “favorite” I mean your target audience.

Moss writes about his church experience: “Our church was hidden in the woods at the end of a dead-end road completely surrounded by an upper-income housing development. Our congregation was comprised of medium income families. We tried for months to reach the families in the homes surrounding our church. It was a complete failure. Finally, we decided to try reaching people like us. We learned the hard way that you reach who you are, not who you want.”

That sounds a lot like our situation, high income and powerful people in the neighborhood north of the church property. We are a congregation that has a good number of these types families, but we also have plenty of average income families, young and old, and a fair amount of transitioning young Navy families. Perhaps we have a schizophrenic personality, not knowing who we are, but we CAN reach people like us; each group reaching out to their own circles of influence.

That, my friend is relational, and I feel is the beginning of effective evangelism and discipleship.

[print_link] [email_link] *Brian Moss is pastor at Oak Ridge Baptist, Salisbury MD

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The Missional Church

I love this concept; it’s very simple and looks sneakingly similar to what we see happening in the New Testament. The early church met in homes in their communities (house to house; Acts 2:2, 5:42, Philemon 1:2), not just in a large “church” gathering.

Churches that are in traditional roles in the community will not think like this, perhaps like trying to turn an aircraft carrier (it takes a slow, wide turn). But even in this Navy ship illustration, the ship has to be moving in order to make the turn.

Take a look at this brief missional church video. What do you think? How can we change the “church” mindset toward making disciples who in turn make other disciples (making disciple-makers rather than more believers)?

Here is a video on authentic and biblical discipleship… how can we more effectively make disciples?

There are several questions that must be asked…

  1. Who is doing this?
  2. Where are you doing this?
  3. What is the context of your congregation’s community?
  4. What do you think is the key to transforming your congregation into a fellowship driven by purpose and mission?

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Church Planting in the Congo

This is a guest post from missionary Ed Miller, who served along with his wife, Linda, nearly four decades as missionaries to Zambia:

Since leaving the field in December 2008 and retirement in December of 2009, our hearts are still in Zambia. Ed Miller has made three trips back to Zambia and Linda has made one. Since October 2009, the work of the Copperbelt has extended and now there are over 45 churches in Congo as a result of the Chande Baptist Orphanage Ministry.

It is amazing how the Lord has used the Chande Baptist Orphanage ministry in Kitwe to be a church planting tool. Someone said, “An orphanage is not a church planting tool, but here we see the opposite.” As the people got their eyes on ministry to orphans, the Lord also showed them the mission field near them in the neighboring country of Congo.

Even with little resources, they have reached out to share Christ with people in Zambia, but also as a church planting tool.  The orphanage has been a spring board for church planting not only in Zambia, but also in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Use this link to read a story of how the Lord uses the outreach of the Zambian people from the Chande Baptist Orphanage to touch lives in Congo. [ Read More ]

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Serve Before You Sit and Soak

I love the catch phrase, “Look for a place to serve before you look for a place to sit.” Once we find a place to sit, we tend to just sit there and soak it in. Since Jesus is our example of service, and he is the greatest example of servant leadership, we should be inspired to get serious about being proactive with our faith; to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:3-5)

Think about it: Washing feet was an act of service left to the lowliest hired servant or slave.

  1. How did Jesus’ bond with God affect how He treated others?
  2. Who would you nominate in our church for the “Mother Teresa” award, for selfless acts of service?
  3. What does Jesus know that the others did not (John 13:1, 3, 11)?
  4. How would foreknowledge of events have kept you from serving Judas?
  5. What are you holding on to, that which you don’t want Jesus to cleanse you (John 13:8)?
  6. How does being served help you become a servant?

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To Serve or Not to Serve?

Tonight the topic for my small group is, Ransomed by God, out of Hebrew 9:11-28. The purpose of the study is to clarify that Christ was God himself, sacrificing himself for sinful humanity. The theological doctrine we are covering is substitution. I love this key verse out of Mark, he is so to the point:

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)

  1. What does it mean to willingly be the slave of everyone else? What does this look like in daily life?
  2. Why do you think God’s plan was for Jesus to be a servant rather than an earthly king?

Since the context is about leadership, here are some thoughts from Ken Blanchard regarding self-serving leaders vs. servant leaders:

One of the quickest ways to tell the difference between a self-serving leader and a servant leader is how they handle feedback:

  • A self-serving leader always fears he will lose his position. They focus on protecting their status, so when there is feedback, it is seen as a threat to their leadership and position.
  • A servant leader sees leadership as an act of service. They welcome feedback as a way they can provide better service in the future.

There is generally a temptation to hold on to position, so we are all self-serving to a degree. Is there anything more self-serving than a new baby. They don’t come home from the hospital asking how they can help around the house. Life is a journey of moving from a self-serving to a serving heart. Babies mature into adults, and eventually we all must learn that life is more about what you give, not what you get. Every morning we should ask the question, “Which type of leader will I be today?”

Here is how to combat the temptation to be self-serving; surrender your motives and actions to Christ and role model how Jesus would lead. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

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