False Expectations

This message is a part of the new sermon series for 2016 at King’s Grant Baptist Church, taken from Luke 14:25-35. Here is the video of my message.

There was a debate perhaps 25 years on the meaning of salvation. At that time I discovered a tremendously insightful resource by John MacArthur called, The Gospel According to Jesus. It changed my life. This is what it was all about…

As Baptists we understand that salvation by grace through faith. No one earns salvation through their deeds. But can someone be saved and not follow Jesus as a disciple? Can Jesus be your Savior without him being your Lord? Can you pray a prayer as a younger person, and because Baptists believe in “once saved always saved,” it matters not that you never grow in maturity?

Let me tell you a story about someone coming to Christ while I was out witnessing with my pastor; this was my first full-time staff position after seminary. The pastor and I went out visiting and this young man, likely a senior in high school, sat and talked with us at his kitchen table. I sensed that the guy was not buying what we were selling, but before we left, he was on his knees praying the sinner’s prayer with my pastor. My question after that evening, after it was all said and done was, “will we ever see this guy get involved in worship, Bible study, or have any desire to grow in spiritual maturity at all?” Did he mean it? Was he ready to accept the challenge of following Jesus?

What are the expectations that WE have of Jesus and Christianity? What are the expectations that Jesus has of US?

When Jesus left the Pharisee’s house, great crowds followed Him, but He was not impressed by their enthusiasm. He knew that most of those in the crowd were not the least bit interested in spiritual things. Some wanted only to see miracles, others heard that He fed the hungry, and a few hoped He would overthrow Rome and establish David’s promised kingdom. They were expecting the wrong things.

Jesus turned to the multitude and preached a sermon that deliberately thinned out the ranks. He made it clear that, when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. In the matter of saving lost souls, He wants His house to be filled (Luke 14:23); but in the matter of personal discipleship, He wants only those who are willing to pay the price.

A “disciple” is a learner, one who attaches himself or herself to a teacher in order to learn a trade or a subject. Perhaps our nearest modern equivalent is “apprentice,” one who learns by watching and by doing. The word disciple was the most common name for the followers of Jesus Christ and is used 264 times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus seems to make a distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is open to all who will come by faith, while discipleship is for believers willing to pay a price. Salvation means coming to the cross and trusting Jesus Christ, while discipleship means carrying the cross and following Jesus Christ. Jesus wants as many sinners saved as possible (“that My house may be filled”), but He cautions us not to take discipleship lightly; and in the three parables He gave, He made it clear that there is a price to pay.

We are going to dive in to what it means to love Jesus Christ supremely and to carry one’s cross.

  1. Jesus’ Instruction concerning discipleship (Luke 14:25-27)
    1. In regard to the candidate’s family (Luke 14:25-26)
      1. Jesus was still traveling toward Jerusalem, and large crowds had joined him.
        1. Perhaps all these casual followers considered themselves “disciples” of this popular teacher.
        2. Perhaps they thought he was the Messiah and wanted to be there when he inaugurated his kingdom.
      2. Jesus needed to explain that following him did not mean receiving goodies, like the expectation of so many children.
        1. He wanted to explain what it meant to truly be his disciple. So he turned and spoke to them. His disciples had to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.
        2. This may be the only verse that teenagers will enthusiastically quote and follow, after all, Jesus said that I am to hate my parents.
        3. Certainly this caused a stir among the people. Who would possibly ask his followers to hate their family members and life itself? The point is not to HATE, but to LOVE others less. Your love for Jesus must be so strong that any other relationship of LOVE would look like HATE in comparison.
      3. Jesus never contradicts himself. Never has Jesus advocated “hatred”—in fact, he even commanded his followers to love their enemies (Luke 6:27, 35).
        1. In these words Jesus was not going against his own commands of love, or the fifth commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12).
        2. Instead, the word “hate” is a Semitic hyperbole—an obvious exaggeration to make a point (see Genesis 29:30–33; Proverbs 13:24). Their love for Jesus should be so complete and wholehearted that their love for family members, and for life itself, would pale in comparison, to the point of being like hatred. In first-century Jewish family settings, deciding for Jesus could mean alienation from the family.
        3. Jesus warned the would-be disciples that they must be clear about their true allegiance. Jesus’ point was that those who wanted to be his followers would have demands placed upon them. The task would not be easy. Sometimes relationships would be severed, and his followers would have to turn away and remain with Jesus (12:51–53). Those who cannot make that kind of commitment cannot be his disciple.
    2. In regard to the candidate (Luke 14:27)
      1. Besides being willing to love Jesus more than any others and more than life itself, the true disciple must be ready to carry the cross and follow Christ.
      2. Jesus’ audience was well aware of what it meant to “carry the cross.” When the Romans led a criminal to his execution site, the criminal would be forced to carry the cross on which he would die. This showed submission to Rome and warned observers that they had better submit too.
      3. Carrying your cross means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12:23–28). Bearing a “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives.
      4. Jesus gave this teaching to get the crowds to think through their enthusiasm for him. He encouraged those who were superficial either to go deeper or to turn back. Following Christ means total submission to him—perhaps even to the point of death.
  2. Jesus’ Illustration concerning discipleship (Luke 14:28-35)
    1. A disciple must be like a man preparing to build: the example of the unfinished building (Luke 14:28-30). The story has a couple interesting observations.
      1. Adequate Resources – mockery – a landmark of foolishness. If a person could not finish what he started, the community would mock him, and his unfinished building would be a testimony to his lack of following through.
      2. Adverse Reality – the calling to follow Jesus deserves serious thought and contemplation – the example of John Mark leaving the missionary journey (Acts 12:25-13:5, 13:13). The glamour and newness wears off and reality sets in. The young man did not count the cost of following Jesus and serving God as a companion of Paul.
    2. A disciple must be like a monarch preparing for battle: the example of a unsuccessful war (Luke 14:31-33) – To rush out with his soldiers, without first discussing the options, would invite disaster for any nation. It is far better to think it through beforehand. So those who want to follow Jesus should carefully consider their decision.
      1. The Christian life is a battle, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
      2. Satan is the enemy and our adversary, who seeks out downfall. He is the god of this world. Spiritual warfare is not a minor endeavor.
      3. For some, giving up everything may be literal, such as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–23 and many of Jesus’ early followers; for others it may be a willingness to hold loosely to material possessions.
    3. A disciple must be like a maître d’ preparing for a banquet: the example of an unsavory condiment (Luke 14:34-35)
      1. The maître d’ handles the reservations and preparations, so many Christians blend into the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ.
      2. But Jesus says if Christians lose their distinctive saltiness, they become worthless. Just as salt flavors and preserves food, Christ’s disciples are to preserve the good in the world, help keep it from spoiling, and bring new flavor to life.
      3. This requires careful planning, willing sacrifice, and unswerving commitment to Christ’s kingdom. Being “salty” is not easy, but if Christians fail in this function, they fail to represent Christ in the world. The person with ears should be able to understand these words and apply them.
        1. Salt without flavor is good for nothing; it has no purpose at the dinner table.
        2. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

What are those “costs” to believers? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. Family and friends may hate or avoid you. We may have to give up control over their money, time, or career. It is not like living overseas where Christianity is illegal, and may cost your freedom or your life.

Following Christ does not mean living a trouble-free life. All people must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciple so that they will know what they are getting into and won’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets tough.

The title of this message is False Expectations, so let me wrap this us by sharing with you what I would call one of the most haunting verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Talk about false expectations. Those who expects “well done, good and faithful servant,” heard Jesus say, depart from me, I never knew you.”

Discipleship is serious business. If we are not true disciples, then Jesus cannot build the tower and fight the war. Oswald Chambers wrote, “There is always an if in connection with discipleship, and it implies that we need not [be disciples] unless we embrace this. There is never any compulsion; Jesus does not coerce us. There is only one way of being a disciple, and that is by being devoted to Jesus.”

IF we tell Jesus that we want to take up our cross and follow Him as His disciples, THEN He wants us to know exactly what we are getting into. He wants no false expectancy, no illusions, no bargains. He wants to use us as STONES for building His church, SOLDIERS for battling His enemies, and SALT for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality more than quality.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He spoke these words, and look what happened to Him there! He does not ask us to do anything for Him that He has not already done for us.

To some people, Jesus says, “You cannot be My disciples!” Why? Because they will not forsake everything for Christ, bearing shame and reproach for Him, and letting their love for Him control them.

Will you be His disciple?

Next Steps:

  • How possible are this conditions for you?
  • What has it cost you to follow Jesus?
  • What cost of following Jesus seems too high for you?
  • What relationships of other loyalties do you need to pray about to strengthen your loyalty to Jesus?
  • In what area of your life can you have a deliberate effect for Christ this week?

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Growing Deeper With Jesus

You may wonder why you do not feel as close as you once did in your relationship with Jesus, or you may not be growing deeper in your relationship.

God has a Purpose:

  • Fact – Jesus wants to be in control of your life, Luke 6:46.
  • Fact – God want your life to be useful and enjoyable, John 15:10-11.
  • Fact – God wants you to live with him in an intimate relationship, 1 John 1:7.
  • Fact – God wants to fill your relationship with his Spirit, Ephesians 5:18.
  • Fact – God wants to get you ready to do is work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Fact – When you mess up in your walk with Him, God wants to forgive you and restore your relationship with him, 1 John 1:9.

Our Need:

  • Fact – Personal sin will damage our relationship with God, Isaiah 59:2.
  • Fact – Situations and circumstances in life may require us to seek God even more and to grow deeper in our relationship with him, Romans 12:1-2.

God’s Provision:

  • Fact – God has given us tools to grow deeper in our relationship and to be continually change to buy him.
  • Fact – God uses the Bible to bring Christians to a place where they can be used for His purposes, John 17:17.
  • Fact – Spiritual exercises, such as prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, sharing Jesus Christ with others, and serving others help us to grow, 1 Timothy 4:7.
  • Fact – Family and home influences may encourage us toward spiritual growth, 2 Timothy 1:5.
  • Fact – The church, as the body of Christ, encourages us to grow deeper in our faith and knowledge of Jesus, Ephesians 4:12-13.
  • Fact – God uses and works in all circumstances of life to make us more like Jesus, Romans 8:28-29.
  • Fact – God disciplines his children to make us more like Jesus, Hebrews 12:10.

Our Response:

  • Act – Confess and turn from any known sin, Proverbs 28:13.
  • Act – Recommit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, John 20:28.
  • Act – Give yourself daily to Jesus and experience the fullness of his life in you as you go deeper, Romans 6:12-13, Galatians 2:20.

My Commitment: As you seek to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus you will see evidence of the Spirit in your life, Galatians 5:22-23. You may not be able to see evidence of the Spirit in your life as much as you would like. Are you willing to ask God to work in you to help you grow toward the fullness of his life? If so, you may want to pray the following prayer or one like it.

“God, I want to be like Jesus. I commit myself to you and ask you to work in my life to help me develop evidence of the Spirit to work in me.” Amen.

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Hosting a Small Group

If you are familiar with Saddleback Church, you’ve probably heard of “hosting” a group, but what does it mean to be a host? Is there a difference between a host and a leader? Is it just another name for a leader? If I’m a host, will you provide the teacher? These are questions that are asked all the time. ALL the time. You may have your own answers, but let me give you some of the defining ideas of the host strategy (and what it means to host a group).

The HOST Concept: The first thing you need to know is that the idea of H.O.S.T. makes it possible for ordinary people to lead a small group. By that I mean that we’re almost always talking about using a DVD or video-based small group study, bringing the teaching into the group via the television, and allowing the Host to do just that. In fact, the HOST acrostic stands for:

Heart for your community (or your church)
Willing to Open your home for six weeks (or the length of the study)
Serve a few simple refreshments
Tell a few of your friends (in the beginning the T stood for “Turn on your VCR”)

This is very important to the idea. You’re not recruiting teachers or leaders. You really are simply inviting people to open up their homes, serve some coffee and dessert, and tell (invite) a few of their friends. That is a ground-breaking concept and allows many more people, ordinary people, the chance to include friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

1. Will a “leader” or “teacher” be provided? No. Using a DVD-driven curriculum allows a group to begin without a teacher. In addition to a warm invitation and spirit of hospitality, only very basic facilitation skills are needed. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to match someone with an interest in leading with someone who has an open home, but that is not normally how the concept works.

2. When is HOST strategy used? The HOST strategy can be very effective when used as part of a church-wide campaign (an alignment of weekend message series and small group curriculum). As part of the build-up to the campaign, HOSTs can be recruited who will commit to opening up their home for the six weeks of the series/study and invite a few friends.

3. Who can be a HOST? Every church makes this decision based on a number of factors: the culture of the individual congregation, available coaching for new hosts, even the topic of study are all relevant. Some churches may decide that only members may host a group. Other churches may decide that you must attend an orientation to qualify, but will only allow members to advertise their group on the web or in the lobby. Still others will simply require that you use the provided materials and invite your own group members.

4. What kind of training is required? Again, this varies from one church to the next. The most effective strategy seems to be to require attendance at a brief orientation (1 to 2 hours max) combined with connection to a coach who will serve as a liaison for at least the period of the campaign. Many churches are also finding that a decentralized mid-series huddle in the home of the coach is a very effective additional opportunity to encourage the host.

5. What happens when the six-week commitment ends? With a good experience, many of the new groups will decide to continue. Hosts are reminded in the orientation that they’ve made a six-week commitment and that their commitment is making it possible to launch many new small groups. They’re often encouraged to be open to the possibility that the group may be such a good experience that they would choose to continue, but there’s no pressure to do that.

From Mark Howell Live [print_link] [email_link]

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Daily Bible Study Form

In order to get the most out of personal Bible study, try using a form like this one, a Chapter A Day / Verse A Day. Read a whole chapter but focus on one verse in this chapter that really speaks to you today:

Chapter Study Form

God wants the Word of Christ to richly dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and his Word change our lives. Many times we don’t know where to begin… start in Genesis? Matthew? John? Revelation? Some say to read for content, doctrine, or instruction and rules, while others say to read the Bible devotionally. With this method you can study the Bible for APPLICATION. The emphasis is on what the Bible says, and also on what God is saying to YOU.

Where to start? How about in the gospels in order to meet Jesus fresh each day at the very beginning? John, Mark, Luke, then Matthew. You can mix up your chapters by reading from the Old Testament some weeks and then back to the New Testament.

This is not about checking off these chapters in your “read the Bible through in a year” plan, it is about seeking the God of the Bible. The idea is to meet with God daily (Luke 9:23).

This is an adaptation of CAD/VAD, 1989, College Park Ministries, Carmel IN

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Why We Avoid Accountability

This is part of my message on God’s Will and the Church. I brought up accountability and ran out of time and said I’d post it here! The question is “Why do we avoid accountability in the body of Christ?”

  1. Rugged Individualism: we want to go it alone, pull ourselves up without any help.
  2. Image Building Tendency: If I get involved in accountability, they will discover I’m not really all together… like Halloween people – Pretenders
  3. Resistance to Change: I have always lived this way and don’t want to get involved.
  4. Fear of the Lack of Confidentiality: If I share anything to someone else, I’ll be the next sermon illustration or the talk of the church.
  5. Shame & Blame: There will be some “Holier than Thou” people to kick me while I’m down, and shame me into living for God and obeying the Bible.
  6. We are Falsely Led to Believe that we Uniquely Struggle with a Particular Sin: Many of us think our struggles are unique to us, but in an accountability relationship or small group we find out that our 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). 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

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Why We Need Accountability

This is part of my message on God’s Will and the Church. I brought up accountability and ran out of time and said I’d post it here! The question is “Why do we need accountability in the body of Christ?”

  1. Because Walking with God in the Past is no Guarantee of Success in the Future (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
  2. Because we Underestimate the Evil Desires and Passions that are in our Flesh (1 Corinthians 10:6-11). Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
  3. Because we Overestimate our Capacity to Handle Temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12). 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
  4. Because we can Easily Become Self-deceived:
    1. James 1:22, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
    2. Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
    3. Proverbs 20:6, Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? NKJV, a man basically tells himself, “I’m doing pretty good!”
  5. Because of our Tendency to a Double Standard (Luke 12:1; Romans 2:17-24), In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
  6. Because of our Need to be Stretched: Philippians 3:13, Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…
  7. Because God Never Intended for us to go it Alone: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 1OFor if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

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Instant Bible Studies

Sometimes we are way too dependent on curriculum, as if people can’t study the Bible unless they have a quarterly in had and the teacher’s book. Let me submit to you that Jesus would not expect us to do something that the early church could not do. Small communities of faith can get together, open the Word of God and discuss what the Bible says, means, and how it applies to life.

First Off, the SCRIPTURE Needs to be Read: out loud in the group. If time permits, read it a second time, with all members of the group reading along. Don’t go a commentary or teaching guide first.

After that, discuss what the passage is about, naming facts of the basic content of the passage. Who is mentioned in the passage? What is happening? Who? What? When? Where? are all good questions at this point. Try to summarize what this passage is about in your own words.

Second, Discuss What we Learn from this Passage of Scripture:

Years ago I was a part of a group called MasterLife where we studied the Bible very seriously over the course of one year.

Here is a Useful Tool for Meditating on Scripture: praying for wisdom and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that you make the Word come alive in your heart.

  1. Perimeter the verse: read what comes before and after the verse on which you are meditating.
  2. Paraphrase the verse: summarize and put it into your own words.
  3. Pulverize the verse:
    1. Emphasize each word by exclamation.
    2. Pick two or three words that represent God’s message.
    3. Ask about the words – who? what? when? where? why? how?
  4. Personalize the verse: Put yourself and God directly into the verse on which you are meditating.
  5. Pray the verse back to God: sighting adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
  6. Parallel the verse: locate any verses that are on the same theme as the one on which you are meditating.
  7. Problems in the verse: of doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness which need to be addressed.
  8. Possibilities of helping others through the verse: through prayer, word or deed.

Other Questions Worth Asking Are:

  1. What warning, command or promise do we find?
  2. What is the example to follow or to avoid?
  3. What is the main truth of this Scripture?
  4. What is the universal lesson or truth we find in this passage?
  5. Why is this passage in the Bible? Why is it in this section of the Bible?
  6. What does this Scripture tell us about the character of God or how he relates to people?
  7. How does this passage point to the person and/or work of Christ?
  8. How can we pray this verse back to God?
  9. What is a new thought or teaching I have discovered in this passage?

Now Comes the Difficult Part: how to make this passage real in your life. Observation and interpretation are not enough here, we MUST move on to application.

  1. What is an example in your life where this passage applies (home, family, work, character)
  2. Ask yourself questions that demand action: like, “How will I life this passage in my life?” not “”Will I live this out in my life?”
  3. Write out a specific action plan to accomplish what you sense God telling you to do. We can make plans and have good intentions, but unless we write these down, they will be forgotten in less than a week.
  4. Write a prayer asking God to help you live this out and accomplish all he wants to do in your life.
  5. Then, just do it! Trust God to help you accomplish these goals. Remember that we are not looking for good stuff to do for God, he is the one who desires to work through you to accomplish his purposes.

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Evidence of Salvation

Take a little test that will help reveal to yourself some things about salvation. On a sale of 1-5 rate yourself:

  1. Never true
  2. Rarely true
  3. Sometimes true
  4. Usually true
  5. Always true
  • ____ I have an awareness and brokenness over my sin.
  • ____ I have a hunger for God’s word.
  • ____ I have a desire for living the Christian life of obedience.
  • ____ I have seen an increase in Satan attacking my faith.
  • ____ I have genuine love for others.
  • ____ I have a desire to share my faith with others.
  • ____ I have experienced social pressure or ridicule from non-believing family, friends, classmates, co-works, etc.

We will ALWAYS be growing in these areas, and we will NEVER reach a point where we perfectly do all of these things, but these seven areas are indicators that we are believers and are actively pursuing God. Let’s look at why these are solid evidences of salvation.

1. Brokenness over Sin:

  • 1 John 1:6 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
  • 1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

2. Hunger for God’s Word:

  • 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,”

3. Christian Life Transformation and Obedience:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  • 1 John 2:4 “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

4. Testing, Troubles and Trials in Life:

  • 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”

5. Genuine Love for Others:

  • 1 John 4:7-23 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

6. Desire to Tell Others About Your Faith:

  • Mark 8:28 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
  • Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

7. Social Pressure Because of Your Faith:

  • John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
  • John 17:14 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
  • 1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”

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Being a Man of God

We ask our young children all the time, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Then we often expect a reply in terms of career choices.  In Paul’s letter to his protégé, he didn’t instruct Timothy to become a power pastor of a megs-church; rather he reminded him of who he was; that he was a “man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:17).

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, there’s only one person in the New Testament who’s called “a man of God,” and that’s Timothy. This term is frequently used in the Old Testament. In fact, it’s used about 70 times and always in reference to a spokesman for God—someone whose duty and responsibility is to speak the words of God.

Here in 1 Timothy 6:11-21, Paul points out four characteristics that mark a man of God:

  1. He flees: “Run” (1 Timothy 6:11). This is the Greek verb fuagay from which we get the word fugitive. In other words, the man of God is a man on the run. He’s constantly fleeing the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10), ungodly behavior (1 Timothy 6:20), lust, and sin (2 Timothy 2:22).
  2. He follows: The man of God pursues “righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). These are worthy goals.
  3. He fights: Not with his wife or others, but using the truth, the man of God is engaged in daily warfare against the kingdom of darkness. He’s not coasting toward the gates of heaven (1 Timothy 6:12).
  4. He is faithful: The man of God “holds tightly to the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). He views faithful Christian living and service as his necessary responsibility to God (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

If someone asks you, “What would you like to be?” would “I want to be a man of God” be your response? That type of man personally belongs to God, proclaims His Word accurately, and lives his life as an example to others.

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Faith Like Potatoes

Over a year ago I watched a film called Faith Like Potatoes. Weird title but a great film, based on a true story of a farmer turned preacher in South Africa.

Angus Buchan, a Zambian farmer of Scottish heritage, leaves his farm in the midst of political unrest and racially charged land travels south with his family to start a better life in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. With nothing more than a trailer on a patch of land, and help from his foreman, Simeon, the Buchan family struggles to settle in a new country. Faced with ever mounting challenges, hardships and personal turmoil, Angus quickly spirals down into a life consumed by anger, fear and destruction. This is a story that tells the moving life journey of a man who, like his potatoes, grows his faith, unseen until the harvest.

The Bible often brings up farming, for instance…

And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor (2 Timothy 2:6).

In this section, Paul brings up a farmer as one of three illustrations of a faithful minister of the gospel. The other two (soldier and athlete) probably sound more exciting. Although it’s not Paul’s intent, the truth is that a farmer leads quite an exciting life. He works one of the most dangerous careers a person can choose. Soldiers may face greater dangers from time to time, but a farmer lives and works between sky and earth every day. I recently discovered that in our time, farming outranks any other career in producing work-related injuries and death. Farming is not for dabblers, cowards, or the lazy. And farmers can teach us a lot about faith.

In comparison with athletics and soldiering, farming helps us understand the persistent and patient parts of faith. Action and results come fairly quickly for athletes and soldiers. Not for farmers. They place a seed in the ground and return to harvest the results, but it can be a long time between those two actions. Successful farmers know how to wait. They may not enjoy waiting; but they learn to do it. Waiting doesn’t usually mean doing nothing, but the hardest part of waiting is the waiting.

Farming comes up various times in scripture (sometimes the farmer represents God or the ministry of the gospel).

  1. Jesus used many farming situations in his parables (like Matthew 13:1-23).
  2. Paul discussed the parallels between farming and the development of believers (as in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9).

In 2 Timothy 2:6 we get to see ourselves as farmers. With that privilege comes responsibility. If we’re going to “enjoy the fruit” of our labors, then we better be “hardworking.” The farmer who is not hardworking will reap what he sows–little or nothing.

A wise farmer knows what he can’t do.

  1. He can’t put life in a seed.
  2. He can’t make it rain.
  3. He can’t force the seed to grow.

There’s much that’s out of his hands. But he does his part.

  1. He plants
  2. He waters
  3. He cultivates
  4. He waits

As believers, we plant seeds (acts of obedience to God) in one another’s lives. We deposit seeds (the gospel) in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. The actual results of these actions are in God’s hands. But we often get to be the first to enjoy those results because we’re there. If we recognize the way that we are farmers, we remember we’re in the field every day. Every moment becomes a new opportunity to persistently plant seeds and then patiently wait to see what God will do.

Application:

  1. Have you seen the film? It is well worth renting for your family movie night, and then discuss lessons seen in the film.
  2. How is your faith growing? Abundantly? Wonderful harvest? Bearing much fruit? Or is there a drought? Weeds springing up?
  3. What changes will you make to help cultivate your faith?
  4. How are you getting to know God better?
  5. What fruit do you see beginning to bud? Which fruit are ripe for harvest?
  6. What hired help do you need to farm better? To whom can you become accountable for your Christian growth and maturity?
  7. Can the Men of Steel help you to become a more productive farmer? (Next time we get together is April 30 at 7:30 am).

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