Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Victorious Church of Jesus Christ

We’re not quite in November yet, but already I’m a thankful puppy. I wish everyone could know how wonderful it is to be part of a loving, caring, giving, growing, fun-loving, fellowshipping, serving, discipling, witnessing, encouraging, praying, worshipping, singing and praising church of Jesus Christ!

I’m telling you, the church is where it’s at! If you’re not actively involved in a local church that preaches and teaches the Word of God, stays in step with the Holy Spirit, exalts the name of Christ Jesus and glorifies God the Father, then you’re missing out on God’s plan for your good and for His glory.

You’re missing out on the way God works to reveal Himself in this world. You’re missing out on being a partner in the greatest enterprise this world has ever seen. You’re missing out on an international movement of people from every race, every color, every tribe and every language bound together in the love of Christ and the unity of His Spirit with a common mission to proclaim the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!

Every institution, every government, every organization, every social club and every cause will one day fail or fade away. But the church of God will stand forever, my friend. There is no force, no power, no authority, no ruler, no king, no throne, no nothing that will ever be able to stop the advance of the church of Jesus Christ. Even “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18).

Listen, I’ve read the back of the Book. Jesus Christ has triumphed! The church wins! Our Savior has secured the victory by His resurrection from the grave. He’s conquered the last enemy – death, and has destroyed him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil. And “He has set free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:15).

One day, and I believe soon, Christ Jesus will return and receive those who trust in Him and take them to be with Him forever and ever. There they will dwell in the Father’s house, in the very rooms, or “mansions,” that Jesus has prepared for them. In that day the perishable will be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, and then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

I thank God for this victory, for the new birth, and for the living hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and for the assurance of the inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled and unfading – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice…” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And I’m thankful for the First Baptist Church in Ridgway who’s living in this victory. I’m thankful for the many ways they’ve shown appreciation to their pastor during the month of October. Stop by sometime and I'll tell you about the many ways in which they’ve blessed my family and I in abundance. Or, if you’re on FaceBook, look me up and you can see pictures of some of the gifts they’ve sent to encourage me.

If you don’t have a church family you’re involved in, then I urge you to join us in worship this Sunday. And if you don’t have a saving relationship with Christ Jesus then I especially urge you to confess your sin before the Lord, turn away from it, and put your faith in the One who gave His life on the cross of Calvary and triumphed over the grave on the third day! Let Him take over, go where He leads, partner under His power together with other believers in the church, and watch as He brings the victory!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Acting on the Word

I love this cartoon!

Obviously the message led to action! That’s what every preacher wants to see happen in the lives of his congregation – and in his own life, for that matter. Not the standing outside in your boxers scene, but action! Obedience to the word of God!

A Bible preacher preaches and teaches not just for the transmission of information, but for the induction of transformation. We want to see lives changed! We want to see sinners transformed into saints by the power of God’s holy word and by the power of His Holy Spirit! We want to build spiritual muscle in the lives of God’s people. We want to see men and women growing strong in the faith. We want to see boys and girls trusting wholly and gladly in Christ. We want to see the church taking what they’ve heard and putting it into action.

Didn’t Jesus say the same thing at the end of His great “Sermon on the Mount?” Listen to how Jesus charges His hearers to do something about what they’ve just heard: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall” (Mt. 7:14-27).

It’s nothing but foolishness to listen to the word of God and not do anything about it. But to act on what you’ve heard, to put into practice what the Scripture calls you to do, forms a foundation for your life solid enough to withstand any storm.

For the past two weeks I’ve preached on tithes and offerings. Dangerous stuff for any preacher who’s only a business meeting away from losing his job!

So, if I’ve laid out God’s word concerning tithes and offerings, and if my hearers are wise, what will we see happen at the Ridgway First Baptist Church? People standing outside in their boxers? Perhaps not, but we will see the level of giving substantially increase as the church puts into practice what the Lord says to do. If there is no change in giving, then either everyone’s already tithing faithfully to the local church and bringing their offerings of worship, or some are still living foolishly in disobedience to God’s word.

As I’ve said in my messages, bringing the tithe (which is ten percent of one’s earnings, which belongs to the Lord as holy) into the storehouse (the local church) is not so much about money as it is about obedience. And bringing our offerings above and beyond the tithe is not so much about money as it is about worship. Are we being obedient to the Lord with our tithes, and are we honoring Him with our offerings?

The people of Israel in Malachi’s day were guilty of robbing God by failing to bring the full tithe into the storehouse. In fact, they were insulting and dishonoring Him by bringing lame, blind and diseased animals as their offerings of worship! Is it any less an insult to the Lord today when we bring anything less than our full tithes and offerings?

Believe me when I say that the least of my goals is to do any kind of fundraising for the church. But I know without a doubt that when God’s people are faithfully obedient in this area of giving, the windows of heaven will open and the Lord Himself will pour down so many blessings for us that there won’t be room enough to store it (Mal. 3:10). And believe me when I say, as with the apostle Paul: “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” I so want for God’s people to be found faithful as fully devoted followers of Christ Jesus!

What about you, friend? What are you doing with what you’ve heard about the gospel? You’ve heard that Jesus is the Savior. Good! Are you trusting in Him? You’ve heard that He is Lord. Are you doing what He says?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Healing for the Hurting

I’m writing today especially to those of you who are going through a tough time right now. There’s healing for the hurting.

Maybe you’re in physical pain, where everything seems to hurt, and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work. Every day is a struggle just to get up and going and to somehow make it through. You feel the pulls and the cracks and pops and aches and strains of a body that’s been through the battle and you’ve got the scars to prove it.

Maybe your hardship is emotional. You don’t want to be this way, but you feel depressed so often. You’ve been burnt too many times, and it just feels like the world is caving in all around and everything’s against you. You’re anxious and worried and upset and fearful about so many things that you can’t even begin to enjoy today. You dread getting out of bed because of what might go wrong.

Perhaps you’re struggling financially. Whether it’s because of some poor choices you’ve made or something completely unforeseen, times are flat tough. Each week and every month it’s getting harder to make ends meet, or maybe they’re not meeting at all. You might be swimming in debt and feel like you’re about to be pulled under.

Maybe you are hurting relationally. It seems like every relationship you’re in ends up in the dumps. Maybe your spouse has been unfaithful. Perhaps your children have turned against everything you’ve taught them. It could be problems with people at work. You’ve held certain expectations for someone to come through for you and they’ve let you down.

Perhaps your hurt is something altogether different. You might be hurting for somebody else going through an excruciating ordeal. You wish you could take the suffering for them, and it’s killing you to see them struggle.

Here’s what I want you to hear today, friend: Jesus loves hurting people. Jesus loves hurting people. Now, you have to read this the right way and understand the syntax, you know, verbs and adjectives and stuff. I’m not saying that He delights in causing harm to people, but He loves hurting people. See what I mean?

Jesus has a deep compassion and sympathy for those who are hurting. Just ask Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died. When Jesus saw Mary weeping at the loss of her brother, and all the others who were there also crying, the Bible says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And in the shortest verse in all Scripture – and one that packs a powerful punch – it says: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Did He ever turn away the hurting who truly called upon His name?

Jesus understands your sorrow. He knows your hurts. He feels your pains. He sympathizes with your weaknesses. And He loves you with an unfailing, steadfast love.

In fact, it was for this reason that He came and suffered Himself on the cross of Calvary – to take away sin. The sinful condition of mankind, from the fall of Adam and Eve that’s infected every human being, means that we live in world marked by suffering and hurt, sickness and disease, pain and death.

Only Jesus, God in the flesh, who though tempted in every way just as we are, was without sin (Heb. 4:15), and only He is able to deal with the effects of sin because He Himself has conquered sin by His death for us on the cross and by His resurrection victory over the grave!

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The Bible further states: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

There it is! There’s the healing for the hurting! The cure for the ailment! The remedy for the disease! Friend, if you’re hurting, there’s healing in Jesus.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).