Family of God

Family of God

Sermon Bites

When she turned twenty-one, Tammy Harris from Roanoke, Virginia started searching for her biological mother. For a year she tried with no success. However, what she didn’t realize was that her biological mother, whose name was Joyce Schultz, had also been trying to locate her as well for twenty years.

In addition, there was one more thing that Tammy didn’t know: her mother was one of her co-workers at the convenience store where she worked.

One day as Tammy was explaining to one of her coworkers that she was trying to find her biological mother, Joyce overheard. They began to talk and soon they were comparing birth certificates. When Tammy discovered that her coDaughter-Finds-Motherworker she had know was her mother, she fell into her arms.

“We held on for the longest time,” Tammy said. “It was the best day of my life.”

Each week, we encounter people who we many times barely notice. But if they are born again through Christ Jesus, they are nearer to us than our blood relatives. That may come as a shock but it’s true. The relationship between a blood relative who is unsaved is temporary. But the relationship with a fellow brother or sister in Christ is eternal.

Take inventory: how do you look at your church family? Are they important to you or do you barely notice them? Do you reach out to them during the week, or do you feel more comfortable with coworkers and friends though they are not saved? I challenge you today to foster relationships with the people of God because they are the only ones that will last.

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

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A Matter of Holiness – Part II

A Matter of Holiness – Part II

Blog, Sermon Bites

Why We Should Live Holy

A-Life-of-HolinessWhy should we be holy? The first answer to this should be obvious. As God’s people, we are commanded to be holy. In other words, we should be holy because God said so (Leviticus 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16). To be holy means to be separated for use by God. It means sacred or “other than” everything else of that caliber. Consecrated. Blameless.

In his book The Way of Holiness, Steve Deness defines holiness:

To be holy is to be unique. It is to be different than the rest; distinctively better and reserved for special purposes.

But we must look at those verses not only as commands, but as badges of honor. God says to be holy because that is what identifies us as His people. “Be ye holy for I am holy.” (Ephesians 5:1)

Second, another for us to be holy is because we earn a blessing from it (Hebrews 12:10). The chastening of God is not just for punishment but so that we can receive the blessing of His holiness.

The third reason to be holy is that through it, our witness for God is more powerful and effective. We are not to be closed off from the world but to be untainted by it. The power of our witness to the world is through the holiness we pursue. This is played out most markedly in how we love God and others, both which we are commanded to do (Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 6:5). Though holiness is separate from love, they are inextricably tied together because holiness should drive our love. We love rightly because we live rightly. We love purely. We love in truth. It is predicated on our living holy.

In the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he presents relationship information, saying that words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch are the supposed five love languages. However, there’s not one mention of holiness, sacrifice, submission, denial, or self-control which are the deeper, more intimate, eternal love languages. What Dr. Chapman mentions, though good on the surface, doesn’t go deep enough, especially for being a Christian book. We are the people of love representing the God of love. Therefore we shouldn’t leave those things out in a book on love.

What is alarming and sad is that many people will pick up and read a book on how to relate to their spouse or fiancee, but hardly, if ever, will pick up the book in how to relate to God, the Bible, which also has all of the information we need on how to relate to our spouse or fiancee.

You never love properly when you live unholy. This is not only love for others but love for God and love for ourselves.

The fourth reason to live holy is because without it, we do not have access to God’s presence (Hebrews 12:14). When we live unholy, ever our prayers are hindered (Psalm 66:18). Our witness for the kingdom is tarnished, our relationship with God is weakened, and our gifts are rendered ineffective for kingdom purposes.

It is true that we have a two-tiered form of holiness. On the one hand, we are sanctified and declared holy at the time of our salvation. We are set apart for use by the Lord God. The righteous of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit makes us fit for the kingdom of God and to be ambassadors for it. However, on the other hand, we are commanded to be holy which means that it is not automatic but an act of our wills. There are things we must do. Holiness is not only the position we are in but the way we carry out our lives (1 Timothy 4:12, 2 Peter 3:11).

Part III coming soon.

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A Matter of Holiness – Part I

A Matter of Holiness – Part I

Blog, Sermon Bites

Pastor Washington’s teaching, A Matter of Holiness – Part I, is a call for the church to be the church. This week on Sermon Bites, we excerpt his teaching notes which we hope will encourage and place your mind on pursuing holiness.

Holiness of GodI want to lay out three main premises. They will explain why we should be holy, how to be holy, and what holiness looks like. My hope this morning is that you come away from this with a clearer understanding in who you are to be in the Lord and that it will strengthen your witness for Christ in the process and stir a desire in you to press on in holiness.

Jerry Walls is quoted as saying:

In our age, as in every age, people are longing for happiness, not realizing that what they are looking for is holiness.

I find this to be especially true for the church today. We hear things like “relevance”, “down to earth”, “culturally relevant”. But this is not found in the scriptures as the calling for the church at all. To meet people where they are at in their culture is one thing. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 9:20. However, to dismiss and water down the message of scripture, especially the gospel, for the sake of that culture is another. This is the problem today. We look to be attractive to the world instead of being separated from it. We seek to be relevant to the culture instead of looking to transform it. We seek to draw people to church instead of drawing people to Christ. It is the byproduct of losing our identity and not choosing sides definitely. It is the result of mingling with the world and trying to get along with it when we should be militant in our love, zeal, and devotion to God to overcome it.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, said:

It is against stupidity in every shape and form that we have to wage our eternal battle. But how can we wonder at the want of sense on the part of those who have had no advantages, when we see such plentiful absence of that commodity on the part of those who have had all the advantages?

This is where we have dropped the ball at the Church of Christ. We who have the oracles, the very word of God yet fail to listen to it. We who have been given access to the road yet fail to walk it. We who have been given the keys of the kingdom and yet fail to enter into the inner chambers. We are satisfied with table scraps of Christianity and a surface relationship with Christ, swimming in the shallow end of the pool and never going further into the depths where the riches are found. No treasure chest was ever found in two inches of water. It takes ships, equipment, technology, time, patience, and a strong desire. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes discipline. It takes a single-mindedness that is focused on the goal (1 Corinthians 9:24).

For the Christian, we must understand that we are not like the world. We don’t measure things by how the world views them or even how other Christians view them. We weigh and measure everything against the word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, 2 Timothy 3:16). Our laziness in pursuing God, our irresponsibility in handling the mission that has been given to us, our biblical ineptness when it comes to the things of God and understanding Him, these and more are a byproduct of our lack of holiness and our pursuit of it. Since we know this, we should be ever mindful, ever sensitive, ever cognizant and aware of our sin and seek to lay it at the cross daily so that the next day will be more pleasing to God.

Measure your attitude towards sin beloved. A less sensitive soul who gives excuses and compromises with sin will find themselves doing things that is acceptable to the world but not to God. These are weak individuals who make excuses to wallow in their weakness instead of overcoming it through the Spirit of God that lives in them. They do not have a drastic desire to cut sin off but to placate and cater to it. This is the subtlety of sin and how it creeps in. Oswald Chambers says to ask yourself:

Am I becoming more and more in love with God as a holy God, or with the conception of an amiable being who says, “Oh well, sin doesn’t matter much?”

Are we looking at the sin in our lives and evaluating it on the basis of a most holy God and His word, or are we just trudging along doing what we want to do and adding a little bit of God on the side? Are we looking to see sin as God sees it, or to see sin as He sees it when it doesn’t apply to us and our lives and what we allow or do? Do we have a desire in our hearts to really be more like Christ, or are we secretly saying, “Well, I don’t want to take it too far.” Do we base our decisions and actions on what God has said, or what we feel is right or the popular opinion of others?

Sensitivity to sin is a direct reflection of your holiness, especially when that sin is within yourself.

A Matter of Holiness – Part II

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Read It Some More

Read It Some More

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R.A. TorreyAfter going through a period of skepticism, R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) yielded to Christ. He studied in Germany and was chosen by D.L. Moody to oversee the new Moody Bible Institute. He served as the pastor of Moody Memorial Church an conducted evangelistic crusades with colleague Charles M. Alexander. From 1912 to 1924, he served as the dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles which is now known as Biola. He also found the time while going through all of that to write forty books and speak at Bible conferences nationwide.

The impetus for his service came from pouring himself into the word of God.

A man approached him once whose name was Dr. Congdon, complaining that he could get nothing out of his Bible studies. The scripture was bland and meaningless to him. He pleaded with Torrey: “Please tell me how to study it so that it will mean something to me.”

“Read it some more,” Dr. Torrey replied.

“I do read it,” Congdon assured him.

“Read it some more.”

“How?”

“Take some book and read it twelve times a day for a month.”

“What book could I read that many times a day working as many hours as I do?”

“Try ‘Second Peter,’ Torrey suggested.

Later, Congdon reported:

“My wife and I read ‘Second Peter’ three or four times in the morning, two or three times at noon, and two or three times at dinner. Soon, I was was talking ‘Second Peter’ to everyone I met. It seemed as though the stars in the heavens were singing the story of ‘Second Peter.’ I read ‘Second Peter’ on my knees, marking passages. Teardrops mingled with crayon colors and I said to my wife, “See how I have ruined this part of the Bible?”

“Yes,” she said, “but as the pages have been getting black, your life has been getting white.”

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

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Careful Is Not Enough

Careful Is Not Enough

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ObedientAretta Loving, Wycliffe missionary, was washing her breakfast dishes when she saw Jimmy, the five-year-old neighbor, headed straight toward the back porch. She had just finished painting the back porch handrails and she was very pleased with her work.

“Come around to the front door Jimmy,” she shouted. “There’s wet paint on the porch rails.”

“I’ll be careful,” Jimmy replied, continuing toward the door.

“No Jimmy. Don’t come up the steps,” Aretta shouted, know that Jimmy had a penchant for messing things up.

“I’ll be careful,” Jimmy assured her again as he came closer to the steps.

“Jimmy! Stop!” Aretta shouted. “I don’t want carefulness. I want obedience!”

As the words exited her mouth, she suddenly remember Samuel’s response to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22:

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

How did Jimmy respond? Aretta wondered what his next move would be.

“All right Loving,” he replied.  “I’ll go around to the front door.”

He was the only one who called her by her last name like that and it had endeared him to her from the start. As she she turned to go back to her work, she pondered, “How often am I like Saul or like Jimmy, wanting to go my own way? I rationalize, ‘I’ll be careful, Lord.’ as I proceed with my own plans.”

Beloved, God is not looking for excuses. He’s not looking for carefulness because carefulness is not enough. What God is looking for is obedience.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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Peace and Providence

Peace and Providence

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William-veitch-epitaphIn 1680, after soldiers had dragged away her husband William, because of his faithful, front-forward preaching, Marion Veitch stated:

It bred some new trouble and fear to my spirit; but He was graciously pleased to set home that word ‘He does all things well; Trust in the Lord and fear not what man can do’; which brought peace to me in such measure that I was made to wonder; for all the time the officers were in the house He supported me so that I was not in the least discouraged before them.

Shortly afterward, news arrived that William was to be hanged. Marion rode horseback through a blinding January snowstorm to Morpeth jail, arriving at her destination at midnight. In the morning, she was given a few moments with her husband, “then I went to a friend’s house and wept my fill.” That day, the prosecutor, Thomas Bell, made a decree: “Veitch will hang tomorrow as he deserves.”

That evening, Mr. Bell stayed long at a friend’s, drinking and talking until past ten. When he left for home, it was not only dark but a chilling cold was moving through the area. He never arrived at his residence. . Two days later, his body was found in the river, frozen all the way up to his arms in a solid block of ice.

Later, William Veitch was released and him and his wife lived to a good old age, dying within one day of each other. They passed on their godly heritage to their children and grandchildren.

There is a peace that passes all understanding, and the providence of God works in all circumstances for the good of His own.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

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Liar, Lunatic, or Lord – C.S. Lewis

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord – C.S. Lewis

Sermon Bites

CS_LewisIn his book Mere Christianity, Lewis explains that men must make a decision about the person of Jesus:

One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offenses against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really was God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in history.

Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying that really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

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A Word About Sin – J.C. Ryle

A Word About Sin – J.C. Ryle

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J.C. Ryle Frame PhotoJ. C. Ryle (1816–1900) was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a Craven scholar. Ordained in 1841, he became a leader of the evangelical party in the Church of England. In 1880, Ryle became the first bishop of Liverpool, a post he kept for 20 years. He also served as the dean of Salisbury. He wrote commentaries on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, essays on various subjects, including the gospel of John, and for the timeless treatise, Holiness: Its Nature, Difficulties, Hindrances, and Roots, a BHF recommended must read. The following is an excerpt from that book.

He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of papers about holiness by making some plain statements about sin.

The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with ‘light’, and so also does the spiritual creation. God ‘shines’ into our hearts by the work of the Holy Ghost and then spiritual life begins (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the church in the nineteenth century has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.

 

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Where Can You Go?

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David Marks was one of the most influential and powerful evangelists in the 19th century. He was born to Christian parents in 1805 and he began to have an awareness of God in his early years.

One day as he was watching some flax burn, it set his mind on thinking about the Lord. He heard the stories about hell and the fires that were there. Watching the flames, a feeling of dread came over him as he contemplated the awful existence just a moment in hell would be like.

“What would I do if the wrath of God fell on earth?” he asked himself. After some long thought, he decided if the Day of the Lord would come, he would go and hide down in the well. Excited, he went to his mother to share his plan.

“Ah, my son,” she said. “The water will boil and the earth will burn.”

Changing gears, he told of a place in the rocks that he knew of where he could run and hide in.

“But the rocks will melt,” his mother replied.

Overwhelmed and desperate, he said that he would simply die and escape God’s wrath in the grave.

“My child. Your hope is in vain for the dead will awake and come out of the graves.”

Devastated, the young David Marks went outside and began to meander through the fields, pensive about that coming day, its certainty, and the that he was unprepared for it.

Finally, in resignation, he put his hand over his heart, looked toward heaven, and said, “God. Be merciful to me, a sinner.”

The question that we all must answer is where will we go?

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)

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Luther: Courage, Conviction, No Compromise

Luther: Courage, Conviction, No Compromise

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In a day an age of relativism and feel good teaching in the church, you’re hard pressed to find those who would stand for truth unabashedly, come what may. Those kinds of men and women are hard to find anymore. But one man that stood by His convictions and the truth of the scriptures did so not realizing the impact he would have on the world as God used him. His name was Martin Luther.

To this day, Martin Luther’s name evokes generally one of two images: a great man of God or a heretic. He stands in good company, most markedly, the Lord Himself.

Most Christians are unaware of Luther’s full history or completely ignorant of who he was. To get a glimpse into the man, we’ll go to one of the most pivotal moments of his and the church’s life. The Diet of Worms, which actually means the assembly (diet) that took place in Worms, Germany, 1521. Luther had nailed his 95 theses to the church sanctuary at Wittenberg in 1517 laying out why the church doctrine on indulgences was wrong, another pivotal moment in church history because it was at this moment that it is generally accepted as the beginning of the Reformation and the Protestant defection from the false church. From that moment, the movement began to build across Germany and beyond. Luther wrote books outlining the fallacy and error of the teachings and doctrines laid out by the false church that existed and people were listening. This was unacceptable to the heads of the church and state and Luther was summoned to Worms, Germany to explain himself.

It all came to a head at the Diet of Worms. Charles V along with several ambassadors, deputies, bishops, and princes sat in anticipation to hear Luther’s explanation in a packed room of onlookers. Dr. Johann Maier von Eck was the representative of the archbishop’s court. In the middle of the room was a pile of books, Luther’s writings. Eck asked if the books were indeed Luther’s and if he would recant what was written therein. Within his reply, Luther stated:

The books are mine. I deny none of them.

He then asked for more time to answer the question as to whether he would recant what he had written. He was allowed and the next day, he replied with well thought out answers. During his reply, he laid out the contents of the types of books he had written. He said of his work against the papacy:

The second class of my works inveighs against the papacy as against that which both by precept and example has laid waste all Christendom, body and soul…Yet the canon law provides that the laws and doctrines of the pope are contrary to the gospel and the Father’s are to be held erroneous and rejected. If therefore I should withdraw these books, I would add strength to tyranny and open windows and doors to their impiety, with which would then flourish and burgeon more freely than it ever dared before.

Dr. Eck, unimpressed and a little incensed by the response said:

Luther, you have not answered to the point. You ought not to call in question what has been decided and condemned by councils. Therefore I beg you to give a simple, unsophisticated answer without horns. Will you recant or not?

Luther understood that this was it. So, he boldly replied:

Since your Majesty and your lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one with either horns or teeth. Unless I am convinced by scripture or by right reason-for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves-unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

There are times in our lives as God’s people where we have to make a decision. As Peter and John said in Acts 4:19:

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

If we are to be true witnesses of God then we must stand for what God has said as the final authority on all things, no matter what because in the end, we stand before God alone and not man.

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