Bible Studies

Notes from Bible Studies

Why Are You Here?

Why Are You Here?

> Michael Jackson

Tonight I’m not really going to teach; I’m going to share something, and you’re going to help. This is an interactive study. Is that okay?

I like to ask a lot of questions. Some questions are rhetorical, but when I want an answer, I’ll let you know.

My first question is, “Why are you here?”

Why are you here? Here on this earth; here in this church; right here, right now in the seat where you’re sitting: why? A lot of times when we do things, we really don’t think about why we do it. But when somebody asks “Why?” then we’ve got to sit down and think about it. Saducees The quick and easy answer is, “To serve God.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13
  1. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

“To serve God.” That’s why we’re here. I’ve learned personally that to serve God, you’ve got to have a couple of key things:

  1. Love: You’ve got to have a love for God.
  2. A desire to serve God: You’ve got to have a desire to serve him.
  3. Gratitude: You’ve got to be thankful for what God has done for you personally.

When you have love for someone, that significant other, love makes you a better person. Is that what you have for God? Do you feel that you’re a better person in God? That’s what you feel when you love someone; that’s how they make you feel about yourself. That’s the way it is with God, if we’re in a relationship with God. When you’re in a relationship with someone you love, they love you for who you are. You get to be yourself in God. Is that what you love? Or do you really love God?

You watch these love-story movies, and a lot of times it starts out with them hating each other, and then something happens to pur them in a different light. You see them saying to their friends, “He makes me feel special.” You’ve all seen them, even if you don’t like “love” movies.

God, like our parents, loves us just the way we are. God made us all, so guess what? He made you exactly the way he wanted you to be.

Last week, some people shared their testimony, and a lot of them got pretty emotional, because they were sharing where they had been, and where God brought them from.

Sometimes I sit and I think, when you see people so in love with God, and they’re here one moment, and the next they’re gone. You ever wonder what happened? I do. I wonder to myself, “What happened?” Here’s what I think: they forget. They forget what God brought them from. If we remember, we’ll never go anywhere. This guy I know, I was real close with, and he shared his testimony. Then he went out and went partying, and on the way back he got in an accident and wrapped his car around a tree. As he was fading out, (he shared with me later,) he was thinking, “If I die now, I’m going to hell.” Just before he faded out, he said, “God, if you spare me, I’ll live for you.” And luckily, he lived. He was on fire for God, for a season. But now, he’s doing … whatever. How did that happen? He’s forgotten. When we start slipping away from God, it’s because we’ve forgotten where he brought us from.

Isaiah 38:17
  1. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

That’s love. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I can forgive, but I’ll never forget.” God says he’ll cast it all behind his back. But we’ve got to remember that each and every day. Here’s what God did for us:

Isaiah 1:18-20
  1. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
  2. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
  3. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

So here’s what God did. A guy went into an agreement with God.

Isaiah 1:18
  1. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

God says:

> Okay; let’s reason together. You’ve got something to say. You’ve got some sin. There’s some scarlet; it’s pretty bad. But here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll put it away; I’ll throw it behind my back. I’ll make it as will. But if I’m going to do that, you’ve got to do something, too. You’ve got to be willing and obedient. Does that sound okay? But, if you refuse this agreement, or if you get disobedient and start to rebel, it’s not going to be good.

A lot of us have been in the military. You have an agreement with the U.S. Military. It says, for “X” amount of years, you’re going to serve the country. You’ve got an agreement. Now, if you break that agreement, is that okay? If you say, “I don’t feel like going in tomorrow,” and you go and hit some golf balls, then what happens? You’re in breach of contract, and there’s consequences. But so many people forget about their contract, and God’s got to pull out the contract and say, “Is this yours? Is this your signature right here?”

I want you, right now, to think back to the day when God touched your life and changed your life forever. The day that you became new, do you remember that day? When you’ve got that day vividly in your mind, raise you hand.

Now I want you to go to the very moment when you said, “Yes, God. I will.” Eyes closed, if you’ve got that picture in your mind, raise your hand.

I want you to remember it. I want you to hold on to it, so tight. Because church, you’re going to need it. When Satan is beating on your head, you’re going to need it. When everything around you is going wrong, you’re going to need it. Hold on to it, church; trust me; you’re going to need it.

To know God, you’ve got to have a personal relationship with God.

Earlier, I asked, “Why are you here?” You’ve got to have a personal relationship with God. Your relationship has to be personal. Todd Morgan talked about getting “up-close and personal” with God. What does that mean? Josh, stand up.

> (Stands nose-to-nose with Josh)

Sometimes you’ve got to get up-close and personal with God. Let me share with you. I was sharing with somebody, and she asked, “What is God to you that I should live for him.” She wanted to know what my personal relationship was. That’s what people are really looking for; that’s what we’ve got to have to make it to the end.

Matthew 11:29
  1. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

When you love somebody, you want to learn about them. You want to know them. A lot of people say, “I know God.” Sure you do. Does God know you? You say, “Sure he does; God made me.” We all know the president, right? Do you say, “What’s going on, Obama?” No. You may know of him, but does he know you?

This is what God says about it:

Luke 13:26
  1. Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

The way God is going to know you is by having that personal relationship, because you want to please God, because you want to get close to him. You’ve heard parents ask their children, “Who are you?” You know what they mean. “I didn’t raise you that way. I didn’t teach you that way. So who are you?”

As I wrap up, I’m going to go back to that question: Why are you here? Why are you in the seat that you’re in? Why are you in this church? Why are you on earth?

Titus 1:16
  1. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

So do we know God? If we truly know God, does he know us? We’re not going to outwardly deny God. There’s not too many people who are that bold. But it says, “by our works.” Actions speak louder than words, right?

So remember, church. You’ve got to remember. As long as you remember, you’ll be here. You’ll be here in the house of God.

We talk about being saved. What are we saved from? Hell, sure. Damnation, sure. But what else? Ourselves. If you want the best decision, every single time, guess where it’s going to come from? Not ourselves, but God. God saved us from that pit of corruption, which is ourselves.

Principles of the Doctrine of Christ: Faith Toward God

Faith Toward God

Faith has a two-fold sense in the Bible, an active and passive sense.

Romans 3:3
  1. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

In this verse, the phrase “faith of God” means his fidelity and trustworthiness. But in the overwhelming majority of examples, it means the trust of man toward God.

In the Old Testament, the word “faith” only occurs twice, and the word “believe” only occurs thirty-two times. So what we find in the Old Testament is not so much a doctrine of faith, as examples of it. The people of God showed by their lives an unwavering trust in God. And the “stranger who willingly sacrifices” was welcome to join them.

Their faith was in the revelation of the promises of God to their fathers. … Old Testament faith is never a mere acceptance of doctrines and the outer appearance of the law. It is a willing obedience to do God’s will.

So people say that they were under the Law, but they were also under faith.

In contrast to their rarity in the Old Testament, the words “faith” and “belief” occur over five hundred times in the New Testament. So what is God’s message to us? We’ve got to show faithfulness, not because of the law, but because of our belief.

When the Jews were told that Jesus was the Messiah, they had a hard time swallowing that. They said, “Uh-uh. He doesn’t look like the Messiah I want, therefore I’m not going to accept him.” It required a real act of faith to believe that Jesus was the messiah. Therefore, to believe Jesus was the Messiah was to become a Christian. In his acts and miracles, Jesus made it plain that faith in him is necessary for eternal life, and that refusal to accept his claims would bring eternal ruin. The Old Testament said that Messiah would come, and some expected him to come in on a white horse and kick the Romans out. That didn’t happen, but to be saved means accepting Christ as who he was. And we can show (in another Bible study) that Jesus Christ was exactly what the Old Testament foretold.

The first name that Christians gave themselves was “the believers.” Faith is trust in Jesus, the truth of his teaching, and the redemptive work he accomplished at Calvary. The result is a total acceptance of his message. So we accept those testimonies, because we believe that God said it.

There are a lot of empty tombs in Israel. We saw a lot of them on our trip. A lot of them claimed to be the exact place that Jesus was buried. But I don’t need to touch the rock of a tomb to believe in Jesus. I believe because as a twenty-three year-old man, I felt the touch of Jesus on my life.

Faith is not to be confused with a mere intellectual understanding of the doctrines of Christianity (although that’s also needed,) but includes a radical and total acceptance of Christ as the center of your life. Unbelief, or lack of faith in the Christian gospel appears everywhere in the New Testament as the supreme evil. Not accepting the message of Christ means that an individual is in eternal sin.

Mark 16:15-16
  1. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
  2. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Believeth what? That Jesus is Christ. Jesus said:

John 8:24
  1. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

How much clearer can we get? Jesus expects us to believe in him, and that takes faith.

John 5:24
  1. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Galatians 5:6
  1. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Again, the aspect is, “I’m doing it because God loves me.” God loves me, and therefore I chose to have faith in him. Holly, when you said you’d take Jonathan, and Jonathan said he’d take you, he said “till death do us in part.” That’s not multiple choice. Holly, you have to trust that if something happens, Jonathan will be there for you.” That’s how God made it. And we’ve got to trust in God. If he kept David from Goliath and Daniel from the lion’s den, he can keep you.

Hebrews 3:12-19
  1. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
  2. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
  3. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
  4. While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
  5. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
  6. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
  7. And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
  8. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Hebrews 4:1-3
  1. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
  2. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
  3. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

We can enter in because of belief, or be kept out because of unbelief.

Principles of the Doctrine of Christ: Repentance From Dead Works

Repentance From Dead Works

I asked myself, as I wrote this, why the writer would put “repentance from dead works” before “faith in God.” I haven’t met the author yet, but I will one day.

There are two Greek words which are translated to “repentance.” The first one means a change of mind, and the second denotes a change of soul. They’re different. When you have a change of mind, you have an understanding of what you need to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do it. But a change of soul is a change from the inside out, just like the song they sang. It shows that the turning away from sin is because of sorrow for what we’ve been doing.

The meaning of both words deals with the guilt and the weight of our soul. They both are about when God convicts and deals with us, when God touches us. I remember the moment in my life when God touched me; can you remember yours?

We can view repentance from our aspect and from our aspect. God lays it out very clearly. When we did the “Sexual Sin” series a few months ago, it opened our eyes to a lot of things. We showed that sexual sin is really idolatry, because we say “I can’t be happy unless I’m doing this thing, because God can’t meet my needs.” We can also view repentance from the human side, of “I don’t want to displease God.” We abhor sin, because of the decision we made, because of the move of the Holy Spirit upon our lives.

A big part of that decision is to consider how we can live with this repentance being a part of our daily life. I used to go to a church where they prayed the prayer of absolution. I used to go through it twice, once for last week, and once for next week. But we can’t do that any more. So how can we live with this daily repentance? We have to have faith in God, that God’s spirit is able to keep us from sin. We need to rely on God. So the activity, the act of repentance, involves both sorrow and refraining from sin. So we’re sorry for what we’ve done, and we’ve decided that we’re not going to do it again.

I remember the tracts that they used to post in phone booths. I don’t know where they post them now, since there aren’t any phone booths. But they used to say that if you pray this prayer, you’ll be saved. It’s a purely mechanical, paperwork thing. But the Bible says that those who heard the word were “pricked in their hearts,” and asked “Men and brethren, what must we do?” We’ve got to both show sorrow and regret for what we’ve done, and let that holy spirit in us well up in our conversations, keeping us from sin.

You’ve all seen the pictures of an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. You know the difference between angels and demons? None, other than who they work for. It’s all about what you decide to do on a daily basis. If you live repentant, you’ll be saved. And if you

> Where there is true faith, there will always be true repentance. But also, where there is not true repentance, there will never be true faith.

If you’re not willing to live in true repentance, you can’t have true faith. My Dad said, “If you want a motorcycle, you can have one. Move out. But you won’t live in my house, under my roof, and own a motorcycle. Make a choice.” If you want salvation, live a repentant life. If you don’t live a repentant life, you won’t have salvation.

Acts 2:38
  1. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

So the first act of the repentant person is obedience to the gospel. There is a direct correlation between repentance and your obedience in following Christ. You can say, “I got baptized at nine years old; I’m saved.” What have you been doing since then?

So their first act was to repent, and their very next act was to believe in the word of God and do it.

Hebrews 9:14
  1. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The things we do since our repentance are about choosing Christ. Christ came to give us life, and to give us an abundant life.

purge
To clean out, remove impurities

We’ve got to purge our conscience. I hate getting ready for surgery. They want you to purge your system. Not much fun, is it? But how about your mind? You’ve got to purge it from a nasty way of thinking, so we can start thinking the right way, so we can serve God. You’re not serving God because you show up on Sunday, or sing in the choir, or do office work in the church. You serve God when you go out into the community and live a witness for Christ.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been angry when they didn’t show up to serve you? You didn’t want them to be slothful about bringing your food. You want them to bring it as soon as it’s ready. When you order something, you want it a certain way. You don’t want a well-done steak coming back like shoe leather, but you don’t want it bleeding all over your plate, either. God expects us to serve him a certain way.

Ezekiel 18:30-32
  1. Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
  2. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
  3. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Turn. A U-turn. You’re going into sin, then make a u-turn and go towards God. You’re going toward hell, and make a u-turn and go towards heaven. Why will you die? God wants you to live forever. God has made that possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But you have to make that choice.

Matthew 3:1-8
  1. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
  2. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
  3. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
  4. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
  5. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
  6. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
  7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
  8. Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Repentance is more than a word; it’s more than a philosophy. If you think you’re saved; if you’re self-righteous and think you’ve got it all together, you don’t want God saying “This sinner has more repentance than you.” We can do that if we have the same spirit that Zacchaeus did:

Luke 19:8-10
  1. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
  2. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
  3. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

You see the attitude difference between Zacchaeus and the Saducees and Pharisees. The Saducees and Pharisees wanted to make a big show of how righteous they were. But Zacchaeus showed the evidence of his repentance.

Matthew 21:28-32
  1. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
  2. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
  3. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
  4. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
  5. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

So part of repentance is believing what God says and doing something about it.

Acts 3:19
  1. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

What does it mean to be converted? If you convert lead to gold, you’ve changed something from worthless to precious. Millions of years ago a dinosaur took a dump in the woods, and some plants got stuck to it, and millions of years later, some of it became coal. That’s kind of messy, but useful. But some more of it went through greater pressure to become diamonds. If you want to become something precious, stay under pressure.

Acts 26:20
  1. But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

He wasn’t talking about people bringing a hundred-word essay. He was talking about a repentant attitude, not a self-righteous one.

Galatians 5:19-21
  1. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
  2. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
  3. Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now you can form any kind of a church you want; you can write a decree or a creed or whatever you want, but it doesn’t mean that God will accept it. If you want to show yourself worthy, then just do the fruits of the spirit. Some will say, “but we’re not saved by works.”

Ephesians 2:1-5
  1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
  2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
  3. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
  4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
  5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

You can not do all the things that God says not to do, and still go to hell. You can do all the things that God says to do, and still hear him say, “I never knew ye.” But we do the things that he tells us to do because of his grace in our lives. We’re not saved because we do or do not; we’re saved because we are repentant and we live for the glory of God. We don’t live for the glory of God so God will love us; God loves is, so we do these things. Some people are trying to put the cart in front of the horse. You can’t do things and expect God to love you because you’re doing them. God already loves you; so thank God and do it. Guys, do you buy flowers for your girlfriends because you’re trying to get them to love you? No, they already love you, so you give them flowers to make them happy.

Ephesians 2:8
  1. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

If you’re saved by grace, then you’re going to be walking in what God has ordained you should walk in. Pastor Ulysse, when you first took me up to Font Latinier, we stayed in a little house at the end of a path. And goats used that path all the time. At night, I used my watch light to try to see the path so I wouldn’t step in anything. If the word of God is a lamp unto your path, then you won’t have to worry. But if you’re walking in darkness, then your feet will get into all kinds of trouble.

Salvation

One of the earliest Biblical references to salvation was when the Israelites were running from the Egyptians:

Exodus 14:10
  1. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
Exodus 14:13
  1. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

And you know the story; Moses held out his hand, God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed over on dry land, and Moses held out his hand again, and the waters closed up over the following Egyptians.

Exodus 14:30
  1. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

So the question is, what does it mean when it says, “saved” ?

> (discussion)

Acts 16:16-31
  1. And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
  2. The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
  3. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
  4. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
  5. And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
  6. And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
  7. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
  8. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
  9. Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
  10. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
  11. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
  12. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
  13. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
  14. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
  15. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
  16. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Saved from what? For what?

In many places, the Bible talks about God saving people from their enemies, or adversaries. But do you realize that God created those enemies? God made all things, right?

Proverbs 16:4
  1. The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Why would God create the wicked? Why would God create enemies and adversaries for us to fight?

> (discussion)

God provides adversaries so that he can prove our obedience.

Exodus 16:4
  1. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
Judges 2:22
  1. That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.

We’re not going to war with swords anymore, but God still has ways of testing us.

Ephesians 6:12
  1. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Thoughts have power. Even for people like me who think the whole spoon-bending thing is so much hooey. There is an awesome power in living what you believe. Have you ever seen the movie Braveheart? Remember at the end when he shouted out, “FREEDOM!!!!” There’s an awesome power in that kind of courage, dedication, persistence. It’s been said that you can’t enslave a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

Romans 8:38-39
  1. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
  2. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Titus 1:15
  1. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

But even in the Old Testament, many of those who where once saved by God later were destroyed.

Jude 1:5
  1. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

Why would God destroy someone whom he had once saved?

> (discussion)

Salvation is a choice. Moses had a choice of whether to hold his hand out over the water. The woman with the issue of blood had a choice of whether to reach out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. In every Biblical example where someone was “saved”, they had to first make a choice to obey God’s commandment. Sometimes that commandment seemed silly, like when Moses had to hold his hands up all day, (Exodus 17:10-12), or Naaman had to dunk himself seven times in dirty water (2 Kings 5:11-14), but in every case God tested for obedience.

Today, the answer to “What must I do to be saved” is found in Acts 2.

Acts 2:37-40
  1. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
  2. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  3. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
  4. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

It seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? Just get dunked in water and say the name of someone who’s been dead for two thousand years. But that’s what God requires.

Acts 4:12
  1. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
1 Peter 3:18-21
  1. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
  2. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
  3. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
  4. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

As a Christian, baptism is the first test of obedience, but it isn’t the last. God tests us every day, from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. And just like the children of Israel, you can choose to be obedient one day, and choose to be disobedient the next. But in the end, the obedient shall be saved, and the disobedient shall be destroyed.

Ecclesiastes 11:3
  1. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Matthew 13:24-30
  1. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
  2. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
  3. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
  4. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
  5. He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
  6. But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
  7. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matthew 13:36-40
  1. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
  2. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
  3. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
  4. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
  5. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

Salvation

We’re going to look at Jesus’ example. He’s the perfect example, and a faithful creator. We know that he was manifest in the flesh, and felt the pain of the cross.

Matthew 3:13-15
  1. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
  2. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
  3. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

John was surprised that Jesus was coming to be baptized, knowing that he was perfect. But Jesus did it to set an example of righteousness. We have to do things God’s way and not our way. That’s where the religious world gets messed up, because they think they can do “good things” and be spiritual. Angelina Jolie does all kinds of good things, and everybody says “That’s great,” but doing those things won’t get you into heaven.

Matthew 3:16
  1. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

Some people say that sprinkling is baptism, but it isn’t. We have to go under the water; we have to die, as Paul said “I die daily.” We have to let God do the drawing. Paul said,

Romans 7:18
  1. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

The only way we can perform that which is good is by God.

Matthew 3:16
  1. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

Our name has to be in the lamb’s book of life, in order to be saved.

I couldn’t get the victory over sin until I was baptized in Jesus’ name, until I surrendered to God and did it his way. God was always with me; there were things that happened as I grew up that I couldn’t explain. That was God. But I didn’t see God at the time.

We’re talking about finding God and staying with God.

Matthew 3:17
  1. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The thing is to focus on what’s pleasing God, to focus on God’s righteousness. There is a lot of tradition out there. Most people who have gone to church for years cannot explain to you the plan of salvation. I’ve asked them, “What does your church teach about salvation?” They’ll say something like, “You know; you’ve got to pray, maybe the sinner’s prayer, and you’ve got to repent, and …” They don’t know. But let’s look at the scriptures.

There’s a conversion that has to take place, for us to be converted to God. The word of God is so simple. Doctors try to break it down, but it’s so simple.

Acts 2:37-42
  1. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
  2. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  3. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
  4. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
  5. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
  6. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

So in verse 37, their hearts were pricked. God was dealing with them, and they asked “What shall we do?” I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question, and then when they hear the answer, they don’t want to do it. But the first step toward salvation is to admit that we are sinners, and humble ourselves to repent. Then it says, “be baptized every one of you.” What about President Obama? What about the C.N.O.? We’re all equal before God. Next it says, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the name that was glorified on the cross.

Then it says, “for the remission of sins.” Have you ever done something you regret? Were you crazy as a kid? But we can get rid of those things in baptism.

Finally it says, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” A lot of people know God, but they don’t have God.

Acts 2:29-41
  1. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
  2. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
  3. He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
  4. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
  5. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
  6. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
  7. Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
  8. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
  9. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
  10. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  11. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
  12. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
  13. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

So even though three thousand souls were baptized, they made sure it was because they wanted to get right with God, not just because they wanted to be accepted by the church.

God gives us a specific plan so that we can know what to do, so we can have a good conscience toward God. Being right with God is in the knowing; in the obedience.

1 Peter 3:20-21
  1. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
  2. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

He’s talking about the days of Noah. Out of all the people, only eight souls were saved – by water. A lot of people want to be seen as good; they want to be called by the name of the Lord. They want to be part of the team, but they don’t want to do the workouts. God is looking for those who want to submit themselves; who are willing to make the sacrifices that need to be made.

Only eight souls were saved by water! The truth is precious. If somebody gets baptized just to “check the box”, and they’re not willing to follow through, it won’t do them any good.

1 Peter 3:21
  1. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

It’s not like taking a bath; it’s the answer of a good conscience.

I remember when I was going into surgery, and they told me, “There’s a such-and-such chance that you won’t make it.” As I was going under the knife, God reminded me, “This is why you live for me every day.” As long as you’re ready, when the time comes, you won’t have to scramble.

Moses was saved by water. God delivered the children of Israel by the Red Sea – again, by water.

A lot of people don’t understand the plan of salvation. But we can not only know it, but be able to teach it. And the better you know it, the more effective you’ll be at teaching it.

Romans 6:1-2
  1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
  2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

So we can’t just keep doing the same thing. That’s called “insanity.” We’ve got to submit to God and see things through God’s eyes. This is our road-map:

Romans 6:3
  1. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

Notice that it says “into Jesus Christ.” We’ve got to be part of his body in order to be saved. Salvation is a state of being, not a location on earth.

Anybody who goes to hell is an intruder. That’s not God’s design; God didn’t design hell for us. But:

Ecclesiastes 11:3
  1. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

Whatever state we’re in when we die, that’s it.

Romans 6:4
  1. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

We’ve got to live each day like it’s our last, as well as planning for the future. We’ve seen a lot of guys come through these doors and hear the message of baptism of Jesus’ name. A lot of them left without doing anything about it. But we’ve got to capitalize on that opportunity.

Romans 6:5
  1. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Have you ever taken a test that you were absolutely ready for? When I took the final test in “A” school, I knew I was ready. Well, you’re not going to take a written test to find out if you’re going to heaven. The test is living your life every day. This is how we get the blood of Christ applied to our life. When Jesus died on the cross, his physical blood dried up. But we’re talking about his spiritual blood.

Romans 6:6-7
  1. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
  2. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

We’re crucified with him, so that we can live free from sin every day. Even on our best days, we have to live repentful.

Baptism is simple. There are many examples in the Bible. Take Philip and the Eunuch. The eunuch asked to be baptized, and Philip said, “Okay, but you’ve got to believe with all your heart.” It’s a simple choice.

You’ve got to start with the foundation of having a good conscience toward God. There’s nothing wrong with having a career and being a success in this life, but you’ve got to start with a foundation in God.

There are many more examples in the scripture, but it doesn’t take long to show someone the plan of salvation.

Returning To God

Sunday Plus, 9/12/10

Songs

Discussion: Returning To God

> Pastor Paine

Who’s got a scripture verse or a thought they’d like to share?

  • Ben Schoch: This is my favorite scripture, because it reminds me of the mercies of God.
Acts 3:19
  1. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Anyone else?

  • Jaucelin Fenelus
2 Peter 3:9
  1. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

We realize that this idea of “returning to God” is not a rare need. It’s something that we need to do over and over and over again.

2 Chronicles 7:14
  1. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
  • Jay Hunemuller
2 Corinthians 2:6-12
  1. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
  2. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
  3. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
  4. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
  5. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
  6. Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
  7. Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
  • Rich Brand
Jeremiah 24:7
  1. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
  • Edna Taylor
Matthew 6:33-34
  1. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
  2. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
  • Ron Sherer
Psalms 139:23-24
  1. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
  2. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
  • Sheri Schoch
Matthew 18:11-13
  1. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
  2. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
  3. And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

When we go astray, that’s a great verse to remember, isn’t it? God doesn’t want us to go astray; he wants to save us.

  • Charlene Turner
Psalms 36:5-10
  1. Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
  2. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
  3. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
  4. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
  5. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
  6. O continue thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
  • Tim Ragsdale
Hosea 6:1
  1. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
  • Hilberto Williams
1 Thessalonians 5:22
  1. Abstain from all appearance of evil.
  • Odie Thompson
John 14:26
  1. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
  • Dave Rivera
1 John 1:9
  1. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Do you see a theme here? As human beings, we will find ourselves needing to return again unto the Lord, to reacquaint ourselves with his calling on our life. If we forget this, then when we find ourselves having slipped out of the center of the will of God, the devil has a strong hook that he will use, telling us there’s no way back.

How does God deal with a contrite spirit? Maybe it’s something that everyone knows, or maybe it’s secret sin that no one knows but you? I ask people in counseling: “What was happening in the time and place when you’ve had the most joy?” Can you think of that time? Can you think of that place?

> Lots of hands

What was your prayer life like? What was your communication with God like? What things were you embracing and what things were you avoiding? Sometimes married couples get to the point where they don’t love each other anymore. Some people get that way with God. The prodigal son got to the point where he decided “It’s better out there than it is here.” Maybe it was because he had heard the stories of what it’s like out there, or maybe it’s because he fell out of good communication with his father and brothers. (We know he had at least one brother; maybe he had others.) Maybe he let his joy become weak, because he didn’t revisit that joy. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re counting your blessings, but it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when you’re counting your problems.

So the prodigal son said, “Give me the portion that belongs to me,” and the father did so. It’s an interesting lesson in parenting. I don’t know if I would have done that, but this is a parable, and the father in this case is God, and he gave him free will. So the son went to town, and for a time, wow, did it look like he’d made the right decision! But then his money ran out, and so did his friends. And when he finally came home, what kind of attitude did the father have? Did he say, “I bet you think it isn’t so bad here now, do you?” No, in fact, he threw a party. He reached out to his son with arms out and hugged and kissed him. That’s how the father wants us to return to him, and that’s how he wants to embrace us. Oh, the devil doesn’t want that, does he?

  • Paul VonFange
Psalms 34:18
  1. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Where is the Lord when you have a broken heart? He’s right there.

  • Pat Mahoney
Psalms 104:10-18
  1. He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.
  2. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.
  3. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
  4. He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
  5. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
  6. And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
  7. The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
  8. Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
  9. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
  • Jay Ugali
Jonah 2:2
  1. And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

So there’s Jonah, in the belly of the whale (one scripture says whale, another says fish). He cried out to God from the depths of the sea, and God hear it. You think that where you’re at, God can’t hear you?

  • Jay Hunemuller
Psalms 51:17
  1. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
  • Bob Vincent
Isaiah 42:1-7
  1. Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
  2. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
  3. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
  4. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
  5. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
  6. I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
  7. To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

I thought, “Maybe we should create an audio CD, without comment, just these verses.” Old and New Testament, over and over, the message is simple. God doesn’t want us to stay on the outside; he wants us to come to him. Sure, the devil wants to tell us how bad our sin is, and how much we’ve embarrassed ourselves or whatever, but God doesn’t care. He says, “You’re my child. I love you.” Do you know that God loves you? Let’s say it together:

God loves me

God loves me

God loves me

Some of us have trouble with that, don’t we? Some people are only saying it because I told you to say it. How about saying it because you believe and know? And even while you’re saying it, you could be thinking, “I could think of some reasons why God wouldn’t love me. If I were God, I wouldn’t love me.” Fair enough. I can think of some times when, if I were God, I wouldn’t love me. Can you follow that convoluted reasoning? But what if, even in those times, God loves me?

  • Terrance Taylor 2
Luke 15:18-20
  1. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
  2. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
  3. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Who ran to who? The son was returning, but the father ran to the son. The son was returning; he was heading in the right direction, but it was the father who ran.

  • Ben Schoch
Isaiah 55:6
  1. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
  • Jesse Rairdon
Zechariah 3:1-5
  1. And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
  2. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
  3. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
  4. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
  5. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
  • Aaron Shavers
Psalms 116:1-8
  1. I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
  2. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
  3. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
  4. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
  5. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
  6. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
  7. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
  8. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
  • Jaucelin Fenelus
Isaiah 57:15
  1. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Maybe as we’ve gone through the service this morning and evening, you feel that you’ve been wronged. You’re sure of it; you’re absolutely convinced that you’ve been treated badly. Maybe your actions weren’t completely correct, but nowhere near what was done to you, with the way you’ve been treated. I was watching the news lately and I thought, “Are there no good people in this community? Is everybody robbing a Seven-Eleven? Does anyone drive a car they haven’t stolen?

Has anyone ever felt this way? I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking, “Am I the only one in this church that’s doing anything?” That’s a slippery slope! Then you’re struggling with, “Of course I’ve got a bad attitude! You would, too!” Are you ready, tonight? Are you ready with your broken and contrite attitude? Are you ready to tell God, “I’m coming to you because I need your guidance, love and counsel; I’m ready to get back where it feels right to worship you. I’m ready to get back where I’m in love with you all over again. God, I’m ready.” To me, that’s what this day has been all about: getting back to a right relationship with God.

In this morning’s service, it was a much tougher message: if there is any secret thing that is getting in the way, it’s time to get rid of it. Sometimes we’re not exactly sure ourselves what the situation is. I’ve been angry sometimes and didn’t even know why? Anybody else?

> Nearly every hand went up

Wow! Do that again; make me feel better*

> Nearly every hand went up again

Maybe you’re like the child that brings the knotted bracelet to Mom or Dad and says “Can you fix it?” When we bring it to God, the answer is always yes. If you feel broken, if you feel your relationship is not what it should be, then this day is for you. If you’re saying, “Not me, Pastor,” then ask yourself, “Why not me?” Why do you continue to sabotoge your own success? Why do you continue to mess up your own success?

I’m going to tell an embarrassing story because it might just help someone. When I was three years old, I was playing around in the house, and I started a fire. It was an accident. When you’re three, everything is an accident. We lost the house. I man, the whole house burned down. Fast-forward, I’m in third grade, nine years old. I had done terrible things, destructive things. The last straw was when they found me in the playground, hitting myself in the head with a rock, blood running down my face. There wasn’t a fight; kids were watching me. I just picked up a rock and started hitting myself on the head. The next thing I know, I’m sitting with a guy with a bow-tie, a child psychiatrist. (They put on a band-aid, first.) He was a nice guy. He said, “The first thing I’m going to do is find out if you’re smart.” After three visits, let’s just say they were all on Tuesday afternoons, so after about three weeks. The guy said, “This thing I know for sure; you’re smart. Your reasoning isn’t the problem. Something is causing this behavior. I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to figure it out. Then he starts asking me questions. One day he asked me about regrets. If I could do anything different, what would it be? He’s asking a nine-year-old boy. I said, “Well, I wish I hadn’t burned down the house.” He thought he had finally struck a nerve. He said, “Tell me about the house.” Well, I was playing around next to the hot-water heater, and I stuck something under the hot-water heater, and there was a flame under there, and it caught fire. I put it in the trash, but we couldn’t get the fire out. We lost everything. (I gave him a list, at nine years old.)

Maybe somebody here has been hitting yourself on the head with a rock. Maybe you can say, “It’s time to quit hitting myself on the head with a rock.”

He asked, “Does anyone else know this?” Sure. Everyone knows about it. But they don’t talk about it in my house. They refer to it as “the fire.” So the next visit, my father and mother were there. And the psychiatrist said, “Tell your mother and father about the fire.” I shut up. I bit my lip. I’m lock-jawed. I’m not going to say a word, because I know that I’ve gone back to this horrible thing, the family’s secret, and now I told it. But somehow he got me to understand that it was okay, and I started talking. So I said, “I burned down the house.” My dad said, “You burned down the house?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Peter, I never knew that. How did you burn down the house?” I explained, and the next thing I knew we were all hugging, and crying, and the guy was using his bow tie to dry his tears.

For six years, the guilt and the embarrassment was overwhelming. I thought that it was a family secret. It was so bad that we didn’t even discuss it at the house. Nobody could discuss “the fire”. Everybody knew it, but nobody could talk about it, because it was the family secret. And my Mom said, “I’m so sorry that you’ve lived with this for so long. You never did anything to make me love you less.” And my Dad said something very loving like, “So that’s why you’ve been so stupid! I was worried that you were mentally retarded or something.”

For six years, that secret was just manufactured. I thought they were afraid to talk aobut it, but they never knew. They would say something like, “Yeah, there was a fire, but we don’t know what happened.” But what I heard was, “What happened is so bad that we can’t even tell you.”

Has anyone here ever burned down his house?

  • Yeah, I did, when I was little.

> (embracing) I love you, man!

I thought I could never be forgiven. I thought I’d done something so horrible that I could never have a right relationship with my family.

Here’s the moral of the story. There is nothing you can do that’s so horrible that you can’t have a right relationship with God, if you’ll only go to him with a broken and contrite spirit.

I don’t know what you need to do next, but if you start the journey, God is willing to meet you more than halfway.

Luke 15:20
  1. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Fellowships

Sunday Plus, 9/5/10

Songs

  • [ All To You]
  • [ Majestic]
  • [ What A Friend We Have In Jesus]
  • [ One Day]
  • [ All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name]

Workshop: Fellowships

1. What are the top five things you would be thinking and praying about if you were asked to leave and start a fellowship?

  • Our own foundation
  • Strength
  • Location that is conducive to the mission
  • That God would put people in the fellowship, so where I am weak, someone else could be strong
  • Take away fear
  • Funding
  • Willingness of those with us
  • Demographics of the area
  • Forgiveness (I know we’ll make mistakes)
  • God’s providence
  • Logistics
  • Target ministry
  • More people; more laborers
  • Communication
  • Evangelism: the will to go out and meet people
  • Hospitality: meeting people’s needs

So there’s a lot to think about when you’re going out to start a fellowship. It’s not something that you just start on a whim. It’s something that you plan ahead.

2. What direction does the Bible give on starting fellowships?

Prayer

Luke 10:1
  1. After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
Mark 1:2-3
  1. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
  2. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Matthew 28:19-20
  1. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
  2. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The Bible teaches us that we should pray and choose people who are found to be good examples.

Acts 6:1-7
  1. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
  2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
  3. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
  4. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
  5. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
  6. Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
  7. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

God gave us the great commission (Matthew 28:19)

Matthew 10:1
  1. And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

The book of Acts gives us great examples. They gathered in homes, and went out two-by-two.

Location is important. Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the Holy Ghost directed otherwise.

Acts 16:6-10
  1. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
  2. After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
  3. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
  4. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
  5. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

You have to be led by the spirit of God, and go forth with faithful help.

Mark 6:7
  1. And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
Ecclesiastes 4:9
  1. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

Before they left an area, the apostles established others to work with the local fellowship.

Acts 14:23
  1. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

So it’s not as simple as picking a spot on the map where you’d like to be. If it was up to me, I’d pick Hawaii, and just sit in the sun telling people, “Hey, you need to know Jesus.” Pat wants to go to Italy; I remember him talking about that since I was a little boy. But he is going where God has called him.

Not only do we have a specific place to go, but we have a specific job to hold:

Ephesians 4:11-12
  1. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
  2. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being in a fellowship?

Advantages:

  • You get to know your brothers and sisters very well
  • No “slack time”
  • More opportunity for clarification
  • Get more familiar with your leaders
  • More room to grow and “step up”
  • Everyone’s efforts count

Disadvantages:

  • Away from the larger body of Christ
  • You can’t just focus on your strengths
  • You’re responsible for everything
  • You can’t just “walk in”. You have to make things happen.

How many of you have been away from the main body of Christ for a length of time? I grew up in Georgia, and spent nine to ten months at a time away from the body, and then one month with my Dad. Sometimes those nine or ten months were good, and sometimes they were bad. The difference was in my willingness to communicate and work with my Dad.

When you’re on the ship, you don’t get to just pick up the phone every time you feel like it. You can’t communicate your successes and failures as quickly as you might like.

4. What specific scriptures would you use to direct you when you’re in a fellowship, or away from the main body of Christ?

Galatians 6:9-10
  1. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
  2. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

When you’re not with the main body, you have to hold on to the few brothers and sisters you have like they are rare gems.

Hebrews 10:25
  1. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
1 Peter 5:2-3
  1. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
  2. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
Proverbs 3:5-6
  1. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
  2. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Hebrews 13:16-17
  1. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
  2. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

In a fellowship, you can be away, but you still fall under the care of a pastor in the ministry, so you have to keep that communication flowing.

Acts 2:41-42
  1. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
  2. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:46-47
  1. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
  2. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Matthew 6:33
  1. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
James 1:3-6
  1. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
  2. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
  3. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
  4. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

I would want to have a lot of wisdom in what I’m doing if I were going somewhere. There is a lot here that we can glean, in addition to the communication we’re having with our leaders, that we ourselves are digging into the word of God for what he has for us. Sometimes you won’t have the answer you need, ready to hand. Jesse, you were stationed overseas. Did you ever call in at three o’clock in the morning?

> Oh, yes. I was probably one of the ones that Pastor Paine had to scream in his pillow before he could finish the call.

I know that it would take a lot of Holy Ghost for me to answer a call at three o’clock in the morning.

5. What could we do as members of the local congregation to help support those in the fellowships?

  • Intercessory prayer: keep them on your heart
  • Write letters
  • Send care packages
  • Provide resources
  • Encourage positive communication
  • Visit: you don’t necessarily have to be “sent”
  • Spread the word to people heading that way
  • Support with tithes and special offerings
  • Fasting
  • Training people here to be the next leaders
  • Maintain a level of holiness

There are things that we can do as members of the local congregation. Paul wrote several times about the congregations ministering to his needs. In the early days of the ministry when Pastor Thomas came down here, there really was two fellowships. But they took pride in saying, “You need this? We have that. We can send it to you.” If one had a material or financial need, the other would send to them. They would constantly communicate back and forth, saying “I have this resource available. What fellowship could use this?”

> Eric Turner

As everyone knows, we were stationed in Monterey, California for a while. When I was up for orders, I communicated with the pastorship, saying “These are the places that I could go, and I’d like to go to Norfolk.” Pastor Paine asked me to consider going to Japan. I didn’t like the idea, but I prayed about it and decided to put in for Japan. As soon as I did, the detailer said, “Done!” Charlene and I rolled into Japan a few weeks before the previous fellowship leader had to leave, so it was perfect timing. You have to take those opportunities and run with them. Charlene and I benefitted a lot. It forced me to come out of my shell. If I could do it all over, I’d do better at communication. For those of you who might be in that situation, let me tell you: you can’t communicate enough. Many times, things might have gone a little smoother if I had communicated better. It was a challenging time. The end goal is to see souls saved. You don’t have time to “play church.” It was a burden, but it was a burden that I welcomed. We spent many a night asking each other, “Where can we go? What can we do? How do you keep people engaged?” It was a real blessing, and I’d love to do it again.

> Charlene Turner

I think one of the advantages was the personal study time. If you’re going to go out and share, you have to be studied-up. A disadvantage was the other churches around us. People wanted to go to a church, and we were trying to bring them into our home or a rec center. You have to prove to them that there is more scripture knowledge than what they’ll find in a building. Living on base was great, but you’ve got to seek to find people who aren’t living on base. So we went to parks. We visited a sister who lived out in town. We went on trips. We met people everywhere. An important thing is to communicate with the senior leaders in your neighborhood, to get permission to use local facilities, or hang up flyers in libraries and community centers. It’s a real experience going from a great ministry like this to a fellowship, but it was awesome. A big, big plus was the pastor’s visits. Financial support is important, because if someone is coming to visit, you don’t want them to think they have to give if they don’t want to.

> Todd Morgan

It was exciting, leading the fellowship and getting out there on the field. One thing we knew for sure is that we won’t be prosperous if we don’t communicate with the pastorship. We went to Everett in the wintertime, and we traveled through Colorado during a white-out. I said to Josh, “We need to hit the next exit.” But I made the mistake of putting in a Bible tape, and Josh got his mind on the Bible tape instead of on the exit. He tried to make it and wound up trashing the car. I called Pastor Thomas, and he encouraged me, saying “God will work it out.” Sure enough, that little Corolla wouldn’t have worked for a fellowship, but we got a minivan and it was nice. People contributed furniture and whatever else we needed; it was a team effort. As we won each person, soul by soul, they became new soldiers on the battlefield. It was very exciting, just being available and being focused. At one time, there were seven ships there in Everett, and we got a chance to share with a lot of people, coming and going. Having a burden for souls: that’s where it’s at.

> Scott Shepherd

I hope that you’re seeing that the things that make us successful when we’re in a fellowship are the same things that make us successful in our daily life, only magnified.

> Pastor Ulysse

In my case, I felt like God wanted to place me in the right place and just share. The first day I got baptized, I didn’t even understand the deepness of baptism in Jesus’ name. But I went back to my barracks and shared, then I called up the fellowship center and said, “Hey, this guy needs to get baptized.” It was the same way when I went to my duty station. The first person who met me and checked me in was Malcolm Carter, and I shared with him, and he got baptized the same day.

The blessing of fellowship is seeing the fruits of your work. When you share with someone and they get baptized, and you see that person growing, there cannot be any greater reward. I learned so many lessons. The first one, and to me a very important one, is that I wasn’t sent to claim the ocean, to claim the pond. I was sent to fish. I catch a fish, and I must deal with this fish. We are sent into the world to catch them. I had to learn not to focus on too many things at once, but to focus on personal growth. If you have a soul, make sure that person is growing. We are sent to feed the flock, and feeding involves different ingredients. You cannot just feed bread and no meat.

Like Eric shared, lack of communication made my work harder, really hard. Everywhere in my life, lack of communication really hurts. I am too reserved. You don’t want to go through life without learning to communicate.

One mistake that I made and don’t want to repeat is that I mixed preaching the word and seeing souls saved with trying to establish an institution. I was trying to build and administer and everything at once. But you tend not to do anything right, if you mix up the spiritual things with the physical things.

Another thing that was a hard lesson to learn was not trying to get people to come… basically, don’t be a salesman. Just give them the word, and let the spirit itself do the job. Don’t press on anyone; just let the spirit draw them. You cannot keep anyone; Jesus is the only one who can.

I definitely learned patience. That is one thing you have to deal with in fellowships. You learn patience where you would not, because you see the soul. You don’t see according to the flesh; you see the soul. So you do what you would not do, and love where you definitely would not, because of this.

How did I stay focused? The minute you don’t stay busy praying and studying and sharing, the minute you get too relaxed, you will lose your focus. You have to stay busy, but not busy doing the things that will not lead you to anything. I know where my strengths are, and where my weaknesses are, and I constantly stay busy where my strengths are.

The best thing about fellowships is that you have the same Jesus that is everywhere else. You are not any less in the fellowship than if you were in the mother church. It is the same spirit.

How do I reach people? That was to me the easiest thing. I didn’t even know if somebody is there; I’ve just been led. I don’t know. I didn’t have it in mind, “There are many people there; let me go there.” I just have it in mind to see people saved, and God just sends them. Like Philip, something just says “Go this way” and you go this way. I didn’t have a plan; God just sent people. And if you have it in mind to share, you will say “Wow. It is no coincidence that we met.”

> Pat Taylor

I’m taking great notes, and I will take a lot with me to Jacksonville. But I think the most important thing is to seek first the Kingdom of God, and God will work out the details.

Pastor Paine had it on his heart to open up a center in Jacksonville; he mentioned it in a board meeting a couple of weeks ago. And when the doors didn’t open for Naples, we didn’t know how the logistics would all work out, but as soon as we started looking at Jacksonville, all of the pieces just started falling into place. I really appreciate all the wisdom I’ve received from the folks who have gone before me; it’s a great encouragement.

> Pastor Thomas

This has been an incredible night. I’d like to share a couple things. I’ve had the honor of starting a couple of fellowships. The one thing that will make you successful is your prayer and study time. The Bible says to have a prayer life that is so powerful that you are letting the Holy Spirit grow inside you and get you excited. The devil will be ready to give you every excuse to avoid studying, but when your heart is right with God, you will be driven, and you’ll be excited about being driven. How many remember the “cold room” on Hillside? We had one air-conditioner that cooled the whole house, and it was cold in that room. We had a little table in there, and more people got the Holy Ghost in that room than anywhere else we’ve met.

If you have the right attitude, your fellowship will grow. You’ve got nobody else to blame. If you’re teaching Bible studies, you have two responsibilities. You have to study for your own growth, and you have to study for material to teach others. And it’s really two different things. You may have a whole suitcase of Bible studies, but if you’re not feeding your own spiritual man, you’ll have nothing to give others.

Every fellowship we’ve had that succeeded, had those key elements: prayer, study, and the right attitude. And every fellowship that failed, failed in one or more of those key areas. So seek ye first the kingdom of God, and build your own spiritual man first.

Courage in Leadership

Conference 2010, Day 2 of 3, Leadership Workshop

How many of you can honestly say “It’s my sincere prayer to increase the leadership qualities in my life.”

Positional leadership is important, but it’s not nearly as important as being effective as a leader. Sometimes it’s the person without the title who is really leading.

As I call on you, shout out the name of someone in the Bible whom you think has leadership qualities:

  • Joseph
  • Paul
  • King David
  • Timothy
  • Gideon
  • Joshua
  • Esther
  • Elisha
  • Jesus
  • Josiah
  • Caleb
  • Peter
  • Abraham
  • Solomon

These people all had very different leadership qualities. All of us have very different leadership qualities. So the idea is not to be like someone else, but to be the very best leader you can be.

I want to share from a book I’ve been reading. I first read this book in 19… I don’t know. This book is called “Courageous Leadership.” I learned a lot from reading it. If you feel like continuing this study, I’m referencing chapter 10 of this book.

The author is the senior pastor of a mega-church with thousands of members. He’s an interesting study on leadership. What I like about his story is that he was in seminary, and a professor challenged the class one day. When that challenge came, he said “I knew in that moment what I’d be doing for the rest of my life.” I can relate to that because I was nineteen years old when Pastor Davis first shared with me, and I knew in that moment what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. I’d be living for God, doing something in my life for the glory of God.

Under your seat, there is a 3x5 card. Go ahead and grab it; it’s yours. If you want to write a leadership question, we’ll have some Q&A afterwards.

Let’s look at some leadership qualities of some individuals.

God, make me more like King David

King had optimisim from his youth. He had optimism when he was doing right, of course. But he also had optimism when failure was uppermost in his mind.

2 Samuel 12:22
  1. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?

So here was David, and he was very aware of his sin. We know that the prophet Nathan had spoken to him. And here he was praying to God for a positive outcome. Maybe you’re thinking, “Whoah, David. Take your punishment!” But he had this leadership quality of optimism. He knew that even though he made mistakes, God doesn’t make mistakes.

Jeremiah 29:11
  1. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Some of us miss the leadership opportunities God has for us because we had a season of setback. Every great testimony, every great story has a season of setback. In the movie, “Men of Honor”, Carl Breshear played a man who was injured but didn’t want to give up. He wanted to complete what he had started. So here David was praying to God out of optimism, for he said “Who can tell whether God will be gracious, that the child may live?”

How’s your optimism this morning? I’m optimistic, even when facing bleak circumstances. Debbie and I in 1975 had a horrible car crash. The car hydroplaned, and I lost control, spinning circles down the highway. You know when you’re waiting for the crash, and you know that it’s not going to be good. I was saying out loud, “It’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.” And then we hit, and took out four guard rails. But you know, it was all right, because Debbie and I walked away from it.

Some of you think you’re optimists, but you don’t demonstrate it well. You go home and the answering machine has a message from the bank, saying “Call immediately.” The first thing you think is that you’re overdrawn. People are flooded with pessimism. Watch the evening news and see if there’s more than one positive story. I don’t watch the evening news much anymore, because I can get depressed all by myselof, thank you very much.

In psalms, David expressed his optimism:

Psalms 51:10-13
  1. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
  2. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
  3. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
  4. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

David had fallen into the trap of being corrupted by power, so much that when Nathan first came to him, he didn’t even recognize his own sin that was being told to him. But he says, “This is going to have a happy ending.” I love it! David is down for the count, but he still has optimism. That’s a quality I want to have and really wrap my arms around.

You’re driving down the road and you hear a funny sound that might be coming from under the hood. What do you do? I know that I start looking at the dashboard to see if any of the gauges are saying anything. If the gas gauge is all the way over on the “E” side and it’s blinking, that’s a clue. And if you’re thinking that your best days are behind you, that’s a clue.

There’s a person who isn’t here, so I’ll leave him anonymous. He said to me, “Pete, the thing about you that really annoys me is that you’re always so optimistic.” And I thought, “The thing about you that really bothers me is your pessimism.” So we agreed to balance each other out.

David and Jonathan had a special relationship.

2 Samuel 1:26
  1. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

Jonathan never sacrificed his relationship with David to protect his own future. How’s your capacity for love? We’re talking about leadership qualities this morning. Do you think your capacity for love can be increased? On a scale from 1 to ten, ten being Godlike and 1 being almost nothing, what’s your capacity for love? How many would say, “I need a greater capacity for love?”

> (Almost all hands went up)

Love doesn’t mean “like.”

God, make me more like Joseph

Let’s talk about Joseph for a moment. Personal holiness was his leadership quality.

Genesis 39:7-9
  1. And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
  2. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
  3. There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

I love those last four words. You see, when Joseph was faced with this temptation, he thought about his relationship with God. And that’s a great description of personal holiness. Joseph remained uncorrupted by power. He avoided financial impropriety, political scandal, and sexual seduction. He saw his stewardship as a holy calling. Do you see your leadership as a holy calling? Even the youngest person here has a leadership responsibility. Children make a difference. Sometiems you lead the adults. Sometimes it’s the youngest among us, the one without positional or title leadership, who can have the greatest impact.

God, make me like Joshua.

Joshua was decisive. Those of you who know me know that’s one of the battles I fight, being more decisive.

Joshua 24:15
  1. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Say it with me:

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

He made a decision, and stuck with it. Leaders must have absolute certainty about life’s issues, and call other people to do the same. Sometimes you’re the one who is called to make a difference, to be an ambassador for the Lord. We must remind people that life is not a game.

God, make me more like Esther

Esther’s quality was courage. We know that Esther was a woman of beauty. Perhaps that’s what got her to the position she was in, but it was really her courage that God used.

Esther 4:16
  1. Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

Esther knew that there were things worth living for, and she knew there were things worth dying for. She knew that some things were worth more than life itself. We need to have more courage, saints, even when we’ve been mistreated.

I’d be shocked if there were one person in this room who couldn’t think of a moment when you’ve been mistreated, sometimes by your Christian brothers or sisters. That could be your focal point, or your focal point could be your relationship with God. Was Joseph mistreated? Joseph could have made that his focal point. We’ve all been mistreated at times. Maybe you’re thinking, “But you haven’t been as mistreated as I have.” You want to compare notes on that? No, really. But nobody wins in that.

God, make me more like Solomon

What was Solomon’s great quality? Wisdom. Was he just born wise? No, he pursued it. When people asked him what he wanted from God, he said “Wisdom.” He could have had a lot of things, but he sought wisdom. And because he sought wisdom, he got a lot of things.

1 Kings 10:23
  1. So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.

When you think about what God can do for you, seek wisdom. You may be a leader in any given situation. Maybe it’s just four people sitting in a coffee shop looking at a map, and you’re the leader, because you’re the one saying “This is the course we ought to take.”

God, make me more like Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was emotionally authentic.

Lamentations 3:22
  1. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

If God wasn’t merciful, we’d all be dead. When things are going badly, (and things went badly for Jeremiah and his ministry), Jeremiah expressed his true feelings to God. Maybe that’s what you need to do. Sometimes it’s easy for us to convince others that everything’s fine, and still not be convinced ourselves. We put on the happy face because we know we should. I remember some times when my Dad would say, “Are you happy?” I said, “Yeah.” Then he’d say, “Go ahead and notify your face.” One day I was the last one to get to the dinner table. I sat down, and my Dad kept looking at me. He said, “Peter, we’re going to start eating in a moment, but before we do, I want you to get up and leave the table, and go into the living room, and consider how you’d like to enter this room. Because before you walked in, we were having a good conversation, and when you came in, things went downhill.” And everyone was looking at me. Hungry siblings were looking at me. And I got up and walked into the living room, and I thought about staying there and letting them all go hungry. Then I came back in and said, “Hey! What’s for dinner?” And Dad said, “That’s better.”

So if you’re not happy, tell God about it.

God, make me like Nehemiah.

Nehemiah had a commitment to celebration. Some of us naturally celebrate, and some of us need to learn how.

Nehemiah 8:10
  1. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Sometimes you’ve got to just celebrate. If you lead a team in this ministry, there are times when you’ve got to look at your team and say, “Let’s celebrate.” And celebration doesn’t have to be a big party. Celebration can just be some ice cream. There are times when we’ve got to celebrate. Jeremiah reminded his people that all work and no play makes for dull people. And I would say it makes for dull churches, too. I have this thing; I go down the hall and do “high-fives” with everybody. It’s my little celebration.

> (Going around and demonstrates high-fives with everyone)

Tell me: you can’t do that with a frown, can you? That’s a little celebration!

God, make me more like Peter.

A lot of words come to mind when I think of Peter. Peter had initiative. Peter wasn’t afraid to do it. Sometimes he was wrong. But he wasn’t afraid. Peter was the only one who got out of the boat. Sure, he sank, but he was the only one who got out of the boat.

Matthew 14:28-29
  1. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
  2. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

I’m thankful the scripture highlights both the good and bad points of Peter’s leadership, but know this: Peter was a man of action. I’d rather make the mistake of doing the wrong thing than to stand back and do nothing. It’s a risk, sometimes, but we’ve got to launch out.

I might look at Holly and say, “Let’s sing a song like this.” And it will be a miserable failure, right there in front of God and everybody. But I would rather try something and fail and learn from that experience than to sit back and say, “I wish I would have done something.”

God, make me more like Paul

Paul was a leader. You think of words like “Fight, keep the faith, finish well.”

Philippians 3:13
  1. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

The stakes in what we’re doing are enormous. I hope that as we talk this morning, you don’t take your role as a leader lightly. I’m not talking about position. You have more of an impact on others as a leader than you think.

I’ve been teaching “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Somebody asked me to make mention of the leadership books that I value. But if you’re a new Christian, the only leadership book I would recommend is the Bible. But if you’ve studied the Bible and have discernment to recognize when someone is saying something different, then I would encourage you to prayerfully consider others.

“Leadership by the Book” is a good book. It’s one of Pastor Thomas’ favorites. “Developing the Leader Within You” is another.

Q&A

  • How do you know when to say something without disturbing the positional leadership?

You have to pray for guidance, but don’t shrink from the opportunity to have some input. Pray for wisdom, and God will reveal it to you.

  • I believe that there is a time (most of the time) for following the rules and going with the flow. But I also believe there’s a time to step outside the rules to address a unique situation. Can you comment on that?

Obviously, there are times to step outside and say, “I know we have a rule, but it doesn’t apply here.” But be careful that you don’t get a spirit of rebellion in that. I’m speaking to the issue that you raised. Sometimes, the leader has set a course and you don’t understand it. If every follower gets a chance to dig in their heels every time they think the leader didn’t make a correct step, then the leader can’t lead. There is a way to say, “I think you should consider other options.” But once the decision has been made, like on a football team, once the play has been called, everybody needs to run it, or you’re not going to get anywhere. Sometimes we need to be humble and run with the play, even when we disagree with it. I wish I could say that I’ve always done that perfectly. It’s a delicate thing. You want to trust your leader, and pray for your leader. Sometimes I’ve prayed, “God, change my leader.” Or, “God, change me.” I’ve had that prayer answered, sometimes when I wish he’d have answered the other one.

Sometimes as I face a difficult leadership situation, I think, “If God could call anyone from the Old or New Testament to handle this situation, who would he call and why?” Sometimes that helps me to figure out how to handle that situation, and what leadership qualities would apply.

Mary Ogden, would you share? Most of you know that Mary Ogden is retired from the military, but you may not know that her whole career was spent as a Christian.

> Mary Ogden

As a leader, not only are you resposible for the persons under you, but you’re responsible to the person above you. Jesus is our leader.

I’m a lieutenant. I came in as a lieutenant, so I didn’t get the training that some people get as an ensign. I was a nurse, with seven years of nursing. They had a problem with staffing, so they made four teams, “A, B, C, and D.” A, B, and C got to chooose their people, and as the youngest, I got to take what was left. And we were put on nights. We called ourselves, “Da Team!” And some of them just needed guidance. This one lady was like a butterfly. She was always flitting from one task to another, never finishing anything. And I noticed that she was drinking liters of kool-aid every night. She was living on sugar. So we talked about diet, and after some counseling, I got a good corpsman out of it.

When I started working for S.E. Johnson, I had a boss who was always looking over my shoulder. She didn’t have very good communication skills. And her boss somehow picked up on that, and called in a consulting firm. So I said, “My boss doesn’t have good leadership skills. Can we send her to school?” And they did! I wasn’t in a position of authority, but I had some influence in the situation.

Making Better Decisions - part 1 of 3

Wednesday Bible Study, 7/7/10

Songs

Making Better Decisions

> Bruce Wilson

Whether you know me well or you don’t know me at all, I’d like to ask you something. I ask that you try to see something of this in your life. See yourself; understand that you are a part of it. That’s the only requirement tonight.

Decisions, Decisions…

Your General Pastor is kind-of discouraged and disappointed about some people’s decisions. We need to think about decisions tonight.

Have you ever been on the wrong end of a discussion that starts out, “What were you thinking?” If you live long enough, you will. Have you ever felt hurt because of a decision you made? You’d like to point the finger at someone else, but you know that it’s all your fault.

Outline

  • Week one: CARE - pay attention to decisions
  • Week two: BEWARE - notice the influences on decisions
  • Week three: COMPARE - discover and commit to the BEST decision

This is week one.

Discussion: Is a good decision really all that different from a bad decision?

Does it really matter? It may matter right now, but does it matter in the long run?

  • There may be different outcomes
  • It may affect more than just you
  • It may be a spiritual or worldly decision
  • It could make a little difference now, but a lot of difference later.
  • It could lead to a pattern of bad decisions
  • It depends on your definition of “good” and “bad”. Next week that definition may change.

Pastor Paine and J.J., would you come up here for a moment? It’s not going to hurt, I promise.

How old are you, J.J.?

> Ten

Is there anyone sitting here in these seats tonight who can say, “I can always help J.J.” or “I can always help Pastor Paine.”

It’s an interesting way to put it. Especially parents looking at children will recognize that there’s going to be some times when you just can’t help.

Okay, flip-side. Is there anyone in this room who could say, “I could never help J.J. or I could never help Pastor Paine make a decision?”

If they could use your help, then we’ve got to be good at making decisions.

What kind of decision does God care about?

  • Spiritual decisions
  • One that glorifies him
  • Eternal decisions
  • Decisions that have eternal consequences
  • Informed decisions
  • Moral consequences
  • Decisions that affect other people, not just you
  • If it ministers to others

God’s kind-of picky about decisions, isn’t he? I don’t know if I make those kind of decisions every day, do you? If you made those kinds of decisions every day, you might be worn out. I know I would.

God Cares about…

  • Ford vs. Chevy

Obviously, God knows that Fords are supreme. (just kidding)

Does God care about all your decisions? There’s no doubt that God cares about the kinds of decisions we discussed, but what other kinds of decisions does he care about? What kinds of decisions are a right-or-left thing, where you’ve got to go one way or another?

  • A route you take to work
  • Paint your walls red or blue
  • Get married or stay single

Does God care about everything? That’s a heavy cross to bear, too, isn’t it?

  • Looking at stuff on the internet
  • Stationed near ministry or near family

That could be an either-or, but hopefully it’s not.

Is it ALWAYS like this?

Here you are, making your decision, and there’s an angel on one shoulder and the dvil on another. God cares about that, right? His angels are up-to-bat for him, helping him, talking to you. And there’s another spirit talking to you, trying to convince you to go the other way. Sometimes we feel frustrated because we’re getting it in both ears. But is this always the way it is? That’s almost the same as asking if there’s anything that God doesn’t care about.

Well, God doesn’t care the way we do. Sometimes we need a little more counsel, a little more experience. It would be nice if we felt clearly that everything is like this, with a clear good/bad decision. But how many decisions do you make every day where you are really aware of that? Tweny percent? Forty percent? We’d be feeling pretty spiritual if half the decisions we make every day are like that, wouldn’t we?

I’m going to give you some levels of decisions to help group things together. This isn’t scientific; you can break them up in different ways, but this is to help you think it through.

A: Journey towards Spiritual Maturity

1. I want that – NOW!

Everyone is easily able to make those decisions, right?

I’ve got a picture of one of those level-one decisions in the Bible. This is Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge from Jacob. That’s a pretty good example of level-one: “I want it now!”

Genesis 25:29-34
  1. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
  2. And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
  3. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
  4. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
  5. And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
  6. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Esau wasn’t worried about anything else but “I want it right now.”

2. I’ll do this now to benefit later.

Some people here know what a “lay-away plan” is. I’d say that is a little more mature in your decisions.

This is a picture of a level-two situation. Can anyone think of what this is? This is Jacob meeting Laban to serve seven years for his daughter. We’re not going to read the whole passage, but would someone give a short synopsis of it?

> *Jacob was looking for a wife and he loved Rachel better, so he agreed to serve for seven years. He ended up getting the other daughter, so he agreed to serve another seven years for the one he wanted.

3. I’ll do this, to make things better around me.

That’s not totally altruistic, because you’re focused on what’s right around you, people you’ve got to deal with day-in and day-out. That’s sort of the next level.

Next picture: Abraham and Lot. Would anyone give a short synopsis?

> Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Abraham wanted to keep the peace between them, so he was willing to take the lesser land and give the better to his nephew. So Lot took the better land and ended up suffering for it, but God blessed Abraham. That’s why when Lot was in trouble, Abraham went to help him.

If you focus on Lot, that’s really very much a level-three decision. If you focus on Abraham, there’s a little more to it, but there always is with Abraham.

4. This will make the community / world better

This takes some more commitment and sacrifice. You’re not benefitting directly from this decision. That’s a pretty heavy-duty decision. It’s at the next level of maturity in making good decisions.

Acts 6:1
  1. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

It was sort-of like a soup-kitchen, or meals-on-wheels. It was going on, and one group felt like they were being neglected.

Acts 6:2-3
  1. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
  2. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

I know that a lot of Bible scholars among you will argue that if you keep reading, there is a whole lot more to it than that one decision. But it started out as a level-four decision.

5. This decision will please God.

Here we see Daniel in the Lion’s den. How did he get there?

  • He had a habit of praying to God at the same time every day.

It wasn’t a decision to do something different; it was a decision to keep doing the same thing. But because he was no dummy, he knew that if he made that decision, he’d probably end up in the lion’s den or somewhere similar.

Pop Quiz!

What was the first level-five decision that Daniel made, that we hear about in the Bible?

> He decided not to eat the king’s meat.

You see a pattern with Daniel that he made decisions that were not at all good for him, or for the people around him, but he continued to be guided by level-five decisions. Basically, he was part of the court of the king, and he decided not to take advantage of all the things that were available to him, for ethical, cultural, and moral decisions.

Scripture Text: The Parable of the Talents

> Matthew 24:14-30

This is the story where the king gave one servant ten talents, another five, and another one.

Matthew 24:20
  1. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

What level decision was that?

  • Level five
  • That decision cuts across all the levels
Matthew 24:24
  1. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

What level decision was that?

  • Level five bad decision
  • Level two at best

All of us make level-one decisions every day. It’s not like you have to spend time on your knees repenting of all your level-one decisions. My point is not to say that it’s always level-five or God doesn’t want to hear from you. But I want you to realize the impact of making a better decision, of making the best decision.

So as I focus on this story of the talents, this story talks about what people do with what the master has given. What are things that are common to all of us that God has given us?

  • time
  • fellowship
  • life
  • homes
  • testimony
  • abilities
  • blessings
  • resources
  • faith

I hope you see that all of those things are available to all of us. So what are we doing with it? What decisions are we making about our time, about our faith? (Decisions about my faith?) Yeah, if you haven’t really thought about it, that’s why you’re here today. You need to care about those decisions to improve on them, and make a better decision later. Maybe the next time you have a decision to make, you will evaluate and say, “You know what? I think I’ll make a better decision this time.”

Now I’ll call a level, and the first two people who get to me will share either that kind of decision that they have made, or an example from the Bible.

Level Two

  • Jaucelin Fenelus – I decided to build my buisiness.
  • John Connor – I bought a Harley-Davidson

Level Three

  • Leroy Ottersberg – There was one time I had to choose between a family trip and going to a conference in San Diego. I took the option of going to conference, and then I had to explain to my mother that ministry came first and family came second. God gave me the words to explain it so that peace would dwell in my family.

Level Five

  • Shaun Mullin – An example is ministering to people even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Todd Morgan – I wanted to say in the Navy for twenty years, but

Level One

  • Holly – I ate at Wendy’s on my way to church

Level Four

  • John Connor – We did community outreach
  • Jay Hunemuller – That’s exactly what I was thinking.
  • Clarence – Having all things common
  • ?? – Paul collected money for the poor saints in Jerusalem
  • ?? – David decided to let Saul’s one surviving son live in the castle
  • Tony Bushlow – Joseph taking charge of Egypt’s grainery

Real-world Use

The best times to think about decisions are:

  1. Before bed – tomorrow’s “To-Do’s”
    It’s pretty-well proven that you get a much better night’s sleep if you prepare yourself for the next day before you go to sleep.
  2. Before breakfast – devotional time; adjusting the attitude!
    Some of us are real morning-persons, and some of us aren’t. But families know this is true.

Dynamic Challenge

  • At what level are most of your decisions made?
  • What decisions can you “up-grade” this week?
  • Are there decisions awaiting you to come up higher?

Maybe there is something that you don’t know is on the horizon yet. Maybe it’s a level-five, and you aren’t ready for it yet. You wonder, “Why am I going through all this?” Maybe God is trying to prepare you. There might be some things right now that God is ready for you to make a decision on, but you’re not ready, not caring enough, to make a level-five decision right now.

Homework

Take note of (maybe even journal) your decisions this week.

  • Do you have a certain habit or pattern?
  • Certain times of day you make better/worse decisions?
  • What factors affected your decisions?
  • Be ready to discuss all this next week.

Next week we’ll focus on what kinds of things affect your decisions. I hope this has been a benefit to you; I look forward to seeing you throughout the week, and certainly for next Wednesday’s study.

Four Steps to Salvation

Salvation in Four Easy Steps:

  1. Believe in God
  2. Trust God
  3. Agree with God
  4. Follow God

Believe in God

Romans 3:3-4
  1. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
  2. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
Romans 10:8-14
  1. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
  2. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
  3. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
  4. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
  5. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
  6. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
  7. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Hebrews 11:6
  1. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Romans 1:20
  1. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Romans 1:21-22
  1. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
  2. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Acts 2:17
  1. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Joel 2:28
  1. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
John 14:26
  1. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Titus 2:11-12
  1. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
  2. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
1 Timothy 2:4
  1. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Trust God

Hebrews 11:6
  1. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
James 2:19
  1. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Agree with God

Joshua 24:15
  1. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Acts 17:11
  1. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Why full immersion?

Romans 6:4
  1. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Why in the name of Jesus?

John 3:16
  1. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Acts 4:10-12
  1. Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
  2. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
  3. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Why as an adult?

John 8:24
  1. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Acts 8:12
  1. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Why for salvation?

Acts 2:38
  1. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Follow God

Hebrews 10:28-31
  1. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
  2. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
  3. For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
  4. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
2 Peter 2:20-22
  1. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
  2. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
  3. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Romans 3:23
  1. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Philippians 3:15
  1. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
  1. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
  2. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
James 5:19-20
  1. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
  2. Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Hebrews 13:17
  1. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Romans 13:1-5
  1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
  2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
  3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
  4. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
  5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

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