The Competition

June 7, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I looked at the importance of the word “for” which begins the well-known verse, John 3:16. There is another “for” which continues building on these ideas in the next verse.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:17

In what sense will Jesus – Who we know has been given all authority in Heaven and in earth, including the authority (Matthew 28:18: “all power”) to judge and condemn (Acts 17:31) – not condemn? Answer: In the sense that those who do not believe on Him are condemned already.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

After cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and after His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside.

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:22

This makes it sound like Jesus was personally baptizing people, but:

(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

John 4:2

It seems likely that Jesus authorized His Disciples to baptize new converts, but did not actually do the baptizing with His own hands. The Apostle Paul often left the actual baptizing to others as well (I Corinthians 1:14).

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, fulfilled, but also exceeded, the Old Testament types which pointed to Him.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

John 3:25

Jesus had exceeded the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple water pots when He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had exceeded the Old Testament locations of worship as the meeting place between man and God as demonstrated when He cleansed the Temple. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the necessity of the water-spirit birth as He preached to Nicodemus. Now a specific group of Jews, possibly led by one man, questioned John’s practice of baptizing for ritual cleansing those who were already Jewish by birth, custom, and faith, and, as a part of their challenge, they saw an opportunity to try to drive a wedge of division between John the Baptist and Jesus.

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 3:26

The phrase “all men come to Him” is a provocative exaggeration. Obviously not “ALL” men were going to Jesus, nor had “ALLmen gone to Him instead of John, but the numbers were changing. Jesus’s ministry was growing and John’s was shrinking.

How competitive are you? Just as one spouse is often introverted and the other extroverted; just as one is often neat and the other messy; just as one is often extravagant and the other a tightwad: often the Lord will put together one competitive spouse and one who could care less about “winning.” Do you love to win? Do you hate to lose? Are you happy for others when they succeed where you have failed? Does it bother you that people might think poorly of you in comparison to someone else? Somebody thought that John the Baptist might experience a couple of these reactions when confronted with the rising influence of Jesus’s ministry over his, so they decided to confront him about it.

Competition is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Sporting contests just aren’t much fun unless both sides are trying to win – to beat the other side. However, as shown in I Corinthians, competition in Christian ministry can be a dangerous and damaging thing. Soulwinning is not a contest. Who has the “best” Sunday School class probably should not be a competition. But human nature, which since the Fall has a strong bent toward pride, likes to be first, to get attention, to get credit, to feel superior – so you can’t look at this group of Jewish instigators and think, “Did they REALLY suppose John the Baptist would be jealous of Jesus??” Even reading it today, we catch ourselves thinking that we couldn’t totally blame him if he was – but remember:

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 7:28

Jesus didn’t say this about John as a form of flattery. Here was John’s response to the suggestion that Jesus was better than Him:

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

This may seem to you, in the cold analytical light of merely academic Bible study, to be something of a “duh” statement. In a universe ruled over by a sovereign omnipotent God, OF COURSE we only get what He gives… and we don’t get anything He DOESN’T give us, but does this (true) maxim hold a central place in our minds “all day, every day?” Possibly not. Otherwise we would never get jealous, and we would always only rejoice when something good happens to HIM or HER, and something “bad” happens to ME. Jeremiah 9:23 and I Corinthians 4:7 remind us to ask: “Why do I glory in wisdom or might if they are only gifts?” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John 3:28

Although John was known as the Baptizer, he could call anyone who had listened to his preaching as a witness to answer the question: “What has been the main thrust of my ministry? What I am all about?” If honest, they would have had to answer that John’s main message was: “The Messiah is coming, and He’s now here, and I’m not Him.”

This would be a great motivation in our evangelism. Any time we go to visit someone who does not know Jesus we can tell them, “I’m the one who came to see you, but I didn’t come to tell you about myself, and I want you to meet someone else that I hope you will soon know, love, worship, and obey. You will like Him a lot better than me, and that’s exactly what I want!”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John 3:29

Can you imagine the best man at a wedding trying to steal the bride, or being angry once the couple says their “I do”s? John’s job was almost done, and he had done it in a great way. He had been successful. His mission was fulfilled, so he was full of joy. That’s why we mustn’t read the next verse as melancholy resignation:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30

John was not bummed out. He was stating a fact, and he was celebrating the accomplishment of a great momentous occasion.

Watering Down the Truth about Jesus

April 17, 2019 at 11:54 am | Posted in John | 6 Comments
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In Cana Jesus had performed His first miraculous sign (water into wine at a wedding) at the request of a mother (His own). Now at His return to Cana, He performed another miracle – this time at the request of a father.

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

John 4:46-47

This man did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but he was desperate, so he pleaded with someone he thought of as a well-known faith-healer.

Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

John 4:50

Jesus was often compassionate in answering the prayers of even those without saving faith. This is similar to – but not the same event as – another healing recorded in Matthew 8.

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Matthew 8:5-13

That time the father was clearly identified as a gentile as opposed to the father in John 4 who was likely Jewish. A belief in Jesus as a miracle worker is not saving faith, but belief in Jesus as the Son of God is.

Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

John 4:50-53

The key link is that the father – not having seen his son healed – “believed the Word” of Jesus.

After it was established that John the Baptist baptized with physical water, but that Jesus would perform a greater baptism (John 1), and after Jesus turned water into wine (John 2), and after He talked to a religious leader about being born of water and the spirit (John 3), and after He talked to a Samaritan woman about drawing and drinking water from a well (John 4), where do you think He went in John 5? To a pool of water, of course!

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

John 5:2-3 (emphasis added)

True Fulfillment

April 15, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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“He told me all that ever I did.” This was the testimony of the Samaritan woman (John 4:39) who met Jesus at Jacob’s well, and the conversation went from drawing and drinking water to a brief survey of the woman’s somewhat scandalous sexual history. But did Jesus really tell her that He knew “ALL” the things that she “EVER” did? How long would such a recitation have taken? How long would it take for someone tell your whole life story? How much would they have to say to convince you that they knew enough about you to know who you really were and what you were really about? Intellectually, we are able to affirm the doctrine of Jesus’s omniscience, so, by default, He must know everything we’ve ever done, said, and even thought. But how sobering is it to think that He might start describing our past aloud to us, to our face? The Samaritan woman revealed something about her own mindset when she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did…” (John 4:29).

Her whole identity in her mind was her sinful past. This is not necessarily a correct way of thinking even for a lost sinner. We are all more than our past actions, but it does have an element of reality to it, in that, before we met Christ, we were in bondage to our decisions, which were made in bondage to our sinful natures. In Christ, of course, believers certainly shouldn’t think this way. Our identity in Christ is both new and greater.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

John 4:31-33

Have you ever been the victim of the kind of misunderstanding that results when you and the person to whom you are speaking think you are talking about the same thing but are actually talking about completely different subjects? There is a classic preacher’s joke that utilizes this theme, and in which a lady is writing to inquire about a “BC,” which, to her, stands for “bathroom commode,” while the letter’s recipient thinks she’s asking about a local “Baptist church.” You can read it by clieking here if you like.

This device is used fairly frequently in the Gospel of John to advance the dialogue between Jesus and His listeners. In Chapter 3 the spiritual “new birth” is confused with natural birth, and, earlier in this same account of the Samaritan woman, the “living water” of eternal life is confused with water drawn from a literal earthly well. Here, Jesus’s disciples wonder how he can be “full” when He hasn’t eaten any actual food. The narrative is moved forward through this misunderstanding in the dialogue, and, once again, it is a misunderstanding between the material and the spiritual.

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:34

This was what “filled Jesus up.” The more He served the Father and accomplished His will, the more satisfied and fulfilled He grew. One of the reasons that we, as Christians, sometimes feel so empty inside is that we have too much material or earthly-minded “junk food” filling us up superficially. Consider Jesus, who was filled with the purpose of God more so than worldly concerns. Which type of “meat” do you prefer? What nourishes your soul and your spirit? Your home, your friends, your family? A trip to Disney? Your hobbies? Or is it ministering in Christ’s name? Sharing the Gospel? Helping believers to grow? Reading your Bible? Doing the will of our Heavenly Father is where we should find our true satisfaction and spiritual nourishment in life.

The Woman at the Well Who Well Said

March 27, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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If you’ve ever been a fan of old-school Western television shows or movies, you are probably familiar with the bigotry and prejudice that allegedly existed in the Old West against “half-breeds,” a pejorative term for the offspring of Anglo-Saxon people and Native Americans (who were known as “Indians,” but often pronounced as “Injuns” onscreen). These so-called half-breeds were often despised, shunned, or mistreated for no fault of their own. The half-breeds of Jesus’s day were called Samaritans. They were the descendants of the offspring of the settlers who came in to occupy the lands of the northern tribes of Israel after they were conquered by the Assyrians, and the Jewish people who remained there and intermarried with them. To say that the Jewish people in 1st Century Judea disliked them would be an understatement, but, of course, the love of Jesus transcended (and still does transcend today) the prejudices which exist between people of different ethnicities. Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman in John Chapter 4.

Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

John 4:16

Jesus turned the conversation in a direction that would lead to conviction. This is not usually difficult to do in evangelism although it can be uncomfortable. Jesus was not indicating that talking to women about spiritual matters was a waste of time. He was not misogynistic or chauvinistic. He knew that the request to meet her husband would lead her to a place of confession.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

John 4:17-18

The fact that she had five husbands probably meant that she had been divorced five times, although some of them may have died instead. Jesus apparently considered the second – fifth husbands to still be “husbands,” though, and the sixth man – merely a live-in sexual partner – was not a “husband.”

At this point in the conversation the woman did what many people to whom you are witnessing concerning the Gospel will want to do when the conversation gets too heated or personal for their liking: she changed the subject to religious worship preferences.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

John 4:19-20

Jesus responded using the same form of address that He used for Mary His mother at the wedding in Cana – a respectful but formal “Woman” – but He did not ignore her provocation.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:21-24

The Jewish religion was the correct and true revelation under the Old Covenant, but in Christ the importance of the earthly location of formal worship would be abolished. God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He is not a “material” being, limited to meeting with His people only on one mountain at a time, or only in one building, one country, or one place.

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

John 4:25-26 (emphasis added)

The Samaritan name for their expected “Messiah” was the Taheb, and they believed that, when he appeared, he would function primarily as a teacher. Jesus often discouraged His identification as the Messiah when He was ministering among Jewish people because of the political and military baggage associated with it in their minds. However, among the Samaritans He allowed and encouraged the affirmation that He was the Savior prophesied, typified, and foreshadowed in the Pentateuch, and He even used a form of the “I AM” statements generally recognized as prevalent in the Gospel of John.

The Humanity of Jesus

December 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Incarnation, John, Luke | 4 Comments
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At the most festive time of the year, make sure that you intentionally discuss with your children some of the most wonderful Biblical truths about Jesus’s birth, such as:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
4. The Virgin Birth
and
5. The Humanity of Jesus

“…[L]ittle Lord Jesus, no crying He makes…” go the words to a popular Christmas carol. But is this an accurate representation of the infant Christ? Christmas is a great time to explain to kids that Jesus, in His earthly incarnation, was indeed FULLY human. He experienced human emotions. He felt hunger, fatigue, joy, sadness, and the full range of feelings, although never sinfully.

Popular Christian art has tended to picture baby Jesus as serene, often times surrounded by a halo or corona of light, but the image of a child who stares blissfully and knowingly at all the adults around Him, never crying or giggling, seems more creepy than holy. Your kids might be fascinated to think of baby Jesus learning to walk, needing to wear a bib, and even needing a diaper change from time to time. The idea that the God of the universe would subject Himself to the limits, awkwardness, and temptations of humanity, further demonstrates His great love for us.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

John 4:6

Jesus wept.

John 11:35

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

John 19:28

Next time we will consider the purpose of Jesus’s birth.

Catechism Question 13

November 10, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Exodus | 6 Comments
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Question 13: Why can’t you see God?
Answer: God is too holy for me to see Him and live.
Prove it.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

Exodus 33:20

God’s overwhelming holiness is too great for sinful human beings to look upon His unveiled presence without being supernaturally strengthened. This will be one of the great benefits and blessings for Christians in Heaven. We shall be able to gaze upon our Lord in our glorified state without fear.

Other verses to consider:

God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

Catechism Question 1

February 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 8 Comments
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A “catechism” is a teaching device typically in the form of a set of questions and answers. Catechisms have been popular in the history of the Christian Church for training believers in basic doctrine, and for articulating orthodox statements of faith. The Westminster Catechisms (the larger and the shorter) and the Heidelberg Catechism are two of the more well-known catechisms.

The word “catechism” is derived from the Greek words kata, meaning “down,” and ekheo, meaning “to sound.” So we might say that “to catechize” is to “sound down.” In other words, a teacher or instructor verbally questions the student or novice, and the response “echoes” back up with the correct doctrinal answer.

When I decided to formulate a catechism to use with my children I looked at several and came up with a short one, probably influenced the most by a “prove it” catechism for children attributed to Charles Spurgeon that I found online.

The Bible commands fathers to train children in Biblical instruction, and while I do not know of any specific commands to use catechesis as the required method, I do believe that the principle of “sounding down” (parents to children) in a methodical, formal, structured and consistent way is authorized by the Word of God:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When we do it in our family, I ask the question to one of my daughters. She responds with the answer. I say “prove it,” and she proceeds to do so by reciting the correct Bible verse from memory. Starting today, I will be posting the 22 questions and answers to our family’s Bible catechism.

Question 1: Who made you?
Answer: God made me.
Prove it.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:27

This is also a good opportunity to explain to children what it means to be made “in the image of God.” To be an “image-bearer” of God does not necessarily mean that we are made in His physical likeness, because the Bible speaks of God as a spirit-being, Who is not confined to a physical body the way we are. However, God is a “person,” and therefore we, like Him, have wills and make choices and have consciousness and have a personality. This makes us unique among all of creation.

This is also a good time to go through the entire creation account of Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, and to consider this verse:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Discipleship Lesson 6: The Local Church

February 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, I Corinthians | 68 Comments
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God has established three main institutions here on earth: the family; the government; and the local church. The local church acts as Christ’s body in carrying out God’s purposes in reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

I. What is the local church?

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Acts 14:27

The local church is not a building.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

There is “The Church,” which is the Bride and Body of Christ, and which consists of all the born-again Christians from all times and from all over the world. And then there is “the local church.” Local churches are made up of people who meet together regularly to worship and serve the Lord in a specific place.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

I Corinthians 12:14-20

Each part of your body has at least one specific function. Each member of the local church should have at least one specific function. Not all members have the same function.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:21

No part of your body can function alone. In the local church, members aren’t meant to function alone.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

I Corinthians 12:22-23

Each member’s contribution is important.

For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:24-28

A properly functioning body operates as a single unit. A local church should operate in harmony and unity.

II. What are the responsibilities of the local church?

The first local church was organized in Jerusalem.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42

The local church’s responsibilities include: the teaching of the Word of God; fellowship with other believers; prayer.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:41

The local church should observe the two ordinances of the Church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 2:43

The local church should be a testimony of God’s grace and power.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 2:44-45

The local church should be involved in mutual assistance and ministry.

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, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:46-47

The local church should reach out into the community and glorify and praise God.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

According to the Scriptures the number one priority of the local church seems to be to build up, teach, and strengthen believers.

III. Why is it important for you to be involved in a local church?

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

There are three basic growth stages in the life of a believer: (1) observe and learn; (2) participate; (3) lead by serving.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

As a believer who belongs to a local church, first you learn, and then you teach what you have learned.

IV. Questions

A. How should you decide with which local church to become involved?

Pray about it.

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.

James 1:5

B. What are some qualities you should look for in a local church?

1. Evidence of evangelism

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 7:20

2. A belief that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is absolutely true.

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Titus 1:9

Members should be encouraged to read the Bible as much as leaders.

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.

Acts 17:11

3. Ministry to needs

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.

Acts 6:1

4. Support of missionaries

And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 13:3

C. What are two of the main purposes of the local church?

Reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

V. Memory verses

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

The Last but Not the Least – Part 1

August 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Jeremiah | 28 Comments
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Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:11-13

To covet is to have a sinful desire directed toward what someone else has. Is it a sin? Yes (“Thou shalt not covet“), but let’s be honest – how many of us have coveted at least once this past week? Most, if not all.

If you are not covetous, what are you? What is the opposite? To not be covetous is to be content. It is to be satisfied with what God has given you and done for you.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11 (emphasis added)

In the Old Testament, priests and Jewish scholars, and those serious about obeying God, bound the Word of God on their arms, on their foreheads, on their chests. It might be good for us to put Philippians 4:11 on our refrigerators, on the dashboards of our cars, on your coffeemakers, on our bathroom mirrors, on our alarm clocks, on the covers of our Bibles.

What is the opposite of contentment? It’s covetousness. Covetousness is a sin. It’s not one of the 10 Suggestions; it’s one of the 10 Commandments. It’s number 10. It comes after commandments like, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Most people won’t voluntarily admit it if they commit adultery – or murder – but if you ask a group of people, “Come on, how many of you have coveted this week?” most will be willing to raise their hands. We consider covetousness to be, not only the last of the 10 Commandments, but also the least – thus the title of this message: “The Last but Not the Least.”

Is it really that bad to covet? Let’s look at a few places in the Bible and see how God looks at the “little” sin of covetousness:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 7:21-23 (emphasis added)

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Romans 1:28-31 (emphasis added)

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

Ephesians 5:3 (emphasis added)

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I Corinthians 5:11 (emphasis added)

How does God classify the sin of covetousness? He classifies it along with murder and fornication and theft and extortion and adultery and all the worse types of behaviors that sinful man can dream up in his sinful heart. “Thou shalt not covet” is not the 10th Commandment because it’s the 10th in importance. It’s the 10th Commandment because it is the sin that leads men to break all the nine other ones. It’s the last, but not the least.

“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Treat it as a command. BE content. We’ve been led astray by psychology. We’ve been taught to think we have no control over our feelings or our emotions. So we say, I either am content, or I’m not – I can’t just make myself ‘be’ content.”

But we can:

… bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:5

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:5

“Let” in that verse means “make” or “cause.”

Being content brings generosity.

Jesus Christ had the right to act like God – to take control and enjoy everything He owned. But He took on the form of a Servant and He was content. There is a freedom that comes with wanting good things for others, and not for ourselves. Children think they will be happy if they win the fight they are having over who will get the front seat of the van, or who will get to use a toy over the exclusion of his brother or sister, but that type of squabbling really enslaves them and makes them miserable. The world says that if you do not covet – that if you don’t make sure you get what’s coming to you – you won’t get anything good. But as Christians, we don’t want “what we have coming to us,” anyway. We don’t want what we deserve. God gave His Son for me. How freeing it is to remember that, and to try to be like Him – to get excited about giving instead of getting. There are bumper stickers that say, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” but that’s not true. Life is not a race to see how much we can get. It’s a race to see how much we can give. It’s not, “He who gets the most, wins.” It’s, “He who gives the most, wins.”

Life is for living, not for making.
Life is for giving, not for taking.

(Couplet I made up, which proves I stink at writing poetry, but which helps me to remember a Bible principle)

Being content brings generosity, but being covetous brings greed.

How many sermons have you heard about supposed solutions for the problem of how “empty” we are? I said earlier that Christ Jesus took on the form of a Servant, and was more of a giver than a taker – and yet, according to Scripture, He was not empty. Up until the days when He was preparing to go to the Cross, He was full. He was constantly full. I’m not one of those “prosperity” preachers, but from what I can see in Scripture, the Lord wants us to be continually full. We are to be like Christ. Why are we so empty, and always trying to get more things, and always wanting more and better? Why are we not full? It’s not because we don’t have enough. It’s because we have too much: too much vanity.

Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:5

The Lord is telling these people that their fathers became vain because they walked after vanity. Jesus was never empty because He never walked after emptiness. His meat was to do the will of His Father (John 4:31-34). When I am vain – when I am empty – it’s because I’ve been walking after vanity – after emptiness. When I am walking after the things of God, I am content – I am full. And when I am full, I not only have the ability to bless others, but I am reminded to be grateful to God. This point will be developed more in Part 2.

Choosing the Right Watering Hole

August 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
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It was time for Jacob to move on – to get away from Laban. However, Laban had yet another trick up his sleeve.

And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.

Genesis 30:27

Laban and Jacob began to bargain back and forth a little.

And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock. I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire. So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me. And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.

Genesis 30:31-34

Jacob had a good understanding of animal husbandry. He apparently knew some tricks for creating striped and speckled sheep and goats. I wonder if he started thinking about how he and his father had both met their wives at the watering hole. Personally, I think the animals were more likely to mate with the ones they associated with drinking water (positive association). Also, remember the spiritual application: You are going to covet what you see. That is the nature of our fallen flesh. Therefore, we need to do our “drinking” – not at the “watering trough” of the world – but at the Well of Living Water. If we do that, we’ll produce “like offspring.” The trees which bear the most fruit are the ones planted near the water.

Although the tricks of Jacob’s animal husbandry methods are not clearly spelled out in Scripture, the Bible does tell us that Jacob knew what the cause of his success really was: God did it.

Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

Genesis 31:9


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