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An Introduction to Our Church Covenant

Is it unreasonable for an institution to require expectations of those individuals who would identify with it? Many businesses require their employees to dress a certain way as their employees are their “face” and they want a certain image portrayed.

Does the NT have expectations for those who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ? It sure does! Consider these two verses:

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).

How believers live does matter, it is important, and the church covenant is essential in this regard.

What is a Church Covenant?

A church doctrinal statement summarizes what a church believes the Bible teaches. The church covenant summarizes its understanding of how a Christian should live. It does not take the place of the Bible; rather, it spells out the church’s understanding of what the Bible expects a church (a body of believers) to be and look like.

A covenant is a solemn promise. As a church covenant, believers make a solemn promise to God and the local church that they will live the way outlined in that document.

Who Can Enter the Church Covenant?

Membership in a local church – and therefore those who enter the church covenant – is restricted to those who have been born again and baptized by immersion.

Furthermore, one should only enter the covenant of a local church if they agree to be held accountable (responsible for) to that particular body of believers. They should additionally agree to hold that particular body of believers accountable for their entrance into the covenant.

We began looking at points that will characterize our church covenant, which you can access here.

Church Covenant

Having by God’s grace trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior,1 we desire that Christ would be pleased and preeminent in all things,2 that he would bless and use this church so that all praise and glory would be his,3 and that we would be complete in him.4 Therefore, we do now, in the presence of God, his angels, and this assembly, solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.5

We will by God’s grace seek to grow in our faith through the daily study of the Word and prayer.6 We will be separated unto God in our thoughts, desires, appearance, and activities, guarding ourselves against those things that are sinful, could tempt us to sin, or that do not promote or are not consistent with holiness.7 We will be witnesses for Jesus Christ by spreading the gospel and possessing a testimony that supports the gospel.8 We will make church attendance a priority, striving to attend as many of its services as possible.9 We will fulfill our family responsibilities, each doing his part to please Christ in our homes and promote godliness.10 We will live godly lives among unbelievers and be good neighbors and citizens.11

Furthermore, we will endeavor by the Spirit’s help to uphold and promote the doctrines of this church, the public ministry of the Word, observe its ordinances, and follow our leaders.12 We will serve the Lord faithfully, using the gifts and abilities he has given for the growth, edification, maturity, and protection of this body.13 We will pray daily for the members and ministry of this church14 and faithfully, cheerfully, and proportionally give of our income to the Lord for the support of this church and the Cause of Christ.15

At all times we will demonstrate toward each member Christian love, humility, patience, and concern in our attitudes, speech, and actions.16 We will partake of our mutual joys and sorrows, lovingly giving of our material substance for pressing needs.17 We will pursue those things that encourage believers to be faithful rather than trouble their consciences, disturb their faith, or cause them to sin.18 We will exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over each other, frequently exhort one another, and as the case may require faithfully warn, rebuke, and admonish one another with kindness and wisdom.19 When we receive correction from a brother in Christ, we will not reject or resent such but receive it with humility, careful self-examination, and necessary confession and repentance.20 We will jealously guard the Spirit-given unity of this body, refusing to participate in or condone gossip, strife or dissension.21 In any personal disagreements or offenses, we will seek resolution and readily forgive each other rather than hold a grudge.22

We will diligently learn God’s will through his Word and our leaders’ counsel in matters of doctrine and practice,23 seeking their guidance if doubts arise regarding the ability to uphold this church’s doctrines and covenant.24 In the event we must move from this place, we will seek to unite with a church of like faith and practice, and if such a church does not exist we will strive to begin such a work.25

1 Acts 13:48; Rom 10:9-10

2 2 Cor 5:9; Eph 5:10; Col 1:10, 18

3 Eph 3:21

4 Col 1:28

5 Gal 6:1-5; Phil 1:27; Heb 3:12-13

6 Col 1:9-10a; 2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb 5:11-14; 1 Pet 2:2; Jude 20-21

7 Rom 12:1-2; 13:14; Phil 4:8;  2 Tim 2:19; 1 Pet 1:14-16; 2:9-12

8 Acts 1:8; 2 Cor 5:11-21; Phil 2:14-16

9 Acts 2:42; Heb 10:25

10 Eph 5:22-6:4; Col 3:18-21

11 Rom 13:1; Gal 6:10; Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:11-12; 1 Tim 3:7

12 Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:23-26; 16:16; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:1-5; Heb 13:17; Jude 3

13 Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:7; Eph 4:11-16; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 4:11

14 Eph 6:18-20

15 2 Cor 9:6-15; 3 John 5-8

16 Rom 12:15-16; 1 Cor 13:5-7; Phil 2:1-7; 1 John 2:9-11

17 Acts 2:44-45; 1 Cor 12:26; Jas 2:14-17; 1 John 3:13-18

18 Rom 14:13, 19-20; 1 Cor 8:7-9, 12-13; 9:12; 10:23-33; Phil 2:1-4

19 Matt 18:15-16; Rom 15:14; Gal 6:1-2; 1 Thess 5:11, 14; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25; 12:12-13; James 5:19-20

20 Psa 32:3-5; Prov 3:11-12; 6:23; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31-32; 25:12; 27:6; 28:13; 29:23; 1 Jn 1:9; Rev 2-3

21 Eph 4:1-6; Prov 11:13; 20:19; 2 Cor 12:20; Titus 2:3; Eph 4:29-32

22 Matt 5:23-24; 18:15; Rom 12:17-19; 1 Cor 6:1-8; 2 Cor 2:10-11; Eph 4:32; Jas 5:9

23 Prov 11:14; 19:20; Col 1:18; 2 Pet 1:3

24 Amos 3:3; Acts 15:37-41

25 Heb 10:25; Acts 11:19-26

Biblical Evangelism, Part 1: Introduction

There are three essential ingredients of effective evangelism (cf. John 17:13-20).

  1. The World is our Mission Field. As believers who are in the world but not of the world, our need is to contact sinners. C. H. Spurgeon said, “Those men who keep themselves to themselves, like hermits, and live a supposed sanctified life of self-absorption, are not likely to have any influence in the world, or to do good to their fellow-creatures. You must love the people, and mix with them, if you are to be of service to them.” The danger we face is contamination by the world.
  2. The Word is our Message. Our need then is for clarity and accuracy in speaking the message, and the danger is confusion or corruption of the message.
  3. The Witness is the Messenger. Believers need character or integrity in order to avoid the danger of contradicting the gospel message.

There are many different obstacles to evangelism, but consider these four:

  1. Intimidation: we fear evangelism (cf. 1 Cor 2:3)
  2. Ignorance: we lack organized knowledge
  3. Inability: we don’t know how to witness
  4. Indifference: we lack motivation to tell others

Consider these six requirements for effective evangelism:

  1. The Gospel Message, Rom 1:16; 10:17
  2. A life of Integrity, 2 Cor 4:1-6; Phil 2:14-16; 2 Tim 2:20-26
  3. Boldness, Eph 6:19-20
  4. A Clear Presentation, Col 4:2-4
  5. Dependence Upon God’s Power (2 Tim 2:25), sought through prayer (Acts 4:23-31) and brought by the Spirit (Acts 4:31)
  6. A Compassion for the Lost, Matt 9:36-38; Jude 24-25

Church Membership: Fact or Fancy?

Is church membership optional? Can’t I just wander around from church to church as I please and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ? This is a very common belief and practice, especially among many who have no church to which they are responsible for their actions.

Why Is This Something Important To Consider?

To have a better understanding of what the local church is to look like and how it is to function. The biblical form of “church government” recognizes ultimate authority as residing with the congregation, not one or a handful of individuals. Who makes up the congregation? Anyone who happens to be there at that time, or individuals who have previously committed themselves with others to a common cause?

There are churches and believers who do not consider church membership biblical. Consider, for example, the Church of God denomination that exists in several strains: the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God of Prophecy, the Church of God: Cleveland, TN, and the Church of God, Anderson, IN. The last one listed rejects all forms of church organization, including formal church membership.

Those who trust Christ must recognize the necessity of church membership. Church membership is in a sense voluntary—it is not something forced upon individuals. But it is not optional or a matter of indifference. Christians are under moral obligation to become members of a local church for their and the church’s benefit. Refusing to become a member of a church is disobedience. Every believer is under the law of Christ and is sacredly obliged to follow Him. Christ has ordained that his disciples so unite together.

There is a distinct difference between church fellowship and Christian fellowship. The former includes the latter, but not vice-versa.

Church fellowship involves those united in covenant in one church; is not given unless requested and granted (churches have the right to grant, withhold, and remove fellowship); involves special/specific duties (particularly Lord’s Supper, baptism, receiving new members, care of members, participation in meetings, collections, support of and participation in worship, prayer, and ministry); and involves the honor and welfare of the church.

Christian fellowship exists wherever Christians are found; exists whether requested or not; involves general duties; and involves only the honor and welfare of individuals.

The character of our church depends on the members which constitute it, just as the character of a building depends very much on the materials of which it is constructed.

A church’s internal life, order, and ability to accomplish its God-given task are affected and controlled by the people who compose it. Imagine a building made up of bricks without any mortar holding them together!

The Biblical Basis for Church Membership

“The necessity of membership in the local church is never questioned in the New Testament. It is taken for granted. Had we asked the believers of the Apostolic period whether it was essential to join a church, they would not have known what we were talking about. Every believer became a member of a church. It was involved in the very profession he made in Christ. . . There is no authority for abandoning the local church altogether for a purely individualistic Christian existence. The very Christian profession involves fellowship with other Christians” (Alva J. McClain).

Five lines of evidence from the churches mentioned in the New Testament establish church membership as biblical and expected of every believer:

1. The Pattern of the First Local Church.

In the very first church the pattern is clearly demonstrated: “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Sinners trusted Christ, testified of their faith through baptism, and were added to the disciples who already made up the church in Jerusalem.

2. The Church Knew How Many Were Identified With It.

In the same verse they knew how many were added to their number (three thousand). Acts 4:4 relates the same – “but many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”

3. Officers Were Chosen From Among Their Members.

At this same local church the believers were to select “from among” themselves certain men for appointment to the position (Acts 6:2-5). The “whole congregation” (vv. 2, 5) knew who among their number were qualified for this office and chose men from among themselves.

4. The Practice of Church Discipline Assumes a Known “List.”

The three main passages that address the subject of church discipline are Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

The situation at Corinth was a difficult one: one of their own number was involved in immorality (1 Cor 5:1). Paul instructed this group of believers that when they assembled (v. 4) they were to “remove the wicked man from among” themselves (v. 13). These three verses demonstrate a definite knowledge of who belonged to the Corinthian church.

Also, the final aspect of church discipline – putting one out of the church – cannot happen unless that individual had at some point been taken in! Individual Christians were taken in, identified with a local church.

5. The Church Kept Special Rolls for Other Purposes.

The epistle of 1 Timothy deals with the subject of proper church order (“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the…church,” 3:15). In 5:9-10 Paul states the necessary qualifying requirements for widows “to be put on the list” (v. 9). The fact that they had lists for such a purpose shows that the concept and practice of formal lists or rolls identifying individuals was not unknown among the early churches.

The Importance of Church Membership

For many American Christians today, the church as an actual body of confessing believers is simply a matter of convenience. Whether or not one joins – not to mention participate – is considered a personal matter. If someone in the church is offended, the pastor hits too close to home from the pulpit, or a pet program or agenda is rejected, the individual simply pulls up the stakes and moves to the next church. The fact and importance of the local body of believers as essential to Christianity and the Christian life has been lost, not to mention the concepts of commitment, obligation, responsibility, and dedication.

Being a member of a local church is essential to the individual Christian and the entire body. It is assumed and expected of true believers of Jesus Christ. The local church is the God-ordained vehicle for carrying out His program in this age. Membership is essential to the body of the local church, so that all may profit from their Christ-given spiritual gifts (Eph 4:11-16), fellowship (Acts 2:42, 47), and admonition (Heb 3:13).

What We Believe About: End Times

We believe we now live in the end times (1 Pet 4:7; 1 John 2:18). As members of Christ’s body we eagerly wait for Christ’s promised return when he will take all Christians to be with him (the Rapture, John 14:2-3; 1 Thess 4:16-17). The Rapture will be at any moment (imminent, 1 Thess 1:10), before the Tribulation (pretribulational, 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9; Rev 3:10), and before the millennium (premillennial, 1 Thess 4:16; Rev 19-20). We will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for our Christian life and service (2 Cor 5:10).

While we are in heaven, the Day of the Lord will commence as God judges depraved and unrepentant mankind (Rev 6:15-17; 15:1) and turns his attention back to Israel, chastising them for their unbelief (Jer 30:7). At the close of this seven year period of Great Tribulation (Dan 9:24-27), we will return with Jesus Christ to earth for the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:13-16; 19:11-19), Satan will be cast into the Abyss (Rev 20:1-3), and Old Testament and tribulation saints will be raised from the dead (Dan 12:2-3; Rev 20:4-6).

Christ will then establish the messianic, millennial kingdom (Dan 7:9-14; Matt 24:29-30) and we will participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9). In this kingdom Israel will be restored to covenant favor with God (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:11; Amos 9:14; Mic 4:7-8; Zech 10:6; Rom 11:25-27) and her land in faith (Gen 15:18; Isa 11:12; Jer 32:37-41), and the church will reign with Christ for a thousand years (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21).

After the Millennium the unjust will be resurrected, judged at the Great White Throne, and thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:5, 11-15) that was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). There will be a new heaven and earth in which God will dwell eternally with His people (2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-3).

The Biblical Basis for the Pretribulational Rapture of the Church

The Bible provides several passages that give the truth of the “rapture” of the church. Here are five, with the important phrase italicized:

John 14:2-3 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

1 Cor 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Phil 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

1 Thess 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

2 Thess 2:1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him

These passages only tell us of the fact of the rapture; they say nothing of the timing or when in God’s prophetic plan or calendar it will occur. While this requires more study than proving the deity of Christ (for example), with a little time and study you can have a biblical understanding for when Christ will return for church age saints.

While an exhaustive study is more than can be accomplished here, a basic survey of the Scripture’s teaching can be given, focusing on four basic lines of truth:

The Purpose of the Tribulation

1) During this period God will render judgment on the exceeding and unrepentant sinfulness of the wicked (Rev 9:20-21; 14:14-19).

2) Israel will be chastened for her millennia of unbelief (“Jacob’s trouble,” Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1) but because of this judgment, the nation will turn to God and be born again (Dan 12:1; Zech 12:10; Rom 11:26).

3) In addition to God’s salvation of individual Israelites, a large number of Gentiles will also be saved (Zeph 3:9; Rev 7:9-17).

4) The church is never identified as present during this period of judgment.

God’s Promises to the Church

5) God has promised to protect the church by removing it from the time of world-wide judgment during the Tribulation (Rev 3:10).

6) God has promised that He will not allow the church to go through the period of His wrath in the end times (1 Thess 1:10; on “rescued” cf. 2 Pet 2:5, 7 – neither Noah nor Lot went through God’s judgment on the ungodly but were delivered from such).

7) God has promised that through Jesus Christ Christians will have no part in the coming day of judgment (1 Thess 5:9).

The Place of the Church in the Book of Revelation

8 ) An honest, simple reading of this epistle has to recognize that while the church is often mentioned in chapters 2-3, it is never mentioned in chapters 4-19.

9) These sixteen chapters describe the time of wrath (6:15-17; 14:10; 15:1; 19:15) from which God has promised to deliver the church.

10) Where is the church during the Tribulation? From 13:6 (“his tabernacle, those who dwell in heaven”) and 19:1-10 (“the marriage of the Lamb…his wife has made herself ready”) church age saints are in heaven and they will follow Christ when he returns to the earth at His Second Coming (19:14).

Christ Can Come at Any Moment

11) In passages that clearly talk about the rapture, no mention is made of any event that must happen before Christ’s return for the saints.

12) When Paul spoke of the rapture he included himself as a potential participant (1 Cor 15:51-53; 1 Thess 1:10; 4:15-17).

13) Christ’s coming is described as being “at hand” (Rom 13:12; Jas 5:8-9; Rev 22:7, 12, 20) and Christians are exhorted to look for Christ’s return (1 Cor 1:7-8; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:13).

 

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday evening, July 22, 2007

Sanctification and the Second Coming – Titus 2:13-14

The subject of Christ’s Second Coming was dear to the heart of the early church and had a prominent part in the apostles’ teaching and preaching. In the history of the church, this subject has been like a clock’s pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other.

  • After first centuries to the extreme of being forgotten
  • Revived shortly after the Reformation
  • To other extreme of setting dates for Christ’s return
  • Has come back to a balanced, biblical view, though both extremes are still present today

Perhaps because of these “pendulum swings” and/or the challenge of understanding prophecy this doctrine of the Second Coming often is not given the “air time” it deserves. Is it fair, though, to ignore a doctrine because of the actions of fanatics? There have been fanatical responses to almost every major doctrine of Scripture. Does that keep us from preaching about Jesus Christ, the unity of God, justification, or sanctification? No!

As the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), it is the church’s responsibility to pull such doctrines out of the muck in which they’ve been degraded and lift them back to the exalted place the Scripture gives them.

Note the place that Paul gives it here! In Titus 2:11-14 he provides the basis – why – Christians should live godly lives. Part and parcel of the grace that saves and sanctifies is constantly, continually, and eagerly looking for Christ’s return. You must live a godly life while looking for Christ’s return.

Jesus Christ is God and Savior, 2:13b-14

This is one of the clearest verses in the English Bible of the deity of Christ – “our great God…Christ Jesus.” Because Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, he could provide a sacrifice for sins that was 100% satisfactory to God. No sinner can ever – in this life or eternity – make a final satisfaction for sin. Only Jesus Christ the God-man accomplished that!

In addition to redeeming believers from sin, he reclaims them for his service – “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” No longer serving self and Satan, believers are saved by Christ to zealously live for Christ.

Jesus Christ is Coming Again, 2:13a

Christ’s Coming is the “Blessed Hope”

The Second Coming of Christ is clearly taught throughout the Bible by the prophets (Zech 14:3-4), Jesus Christ (John 14:2-3), the angels (Acts 1:11), and the apostles (Acts 3:19).

“so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb 9:28)

Christ’s Return has Two “Stages”

In the first “stage” of Christ’s return Jesus will come in the air for church age saints. This is called the rapture (Latin for “snatch”), and is taught, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Church age saints will be “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air.”

In the second “stage” of Christ’s return Jesus will come to the earth with his saints. This is called the revelation, and is taught in Revelation 19:11-16. If you compare these two passages you will see an obvious difference between them! The Second Coming of Christ will be:

  • Visible – seen by the church at the rapture, by the world at the revelation
  • Sudden – “I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:7, 12, 20)
  • Imminent – at any moment, no predicted events requiring fulfillment (1 Thess 1:9-10; Titus 2:13; Heb 9:28)

Christ’s Coming is Anxiously Awaited by Christians – “looking”

There is a vast difference between looking ahead and looking over your shoulder!

When you’re looking ahead, you see what’s coming, do all you can to move “faster” toward the objective, and have a positive, anticipating attitude. When you’re looking over your shoulder, you have an attitude of fear, move along slowly because you’re not watching where you’re going, and are more concerned with evading than anticipating.

In this context, believers are reminded that God’s grace not only brings salvation, it teaches them what not to do and how they should live. Can you honestly say you are eagerly anticipating Christ’s return while indulging sensual fleshly desires? Are you striving to be sensible, righteous, and godly? Continually looking for Christ is a helpful perspective on living life in this world (cf. Col 3:1-4).

What would you think of a bride who on the day and time of her wedding was

  • Dating another man?
  • Sleeping?
  • Rummaging through a dumpster or garbage can?
  • Sewing?

We would say the first and third activities are definitely wrong and out of place. But is there anything sinful about sleeping or sewing? No, but they are not things that the bride should be doing at that point in time! she has a more important thing to attend to!

In like manner, the church is called the Bride of Christ (cf. Rev 19:7-8). There are things that Christians should never involve themselves with as such are not appropriate of Christ’s Bride. There are also activities or pursuits that – while not evil in and of themselves – should not occupy our time. There are more important things to do!

What’s going on in your life? Is your life characterized by a real desire to see Christ? How are you spending your time? What are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing? What are you not doing that you should be doing?

Are you looking and ready for Christ’s return? He is coming!

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 22, 2007

Gladness on the Gallows – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Consider this list of situations you could experience in life:

  • A situation that you have failed to solve or correct
  • An incurable illness or physical ailment
  • Personal relationships that have been permanently frayed
  • Genuine possibility of losing your job because of evil motives

Now, how will having a nice new home, the latest model vehicle, or money in the bank really help you with and through any of those situations? They won’t!

At the time Paul wrote the Corinthians this epistle, the church there was divided and troubled. He testified of experiencing an “incurable” physical ailment. The pressures of other churches were constantly weighing on his mind. Wherever he went to preach the gospel hostile Jews harried and hounded him.

Yet, in roughly 10 years from the writing of this letter he will be on the gallows and exclaim, “I have fought the good fight…to Him be the glory forever and ever…grace be with you.”

How in the world can anyone be content in such situations? Only through grace can you be glad on the gallows. How can God’s grace help you in the worst situations and thus any situation?

Rely Solely on God’s Grace, 12:9a

You need to see two essential characteristics of God’s grace from Paul’s testimony here. First, Christ’s grace is supernatural help. Paul relates the predicament he experienced in 12:7 – a thorn in the flesh – and his prayer that received this answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

God’s help appeared to Paul in his circumstances and situation. Grace is God’s kindness to mankind and it is supernatural, above and beyond this sphere of existence.

Second, you must rely on God’s grace because it is sufficient help. How many of us would have wanted to hear the answer to Paul’s prayer that he did? What would your response really have been? It is a sad fact that many evangelicals deny in practice the sufficiency of God’s grace. The idea is that grace is good enough for surface issues, but for really tough problems you need psychology, therapy, or something else. Have we forgotten that we’re talking about God here???

God’s grace is sufficient to help you through any situation or experience. The problem, more often than not, is not with the grace, but with us! In addition to relying solely on Christ’s grace, you must

Rejoice in Trials through God’s Grace, 12:9b

This is a tough one. Rejoice in trials??? There are two reasons why you should. First, rejoicing in trials is the right thing to do. Probably one of the last things you would think of doing is “boasting” about life-threatening or disturbing problems. This doesn’t mean that you find difficult circumstances enjoyable in and of themselves. Rather, you see them as an opportunity for God’s grace to be shown, displayed, and magnified.

Remember James’ words: “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (1:2-3). Do you rejoice in trials? It is the right thing to do, because this is one of God’s means of making you stronger in Him and more dependent on Him.

Second, rejoicing in trials brings Christ’s power. Christ said to Paul, “power is perfected in weakness.” The weaker – less dependent on self – that Christ’s people are, the more conspicuous is His strength in sustaining them.

The idea of Christ’s power dwelling in you is that of taking up residence. This indwelling power is the result of the Spirit strengthening you in your inner man, giving you the needed strength to patiently endure any circumstance and joyfully thank God for that circumstance because it resulted in the magnification of His grace and glory.

Christian, this is a hard lesson to learn, but it is one that brings rich blessings: it is when you are out of answers, confidence, and strength, with nowhere else to turn but to God that you are in a position to be strengthened by the Lord.

No one in Christ’s body is too weak to experience God’s power, but many are too confident in their own strength. Lastly, for God’s grace to help you, you must

Recognize the Truth of God’s Grace, 12:10

Christ’s grace exists in any circumstance. What would you think of the list of troubles in this verse?? Having a right view of trials and suffering is essential for Christian living. Focusing all your efforts on removing difficulties is not the answer.

You must embrace the trials God allows you to undergo, knowing that it is through them that God helps you see your character, humbles you, draws you closer to Him, and shows His grace and power in your life.

Christ’s grace enables contentment in any circumstance. There really is no human explanation for Paul saying “I am well content” in any of these situations. It is important to note that Paul’s attitude and actions were not controlled by the situation – he was controlled by Christ.

Christian, when you rely on Christ’s grace, rejoice in Christ’s grace, and then reckon Christ’s grace to your circumstance, He enables you to have contentment in any circumstance.

It is only through grace that you can be glad on the gallows!

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 8, 2007

Spiritual Self-Defense – 1 Timothy 4:6-10

If a farmer wants to see a good crop, it won’t happen just because he has good intentions. The same is true of an athlete who wants to run a 15k marathon!

Paul wrote to Timothy because of false teaching and living that were being spread in the Ephesian churches (1:3). The instructions in this epistle are important because of the essential role of the church, God’s people in this day and age: it is “the pillar and support of the truth” (3:15)

Beginning in chapter 4, Paul warns that local churches can expect to see the spread of demonically taught doctrines. How can churches deal with this? What can be done for protection? God’s people must live godly lives.

Protecting yourself and your church from apostasy requires three essential activities:

Definite Teaching, 4:6-7a

In order for you to be protected from apostasy you need to listen to definite teaching. Timothy is called “a good servant of Christ Jesus” (4:6). The difference between a good and a bad servant is what one does with the truth of God. Good servants of Jesus Christ teach “these things” of Scripture, not man’s ideas.

This definite teaching must be doctrinally based. Christians must be taught and learn “the words of the faith and of sound doctrine.” This refers to the gospel and all the doctrines that result from the gospel, which is simply biblical Christianity. The only other source of teaching is identified in 4:1 as “doctrines of demons.”

What must you do with this doctrinally based definite teaching? You must be “continually nourished” by it. Living a godly life involves more than just possessing good doctrine-you must be constantly nourished, continually trained by it. This isn’t something that just happened once in the past or occurs periodically-it must be your day-to-day habit. You must daily feed on the Word (1 Pet 2:1) and devote yourself to the public teaching of Scripture with God’s people, the church (Acts 2:42).

The continual growth and training that comes from attention to doctrinally based teaching necessarily requires separation from false teaching. There can be no tolerance of unbiblical teaching in your or the church’s life. Too many have a “smorgasbord approach,” picking and choosing whatever looks or sounds good (cf. 2 Tim 4:2-4). “Worldly fables” refers to teaching that is radically opposed to God’s truth-there is nothing sacred about it. In order to live a godly life you must “have nothing to do” with such teaching!

A second essential activity you must give yourself to in order to live a godly life is

Disciplined Living, 4:7b-9

False teaching and living is always a danger. God has provided you with the means of protecting yourself, so you must use them! You should not expect to merrily go along and expect to grow in Christ, just as the farmer shouldn’t expect a good crop to automatically pop up!

Protection from apostasy requires disciplined living. What will a farm look like if the farmer sleeps in until 9:00 a.m. everyday? The Christian life is no different-you must discipline yourself. The Ephesian and Roman cultures placed a premium on physical exercise and appearance, what Paul here calls “bodily discipline.” The idea is vigorous training.

As a believer, you must look at every aspect of your life and work to make them all consistent with, supportive of, and working toward God’s intentions. It’s not enough to just “believe” good doctrine or “belong” to a good church. What should you rigorously discipline your life for?

A disciplined life strives for godly living (4:7b). Godliness is a life that is consistent with and a result of God’s truth – a God-reverent life that is not merely one of form and appearances but of active obedience. You want to live this way and you’re doing all you can to live a life totally set apart, dedicated, and consecrated for God (1 Cor 6:19-20; 10:31). How can you have such a disciplined life?

Living a godly life requires prioritized living (4:8). Living a disciplined life involves saying “no” to things that might not be bad in and of themselves. You must do this so that you can give more attention to things that are of greater importance – “bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

This isn’t a slam against physical exercise – the point is one of contrast. The good that physical discipline accomplishes is limited to this life-the good that spiritual discipline accomplishes is unlimited! Maybe you’re not big on physical exercise so this contrast doesn’t hit home as hard. Consider these things that may apply, areas that you do discipline yourself to accomplish:

  • Make it to work on time every day
  • Keep a tidy home
  • Pay your taxes and bills
  • Buy Christmas and birthday gifts and cards for your 85 children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews
  • Remember when a certain video is out
  • Not miss your favorite TV show
  • Cook or bake an intricate recipe
  • Keep thousands of tools cleaned and organized
  • Take care of dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, gerbils, spiders, fish, and birds
  • Plan for a big family event or vacation
  • Care for your body, hair, clothes, or nails
  • Have a beautifully landscaped home
  • Effectively fulfill your responsibilities at work or school

These things in and of themselves are not evil! But Christian-will you be occupied with them 100 years from now? What priority do the things of God have in your life that will help you be godly, such as Scripture, prayer, public worship, and service?

A last essential activity that you need to be actively involved in to live a godly life is

Diligent Service, 4:10

Protection from apostasy requires diligent service. The idea here is one of hard, exhausting work. There is more than enough to do in spiritual service. The Christian who says “there’s no place or program for me to serve in” probably isn’t looking or trying hard enough.

Diligent service is fueled by confidence in God. When you have a real knowledge of Who you’re serving and what He holds out for you, that gives you the motivation to train hard to be like Christ in your life.

What are you training yourself with-God’s truth or worldly truth? Is your life disciplined to serve God now? 100 years from now what will you be doing?

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 1, 2007

Assurance of Salvation

Salvation is God’s gracious deliverance of a sinner from the power and penalty of sin. God saves when one turns from sin and every effort to save oneself and relies on and surrenders to Christ alone for salvation. You may wonder if you can lose such salvation; can you? Maybe you feel like you are not saved—how can you know if Christ has saved you? Is it important? Should you know?

Eternal Security and Assurance of Salvation

There is a difference between these two doctrines and that difference depends on the standpoint salvation is viewed from.

Can you lose your salvation? The answer to that question cannot be answered from your standpoint or perspective. God is the one who saves through Jesus Christ; your salvation depends on and rests with Christ (John 6:39; 10:27-30; Jude 1). From God’s point of view, then, your salvation can never be lost because your salvation does not depend on you but Christ! The fact of your deliverance from sin’s power and penalty rests with God.

How know if God has saved you? This depends on your standpoint or perspective—assurance of salvation means you are certain you possess eternal life in Christ. Do you know if you are saved from sin? Can you know that you have eternal life?

Can I Know for Certain that I have Eternal Life?

Yes, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can know for certain that you have eternal life—you can be assured of salvation:

Rom 8:38-39 “I am convinced that neither death, nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God”

2 Tim 1:12 “I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day”

1 John 2:3 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments”

1 John 5:13 “These things I have written unto you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life

Those who believe that no one can really know whether they have eternal life do so because they see salvation as dependent in some way on themselves. This is not what God says though (Eph 2:8-10; Titus 3:5).

Should I Know for Certain that I have Eternal Life?

Yes, you should! Why? The Bible tells you to seek and gain such assurance:

2 Cor 13:5 “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!”

2 Pet 1:10 “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you”

Heb 6:11-12 “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”

1 John 5:13 (quoted above) John tells his readers that he wrote his epistle so they would know they have eternal life. This implies the necessity of reading the letter with a view to gaining such assurance

Assurance of salvation is the result of living a Christ-like life. If you just “assume” you’re saved, that can quickly and easily lead to complacency, sinful habits, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and self-deception. Knowing you are saved comes from living for Christ.

How Can I Gain this Certainty of Eternal Life?

In order to know where you’re headed on a journey, you need to be going in the right direction. You will know you’re going in the right direction when the “signs” and “landscape” around you matches the “map” you’re following.

A sure knowledge of salvation is the work of the Spirit living in your life (Rom 8:16; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). As you “walk in the Spirit” He gives you the conviction—the deep seated knowledge, confidence, assurance—that you are a believer.

Have a firm grasp of what the Bible teaches about salvation. The more you know about salvation, the stronger foundation you will possess for trusting Christ. The clearer vision you have that salvation is entirely by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone the better you will be able to see God’s work of salvation (note our doctrinal statement).

Examine your life (2 Pet 1:10-11), looking for evidences of salvation. God’s Word (the “map”) tells you what “signs” you should see in your life:

  • Faith in Christ (are you relying entirely on Christ, or yourself?), 2 Pet 1:1
  • A love for holiness, 2 Pet 1:4; 1 John 1:6-7
  • Growth in Christian virtue, 2 Pet 1:4-9
  • Obedience to Christ’s commands, 1 John 2:3
  • Love for other believers and a desire to worship with them, Heb 10:25; 1 John 2:19; 4:7-12

As you seek and see the evidences of Christ in your life, you can know that you have eternal life. If you truly are a Christian, the Spirit should control your life (Gal 5:16, 25) and as He does He assures you that you belong to Christ.

When people take salvation for granted they neglect continually examining their lives to make sure they are headed in the right direction. The result is people profess to be Christians (they have the form of godliness) but their lives are contrary to true Christianity (they deny its power).

What are the Results of Having a Certainty of Eternal Life?

A settled certainty that you posses eternal life will result in:

  • Commitment to the assembly of God’s people, Acts 2:42; Heb 10:25; 1 John 2:19
  • Living a life of confident victory and growing Christ-likeness, Rom 8:28-39
  • Growing knowledge of God’s Word and proportionate maturity in life, Eph 4:11-16; 1 Thess 3:2-3; Heb 5:14; 12:11; 1 Pet 2:2
  • A lifestyle characterized by holiness, 1 Pet 1:13-21
  • Loving other believers, 1 Pet 1:22-25
  • Diligently examining my lifestyle and character, 2 Pet 1:4-11
  • Willingness to suffer for Christ, 2 Tim 1:8-12
  • Contending for the faith, Jude 1-4

What about those times when you really question whether you’re saved or not? What are some causes of a lack of assurance?

  • A wrong understanding of the truths of the gospel
  • A weakness of faith that results from not cultivating it or the fruits of the Spirit
  • Excessive care for the things of this life, Phil 4:6-7
  • Prayerlessness, Heb 10:22
  • Not being careful or diligent, 2 Pet 1:10-11; Heb 6:11-12
  • Not responding to sin, 1 John 1:9
  • Disobedience to the commands of God, 1 John 2:3
  • Worldliness, 1 John 2:15-17

You can know that Christ has saved you and you should know. Don’t rely on writing down the date you prayed a prayer; don’t depend on what someone said you did. Truly knowing that you are saved comes from the Spirit. When you have a stronger knowledge of salvation from the Word (the sword of the Spirit) and live out your salvation, the Spirit gives that genuine, settled, confidence and assurance that you are a child of God.

 

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Wednesday evening, April 4, 2007

The King on a Colt–Luke 19:29-44

Every gospel tells of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, showing its importance in the life and ministry of the Messiah. Sadly, our children often only view it as an opportunity to make palm branches out of construction paper in Sunday school. More sadly, “worshipers” of Jesus view it only as a religious ritual that they think makes them right with God.

What really happened and why did it? What was going on? What was the point? What did it mean?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem six days before he was crucified, he consciously knew he was the King of Israel and that Israel would reject him.

The reason each gospel writer includes this event from Jesus’ life is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man—he was the Messiah, the King of Israel. That is who was crucified six days later. Jesus of Nazareth Is the Messiah.

Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem gives three important aspects of Jesus the Messiah:

Jesus Perfectly Fulfilled Every Messianic Prophecy, 19:29-35

When Jesus came from Bethany he knew exactly who he was—he had no identity crisis. Earlier he said “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Because he knew who he was, he knew what Scripture had prophesied of him in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

To us this seems incredible—why the foal of a donkey??? If Jesus is really going to make a grand appearance as the King or Israel, get something more impressive! However, in that culture that is exactly what He did! It meant more to the crowd than a stretch limo would today. In OT times, the donkey was the mount of princes (cf. Judg 10:4; 12:14). Particularly with David and his sons, the donkey was the animal this royal family used (2 Sam 18:9; 13:29; 1 King 1:33).

Jesus’ particular, specific choice of this mount shows he understood who he was—the descendant of David. It also shows that Jesus the Messiah, the King of Israel, publicly makes his claim to the throne of David as he entered Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. He is the chosen Son of David to sit on David’s throne (1 King 1:33, 44), the one of whom the prophets had spoken (Zech 9:9)

Because Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel, he knew exactly what was required and expected of him and thus fulfilled every prophecy and expectation to a “T”—even what he rode on. Did others recognize this? This passage also shows that

Jesus Was Received As The Messiah, 19:36-40

Prior to this, some 483 years, Daniel the prophet gave the precise date on which the Messiah would come to Jerusalem (Dan 9:24-26). Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on this day was the fulfillment of that prediction. How people responded to Jesus’ entrance would indicate whether they recognized this also. What did they do? Did they recognize who this was?

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, the crowd spread their coats on the road, in essence rolling out the red carpet for him (Luke 19:36). Spreading coats on the road showed honor for royalty (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). In their culture, it was the custom to lay costly rugs before the feet of kings. Consider for example the vast difference between the entrance of the Queen of England and her butler! Everyone knows who the queen is by the procession, pomp, and entourage. What precedes the butler’s entrance? 🙂

The other gospel writers also tell that the crowd cut palm branches and laid them in front of Jesus. Palm branches signified victory and prosperity (cf. Lev 23:38-40), and for some time in Israel the palm branch was the national symbol of their hope and expectation that the Messiah would come and liberate them from foreign, idolatrous oppression.

Luke also tells us that the crowd praised God “for all the miracles they had seen” (19:37). One particular recent miracle of Jesus’ was raising Lazarus from the dead. John 12:17-18 tells us “so the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.”

The Jews in anticipation of the Messiah would often quote and sing Psalm 118. Note 118:25-26—“O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”

Note from Luke 19:37-38 what the crowd said when Jesus entered Jerusalem as they spread their coats and palm branches before him—their words makes it clear that they recognized who Jesus was, the Messiah, the King of Israel. From all these actions it looks like the people understood what was going on!

Throughout Jesus’ career, the Pharisees opposed him. Thus, when they saw the crowd’s activity and Jesus’ apparent agreement with it, they did not like it (v. 39)! The Pharisees knew exactly what was going on with the garments, palm branches, and “Hosannas”—Jesus was clearly identifying himself as the Messiah, and Jesus’ did not disagree with their assessment one bit (19:40).

How did Jesus respond to all this?

Jesus as the Messiah Recognized the Crowd’s Insincerity, 19:41-44

Sadly, despite Jesus’ clear fulfillment of every prophecy that showed him to be the Messiah, and despite the words and actions of the crowd in apparent agreement with that, Jesus knew what was in their hearts (19:41-42). Jesus knew that in a matter of days the same crowd that praised him would condemn him. They rejected him as their Messiah because they refused to submit to who he was and what he taught.

Jesus foretold what their rejection of him would mean for them. In Luke 19:43 Jesus tells of Rome’s conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The soldiers surrounded the city and used embankments around the city to conquer it. In Luke 19:44 Jesus foretells how the Romans would demolish the city and kill its inhabitants. This judgment came because the nation failed to embrace Jesus as their Messiah.

What was so important and significant about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt? It proved publicly to everyone, beyond any doubt, who he was—the Messiah, the King of Israel, God incarnate.

What do you need to see from this passage? You need to believe that Jesus was not merely a “good man” or a “religious teacher”—he was God in the flesh. Your faith in him must be genuine—anyone can shout praise to God or make a profession of faith to Christ. You cannot expect any religious activity or ritual to make you right with God. Israel thought that way, and they received God’s judgment; don’t expect anything less!

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, April 1, 2007

The Biblical Response of a Believer to Sin

Does it matter whether or not someone who considers himself a believer deals with sin his life? What should we think of someone who considers himself to be a Christian but has a flippant attitude toward his own personal sin? How should believers respond to sin in their lives?

John wrote his first epistle with a definite purpose in view—“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). John wanted the believers he addressed to have a strong assurance of their salvation in Jesus Christ. This controlling purpose was motivated by false teaching that attacked the foundations of Christianity (cf. 2:26). Without fundamental Christian doctrine there can be no salvation and no assurance of eternal life. John deals with such false teaching throughout his letter so that the recipients would be able to experience the joys of salvation in Christ (1:4) and assurance of salvation (5:13).

The wrong doctrine and practices that the false teachers were promoting included:

  • Some form of perfectionism, 1:8, 10
  • Disobedience to the Word and a resultant sinful lifestyle, 2:4; 3:4-10
  • No love for brothers in Christ, 2:9, 11
  • Avoiding assembling with believers, 2:19
  • Believing that Jesus was not the Christ, 2:22-23
  • Believing that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, 4:2

Our opinion regarding those who refuse to deal with sin in their lives should be formed and guided by Scripture—not their profession, personality, or our relationship with them. In this letter John addresses a situation among believers where there were those who refused to deal with sin in their lives. What does John say about this?

First, John says that the proof of salvation is a holy life“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:5-7).

The only standard by which we are measured is our holy God. God’s nature and character are absolutely pure, completely free from any stain of sin—He is “Light.”

Those whose lives are characterized (defined) by sin are not truly saved—Christ has not cleansed their sin for they refuse to repent of it. Those who are truly God’s children will live lives that are characterized (defined) by their Father’s holiness—their lives are lived in the sphere of God’s holiness (2:3-4; 3:4-10).

Furthermore, true believers who live in this sphere will seek and enjoy fellowship with others in that same sphere. There is a like-mindedness among believers—they enjoy the things of the Lord, and want to be with others who desire the same.

False teachers would never agree that their lives were characterized by sinfulness—they would claim that they were living godly lives and were true believers, all the while practicing deeds of darkness. They sound mixed up and deceived!

Second, John says that to deny personal sin is to be without salvation“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1:8-10).

True believers don’t respond to their own sin by ignoring or denying it; instead, they confess it to God, admitting and forsaking it.

Those who ignore and deny sin do not have their sin cleansed; those who admit and forsake their sin are continually cleansed by Christ.

When someone denies their own sin they are lying to themselves and setting themselves up to fall into greater, more grievous sin that will in turn be denied, resulting in further self-deception. Those who claim to be Christians but whose lives bear no resemblance to Christ’s are mixed up and deceived! In fact, they deceive themselves (1:8)!

The fact of the matter is that denying personal sin is proof that God’s truth has not been accepted (“the truth is not in us”), for the proper response to God’s truth is repentance from everything that is false. That which is true and false cannot coexist together.

To deny personal sin while maintaining to be a Christian turns God into a liar (v. 10), for God’s message is that he sent his Son to die for man’s sin. To call oneself a Christian and deny one has sin is to call God a liar, for He has said that all men are sinners.

The real evidence someone is a believer is continual, life-long response to sin with confession—having God’s opinion and reaction toward sin. The one whose life is characterized by such habitual turning from sin shows himself to be a genuine believer, one whose sins are cleansed through Christ’s blood.

When the Lord makes a believer aware of sin in his life, the response that genuine believer will have toward that sin is repentance, confession, admission, and forsaking it.

How does God make you aware of sin in your life? The Spirit convicts you of such through the Word. As you are brought face to face with Who God is and how He wants you to live, if you are a believer the Holy Spirit will help you see such sin and agree with Him about it’s true character.

How are you responding to sin in your life now?

Study these other passages on how true believers respond to sin in their lives: Psa 32:3-5; 38:18; Prov 28:13

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Wednesday evening, March 28, 2007