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The Prerequisite for Spiritual Passion


alivebright_1024x1024The Prerequisite of Spiritual Passion

Text:  2 Kings 4:1-7

Since we have arrived in Zambia, I have heard several people make comment about wanting to experience a spiritual breakthrough.  It seems to be a common expression here and around the world, but what do people mean by it?  Well, there are many things, but here at Kitwe Church, what do we mean by it?

What is a Breakthrough? A breakthrough is a major advancement in your life.  Breaking past an obstacle that once hindered you.  Shattering that glass ceiling in your spiritual life to reach new heights. Some of the people who have said this to me were people who were not yet believers.  They know they need something bigger than themselves to make sense of the circumstances they face in their lives. Others who have said this to me are people who are genuine Christians.  They have experienced God’s power.  Many of them have even experienced great victories in their personal spiritual lives.  God has even used them in great ways for ministry.  However, they are now going though a spiritual slump.  They feel like God is far from them.  They want to experience God’s closeness and power again.  They want to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others…but they have become discouraged and disillusioned and wonder if God will ever use them again.  They need a breakthrough.

Often in sports we use a different phrase to express this desire for a breakthrough.  When you see an athlete who wants to move to the next level from secondary school team to the university team, from University to the professional teams, from the minor’s to the major’s you will often here the coach ask, “How hungry are you?”  They are asking about passion.  They don’t want someone who just wants to look good in a uniform.  They want someone who is passionate for success.  They want someone who wants to give what it takes to be a winner, not just reap the rewards of being a professional – the fame, the fortune, etc.

Well, as Christians, we should be hungry for victory also, not just satisfied to look over past victories.  We want spiritual breakthroughs.  We need to be hungry for God.   The question for today is: Are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want spiritual victory? That is what we will be looking at today.

Today we will examine our hearts to see if we are hungry for God; to see if we have a passion for God and His kingdom.

When there is a transition of power in Lusaka, there are new occupants that enter the State House.  The old residents leave and the new ones move in to make their home there.  Not long ago President Sata’s family moved out so President Lungu and his family could move in. I don’t know how much changes in the State House during such a time of transition, but in America almost everything changes.  There is always a period of transition designed to allow the new residents of the White House, particularly the First Lady, to redesign, remodel, redecorate and refurnish the White House according to her personal taste. It is understood that the taste of the new first lady is often very different from the taste of the previous one and so part of the transition is to allow her to reconstruct the internal elements of the White House according to her particular liking. But for that to occur, the old must first be emptied out so the new can come.

Years ago an American Pastor named Tony Evans preached a series on this topic that greatly impacted me and I later adapted it for a series of my own that I preached in the States.  Now I want to pass these truths on to you.

Today we are going to consider the prerequisite of spiritual passion.

As you probably know, the word prerequisite is just a big way of saying a requirement that must be met before you can participate in something new.  For example, in school before you can enter a university program there are some prerequisite classes that must have been taken and the student is required to have already completed grade 12 of secondary school.  Finishing grade 12 is a prerequisite for starting school at a university. Well, today we are going to look at the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  What do you have to have in your life before you can truly have a passion for God and be used by him?  What is the prerequisite that you must have before you get your spiritual breakthrough?

In order for you to have a break through; in order for there to be room for the new thing that God wants to do inside of you, the old things must go. You see, it is hard for a new thing to happen inside of us if we are still crowded out with the old things.

In our passage today of 2 Kings 4:1-7 we have a short but powerful story of scripture.  It is about yet another lady in crisis.  She is in a desperate situation.  She needs to hear from God in the most urgent of ways. Join me in seeing how this woman faced 5 struggles that tempted her to doubt God – to lose faith in His goodness and power.

1. The Problem v. 1-2 The first two verses outline the problem for us. Let’s look at this crisis a little closer.

A. She is in emotional pain – her husband has died.

B. She is in financial pain – the creditors have come.  She didn’t have enough money after his demise to make the payments.

C. She is in physical pain – she was hungry.  The refrigerator was empty.  There is physical debilitation when there is no food.

D. She is in maternal pain – the creditors have come to take her children as collateral to pay her debt.

E. She is in spiritual pain.

When she comes to Elishah, listen to the pain in her voice.  “My husband, your servant, feared the Lord…”  In other words, my husband’s spiritual beliefs and our present condition don’t match up. (He was an adult son of one of God’s prophets). Perhaps you can identify with this lady in one or more of these areas.  If you are in any of those categories and any that I have not yet mentioned, then this message is for you. We are told that this woman cried out to Elisha.  Her pain drove her to the preacher because her need was from the Lord. Her pain drove her to the Lord as her final option.

Now, what the text does not tell us is whether she went to Elisha first or if she went to him last, but this is something worth considering because there is a difference – a big difference. I don’t know whether Elisha was the first stop on her road to recovery or if she had been to the bank already and been turned down.  Whether she had already been to government agency and been declined, whether she had been to friends and family and been rejected before it occurred to her, I better go to church. I don’t know whether it happened that way or if it happened with her realizing the desperate situation she was in and then turning to God immediately.  But I know it was serious because she was not calling for an appointment. I know someone has a serious concern when they show up at my house in tears.  I know they are serious when they call and ask me if I can come to them at that very moment.  What they want is to hear from God and they are hoping I can help deliver that message. The text says she cried out to Elisha.  Why? Because she wanted Him to tell her a message from the Lord.  In the midst of her problem she focused her eyes on the problem solver – Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.

2. The Problem Solver – God

Now, you will notice that this point is not addressed in any specific verse in our passage, but it becomes clear when we understand the core values of the Jewish culture of that day and the mindset of the Jewish religion.  So, let me share some details of the Jewish worldview with you. In Judaism you could not approach God directly.  You always went through a mediator.  If you wanted to speak to God then you went to a priest who would pray for you.  He would intercede on your behalf and offer sacrifices for you to communicate to God.  However, if you wanted to hear from God you would go to a prophet, because God spoke to His people through prophets. This woman thought – a prophet speaks on behalf of God. Sine the prophet spoke from God, she wanted to know from the prophet what God had to say and what God was going to do to alleviate her pain, solver her crisis and give her a breakthrough.   She went to Elisha to get to God because her situation was bigger than any man could fix.  Her situation was larger than the normal programs of life could resolve.  The creditors were at the door to collect her most prized possession – her children.  She had nothing…absolutely nothing…except God!

Now, here is an important lesson for us all. You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.  No, as long as you have your own resources and ideas you will rely on them.

So let me say it again, You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.

When you get to this point in your life you don’t pray formal patterned prayers anymore – you cry out.  You don’t conform to “high church” culture.  You abandon protocol and you cry out.  When you get in such a desperate situation that you recognize God is all you have, you don’t care what people think of you.  You don’t care if they think you are professional and sophisticated anymore – you cry out.

When you hear the Bible talk about crying out you are hearing desperation.  Sometimes the Bible says someone spoke or someone said.  But when you hear the Bible say that someone cried out you are hearing someone who is very serious, someone who is desperate.  This person recognizes their need and will not stop until that need is met. Think of how a baby acts when it is hungry. When that baby gets hungry enough it is not whimpering.  It is crying out.  It wants all to know that it needs to be fed.  It wants food..not a pacifier. God tells us in His word, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.  Blessed is He who hungers and thirsts after righteousness for he shall be filled.”

Let me tell you now the principle that we must not to lose sight of and that principle is this:  The amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling. 

So, why are we not seeing more of God’s power, more of God’s presence, more breakthroughs’ that can only be as a result of the hand of God? The answer is simple…We’re too full!  Now the question is, “full of what?”  Usually it is good things that we substitute for the best thing. When God allows a problem or a trial to come into your life, one of its primary goals is to make you hungry.

The problem is that when God brings things into our lives to make us hungry for him, too often we will settle for something less than God.  It is like being filled with ice cream & cake instead of being filled with meat and potatoes.  Both will make you feel full, but both will not satisfy your need for real nutrition.  Sweets are what, we call in America “junk food.”  We settle for a sermon snack here, a song snack there. We settle for encouraging words and compliments from others.  We look to our husbands and wives to meet the needs that only God can fill.  Is marriage a good thing?  Of course!  But not if we let it become an idol.

All of these good things will only disappoint us when it comes to times of trial, but God will not.  In our times of trials, too many of us settle for spiritual sweets instead of the bread of life!  Our trials are meant to drive us to Jesus Christ – the bread of life! God desires negative circumstances to drive us to Him.

Before the age of digital cameras, people used to take photographs with film.  The film would produce an opposite picture of what actually had taken place.  Things that are really black would look white on the film and things that were really white would look black.  A professional photographer would have to take his film into a dark room.  The reason he had to take it into the dark room where it is pitch black is because a photographer’s goal is to turn a negative into a positive.  He goes into the dark room in order to take raw material and turn it into a finished product.  It is dark inside there.  It is lonely inside there, but it is purposeful inside there because the darkness is designed to get you ready for the dark. But not only is there darkness in there.  There is often cutting and pasting of the photographs.  They are being cropped to get the desired result.

That is a good description of how things are for us when we go through trials.  It is like we are the film and God has us in a dark room.  When God has you in a dark room and there is no light it is because he is trying to take a negative and change it into a positive, but the question is how hungry are you. This woman was in the dark room.  So she cries out to the preacher.  Why?  Because she wanted to hear from God the prophet’s job was to say “Thus says the Lord.” The prerequisite to spiritual passion is spiritual hunger –  the prerequisite is emptiness.This woman was empty!  Her emptiness made her hungry for God!  She wanted her breakthrough.

The question for today is: are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want God? This woman wanted it so bad that she cried out and she was serious.

So what answer did she get?  She was about to go through a faith building process.

Let’s take a look at the process.

3. The Process v.3-5

Get jars from your neighbors. Get more than just a few! That sounds like something we preachers would say doesn’t it?  Leave it to a preacher to tell you to do something that doesn’t seem to have any connection to the circumstances you find yourself in, right? Can you imagine what was going through her mind?  “Elisha, come on now.  Are you crazy?  I came to you for help and you give me this.  I don’t think you understand.  I need money, not a bunch of borrowed pots.  I am empty!!! “And Elisha says, “I know.  Now I want you to get all the additional emptiness you can.”

Now please follow what I am saying.  I am going somewhere with this.  He says, Call you neighbors and multiply your emptiness.  Take your emptiness, go to your neighbors to get their emptiness, and then bring their emptiness into your house. Some of us have multiplied emptiness.  I know my family does right now.  Another way of saying that would be, You’ve got a mess, your family’s got a mess.  Have you ever said, “Everyone wants to bring their problems to me and I’ve got my own.  I have enough to deal with myself.  I don’t need their emptiness.”

Remember the principle; the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.  If you are empty and there is emptiness that surrounds you – your neighbors, your family, your church family – when God connects your emptiness with their emptiness what God is doing is increasing the possibility of your filling because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling. What the preacher did was give her a new perspective – a new way of looking at things; a different approach to a normal problem.

We all have debts of some kind, we all have pain, we all have crisis; but his answer was not the same answer that she would have gotten at a bank or a psychiatrist or from a politician.  He comes up with the thought of increasing your emptiness.  And now she is faced with a question:  Do I believe the man of God?  It all boils down to that.  “Do I believe that what he is telling me God is what God is telling him?”  Do I believe that what he is saying comes from the mouth of God?  It is a matter of faith!  Without faith it is impossible to please God. All those that come to God, even those who come crying out, must first believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.- Hebrews 11:6

The question now is, do I believe Him – do I believe God, because when it comes to getting your blessing or your breakthrough God will often use odd methods to validate…to prove whether you trust Him or not.

If you are looking only for logic when it comes to living the Christian life you will find yourself often confused because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, as high as the heaven is above the earth so is the difference between us and God.  So when it comes to your spiritual breakthrough, when it comes to seeing God do what you need done in your life He may get you to take on new emptiness and new problems before He fixes the things you came to him for and you must step out on faith.  You must obey when you don’t feel like it.

How many of you use an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning?  I am not a morning person.  I have to use an alarm or I will miss appointments.  I love staying up late and working into the late hours of the night, but you see, especially in Zambia, everyone else seems to be an early riser.  When your alarm went off this morning saying to you it is time to get up, many of you, particularly those of you who are not morning people, decided to obey the alarm even though you didn’t feel like it.  You didn’t want to get up at that particular time, but the alarm went off and said it is time.  So even though you did not feel like you wanted to, you crawled out of bed and started getting ready to come to the church service.  Even though the alarm went off and may have interrupted one of your nicer dreams perhaps keeping you from the full 8 hours you desired to have you decided to obey the clock and got up because you wanted to come to worship God and hear from Him.

Well, trials are God’s alarm clocks for our spiritual breakthroughs.  Often God’s alarms go off at what we would consider the wrong time.  Often God’s methodologies seem to ring in the wrong way.

The question of faith is never the question of feeling.  The question of faith is never “how do I feel right now about what God has said to me.”  It isn’t that those feelings aren’t real.  They are real, but the question of faith is a matter of believing God.

Faith is always acting like God is telling the truth.  By the way, God always tells the truth!  We must then take action based on his truth.  That is faith – ACTING like God is telling the truth. If you get up when the alarm rings you have acted properly no matter how you feel.  We have to get to the point where we trust God to change our feelings when He asks us to act in faith.  We have to trust Him to change our attitudes from not wanting to do what He tells us to do because we believe that if we do what He tells us to do He will change how we feel about it. Well, this lady was hungry – literally and spiritually – because her crisis was deep.

You say, “I’ve been hungry for a long time.  I’ve been waiting a long time for my blessing – and it only gets deeper.  Things seem to be worse rather than better.”

Well remember, the amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling.  So if your emptiness is getting deeper that means God is going to poor more into it when He fills it. So Elisha says to her, lady you go out and get your neighbors empty vessels and don’t miss the point.  Don’t get a few!!!  You go get additional emptiness. Have you ever noticed that when you get hungry enough sophistication doesn’t matter anymore?  You do not care what people think of you.  Have you ever seen sophisticated, important, serious people real hungry?  You know, beggars on the street aren’t concerned about how they appear.  They aren’t worried about how begging is not the appropriate way to get the money they need to get their next meal.  They are out there on the street in the cold, in the hot, letting you know that they are desperate.  They have a need! When you get hungry enough you aren’t worried about what everyone else thinks.  This woman became a public spectacle.

How do you get your neighbor’s vessels? You have to ask. Everyone knew she had nothing and yet her children came around asking for empty vessels as if they had something to put in them.This woman was so hungry that the text says in verse 5 that she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons.  They were bringing the vessels, the pots, to her and she poured.

She was hungry enough to obey the word of God.  Therefore they began pouring the oil into the vessels. How does this apply?  What does that mean? If you are going through a trial, I know you are hurting yourself, but the problem is that if you are like me, often when you are hurting you think there is no one who exists but me, myself, and I.  When you are hurting yourself it is then time to become a minister to others, specifically others who are facing the same thing you face. When God sees that you are willing to not only cry out for your emptiness, but willing to pick up the emptiness of others then you’ve given God that much more to fill up for you.  You see when we are so focused on our own needs we forget everybody else, but when we desire not only to receive a blessing but to be a blessing God sees within us his own heart.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  We have joined Him in His desire to bless those in need. Go to your neighbors find how you can be a blessing for them too, how you can intercede for them too, how you can minister to them too.  Increase your emptiness. You know, we don’t collect emptiness.  We don’t look for opportunities to go to our neighbor and see their empty pots; after all I have the same problem.  But oh, when God sees He can minister through you and to you He can’t wait to pour out those blessings, which is exactly what he does for this woman! Well, this woman stepped out on faith and she engaged in the process that God laid out for her.  Now let’s look at the result.

4. The Product v 6-7

In verses 6-7 it says, And it came about when the vessels were full that she said to her son bring me another vessel and he said to her there is not one more and the oil stopped.  Now you’ve got to picture this miracle.  This is what I call a breakthrough.  She has one little jar of oil.  That is all she has, but here is what God did.  As her sons brought in the pots that they had borrowed from the neighbors she poured the oil into the pots, but the oil kept coming.

All she had was one jar of oil but when she cried out to God for herself and was willing to take on the emptiness of others God multiplied the little that she had.  Now little was not little anymore.  Just like the song says, “Little is much when God is in it.” Pot after pot after pot is filled with oil.  She calls out for another pot because she got the point.

The oil will keep flowing as long as emptiness keeps coming.  When that is happening who wouldn’t want more emptiness?  But her son said there are no more pots and then the oil stopped.  Elisha said don’t get a few because he knew what God would do.  What was once empty is now full.

Then Elisha gives her a business opportunity because faith never means sitting down and doing nothing. Waiting on God does not mean being inactive.  It means being trusting.  It means do what you should do while you wait for Him to do what you cannot do.  Be active while waiting for Him to do what ONLY He can do. So, Elisha says, “Go sell the oil and pay the debt.”

Now, where is this oil located? In the pots.  Who do the pots belong to?  The neighbors.  Who is she going to sell the oil to?  The neighbors because the oil is in the pots and every housewife had to have oil.

Here are a few lesson we can get from this story:

A.  When God blesses one person that blessing flows out to meet the needs of others. At this time in Israel’s history the kingdom was going through tough times.  It is likely that most of these neighbors were lacking sufficient oil also.  Some might have had maize, some might have had tomatoes or other plants, but been lacking oil.  Now, by meeting this woman’s need God has also met the need of those around her.

B.  God had the solution before she came with her problem. Here’s another truth here that applies to our situations as well. The solution to her problem already existed before she cried out to God.  In other words, the answer to her prayer was already in her house and she didn’t even know it because she didn’t have the eyes to see it yet.  It was there all along but it just hadn’t been sanctified or set apart of God yet.   The answer was already there she just didn’t have the spiritual eyes to see that the prophet Elisha could already see. She hadn’t gotten empty enough yet.  She thought that just because she was hungry that she was hungry enough but until her hunger broadened beyond her, to consider others beside her, she did not see the depth of how hungry she could be nor the miracle that God wanted to perform. But when she got God’s divine eyesight everything changed.  You see, some of our breakthroughs are already in place.  God has already got it situated.  We just don’t see yet.

C. The blessings stop when the emptiness stops.  When we get filled with things then the blessings stop.  We need to view ourselves as clean and empty pipes that the blessings of God can flow through to meet our needs and the needs of others.

D.  When the blessings come, we must take care of our obligations first. She said, HELP!  I have no money. The creditors are coming to take my boys. Now notice what Elisha tells her.  Elisha said, get out of debt and you and your sons can live on the rest.You know, the tendency when you get a blessing is to forget your responsibility.  He says, You go and pay your debt and when you do there will be enough money left over for you and your sons to live on. She went to God for a debt break through, but he gave her that debt break through with a bonus.  That’s when you know it is from God, because it is exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think.  He gives you what you requested, but because your emptiness increased by taking on the emptiness – the needs of others – He multiplies that.

So here we are at the end of the message and again I return to the big question.

How hungry are you?

Now, I know you want God’s blessing.  But are you hungry enough to passionately pursue God and be used by God to passionately help someone else.  Are you that hungry as an individual?  Are we that hungry as a church? Are you hungry enough to go into God not caring about what others think of you and cry out to God because you view Him as your first and last resort or are you still trying things without Him because if you are you aren’t hungry enough yet.

So, what are you going to do with what you have heard today.  Have you recognized the things that you have been settling for?  Have you recognized the things that are crowding out what God wants to do in you?  Are you ready to get ride of them?  Are you ready for some emptiness?  Are you willing to take on the emptiness of others? Or are you going to leave here the same as you came.  You got your sermon snack for today.  You will be back for another next week?

I hope we will all leave here having met the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  I hope we will all be empty enough to be hungry because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.

So again I ask, Do you want God? Are you hungry for Him?

To listen to the audio of this message go to http://tinysa.com/sermon/719151242202

(I am appreciative to Dr. Tony Evans for his message by this same title which inspired much of what you have read here.)

Accomplishing The Mission of Jesus


Accomplishing The Mission of Jesus.001

Do we really understand the desperate needs that exist around us?

Late one afternoon staff at Faith Children’s Village brought a lone visitor to see out Administrator. The young visitor was a little girl, 11 years old.  She had walked all day, crossing the Kafue River to find this place where she heard that people cared for kids.  Both of her parents had died when she was a baby.  She was cared for by her grandmother who later died.  She was then in and out of various homes, some places she was mistreated and she was not in school. Finally she ran away. She would dance at bars for money.  Someone told her about Faith Children’s Village so on this day she came searching and pleading to be taken in.

Few of us here have faced a situation like this in our lives!  Desperation, pain, suffering, a loss of hope for the future.

We have been studying the church and today we will look at the mission of the church.  God has called us for a purpose – to glorify Him!  But what are we to do?  Why does the church exist, why do we come together in fellowship, to study the Word, encourage and edify one another?  What is it that all of this enables us to do that will bring God glory throughout eternity?

Let us look at our text in Romans 10.  Have you ever encountered something that so deeply affected you that you felt deep searing anguish and grief in your heart? That is exactly what is happening with Paul in our text today!

Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

He is so consumed with grief in HIs heart that he said this:

Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

What are the things that cause your heart to bleed? What are the things that causes you to cry out to God in heartfelt desperation?

Kent Hughes in his commentary on Romans is spot on when he wrote, “Romans 9 teaches divine election—chapter 10 teaches human responsibility. I emphasize this because it is possible to get just enough of the vertical theology of chapter 9 to make us horizontally irresponsible… We humans like being absolved of responsibility.”

Let’s be very clear: “If you are without Christ it is not because you are not elect – it is because you are rejecting Christ!” (21)

Our mission is to carry out God’s mission of reconciling sinful human beings to God through Christ!  So what is the world’s greatest need, and what must you do about it?

THE GOSPEL IS THE GREATEST NEED OF EVERY PEOPLE GROUP (1-13)

In the midst of human suffering, loss and the man ills that afflict modern-day man, why is the gospel the greatest need?

Because they are lost! (1)

Paul had a God-given passionate desire for the salvation of his own people group, the Jews. (10:1, 9:1-3).  They did not realize it, they were convinced otherwise – but they were hopelessly lost!

Isaiah put it this way:  All we like sheep have gone astray…  and Paul wrote earlier in this same letter that “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

Because all people outside of Christ are trying and failing to establish their own righteousness. (2-3)

It is not enough that these people were sincere or zealous for God or committed to their religion. (2)

You can be zealous for church, zealous in Bible study, zealous in the choir, and be lost!

A couple years ago I was was in the USA for some speaking engagements.  On my trip home, I flew out of Boston on a Boeing 747 for Lusaka via London.  After we got up to 40,000 feet the stewardesses serviced the cabin and eventually dimmed the lights for the night flight.  I got up and went to the back of the plane.  In front of the toilet doors near the exit door a man had rolled out his prayer mat and was on his knees bowing in prayer toward Mecca.  There is no one who can question this man’s zeal toward his religion!

And this is exactly what Paul was talking about – these people were zealously working for God in an attempt to establish their own righteousness.  They were trying to be righteous by keeping the law.

Galatians 3: 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

God’s standard is His own righteous perfections, and nobody can pull that off, no matter how sincere they are or how hard they try! The problem is human wickedness and depravity. Everyone, everywhere has sinned and stands guilty before God.

Some people base their confidence of salvation on how good they are in relation to someone else.  Or they base their salvation on what they don’t do.  This is called moralism.  You can be moral, but man’s morality will never meet God’s standard of righteous perfection!

Because there is no other way to be reconciled to God – none! (4-13)

Salvation through Christ is the ONLY way to God. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross is the only way any person – Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu – can be saved.  Jesus Christ is the only way to God! (4-8).  You have to believe that!

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now at this point, you might be asking a very fair question:  How can Paul say this?  If Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, what about those who have never heard of Jesus?

Remember our text is coming from chapter 10, so we are jumping into something that Paul has already been talking about for some time.  In fact he has already dealt with the answer to this very question.  Let’s quickly look at what he has said,

God speaks through creation.

God is a God who loves and calls to all mankind, now matter where they are.  First, God speaks through Creation.  Imagine that our hall this morning is in complete darkness, and I were to light a candle on the table at the front.  Would you be able to see that flame?  Of course!  It would be the one thing in the midst of darkness that jumps out and screams for your attention.  Now what if you rushed toward the light, not to embrace it, but to blow it out?  God has given all men the light of creation, reject that light and you have no excuse.  Here is how Paul explains it:

Romans 1:18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.* 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (NLT)

God speaks through Conscience

Our conscience is that inner voice in every one of us that tells us to do or not to do a thing.  It is true that our conscience can be corrupt or misinformed, but that voice is there speaking to us none-the-less!  It is interesting that anthropologists who reach formerly unreached peoples have yet to discover a society in some remote corner of the earth that is atheist!  Why? Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God “has put eternity in their hearts.”

Ro.2:14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (NLT)

God speaks through Christ

Acts 17:22 So Paul, standing before the council,* addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man* he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your* own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. 30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

Salvation requires belief in two things (9-11):

  • That Jesus is Lord – that he shares the nature, character, holiness, power and authority of the one and only true God and thus He I supreme over me – I belong to Him!
  • That God raised Jesus from the dead – true belief of this will cause us to confess before others – “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

The salvation message is for EVERYONE!  It is universal (13)

For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. There is no national distinction, no ethnic distinction, cultural distinction, no depraved condition too deep, no sin too great, no person too lost. The same Lord is over all people and is generous to all who call upon Him!

And here is the glorious crescendo to the gospel! Whoever will call upon Jesus will be delivered from the just condemnation of their rebellion and sin!

So how can verse 13 happen in Kitwe this week?  How can this happen in Blantyre? In Nairobi? In Juba? In Accra? In Mogadishu? 

If this is the world’s greatest need – what must we do to meet it?

How does this gospel get to those who must receive it?  How does it get to little orphaned girls that no one wants?  Little girls like the 11 year old girl who arrived at Faith Children’s Village?

Should maybe we fly over and drop illustrated leaflets explaining the gospel message?  Maybe we could send food to the nearly 1m people on the verge of starvation of S. Kordafan & Blue Nile State, living in caves to escape the bombing raids from Kartoum?  Maybe we should go to rural Zambia and dig some wells so people can have fresh water?

In Jesus’ ministry He went everywhere “doing good.”  But there were always more sick people to heal, more dead people to raise up, more mouths to feed… and they were begging him to do these things.  Mark 1:36–38 And Simon… said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

PREACHING THE GOSPEL IS THE CHRISTIAN’S GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY (14-17)

Why is proclaiming the gospel the Christian’s greatest responsibility?

Because we were commissioned to this task by Jesus Himself!

Paul was cornered by Jesus on the Damascus Road and called as a gospel witness (Acts 9). We too have been cornered by Jesus and called to be gospel witnesses for Jesus! (Mt.28.18-20)

Because whoever calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved! (13)

Because those who don’t hear will be damned forever! (14-17)

Let us look at verses 14-15 in reverse:

  • If here is no sending, there is no preaching. (15)
  • If there is no preaching, there is no hearing. (14c)
  • If there is no hearing, there is no believing. (14b)
  • If there is no believing there is no calling. (14a)
  • If there is no calling on Jesus – they are DAMNED!  Forever!

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Luke 16:23–24 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 

2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 20:13–15 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Let’s conclude with Paul’s summary statement in verse 17: So then, Faith comes through hearing the Word of God! They must hear the word of God in order to believe!  We too must hear the Word of God if we are to believe and obey!

The Gospel:

You must know it!

You must receive it!

Have you received God’s free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus?  Do you believe Christ is man’s only way to heaven?

You must share it (17)

  • Locally – intentional engagement and proclamation of the gospel within your circle of influence.
  • Globally – through gospel partnerships.  For some through obedient abandonment to going cross-culturally to preach this gospel.

You have just heard the gospel – have you received it?  Is this truth your personal reality?

What is the all-consuming desire of your heart?  Does your heart burn for people to know Christ?

Download the pdf copy of Accomplishing the Mission of Jesus

Listen or download the free mp3 of this sermon here.

The Beginnings of Despair


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Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

The way down to despair is always predictable and preventable. Just as there is a way down, there is also a way out!! We don’t have to live in despair. We need to understand where despair begins so we can stop it at its source.

Rom 1:21 – When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. Though Rom. 1:21 is referring to the unsaved man, it is still the natural bent of all of our hearts.

We think up vain imaginations about our God that are not true of Him. Then we try to live in the world He created and we wonder why we struggle with the truth.

Isa. 55:7-9 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts

We exchange the truth of God for a lie. “Let the wicked (speaking of God’s people who have sinned) forsake his way” … (note God’s disposition toward us) .. “He will abundantly pardon.” God is waiting like the Prodigal Son’s father, looking down the road, wanting us in fellowship with Him.

It all starts with Unbelief.

Unbelief is hard to see sometimes. God did not give this truth to us in the form of a chart, but the flow of thought comes from the Word.

For example, Moses did not get rebuked for his anger when he struck the rock (Num. 20). God said the he did not believe God and that is why he disobeyed (Num. 20:12). God connected his action to unbelief.

Disciples in the boat “Carest thou not that we perish?” Christ – “How is it that you have no faith” (belief)… that I care for you (Mark 4:38-40). It was their unbelief that was challenged.

Heb. 12:2-3 Christ endured the cross… consider him (think/meditate about Him) lest you be weary in mind. When Christ is not our focus, our belief, we have problems. It is always a problem with belief. God made this connection.

All of us have belief (spiritual) problems! You do and I. Being humble and admitting it is the first step to the way out of despair.

Unbelief—“The Great Disorder” of the Heart

      • Unbelief is a “disorder” because it accepts the reasonings of fallen man (“vain imaginations” Rom 1:21) over the revelation of God.
      • The lie—the fantasy—of “The Great Disorder” is that “God is not doing enough for me; God Himself is not enough for me. I need something more.”

You can’t be worried/ anxious/angry if you believe God has given you what you need. Try it! Once your thoughts focus not the truth of

We have interpreted what we know about God from our experience instead of interpreting our experiences in light of what is true about do from the Scriptures.

We think we need something more today … is a fantasy. If we think these things, we don’t know God well.

If we reject what God says to be true, all we can do is live in fantasy world of imagination, because the world as we are choosing to believe it does not exist.

  • A world where God does not love does not exist.
  • A world where God is not in control of all things for our good and His glory does not exist.
  • A world where God is not with me or does not hear my cry does not exist.
  • A world where God is overly tough and mean-spirited does not exist.
  • These worlds are fantasy world of our imaginations. To live in a fantasy world is to hasten our own disintegration.

This is reality!

Phil. 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

God will always meet our genuine need. Always. What we have is what we needed because a loving, wise, powerful, caring God knew we did.

Our God exists, He has spoken, what He has said matters. The world is living a fantasy that will burn up soon. If we are not careful, we will also live in a fantasy world if we listen to our hearts deceptions.

Discontent

Discontent is the dissatisfaction of not having what we have decided we need.

The whining of our discontented heart is familiar.

  • “If only I had what I need.”
  • “I should be/have…”
  • “I don’t like…”

See if these statements of discontent sound familiar: If only my spouse/boss/parents would try to understand me. If only people appreciated me more. If only … I had more freedom/money/authority/better health/less pain/more answers about what’s going on in my life/ I hadn’t messed up/I had different parents or roommates/ I weren’t married /I was married. All these imply that I would have satisfaction if it had been different.

We might, in our minds, attempt to limit God’s ability to help our problems today because of problems in our past. With a God as powerful as ours, He does not need anything different in your past to make you different today.

Our past does not interfere with God’s ability to use us now.

Homework: Begin a list of your own “if only’s,” “I should’s,” and “I don’t likes.”

What’s the big deal?

1. God takes complaining personally. Why? Because He is the Provider. When we complain, we are denying the promise of God. Look at Numbers 11-16. God dealt with the Israelites discontent and He called it unbelief.

2. Complaining is dangerous because a “lust for more” its the basis for every temptation in the heart.

Once you think you have to have something, you are open to being tempted by it. You can’t be tempted with something that you don’t want. (Ever been tempted to pick up road kill for a cookout?)

James 1:14 – Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed.”

Legitimate concerns should be turned into prayer while surrendering the results to God.

Conclusion: Learn to look for the roots of unbelief and discontent when you see the fruit of guilt, anxiety, anger, and despair.

Listen to the message: The Beginnings of Despair

Download the Beginnings of Despair Notes.

Material from Quieting a Noisy Soul by Dr. Jim Berg, BJU Press 2006 used with permission.

How To Walk Worthy of Your Calling


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In our series on Discovering the Church we have looked at four pictures of the church. We have seen the church as a family and the goal is maturity.  We also saw the church as a field – the goal being the quantity of our fruitfulness. We have seen the church as a building the temple in which God dwells and the goal here is quality! Last week we saw the church as a body and the goal is unity.

The church is a called out assembly (ecclessia) of people who share one thing in common – faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. Those of us who are in the church are there because God sought us and called us out! So how do we live up to our calling as the body of Christ and walk in unity?  This brings us to our text for today, Ephesians 4:16:

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

  • The Person – I. He is the founder of the church
  • The Promise – Will
  • The Process – Build
  • The Possession – My. Jesus is the owner of the church, he is the Head of the Church.
  • The Product – Church
  • The Power – the gates of hell will not overcome the church!

The book of Ephesians is about what the Father is doing: In the Heavenlies – Through the Church – In Christ – By His Spirit – For His glory – forever (3.21)

What He is doing through the church is calling and redeeming a group of people and:
• Forming them into a Body for His Son to lead (1.22-23)
• Building them into a Temple for Himself (2.21-22)

So that by the Church which is His body and temple, He can:

• Display His grace, kindness, power and wisdom
• Dwell in her fully in such a way that all of this results in the praise of His glory!

In Chapters 1-3 Paul explains what we must “know” about what God is doing in through the church. Now in Chapters 4-6 he explains what we must do based upon what we know!

In Chapter 4.1 Paul beseeches us to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

  • Walk – speaks of our way of life, conduct. A constant and consistent manner of living
  • Worthy – corresponding to. This word is used of the balance beam on a scale. Put something on one side, put something on the other side that will equal or balance it.

Let me be abundantly clear at this point: Conduct does not precede conversion!

Phil. 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

This morning we want to consider how we can walk worthy of our calling in the church. The main thought of this section is found in v1 & 3:

“Walk worthy of the calling (1.1,3-6,11,2.5-6) with which you were called… endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

A walk worthy of our calling in the church is one that maintains the unity of the Spirit. In our text Paul gives three ways to walk worthy of our calling in unity in the church.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU REFLECT THE CHARACTER OF GOD IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. (2)

Forbearance

To endure, to kindly tolerate. William Barclay describes this attitude as what you would see in an old dog being pestered by a smaller, younger puppy.

Romans 2:4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

We express this when we are wronged, when others have an unreasonable complaint or grievance or quarrel with us:

  • We are to put up with those who complain against us
  • We are to put up with those who irritate us
  • We are to put up with those who argue against us.
  • We are to put up with those who sometimes attack us.
  • We do all this because God has rooted and grounded us in love! (3.17)
  • We will have to love one another enough to put up with each other when we are irritated by someone else in the body!

Long-suffering

Long-suffering means to bear under for a long time, to delay wrath, to not break forth with angry words or violent deeds.

1 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

We are to patiently endure these difficult people in the way God patiently and graciously endures wicked rebellious men over a long period of time. (Ga5:22)

We must respond to those who irritate us with long-suffering, we do not respond with resentment or retaliation.

Gentleness

Reluctance to avenge wrongs. To suffer long will require that we develop a gentle and controlled response at all times toward others.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Lowliness

This gentleness requires that we think biblically about ourselves this is the essence of humility.  Lowliness was a degrading term in Greek culture used to refer to a groveling servant.  This term was taken by Christians to represent a distinctly Christian virtue.

Two examples:

  • Jesus – I did not come to be served but to serve…
  • Paul – “a bondslave of Jesus Christ…

To rightly esteem other people in the body and their opinions and ideas as more important than your own.  All this because we love them!

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU BELIEVE IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (4-6)

This “one body” – the visible church (1.23) has a theological foundation. It is founded upon spiritual truth – doctrine!

One Spirit (4)

It is the Holy Spirit that gives life to the body. That Spirit is the soul of the body without Whom the body cannot exist.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

The Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance (1.14)

One Lord (5)

One Jesus Christ – to whom all true Christians owe allegiance.  There is one faith in one Lord unites all believers. There is one baptism by water is the external seal of incorporation into Christ’s body

This includes all people of every race, color, language, background, both Jew and Gentile.

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One Father (6)

There are not many gods but one true God and Father of all – all speaking of His paternal relationship through creation (1Co.8:5-6).

  • Above all – He reigns over all
  • Through all – In His creative activity
  •  In you all – He is everywhere present. Specifically he dwells in those who have trusted Him through His Spirit.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU ARE DOING THE WORK OF MINISTRY (7-16)

People – Equipping by gifted men (7-12a)

  • Apostles and prophets – laid the foundation of the church (2.20).  A foundation is laid only one time.  Jesus is the cornerstone for that foundation.
  • Evangelists are the missionaries who pioneer outreach in areas where the gospel has not yet been proclaimed.
  • Pastor-Teachers are the shepherds of the flock, teachers of the Word. Speaks of local church ministry.

Process (12)

Pastors perfect > Saints serve > Body builds

Product (12c-16)

Equipping results in spiritual maturity (12c-13,15)

The body of Christ is built up (12c). Each one comes to the Unity of the faith – This is a goal to be reached

The depth of a church is determined by the quality of worship and instruction. The breadth of a church is determined by its commitment to fellowship and evangelism.

This unity will come with an increasing knowledge of Christ. In this way the church comes to maturity. Individualism is seen as a mark of immaturity. “Perfect man” – manhood.  To the full measure of perfection found in Christ. When a baby is born the head is unusually large in comparison to the rest of the body, as it develops the body grows in due proportion to the head.

Spiritual Maturity produces spiritual stability (14-15)

We are to abandon childish attitudes. We are to grow out of childish instability in what we believe. We no longer are tossed around by every wind and wave of doctrine. We are no longer susceptible to the deceit and craftiness of false prophets. We understand there is no unity in compromise, there is no unity in false teaching. The church cannot allow falsehood to go uncorrected yet the truth is vindicated in accents of love (15)

Spiritual stability results in spiritual service (16,12b)

The aim of these ministries is the equipping of all God’s people for service. (12b) Christ is the One out of whom all Christians grow. As each part works properly the whole body is supported in the way it needs. We must be what we are in the body, not for ourselves but for the benefit of the other members of the body.

“Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough about God to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy.” – Ortland

It is time to grow to maturity!

Each of us would do us well to place ourselves on God’s scale to see if we are walking worthy of our calling. May we “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This means we must collectively work hard and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Do you need to commit to growing up spiritually – to maturing in the body of Christ so that you do your part in supporting the other members of the body.

Download the mp3 audio for this message here.

Download the .pdf notes for Walk Worthy Of Your Calling

The Church is a Field: The Goal is Quantity


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We have all seen the signs along the road saying, “Have you eaten today? Thank a farmer.” There is a lot of truth to that sign. We all need food to survive, to stay healthy, and to grow. As a boy, I grew up on a family farm. I remember the year my Dad told me to clear out an overgrown plot of land in order for us to plant a family garden. There was a lot of work to accomplish this. First we cleared the thick undergrowth. We then cut down some large trees to open up the land to the light of the sun. We had to dig out the roots and stumps. Next we had my uncle plow the ground, which revealed all the rocks we had to remove. Finally, the day arrived when we could plant the seeds in the ground. Before long we saw the desired plants grow, but along with them came weeds that needed to be removed on a regular basis. Just about the time we started to see produce reaching maturity the raccoons would come and eat it. They were as destructive and aggressive and Monkey’s can be here. So, I had to catch these animals to keep the vegetables safe. After all, the goal of a garden is produce – fruitfulness.

A plot of ground is full of potential. God created it with the capacity to grow an abundance of plants that we can eat. However, to turn a vacant field into a lush garden requires man to work at two things: (1) removing hindrances to fruitful production and (2) cultivating the ground to provide the best environment for production to occur. Well, this picture of a fruitful field is what the Apostle Paul uses to teach truths about what God intends for His church.

Two weeks ago Phil started a new series entitled “Pictures of the Church.” The first message was from 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 which shared the picture that “The Church is a Family.” In that message we saw that the goal is maturity. Today we continue this series and we will pick up where we left off in 1 Corinthians 3.

Big Idea: As a result of today’s message we will see that the church is a field and the goal is quantity. The goal is fruitfulness.

As we examine this picture of the church we must remember some things that Phil shared with us in our two-week introduction to defining what a church is. We must remember what the word church means. It comes from the Greek word, Ekklesia – which means called out ones. We still use it in our English language. The word eclectic comes from this Greek word. The church is an eclectic group of people that God has called out of the darkness of this sinful world to be separated for His special use. If you have turned to Jesus Christ in repentance of sin and faith in His work on the cross then you are part of the church. When you become a Christian you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. To be a Christian is to be part of the church.

With that information in mind, let’s now think of today’s big idea again. The church is a field and the goal is quantity. As God’s field he wants to produce fruitful faith in each of us. So, by the end of today I hope each of us will leave here with specific things in mind that we can do to bear more spiritual fruit in our lives.

Let’s now turn to 1 Corinthians 3 and we will start by reading the passage that Phil preached on 2 weeks ago and then move on into the next section. As we read through these verses we see three things about this picture of the church as a field. Let me say up front, that the first point will consume most of our time together this morning. The last two points go by fairly quickly as our text does not have as much to say about them.

There are many roles involved with farming the field v. 5-6

We each have various roles when farming this field called the church. This image should come naturally from the typical farming methods in Zambia. I have a friend in Choma named Mike Beckett who owns Muumba Farms. He helped me see that in Zambia, the key to a productive farm is a large workforce that is broken into teams to accomplish different purposes. This is very different from farming in America where large farms can be worked by only a few men with lots of machinery. In the day Paul wrote to the Corinthians farming would have been very similar to what we still do in Zambia. There is one “farmer” with many employees. Each one has a job to do and their jobs differ from one another.

Some Plant

There is a lot of work involved in the planting (clearing, plowing, putting seed in ground). The human heart is the soil for spiritual growth. Think of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13:3-9. There were many kinds of soil (hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, good soil). To get the first three soils to be productive there is work to be done. The hard soil could represent those of us who have become hardened to spiritual things because of how those who should be tending the soil are actually trampling it under foot. Some of you may have hard hearts in response to the hypocrisy you have seen from so-called Christians. Some of you may have hearts of rocky soil. There are stones of stubbornness that must be removed. When you hear the truth of God’s Word and it clashes with your worldview you don’t want to remove those boulders. You want to try to produce spiritual fruit, but your heart is too stony for the things of God to really take root. Some of you may be like the thorny soil. You genuinely want to grow, but there are worldly ideas that are choking out your growth. You are trying to cultivate spiritual things and worldly things at the same time. You are compromising to accommodate both views, but this will never lead to fruitfulness because the worldly weeds are stealing nutrients from the spiritual fruit. What needs to be done is some serious plowing, removing of stones, and plucking out of weeds by the very roots. This is work – hard work!

So, we have seen that in both a physical field and a spiritual field much work is necessary to increase productivity. A field is full of potential; but for that potential to be realized – to be actualized there is much work to be done. Yet, we must remember that despite all there is to be done; we do not accomplish the production. Our work in planting is to remove the obstacles and barriers to production and apply the truth of God’s Word – the seed. By removing the barriers it allows space and nutrients for the spiritual fruit to grow.

Some Water

Some other workers have a different focus than cultivating the soil, removing the weeds, and other barriers. Rather, they add the nutrients needed that were lacking in order to produce fruit, speed up production, and increase the yield. In a physical field these would be things like water and fertilizer. In the spiritual field we water by applying prayer and the Word of God for continued spiritual growth. This doesn’t always mean preaching a sermon or teaching a Bible Study. It can be much more informal than that. Adding the water of God’s Word could be speaking words of encouragement and accountability in our everyday conversations with those in the church and those that we are trying to bring to the Lord for salvation. So, we have seen that some plant and some water. Then, once we do that, it seems that nature takes its course. In a physical field, it is at this point that the natural process of germination and growth takes over. In the spiritual field, the Holy Spirit of God takes over to produce spiritual growth. We can be confident that once we do our part of applying the truth of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit will make good use of it. In Isaiah 55:11 God says, “My word will not return void, but will accomplish that which I sent it.”

Now, here is an important truth we cannot miss from this passage. If the church is a field and every Christian is part of the church then we are all both the soil and the laborers. We plant and water into the lives of others and let them do the same to us. Once the obstacles to spiritual growth are removed and the essential nutrients applied we get out of the way because God Himself produces the spiritual fruit.

God Produces the Growth

The Process We don’t do the production; God does. If someone puts his faith in Jesus after I share the gospel with that person I am not that one that saved him. Jesus saved him; I just cultivated the soil. Our work, our role is to optimize and maximize the fruitfulness by applying the nutrients that speed of growth and production. Yet, none of that work would accomplish anything if God had not already built in the mechanism for productivity. God has placed eternity in man’s hearts Ecclesiastes 3:11. Everyone knows that there is something more out there than just this life. God has placed eternity in man’s heart so we will know that after death there is something more. The question is, where will we spend eternity. To help man see the need for righteousness and forgiveness of sin God has given us a conscience (Romans 2:15). This is place of the knowledge of right and wrong. This is the natural contact point God has given to us all. Now, if we will just apply the truth of God’s Word and prayers of intercession to the conscience we will see a wondrous thing take place. We will see spiritual fruit sprout from what was once the dry, infertile soil of man’s heart. We will see the Holy Spirit bring to life what was once barren and useless soil overrun with the weeds and bush of sin. So, we have seen the process. Now let’s look at the products.

The Products – Fruitfulness First, let’s examine the fruit in our own lives. The Bible refers to this as the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-24). If God is really on the throne of our lives then the Holy Spirit will be free to control us and produce in us these 9 spiritual fruits. 1. Love 2. Joy 3. Peace 4. Patience 5. Kindness 6. Goodness 7. Faithfulness 8. Gentleness 9. Self-control Now, we know that the opposite of these 9 fruit are addressed in Galatians 5 also where a list of sins are recorded as the works of the flesh. We obviously know that we should avoid these and that if they are present in our lives that it is evidence of a serious problem. However, Satan is so clever that he has deceived many of us into thinking we have the fruit of the spirit when we really only have counterfeit fruit. It looks like real fruit but without the substance. Rather than a bowl of assorted fruit it is a bowl of wax fruit. It looks good, but tastes bad. These offer no real nourishment.

Sadly, many of us have settled for counterfeit spiritual fruit in our lives.

  • Authentic Fruit – Counterfeit Fruit:
  • Love – Selfish affection
  • Joy – Selfish elation – “I get blessed”
  • Peace – Indifference
  • Patience – Cynicism – “This is too small to be bothered about.”
  • Kindness – Selfish manipulation
  • Goodness (integrity) – Truth without love (I’m just being myself)
  • Faithfulness – Love without truth (being loyal when you should confront)
  • Gentleness (humility) – Inferiority
  • Self-Control – Will power from pride

We must be just as alert regarding the counterfeit fruit as we are the works of the flesh. Second, God will produce from our labors fruit in the lives of others. When we serve him, we will be the sowers planting the seed in others that brings about the salvation of more souls (Matthew 28:18-20; Proverbs 11:30). Of course, once there are new believers God uses our labors to help these young Christians experience spiritual Growth/Discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Peter 3:18).

So, we have examined the produce God intends to develop in our lives. Now we must examine our lives to see if the fruit is there. Do you see these fruits being produced from your life? What is lacking? Have you identified it on your list? Great!

Then what do you do to see more fruit? It depends on your condition:

If you are not a born again Christian then you can’t become a productive field. You are not part of the field until you have repented of your sin and put your faith in Christ. Perhaps that is what some of you need to do today. Perhaps some of you need to become the property of the Ultimate Farmer – Jesus Christ. He can turn your life into a highly productive field, but he won’t do that until you belong to him.

Second, if you have already put your faith in Christ for salvation then what you need to go through is the process called sanctification. Salvation is an event that happens in a moment in time.

Sanctification is a process that continues throughout the lifetime of a Christian. Sanctification is being set apart for special use to God. This is the process every believer goes through. Some go through it more quickly than others depending on the cultivation that they allow in their lives.

  • Cultivate the soil by repenting of known sin in your life. Pull it out like you would pull a weed out of the garden. Pull it out by the roots or it will grow right back.
  • Enhance the soil of your soul by adding nutrients that are lacking. Develop the habit of spending time with God every day. Apply the water of God’s Word to your life. Add fertilizer by coming to every Bible study you can make it to. Add sunshine by spending time in prayer every day all throughout the day.
  • Lastly, every day you must die to your selfish sin nature. Submit your will to God’s will. That truth brings me to our second point.

There is only one reputation that really matters v. 7

On my friends farms there are many workers – usually 300 or more. None of them own the farm, but all of them work on the farm. Mike Beckett treats his employees well. He is firm, but fair. His employees respect him and want the reputation of the farm to be good, not for their own glory, but for the good of the farm owner and the good of the farm. They view working on Muumba Farm as a privilege.

There is a lot we can learn from that example. Too many of us are wanting to make a name for ourselves. Too many of us want to be seen as being essential to the farmer as if he could not succeed without us. Too many of us are concerned about our own reputations when we are nobodies. We tell people how great our God is and then quickly draw attention to ourselves for serving him well and when we do that we are saying, “See how great I am.” This will not lead to a healthy productive field. You will never convince people that God is great when you are spending so much time trying to convince others that you are great. Forget your reputation. It’s not about you. It is about God. It is about Jesus Christ. He isn’t fortunate to have us as workers. We are blessed to be working in his field! We are privileged. Our lives and our labors must be consumed with spreading the fame of His name!

There is a reward for faithful laborers in God’s field – the Church v. 8

This passage does not specify what the rewards are for faithful laborers, but I would like to close by providing you with a list of rewards based on other passages of scripture.

  • Reward of Personal Spiritual Growth • Reward of praise – “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21,23)
  • Reward of Crowns in Heaven But, these rewards are proportional to the labor you invest. Remember, we are a field. Do not expect to reap where you did not sow. Do not expect to reap where sin has overgrown and choked the life out of the spiritual fruit. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us be motivated to cultivate our spiritual lives to maximize our fruitfulness.

Conclusion: v. 9 We are God’s fellow laborers. You are God’s field!

The very purpose of a field is to produce crops. Every farmer wants a fruitful field. Every farmer wants an abundant field – a high quantity of fruit. As the master farmer, that is what God desires to see in his church. That is what He desires to see at Kitwe Church.

Each one of you is like a zone within a large field. How productive do you want your zone to be? Are you willing to do the work of cultivating godliness in your life so you can see the fruit of the spirit growing more and more?

Imagine what would happen if each of us dedicated ourselves to being a fruitful Christian. If we worked together we would see the field expand to more and more people. As elders Phil, Nathan, and I are excited to see the attendance grow because each person is a soul with the potential of bearing fruit. As we move into the future as Kitwe Church will this picture that Paul presented in 1 Cor. 3:5-9 be true of us? Will we be a field whose goal is fruitfulness?

Download: The Church as a Field

A Model Church For A Modern World


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A Christian is someone who “has been reconciled to God in Christ. A Christian is someone who by virtue of his reconciliation with God, has been reconciled to God’s people.  This is where the great commandment comes in.  A lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment out of over 600 commands in the Old Testament.   Without hesitation Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:34-40)

A church is not a building with a steeple, a church is people.  These are people who have responded to God’s call to be reconciled to Him through Christ Jesus.  A church is a gathering of Christians for the purpose of displaying God’s glory by becoming increasingly like Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:10-11).

“The church is God’s missile of salt and light hurled into the world to proclaim the triumphant message of sins forgiven and lives transformed.” – R. Kent Hughes, Acts

The world craves what God has provided for in the church and offers people a substitute to meet their need.  Each of us crave fellowship and acceptance, so the world offers us the Pub.  We see the mess around us in the world and we long to make a difference so the world offers us the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to address these social problems.  People crave spiritual connections so the wold offers the Masonic Lodge or Transcendental Meditation or the Horoscope and occult.

In our previous study we saw the first of three truths for our modern world gleaned from the first church at Jerusalem: The Characteristics of a Model Church.

  • The people who make up the church are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (36-41)
  • The people who make up the church are committed to Scripture (42b)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to fellowship (42c)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to being Christ-centered (42d)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to prayer (42e)

In today’s study we want to look at two other truths we glean from this model church in Acts 2:44-47.

THE ATTITUDES OF A MODEL CHURCH (44-47A)

In my younger days I was fascinated with flying and spent a couple years working on attaining a private pilots license.  One of the first things a pilot learns is about how important the attitude of the aircraft is to executing a safe and successful flight.  Attitude simply means the direction you are pointing. In the cockpit there is an instrument called an “attitude indicator” that allows the pilot to see the attitude of the aircraft in relation to the ground.

So what were the attitudes of this model church that allowed them to successfully witness to Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth? (Acts 1:8)

In their relationship with each other they demonstrated LOVE (44-45)

They were unified – They shared the same love, focus and desires with the others in the assembly.

Eph 4.1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

They were selfless – they had all in common, through love they served one another by putting the news of others before their own (Gal. 5:13).

They were giving – Selling personal property to meet genuine needs demonstrated their love toward one another.  We clearly see in verse 46a that they still owned homes 46a, yet they were willing to give up extra in order to meet the needs of those suffering. Day by day demonstrated hospitality to one another. They willing gave to the work of God and the needs of others.

1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

In their relationship with God they demonstrated WORSHIP (46a)

What Is Worship?

“Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven. “ – A. W. Tozer

“Worship is the believers’ response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does… Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” – W. Weirs

These Christians lived lives of worship. Day by day they met formally in the temple and informally from house to house. Worship for them was not an event that happened once a week for an hour.  They lived in an attitude of worship.

In their relationship with their daily circumstances they demonstrated JOY. (46b-47a)

Remember that it was not a popular thing in that day to be a Christian.  The events of Acts 2 are taking place in Jerusalem just a few short weeks after Pilate and the Chief Priests had crucified Jesus Christ!  To publicly step out and identify with this condemned man was not an easy thing.  Remember that soon after this event a great persecution against Christians broke out across the Empire.  In Roman cities people wishing to do business would be required to have a trading license and to obtain it they must declare Ceasar as their god.  To refuse to do so would mean you were unable to do business and you might arrested and used in the gladiatorial games in the colosseum.

Gladness of heart means to rejoice from a sincere heart.  Sincere here can mean “free from rocks,” in other words there were no stones of selfishness in their heart.

Praising God produces joy. Those who fellowship together to exalt the Lord will have true happiness, while those who seek to glorify themselves  will not have lasting joy (Phil. 2.1-2).

IMPACT OF A MODEL CHURCH (43, 47b)

It was an awe-inspiring church (43)

The fear mentioned here is a holy fear,a reverence that controls you because you know God is near. When Jesus visited the region of Gadara and cast the legion of demons from the possessed man the  people of Gadara feared Jesus and begged him to leave their coasts (Lk. 8.37).

This first church was an awe-inspiring church. They took the church seriously because they recognized God was there! (See Acts 5:13).

The people in Jerusalem were not in awe of their facilities, equipment, sound system, choir or church program, but they were in awe of the supernatural character of the life of this church.

Signs and wonders were designed to draw attention to spiritual truth. (Acts 3.6-9). The ability to perform miracles was not given to all but to the Apostles and their closest associates (Acts. 8.13, Heb 2.3-4). Miracles confirmed Apostles as God’s messengers. Today we determine who speaks for God by comparing their teaching with God’s revelation of Scripture.  To the church in Galatia Paul writes,

Galatians 1.8 … if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel… let him be accursed!

It was an attractive church (47b)

Their duties and their character granted them favor with the people (Gal. 5.22-23).  They were open about their faith so all could see and experience their transformed lives.

Mt 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

They evidenced a Spirit-filled life in their character and personal relationships that was extremely attractive.

It was a growing church (47c)

They were engaged in every-day evangelism. Evangelism flows from the life of a healthy church. People were continually being saved as they observed the daily conduct of these believers.

A Greek Philosopher by the name of Aristides wrote the following report to the King about fifty years or so after the events in the Book of Acts.  It is no wonder that the early church made a powerful impact in their world!

Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking have found the truth. For they know and trust in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From him they received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, and which they observe in the hope of the world to come.

For this reason they do not commit adultery or immorality; they do not bear false witness, or embezzle, nor do they covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and do good to those who are their neighbors. Whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man. Whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they in turn do not do; and they do not eat the food sacrificed to idols.

Those who oppress them they exhort and make them their friends. They do good to their enemies. Their wives, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hope of recompense that is to come in another world.

As for their bondmen and bondwomen, and their children, if there are any, they persuade them to become Christians; and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.
They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphaned from the person who does him violence. He who has give to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in God.

When one of their poor passes away from the world, each provides for his burial according to his ability. If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.
If they find poverty in their midst, and they do not have spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities. They observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah, living honestly and soberly as the Lord their God ordered them. Every morning and every hour they praise and thank God for his goodness to them; and for their food and drink they offer thanksgiving.

Such, O King, is the commandment given to the Christians, and such is their conduct.

(Apology of Aristides, Translated by Rendel Harris, 1893)

Are you a Christian? Does Christ live in you?  If Christ lives in you then you are part of the church! He is producing the fruit of His character in you.

If you have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that you need to become a Christian, you can become one right now!  Like these people in Jerusalem you may be saying, “what shall we do?” (37b)

Repent of your sin, and receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior! (38,36)  A person is not saved by praying a prayer, but often the decision to receive Christ is expressed in prayer.  Cry out to Jesus right now, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Download pdf of A Model Church for a Modern World

Getting A Handle On A Love That Never Fails


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On April 6, 2000, Ricky and Toni Sexton were taken hostage inside their Wytheville, Virginia, home by a fugitive couple on a crime spree. Toni had taken her poodle outside when Dennis Lewis, 37, and Angela Tanner, 20, roared into her driveway, pointed pistols at her, and yelled at her to get back inside the house.

Inside the house, the Sextons turned their hostage experience into an opportunity to demonstrate Christian love. The Sextons listened to their captors’ troubles, fed them, showed them gospel videos, read to them from the Bible, and prayed and cried with them.

During negotiations with the police, Ricky Sexton refused his own release when Lewis and Tanner suggested that they might end the standoff by committing suicide. The standoff had an unusual ending. Before surrendering to the police, Angela Tanner left $135 and a note for the Sextons that read: “Thank you for your hospitality. We really appreciate it. I hope he gets better. Wish all luck & love. Please accept this. It really is all we have to offer. Love, Angela and Dennis.”  (Citation: Gary Yates, Roanoke, Virginia; source: The Roanoke Times (4-8-00), p.A-1)

Genuine love has a power to overcome the greatest obstacles!

But what is it? The world is very confused about love: Everyone is searching for it but few actually know what it is. A quick scan of  the famous Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations reveals that poets, writers and authors have used the word “love in over 1300 different ways!

Think of how we use this word:

  • “I love you!”
  • “I love my jeans!
  • “I love my dog!”
  • “I love reading.”
  • “I love my kids.”
  • “I love music.”
  • “I love your hair!”
  • “I love chocolate”
  • “I love horses.”
  • “I love my husband”
  • “I love my iPhone…

What in the world are we talking about?

Well let’s be clear on what we are NOT talking about!  We are not talking about what the world refers to as “love”.  The world markets a selfish version of love that says, “I love you because you give me pleasure, stop giving me pleasure and I will stop loving you.”  To the world, love is generally thought of as something you get.  There was a Greek word used in the day of the New Testament that had such a negative connotation that it did not even make it into Scripture.  That is ‘eros’ from which we get the world erotic.

We are also NOT talking about ‘storge’ the love that we have for our family – the kind of love a parent has for a child.

There is a famous city in the USA named after another kind of love that we are also NOT talking about!  Philadelphia is known as ‘the city of brotherly love’. The Greek word ‘phileo’ refers to the love shared between good friends.

We are trying to get a handle on a different kind of love.  A love that supersedes sexual love, familial love and friendship love.  In fact the love we are looking at today makes all of these others work as God intends.  The love being discussed in our text in 1 Corinthians 13 is ‘agapeo’ and it refers to God’s love. This is a love that moves us to respond to someone’s needs without any expectation at all that we will receive anything in return.

A world without love is a messy place:  Our world is a mess because it does not know what real love. A Christian who has received God’s love and forgiveness are supposed to live in that love and live out that love in their relationships.  Yet sometimes its not that way is it?

Love can grow cold because of the influence of sin and evil around us. Jesus said, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

This had happened at Corinth. Instead of being God’s salt in Corinth, these Christians were being flavored by the culture around them. Instead of penetrating Corinth with a spirit of godliness, Corinth’s spirit of godlessness was penetrating the Church.

They were infected by materialism, pride, antagonism, selfishness, compromise, indulgence, hatred, sexual immorality, jealousy, and virtually every other sin imaginable.

Of all their failures, their greatest failure was a failure to love. Just as love covers a multitude of sins, the lack of love causes a multitude of sins and that is was what was happening in Corinth! So Paul tackles this issue of love and sets the record straight.

LIFE WITHOUT LOVE IS NOT REALLY LIVING (13:1-3)

Paul begins by pointing out that spiritual gifts, achievements and great acts of sacrifice are no substitute for love.

Eloquence without love is nothing more than a distracting nuisance. It is said that Adolph Hitler moved a nation by eloquence and amazing rhetoric, resulting in the death of 6 million Jews during WWII.

“but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head” Ephesians 4:15

Great prophetic ability without love is nothing… and it is with wisdom and faith.  Without love as the foundation for the exercise of these spiritual gifts they are nothing!  Without the love of God we minister the powerlessness of a dead faith to a dying world.

Amazing acts of benevolence without love when totaled up equal zero! We might throw a little money at the less fortunate now and then, but if that is not motivated by love it is a waste.

Even martyrdom has no value if it does not flow from love.  We live in a world where nearly every week we hear of a suicide bomber martyring themselves for a religious cause!  Paul is saying its all nothing! There is not profit, no usefulness.

LET’S GET CLEAR ABOUT HOW LOVE BEHAVES (4-8)

The problem in Corinth was not that the church lacked spiritual gifts, they had them all!  The problem was that the exercise of their gifts were not springing from love! Paul does not define love for the Corinthians, instead he shows them how true love behaves.

He lists 15 descriptions of how love behaves:

  1. Love suffers long (4).  Love is very slow to lose patience. It is not easily irritated, angry, and does not have a quick temper.
  2. Love is kind (4). Love does not withhold good when it is has the power to do it. (Lk 6:27-35, Eph. 4:32). As a young teenager, my mother was working a minimum wage job, my dad was in and out of jail and the mental hospital.  Some person unknown to me till this day went and paid my school fees so that I could attend a Christian School.  That is the kindness of love!
  3. Love does not envy (4). Envy is the uneasiness of mind caused by the consideration of a good we desire, but someone else has. If you have heard the fairy tale of Snow White you remember the queen would ask her magic mirror everyday, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all?” “You are most fair beautiful queen.” One day when the step-daughter, Snow White was grown, the mirror replied, “O lady queen thou still art fair, but none to Snow White can compare.” Queen sought to kill Snow White.  That is how envy responds… and love does not envy!
  4. Love does not parade itself (4). It does not seek to make an impression or create an image for personal gain. We live in the day of PR agents and selfies on Facebook!  Love doesn’t try to create an image.
  5. Love is not puffed up (4).  That simply means that love is not self-centered. It does not expect life to revolve around itself. (Gal. 5:13)
  6. Love is not rude (5). Love has good manners and is respectful of others. Love shows this respect regardless of the differences that we have with other people.  They may not be from our culture or speak our language, or have the same understandings or values that we have, but love shows them respect!  Parents we are to teach our children to be respectful of all.  How do your children speak to the hired help?  Love is never rude!
  7. Love does not seek its own (5) Love does not pursue selfish advantage over the other. A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’ Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”  And it’s not just Kevin… we talk about this being a “dog-eat-dog world!”  In business we are not to seek selfish advantage over others.  If our product is for their benefit then by all means convince them to buy and use it, but love never misrepresents the benefits in order to gain advantage over someone.  Pay a fair price for a product or service.  How can we pay our hired help below standard wages and say that we love?
  8. Love is not easily provoked (5). It is not easily angered, touchy. John Wesley said that being provoked is “The very first rising of disgust at those who injure you.”  Love doesn’t get provoked easily!
  9. Love thinks no evil (5). Love does not keep account of past wrongs. It does not review wrongs which have been forgiven.  Love does not jump to negative conclusions about others, it chooses rather to believe the best until proven otherwise.
  10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity (6).  Love doesn’t compare itself with others in order to justify itself. It doesn’t say, “everyone’s doing it.” (Mt 7:13-14)
  11. Love rejoices in the truth (6) Love is glad when truth prevails.
  12. Love bears all things (7). It knows no limit to its forbearance. It has the ability to live with the inconsistencies of others.
  13. Love believes all things (7). It knows no end to its trust in God toward the other person.
  14. Love hopes all things (7). It has perfect confidence that God is responsible and in control of the actions of the other.
  15. Love endures all things (7).  Love has unlimited endurance. It is able to endure all obstacles and love in the face of unreturned love.

THE SUPREME QUALITY OF LOVE IS THAT IT NEVER FAILS (8-12)

Why does love never fail?

Because God never fails – in all of His attributes he is perfect, unfailingly consistent!

Because Christ never fails. Those who He loved, He loved to the end, to death (Jn 13:1, Eph. 3:17-18)

Because the Spirit never fails: Romans 5:5“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”.

God’s love won’t cave in when unexpected storms come (Mt. 7:27-28). Human love reacts to the situation, God’s love is built upon the rock, it won’t fall. Marriages are failing because they are built upon the world’s kind of love.

THIS LOVE IS GREATER THAN EVERYTHING ELSE (13)

Because this love is what God is!

1 John 4:7,8. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Because love enables us to keep all the rest of God’s commandments.

“Jesus said to him,” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:37-40.

Because love is what identifies us as Christians to a watching world.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.

How can this love be active in your life?

  1. Receive God’s love and forgiveness. Love is impossible apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior by repenting of your sin and believing in Him?
  2. Recognize your lack of love as sin.

    ““Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4,5.

  3. Choose to obey God’s command to love. Love is a constant choice to obey and serve!  For that we need God’s Spirit empowering us from within!  Daily walking in close fellowship with God so that His unlimited and everlasting love flows through us to everyone we come in contact with.

Philip Hunt

Download a pdf copy of Getting A Handle On A Love That Never Fails