405:  Come and Die

405: Come and Die

In his classic book, the Costs of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the teaching of Jesus in this one phrase:  “When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die.”  That’s die to self.  Die to our dreams.  Die to our reputation.  Die to our wants and rights.  Die to our families, friends, and future.  And die to our very lives.

We see Jesus continually calling men “to forsake all and follow Him” (Luke 5:11)  Consider the following.

Matthew 16:24-26 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Note the order.  First, there is the desire to “come after” Jesus.  This is followed by the list of conditions to “deny” yourself and then visibly and publicly show others your self denial by taking up your cross.  And finally, after the conditions are met, the desire is fulfilled.  Only then does Jesus say, “follow Me.”

Which raises a few questions.  Do you follow Jesus?  Have you died to yourself?  If so, in what way?  Can others tell?  Are there areas in your life you have refused to die to?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

Do you want to know more about what it means to follow Jesus?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:19-25.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

404:  Do You Enjoy God?

404: Do You Enjoy God?

When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob’s well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5).  It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him.  God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”

Which, as usual, raises a few questions.

What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally?
And what does true worship look like today?

One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:

Question:  What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

Did you catch that?  We glorify by enjoying Him forever.  So, do you enjoy God?  Do you love your time with Him?  Is that time the highlight of your day?  Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 4:23-34.

To download the slides for the message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

396:  The Holy Spirit in the Early Church

396: The Holy Spirit in the Early Church

Trying to live the Christian life in the flesh is exhausting and, quite honestly, impossible.  But that’s how many believers live today.  They start out well, full of hope and empowered by the Spirit, and then digress into a life of flesh, pride, and reliance on human wisdom rather than the wisdom of God.  But the early church shows us the “abundant life” Jesus promised those who follow Him fleshed out in real time (John 10:10).

And it’s all based on faith.

Look at the faith involved in the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful.  Question:  Whose faith is the agent God uses to perform this sign and wonder?

Acts 3:6-7 – Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

Note what happened here.  Peter had something that he was able to give to the lame beggar.  What was that?  And how did Peter know he possessed whatever he possessed?  And the healing took place, not when Peter spoke the affirmation, but when he “took him by the right hand and lifted him up” (Acts 3:7).  That’s faith.  But whose?  The beggar’s?  Not really.  It was the faith of Peter.

What does this mean?  And what can we learn about exercising our Spiritual gifts in the world today?  Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 3:1-10.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

For the last couple of months I have been preaching about the Holy Spirit and His gifts, focusing on John 14 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, but specifically on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  We have asked the Lord to show us what these gifts mean, are they all still operating in the church and, if so, what does that look like today?  That’s right, we’ve dealt with all the controversial topics that tend to divide the body of Christ: second filling, baptism of the Spirit, Cessationism vs. Continuationism, the five-fold ministry, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, the role of apostles and prophets, if any, today, what is a word of knowledge and word of wisdom, and all the other crazy, scary stuff.  It’s been quite an eye opening experience to see, not what I was taught in Seminary or grew up believing in a Southern Baptist church, but what the Scriptures actually teach regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in His church back then, as well as today.

Naturally, in the course of this study on the Holy Spirit, we moved to the Acts to see how this was played out in the early church in real time.  Last Sunday we preached about Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-39) and the amazing results of a 297 word message, excluding Scriptures, that was empowered by the very Spirit they received a few verses earlier (Acts 2:1-4).  The Promise of the Father was given (Acts 1:4), and 3,000 people joined the 120 in faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

What an amazing day that must have been.

But now what?  How do these 3,000 new believers, many from areas outside of Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-11), grow in their new faith?  What are they to do?  Where do they go?  How do they learn?  There would be so many questions each of them had.  Where would they go to find the answers?

If they returned back home to Egypt or Rome, for example (Acts 2:10), who would disciple them?  Who would teach them truth from error?  They would be the only ones in their country that had received salvation as evidenced by the giving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  No one carried the light of Christ to their families and friends but them.  No one was to speak into the darkness but them.  They were alone.  Uncertain.  Literally babes in the midst of Jewish wolves.  By returning home they were, in effect, being sent out as missionaries to tell others about the new life found in Christ— the Christ whom they knew nothing about other than what Peter had preached, and what they were just now discovering for themselves.

It was a recipe for colossal failure.  Much like sending an eight year old to convince an atheist University professor of the validity of the New Testament text.  They were vastly outgunned and woefully inexperienced in the things of Christ.  They needed a time to grow, to mature, to understand what just happened to them.  They needed time to come to grips with their faith in the Lord Jesus, and what that faith meant from that moment forward.


A New Home

So, most likely, many of them stayed.  Where else were they to go to hear about the “wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

Once, after Jesus proclaimed His unpopular, politically incorrect truth about the kingdom of God that offended the half-committed, many of His followers “went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:65).  Jesus had been telling them about the all-consuming relationship they were to have with Him.  This new life they had experienced, this born-again reality was not like going to the synagogue once a week to dance around their Jewish maypole, feel good for a moment or two, faithfully perform their religious duty, and then go back to life as usual.

This was different.

Religion tries to make us feel good about ourselves by following some man-made ritual that, at least on the outside, makes us look better than we were before— especially when we compare ourselves with ourselves or with others who are struggling like us.

But this was different.  Completely different.

What Jesus came to bring was a totally new life.  The old man, our old life, is not rehabilitated or made better, or less offensive, by Christ’s sacrifice.  He is put to death.  Dead and buried.  Just like Christ.  Jesus sees nothing in us worth bringing into the new life He’s purchased for us (Isa. 64:4).  Nothing.  So all of the old man, the pride, fear, lusts, wants, desires, religion, rights, needs, literally everything— dies.  Everything gets buried.  Everything rots.  And the new man, what Paul later called the “new creation” in Christ, is born again (2 Cor. 5:17).  Born anew.  Born from above.  Resurrected to a new life (Rom. 6:4), created in the image, or likeness of God (Eph. 4:24), and secured by the indwelling presence of God Himself— in the person of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).

This was a message the religious crowd in Jesus’ day, and in our day, finds offensive.  So they left Him to find another guru that was willing to teach what they wanted to hear, about how to have Your Best Life Now!

Look at the question of Jesus and the answer of Peter.

John 6:66-69 – From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Exactly.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

This was the same sentiment those who came to faith at Peter’s sermon most likely had.  Why go back home?  Back to what?  People who don’t know what I now know, which is next to nothing.  Everything has now changed.  I’m a new man.  I see things differently.  And I now have needs I didn’t even know existed before.

“Lord, I need to grow in my faith.  I need to understand more of You who re-created me into something new.  I need to know what Your will for me is now.  Where am I to go?  What am I to do?  I need to learn how to hear Your voice and recognize when You speak.  I need to be taught how to pray?  I want my faith to grow.  I want to understand the gifts the Spirit has given me to exercise for You.  Lord, I need to spend time in Your presence and at Your feet.  There’s so much I don’t know.  So much that seems confusing to me.  Lord, if I may, these other believers are now my family.  And this, Your church, is now my home.”

And so they stayed.


They Continued Steadfast

Notice what happened next.

Acts 2:42 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

But there is so much more here than we read on the surface.

Do you want to know how these new believers spent the rest of their lives?  Do you want to find out what made them the kind of people that turned the world upside down in the span of a few years (Acts 17:6)?  Do you think we, as the church, can learn anything from the life they forged for us with the Spirit?

I do.  But that’s something we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to discover together.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

392:  The 240 Hour Prayer (and Fasting) Meeting

392: The 240 Hour Prayer (and Fasting) Meeting

When the 120 met together after the ascension of Jesus, there were some logistics we often overlook when considering their 240 hour prayer meeting (Acts 1:14).  For example:

What about food?
Did they go home to eat several times a day?
Did someone have food catered in to them?
Did they go to Wal-Mart or McDonald’s daily?
Did their family drop off lunch bags each day?
Or did they go on an extended fast?
And if so, what was that like?

I believe it was a time of prayer and fasting— and not just prayer alone.  After all, that’s what Jesus expected them to do (Matt. 6:16-18).   Which raises one last question: What can fasting do for me today?  Or, why should I fast since fasting seems to be passe in the church today?  Consider the following:

Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life and make you a channel of revival to others.
In summary, fasting opens up your spirit in ways that are hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Have you ever considered adding fasting to your prayer life?  You should.  You really should.

The following is a study on Acts 1:12-14.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

387: What is the “Baptism of the Spirit”?

387: What is the “Baptism of the Spirit”?

The baptism of, or with, the Holy Spirit is defined as:

“The Baptism of, or with, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God coming upon the Believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own, but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.”

But this just raises more questions for us to ponder.  For example:

What does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Is it a command from God?
Is it something we should actively seek?
What does it look like?
How is it obtained?
And is it even Biblical?

Want to know more?  Then keep listening as we discover the truth about this controversial subject.

The following is a study on being Baptized with the Holy Spirit.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25