August 11, 2013 Ephesians 4:1-6  Listen
Personal maturity is the substance of unity in the local church.
August 4, 2013 Ephesians 4:1-6  Listen
Christ has made the church spiritually one; joyfully, let it be one!
July 28 2013    Listen
July 21, 2013 Judges 19  Listen
This morning we will see what happens when we replace what is "fitting" for what God commands in our personal lives.
July 14, 2013 Ephesians 3:14-21  Listen
The enjoyment of unseen spiritual realities prepares our hearts for unified daily living in God's glorious church.
Pastor's Notes:
Our Personal Resolve (verses 10-11).
Verse 10 starts with a purpose clause: “so that.”  Paul reveals another reason why we engage in Gospel ministry.  We demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God to an audience of holy angels.  The angels Paul talks about here are angels whose righteousness was confirmed when they did not fall with Satan.

The word “manifold” means very varied.  The same Greek root is used to describe crystals in assorted shapes and colors.  Christ, who is Wisdom, made Jew and Gentile one in Him.  God has shown His impartial wisdom in saving us miraculously, and placing us together in the body strategically and beautifully. 

There is something about the Gospel that angels cannot understand without watching it at work in us.  The church has the responsibility to do something even Creation and the human conscience could not do.  It is the responsibility of every member of the body, not just a select few. 

Lest we think this is a periphery purpose, teaching the angels contributes to the glory of God.  It thrills God’s heart when a local body ministers to His angels in this way.  They report back to Him and praise Him on our behalf when we live to do God’s will.  This should be an encouragement to us!

Our purpose fits right in with Jesus’ purpose.  Jesus’ purpose was to save all those the Father gave Him, so that they would spread His name through the whole world.  He was perfectly and entirely successful!
Our Honorable Devotion (verses 12-13).
Our personal devotion to God strengthens the spread of the Gospel.  It starts with right relationships, and those in turn are strengthened by our personal devotional life.

“Boldness” means the freedom to say anything and “tell all” to God.  We have liberty of speech, with no reliance on self, when we engage with our Father in prayer.

We also have “confident access” to God.  Jesus has made it possible for us to approach God through faith.  In that environment, we gain a confidence to go out and be a testimony to others.

Paul repeats that his sufferings are on the Gentiles’ behalf (see Ephesians 3:1).  Paul’s sufferings are the Ephesians’ glory because God is always glorified when His people persevere.  We should take this perspective instead of being distracted by others’ tribulation or giving up.
Application Points
  •  Every time you do a good work that God re-created you to do, the angels sing praise to God.  Do you give the angels cause to sing? 
  • There is no other way for them to learn how the mystery of the Gospel works beside watching you live it out in the church.  Does your life teach them joyfully and accurately, so they can bring a good report back to God?
  • If we’re not relating to each other well in our homes or our church, that affects our outside witness for Jesus Christ.  Take an evaluation of your relationships – with a spouse, parents, children, siblings, and your brothers and sisters in the church.  Are any of your relationships hindering your Christian testimony or that of the body corporately?  What do you need to do to make that right, for the sake of the Gospel? 
  • Regardless of the degree of a difficult situation, God’s people persevere.  This brings glory to God – when you abide under the pressures of life in a faithful way, therefore showing the flock and demonstrating to your own heart and the angels before God that you are indeed familiar with the manifold wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.  If you are in a difficult situation – keep persevering!
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12 – Angels investigate how sinful creatures are made into worshippers.
  • Luke 15:7 and 10, Matthew 18:10, 1 Corinthians 11:10, 1 Timothy 5:21, Hebrews 1:14 – Other ways our behavior affects angels.
  • John 17:21 – Jesus’ purpose.
  • Ephesians 6:19 – Paul’s prayer for confidence in evangelism.
  • Luke 18:1 – The only New Testament use of “lose heart” outside of Paul’s writings.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “He Leadeth Me”
He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me;
by his own hand he leadeth me:
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.

Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden's flowers bloom,
by waters calm, o'er troubled sea,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
content, whatever lot I see,
since 'tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
when, by thy grace, the victory's won,
e'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
since God through Jordan leadeth me.
Quotes to Ponder:
“The church becomes the mirror through which the bright ones see the glory of God.”
“We should desire to impress pure angels who offer praise to God when glorify God by how we love each other and together spread the Gospel [in] God’s way.”
July 7, 2013 Ephesians 3:14-21  Listen
The enjoyment of unseen spiritual realities prepares our hearts for unified daily living in God's glorious church.
June 30, 2013    Listen
June 23, 2013 Judges 17-18  Listen
This morning we will see what happens when we replace what is "fitting" for what God commands
June 16, 2013 Ephesians 3:10-13  Listen
We have adequate, divine resources to fulfill Christ's mission in a way that honors Him.
June 9, 2013 Ephesians 3:7-9  Listen
We have adequate, divine resources to fulfill Christ's mission in a way that honors Him.
Pastor's Notes:
Paul continues discussing the resources available to Christians in service of the “mystery.”  What was not formerly understood by everyone is now revealed: God offers the Gospel to all the world.  Paul’s focus shifts back to his person for these verses – but he is also describing you!  All members of the new, unified Christian family have a responsibility to carry out the mission.

Our Third Resource: Giftedness and Enablement
God gives each Christian a gift at salvation and enables them to use it in the spread of the Gospel.  Paul’s understanding and use of his own gift instructs us in three areas:
Two phrases reveal Paul’s demeanor.  He says, “I was made a minister.”  The word “minister” meant a waiter of tables, which was considered one of the lowest jobs in that culture.  This word is also translated “deacon” and “steward” in the New Testament.  We know Paul had a great influence on the church both then and now through his missionary journeys and penning two-thirds of the New Testament.  Yet he defines himself in the most humble role.

Paul calls himself “the very least of all saints.”  Even in the church, he considered himself last.  God is impartial, and He expects us to be impartial.  When we walk in to church, neither degree, car, clothing, job, house, or socio-economic status matters.  We should consider ourselves last in the line as we are humbly involved in ministry.

Yet Paul’s humble manner never led to inactivity.  In the Bible, humility is a response to receiving grace that we don’t deserve.  It compels us to dedicate our life in service to the Gospel.

You lose your spiritual effectiveness when you lose the spirit of servanthood.
Paul’s giftedness was a grace given to Him by God at the moment he was born again.  You too were given a superhuman ability to support the spread of the Gospel.  The source of this gift is God and His grace, and our use of it is empowered by God.

We use our gifts to minister to people within the context of the local church.  But internal service is not the ultimate end.  Exercising our gifts strengthens this body, which magnifies God’s glory, and allows us to spread the message of Christ beyond the church.  Everything we do is for this purpose.
Gifts are given “according to the working of [God’s] power”.  This is the same power that Paul experienced firsthand in Acts 9.  It is the same power that we experience when we are born again.  How much miraculous power did it take to change your heart and the direction of your life?  The same power carries us along and enables us to work out our gifts.
Paul’s gift was “to preach” and “to bring to light” – proclaiming and revealing the message of the Gospel.  Paul’s desire was to use his gift to expose the riches of Christ’s wealth to those who hadn’t seen it yet.  There are multi-faceted layers of beauty in the Gospel to enjoy.  We don’t want anyone to remain in the dark!

Paul makes a Creation reference to reveal spiritual truth.  God has shed spiritual light in our heart, and now we are a tool for Him to do the same for others. 
Application Points
  • There is a very unique way God has designed you to support the local ministry of this church.  Do you know what it is?  If not, work with a discipler to find out!  
  • When you know how God has gifted you, start ministering!  Our job is to live out our days in obedience to the ability God has given us.  Every day, you can learn a little bit more about how God has designed you to serve the purpose of the Gospel.
  • Do you take every opportunity to shine the light of the Gospel?  Every Christian has the ability.  Each is included in the family’s purpose, and is expected to carry the message of the Gospel to the world.  Are you doing your part?  Do you live a unique, joyful, and purposeful life in front of your family, coworkers, and neighbors?  This is our reasonable service – it’s just what we do when we have experienced the power of the Gospel.
Tools for Further StudyCross References to Explore: 
  • 1 Peter 4:10-11 – the unique purpose of spiritual gifts.
  • James 1:17, Genesis 1:3, Psalm 19:1-6 – God is the Creator of light.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4-7 – We are light-bearers in a dark world.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Lift High the Cross”
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod --
Our King victorious, Christ, the son of God.
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conqu'ring ranks combine.
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

O Lord, once lifted on this glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw men unto Thee.
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Set up Thy throne that Earth's despair may cease
Beneath the shadow of its healing peace.
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

For Thy blest Cross, which doth for all atone,
Creation's praises rise before Thy throne.
Lift High the Cross; the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Quotes to Ponder:
“Then and now, the man who is genuinely called by God is in constant danger of losing his effectiveness by coming to think of himself as more than a servant.  When he loses his sense of servanthood, at that same time, he loses his spiritual power and influence.”
“Paul recognizes that the dramatic intervention that transformed him from being an enemy into a friend of Christ was nothing less than an act of divine omnipotence.”
June 2, 2013 Ephesians 3:1-13  Listen
We have adequate, divine resources to fulfill Christ's mission in a way that honors Him.
Pastor's Notes:
Ephesians 3:1-13 is a “parenthesis” in Paul’s letter that redefines the content of 2:11-22.  It clarifies what we’ve been given in the mystery of God.  This mystery is essentially taking two separate entities, Jew and Gentile, and making one family out of all who own Jesus Christ as their Lord (1 Peter 2:9).  The single purpose of this one family is to let the whole world know about Jesus (John 17:20-21).

The Second Resource: The Proposal of the Gospel
The tense of the verb “revealed” in verse 5 indicates a past event but emphasizes the present.  This gives it a sense of urgency.  Every Christian should have an urgency that comes from God’s Spirit to spread the Gospel. 
Paul carried a divinely urgent message, that there are no more barriers between Jew and Gentile.  This was as revolutionary as Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech, and in fact more so because it had eternal spiritual implications!  This received understandable resistance from the Jews, who had ignored many Old Testament notices that the Messiah would also come to the Gentiles (see Psalm 72, Isaiah 11:10, and Isaiah 49:6 for examples).  As Christians, we should be exclusive in our message (only Jesus can save) but never exclusionary in who we share the Gospel with or welcome to church. 
God’s Gospel proposal is that all are invited to His new family.  As fellow heirs, all are welcomed into the same legal status before God.  As fellow members, all are linked together in normal church life with every other soul that is in Christ.  Many believe that Paul coined the word he uses here for “members,” to describe a new type of relationship that had never existed before!  The word “partakers” combines the two ideas.  All are joint sharers of the promise and the gift; all are on the board of directors. 
Application Point
There is a reason that God put you in His family and this church.  You have an eternal purpose here.  You should expect to reproduce yourself spiritually and to help others do the same, to get connected with the family.  There is no greater joy than to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world!

  • Are you pursuing the one purpose of the unified family God has created? 
  • Have you committed to pray to win one soul for Christ this year? 
  • What intentional steps is God leading you to take toward that goal?

Tools for Further Study
A Hymn to Encourage: 
“Chosen as His Children” by Paul Keew, text drawn from 1 Peter 1:1-2:10.
Chosen by the Father’s mercy, set apart to serve His Son,
Sanctified by His own Spirit— Praise the Holy Three in One!
Saved by resurrection power, shielded in His faithful love;
Now no enemy can tarnish my inheritance above!
I’m born again!
I’m God’s own chosen child of mercy!
Born again – what love and grace!
Father, keep me walking worthy
‘Til I look upon Your face.
Led by wisdom into suff’ring, grieved by many trials below,
Yet rejoicing in His purpose, that my faith as gold may glow.
Granted faith for overcoming, filled with love for Christ unseen;
Even angels cannot fathom what salvation God will bring!
Fixed upon this hope completely, as obedient children fear;
For the Holy One who called you purchased you with blood so dear.
Born anew from seed eternal, by His lovingkindness spurred,
Lay aside all tasteless yearnings— crave the true and living Word!
Built on Christ, the sure foundation, we are free from guilt and shame;
He is fitting us together as a house to praise His name!
We are chosen as God’s people, called from darkness into light;
O what mercy now entreats us to proclaim His glories bright!
May 26, 2013 Ephesians 3:1-13  Listen
We have adequate, divine resources to fulfill Christ's mission in a way that honors Him.
Pastor's Notes:
Just as a soldier’s backpack contains everything they need for survival and execution of their mission, Christians have been given adequate resources by God Himself.  As God’s soldiers, we are properly prepared to survive in the field of Christian service.

Ephesians 3:1-13 is the next paragraph in this letter.  We see the same phrase in verses 1 and 14, “for this reason.”  The verses in between are in effect a parentheses in which Paul reiterates many ideas from 2:11-22.  Paul repeats himself often, and it is not a flaw in his writing – we never understand a doctrine fully the first time we hear it.
The first resource to be a Gospel influence in our culture is our own person.
Paul calls himself “the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” not of the Romans, by whose orders he was under house arrest.  He knew that God controlled all his circumstances, and he was always looking for spiritual opportunities.  One author says, “This speaks of Paul’s perspective.  Perspective is everything as Christian Gospel soldiers.  God ordains the twists and turns of life, and within His governance, He weaves into the fabric of the dilemmas divine opportunity.”

Our Lord would never put us in a circumstance where we are useless to the Gospel.  He is already ahead of us and supplying for us.  If we would just be aware and pray for discernment to see the opportunity, He is ready to use us.
We are never prisoners of our circumstances.  They are always overseen by our Sovereign Lord, and even within hardship, there is always opportunity for Christ.
Paul endured affliction for the sake of others.  We need to see fellow believers take advantage of God’s grace as they endure affliction, and our faithful lives are always for the glory of God and so others may see how capable God’s grace has been through our perseverance.
A person of the Gospel must take a biblical view of authority.  Those who are in leadership need to pay special attention to adjust their heart toward biblical authority.  In the framework of Gospel ministry, there is spiritual unity within divine structure. 

Paul views his time to serve the Lord as a gift which he must steward wisely.  The authority is not his own, but has been given to him by God for the benefit of others. 

Any person governed by the Spirit of God dislikes pulling the authority card, and any Spirit-governed person loves, embraces and follows God’s authority structure, so long as the leader is following the Lord and adhering to Scripture.  No one is exempt from authority; everyone follows someone and everyone is leading someone.
Application Points
  • Assess your own person and heart.  What is your attitude towards affliction in your own life?  Do you consider your circumstances to be of God?  Do you pray to see the spiritual opportunities that God has prepared for you in every situation?
  • Examine your affection.  Are your works for the glory of God and for others, or are they to gain attention for yourself?  Are you affectionately demonstrating towards God’s flock the greatness of God’s grace in your life?  Have you allowed a situation to sideline you from active duty?  What adjustments do you need to make?
  • Is your heart in alignment with biblical authority?  Do those who know you best see you submit to God-ordained authority with joy?  Are you attending to your personal gifting and ministry within that structure?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • 2 Peter 1:15, Mark 4:1-25 – the importance of remembering, reviewing, and continued learning.
  • Colossians 4:1-4 – always looking for spiritual opportunity for the Gospel.
  • 1 Peter 5:4-7 – humility under God’s hand.
  • Philippians 1:1-14 – Paul’s afflictions always resulted in the furtherance of the Gospel.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-15, Colossians 1:24-27 – Paul endured hardship for others’ benefit.
  • 1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 4 – Paul’s authority.
  • Hebrews 13:17 – God’s people joyfully submit to biblical authority.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “May the Lord Find Us Faithful”
God has not given us the spirit of fear,
But has given us the strength to obey
With power and sound mind, with love, the unfailing kind.
O be not ashamed of His way!
May the Lord find us faithful;
May His Word be our banner held high.
May the Lord find us faithful
Every day, thought we live, though we die.
No man that seeketh after things of this life
Is a soldier who passes the test.
Be faithful, be working, be running, be serving,
Be searching His Word for His best.
Living or dying, may honor be Thine.
From this wretched life, You loved and forgave.
A life that is on fire, be only our heart’s desire.
Be faithful from now ‘til the grave.
May 19, 2013 Ephesians 2:11-22  Listen
From alienation to restoration.
Pastor's Notes:
In this passage, Paul applies the truths from verses 1-10 to a specific problem in the church he wrote to: disunity among those who were already made one in Christ. 

Main Sections:
We were always Enemies of God (verses 11-12).
The Ephesian church experienced two types of alienation.  The first was communal estrangement:  The cultural community of the Jews had great disdain for Gentiles, but this was not to be the heart of those Jews who were now Christians. 

Spiritual:  The Gentiles had been “separate from Christ,” with no true King to govern them.  They had been “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” not part of God’s plan for Israel.  They were “strangers to the covenants of promise” given through Abraham and David.  They had “no hope” because true hope only comes from God and through His promises.  They were “without God in the world.”
We are now a Spiritual Family in Christ (verses 13-18) .
When we are saved, we’re placed into God’s family together with all other people who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, regardless of culture, nation, or background.  We no longer want to be defined by what we came from.  We are all loved the same; there is no favoritism with God. 

Two virtues become realities in the family of God: a settled heart and a new environment.  Note how many times “peace” is used in these verses.  God’s intent for His family is not just proximity but togetherness.  This word for “new” refers to something of a different kind.  When God takes both Jew and Gentile and makes them one, it is something the world has never seen before!

As members of God’s family, we enjoy a new environment in prayer.  What a privilege it is to talk to God as a father!  We could never have access to God without the mediator of Jesus Christ or the Spirit who underpins the ministry of the Son. 
Three Metaphors for our Restoration (verses 19-22):
Citizens of a Heavenly Realm – We are no longer primarily Jews, Gentiles, Americans, or any other label.  We are Christians and have a higher citizenship (Philippians 3:20).
Members of a Divine Household – God wants us even closer than citizens of His kingdom.  We are called children of God along with Christ.
Stones in God’s Temple – Christ is the chief cornerstone; the Word given through the prophets and apostles forms the foundation; and each stone is fitted together and perfectly arranged according to God’s blueprint.
Application Points
  • Where do you place your identity?  Is it located in a social or cultural group?  How can you find your identity in Christ above anything else?
  • Labels from our past don’t matter anymore when we are saved.  Is there any enmity in your heart towards a fellow believer?  Ask the Holy Spirit to work His unity in your heart so you can work it out in our local church.  This is God’s design for His people!
  • Prayer is a privilege to be exercised privately and together.  Do you make regular, focused time to talk with your Heavenly Father?  How can you practice this in your life?  Do you meet with your spiritual family to pray?  God ordains the local church to sustain us spiritually.  Praying together is crucial to our unity as a body.
  • Each stone in God’s Temple is precisely placed and expertly fitted.  That means God puts you exactly where you are for a reason!  Our placement is not of our own will but God’s, and He has a divine purpose for you here.  Do you know it?  Are you living it out?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • James 2:1-7, Colossians 3:19, Philippians 4:2-3, Acts 15:37-39, 2 Timothy 4:10, Matthew 18:15-20, Galatians 6, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – Sinful separation even in the church and how to resolve it.
  • Romans 2:28-29, John 4:1-42, Romans 4:9-12, Ezekiel 11:19-20 – God cares not about externals but the heart.
  • Genesis 12-15 – God’s covenant promises to Abraham.
  • Jeremiah 31 – The new covenant.
  • Psalm 146:5 – Hope comes from God’s promises.
  • Romans 1:19-20 – Gentile separation from God.
  • James 4:1-3 – The source of disunity is sin.
  • Isaiah 9:6 – One of Jesus’ names is Peace.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5 – Jesus as our Mediator.
  • Hebrews 4:16, Romans 8:15 – We too are sons with Christ.
  • Hebrews 2:11, Romans 8:17 – We have been taken into God’s household.
  • Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22-23, Matthew 21:42 – God’s Temple.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Like a River Glorious”
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed,
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
May 12, 2013 Various  Listen
Mother's Day Message
May 5, 2013 Ephesians 2:1-10  Listen
Living Contrasts: From Death to Life in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
The Greek of this passage only contains 2 sentences, divided into three sections.  Last week we looked a sober and fair assessment of lost people in verses 1-3 and introduced the jubilant initiative of God in verses 4-7.  This week we will continue with the second section and look at the outworking of our response to God’s grace.

Section 2: A Jubilant Initiative of God (verses 4-7).
The main subject and verb of this passage is “but God … made us alive.”  This literally means He gave us life.  He regenerated us at conversion, takes us from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.  Just as Christ was physically dead because of our sin and made alive in His resurrection by the power of God, so we too are also promised a physical resurrection from the dead, and in Christ’s life we are spiritually made alive if we turn from our sin and place our faith alone in Him.

God does this by his grace (repeated in verses 5 and 8).  Grace stands opposed to any idea of human work to earn or deserve salvation.  It is God’s free and unearned favor given to those whom God chooses. 

This grace is an enduring grace that will last through all future ages.
Section 3: The Christian’s Divine Consistency (verses 8-10).
Reports on charitable contributions reveal that there are a lot of “do-gooders” in our culture.  Sadly, most of these probably give in hopes of making it to Heaven because of their good works.  This has been the pitfall of religions since the Fall.  The burden of getting yourself to Heaven is truly an agony; we will never measure up to one another, let alone a holy God.
The Bible teaches that faith and grace are inseparable twins, both worked in one’s heart by the Lord alone.  Instead of working to earn God’s favor, we must trust the good work of One, Jesus Christ. 

This new reality of being alive in Christ transcends natural explanation.  God’s purpose was to create a new humanity out of Jew and Gentile.  In this realm, human works count for nothing; only Christ’s work is sufficient to save.

As God’s supernatural workmanship, we are re-created to do multiple good works (verse 10).  We now do these naturally as a demonstration of grace, not to earn grace but because we already have God’s favor.  Our good works are always for the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All these works are underpinned by God’s grace and not our own effort. 
Application Points
  •  Are you a “do-gooder”?  There is nothing wrong with charitable giving, unless you are hoping to earn Heaven with it.  God’s grace is something we will never earn, but it has been freely offered to everyone through Jesus Christ.  Will you turn from your own works and throw yourself fully on His mercy?
  • As a Christian, created and re-created by God, why are you in this world?  It is not merely to stop living in sin, but so that others may see your divine consistency and glorify your Heavenly Father.  Whether you are working hard at your job, caring for your home, or anything in between, everything you do is attached to a divine opportunity.  Do you remember that as you go about your busy life?
  • Life in our culture is exhausting.  Does your strength come from your own effort or God’s grace?  Divine ability will always support one pursuing a divine goal.  How can you flip your perspective and rely on Him this week? 
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Romans 3:23 – Summary of a sober assessment of the lost.
  • 2 Corinthians 15:22, Colossians 2:13-15 – Physical and spiritual regeneration. 
  • Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:15-17 – God’s grace.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – Faith, grace’s inseparable twin.
  • Psalm 19, Genesis 1 – God’s creation initiative.
  • 1 Peter 2:12, Matthew 5:16 – We do good works to advance the Gospel.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “How Firm a Foundation”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
April 28, 2013 Ephesians 2:1-10  Listen
Living Contrasts: From Death to Life in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
Paul often describes our lost state to set up a contrast with our new life in Christ. 
The structure of this passage reveals its main points.  The Greek only contains 2 sentences (verses 1-7 and verses 8-10) but three sections.  This week we will look at the first sentence, which outlines two different states of being: lost and saved, dead and living.

Section 1: A sober and fair assessment of the lost (verses 1-3).
Paul simply states the facts of the lost condition without any hostile attitude.  The truth is that a lost soul is like one wandering around aimlessly in the darkness and smut of sin, hopeless and in fear of death.  Any life outside of Christ is one of darkness, no matter how many good things one can do because we are made in God’s image.

Three powerful influences govern an unsaved life: the world, the devil, and the flesh.  The world is the age in which one lives. 

The devil or Satan is a definite spirit who is the prince of the world.  As ruler of a realm, he is leader of an organized structure whose purpose is to perpetrate evil.  Their influence is universal because their numbers are so great.  Satan is a powerful influence at work in all those who are disobedient to God. 

The flesh is one’s inner inclination to sin.  The unsaved person has no ability whatsoever to curb their appetite for sin.  There is some sin that they can’t help but constantly indulge, until God steps in.
A Note on God’s Wrath:
Many misunderstand God’s wrath, even among His people.  God’s wrath is not impersonal – He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked person (Ezekiel 33:11).  It is not vindictive – He punishes all the disobedient justly.  It is not unbridled or unrighteous revenge – He repays evil with a plan and rationality, after extending many opportunities to respond to grace (Romans 12:19).  It is not an outburst of passion.  It is not an attribute that’s outside of God – He is thoroughly wrathful just as He is thoroughly loving and merciful; He is not divided in nature.  A finite mind cannot explain it, but God’s wrath is never opposed to love and mercy.

Only a God who is purely wrathful can know and offer an antidote to “the children of wrath.”
Section 2: A jubilant initiative of God (verses 4-7).
The main subject and verb of this passage is “but God … made us alive.”  We also see the most important prepositional phrase of Ephesians – “with Christ” – repeated three times in these verses.  Our salvation had nothing to do with us.
God’s saving initiative originated in His own great mercy and love.  God acts out of His own kind nature.  God’s mercy or lovingkindness is His unwavering loyalty in love.  He is infinitely committed to what He has promised in Christ. 

At the moment we were born again, God gave us the complete ability to walk consistently.  We were made alive, raised up, and seated together with Christ, all at the moment of salvation.  We have union with Christ for all eternity.  Our resurrection and place in Heaven are guaranteed through Christ.
Application Points
Why should Paul review our former lost condition?  God knows our condition, our enemy, and our tendency to slip back into particular sin.  Reviewing what used to dominate our lives humbles us and reminds us that we cannot walk this journey alone.  Because we wrestle with spiritual forces of darkness, we need help from the right spiritual force: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). 

Are you struggling with assurance of your salvation?  Review your fellowship with God: Have you been reading the Word?  Praying?  Worshipping?  Are you connected to a discipler and the body of Christ for accountability?  Correct these things so that Satan will not have his way and hinder your growth!
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Jeremiah 17:9 – No one knows their own capability for wickedness.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Satan seeks to blind human eyes to the Gospel.
  • Romans 5:12-14, Romans 8:6-8 – Everyone is born with the flesh, making it impossible to please God.
  • Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:17-31, Colossians 3:5-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – ‘Big’ and ‘little’ sins are listed as equal.
  • Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Jonah 4:2, Micah 7:8 – God’s kind and gracious character.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by Thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.
April 21, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 — Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ.
Pastor's Notes:
Paul continues to pray for believers’ understanding of who they are in Christ to increase.  As we pray the same for each other, it will be answered because it is the revealed will of God!  God is very proud of His Son.  He loves and longs for people to know more about His Son, and to keep learning more of Him forever.

A bamboo shoot can grow amazingly fast, but it takes 2 years developing an extensive root system before it even sprouts.  So it is with our Christian growth – the more rooted we are in knowledge of our Savior, the more stable and consistent our growth will be. 
Three Things to Pray that We Would Grow in Knowledge Of:
God’s Method of Saving Us (verse 18).
To understand our riches in Christ, we need to know more about the reality behind theological words like election, predestination, and foreknowledge (verses 3-14).  Stability comes with the spiritual nourishment of ever-deeper learning in Christ and resulting growth.

“The hope of your calling” – The Holy Spirit effectually calls people to repentance and salvation.  Your hope is as certain as your salvation is sure. 

Your spiritual strength will atrophy if you don’t exercise your mind on who Christ is and what He’s done for you.  We will spend the rest of our lives learning about everything that happened to us at the moment of salvation.  There is more to learn about our riches and inheritance in Jesus Christ than there is in a 1600-page tax textbook, and ours never changes!
God’s Supremacy (verse 19-20).
The words power, working, strength, and might are used as synonyms in this context to underscore how powerful God in Christ is to save you.  It is a transforming power that not only saves but gives you the ability to stand out in stark contrast to a dark culture.  Tempting desires lose their appeal when you are walking in the Spirit.

No one can imagine or explain how much power it took to raise Jesus from the dead.  It is a surpassing greatness of power.  We are so amazed and grateful for the privilege of experiencing resurrection power at work in our own lives.
The more you know about Christ’s power in you, the more stable, joyful, and hopeful you will be, and the more positive impact you’ll have on those you are leading.
God’s Person (verses 21-23).

God exists far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion.  These are four more synonyms in this context.  Later in the book, the same words are associated with demonic influence (Ephesians 6:12).  Jesus’ name is greater than anyone in our present culture or any evil power that will reign during the Tribulation age to come.

Christ is given to the church as her head.  We have been given a complete saturation of Christ; we can never be more full of Jesus than we already are. 

Strange as it sounds, Jesus can’t live without us.  A Head can’t exist without a body.  What is a Shepherd without sheep?  What is a Vine without branches?  What is a Bridegroom without a bride?  And we certainly cannot live without Him.
Application Points
  • Meditate on the myriad of blessings we receive in Christ through prayer.  We have been granted access to God’s throne room and the full attention of our Creator.  We learn God’s will through prayer and receive grace to do it.  Let these realities incline your heart to pray more.
  • Pray for this church and the believers around you to grow in their knowledge of who they are in Christ.  This is a prayer God longs to answer.
  • The less we know of our Savior, the more inconsistent and unstable our growth will be.  Is your life characterized by stability, joy, and hope?  Have you found yourself trapped by a particular sin?  The answer is found in praying this prayer and continuing to learn of Christ.  Regardless of your position in this spiritual journey, you need to keep learning and growing!  How can you increase your knowledge of Christ, His salvation, and surpassing greatness, this week?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
John 17, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 18:1 – Reasons to pray.
Ephesians 5:11, Galatians 5:16 – God’s power to protect us from the unfruitful works of darkness.
Matthew 28:17-20 – The purpose of Jesus’ power being given to the church.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “My Faith Has Found A Resting Place”
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed.
I trust the ever-living One;
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt.
A sinful soul I come to Him;
He’ll never cast me out.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
April 15, 2013 Judges 13  Listen
During the time of Samson in the history of the nation of Israel, God's merciful providence even superintends His people's lethargy.
April 7, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
Paul continues his prayer that we started looking at in verses 15-16.  In these verses, his prayer turns from thanksgiving to request for the Ephesian believers, that they would continually understand more of all they were given in Jesus Christ the moment they were saved.
This morning, we looked at 2 of the 3 things that Paul wanted the Ephesian believers to understand:

The Greatness of Gods Salvation Scheme (verses 17-18).
The Hubble telescope recently discovered the most distant light from earth known to humanity: it is 13 billion light years away, or 13 billion times 6 million miles.  This is humanly incomprehensible and awe-inspiring.  But Scripture tells us that our value and who we are in Christ is far more incomprehensible than that!

We will spend all of eternity continuing to learn about the riches we have received in Christ.  Paul’s prayer is that we at least begin this process now.  All believers, whether newly or long- saved, weak or strong, have the same measureless inheritance in them.  As we grow in knowledge of these riches, that is how we mature in the faith.  We got all we needed of Jesus at salvation; now we go out and live in His strength. 
Paul prays for “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation.”  What do each of these words mean?  It’s important to know that this is properly translated “a spirit,” meaning a disposition or attitude.  Wisdom is applying biblical knowledge to life, and revelation is a grammatical synonym here indicating God’s Word.  Paul prays that believers would be inclined toward learning and living wisdom through God’s revelation.
Verse 18 mentions “the eyes of your heart.”  In Pauline language, the heart referred to the center for knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom.  He is not talking about the center of the emotions.  Information and doctrine must come first, and then joy will follow through doing what you know.  Emphasizing primarily emotions is dangerous.
The phrases “the hope of His calling” and “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” refer to the riches listed earlier in Ephesians 1:3-14.  The only way you will even begin to thoroughly learn these is through personal study of your own; attending church, even 4 times a week, will simply not do it.
The Greatness of God’s Supremacy (verse 19-20).
Synonyms in these verses are power, working, strength, and might, which we will explain more next week. 
God’s supremacy is shown in the resurrection, our miraculous salvation, and how God’s people live distinct from the culture. 
Application Points
  • How spiritually mature are you?  Our ability to walk with God has everything to do with how much we study Christ, and the only way to do that is through the Bible.  How consistently are you in the Word?  How can you improve your personal Bible study?
  • How much do you know and understand of the riches of inheritance that we have in Christ?  Again, this happens through personal Bible study and additional learning outside of regular church services.  Consider taking a GLBI class this year to aid your own study.
  • Does your life show that you live in resurrection power?  In a secular workplace or educational environment, how are you distinct?  Pray that you would understand and live more and more of God’s surpassing power.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Matthew 5:3 – a disposition of Christians.
  • 2 Peter 1:3 – There is nothing we face spiritually that God hasn’t already equipped us for in Jesus Christ.
  • Luke 24:31-32 – The disciples’ hearts burned when hearing information, but they couldn’t understand the significance without the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.
 A Hymn to Encourage:  “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”
All hail the power of Jesus' name! 
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all. 
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all. 
O that with yonder sacred throng
we at his feet may fall! 
We'll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.
March 31, 2013 Acts 3:15  Listen
The Prince of Life
March 24, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
March 17, 2013 Ephesians 1:3-14  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 2 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
You may not have a million dollars waiting to be claimed by you, but Christ has something of indescribable value with your name on it.  Our passage today may be the most exhaustive description of the value of our salvation in Scripture.  Though these spiritual blessings are outlined as experienced in the past, present, and future, they all came to us at the moment we believed. 

Introduction (verse 3)
The word “blessed” means “good word” or “good praise.”  This passage is a hymn of praise to God.  We give back to God in our worship because He has given so much to us.  All the blessings of our salvation are sourced in God’s grace and come from the Spirit.
The Riches of God’s Grace in Eternity Past (verses 4-6).
Before He created the earth, God chose those who would be among the saved.  This word is the same used of the choosing of Israel.  God’s election is always linked to God’s kindness in Scripture; it is never associated with harshness.

God’s choosing had a moral aim, to be holy and blameless as a reflection of God Himself.  This can only happen when we are declared holy.  Praise the Lord, the ethical demand was put on God’s Son who did live a perfect life in our stead, and through Him we become acceptable to God.  When we get His DNA, we can’t help gradually becoming more like Christ as we grow.  Then we can meet the ethical demand to be holy for all who believe.

God’s adoption puts us into His family as a child who shares equally in the inheritance.  We are co-heirs with Jesus, and all the riches available to Him are ours as well!  This right is exclusive for those who are in Him.
The Rich Spiritual Blessings of the Present (verses 7-12).
We presently enjoy super-abundant riches that we have been given.  We have a “star-studded salvation,” with bright, shiny, sparkly layers of blessing far beyond what we deserve.
A new ruler in our hearts because of redemption.    We have been granted forgiveness and keep on being forgiven.  Recognition of God’s limitless mercy should evoke endless praise.

Lavished with abundant riches.  God’s gifts are always generous.  He gives us wisdom and insight through His Word to see and know things as they are.  The believer should never be stumped by how to act in a situation.  God’s will is no longer a mystery.

We anticipate a reign with Christ.  In the Millennial Kingdom, believer-saints will reign on Earth with King Jesus.
God’s Eternal Rich Blessings for the Future (verses 13-14).
These blessings are predicated on one requirement: that one listens and believes.  According to Romans 10:17, you must hear the Word of God and by faith surrender your heart to the truth.

The Holy Spirit certifies our future blessings as an engagement ring promises a future marriage.  We are sealed with the Spirit, showing the authenticity and authority of God’s work in us.  The Spirit is the first installment in our inheritance that we will enjoy for all eternity.
Application Points
  • There is simply not enough time to detail all the facets of the spiritual blessings in this passage.  Study verses 3-14 in depth on your own time with a good Bible commentary.  Your soul will be encouraged!
  • This passage is a doxology, a song of praise to God.  As you reflect on the myriad of spiritual blessings He has given us through salvation in Christ, respond to Him in worship and praise!
  • If you struggle with your security in Christ, take comfort in God’s choosing and adoption of you.  God must finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6).  Have you been acting as if your salvation was based on your own behavior?  If you could work your way into salvation, you could work your way out – but we do not earn our salvation; it is a free gift of God and irrevocable.  
  • If you are being discipled, you should naturally be becoming more like Christ in your character and behavior.  Do you find you cannot live an increasingly holy and blameless life?  Search your heart and ask God if you have been truly born again.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Matthew 7:13-14 – God chose a smaller number taken out of a larger group.
  • Hebrews 9:11-14, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Ephesians 5:25b-27, 2 Peter 3:14, Jude 24 – Christ is the spotless Lamb, and we will be blameless like Him.
  • John 1:12, Romans 8:17 – the incredible blessings of adoption.
  • Colossians 1:12-14, Galatians 3:29 – believers will reign with Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 – the pledge of the Holy Spirit.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Jesus, I am Resting”
Jesus I am resting, resting in the Joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

O how great Thy loving kindness, vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous Thy goodness, lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise, and have made it mine.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings; Thine is love indeed!
Ever lift Thy face upon me, as I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory, Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting; fill me with Thy grace.
March 10, 2013 Ephesians 1:1-2  Listen
Investigating our Eternal Foundation, Part 1
Pastor's Notes:
Why is the church glorious?  Because she has a glorious head, foundation, and shepherd – Jesus Christ.  When the church is promoted as a marketing tool of social good and philanthropy, she is robbed of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and His power to save.  God’s grace is what makes the church glorious.

Three Glorious Components of the Church:
Godly Leadership (verse 1a)
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul is allowed to write his name first in the letter.  This isn’t merely epistolary convention; there is a purpose and a lesson for us to learn.  As an apostle of the early church, Paul demonstrates characteristics necessary in any church leader.

Separation – Church leaders (those given the pastor-teacher gift) are to be separated unto God in conversion, in character, in mission and purpose, and in education.  Pastors must first of all be saved and transformed by God’s grace.  They must have a passion for the mission to which God has called them.  And they need an education that enables them to effectively carry out that mission with integrity.

Preparation – Paul doesn’t cite his education, nomination by others, or his own ambition to be an apostle.  His authority came from the will of God.  Just as salvation is accomplished not by our own will but by God’s drawing us to Himself, so are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit at the same moment.  This is not only true for leaders – we are all ministers by the will of God!  There are no superstars in the church.
Holy People (verse 1b)
Consecration – Paul wrote “to the saints in Ephesus.”  In the New Testament, saints are simply those who believe in Christ; and if you believe, you are a saint!  God’s grace changes everything about you from the moment of salvation.  You will not act perfectly immediately, but positionally, God sees you as holy through His Son.  We now live out the consecration He granted.  As we do so in our social, academic, political, and former religious relationships at a specific location, the Gospel can’t help but change the culture.

Unification – “In Christ Jesus,” the most important phrase in Paul’s writings, is repeated 23 times in the 6 chapters of Ephesians.  All believer-saints are placed in union with Christ at the moment of salvation.  As the hymn says, “In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.”  We are forever perfect in the eyes of God in Christ.  When this doctrine is not taught, salvation is cheapened and growth is a struggle.
Divine Resources (verse 2)
Grace and Peace – These are ours at conversion and have their source in God.  As He is eternal, an endless supply of these blessings will always influence our lives.  There is no spiritual or practical circumstance we face that is insurmountable, because our resources are from God Himself.
All 3 members of the Trinity are involved in giving us grace and peace.  The peace Jesus promised in John 14 is the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 1:2 names “God the Father” to evoke the stable and restful environment a good father provides for his family.  Paul also mentions all 3 names of “the Lord Jesus Christ,” the mediator of our peace with God. 
Application Points
We must learn doctrine in order to live properly.  How can you apply what we learned today in your daily life?
  • Are you a saint? that is, have you believed in Christ?  How are you living this out in the culture?  What is your spiritual gift?  How are you using it to edify the body of Christ at your local church?
  • Read through the book of Ephesians and pay attention to uses of the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent.  What can you learn about our union with Christ?  Especially if you struggle with getting back up after failure, find encouragement in your forever-favored status with God through Christ.
  • If grace and peace have already been given to us through salvation, we really don’t need to pray for more!  Try changing your prayers to ask, “Lord, give me a better understanding of how capable your once-for-all-given grace is.”  A little change in wording can have a huge impact on your spiritual growth and peace, as you remind yourself of the resources already available to you!
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Colossians 1:18, 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4 – Christ is the head and foundation of the church.
  • Acts 9 and 13 – Paul’s separation and preparation.
  • Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:3-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11 – passages on spiritual gifts.
  • 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Peter 1:16-17 – the Gospel changes a culture.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13 – We are spiritually baptized into the body of Christ when we are saved.
  • John 13:1 – God’s grace is forever capable to nurture our soul.
  • Philippians 4:7, John 14:16-27 – God’s peace and the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5, Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 7:25 – Jesus Christ the mediator.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Arise, My Soul, Arise
Arise, my soul, arise!
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead.
His blood was shed for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
They strongly speak for me.
Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!

The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of His Son.
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

I now am reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And Father, Abba, Father, cry.
Quotes to Ponder:
 “Peace belongs to the stream of spiritual blessings which issues from the fountain of grace.  This peace is the smile of God as it reflects itself in the hearts of the redeemed – the assurance of reconciliation through the blood of the cross – true spiritual wholeness and prosperity.  It is the great blessing which Christ by His atoning sacrifice bestowed upon the church.”
March 3, 2013 Ephesians  Listen
The theme of the book of Ephesians is The Church Glorified.
Pastor's Notes:
At Grace Church of Mentor, you will primarily hear expositional preaching of a whole book in its parts and not many topical series.  We preach this way because:

  • It cultivates the discipline of starting and finishing.
  • It helps God’s people sharpen their interpretation skills through learning context and hermeneutics in order to apply truth to the culture.
  • It reveals each person’s spiritual strength and weakness
  • It strengthens spiritual maturity.
  • It protects the flock from wolves within and without.
  • It helps us to systematically focus on truths mentioned in other places in the Bible.

Our next series will study the book of Ephesians, but first we need to cover some overview information.
Background: Paul’s Introduction to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-20:38).
Paul first visited the city of Ephesus, to whom he would write the letter of Ephesians, at the end of his second missionary journey.  Aquila and Priscilla, two quality teachers, accompanied him.  This couple stayed there though Paul had to leave quickly.

On Paul’s third missionary journey, he stayed in Ephesus for 3 years.  He taught first in the synagogue, then in the city’s academic center.  As a result, all the residents of the surrounding area, Jews and Greeks alike, heard the Gospel.
Ephesus was a strategic city in this part of the Roman empire, surrounded by 230 independent Roman communities to which the church in Ephesus could spread the Gospel.  The rest of the book of Acts and Revelation 2-3 show that the church did just that!
The letter to the Ephesians was clearly authored by Paul: he identifies himself in the first verse, and it is characteristic of Paul’s writing in style and content.  Paul wrote it from prison, likely house arrest in Rome, and it was delivered by Tychichus.  While in prison, Paul received many visitors who ministered to him and to whom he ministered.  Epaphrus was one he trained who went on to plant 3 churches. 

There are some encouraging lessons here for faithful older saints!  Paul’s venue of ministry changed, but he still ministered to those who came to him and through writing.  Similarly, those whose ministry has been confined for other reasons can take lessons of spiritual creativity from Paul.  God never wants you to be idle in ministry.
Theme: The Church Glorious
Ephesians 1:3-6 describes the spiritual riches we have been blessed with in Christ.  Solely by grace, God bestows these blessings on both Jews and Gentiles to “the praise of the glory of His grace.”

A sub-theme is oneness or unity (1:10, 4:1-4).  In a world deeply divided both politically and religiously, there still remains the opportunity of unity in Christ among God’s creations.

How is the Church glorious?  It happens by the transformational grace of God in our hearts.  He cleaned us up from the inside out!  We have has been gloriously redeemed, and by the grace of God, are called to live that glory in the culture. 

The culture of Ephesus was not much different than ours, concerned about various social problems and seeking solutions.  It’s okay to help the culture socially, but that is not the culture’s greatest need – our greatest need is the removal of guilt and removal of the lifestyle of sin.  As people’s souls are led out of darkness and pessimism through Christ, our feet are now directed to multiple ways of righteousness and joy.
Typical of Paul’s writing, chapters 1-3 deal with the Gospel, doctrine, and positional truth, while chapters 4-6 expound how to live out truth in the culture.

Hendrickson outlines Ephesians using an acrostic of the Greek word for “Blessed” or “praise” in 1:3.
  • Eternal Foundation We Have in Christ (chapter 1)
  • Universal Scope of God’s Redemption (chapter 2)
  • Lofty Goal (chapter 3)
  • Organic Unity that God brings to His body amid diversity (chapter 4)
  • Glorious Renewal, the influence that salvation has on our lives personally, domestically, vocationally, and communally (4:17-6:9)
  • Armor Given by God (6:10-24)
 Similarities with other New Testament books:
  • Half of the 155 verses in Ephesians are echoed in Colossians.
  • Ephesians contains 16 similarities to the pastoral letters (1, 2 Timothy and Titus).
  • 12 similarities to 1 Peter
  • 10 topics also found in Luke and Acts
  • many similar themes to John’s writing (gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John, Revelation)
  • multiple similarities to Hebrews and James
Why so much repetition in the Bible?  Because we so easily forget.
  • Repetition and Remembrance grows us: A rehearsal of key doctrines and practices is necessary and healthy for any Christian and their growth.
  • It protects us and helps reinforce our defense against false teaching within and without.
  • It encourages us as we disciple new believers hearing it for the first time! (See Titus 2.)
Application Points
  •  It would be a great idea to read through the book of Ephesians in preparation for the series.  Take 1 chapter a day and you’ll read the entire book this week!
  • The more humans try to reform themselves or society, the darker the culture gets.  Where do you need to repent of self-sufficiency?  Is there an area in your life that you’re trying to change without the power of God?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Deuteronomy 6, Exodus 14-15, Deuteronomy 7:12-21, 2 Peter 1 – Israel’s forgetfulness and the importance of remembering.
  • Ephesians 1:22, 1:23, 4:4, 4:16, 5:23, 5:30, 2:19-22, 5:22-27 – 8 mentions of the Church.
  • Ephesians 2:12 – culture of Ephesus.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “To the Praise of His Glorious Grace”
What astonishing mercy and power:
In accord with his pleasure and will
He created each planet, each flower,
Every galaxy, microbe, and hill.
He suspended the planet in space
To the praise of his glorious grace.

With despicable self-love and rage,
We rebelled and fell under the curse.
Yet God did not rip out the page
And destroy all who love the perverse.
No, he chose us to make a new race,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

Providentially ruling all things
To conform to the end he designed,
He mysteriously governs, and brings
His eternal wise plans into time.
He works out every step, every trace,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

Long before the creation began,
He foreknew those he’d ransom in Christ;
Long before time’s cold hour-glass ran,
He ordained the supreme sacrifice.
In the cross he removed our disgrace,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

We were blessed in the heavenly realms
Long before being included in Christ.
Since we heard the good news, overwhelmed,
We reach forward to seize Paradise.
We shall see him ourselves, face to face,
To the praise of his glorious grace.
Quotes to Ponder:
“The merit of helping society in these ways must not be underestimated, but it must not be over-estimated either.”
“Governmental totalitarianism is the tendency to look upon the state to provide for every need ‘from cradle to grave,’ with consequent loss of the sense of individual responsibility and initiative. Another danger is the misunderstanding of man’s basic need. That need is nothing less than the removal of the load of sin and guilt by which he, being born in sin, is oppressed (Ephesians 2:3).”
February 24, 2013 Ephesians 4:11-12  Listen
Genuine spiritual growth only comes as the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to people's hearts.
Pastor's Notes:
This week concludes our detailed look at Grace Church of Mentor’s mission statement: “Grace Church of Mentor exists to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and equipping the saints with the goal of Christ-likeness.”

Church should not be about appealing to the greatest number of people through style and programs.  The Spirit must draw souls to His church.  Our promotions must not focus on what we do more than who we are.  Church must first and foremost be about understanding and applying the Word of God.

Main Points:
Many churches are run on models not supported by the Bible.  The pastor is not meant to be merely a clergyman or to be a CEO; the pastor’s responsibility is to train the people in making disciples.  When a Scriptural model is followed, Jesus will build His church.  Every other model consists of man building a church.

Our appeal should come from being salt and light in our community.  If we have nothing more than an open Bible, with it being taught and applied so that every person increasingly demonstrates the character of Christ, that is enough.  Appealing to people’s felt desires is actually less loving than preaching the whole Scripture and living out complete obedience.

Chart: Three Different Types of Pastor
(For more information, see The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne.)

  Pastor as clergyman Pastor as CEO Pastor as trainer
Pastor is Preacher and service-provider Preacher and manager Preacher and trainer
Sunday is Service of worship Attractional meeting worshiping disciples with their Lord
Outside of Sunday Occasional service Range of events and programs Disciples reaching out to make disciples
Pastoral Care through Counseling and visitation Small group People ministering to people
Church is like A small corner store with one employee A department store with numerous staff  team with an active captain-coach
Results in Consumers in maintenance mode Consumers in growth mode Disciples in mission mode
*Chart taken from the Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne

One ingredient of maintaining unity in the church is the pastor-teacher equipping the saints.  The Greek word translated “equip” or “prepare” is also used to refer to resetting a broken bone.  Jesus heals and restores what has been broken by sin through His grace in salvation.  This process continues in the body He has assembled as pastor-teachers apply the Word of God.

Members of a local church should be learning, knowing, and warmly helping each other understand the Scriptures.  The “work of the ministry” in Ephesians 4:13 is the ability for every Christian to minister God’s Word to another.  How long does this last?  Until all can teach each other what God has taught them.

Training God’s people in the Word comes before all programs and style decisions.  A congregation that ministers the Word to each other will be able to discern the genuineness of leaders and is protected against being led astray.

Christians who are spiritually “a mile wide and an inch deep” are so because they have a shallow knowledge of Christ. Consequently they cannot live His character in a dark culture that overshadows their testimony. One clear way to reverse this condition is to be “built up” in the faith.

In our passage, pastor/teachers are to equip holy ones for the ministry of the Word, and while doing so, it becomes easy to deduce that saints will be “built up” and encouraged. The strengthening of the church through the building up of the body of Christ is always towards to goal of greater maturity in Christ. 

Application Points
  • When talking about Grace Church of Mentor with fellow Christians or unbelievers, how do you represent our appeal?  Do you talk about programs and style more than the centrality of studying and applying the Scriptures?
  • Are you learning to understand God’s Word and sharing it with others?  How can you put yourself in training to better know, understand, and pass on the truth of God’s Word?
  • Pray that our church would grow in this area.  Dig deeper into Scripture yourself, and practice transparency with members who can keep you accountable. 

Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  •     2 Timothy 4:3-5 – the danger for a congregation that doesn’t know the Scriptures.
  • Galatians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Hebrews 13:21, Matthew 4:21 – other uses of the Greek word for “equip” or “restore.”
  • Matthew 5:13-16 – Christians’ charge to be salt and light.
  • John 15:12-19, 2 John 6 – How Christians should love.
  • Matthew 16:18, 1 Peter 2:1-8, Romans 15:20 – building up the church.
  • James 5:16 – transparency among believers.

A Hymn to Encourage:  “How Firm a Foundation”

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

Quotes to Ponder:
Richard Baxter (The Reformed Pastor):   “It is but the least part of the Minister’s work, which is done in the Pulpit….to go daily from one house to another, and see how you live, and examine how you profit, and direct you in the duties of your families, and in your preparation for death, is the great work.”

February 17, 2013 Colossians 4:2-3; 2 Timothy 4:5  Listen
Prioritizing the Gospel through prayer, planning, and purpose.
Pastor's Notes:
It seems everyone nowadays wants to influence those around them for the sake of a philanthropic platform.  As Christians, we are to have similar influence in our immediate vicinity and globally for the Gospel.

Main Points:
Prioritizing Prayer:
Evangelizing the lost never happens effectively without the support of prayer.  Jesus told His disciples to pray for laborers to evangelize the lost (Luke 10:2) and prayed Himself for all who would believe in His name (John 17).

Why must evangelism be accompanied by fervent prayer?  Because the eyes of the unsaved are blinded to understanding God’s truth.  Opening a lost heart requires a supernatural transaction, a miracle done by God.
We saw last week that all members of the Trinity give an example of fervent action in commitment to the Gospel.  The apostles likewise prioritized evangelism (see Acts 15:7), and pastors are commanded to do the same.  But Jesus’ Great Commission was given to all believers, and we are all responsible to be evangelizing.

There have been 2 main enemies hindering personal evangelism:  Well-intentioned men who taught churches that evangelism is to be done by professionals, and reliance on methods as the proper way to evangelize.  All believers must evangelize in their own circles of influences, not relying on corporate outreach.  Our primary way to evangelize is not even inviting lost friends to church – first they must see a counter-cultural lifestyle, and we must speak to them of Christ ourselves!

Jesus intends for His people to be in the world, shining His light.  With much of our time dictated by commitments to work, family, and church, we have to deliberately plan opportunities to rub shoulders with lost people.
You must practice the doctrine of evangelism, or you will lose it. 
The content of the Gospel is the life of Christ and why He came.  We may not add anything to the Gospel in order to please other people.  We must guard the truth of the Gospel that has been given to the church.

Evangelism can be the hardest thing to maintain, but it is not an option – it’s a command.
Application Points
  • Much personal and corporate evangelism ends up fruitless because it has little to do with the activity of prayer.  How much time do you spend during the week praying for the salvation of specific lost people you know?  Who can you start praying for?
  • When is the last time someone asked you about your faith because of your testimony?  How can you shine the light of Christ for those you interact with?  Do you need to do more planning in order to rub shoulders with lost people?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • John 17:15,18 – Jesus wants us to be in the world.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Acts 16:14, Acts 26:16-18, Galatians 1:15-16, Romans 8:30, John 6:44-45, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Matthew 16:16-17 – The eyes of the lost must be supernaturally opened.
  • Acts 15:7, 2 Timothy 4:2-5, Ephesians 4:11-12 – Evangelizing is a responsibility of pastors and those with the gift of evangelism.
  • Matthew 28:19-20 – Evangelizing is the responsibility of every believer.
  • Galatians 1:3-12 – Protecting the truth of the Gospel.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – the content of the Gospel.
  • Luke 15 – Three parables about the power of one.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”
Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessèd Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long:
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

I know there’s a crown that is waiting,
In yonder bright mansion for me,
And soon, with the spirits made perfect,
At home with the Lord I shall be.

Quotes to Ponder:
Francis Schaeffer: “When believing prayer has been offered with expectation towards God alone, there has always been evidence of the power of God unto salvation according to His covenant promises. And when Christians cease to pray for lost souls, not only are the priceless results of the saving power of God hindered, but the individual believer has suffered unmeasured loss in his possible reward … when the prayer of intercession has for any reason ceased.  Prayer presents the greatest opportunity for soul-winning, and there is precious reward promised to those who bring souls to Christ and are found to be suffering with Him in His burden for the lost.”
R.B. Kuiper: “Only God Omniscient can accurately appraise the results of evangelism.  Only He can count converts.  When through mass evangelism, many come to profess Christ, only He who searches hearts and minds can judge how many of them possess true and abiding faith.  And when Robert Morrison, father of Protestant missions in China, after 28 years of zealous missionary endeavor, numbered about 10 souls to his efforts, only God knew in how many additional hearts His Spirit was about to begin or even had begun to work.  When at the gates of Damascus, God turned Saul of Tarsus, He knew that through the labors of that one convert, millions would be brought into the kingdom at the very end of time.  And when His own Son, dying the death of a criminal, concluded his earthly mission in what appeared to be complete failure and ignominious defeat, God knew that, lifted up on the cross, he would draw to himself from every kindred, tribe, people, and nation, a throng which no man could ever number.”
Recommended Resource: The Best-Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson
February 10, 2013 Ephesians 1:3-4  Listen
Our gospel disposition remains humbly and kindly purposeful.
Pastor's Notes:
As we continue to review our responsibility to evangelize the lost, we must remember that the Gospel is not just any good news, but the Good News of the Lord Jesus – eternally the son of God, who was born of a virgin and came for a purpose, who died for our sin, was buried, resurrected, ascended, and is coming again.
We now look at our Personal Humility that should accompany our Proclamation of the Gospel.

Main Points:

The Heart of the Godhead for the Gospel.
God’s heart behind the Gospel is revealed in many passages to be full of tender love and kindness (see our main passage above).  Anything that lets us understand who Christ is and enables us to accept Him comes from the kind intention of God’s will. Philippians 2:1-8 show Christ’s humility and the necessary action that resulted from God’s compassion.

The Holy Spirit’s continual ministry in the world involves conviction of human sin, Christ’s righteousness, and the judgment that results from rejection of Him.  Our gospel is incomplete if it is preached without including judgment.  We need to let people know so they can be prepared for eternity.
Our Humble Responsibility.
The Godhead went to extreme lengths to make us part of their family, and this is our example as we promote the same Gospel.  Even though our tendency is to relax after being saved awhile, our striving is to be intense.  Paul described it in terms used for athletic strain.  We do not work just to stay busy; we struggle and contend for the purpose of the Gospel.

In the New Testament, this striving is always done together, locking arms with others to pursue the same goal.  This is the design of the local church.  God is a genius strategist for the Gospel that is so close to His heart: He places churches to spread the Gospel, and He places individuals in specific churches for Gospel purposes.  That includes you!
Application Points
  • Love always seeks to give people in trouble a simple and thorough way out.  This is what the Gospel is: God loved sinners enough to present them with one way of complete salvation through Jesus Christ.  Have you accepted this simple truth and surrendered your heart in obedience to the Gospel?
  • If you have accepted the salvation found in Christ, you will be compelled to take action.  God’s love for humanity caused Him to make the journey from Heaven to Earth to the cross.  If you have God’s love within you, what action will you take to humbly share that love?
  • Are you striving for the sake of the Gospel?  Who have you locked arms with?  Do you need to tighten those bonds in order to have more Gospel influence through a local church?  This is the reason we are here!
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • 1 Peter 1 – a choir-piece of salvation.
  • Mark 1:14-15 – We must believe and place ourselves under the Gospel.
  • John 16:8 – the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction.
  • Philippians 4:2-3 and Phil. 1:27-30 – our struggle for the Gospel.
  • 2 Timothy 1:8 – We suffer hardships and endure adversity for the Gospel.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3-8 – consequences of not obeying the Gospel.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Jesus Saves!”
We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout it brightly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Recommended Resources:
God-Centered Evangelism by R.B. Kuiper
February 3, 2013 Romans 15:16  Listen
The primary way to demonstrate the glory of God to our culture is by living and sharing the Gospel.
Pastor's Notes:
Grace Church of Mentor exists to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and equipping the saints with the goal of Christ-likeness.
The Good News of the Gospel is simply the story of Jesus Christ and why He came to earth.  It cannot remain simply intellectual data.  We must believe it in our hearts and live it for everyone around us to see.
Last week, we saw that the verb forms of the word “Gospel” are used in the context of three various categories:
  • Proclamation
  • Personal Humility
  • Prioritized Activity

Here are three more uses that fit in the Proclamation category:
  • Preach – to give publicly for the purpose of demonstrating its uniqueness.
    Used in Galatians 1:11-17 and 1 Corinthians 15.
Everyone has a gospel that they believe will make them right with God.  But any gospel that doesn’t hold Jesus’ work as sufficient to save, even one that offers “Jesus plus” anything, is a false gospel.  Jesus is enough, or His life was all in vain.  Rejection of the true Gospel will incur eternal wrath.
  • Proclaim – nonverbal, to put on display through a lifestyle.
    Used in 1 Corinthians 9:14, 11:26.
The two ordinances of the church, the Lord’s Supper and baptism, are two ways that we publicly proclaim the Gospel.  Another is by your work ethic at your job.  Live the Gospel through your hard work, and you will earn the right to speak the Gospel.  You may need to live it for some time, but God will give you the opportunity to speak.
  • Saturate – literally translated “to fully proclaim.”
    Used in Romans 15:17-19.
Even if you are not an evangelist, the Gospel so saturates our person that it influences those immediately around us.  All who are closely related to you will know the Gospel.  This saturation extends throughout the globe as the worldwide church lives out its mission.  It starts with you!
Application Points
  • You must own Jesus Christ to be able to share the Gospel.  Until you do, you have no gospel to give.  Have you made the message of the Gospel your personal belief and not just intellectual knowledge?
  • How does your testimony show at your job?  Are you a hard worker?  Pray for God to give you opportunities to speak the Gospel as you live it through your conduct, even without words.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
            Galatians 2:2 – Jesus is enough.
            1 Peter 2, Ephesians 5, Titus 3 – a Christian work ethic.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “I Will Sing of My Redeemer”
I will sing of my Redeemer
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.
I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.
I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant power I'll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin and death and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer
And His heav'nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.
Sing, O sing of my Redeemer,
With His blood He purchased me;
On the cross He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt and made me free.
January 27, 2013 2 Corinthians 4:1-4  Listen
The primary way to demonstrate the glory of God is by giving the Gospel.
Pastor's Notes:
“Grace Church of Mentor exists to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and equipping the saints with the goal of Christ-likeness.”
The church’s commission to go into all the world and make disciples is not just a corporate responsibility – it is an individual one, and the primary responsibility of all Christians.  If we focus on corporate programs and events rather than on personal evangelism we have a backwards approach to the Gospel.  Making disciples is really a simple process: praying for the lost; meeting them; telling them they need Jesus; winning souls by a miracle of God; then training and equipping them to be more like their Savior.

The Gospel we give is also very simple: it is the good news of Jesus Christ – who He is and why He came, died, rose, ascended, and is coming again!  The Greek word for “gospel” is euangelion.  According to Vine’s Greek Dictionary, “In the New Testament, the Gospel denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith on the basis of Jesus’ substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.” 
The Gospel, in itself and when received by a soul, is a clear demonstration of the glory of God.  The glory we receive in Christ is personally transformational and counter-cultural.  The pain, fear, and lostness of life without Christ is turned to joy, peace, and purpose of a soul reconciled to God.  Once this miracle occurs in a life, the most unique and specific way we can carry the glory of God into our culture is by telling others the Good News.  It should be something we are eager to do!
The use of the word “gospel” in the New Testament falls into 3 different categories.  It is used in the context of our Proclamation of the Gospel, our Personal Humility while sharing the Gospel, and our Prioritized Activity regarding the Gospel.  Today we will look at the first category.
There are 6 different Greek words that describe how we proclaim the Gospel.  Just as Paul used different approaches for different audiences, we should pray for discernment to share the Gospel with the appropriate level of intensity for each situation.  Here are the first three ways:
  •  Herald – the public presentation of the Gospel, primarily done by pastor-teachers.  Used in Galatians 2:2.
  • Speaking – a conversational tone, just talking about Jesus.  Used in 1 Thessalonians 2:2.
  • Testify – a solemn warning.  Used in Acts 20:21-24.
Notice that only one of these methods is reserved for those with a pastor-teacher gifting.  Giving the Gospel is not only the pastor’s job or the church leaders’ job – every Christian is responsible to share the Gospel prayerfully, purposely, and personally.
Application Points
This aspect of our mission statement has a very simple and specific application: Are you carrying the Gospel into our culture?
  • If you are saved, you have a responsibility carry the Gospel.  Are there specific unsaved people who you are praying for?  Who in your immediate sphere of influence can you be a witness to, share the Gospel with, and invite to church to be discipled?
  • God’s loving heart is completely impartial; He longs to see all people receive the Gospel.  Does your concern for the lost mirror His?  Do you have any enemy who you wouldn’t tell about the Good News of Jesus?
  • Take some time to think about the content of the Gospel and its work in your own life.  Each Christian must guard against those who would seek to distort the Gospel, for the sake of your own growth and that of the church.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Matthew 28:19-20 – Jesus’ Great Commission to the church.
  • Luke 19:10, Mark 10:45, 1 John 2:1-3, John 1:29 – Why did Jesus come to earth?
  • 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 – Satan always seeks to subvert Jesus’ Gospel intentions.
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11 – the transformation worked by the Gospel.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, Daniel 12:3 – the priority of winning souls.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “O Zion, Haste”
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
To tell to all the world that God is light,
That He who made all nations is not willing
One soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.
Behold how many thousands still are lying
Bound in the darksome prison-house of sin,
With none to tell them of the Savior's dying,
Or of the life He died for them to win.

Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation
That God, in Whom they live and move, is love;
Tell how He stooped to save His lost creation,
And died on earth that we might live above.

Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious;
Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious;
O Zion, haste to bring the brighter day. 
January 20, 2013 1 Corinthians 6:19-20  Listen
If you know Christ, you are called and enabled to joyfully carry the weight of God’s glory in everyday life.
Pastor's Notes:
As Christians, our ultimate wish is to know that we please God, isn’t it?  The good news today is that we can know exactly how to do that.  If you own Christ, God is already completely happy with you because He sees Jesus’ righteousness in you.  The Christian life is about living that out every day.

Building on last week’s sermon, we now seek to make our knowledge of God practical.  How can we give glory to God?  No human glory is adequate to give to God; we must reflect divine glory.  But we learned that God’s glory is beyond human description, wholly other than anything we could understand or attain.  As with the shepherds who heard the angels’ announcement in Luke 2:9-14, our first response at God’s presence will be fear because we know we are apart from Him.  But God promises “peace to all who would believe” in His Son.  It is through Jesus that we can bring glory to God, the glory that He gives us by dwelling inside us.
The immanence of God’s glory means that it is near or looming.  Evidence of His glory is all around us because of His omnipresence.  God’s awe-inspiring creation is intended to let us know that we too are created.  But we suppress God’s glory and make idols from His creation instead (Romans 1:18-32).  It takes a miracle to bring sinful humans and divine glory together.  God graciously gives us the faith and repentance to respond to His offer of salvation through His Son.  Only when we have His glory and holiness imparted to us can we truly reflect glory back to Him.
The Bible is filled with ways to bring glory to God.  It simply means doing His will, which is revealed in the Bible, our manual for Christian living.  Our passage today gives one example of living in the will of God: by governing our natural desires.  The desire for food and drink and intimacy were given to us by God and are good and natural, but they have been perverted by the Fall.  We are to govern these desires and not be governed by them in order to glorify God with our bodies.  Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit have a divine occupant, and when we carry God’s glory, we have to live like Christ did.  God now owns us by right of redemption.
Application Points
  • In order to glorify God, you must have God’s glory.  Have you accepted Christ’s invitation?
  • To glorify Him, we must live God’s character publically.  This involves all aspects of life.  How do you spend your discretionary time?  Do you demonstrate Christ-likeness to your family?  Do you engage in all aspects of worship?  A life like Jesus’ will be counter-cultural.
  • Is there an aspect of your life where you have slipped back into unsaved habits?  Do you have an idol that consumes your time and distracts you from the Lord?  Don’t delay in making the needed adjustments – it is never too late to do right.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Revelation 4:11, Romans 1:18-23 – Creation reveals God’s glory, and man’s sinful response.
  • Exodus 15:11 – God’s glory is closely linked with His holiness.
  • Revelation 3:20-21 – Jesus’ invitation.
  • Galatians 2:20 – Christ lives in us and is our new lifestyle.
  • John 17:1-4 – glorifying God is doing His will.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11-20 – glorifying God with our natural desires.
  • Romans 6:1-18 – forgiveness does not give us license to sin.
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6, Colossians 3:5, Ephesians 4:23-25, Galatians 5:16-25 – more examples of how to live to bring glory to God.

A Hymn to Encourage: “O God, My Joy” by Paul Keew and Brian Pinner
O God, my joy, You reign above in radiant splendor and beauty.
Your Word has drawn my heart to love the awesome sight of Your glory. 
Your blazing Light and gospel grace shine brightly from my Savior’s face.
No other wonder would I see than Christ enthroned in His glory!

Sustained by joy in trial and pain, I trust Your wisdom and mercy.
Through suffering that Your love ordains, more like Your Son You will make me.
For Christ embraced the cross of shame, beholding glorious joys to come.
O give me faith like His to see that suffering lifts me to glory!

Compelled by joy, I fight the sin that turns my gaze from Your glory.
Your Holy Spirit dwells within; His presence arms me for victory.
Let death and hell against me rise; through death I’ll gain eternal joys.
All powers of hell will bend the knee before my great King of Glory!
January 13, 2013 Colossians 1:24-29  Listen
Understanding and living the glory of God is the ultimate goal of a healthy local church.
Pastor's Notes:
The next part of Grace Church’s mission statement is “to glorify God.”  Though we hear this phrase often, it is very daunting to define what that means.  What is glory? And how does it help us understand God and how we relate to Him?
God’s glory is infinitely mysterious at one level; many theologians find it impossible to define.  It is too active to be compartmentalized by human terms.  One author described glory as “the created brightness that surrounds God’s revelation of Himself.”  Jonathan Edwards found himself at a loss to put God’s glory in commonly understood terms and took volumes probing out its aspects.

God’s glory is primarily understood in Jesus Christ.  God has revealed Himself to us through Christ, the express image of the glory of God.  When we are right with Him, we are able to glorify God through the way we live by His word, being matured to know our responsibilities and what it means to please Him as His redeemed people.  This is doable, and it is a lifelong process to know and live the different aspects of bringing God glory.
The Old Testament word for “glory” is kabod.  We also find 7 synonyms for kabod and 18 more related words used throughout the Old Testament.  Those 7 close words boil down to 5 different definitions or aspects of God’s glory.
  1. Majestic – set apart, high and wholly other; full of perfection, superior; unequalled works accomplished by a universal king who does exactly as He desires.
  2. Kingly – aesthetic beauty; authority of His universal reign
  3. Throne – illustrious exaltation; there are no worthy contenders; He is the only true Ruler.  His glory is a fearsome sight to the wicked and inspires praise from the righteous.  No man can claim to share this glory.
  4. Splendor – perfect kingship, honor, universal and powerful reign; specifically refers to God’s creation reflecting His glory.  God is arrayed in splendor and the source of it. 
  5. Outstretched Arm – God’s strength used to help the needy, given to the humble to experience on a personal level.
The Hebrew word kabod is the most important term used for glory in the Old Testament.  Its literal meaning is “weight.”  This word can connote not only physical weight but metaphorical weights of difficulty, importance, wealth, or reputation.  It is also used to refer to the soul, the essence and whole being of a person.  In relation to God, this word shows that there is a depth to Him.  He has a weighty reputation and is “a great God deserving of honor and respect.”  His uniqueness will not be shared with any creature because it is “a necessary aspect of His existence and cannot be taken away.”  And yet God’s glory is much more imminent (among us) than transcendent (above and unreachable).
The most amazing aspect of God’s glory, repeated throughout the Bible, is His desire to share this unique glory with His own people.  He progressively reveals Himself through His presence, miracles, and promises of future deliverance.  His heart is one to give generously.  He has the Throne and the Crown, but gives thrones and crowns to His humble, chosen servants.  All the self-revelation of God is for the purpose of dwelling with humans and entering into a covenant fellowship with His creation.  How incomprehensible!

*Much of the above section was used from "A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God" by Philippe Paul-Luc Viguier 
Application Points
Today’s sermon consisted mostly of teaching, so take some time to soak in what we learned of God’s glory.  Dig deeper into the Scripture’s descriptions of God’s glory, and respond to Him in worship.  Recognition of God’s Lordship should lead us to praise Him and show our respect through right behavior prompted by right faith. 
Just like children are born with a desire to please their parents, every human has an innate question: How do we glorify and please God as our ultimate authority?  We can only relate to this pure and majestic God through His holy and majestic Son.  Have you come to the Lord Jesus on His terms?  Once you know Jesus Christ, He shares His glory with you positionally, and you are forever approved by God.  As you grow, you will progressively glorify God in whatever you do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Tools for Further Study
Key Cross References: 
            Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15 – Christ is the exact image of God.
            Psalm 149:4; Psalm 59:9-10, 18; Psalm 29:11, 1 Samuel 2:10 – God’s desire to impart His glory to His people.
            For complete cross references, refer to the sermon audio recording on the website.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Holy, Mighty, Worthy”

“Holy, holy, holy!”  Seraph choirs extol Thee.
Bending wings, they humbly sing of Thy lofty majesty!
Thou alone art holy!  Who on earth is like Thee?
Grant that we, like Thee, may be holy, holy, holy.

“Mighty, mighty, mighty!”  Sun and stars declare Thee.
All creation joins to sing of Thy pow’r and deity!
Thou alone art mighty!  Naught was made without Thee!
Grant that we Thy pow’r may see – Mighty, mighty, mighty.

“Worthy, worthy, worthy!”  Saints in heav’n exalt Thee.
Lamb, once slain, now raised to reign: Savior, Judge and conquering King!
Thou alone art worthy!  All was made to please Thee.
Grant that we in heav’n may sing, “Worthy, worthy, worthy!”

“Glory, glory, glory!”  We, Thy church, adore Thee.
Called by grace to bring Thee praise; trophies of Thy pow’r to save!
None shall share Thy glory!  All shall bow before Thee.
Father, Son and Spirit: One!  “Glory, glory, glory!”
January 6, 2013 1 Corinthians 12:12-14  Listen
You, as the church, are part of a dynamic family that exists for divine purposes.
Pastor's Notes:
Over the past few years, Grace Church of Mentor has had a theme to focus on each year.  Here’s a review of past yearly themes:
2006 – Every Member Motivated
2007 – Pleasing God, Not Man
2008 – Because God is Faithful
2009 – Our Certain Truth in Uncertain Times
2010 – Our Blessed Hope while We Live by the Word
2011 – Servants of the Gospel
2012 – Living Made Simple by the Gospel
This year’s theme will be “Standing, but Not Standing Still.”

Many Christians take right stands, but then become rigid.  You cannot obey the Scriptures and be idle.  As the first part of exploring this theme, we will be unpacking what Scripture says about the purpose of the church over the next few weeks.
Much thought, prayer, and study went into formulating our church’s mission statement to be in tune with God’s purposes for the church.  It reads: “Grace Church of Mentor exists to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and equipping the saints with the goal of Christ-likeness.”
Many churches in today’s American culture have purposes other than what the Bible sets forth.  The primary mission of God’s church is not social, political, or corporate.  Our message is not “positive thinking,” “feel-good,” or one that can be coupled with worldly living.  The Bible says nothing of these approaches to church.  The church loses its purpose and its message, the Gospel, if it defines itself.  It must be defined by the God who instituted it.  When the Bible defines the church, it retains its balanced and vibrant approach to her Scriptural calling and duty.
Here is a brief overview of the origin, nature, organization, and purposes that God has set out for the church.
Origin: The Greek word for “church,” ecclesia, refers to those called out for a specific purpose. 
The New Testament uses several metaphors for the church:
The Body of Christ – see 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 1:22-23
A Family – see 2 Corinthians 6:18
Vine and Branches – see John 15:1-11
The Pillar and Support of Truth – see 1 Timothy 3:15
God’s Building – see 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16, and Ephesians 2:20-21
A Holy Nation and Royal Priesthood – see 1 Peter 2:9
Salt and Light of the World – see Matthew 5:13-15, Colossians 4:5-6, and Acts 13:47
Nature: The church is divine in nature because God has established it.  Jesus prophesied its coming in Matthew 16, and Acts 2 records its birth. 

The church is identified as a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ made up of all born-again believers in this present age.  See Ephesians 2:11-3:6.
The head of the church is Christ.  See Colossians 1:18.
The church’s helper is the Holy Spirit.  See John 16-18.
The church is located in specific geographic locations in order to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  See Acts 14:23 and the openings of most epistles.
The church is both autonomous and interdependent.  Each local church is designed to be free from any external control or authority, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations.  Yet local churches with like faith and practice work together for the sake of spreading the Gospel.  See Titus 1:5, Acts 15:19-31, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
Organization: The church’s offices and qualifications are set out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  They are to be servant-leaders who win respect by their genuine character so the people are willing to follow.
The church’s primary function is to glorify God by worship.  The central focus is to be the preaching of God’s Word.  See 2 Timothy 4.
God has established ordinances for the church to observe, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  See Acts 8 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.
Christ gave His church gifts to be practiced corporately.  See 1 Peter 4:7-11.

Worship in song is to be reverent and holy, mirroring the character of God.  See Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5.
The church gathers for fellowship and prayer.  See Acts 2:41-44.
Each member is called to service and shares the responsibility to spread the Gospel to the world.  See Acts 20.
Purposes: The church’s purpose is simply to win souls and make disciples.

Every person who knows Christ is to be equipped as a disciple, to help others mature, and to evangelize. See Ephesians 4, Colossians 1:27-28, Acts 20, and 1 John 2.

The scope of the church’s purpose is to the local area first, spreading to the uttermost parts of the earth through planting churches and networking with others who can reach different areas.  See Acts 1:8.
It is human thinking that makes the church most complex.  Confine your thinking of the church to the simple outline in the Bible.  Mere success does not indicate God’s blessing; if we obey the Bible and success comes, then we know that Jesus is building His church here.
*Much of the above content was used from DBTS Syllabus notes on Ecclesiology and from, by Greg Herrick
Application Points
This may be a lot to absorb if you are new to church or have not been taught a proper understanding of its nature and function; but it is crucial information to know and live by as a Christian.  Prayerfully consider the following:
  • What is your understanding of the church’s purpose?  Where does this deviate from or agree with what the Bible says?  How can you correct your understanding?
  • Study through the passages listed above that define the church according to God’s standards.  Refer to chapter 7 of the Foundations discipleship book for more details on the origin, nature, and purpose of the church.
  • Pray that Grace Church of Mentor will hold fast to God’s divine purpose for the church.  Pray for the leadership to have clear vision and for the whole church to live out our purpose.  How can you be a part of this in the coming year?
  • Set aside 2 hours to read through the whole book of Acts in one sitting.  It contains the history of the early church, and you will learn much about its origin and purposes as well as be encouraged by how God works through His church.
 Tools for Further Study  Cross References are listed above.
A Hymn to Encourage: “The Church’s One Foundation”
The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
Elect from ev'ry nation, yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation – one Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with ev'ry grace endued.
'Mid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace for evermore;
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union with the God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.
Quotes to Ponder:
“There is a great need today to understand the essential nature of the church from what Scripture teaches and not firstly from the role some claim she ought to play in society.  We cannot continue to define the church existentially – that is, by the way she interacts with the world and the resultant changes she undergoes.  We must begin with the Word of God in order to get a sense of the kind of entity that she is, and from there we can decide on the kind of tasks she ought to be engaged in.”
Charles Spurgeon:  “I do not come to this pulpit hoping that perhaps someone will of his own free will have turned to Christ.  My hope lies in another corner.  I hope that my Master will lay hold of some, and of them say, ‘You are mine, and you shall be mine.  I claim you for myself.’  My hope arises from the freeness of His grace, and not from the freedom of mere human will.”

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