Too many pastors have been measured by worldly standards of success in this past year in the midst of all the distractions life and culture have brought our way. The real measure of successful ministry is what the all-powerful grace of God is doing in people's lives. Only Jesus Christ can transform a life so completely.
If anyone owns the word "new," the church does. Those who have been transformed by the Gospel and have been given a new nature know the true meaning of the word. In a new year when much is uncertain, we know the Lord is still on the throne, and we are qualified and equipped for whatever may come our way.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 teach us about the power, boldness, and freedom we have in Christ to grow in Christ-likeness.
The best way to protect the church from religious racketeers is to compare the nature and practice of the false and genuine.
Setting goals and achieving them is a reflection of God's image in humans. Focusing on one thing has proven to produce great success for many entrepreneurs, although their achievements are only temporal. The ultimate goal of the Gospel is to spiritually and positionally restore us in Jesus Christ back to our original spiritual condition and purpose in the eyes of our Creator. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." How is this done?
Survival shows intrigue us when we see how shockingly few things are necessary to survive in a wilderness. The world we live in is an extreme, fallen, undiscerning spiritual wilderness, but the Lord has provided us with the simple yet essential tools of spiritual survival for daily living.
We live in the most informed generation possibly of all time. We have an enormous amount of information available to us, whether it is legitimate or not. Thomas Jefferson used the phrase "knowledge is power" in his letters at least four times, each time regarding the establishment of a state university in Virginia. He also believed in the power of knowledge to bring safety and happiness.
Despite the amount of knowledge acquired by all generations leading to ours, we still have not curbed societal ills of hatred, violence, immorality, and addiction. Knowledge cannot control our passions. It cannot change the human condition.
There is only one kind of knowledge that can permanently change a person. "Only intelligent commitment of a life in light of God's gift of salvation can curb the human condition" (Bennett). Only God receives the glory for changing a human being and sustaining that transformation (Romans 11:36). Sinful people need to hear of Christ and surrender their hearts to His authority.
Romans 8:28-30 is a text of comfort and reassurance along with the entire chapter of Romans 8. In these verses, we find:
All these are discovered in the light of being in Christ.
Sinclair Ferguson compared studying Romans to climbing Mount Everest. We are in the midst of the book's third section discussing how we become more like Christ in our character: sanctification. This chapter will be like a base camp as we prepare to take on the next ascent. The content of Romans 6-7 help us to avoid extremism on two counts: spiritual license and legalism. In Jesus Christ, we have died to both sin and the law. We are free from the power of sin, though not yet of its presence.
James 1:25 makes clear that understanding God's Word and applying it result in God's blessing. This blessing, however, does not mean what most people assume. The blessing we receive is the operation of grace in our spiritual growth as we increasingly become like Christ. This is something we cannot do in our own power! Romans 6 is a longer treatise on that same progression from understanding to applying to growing.
Romans 6-7 tells believers how we daily become more like God. God's grace allows us to understand and apply God's Word. We can reflect God's character in our lives only to the extent that we know His Word.
In our study of how to please God through our whole life, we are beginning with the spirit – the part of us that is being renewed against the effects of sin. Those who are born again have a new nature that is fed through our devotion to prayer and reading God's Word.
One writer said, "Whatever causes us to pray is a good thing." The Bible is chock-full of examples of God's people praying to Him. In John 17, we read an example of Jesus Himself praying. Christ relied heavily on prayer to sustain His life and ministry. His prayer in this passage shows the purpose of His life. We too can find particular purpose for our lives by studying this prayer and praying similarly.
Last week's sermon discussed the three parts of a person: body, soul, and spirit. These parts are evident from the creation of man in Genesis 2:7. God formed Adam's physical body and breathed in a living spirit, forming the individual soul that He named Adam. Each part of the human person has a responsibility to God. Those who look to you as an example need to see you following the Lord with the whole of your being.
Our theme this year is "A Zeal for the Church." We at Grace Church want to have an all-consuming desire for this local body to succeed spiritually. Anyone God has saved, He has a plan to use in the church. Our heart, soul, mind, and strength are to be utilized in living for His purposes. Paul calls this being sanctified "entirely" or completely.
Paul gives Timothy eight imperatives for living at the end of 1 Timothy 4. These instructions to a pastor are useful for every believer to live a well-disciplined life that shows progress in Christ-likeness step by step.
Though Genesis 24 is about the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah on the surface, that is not the primary focus of the chapter. There are many spiritual principles for us to learn from these 67 verses.
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