Friday, December 26, 2014

We Experience Corporate Prodding through Our Worship and Encouragement

Scripture: Hebrews 10:25
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Insights: The third thing that prods us on to a life of vitality is our worship.  As we worship privately we are filled full and then we come together publicly and we worship out of the overflow of all that transpired in the previous week.  Worship is our abandon to God for He is worthy of all we have to offer.  It is a form and expression of thanksgiving for what He has done and an adoration for who He is.  As we rapidly approach the close of our 2014 calendar year I can tell you that worship is going to be a primary focus for us at FBCBG in 2015.  I think this area may in fact be one of the most misunderstood concepts of the modern church.  Our worship affects everything we do and when there is a song in our heart, we have a life of vitality.  Let me also make a side notation to the reference the Hebrew writer makes about attendance to corporate worship services.  Notice he encourages them to attend these gatherings and tells us that those who don’t come do so because of bad habits.  Beloved, it is easy to let things get in the way of our corporate worship.  Those things can be sleep, sports, recreational hobbies, or any number of things.  Let me encourage you to not let anything prevent you from corporate worship.  Remain faithful to Him.  The final aspect regarding this corporate prodding that helps produce a life of vitality for us is our words of encouragement.  In these dark days in which we live, we need encouragement.  So many people are downtrodden because of the difficulties in this world.  People are discouraged financially.  They are discouraged emotionally, physically, relationally and so many other areas.  We as ambassadors for Jesus need to live a life of encouragement before these people.  We need to be a light in the midst of this darkness to help them understand there is still hope in this world.  We need to be examples of the power found in Jesus as we walk in this world.  Let us begin praying diligently and let us prod each other along and let us all live a life of vitality before a world in need of a Savior.  May He be brought glory as a result of our faithful obedience to Him.

1.  When you are worshipping in church are you truly focused on the Lord?
2.  Have you recently given encouragement to someone in need of a kind word?

Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times in which I become distracted in my worship.  Also forgive me of those times in which I am so self-absorbed that I don’t notice those around me who are in need of a word of encouragement.  Let my life be a tool to prod others on to faithfulness in You and vitality in their own lives.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We Experience Corporate Prodding through Our Confession and Work

Scripture: Hebrews 10:23-24
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

Insights: The second secret to personal vitality in life is corporate prodding.  Just like the first secret there are four sub-points to to help us understand this second secret.  The first sub-point is that we are prodded along by our confession of our hope.  In other words, as we testify to the grace we have found in Jesus it encourages our fellow brothers and sisters to remain faithful to the Lord who has transformed their lives.  In the same way, as our brothers and sisters bear witness to the hope they have received in Jesus, it also encourages us to remain faithful.  The second sub-point is that we are prodded on toward faithfulness because of our work as well.  Notice in verse twenty-four we are told to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  These good deeds are the works we perform for the glory of our Lord.  These works can be feeding the homeless, singing in the choir, teaching a Sunday School class, baby sitting a family in need of some time together (Kristy and I will be calling on people next year once we have our children to perform this task of work for us 😃.  The point I am attempting to make is the Lord calls us to work for Him.  To use these assignments to point people to His love and grace.  Beloved, seek the Lord and ask Him how you ought to serve Him.  These sub-points help us prod each other on to a life of vitality.  Let us witness and work well for the glory of our King.

1.  Are you confessing to the world that you are a child of the King?
2.  In what ways are you working for the glory of our Lord?

Prayer: Father, thank You for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that help prod me on to good works and a steadfast confession of my life in You.  Bless my family in Christ with Your great favor and grace.  Amen.

We have Confident Praying Because We have an Intermediary and We are Purified

Scripture: Hebrews 10:21-22
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Insights: The third reason we have confidence in our praying is found in verse twenty-one.  We have a great priest over the house of God.  This great priest is Jesus.  In the Old Testament the role of the high priest was that of an intermediary.  Once a year they would enter the Holy of Holies and present a sin offering for the people.  They interceded for the people because they were not capable of approaching the Lord God.  Jesus is the one who takes our prayers and relays them back to the Father.  Because of this work we do not have to worry about our prayers being misunderstood.  Jesus perfectly knows how to pass the information on because He is the great high priest.  This truth gives us assurance of faith to know that we are heard and understood.  The final reason we have confidence in our prayers is because we are spiritually clean.  Our sins have been washed away and the Father no longer sees us in our sinful and guilty position, but rather sees the imputed righteousness and holiness of His Son in our lives.  We are no longer condemned, but have the confidence of one going before the Lord in purity of heart.  This confident praying is the first secret to a life of vitality.  We know by faith that our Lord hears our prayers and that makes all the difference as we traverse this life.  Beloved, prayer well for the Lord’s favor to be on your life and ask Him to teach you how to prayer.  I promise you, He will answer this request if you allow Him.

1.  How does the knowledge of Jesus being your High Priest produce confidence in your prayer life?
2.  Have you asked the Lord to search your heart and to reveal any wicked way in you?

Prayer: Father, look into the depths of my heart and reveal anything that is hindering our relationship.  Thank You for providing me a good and glorious High Priest so that I can run to Him and allow Him to mediate my sinfulness that You reveal to me regarding my heart.  Thank You for Your mercies which are new every morning.  Amen.

We have Confident Praying because of Jesus' Sacrifice and Our Access to God

Scripture: Hebrews 10:19-20
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

Insights: This week in our Thoughts by Scott we will be looking at two secrets to having a life of personal vitality.  The first one key has four sub-points as well as the second key.  All eight of these sub-points come from Hebrews 10:19-25.  The first of the two secrets is confident praying.  In other words, we can have a vital life because we can pray to the Father.  The first reason we can have confidence is because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  This truth is what is meant when in verse nineteen it talks about the blood of Jesus.  Notice also in verse nineteen it actually uses the word confidence to describe the posture in which we enter into the holy place which is where the Father dwells.  This entering into the holy place is where this first key of prayer comes into play.  The way we currently enter this holy place is through prayer and the first reason for this ability is because Jesus paid the admission prices with His death.  So, if I have received Jesus’ gift of salvation, then I am able to confidently enter into His thrown room.  The second sub-point is tied to the first.  Not only do we see the significance of Jesus’ death, but we also understand that it is through Him that we have access to God.  In the Temple there was a veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple grounds.  At Jesus’ death the earthly Temple veil was torn from the top to the bottom.  In the same way, a spiritual veil, Jesus’ body, was torn at His death as well.  The significance of this torn veil is that everyone in a relationship with Jesus has access to the Father because of His death.  Before Jesus’ death only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and only one time a year.  With the veil being torn, access is now permitted all of the time.  In other words, any minute of any day one who is born again can approach the thrown of God.  At any minute of any day a lost person can approach the thrown of God in repentance and surrender and be born again.  God wants us to pray to Him and the preceding is two of the reasons for such confidence.

1.  Have you experienced the great joy of prayer because of Jesus sacrifice for your life?
2.  Do you regularly take advantage of the access Jesus’ sacrifice has granted you before the Lord?

Prayer: Father, all too often I take for granted the sacrifice of Jesus.  Yet, I am also very thankful that because of His work at Calvary I am permitted to enter into Your presence through prayer.  Let me never take this gift likely.  Amen.

Others Will Be Sanctified Because God's Word is Powerful and Prayer is Effective

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:5
for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Insights: The third thing that helps to sanctify us is God’s Word, the Bible.  The Word of God has an amazing way of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).  I often hear people tell me that they don’t understand the Bible.  It is one of those amazing truths that if you will begin to read it, then after some time, you will understand it.  Our adversary, the devil, wants us to believe we can’t understand the love letter God wrote to us.  This thought is a lie of satan.  Let me encourage you, Beloved, read the Bible every day and let the Lord sanctify your heart through His cleansing power which is found in His Word.  The fourth way God sanctifies us is through prayer.  Prayer is our two way conversation with the Lord.  James 5:16b-18 states, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.  Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”  Elijah was just like you and me.  He was not some kind of super saint that had extra abilities.  Rather, he was a man with a depraved nature who had surrendered his allegiance to the Lord.  As a result of his relationship with God he was able to command it to not rain and indeed it did not for three and a half years.  Beloved, we have access to this same kind of power.  The problem is we have not allowed God to speak back to us through prayer and we often times see it as a one way wish list kind of communication.  If we will humble ourselves before the Lord, then He will do an amazing sanctifying process through our prayers.  Let us surrender to His Lordship, Beloved, and let’s watch Him transform our lives into vessels of noble purpose as we proclaim the good news to all who will hear.

1.  How many times a week do you read the Bible?
2.  How often do you pray to the Lord?

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me Your Word.  Thank You for allowing me to speak with You and to hear from You as well.  These two refining tools of Yours are most cherished and I am grateful for them.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Others Will Be Sanctified Because God is Good and We are Grateful

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:4
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;

Insights: Just like with the negative qualities of those that turn away, there are four things which help us become sanctified by God’s grace.  The first thing is we are sanctified because God Himself is good.  Now in the verse it says that everything God created is good.  The reason I state that God is good and that is a part of the sanctifying process is because the reason the created thing is good is because God is the Creator.  In other words, creation is not good in and of itself.  The thing that makes creation good is that a good God created it.  The life transforming power of Christ in us is His work in our lives.  If one is born again, the reason they are good is because God is good.  The reason they are holy is because God’s holiness is manifested in their lives.  The reason they are righteous is because God’s righteousness is imputed into their lives.  The more we are sanctified, then the more of Christ Jesus is evident in our lives.  The second aspect of our sanctification is our gratitude.  Again, because of God’s work in us we are grateful for His work in our lives.  As we express this gratitude what we find is we are humbled in the process.  Because of this humbling work we recognize that all of our goodness is based on His work; and therefore, we begin to live sacrificial lives to express our gratitude for His goodness.  This sacrificial expression of gratitude ought to be expressed in every aspect of our lives, but one of the most evident areas that show our gratitude is our money.  In other words, the more we are sanctified the more we want to give because in our giving we are expressing our gratitude.  So, on Sunday, I made a plug for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as an example of one way to express your gratitude for the Lord’s saving work in your life.  Let me encourage you to give to this offering in order to support our international mission efforts through the Southern Baptist Convention and specifically the International Missions Board.  We as a church have set a good goal, let us all give with grateful hearts and let’s watch God bring salvation to the world through His good work.

1.  Have you experienced the goodness of God?
2.  In what ways have you displayed your gratitude to the Lord?

Prayer: Father, thank You for working in my life.  Thank You for guiding me through the process of sanctification.  Your goodness makes every aspect, even the difficult times, pleasurable in You.  Thank You for never leaving me nor forsaking me.  Your love is amazing.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Some Will Turn Away because of Hypocritical Liars and "Religious" Ideals

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:2-3
by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.

Insights: The third reason some will turn away is because of hypocritical liars.  These are human agents that have already bought into the lies of the demonic spirits that are specifically teaching the apostates the wrong doctrine.  Now these human agents perpetuate the lie that they have bought into. Theodoret explains, like in English Version, that these liars are “seared,” as implying their extreme insensibility; the effect of cauterizing an individual in order to deaden that persons sensation. The Greek, however, primarily means “branded.”  In other words, criminals were literally branded with their crimes and it left scars after having bean seared with a branding iron.  The fourth reason some will turn away is because of “religious” ideals.  These people after having been lied to by the demonic spirits and having bought into their evil doctrines and experienced human lies these people then become bound and locked up in religious systems and ideals.  In this verse Paul references two such practices.  These individuals did not marry and they did not eat certain food.  In many ways this is reflective of what Paul wrote to the church of Colossae when he wrote, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”  (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in aself-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (2:20-23).”  Tomorrow we will begin to look at the other side of the coin and begin looking at the four ways that others will be sanctified.

1.  Are you receiving advice about how to live your life from those who point you away from the Lord?
2.  Have you begun to practice earthly regulations with the attempt to save yourself, even if you would not use that terminology?

Prayer: Father, there are good people all over this world that have bought into a lie and are now telling others about that very same falsity.  Lord, let me share the truth in the midst of the darkness and let You be brought glory as a result.  Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some will Turn Away because of Deceitful Spirits and Demonic Doctrines

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

Insights: As we continue through our reading of the Bible chronologically this year we come to Paul’s words dealing with the state of the world in the end times.  There is a falling away by many during this time period and their are four reasons this falling away takes place.  Today we will look at the first two, but before I share those thoughts, let me share briefly about this word translated fall away.  This word is used fourteen times in the New Testament.  Eleven of those fourteen times it carries the idea of one who intentionally leaves, departs or withdraws. This word is not about someone that just starts walking and all of a sudden looks up and says, “Oh my, how did I get here?”  This word means the person knew they were walking away from the faith.  The first of the four reasons is because of deceitful spirits.  These first two deal with the supernatural realm.  These demonic hosts whisper in the ear of those who have “tried” church and tells them church does not work.  This one who intentionally walks away from the faith hears those lies and listens to them.  Then once the individual has actually bought into this lie they begin to be instructed in the ways of the demonic doctrines.  These demonic doctrines are the second reason people will turn away from the faith in the later days.  Think back to the Garden of Eden and even Jesus’ temptation experience in the wilderness.  Satan’s tools have always been to make mankind believe they themselves could become God.  His doctrines are all about self-sufficiency and not dependent upon a Savior, Jesus Christ.  Satan’s demonic doctrines tells people they can have it all here, right now, in this life.  All they have to do is sacrifice everything for their dreams and work hard and they will obtain their own satisfaction.  These first  two thoughts are similar because both deal with deception.  The distinction is the first one is getting the one walking away from faith to leave.  The second one is the lie that keeps them away from faith after they have left.  Beloved, make certain you truly are born again so that you do not fall prey to these deceptive tools of the adversary.

1.  Are you who has bought the lie of the enemy and left the church?
2.  After your departure have you begun to buy into the lie of demonic doctrines?

Prayer: Father, I am Yours and I know that I am Yours.  Thank You for keeping me in You and not allowing me to leave the faith of my salvation.  Lord, I pray for those that may not yet truly be yours that they will stay long enough in the church to feel and hear the call of Your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christ-followers are Selfless

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:17
For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

Insights: The third unique characteristic of Christ-followers is that they are selfless.  I say they are selfless because in today’s verse we see Paul describing Himself as one who did not peddle the word of God.  He did not need to be promoted.  In fact, he needed to die and have Christ’s elevated.  He was always pointing people to Jesus.  Everything about his life and ministry was Christ-centered.  This fact means that he lived a selfless life.  At FBC Bowling Green they know one of my soap boxes is TV preachers.  I constantly warn them against those who preach an easy believes or a name-it-and-claim it type of gospel.  An encounter with Jesus transforms our very nature.  We are not capable of remaining the same.  We must display a change and self-promotion through preaching a false gospel that lines one’s own pockets is not a life of change.  It is a life of robbery.  Beloved, let us be very careful about what we proclaim.  Let us be certain it is about Jesus and the life we have in eternity with Him.  He is to be glorified and we are to be selfless and humble.  May our lives reflect this truth.

1.  Are you profiting, in a worldly sense, by preaching a gospel of self-promotion?
2.  What do you think your religious profit will reward you in eternity?

Prayer: Father, it is my prayer that You would change the hearts of those charlatans who propagate on those who really want life in You, but have been taught a false gospel.  May those men and women truly encounter You and then preach powerfully the gospel of Christ Jesus and Him crucified.  May they understand their life in glory is all that matters and not their bank accounts.  Amen.

Christ-followers are a Special Fragrance of Death

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:14b-16
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

Insights: The second unique attribute of Christ-followers is that we are special.  We are special in two ways.  The second way we are special is that we are a special fragrance of death to those who are perishing.  I understand why a lost world does not always want to be around Christ-followers.  The reason is we are an aroma of death to them.  Everything they do and say is, at the end of the day, in contradiction to what we believe.  We believe, and know by faith, that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to the heaven.  We believe that if anyone does not receive the gift of eternal life found in Jesus, they will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.  We believe, because of the life transforming power of God, that there are activities and lifestyles in which we ought not to participate.  As a result, we are a reminder, whether the lost world is willing to acknowledge it or not, that they will one day spend eternity separated from the love of God in a place of torment.  If you were lost and you had to be around people with such rigid beliefs, would you want to hang around them?  The answer is an obvious, no.  We are a constant reminder as to what a life apart from the Lord will ultimately be like.  Now, here is our side of the equation.  Even in the midst of such reminders, we need to be a source of hope to those who are perishing.  We need to constantly remind them there is life in Christ.  If they repent and come to the Lord, then our fragrance will change to them and we will be a fragrance of life.  Their noses can be transformed.

1.  Do your lost friends not understand the way you live your life?
2.  Is there a visible difference as to the way you live your life and the way your lost friends live theirs?

Prayer: Father, may my life reflect Your glory and grace.  May the lost world recognize the difference of life as compared to theirs.  May it, coupled with my words of grace, lead them to You.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christ-followers are a Special Fragrance of Life

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:14b-16
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

Insights: The second unique attribute of Christ-followers is that we are special.  We are special in two ways.  Today we are going to look at the first way in which we are special and that is we are a special fragrance of life.  Steve Brown of Keylife Ministries used to say very early in his ministry that he preferred to be around lost people more than he did Christians because he felt that lost people were more genuine and honest. As he matured and grew, he would quickly change that statement and say he preferred to be around Christians. The reason Steve Brown changed his statement was because his snorter became more refined and he enjoyed the fragrance of life over the fragrance of death.  In other words, the Spirit of God that indwells us resinates with those who are born again and have the Spirit of God indwelling them also.  His Spirit testifies with our spirit about the individuals with whom we associate.  When that individual is a Christ-follower, we naturally, because of the Spirit of God in us, desire to be around those people.  There is another reason we desire to be around the fresh fragrance of life and that is the excitement and enthusiasm that become contagious when we surround ourselves with passionate believers.  I cannot recall where I read the following information, but I took it word for word from the journal entry.  The article was about, the one time famous missionary, Dr. Grenfell.  The article stated, “After spending fifty years in Labrador, Doctor Grenfell was resting on the coast of Georgia. Many people wanted to see him. A man noticed the famed missionary strolling on the beach. He asked Grenfell’s secretary for permission to talk to him. The reply came: ‘You can see him but do not talk to him about Labrador. He will become so excited that he will not sleep well tonight.’”  The point is perfume cannot be contained.  We are either effervesce for Christ or we are the smell of death.  Beloved, it is my prayer that because of Christ in you that you smell well.

1.  Do your brothers and sisters in Christ cringe when they see you coming?
2.  Are you a pleasure to be around and are you a source of encouragement?

Prayer: Father, It is my prayer that my fellow Christ-followers enjoy being around me.  May our lives meld together and may Your presence permeate all of our conversations.  May our lives reflect the fragrance of life.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christ-followers are Successful

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:14a
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ,

Insights: This week we are going to be looking at three unique characteristics of Christ-followers.  The first characteristic is that Christ-followers are triumphant.  Andrew Knowles explains this verse this way, “Paul praises God for calling him to take part in the victory procession of Christ. A Roman general would receive a triumphal welcome home after a great victory. His soldiers, prisoners and booty would all be processed before the cheering crowd.”  If you saw the movie Gladiator, then you can envision the scene when Commodus returned from the Gaul wars and was led into Rome in a triumphal parade. Warren Wiersbe elaborates on this picture Knowles introduces us to by adding the aspect of Roman priests who burned incense in the parade.  That odor affected people differently.  To the captured enemy soldiers who were in this parade, it signified their death in the games to come in the arena.  But to those who were Romans, it signified life and vitality as their empire expanded. I want to point another thing out about our being triumphant.  Notice with me the reason: It is because Christ Jesus does the LEADING.  Beloved, I cannot express how important this truth is for our spiritual vitality.  We must learn to live life under the control and inspiration of the Lord God.  We can develop the best programs.  We can have the most wonderful intentions.  We can even speak as the most eloquent of people, but if we are ministering in our own power, then it is not triumphal.  The book of Hebrews calls it a dead work (chapter six).  Let us let the Lord Jesus lead and guide us.  Let Him be our victory.  Let His power work in us all for His glory and grace.

1.  In what areas are you walking in victory with Christ?
2.  When was the last time you felt His guiding hand leading you into victory?

Prayer: Father, I do not always obey You, but I am grateful that I can sense Your guiding presence.  Lord, transform my heart and help me desire to obey You immediately .  Amen.