MSG: God’s Will: The Way of Wisdom – Ephesians 5:15-17

This is the fifth message on God’s Will.

Do you remember the story of Ruth? Naomi was married to Elimelech, who left Israel because of a famine and they moved to Moab with their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, who married Orpah and Ruth. Well, all the men died in that foreign land and Naomi heard there was bread again in Israel, so she told her two daughters-in-law that she was going to return to Israel. Orpah and Ruth wanted to go with Naomi, but Naomi gave a logical, humanistic response, “Why come with me? I can’t provide you husbands. Stay here with your families.” Orpah chose to do the logical thing and kissed Naomi good-bye. Most people would. It made sense, because her other relatives were all in Moab. Continue reading

Insights: Work in Colossians 1:29

I’m preparing a message from Genesis 2 and 3 for our advent season and the passage begins with Genesis 2:15, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” God put Adam to work in a perfect environment before the Fall. That indicates the biblical importance of work and the blessing that comes through it. God put Adam to work, so Adam would learn to depend on the Lord. Continue reading

Question: Is a Faith a Work?

Recently, I was in a conversation with a person who held to a strict Calvinistic position. That is, he believed in the five point TULIP principles. During the conversation, we discussed Ephesians 2:8 and how the word “that” cannot refer to faith because of the Greek grammatical construction, but it must refer to “salvation,” which is elliptical (which means it is implied by the verb “saved”). As the discussion continued, I stated that faith was a non-meritorious decision.  There is no merit before God. Then he commented that a decision or faith is an action and salvation is not obtained by a work or an action. Continue reading

Five Questions: Bridge Building with the Gospel

 

Five Questions: Bridge Building with the Gospel

I have a growing concern for the lost in the world.  My concern has gone through ebbs and flows over the years, but as I realize the lack of many days left in life (maybe thirty years), I realize I may not have much time to reach out to others.

There are few things in life more moving than to watch a person put their faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and His resurrection.  There are few things more fantastic than to watch a rebirth happen before my eyes.  There are few things that motivate me more than witnessing a person who becomes my spiritual brother or sister!

Do you get that opportunity very often? 

One of the tools I use to transition to talk through the good news of Jesus Christ is to ask five questions.  The questions are merely a tool to build a bridge to someone so I can share the greatest news in the world – that Jesus died on the cross for his/her sins and that he/she can grow in a relationship with the God of the universe.  The questions are a tool to share that God loves him/her so much that God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world and that whoever believes in Jesus would have eternal life.  That’s fantastic news!

Here are the five questions I use to start a discussion and build a bridge to a person:

  • Do you ever talk about spiritual things?
  • In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
  • Do you believe in a heaven and a hell?
  • If something tragic were to happen, do you know where you would go?

           [If God asked, “Why should I let you into heaven?” what would you say?]

  • If what you believed were not true, would you want to know the truth?

The answers to the first four questions don’t really matter too much, but they do tell me a great deal about where the person is spiritually.  They tell me what the person is trusting in for salvation, if anything.  They get the person talking and allow me to gain credibility that I am interested in them as a person (and I am!). 

The main question is question number five, “If what you believed were not true, would you want to know the truth?”  If they say yes, then I have a free and open door to walk through and share my faith.  I’m not forcing myself onto the person.  I give the person an opportunity to say no, before I start talking about Jesus.  But once they say yes, then I can take them through a gospel presentation, whereby they can make the greatest decision of all time – accepting Jesus as Savior to become a child of God.

What do you use to build a bridge to talk to people about the Lord Jesus Christ?  Does it work well?  I’m interested in your feedback, because I want to be effective in building bridges and sharing Christ.  Let’s go reach the world for the sake of Jesus!

MSG: Strategy for Grace: Pursuing the Role in Jesus – Part 5

Strategy of Grace – Pursuing the Role in Jesus

Eph. 5:15-17

            Have you ever said, “I could never do that!” 

            The following is a skit used for the introduction of the message.  There is the voice of God, narrator and Moses.  God calls Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, but Moses comes up with five excuses why he shouldn’t be the one who God can lead Israel from Egypt. 

Narrator: Have you ever said, “I could never do that!”  3,500 years ago, after Moses lived in the wilderness of Midian, tending to the flock of Jethro on the back side of the desert from Egypt, Moses was confronted with the sight of a burning bush.  Moses caught sight of the burning bush and approached it hearing a voice bellow out his name,       Moses       and telling him to remove his sandals for the ground is holy where he was standing.    

God’s voice: I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt and heard their cry.  I have come to deliver them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey.  I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.

Moses: Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?    (Excuse 1)

God’s voice: I WILL be with you. This burning bush is a sign to you that I have sent you.

Moses: Okay, but when I go to Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me,” They’ll say, “Yea right, what’s His name?”   (Excuse 2)

God’s voice: I am who I am.  I am has sent me to you.  Now, go and gather the elders of Israel. Let us go three day’s journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.  And when you leave, you’ll ask everyone of his Egyptian neighbor and come out with abundance.

Moses: But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice and say, ‘God has not  appeared to you?’   (Excuse 3)

God’s voice:  What is that in your hand?

Moses: a rod

God’s voice: Cast it on the ground.

Moses: A snake!

God’s voice: Now pick it up by the tail.  Now put your hand in your bosom.

Moses:  It’s leprous!

God’s voice: Now put it back in your bosom again.  [Moses does and it is whole.]  And if they don’t believe you, take from the river and pour it on dry land and the water will become blood.

Moses: Lord, I’m not eloquent, neither before or since You’ve spoken to your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.   (Excuse 4)

God’s voice: Who made your mouth and voice?  Have I not made the mute and deaf, those who see and the blind?  Have not I, the Lord?  Now, therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.

Moses: O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.   (Excuse 5)

Narrator: God’s anger rose up against Moses for questioning and doubting His command and word.  

God’s voice: Is not Aaron the Levite your brother?  I know he can speak well.  I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and I will teach you what you shall do.  So he shall be your spokesman to the people. You will be as God to him.  You shall take this rod in your hand, which you shall do the signs.

Narrator: So God dealt with the fears and excuses that Moses had and used another to accomplish His mission.  Since God calls you to the Great Commission, how will you respond? What kind of person does God require to do His work?   

What kind of person does God require to do His work?  One who:

·         Knows and loves Jesus – The person is growing in relationship with Jesus to know and love Him. He should know and love Jesus with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, in other words, with his entire being.  He/she must have priorities in life whereby the Lord is first, not just fit into the schedule.  If anything, other things fit around the Lord.   This person doesn’t just know about the Bible, or know about God, but He knows the Lord.  He is committed to following Jesus. Matt 22:37-39; 1 John 2:13-14

Jesus said to him, “`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Matt. 22:37)

I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. (1John 2:13)

·         Practices Spiritual disciplines– This person is learning and putting into practice spiritual disciplines for growth and service.  The person isn’t perfect spiritually, but he/she seeks to know the Lord by regular time in reading and enjoying His Word.  He enjoys prayer alone and with others.  He works at memorizing God’s Word in his heart for use in life.  He meditates on Scripture and spends time in silence before God.   He servesin different capacities. He learns worshipand practices fellowship with others.  These and others are regular practices, because of his love for Jesus.  Through these disciplines, he is committed to being changed by Jesus.  He is in a lifelong learning mode that he might know God more intimately and clearly.  John 17:17; Rom. 8:28-29; 12:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:15

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:28-29)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)

·         Engages Discipleship – He is committed to the Great Commission of discipling others.  He genuinely cares for others and wants to see them grow spiritually.  He has learned to feed himself, so that he is ready to share with others.  He is thinking the team, the team, the team, because the church is a team that the gates of hell shall not prevail against.  He intentionally helps others learn how to grow and serve, so they can become spiritual parents also.   He is committed, no matter what cost, time, or personal sacrifice is required.  He has counted the cost.  Matt. 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mat 28:18-20)

Now someone will likely say that we saw these characteristics a few weeks ago. That is true. These are the characteristics of a committed disciple from the second message on what is a disciple of Jesus Christ from Matt. 4:19.  So let’s look at the requirements that God has for us to do His work. These can be seen with the acrostic FAITH

·         Faithful – He humbly depends on God facing every challenge and joy of life.  He doesn’t run from the problem, but runs toward it and slings God’s Word at the problem, because He knows God and His care for him.   He faithfully studies God’s Word, prays to the Lord and depends on His empowering Spirit. Matt. 25:21-23.  This person presses to the upward call, takes baby steps of spiritual growth, willingly takes responsibility and asks God to give him a heart that Jesus has for people.

Consider David who when challenged to deal with Goliath, he remembered how he killed the bear and the lion by the power of the Lord and Goliath would be no different.  David was willing to run to the problem and sling the stone against the giant and defeat the problem, because he was faithful to trust the Lord.  The reason David was faithful, was because he was open to being taught by the Lord throughout his life.

“His lord said to him,`Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 “He also who had received two talents came and said,`Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 “His lord said to him,`Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Mat 25:21-23)

How many people can be faithful?  Is there anyone who is not able to be faithful in life?  Great, because it’s merely a choice you need make each day. You can be the person God requires to do His will.

·         Available – He’s humbly available because he has examined and reordered his life. Is. 6:8; Eph. 3:8.  He recognizes time is short and he sets aside childish things that won’t matter for eternity sake.  He establishes godly priorities that will bring honor and glory to Jesus and establish blessing and reward in time and eternity.  He is available, because he has committed himself to Jesus.  He commits his time (Eph. 5:15-17), talents (1 Pet. 4:11), treasure (Matt. 6:21), truth (John 4:23-24), tongue (Jam. 3:1-12), temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and turbo-gift (1 Pet. 4:10) to the Lord for His use.

GIDEON was put on the spot by the Angel of the Lord, when Gideon was hiding in the winepress working to get enough grain to feed his family.  He was hiding from the Midianites, but the Lord challenged to see if he was available.  The Angel of the Lord said, “The Lord is  with you, O mighty man of valor!”  I can imagine Gideon was wondering if the Lord was talking about him or someone else.  Through Gideon’s weak faith, the Lord helped Gideon see that in Gideon’s availability, he could defeat 120,000 of the enemy with only 300 men.  God doesn’t depend on our might and wisdom, but on His.

When the Seraph angel said to Isaiah, Whom shall I send, Isaiah responded, “Send me (I’m available).”

       Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Is. 6:8)

When God needed a man to proclaim the mystery of Christ, he found Paul who chose to be available.

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ (Eph 3:8-9)

How many people can be available?  Is there anyone who is not able to be available in life?  Great, because it’s merely a choice you need make each day. You can be the person God requires to do His will.

·         Intentional – He humbly goes before the sovereignty of God seeking God’s will each day in order to live that will out in his life. He does not let life happen by chance.  He intentionally plans his study of God’s Word.  He intentionally lays out a plan for growth and spiritual development.  He intentionally chooses his friends, his service opportunities and how he will spend his time, because the days are evil and can be squandered so easily with a multitude of distractions. He is intentional about inviting others to follow him.  He is intentional about life and spiritual growth Phil. 3:9-14; 1:21 Paul was intentional about his life:

[that I may] be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:9-14)

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phi 1:21)

How many people can be intentional?  Is there anyone who is not able to be intentional in life?  Great, because it’s merely a choice you need make each day. You can be the person God requires to do His will.

·         Teachable – He is a humble student of God’s Word for life.  He submits His life to God’s instruction through God’s Spirit, so he can gain and sustain the spirit-controlled life.  He looks for opportunities to learn.  He will take notes, review plans and listen to people on what he can learn from them.  He is accountable so that he is not just sliding through life, but engaged in always learning.  He uses spiritual disciplines to learn all he can about, of and with the Lord. Ps. 25:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17

A Psalm of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. 4Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. 5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. (Ps.  25:1-5)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17)

How many people can be teachable?  Is there anyone who is not able to be teachable in life?  Great, because it’s merely a choice you need make each day.  You can be the person God requires to do His will.

·         Holy Spirit controlled – He humbly depends on the Holy Spirit rather than his own talents, abilities or wisdom.  He has a greater and more humble opinion because he sees himself before the holiness of God.  He is dependent on the empowerment of God’s Spirit to understand God’s Word and live it out.  He depends on God’s Spirit for each new step in spiritual growth.  He depends on God’s Word, listens to the counsel of others in order to understand and engages dependency upon God’s Spirit for every thought, word and action in life. Eph. 5:18; Luke 4:1-14

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (Eph. 5:18)

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spiritinto the wilderness… 14 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, (Luke 4:1-14)

How many people can be Holy Spirit controlled?  Is there anyone who is not able to be Holy Spirit controlled in life?  Great, because it’s merely a choice you need make each day. You can be the person God requires to do His will.

Jesus will transform you to accomplish His will
and to become spiritual parents IF you pursue that.

·         Jesus is a sovereign gentleman.  He will not coerce you.  You will not advance only because you are not pursuing.  All the resources of heaven are available to you in His Word and by His Spirit to raise you up.

·         Jesus uses all circumstances to prepare you for His mission.  Challenges of life are the crucible for pressing forward in His will.  Your flesh will want to give up, but He will empower you to keep going.

·         Every mindful person can be a spiritual parent to help others.  Your humble submission to His Spirit to glorify Jesus will cause you to see His miraculous HOPE in your life.

Just as Moses used five different excuses why he did not want to obey the Lord, it’s easy for us to come up with excuses.  What reasons to you use to become complacent and not obey the Lord?  What fears and excuses to you use to not take spiritual responsibility to grow in the Lord and become a spiritual parent and disciple other people?
Here’s the back side of the insert.  I’ll post some suggested answers later this week.

 

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Who is someone you admire in the world? What are his/her characteristics?

Digging Deeper

2)      What are some of the fears and excuses Moses had from Exodus 3:11- 4:17? ______________ ; ___________; ________________; ________________; __________________.  Today, what are fears or excuses that prevent people from taking responsibility to do what God calls them to do?

3)      What are several characteristics required of an overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7?   ________________; ______________________; __________________; _____________________; __________________. Are these characteristics that should be true only of elders?  Who else should spiritually grow into these?  Why?

4)      Read the letters written to the Church of Ephesus and the Church of Laodicea (Rev. 2:1-7; 3:14-22.  What are characteristics of these churches?  _____________; _____________; _______________; ________________; _______________; ________________.  Which church do think would do a better job of fulfilling the Great Commission?  Why?

Making application from the message:

5)      Why do you suppose God doesn’t require you to have certain “degrees” to do His work?  What kinds of things hold you back from taking the next step?  What could you do to take the next step?

6)      How has the angel of light deceived the church today (2 Cor. 11:13-15)?  Has the enemy deceived the church today?  How has the Vision series challenged you in your thinking?