Giving Thanks While Grieving

It is difficult to be thankful when you suffer. When you experience the loss of a loved one you begin to wonder if you will ever feel happy again. It is hard to be thankful when you are hurting. When you find yourself in a dark place and seriously begin to wonder if it would be better for you and everyone else if you died, it is difficult to be thankful. The Bible is not silent on the issue of suffering. We are told that the foundational cause of suffering is sin and the cure is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are given examples of godly people who have suffered tragedy and the good (John 11) and not so good (Gen 34) responses they had.

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Giving thanks to God during times of grief is difficult but not impossible. In fact, it is one of the best means of progressing towards hope while you are grieving. How can you be thankful during times of grief? Remember, Reflect, and Rejoice.

Remember!

First, remember. Remember all the truths about God you have been taught and believe. Do not doubt in the darkness what you have clearly seen in the light. One of the results of the grieving process is that our minds become absorbed with that one thing. It is vital that you force yourself to remember key foundational truths about God. Remember that He loves you. Remember that He is in control. Remember that He is always working good; even in the bad circumstances. While grieving, you may not want to hear someone quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” But, remember that it is true. 

Reflect!

Second, reflect. Reflect on your situation, but do not dwell on it. What’s the difference between reflecting and dwelling? Think of it like a house. When you dwell in a house you live in it. Dwelling on the cause of your grief is like going back to the situation and living there as you relive it over and over. When you reflect, you think deeply and carefully about something. Going back to the house illustration, rather than dwelling in the house, you sit outside the house and look in. Reflecting is different because it gives you time to grieve and realize that your life has changed and you have to adjust to the new reality. 

There is no set timeframe for you to stop grieving. In one sense, you will never stop grieving until you are given your new body and dwelling with God forever in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:4). The goal in grieving well is not to stop grieving but to grieve with hope. James White wrote a helpful book on grieving and he said, “One does not seek to escape grief, but to embrace it, work through it, allow it to heal the hurt, so that we can move on with our lives in full light and recognition of what has happened and how God has changed our lives as a result.”

When we are grieving we are overwhelmed by our emotions. Our emotions are powerful and have great control over us, so we are told in the Bible to take control of them. We do this by guarding our heart. Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Ted Tripp has said, “Usually when we think of the heart we think of our emotions. The heart is the essence of you. It is more than just emotions. It is the command center of your life. It is the seat of motivation.”

We must guard our hearts because, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Also, Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will escape.” We must guard our heart as we trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Rejoice!

Third, rejoice in the Lord. Before you dismiss this point, please hear me out. In Psalm 118:24, we read: “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The glorious truth found in this verse is that we do not rejoice in what the day may bring, but we rejoice in the One who has brought the day! The fact that God has brought this day to us means that we can rejoice and be glad in it. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. This verse does not teach us that every circumstance is good, but that God is good. Behind this verse is the doctrine of Providence. I have a Believer’s Study Bible edited by W.A Criswell. The commentary notes on this verse capture the essence very well: “The Christian is charged with the giving of thanks because of his confidence in the purpose and the providence of God in any and every circumstance of life.” John Piper defines providence as “the act of purposefully providing for, or sustaining and governing, the world.” What the doctrine of providence teaches is that there is no purposeless evil. God is not the author of sin and evil, but He will not let evil thwart His good purposes and plans. (Example, see Genesis 50:20)

Remember, Reflect, Rejoice!

  • Remember all the truths about God you have been taught and believe. 
  • Reflect and give yourself time to grieve. Guard your heart so that you do not believe lies but trust God.
  • Rejoice in the Lord who is powerfully and purposefully at work.

If you are grieving, trust God. Consider the story of Martha from John 11. Martha had just lost her brother and was grieving. When she saw Jesus she said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Martha then said something very profound. Martha said, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22). Martha serves as an example of a godly person hurting yet trusting. Trust the Lord and allow Him to help you give thanks in all circumstances.

God’s Will For Your Life

When we normally think of the question: “What is God’s will for my life?”; we think of it in regard to a major upcoming decision. A few examples are: “Should I accept that new job?” or “Should I marry that person?” In other words, this question is usually asked in the context of where does God want me to go and/or what does God want me to do? 

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This is an important aspect to consider, but there is another aspect of God’s will that must not be overlooked; that is, what is God’s will concerning how He wants me to live? In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we are told: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” With November upon us and Thanksgiving on its way, we shall spend the next three weeks discussing the importance of being thankful. God wants us to be thankful and express our gratitude. Today we will discuss to whom we are to direct our thankfulness, the objects for which we are thankful, and the circumstances in which we are to be thankful.

Giving Thanks To God

Giving Thanks is a Spiritual Sacrifice. Psalm 116:17 says, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” One important aspect of our worship of God is our giving thanks to God. In fact, thanksgiving is a vital part of our prayer life. A helpful way to remember the different types of prayer is the acronym: A.C.T.S. 

  • A – Adoration (Praise), 
  • C – Confession (of sin), 
  • T – Thanksgiving (for His blessings), 
  • S – Supplication (Asking for your needs and the needs of others). 

When we give thanks, we reflect on all the blessings that God has given to us. I hope you can see why giving thanks is an important part of prayer because when we forget to be thankful we fill that space with other sinful things. We must be careful to fill our hearts and minds with praise and thanksgiving rather than fear, pride, and envy. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” It is a spiritual sacrifice because it costs us our pride and our sense of self-sufficiency every time we thank God for what He has given to us.

Giving Thanks is our Spiritual Duty. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, we are under obligation to give thanks to God. I like how the Amplified Bible brings this out in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we should and are [morally] obligated [as debtors] always to give thanks to God for you.” In this context, the Apostle Paul is specifically thanking God for the church in Thessalonica and from this we learn the principle that we should/ought/must praise God for all His blessings. It is our spiritual duty to thank God because of what He has done for us. Even if you do not feel like thanking God, do it anyway because of what He has already done, currently doing, and will do. God is worthy of our worship and praise. He is worthy to receive glory and honor. He is definitely worthy of our thanksgiving. 

Giving Thanks For God’s Blessings

We give thanks to God and we give thanks for His innumerable blessings! Here are seven reasons why we should be thankful, summarized in one sentence: Jesus saves us by grace because He loves us and He calls us to make disciples until He returns. 

  1. We are thankful for Jesus!
  2. We are thankful that Jesus saves!
  3. We are thankful that Jesus saves by grace!
  4. We are thankful that Jesus saves us!
  5. We are thankful that Jesus loves us!
  6. We are thankful that we are sent out to make disciples!
  7. We are thankful that Jesus will return!

We could (and maybe should) spend the rest of our lives thanking God for all that He has done for us. Here are a few more: Life, Breath, Being, Family, Job, Friends, and Church.

Giving Thanks In All Things

We give thanks to God for His blessings and we thank Him in all situations. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Surely that does not mean what we think it means. All circumstances? When we read this verse, the temptation is to say: “I know that is what the verse says, but what does it really mean? Maybe if I do a google search, I can find someone who will say it doesn’t actually mean what it says.” Before you dismiss this verse, consider the great truth behind it: God is faithful. No matter what you are going through. God is faithful. The fruit of the Spirit is not dependent upon how other people treat you. Your joy and peace are not dependent upon how you are feeling. You are able to give thanks in all circumstances because God remains in control of all circumstances. Therefore, let us be:

Giving Thanks Continuously. We should never cease being thankful because we never run out of reasons to be thankful. Paul wrote that he never stopped giving thanks for the church in Ephesus (Eph 1:16). A Christian should strive to live every moment of every day with an attitude of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Spontaneously. Thankfulness should be unceasing yet impromptu. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil 1:3).  Every time Paul remembered the Phillipians, he thanked God. Christians should train themselves to be aware of every opportunity to be thankful. Giving Thanks Tenaciously. We are to give thanks in all circumstances; therefore, we must be tenacious in our thanksgiving. There will be sinful and evil circumstances that profoundly affect you, but you must never relinquish your thankfulness to God. If you sin or if others sin against you, never waver in your gratitude to Him. God remains all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Cling closely to Christ and trust Him in all things.

Goals: Are We Making a Difference?

We are at a time in the life of our church in which we must prayerfully discern our mission, vision, and strategy with a hope that we may most faithfully and effectively make disciples and glorify God. To recap, we have discussed:

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  • The Needs around us and asked the question: “What’s Going On? We learned that our community is hurting and needs Jesus.
  • Our Identity and asked the question: “Who Are We?” We learned that we are Christians who have been and are being healed by Jesus.
  • Our Mission and asked the question: “What Are We Supposed To Be Doing?” We learned that we were intentionally created by God to love God and enjoy Him forever.
  • Our Values and asked the question: “Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing?” We learned about our shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths.
  • Our Vision and asked the question: “Where Are We Going?” We learned that we want to commit our lives to see Jesus transform our lives.
  • Our Strategy and asked the question: “How Do We Get There?” We learned that we need to prayerfully develop a clear Strategy to carry out our Mission that fulfills our Vision that is consistent with our Identity and Values, that meets the Needs of those around us and glorifies God.

Today we shall discuss our Goals and ask the question: “Are We Making A Difference?” We shall learn that we need to set proper goals in order to determine if we are helping others experience life transformation. 

Setting Our Goals

What are goals? A goal is something you are trying to achieve. When you set a goal, you commit yourself (desires, habits, etc.) to achieve a desired result. For example, a common goal is to lose weight. A guy may set a goal to lose 50lbs over the next 6 months. This person commits himself to a new diet and exercise routine for the purpose of being at least 50lbs lighter in 6 months. Goal setting is an important motivational tool. 

Setting goals is not just for individuals, but also for organizations. Churches can and should set goals. According to Rob Peters, “Setting goals allows [the Church] to clearly identify what we believe God wants us to accomplish.” When we set goals–whether individually or as a Church–we need to set realistic goals that will stretch our faith. While they may sound like a contradiction, a Church needs goals that are realistic in the sense that this is something God can do through us (e.g., in alignment with His will). A Church also needs goals that will stretch our faith in that we realize that we cannot accomplish it without God’s help. Pray for the Refocus workgroup as they work together to discern realistic goals that will stretch our faith as a Church. We know that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37) and He can do far more than we can either ask or think (Eph 3:20).

Sticking to Our Goals

Setting goals is not too difficult, sticking to the goals is difficult. Anyone can determine to lose 50lbs in 6 months, but it takes determination to actually do it. What are some helpful ways to stick to your goals? First, enlist the help of others to hold you accountable. Second, set smaller goals that help propel you towards your ultimate goal. Third, don’t let setbacks derail you. Fourth, keep your focus on the goal.

Our Goals

If you were present for the last sermon, this next sentence should not surprise you. Neither your pastor nor the Refocus workgroup has a list of goals for our Church. We are working on it and praying for wisdom, but our goals are something that our Church as a whole will need to discern and embrace. As we prayerfully seek God’s will in this, keep in mind that our goals should help us answer the question: “Are we making progress and are we making a difference?” If our Mission is “Helping People Experience Life Transformation” and our Vision is “Christ Transforming Lives”: Are we helping people experience life transformation? If not, why not? If so, how? Do we see Christ transforming lives around us? If so, how? 

Here are some helpful questions to determine how to set proper goals:

  • What goals would be helpful for us to set in order to best engage unbelievers with the gospel? 
  • What goals would be helpful for us to set in order to encourage unbelievers to take their first steps in following Jesus? 
  • What goals would be helpful for us to set in order to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus? 
  • What goals would be helpful for us to set in order to better deploy church members in service to Christ through His church and missions?

Strategy: How Do We Get There?

If you have been here over the last month you know that we are in the midst of a sermon series on the necessity of keeping our focus. We are at a time in the life of our church in which we must prayerfully discern our mission, vision, and strategy with a hope that we may most faithfully and effectively make disciples and glorify God. To recap, we discussed:

  • The Needs around us and asked the question: “What’s Going On? We learned that our community is hurting and needs Jesus.
  • Our Identity and asked the question: “Who Are We?” We learned that we are Christians who have been and are being healed by Jesus.
  • Our Mission and asked the question: “What Are We Supposed To Be Doing?” We learned that we were intentionally created by God to love God and enjoy Him forever.
  • Our Values and asked the question: “Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing?” We learned about our shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths.
  • Our Vision and asked the question: “Where Are We Going?” We learned that we want to commit our lives to see Jesus transform our lives. 
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Today we shall discuss our Strategy and ask the question: “How Do We Get There?” Think of it this way. If the vision is to have a satisfying lunch at Las Brisas, then the strategy is how do I get there in the best, most efficient manner possible. Our church needs to prayerfully develop a clear Strategy to carry out our Mission that fulfills our Vision that is consistent with our Identity and Values, that meets the Needs of those around us and glorifies God.

A Quick Word 

We need to pause for a moment to address the elephant in the room: tradition. I’m defining tradition as the set of customs or beliefs that are passed down from generation to generation. Tradition can be good, bad, or ugly. Tradition can be good when it is biblical. For example, Baptists have a tradition of biblically based sermons, baptism by immersion, and observing the Lord’s Supper. Tradition, however, can be bad when it is not biblical but carries the weight of what is biblical. For example, you can’t take up the offering unless you have golden plates. 

Tradition can be ugly when it is prioritized over what is biblical and causes a Church to neglect prayerfully examining God’s will for them and hinders them in their mission to be most effective and faithful to make disciples. Rather than setting aside time to ask Jesus to reveal to them His strategy for their church, they busy themselves by doing what they have always done. They do not prayerfully evaluate the best method for carrying out their mission. These churches know what they should be doing and the motivation for doing it, but fail to intentionally develop a plan to accomplish it; relying on God to bless their traditions. A church must not thoughtlessly adhere to traditions and also not flippantly cast aside tradition. Traditions need to be evaluated to see if they are a help or a hindrance to fulfilling God’s mission for our Church. Having said that, prioritizing tradition over mission leads to decline.

Guidelines

First Baptist needs to prayerfully develop a strategy to carry out our mission and fulfill our vision in keeping with our values. This means that we operate under a few important guidelines:

  • We shall accomplish our mission in a simple pathway of involvement with a few strategic ministries rather than thinking that more programs means more effectiveness and that people want (or need) more choices. This entails that we say yes to those ideas/ministries which fit our Mission, Values, and Strategy best and say no to those which do not fit. 
  • We shall limit and steward time “at church” in order to release and equip people to “be the church”. This will help us find a balance between two extremes: 1) time at church equals spiritual maturity and 2) time at church is not important. We need to gather and deploy strategically. 
  • We shall present and guide people through a balanced process of discipleship rather than allow an immature knowledge-centered spirituality to dictate program offerings. We must make Christ followers rather than religious consumers. Every member must be discipled with the expectation that they will make disciples. While our strategy is primarily focused in the context of our local church, it must also influence each individual member to pursue Christlikeness in their daily lives.

Next Steps

God is always calling His followers to the next steps of obedience. Keep in mind that like mission and vision, strategy is a key aspect that must be understood and embraced by the Church. This is not the pastor’s strategy or the Refocus team’s strategy. It is the Church’s.

  • Pray for the Refocus Team as they discern a clear and compelling strategy to present to our Church. 
  • Pray for them as they seek to clearly communicate this strategy to the Church and that the Church would provide helpful feedback.
  • Pray for our Church to continue to seek God in prayer.
  • Pray for one another as we desire to help each other grow in spiritual maturity.

Vision: Where Are We Going?

We now turn our attention to Vision and ask the question: “Where Are We Going?” We will learn that we want to commit our lives to see Jesus transform our lives. Remember, mission reminds us what we should be doing, vision reminds us where we are going. Rob Peters said, “Mission informs the mind of what we should be doing and vision inspires the heart to remember where the mission should take us.” Our vision is Christ transforming our lives.

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Where Are We Going?

Close your eyes and imagine a world in which everyone loves, obeys, and worships Jesus Christ. What you are imagining is a world that does not exist…yet. This is the world that God promised is to come. It is encapsulated in Jesus’ prayer: “Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). 

As It is in Heaven

Where are we going? Christians are going to heaven. We have the blessing that our ultimate vision will become a reality because it is promised by God to us. For the purpose of this sermon, we shall keep the ultimate vision in view as we seek to establish a vision for our church for the next 10 years. In other words, knowing that we will end up eventually in a world in which everyone loves, obeys, and worships Jesus Christ; what do we want our church to look like 10 years from now.

What Do We Want?

What do we want our church to look like in 10 years? We want First Baptist to be a place where people come to meet Jesus and to be transformed by Jesus. Our vision is that we would be instruments in the Redeemer’s hands and we would see Christ transforming lives through salvations, freedom from addictions, healing of relationships, and growing in spiritual maturity. 

Next Steps

God is always calling His children to the next steps of obedience. When we consider our Vision, we are making a statement about a future that does not yet exist but one in which we will commit ourselves to help build. Assuming there will be another 10 years, what do we want our Church to look like? Spend some time this week praying about this and consider:

  • If Jesus were to ask you, “What do you want Me to do for you?” How would you answer? How should you answer?
  • What aspects of our Church are healthy and need to continue and be strengthened?
  • What aspects of our Church are not faithful to our mission and need reexamination?
  • Who do you know that needs to be saved? Are you praying for them and speaking to them about becoming a follower of Jesus?
  • Who do you know that needs encouragement? Are you willing to help them?
  • Who do you know that needs a private work of rebuke? If so, do it humbly and privately with a desire to help your brother/sister?
  • What are you asking God to do in your life? In your family’s life? In your neighborhood? In our Church? Our City? Our State? Our Country? The World?

Values: Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing?

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We are in the midst of a sermon series on the necessity of keeping our focus. We are at a time in the life of our church in which we must prayerfully discern our mission, vision, and strategy with a hope that we may most faithfully and effectively make disciples and glorify God. To recap, we discussed:

  • The Needs around us and asked the question: “What’s Going On? We learned that our community is hurting and needs Jesus.
  • Our Identity and asked the question: “Who Are We?” We learned that we are Christians who have been and are being healed by Jesus.
  • Our Mission and asked the question: “What Are We Supposed To Be Doing?” We learned that we were intentionally created by God to love God and enjoy Him forever.

This Sunday we will discuss our Values and ask the question: “Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing?” In other words, what is our motivation for carrying out our mission? Aubrey Malphurs said it well: “You won’t do ministry that really matters until you define what matters.” So, what really matters to us? What are our shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths? Another way to think of this is to ask this question: “Of all the good Churches around, why do you choose to gather with this particular church?” Here are the core values our Refocus team have discerned:

Value #1: Fellowship

We value fellowship because we love spending time with other Christians: encouraging, helping, and caring about them. Christianity is not a private religion. Yes, we have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but our faith is never meant to be private. Our personal relationship with Jesus is meant to be lived out as we develop healthy relationships with those around us. This is demonstrated by our commitment to gathering in worship and in small group Bible Studies. This is demonstrated by our commitment to meeting one another’s needs whether they be physical or spiritual.

Value #2: Teaching

We value teaching that is biblically sound because we want to know Jesus through Scripture. We agree with The Baptist Faith and Message: “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” This is demonstrated by our commitment to Biblical preaching and teaching. This is demonstrated by our commitment to reading the Bible and studying it. We want to cultivate a teachable spirit that studies the Scriptures.

Value #3: Prayer

We value prayer because we want to regularly communicate with our loving God. We value prayer that is authentic, persistent, and guided by faith. This is demonstrated in our corporate prayer meeting, our prayer chain, and our commitment to personal prayer. This is demonstrated by our teaching on the importance of prayer and the necessity of growing in faith through prayer. This is demonstrated by our commitment to reach out to those who are in need of prayer and praying with them and for them in Christ-like love. 

Value #4: Encouragement

We value encouragement because we desire to give the hope of Jesus to all people who are in need of hope in their life. This is demonstrated by our commitment to speaking with grace and truth to one another and striving to be peacemakers. This is demonstrated by our commitment to hold one another accountable to live holy lives that bring glory to God. This is demonstrated by our sacrificial love for everyone that guides all we think, say, and do.

Value #5: Generosity

We value generosity because we want to be obedient with what’s been entrusted to us. We know that we will give an account of our lives to God. This is demonstrated by our faithful giving of our tithes and offerings. This is demonstrated in the meeting of benevolence needs that arise. This is demonstrated by faithful stewardship of our time, talent, and treasures.

Value #6: Worship

We value worship because we love God and know that He is worthy of our worship. This is demonstrated in our commitment to worship God all the time, in all places, and in every season. We worship through music, sermon, reading the Bible, testimonies, prayer, giving, etc. Everything we do is an act of worship. This is demonstrated by our commitment to make the public worship gathering a priority in our life. 

Value #7: Family

We value family because we know the biblical model of the family and its value to the community and our church. This is demonstrated in our marriage enrichment events and our family ministry milestones. This is demonstrated in our family-focused ministries and classes (VBS). This is demonstrated in care for our recent renovation of the children’s space in our building. This is demonstrated by desiring to have young children with us as we worship.

Value #8: Evangelism

After discerning the top 7 core values of our church, the Refocus team noticed that an important value was not listed: Evangelism. The team has determined that Evangelism should be listed and identified as an aspirational value. Aspirational values are those that an organization needs in order to succeed in the future but currently lacks or needs attention. We value evangelism because we want to tell others the good news about Jesus Christ. This shall be demonstrated by our commitment to encourage and support one another to regularly share our testimony and the Gospel with others. This shall be demonstrated by our intentional outreach into our community. This is demonstrated in our annual VBS.

Take time this week to pray about what is really important to you. Ask God to grant wisdom.

Vision: Mission – What Are We Supposed To Be Doing?

This Sunday morning we will focus on our Mission as Christians and as a local Church. When we speak about our mission we are asking the question: “What are we supposed to be doing?” Is our mission to serve the community? Deliver meals? Pick up trash? Provide clothing? Is our mission to meet once a week? Have Church Services? Sunday School? Small Groups? Is our mission to grow numerically and financially? Is our mission to have Church Committee meetings? What is our mission? What are we supposed to be doing? I like what the Westminster Larger Catechism says about this. It says that the chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever. What are we supposed to be doing? We love God and enjoy him forever.

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Love God

When you love God, you give Him the praise and honor He deserves and you live a life that is well-pleasing to Him.

You love God by giving Him the praise and honor He deserves. Romans 11:36 says, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” We are made to worship our Creator. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has put eternity in our hearts and our heart is lost until it finds its rest in God. We are commanded to worship God. 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 says, “Give to the Lord, O kindreds of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name.” We exist to bring glory to God.

You love God by living a life that is well-pleasing to Him. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Ephesians 4:1 says, “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Who is the faithful servant? The one who does the will of His master.

Enjoy Him Forever

When you enjoy God, you want to be with Him and you want to tell others about Him.

When you enjoy God, you want to be with Him. God did not save you just to give you something good to do with your life. God did not save you just to give you a nice place to go when you die. God adopts you into His family and delights in you. God loves you and God saved you because He wants you reconciled to Him. We cannot overlook the fact that we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We know Him and He knows us. Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you.” John Piper said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Psalm 37:4 tells us: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” As we delight in the Lord, the desires of our heart conform to what pleases Him and He delights in giving us what we desire.

When you enjoy God, you want to tell others about Him. We talk about those in whom we have great delight. If you don’t believe me, ask any grandmother to tell you about her grandkids. The Great Commission is built upon the desire of Christians to tell other people about Christ Jesus. Matthew 28:18-20 says: 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Great Commission is fueled by great compassion for others and the great love of God for us and for the world. 

Next Steps

Those who love God and enjoy Him forever are men and women of faith. Are you a faithful person? Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” As we think about our mission, we need to prayerfully consider first this question: Am I faithful? Are you a faithful person? Walter Henrichsen gives a helpful summary of the qualifications of a faithful person:

  1. A faithful person has adopted as his objective in life that same objective God sets forth in the Scriptures. Seek first the kingdom of God.
  2. A faithful person is willing to pay any price to have the will of God fulfilled in his life. Resists being ensnared by the world.
  3. A faithful person has a love for the Word of God.
  4. A faithful person has a servant’s heart.
  5. A faithful person puts no conscience in the flesh.
  6. A faithful person does not have an independent spirit.
  7. A faithful person has a love for people.
  8. A faithful person does not allow himself to become trapped in bitterness.
  9. A faithful person has learned to discipline his life.

John MacArthur recently said of Christians: “We don’t live in fear and we don’t live for safety. We live to be faithful.”

Vision: Identity – Who Are We?

We learned last week that many people around us are hurting. They are looking for answers or at least something to take away the pain. The most common “answers” people turn to are: money, possessions, fame, drugs, alcohol, love, and sex. None of these satisfy because none of them can address the root cause of the brokenness: sin. It was our sin that caused us to be estranged from God and only Jesus can heal us because only Jesus can forgive our sin and restore us back to God. 

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With so many people around us who are hurting, who is going to help? The Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). What is the Church? The Church is “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into His body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.” The Church is important to Jesus. He died for the Church (Acts 20:28). The Church is Jesus’ Plan (Matt 16:18), Jesus’ Bride (Eph 5:25–27), Jesus’ Body (1 Cor 12:27), God’s Flock (1 Pet 5:2), God’s Building and Field (1 Cor 3:9), and “God’s household…the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

The Church is Not a Social or Service Club

The Church is not a Social Club. There is nothing inherently wrong with Social Clubs (provided they do not promote sin), but the Church is not a Social Club. Thom Rainer summarized in his book I Am A Church Member the problems with viewing Church membership similarly to membership in a Social Club: “membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices.” The local church is not about us, it’s about Him!

The Church is not a Service Club. There are many Service Clubs that meet the needs of others and promote good in the world. While charitable works are to be commended, the Church’s primary mission is not to do good in the world. The Church certainly wants to do good in the world but that’s not our primary mission. The local church is not an organization that is specifically focused on helping people in need.

We Are the Church

We are different. The Church is by definition distinct from the world. The Church consists of those who have been saved, born again, redeemed, and set apart by God for Himself. The Church consists of Christians who have had their desires, preferences, and affections changed by God. Peter wrote that Christians are to live “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:14-15). We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Vance Havner said it this way: “It is one thing for a boat to be in the water, it’s an entirely different matter for the water to be in the boat.” The Church is supposed to be noticeable because it is different from anything else around.

We are healed. One of the primary reasons we are different from the world is because our brokenness has been healed. How are we healed? First, our sins are completely forgiven. In the New Covenant, Jesus is the sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God. Our sins are remembered no more (Heb 10:17). Second, our identity is fixed. We accept that our true identity is a sinner with a wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus reconciles us to God and we are adopted (Rom 8:15) into God’s family. Third, all our needs are met. Jesus made it clear that God will provide for us and we have no reason to worry (Matt 6:19-34). Fourth, our destination is secured. We have eternal life with the Triune God. When we die we are immediately in the presence of our Lord. 

We are healing. One of the first objections that arises after saying that a Christian’s brokenness has been healed by Jesus is: “Why do I still struggle so much?” If our brokenness has been healed, why do we still feel broken? This is because God works to justify and sanctify us. We are justified by grace through faith. Justification is the one-time event where God declares us not guilty of our sin. After we are justified we are in the process of sanctification. Sanctification is described by Stuart Scott as “A lifelong cycle of sin, repentance, renewal, and growth toward Christlikeness that will only be complete when we meet our Lord (Rom.6-8). This is accomplished through the active discipline of the believer himself, who trusts that the Holy Spirit is energizing his efforts (Phil. 2:12-13).”

Next Steps

God is always calling His followers to the next steps of obedience. This week continue to ask God to provide opportunities to be a neighbor to someone around you. Also, take time to prayerfully meditate on your identity in Christ. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does God think about me?
  • How does God want me to think, speak, and act?
  • What does God say I should do when I am worried and anxious?
  • What does God say I should do when I am fearful?
  • What does God say I should do with my pride?
  • What should I do when someone offends me and/or sins against me?
  • What does God want me to do with the remaining years of my life?
  • Is there anything that I am refusing to do that God wants me to do? 

Vision: Needs – What’s Going On?

Introduction

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In Hebrews 12:1-2, we were instructed to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” (Heb 12:1-2). This command applies to every Christian and it also applies to Churches. Churches can become hindered by unnecessary weight and ensnared by sin. Therefore it is necessary for a local Church to have a time of prayerful evaluation and reflection. First Baptist Scott City is at such a time. We are at a “hinge moment” in the life of our Church. According to Dr. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, “hinge moments [are] opportunities to open (or close) doors to various pathways of our lives.” We are at a hinge moment in the life of our Church in which we must prayerfully discern our mission, vision, and strategy with a hope that we may most faithfully and effectively make disciples and glorify God. As a Church, we need to prayerfully discern if we have any weights and any sin that is hindering our endurance in the race set before us by Jesus. We will spend time over the next few months asking and answering relevant questions such as:

  • Needs: What’s Going On?
  • Identity: Who Are We?
  • Mission: What Are We Supposed To Be Doing?
  • Vision: Where Are We Going?
  • Strategy: How Do We Get There?
  • Goals: Are We Making A Difference?
  • Endurance: Are We Willing to Move Forward?

Needs: What’s Going On?

In the United States, we are seeing a fundamental shift in religious identification. This shift is the result of the various generations in our nation and how they identify (or don’t identify) in terms of religion. According to Pew Research from a few years ago:

  • Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964) – 28% Evangelical and 9% Atheist or Agnostic.
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980) – 25% Evangelical and 13%  Atheist or Agnostic.
  • Millennials (born 1981-1995) – 22% Evangelical and 15% Atheist or Agnostic.
  • Generation Z (Born after 1996) – 19% Evangelical and 21% Atheist or Agnostic. 

Our Community Has Physical Needs

Our nation has many great things happening, but we also need to address certain issues. More than 70,000 Americans died from drug-involved overdose in 2019, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids. Deaths from Fentynal (synthetic opioid) rose from 9,580 in 2015 to 57,550 in 2020. That is a 500% increase! It’s not just drugs, it is alcohol, poverty, and dysfunctional families. It is heartbreaking to hear a young child speak of one parent in jail and another in prison. Our community needs food for those who are hungry. We need to provide supplies to those who are in need. We are involved with Careportal and here are a few of the most recent requests that have come through Careportal for our area: bunk beds, couch, utility bill assistance, outlet wall plates, fire extinguisher, smoke detectors, and car repair. Our community has physical needs that we can meet.

Our Community Has Spiritual Needs

Our community has physical needs but we cannot forget that it has spiritual needs. Our community needs Jesus. Our neighbors need to know that Jesus is the Son of God. They need to hear the Gospel: God designed a good world but our rebellion brought sin and brokenness. Jesus lived a sinless life and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice in order to take away our sin and grant us His righteousness. Only by repenting and believing in Jesus can we be saved and reconciled to God. Sin is the cause for our brokenness and only through the forgiveness of sin can we be healed. Our community has spiritual problems and Jesus is the solution.

Our Community Needs the Church to be the Church

First Baptist Church exists because Jesus loves the people of Scott City, MO (and the surrounding area). Jesus intends to save our neighbors and He has established our church (along with others) as a witness to them so that by grace they may be saved through faith (Eph 2:8-9). Our community is hurting and Jesus placed us here to help. 

Please pay very close attention to this next sentence because this is something that we all need to hear and reflect on: the people in our community do not need more stuff, they need redemptive relationships. It is good that we provide food and other items to help those in our community in need. It is good that we reach out through Careportal and provide specific needs to help families in Child Services. It is good that we open our doors and invite all to enter. As good as all these things are, what our community desperately needs is for First Baptist to reach out to them and befriend them in order to build relationships that result in lives transformed by Christ. Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The world is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, but a new demonstration of Christianity.” If we wish to be fully faithful to all that Christ commands our Church, we will not wait for the world to come to us.

Next Steps

God is always calling His followers to the next steps of obedience. One aspect of this is that we should show people the love of Christ while telling them Christ loves them. As a Church placed in this place at such a time as this, it is vital for us to become aware of the needs and potential of our community. As we do so, we bring a faithful witness of Jesus and call them to faith and obedience. 

This week during your prayer time, ask Jesus to open your eyes to see those around you. Ask Him to show you their needs, but more importantly ask Jesus to reveal to you those whom you need to help. Ask God to provide opportunities to show them the love of Christ and share with them your testimony and how they may be saved.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? (Hebrews 13)

It is appropriate that the book of Hebrews ends with an extended discussion of the importance of love. Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue.” What is brotherly love? Brotherly love is from the Greek word Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the joining of two Greek words phileos (love) and adelphos (brother). It can be translated as brotherly love or brotherly affection. It is used in Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Philip Hughes helpfully summaries what brotherly love means and where it is derived:

Christian brotherhood is essentially brotherhood in Christ; for as He is the only Son…it is through union with Him that we participate in the grace of His sonship, and in Him are accepted as the sons of God and, as sons, brothers and fellow heirs with Him who is the heir of all things. If our brotherhood derives from Christ, so also does our love as brothers. His infinite love for us is the source and stimulus of our love for each other.

Hebrews, Philip Hughes.
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The book of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Law of Moses. Therefore, He alone is our Redeemer, Advocate, Savior, and Lord—worthy of all praise and glory and honor. Being freed from the law, we are able to love God and one another. What does Hebrews 13 teach us about brotherly love? Let us consider:

Showing Love To Strangers (13:2)

Our brotherly love should not be withheld from strangers. With Christ as our source and stimulus of our love, we should be willing to help those in need, even if we do not know them. Christians should not only help fellow Christians. There is a reminder given that it is possible to entertain an angel without realizing it. Be kind to someone you meet, you never know, it might be an angel from God.

Showing Love Through Suffering (13:3 & 12-13)

Our brotherly love extends to those who suffer for righteousness sake. We are told to “remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated since you yourselves are in the body also.” The Church is referred to as a body with many members (1 Cor 12). When one member suffers the whole body suffers. Throughout most of Christian history, being a Christian was likely to land you in trouble with the governing authorities. Christians must care for one another, especially for those who suffer for righteousness sake (1 Peter 3:14). We should refrain from blaming them for being in that position as we remember the Golden Rule and remember that we could end up in a similar position. 

Showing Love For Marriage (13:4)

Our brotherly love esteems the honorable estate of marriage. Marriage should be held in honor among all with the marriage bed undefiled. Marriage is instituted by God and He determines what does and does not defile the marriage bed. Marriage is between one biological man and one biological woman. We must not attempt to redefine what God has clearly defined. This also means that married men and women must be on guard against lust and temptation. Marriage is to be held in honor by all. This includes your own marriage and the marriages of others. We need to help and support one another to be faithful.

Showing Love Through Contentment (13:5-6 & 16)

Our brotherly love results in contentment. We are told “let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have.” We can be content with what we have because we remember that the Lord is with us. We express our contentment by giving to others and sharing what we have with them. This is a voluntary sharing, not under compulsion. Contentment is in opposition to, and helps us fight against: worry (Matt 6:25), complaining (1 Cor 10:10), greed (Heb 13:5), and envy (James 3:16).

Showing Love To Our Leaders (13:7 & 17)

Our brotherly love results in honoring and supporting your spiritual leaders. We are told to “remember those who lead you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” This is in the context of the overseer and undershepherd. We learn in verse 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Showing Love through Worship (13:8-11 & 14-15)

Our brotherly love helps us remember to worship Jesus. We must remember His perfect sacrifice for us. We must remember that He sanctifies us. We must remember to worship Him correctly by obeying His commands. We must adhere to sound doctrine that is based on the Bible. “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” 

In Conclusion (13:18-25)

The book of Hebrews helps us by teaching us about Jesus’ greatness:

  • Jesus is greater than the Prophets: He is the final Word from God.
  • Jesus is greater than Angels: Angels are servants, Jesus is the Son.
  • Jesus is greater than Moses: Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant.
  • Jesus is greater than Aaron: Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” —Hebrews 13:20-21