It is so good to be back with all of you! It’s always wonderful to travel, but it is great to come back home to our church family. We had an amazing trip to Israel and made memories that will last a lifetime. We are so grateful to all of you for keeping us in your prayers as we traveled and following our trip on social media.
There is nothing like walking around these different locations, knowing that Jesus stood in the very same places. It is one thing to read about places like Jerusalem and Capernaum in Scripture, but to see them in person makes the Word of God come alive! This weekend, we will hear from some of the team about the places that had the most impact on them and how this trip has impacted their faith. The title of the message this weekend is “WORD ALIVE.”
Come and see pictures and footage from places you have read about in the Bible and hear firsthand what it is like to stand where our Savior stood. It will deepen your faith and change your perspective! Invite your friends and family to come along, too!
REPENT AND BELIEVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Help me finish – Peanut Butter and Jelly; RC and Moon Pie; Chips and Dip; Mash potatoes and gravy; Salt and Pepper; Pork and Beans; Mac and Cheese. Let’s get out of the food family – Abbot and Costello; Tom and Jerry; Batman and Robin. We can go on forever. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is Repent and Believe. They are two sides of the same coin.Repentance without belief will only lead to perpetual guilt and belief without repentance will only lead to perpetual carnality. If all you do is repent, you will never see the grace of God. If all you do is believe, you will never see the holiness of God. One more thing, you can’t truly repent unless you truly believe and you can’t truly believe unless you truly repent.
Mark 1 14Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Acts 20 20how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,21testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Question: Have you repented of your sins? Have you placed your faith in Jesus and his cross and resurrection? Are you saved?
Context: This is our final message in our series on the gospel. Many of you have shared with me how much the messages in this series have impacted your life. Some of you have even passed on the messages to others. That’s amazing! All I can say is “To God be the glory. It’s his gospel anyways!” In this last message, we’re going to learn how salvation is both a result of repentance and belief. They go together. They are the final steps of following Jesus. We are going to look at each of them briefly:
What is repentance?In Greek, the noun form is “metanoia,” which is found 24 times; the verbal form is “metanoeo,” which is found 34 times; then, there is “metamelomai,” which is found 6 times. There is a reason I’m giving you all these statistics. The core idea behind all these words is a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” For some reason, we have inserted the idea of sorrow or regret. It may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but this was not part of the original biblical understanding. Don’t misunderstand. There may be some tears involved in repentance but they are the right kind of tears. 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentanceleadingto salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” There’s a big difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow feels personal guilt against the holiness of God but worldly sorrow only feels regret and remorse. Godly sorrow leads to salvation but worldly sorrow only leads to death. Crying or feeling sorry or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. The key thing is that there’s a change of thinking regarding sin, self, and Savior.Prior to repentance, you were okay with sin. Now, there is a disdain for sin. Prior to repentance, you were the center of the universe. Now, God is the rightful center of the universe. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior. Now, you want a Savior who can rescue you from the power of sin and self.
How important is repentance? It is a must for being saved.Listen to what Jesus said to the self-righteous people in Luke 13 3“. . . unless you repent you will all likewise perish. . . 5I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He repeated it twice. A salvation without repentance is no salvation at all. I repented when I got saved at the age of 4. I didn’t have any tears but there was a definite change in my thinking. I knew that I was not good in myself and I needed Jesus to come into my life.
Who does the repenting? In a sense, we (the unbelievers) do the repenting but, in another sense, repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in John 16 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Ultimately, repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Application: Have you repented of your sins? Has the Holy Spirit led you to a change of thinking regarding sin, self, and the Savior?
What is belief? Just like for repentance, the Greek word for belief is also very significant. It is mainly found in John’s gospel as the active verb “pisteuein,” which is found as many as 96 times. It is found in the epistles as the noun “pistis.” The meaning of both the verb form and the noun form are lot stronger than the words “belief” or “believe.” It’s like “I believe the package is coming today” or “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “I hope.” The Greek has the idea of “trust.” It’s like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. When it comes to salvation, belief or trust is having confidence in Jesus that he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life. As a 4-year-old, I believed in those facts. It involves committing my whole life to him. That is true trust.
How important is belief? It’s a must for being saved. Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Then, John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”Now listen to John 3:36“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” And,John 8:24“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Bottom Line: No belief, no salvation.
Who does the believing? We do. When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes of faith, we have a choice to make. Are we going to place our test in him or are we going to reject him? Some people falsely think that faith is also a gift. It is a gift to the believer but to the unbeliever, the eyes have been opened and the choice is left in our hands. We have to decide. By the way, we are constantly demonstrating faith and trust. We do it when we go through a traffic light. We do it when we use water that comes out of the tap. We do it when we go in for a surgery or even take a pill that has been prescribed. So also, we need to believe and trust in Jesus that he is our Savior and King. Ultimately, belief is your choice and commitment.
Application:Have you believed in Jesus? Have you trusted in Jesus not just with your sins but also with your life?
So, what is the gospel?
- Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
- He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
- He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
- He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
- Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
- Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
- Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost.Without this element, the gospel is not the true gospel. First, the decision and then, one day, the test.
Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?
KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.
Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 1 14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?
Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.
Background: As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17 20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things: One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?
II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.
Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:
- Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
- Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
- Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
- Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
- Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
- Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
- John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.
Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”
III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.
Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.
Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”
Revelation 21 1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.
Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?
FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series: Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.
Galatians 1 6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?
Context: I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:
- He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
- He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
- He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
- He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What’s the point of all this? Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.
Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.
Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):
- The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
- The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
- The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
- The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
- The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”
Question: Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.
What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:
First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15 1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
One response here – Repentance for our sins.
Now the Response – Romans 10 9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.
Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?
DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.
Philippians 1 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?
Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.
Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.
If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?
7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”
- Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.
What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”
Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.
But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”
- Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.
Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”
- Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”
- Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.
“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”
- Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”
11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”
- Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”
“…to the glory and praise of God.”
- Glory and Praise of God –Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise from our lives.
These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”
Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?
DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.
Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”
Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?
Context: As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.
- W for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
- T for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
- E for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
- R for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”
The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.
I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:
1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.
2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better? 8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):
i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .
ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.
iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.
iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.
v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.
vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.
vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.
viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.
3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”
Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?
DISCIPLESHIP – IMPLANTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Do you know someone with selective memory? Parents, do you have kids with selective memory? They can’t remember where they put their homework but they can remember all the weapon combinations of Fortnite. Ladies, does your man suffer with selective memory? He can’t remember that the kid’s birthday party is this weekend (which you’ve told him 10 times) but he knows exactly when his favorite team is playing and who will be in the starting lineup. Confession time: I’m one of them. We say, “My memory is not what it used to be.” To be honest, our memory is just fine. We remember what we really care to remember. What does this have to do with discipleship? When we get saved, God’s Word is implanted in our hearts. It is the truth of God that comes in where there was only darkness, deceit, and death. This implanted Word now creates a hunger for the external Word, the Bible. In fact, it’s vitality is depended on it. This is where scripture memorization comes in. It feeds the implanted Word. Without the external word coming and dwelling in us, the implanted word can do only so much. Memorizing scripture is a vital part of discipleship. But, when you tell people that, they often claim that their memory is no good. Our memory is just fine. We remember what we really care to remember. In this message titled “Implanted,” we will learn why and how we need to memorize scripture.
James 1 19So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Question: How important is the word of God in your life? How often do you read it? Are you a disciple? Are you saved? Has the Word been implanted in your heart?
Context: In the past few weeks I’ve heard from many of you that you are starting an Inner Circle (D-group) or you are praying about joining one. It’s awesome! Some of you still have some questions as to how it’s all supposed to work. Let me quickly recap:
- The incentive for this series on discipleship is Matthew 28:19,the Great Commission of Jesus – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. . .”That statement by Jesus is not a suggestion. It is a command that has to be obeyed. In other words, not to go and make disciples is to disobey God.
- The question that follows is “What is a disciple?” Based on scripture, we came up with the goal of discipleship in the acronym WATER = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING DISCIPLES. I’ve preached a message on each of these elements.
- Next, we looked at the importance of disciplines or habits in discipleship – Evangelism, Confession, Weekly Church Attendance, Daily Bible Intake, and Discipling. Without discipline, there is no discipleship.
- Next, we looked at the pathways to get to discipleship. We need to follow the model of Jesus in how he moved people from the Crowd to the Congregation to the Community to the Inner Circle. True discipleship happens when the circle is small, 3-5-member gender specific closed group that is by invitation only to believers. It meets weekly for a period of time and then each member replicates, as God leads.
- What happens when they meet? Study the Bible, Memorize the Bible, Ask questions of Accountability, and Pray.
- Last week we learned how to study the Bible at the simplest level – Read the Word, Understand the Word, and Apply the Word.
In this message, I want to focus on Memorizing the Word. As I mentioned, when people hear about the importance of memorizing scripture, they dismiss it with “my memory is horrible” “I’m too busy” “I read the Bible and that’s enough” “You don’t have to do that to be a Christian.” Let me first tell you why it is important to Memorize the Word:
- Scripture Memory was a distinguishing mark of the Old Testament saints: Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
- Scripture memory was the secret to success in life: Joshua 1:8“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”Clarification:The Bible talks about meditating on the Word rather than memorizing the Word. Meditating is taking a passage and ruminating on it, thinking on it and committing it to memory. When we talk about scripture memorization, we’re not talking about mindlessly memorizing a passage like for an exam. Psalm 1 1“Blessedisthe man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2But his delightisin the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” By the way, this meditation is nothing like the transcendental meditation of eastern mysticism or yoga. They talk about emptying your mind, quieting your soul, and letting peace, happiness, and wisdom come from within. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
- Scripture memory was a safeguard against the pitfalls of life: Psalm 37 David says, 30“The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. 31The law of his Godisin his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”
- Scripture memory was an internal armor against sin: Psalm 119:11“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
- Scripture memory was the source of joy to God’s people: Jeremiah 15:16“Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
Someone might say, “All that is just Old Testament. In the New Testament, it’s all the Spirit.”Actually, the New Testament assumes many of the habits and ways of thinking of the Old Testament. Remember, the first Christians were Jewish believers. They wrote the books of the New Testament through the Holy Spirit but within their Old Testament worldview. Many of the truths in the New Testament assume that you are memorizing Scripture. I don’t have time to give all references but here are just a few:
- Jesus memorized Scripture. How did he respond when Satan tried to tempt him? He said to him, “It is written” and then quoted scripture. We think it’s because he is God and he already knew it. He was also man who as Luke said in Luke 2:52“increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
- Jesus expected his disciples to remember his words. John 8:31“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If youabidein Myword, you are My disciples indeed.”That’s referring to both the Implanted Word and the External Word.
- Paul commanded the believers to remember Scripture. Colossians 3:16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . .”
- Paul listed the Word as our only weapon in spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:17“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
- The writer of Hebrews explains the continuous inner working of the Word in us. Hebrews 4:12“For the word of Godisliving and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
There are many other references but listen to what Chuck Swindoll said,“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.”
So, how do you go about memorizing scripture? There are many techniques out there but basically there are 2 mediums: Use the old-fashioned index cards or use an app. At the end of the day, you still have to memorize. Here’s my challenge to you: Every time you want to look at your phone, look at your memory verse first.When you join an Inner Circle, the scriptures are already assigned, which helps a lot, and then the accountability keeps you committed. If you do it alone, it’s very easy to give up.
At Clearview, we expect our kids to memorize scripture in Sunday School, Blaze, and Awana. But, when they grow up, we assume that they don’t have to do that. How tragic!
Personal Testimony:Growing up, we had bible verses everywhere in our home. Those verses have protected and guided me to where I am today. I want the same for my kids. So, I am willing to do it still. We remember so much useless information. Imagine what memorizing Scripture will do for you.
Is the Implanted Word in you? Is the External Word in you?