After “Are You Heaven Bound?”

Last Sunday was a particularly important Sunday for our congregation.  In addition to our weekly pattern of godly worship, which is always important, it also contained our long-awaited special service.  We’d been working toward “Are You Heaven Bound?” all year, and we’d been promoting it heavily for six weeks.  Now, the day has come and gone.

Before we put it completely in the rearview mirror, though, I want to spend some time talking about it.  I think there’s much to celebrate about what happened last Sunday, but I also think that there are several things we ought to learn from what happened.  Let’s consider, then, the lessons that are available for us after “Are You Heaven Bound?” Continue reading

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To Our Knees

O God, You bring us to our knees,
For You are very great;
We marvel at the mysteries
You purpose and create.
The starry reaches of the night
Declare Your majesty and might;
They show You clearly to our sight
And bring us to our knees. Continue reading

Victory in Jesus

For our final lesson before the big special service this afternoon, I wanted to zoom out as far as I could and ask “Why?”  Why have we been putting so much effort into promoting this?  Why is it important to get as many people as possible here at 3?  For that matter, why should we be here?  To zoom out even further, why should we ourselves be Christians at all?

One of my favorite answers to these questions appears in 1 Corinthians 15:56-57.  Serving Jesus is worth it, and calling others to serve Him is worth it because through Jesus, we can have victory.  Indeed, victory over the greatest challenges of life is only possible through Jesus, which means that if we don’t live for Him, defeat is the only possible result.  Being in Christ transforms our lives, and it can transform the life of every human being on the planet.  Let’s consider this morning, then, how we can achieve victory in Jesus. Continue reading

Bible Reading Week #15

  • The end of Joshua – Our Bible reading in Joshua focused mainly on the children of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. After conquering 31 kings west of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:9-24), the nation could finally begin to divide the land up among the tribes (Joshua 13:1-33). In chapter 14, one of the original 12 spies (Caleb), asked for the inheritance promised to him by God 45 years earlier. At 85 years old, Caleb requested the hill country of Hebron. He wanted to be able to drive out any giants that remained.

The last two chapters of the book consist of Joshua’s farewell address to the nation. After calling the leaders of Israel, he reminds them of the grace of God that had been shown to them (Joshua 23:1-4).  He then urges all the people to serve the Lord and keep His commands (Joshua 23:6; 24:15). He warns them that if they failed to do so, God would in turn remove them from the good land He had just given them (Joshua 23:15-16). The people responded by promising to faithfully serve the Lord (Joshua 24:16-28). Joshua then wrote their covenant in the “book of the law of God” and constructed a great stone as a memorial of the events of the day.

Joshua would die at 110 years of age. He was buried in Timnath-serah in Ephraim (Joshua 24:29-31). The book also concludes by mentioning the burying of Joseph’s bones that were brought from Egypt and the death of the second high priest, Eleazar (Joshua 24:32-33).

  • The book of Judges – This book records some of the darkest moments in the history of Israel. The generation that Joshua lead into Canaan is commonly called, “The greatest generation of Israel.” Unfortunately, the next few generations would not even come close to that level of faithfulness. Instead, they would start serving the same false gods as the heathen nations around them (Judges 2:11-15).

The book begins with God promising not to help Israel drive out the rest of the Canaanites. Since Israel refused to obey Him and drive out the remaining nations immediately, God refused to help them any longer. Instead, He would allow those remaining nations to be a “thorn” in their side (Judges 2:1-5).

The period of Judges lasted for about 300 years. During that time, Israel found themselves in a repeated cycle of disobedience to God and suffering. They would RELAPSE in their faithfulness to God (Judges 3:7). The Lord would get RETRIBUTION and allow them to suffer at the hands of heathen nations (Judges 3:8). The children of Israel would then cry to God and REPENT (Judges 3:9). God would then RAISE up a judge (warrior or deliverer) who would save them (Judges 3:10). The land would then be at a period of REST, until the same cycle would repeat itself once again (Judges 3:11).

There were fifteen judges of Israel.

  • Othniel (Judges 3:7-11)
  • Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
  • Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
  • Deborah (Judges 4-5)
  • Gideon (Judges 6-8)
  • Abimelech (Judges 9)
  • Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
  • Jair (Judges 10:3-4)
  • Jephthah (Judges 10:5-12:7)
  • Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10)
  • Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
  • Abdon (Judges 12:13-15)
  • Samson (Judges 13-16)
  • Eli (1 Samuel 4:18)
  • Samuel (1 Samuel 7:15)

The book of Judges teaches us that life is always better when we listen to and obey God. A life without doing so leads to suffering and chaos (Judges 21:25).

Are You Heaven Bound?

Introduction:

  1. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5. How confident are you about receiving what Peter talks about in these verses?
  2. Paul was very confident about the path he was on, 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:6-8. He knew where he was going after this life!
  3. God wants us all to have that same level of confidence. See 1 John 5:13. God wants us to know if we are truly bound for heaven!
  4. How can we know which spiritual path we are really on?

The Lesson:

  1. Faulty Standards
    1. Personal feelings.
      1. Before Paul became a disciple, he was so zealous about his Jewish faith that he persecuted Christians, Acts 26:9-11. He really thought that he was pleasing God in his actions.
      2. But he was wrong! His personal feelings about how he stood before God was not in line with the truth.
    2. Listening to preachers.
      1. I personally wish more people liked preachers, but some people like preachers way too much. Some people trust preachers way too much.
      2. Some people fail to understand that at the end of the day preachers are men (and they can be wrong). They can be wrong in the things they say and teach.
    3. Just being “good people.”
      1. If we could go to heaven based on our own goodness, then why in the world did Jesus have to come here to suffer and die on a cross? No matter how good of a person you may think you are, you are still a sinner and you can’t save yourself, Romans 3:23.
      2. If being a “good person” could have ever saved anyone, you would think that it would have saved Cornelius, Acts 10:1-2. And yet, notice what he still had to do, Acts 11:13-14.
    4. All of these things are the wrong standard for receiving the assurance that God wants us to have. Instead of using these faulty standards to determine what spiritual path we may be on, we need to use the right standard. That is the Bible.
      1. The Bible comes from God, 2 Timothy 3:16. It is the only point of contact that we have between heaven to earth. If we are really going to know God and how to please God and how to find the true path to heaven, then we are going to have to open up the Bible and  consider carefully what it has to say.
      2. How can we know we are heaven bound?
    5. By examining whether or not we are keeping God’s commandments.
      1. See 1 John 2:3-5, 28-29; 3:9-10, 24; 5:2-3. Notice how God has commandments that He expects us to keep.
        1. Which commandments is John referring to? Let me first tell you what commandments He is not referring to.
          1. He is not referring to the commandments and the traditions of men. Jesus never approves when we put the commandments or traditions of men on the same level as the commandments of God, Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23; 15:7-9.
          2. He is not referring to the commandments found in the Old Testament law of Moses. Unfortunately, so many people fail to understand that this law was only given to the children of Israel, and then it was only valid up until the time of the cross, John 1:17;          Romans 6:14; 7:6-7; Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Hebrews 8:7-13.
        2. Instead, He is referring to the commandments found in the New Testament (New Covenant) law of Christ. See Matthew 28:18-20; John 12:48; 14:15, 21; 15:14.
      2. What has the Lord commanded us?
        1. We must be taught about Him and ourselves, John 6:44-45; Romans 3:23.
        2. We must believe in Him, John 6:68 8:24;14:6; 20:30-31. The very reason why we have the account of Jesus in the gospels is so we have enough evidence to believe in His identity.
        3. We must repent of sin, Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38; 17:30-31. We must turn away from sin – to give up sin and do our best to live lives that are holy before God.
        4. We must be baptized for the remission of our sins, Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:34-39; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Romans 6:3-4.
          1. While many people deny the need for baptism today, the Bible is very clear on the issue. Notice how both Jesus and His apostles taught that if we are going to be saved then we must be baptized.
          2. How will we respond to what the Lord has said about this? If we really want to go to heaven, then we won’t argue and quibble over it. Instead, we will just obey! See Luke 6:46.
        5. We must be faithful to the Lord after baptism. The Bible doesn’t teach the false doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Instead, it teaches that we must be committed and loyal to the Lord after we decide to begin walking with Him, John 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12-14.
          1. Consider the example we have of the early Christians, Acts 2:41-47. Notice how committed they were to the Lord as members of His church. They devoted themselves to studying the doctrine of the apostles, fellowship, prayer, and breaking bread together (a reference to the Lord’s Supper – see 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Acts 20:7).
          2. These disciples were committed to growing and being faithful to Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.
        6. Someone says, “I want to be baptized, but I don’t feel I have yet reached a level of sinless perfection.” This type of thinking misses the whole point of baptism.
          1. Baptism is not for people who haven’t sinned (babies and toddlers). Instead, it is for people who have violated the will of God and need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
          2. In fact, even after you are baptized, you need to understand that you are going to fall short of the glory of God from time to time. When you do, God commands you to confess your sin and repent, 1 John 1:8-10.
        7. There are many other commandments the Lord has given us. The point is when we simply do what the Lord says we can live with confidence in regard to our salvation.
  • By making sure that we love one another.
    1. Specifically, you need to make sure that we love those who are fellow members of God’s family, 1 John 3:13-16, 23; 4:11, 19-21.
    2. Why is this important?
      1. Because God is love, 1 John 4:8-10.
      2. Because it is not reasonable to suggest that you love God whom you haven’t seen, when you don’t love your brother who you see all the time, 1 John 4:19-21.
      3. Because our love for one another is one of the main ways in which we demonstrate to the world that we are truly His disciples, John 13:34-35.
    3. The Bible tells us how we are to exercise the kind of love God wants us to have.
      1. We need to treat others like we want to be treated, Matthew 7:12.
      2. We need to be humble, selfless, and willing to serve one another, Philippians 2:3-5.
      3. We should be patient towards one another and help each other grow in Christ. We should never be jealous of one another or towards any success another has in their life. We should not be quick to assume the worst in one another’s words and actions. We should be kind and willing to spend time with one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
      4. When we know a brother is in sin, we shouldn’t let him continue down that destructive path. Instead, we should be willing to confront him and help him get on the right track, Galatians 6:1.
      5. We should be willing to share what we have with one another, 1 John 3:18.
      6. If we ever have a problem with a brother, we need to be willing to go to him and work that problem out face to face, Matthew 18:15-17.
    4. How we treat one another has a lot to do with whether or not we will go to heaven.

Conclusion:

  1. Keeping God’s commandments and loving one another are the keys to knowing whether or not we are heaven bound.
  2. Are you heaven bound? If not, then you need to do something about that right now!

Strengthening Our Worship Muscles

Song worship, as opposed to mere singing, is an effortful activity.  It is, alas, all too easy to sing on autopilot.  Worship, by contrast, requires concentration.  When we worship, we must both comprehend the content of the hymn and make that content our own as we express it to God and to one another.  This expression ought to involve us both intellectually and emotionally. Continue reading

Authority, Law, and Love

Much of the discussion over my authority posts of a few weeks back centered on the question, “Do I have to?”  Everybody agrees that the Bible says certain things.  All the disagreement emerged over the extent to which those commandments, examples, etc. are binding on us today.

Perhaps the problem is that we’re asking the wrong question.  “Do I have to?” implies coercion, the enforcement of a law on an unwilling subject, and for disciples of Christ, that’s a shoe that should never fit.  For Christians, the right question ought to be, “Should I want to?”  Continue reading