and Bible Studies

So what, if I do what I want?

So what, if I do what I want? Destruction Ezekiel 9:1-11 I. If we do what we want we will encounter God’s agents of judgment; 9:1-2. Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, "Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand." And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar. Ezekiel heard God call for the guards of the city to come forth with their weapons. While they were called men, it becomes clear that they were more than human and were divine messengers or angels. These angels came to dispense judgment and God’s wrath. God has and will use agents of judgment for those who do what they want, by rejecting, or making adjustments to His Word and commands. II. God marks those for salvation; 9:3-6. Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple. God’s judgment was always tempered with mercy. The man in white linen marked those who were grieved over the sins of Judah. These were spared and became a remnant of hope for future restoration. All those without the mark are to be slain. In judgment, God plays no favorites and gives no exemptions. No one who is guilty will be spared. Judgment included God’s own people; it began in His sanctuary. Are you marked for salvation or for destruction? As followers of Jesus, there is no eternal judgment, for Jesus paid the price for our sin. However, there may be loss of eternal rewards and temporal judgment. Are you marked by your grief and mourning over the detestable things that are in our lives? God still offers mercy considering His current and coming judgment through Jesus Christ. Are you marked with the blood of Christ? III. God brings judgment to those who live as they want; 9:7-11. Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!" So they went out and began killing throughout the city. While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?" He answered me, "The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.' So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done." Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, "I have done as you commanded." During the carnage, Ezekiel is left alone before the Lord. His plea for mercy showed how deeply he felt the needs of the people. This vision of judgment and death aroused the compassionate heart of the prophet. The Lord points to the depth of the abominations and sin of the house of Israel and Judah. The land is full of bloodshed and the city full of injustice. When it appears that all hope is gone, suddenly the priestly figure with the writing kit reappears, saying, "I have done as you commanded". We are not told how many he has marked. There is shelter from God's destruction for those who are willing to take refuge in obedience. But on this occasion, it seems that those being saved will indeed be few. Are you like Ezekiel, broken over the coming destruction in the lives of those who live as they want, or like Jonah, mad that destruction is not coming quicker? What does destruction look like? When we live as we think best, doing what we want, our lives become increasingly defiled and useless to God. This is a vision; the six guards probably represent the six invasions of Nebuchadnezzar and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem by his armies. Destruction sometimes involves God allowing the natural consequences of our sin to play out, but sometimes He intervenes directly. There is coming a final day of judgment and destruction for those who never responded to God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

So what, if I do what I want?

So, what if I do what I want? God Sees Ezekiel 8:1-18 I. Visions from God; 8:1-4. The prophet is shown four scenes of increasing abomination, with the offense to God being greater as the scenes in which they take place move nearer to the center of the temple. Our Lord is God; therefore, everything we do or don’t do matters to Him. He takes it very personal. II. Image of Jealousy; 8:5-6. His tour begins with a vision of an “idol of jealousy" at the north gate of the city. This seems to have been an idol in the shape of a human being, perhaps the Canaanite goddess Asherah. This was put there by Manasseh, removed by Josiah, and put back. Our God is a jealous God; therefore, everything we do or neglect to do is a direct statement on God’s character. Any other allegiance highly offends Him. What does it matter? God considers doing what we want over what He wants as infidelity. God demands pure devotion to Him. III. Worship of Animals; 8:7-13. Next, the divine guide brought Ezekiel to the entrance of the court, where he saw a hole in the wall. Ezekiel dug and enlarged the hole. Behind it he discovered the door to a secret chamber. To his shock and surprise the men inside were worshiping idols in various kinds of animal forms. These elders find justification in the belief that the Lord does not see. One of their number is Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan—and shockingly associated with a family that was prominent in the reforms of Josiah's days. In light of what they saw as God's abandonment of them, they felt justified in pursuing other deities who might help. Far from the Lord's having abandoned them, it is they who have driven the Lord away. What does it matter? Nothing in life only affects us. God sees all and is affected by all we do or neglect. Nothing you do, or think is secret. One day all will be revealed. There is always the voice of the evil one telling us that God is not doing all He could to help and bless us; therefore, we’re justified in doing what we want. But, it is our neglect of God that causes us to feel abandoned by God. IV. Weeping for Tammuz; 8:14-15. Worse still is the sight of women weeping for Tammuz at the north gate of the temple itself. Weeping for Tammuz was a Babylonian ritual, marking the death and descent into the underworld of the god Dumuzi, whose mythological course of death and return was thought to be parallel to the annual rhythm of nature. The act of mourning was believed to counteract the loss of power of new life, thus hastening the return of fertility. What does it matter if I get upset, cry, stress over things that I feel will or would have helped me in life? It offends God, who is in control. Weeping, mourning, and getting upset over the wrong things is offensive to our God, who knows our hearts. We cry over things that should appall us, and fail to shed a tear over what breaks the heart of God. V. Worship of the Sun; 8:16-18. The final and supreme act of idolatry takes place within the inner court of the temple itself, where Ezekiel sees twenty-five men turning their backs on the temple and prostrating themselves to the east, in worship of the sun. They will receive what they deserve as the Lord deals with them in His wrath, neither pitying nor sparing. He will be deaf to their loudest cries for help. Where do you go when you need rest, guidance, stress relief, or to get answers …? An attitude of “what does it really matter”, “what’s going to happen”, “I’m not hurting anything”, is really a direct insult to our God. It says to Him “what are you going to do?” or “I’m not afraid of God, I can do what I want.” What has moved into your temple? What in your life has displaced God? What will incur God's anger and discipline? You displace and remove the holy, then when trouble comes cry out for God. But, you have removed Him from your worship.

Body Life

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Jesus People Skills

Jesus People Skills: Able to Defend your Faith John 8:48-59 48 The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" 49 "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 52 At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?" 54 Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." 57 "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" 58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. The Jews accusation that Jesus was a Samaritan points to Hisnegligence in the observance of Judaism. He is observing only those parts of their religion which the heretical Samaritans observed. His refusal to agree with the Jews that they had an exclusive right to be called Abraham’s children may be the point. They may be saying, “You are no better than a Samaritan!” If that was not enough, they accuse Him of being demon-possessed, that He is controlled by a demon, and is working to glorify Satan. The devil is His master. They attack the heart of who the Messiah would be. Jesus ignores the charge that He is a Samaritan (wasn’t much of an insult to Him anyway), and quietly denies that He has a demon. Jesus refused to debate name calling; it was just a distraction. He stresses that it is His practice to honor His Father, which is as far removed from demon possession as is possible. Name-calling and insults for refusing to agree with a particular group is a common response to Jesus and His followers. In defending your faith, don’t get distracted from the gospel message because of being called derogatory names or insults. They moved from name-calling and insults to questioning His motives as being self-centered. Jesus is not concerned that people should give Him the glory that He is due; God is looking after that. Having your motives questioned as being self-serving is a further distraction from the gospel message. We just point people to God’s motives in the gospel. The Jews are ready to classify Him as a demon-possessed Samaritan. Yet, it is His word that everyone must keep to enter life. “He will never see death.” Death comes to all. What, then, does it mean that Jesus can deliver other people from death? Clearly it means a claim to superhuman power. Again, Jesus points the attention back to God the Father. His identity is based upon the One who sent Him. He is not out to glorify Himself. “My Father, whom you claim as your God, will glorify me.” He makes the connection even more clear. Their God is His Father, who glorifies Him.Yet He is not really their God at all. Now Jesus returns to the case of Abraham. Abraham rejoiced at his “day.” The Jews were being false to their great ancestor. “The day of Christ” points to the second coming and to the incarnation. Among the Jews the idea that Abraham looked forward to the day of the Messiah and rejoiced in it was not strange. The climactic point in this chapter is Jesus’ affirmation, “before Abraham was born, I am!” “I am” is a reference to His eternal being. He says “I am,” not “I was.” It is an eternity of being, not simply being that has lasted through several centuries. The Jews could interpret this only as blasphemy. Therefore they took up stones to stone Him. They were incensed. So they took the law into their own hands. He was concealed by Another, and so passed out of the Temple. Many still question the identity of Jesus. Maybe by outright denying that He ever existed, or that someone with the name Jesus existed and thought He was God. Others say that Jesus was a moral man, who lived a good life, setting good examples for us to follow. For some He is just a legend. Others say that He was God but deny His identity by how they live, reducing Him to someone like us, or down playing His role in our lives. We do not compromise, hide, water-down, or are intimidated by anyone. Our defense is Jesus as the way to live. Is Jesus greater than all other paths to God, eternal life, and fulfillment? Yes, He is!

Jesus People Skills

KNOW WHO PEOPLE REALLY ARE – John 8:31-47 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 1. Abide means to continue believing what I said and walk in obedience to the truth. 2. You are not passing the test of true discipleship. 3. What have I said? 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 1. I’m my own man. 2. I will live life my way. 3. My personal habits are my own business. 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 1. I know who you are. 2. You are deceiving yourselves. 3. Your actions do not match who you claim to be. 4. Your father is not my Father. 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” 1. I have special heritage. 2. I know what it means to follow God. 3. I have my own freedom! Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” 1. What are the results of your works? 2. What do you know of truth? 3. You have made up your own rules. 4. Your treatment of others is evidence of your true nature. They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 1. We are righteous. 2. We are not idolaters. 3. We are spiritually superior to others. 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” 1. Where is your love for the Father? 2. My words are offensive to you. 3. If you knew the Father you would know me.

Jesus People Skills

Jesus People Skills: Speak the Truth John 8:12-30 I. Truth comes from God, our Father; 8:12-20. 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid." 14 Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." 19 Then they asked him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. Jesus’ opening words, “I am the light of the world,” are very impressive. The follower of Jesus “will never walk in darkness.” Far from being confined to darkness they will have “the light of life.” He is quickly challenged. Jesus appeals to the Father and Himself, and there is no other to whom He can appeal. The Jews prided themselves on their knowledge of their God; Jesus tells them they have no knowledge of Him at all. Jesus is the light to truth. He has provided all the proof we need. He wants to guide you to the truth of God. If you want to know God, you must know Jesus. Choose to know Jesus as Savior now, or face Him as Judge later. II. Truth is we’re all destined to die in our sin; 8:21-24. 21 Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come." 22 This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?" 23 But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." Jesus began by telling the Jews that He will leave them, and they will not be able to follow Him where he goes. The crowd concludes that Jesus must be going to His death. Jesus will indeed die, and this departure will be a return to His Father in heaven. They, however, will die in their sins. There is only one way of avoiding this fate; by believing in Jesus. Otherwise, we too will die in our sins; the worst thing that could happen to anyone. III. Truth is found in pleasing God; 8:25-30. 25 "Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. 26 "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." 30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. The crowd misses the point altogether. He is not a man with religious insight (from below, from the world), but God's Son (from above, from heaven). This prompts His audience to ask, "Who are you?" "Just what I have been claiming all along." But this sort of insight is beyond their grasp. Jesus goes on to point out that He has many things to say “about” (not “to”) them, and that these things concern judgment. But the right place and the right time to say such things are not yet. In the first section the discussion concludes with speculation about Jesus' capture. Now we have a description of some who believe. These two reactions parallel what we observed elsewhere in the Gospel where Jesus' audience divides: Some completely oppose Him, while others are receptive and welcoming. You can’t speak the truth, until you know the truth. When exposed to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to God and eternal life, some are receptive, and others oppose until they die in their sins. With a gospel conversation, we are communicating the truth; truth that connects us to our Creator, our purpose, and how not to die in our sins.

Jesus People Skills

Jesus People Skills: Love the Sinner not the Sin John 8:1-11 1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." These men are making a legal charge. They possess the evidence the law requires to convict the woman. The law required strong testimony from two witnesses who saw the couple in a sexual context. The two witnesses had to see these things at the same time and place so that their testimonies would be identical. The law also expected that if a person witnessed another about to commit a sin, compassion required them to speak up. These witnesses stand silently, neglecting their moral obligation to give guidance to the woman. They apparently wanted to catch her and use her. The oral law in Jesus’ day specified that an unfaithful fiancé should be stoned, but wives strangled. In the present passage, the woman therefore must be engaged. But if so, where is her fiancé? If they were caught in the act, he was caught too. The accusers have permitted him to get away. The irony for women historically is that men have sinned with them—and then later accused them of sexual misconduct. Jesus responds with his often-quoted statement, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." This does not mean that this woman's accusers must be sinless or morally perfect in order to bring charges against the woman. In such a case, accusations would be impossible at any time. This is simply a direct reference to Deuteronomy 13:9 or 17:7, which says that those who witness a crime and bring home a successful accusation must be the first to stone the victim. But then the accusers must engage in self-examination. Women who transgressed social mores could find themselves in legal jeopardy much more quickly than their partners. Jesus may thus be cutting through the double standard to force the men to reflect on their own hypocrisy. Jesus resumes his writing, and the religious leaders begin departing one by one. John pictures one teacher departing, who is then followed by a succession of people eventually walking away, so that the accusers arrayed against the woman crumble bit by bit. But in the end, Jesus and the woman are left alone. Eventually you and Jesus stand alone to deal with how you dealt with your sin. Jesus straightens up and speaks to her for the first time. His questions do not imply that the woman is innocent since he warns her to cease a sinful life that has been her habit. Jesus' final words again do not imply innocence but reflect his sovereignty to forgive sin. Sin was not treated lightly by Jesus, but sinners were offered the opportunity to start life anew. Through the story she moves with shocking speed from death to life. This morning whoever you are and whatever you’ve done or are doing. Jesus offers forgiveness you to just as he did this woman. His words are the same. I don’t condemn you. I offer forgiveness if you put your faith in Jesus and ask for His forgiveness and repent or stop sinning. Jesus never offered forgiveness to those who planning on keeping on doing what they were doing. We as followers of Christ are called to live the sinner and point them to the forgiveness Jesus offers them without condoning, accepting or diminishing the sin. Our culture believes that to live the sinner you must accept their sinful lifestyles and choices. That it is impossible to live the sinner and not the sin, but this is exactly what Jesus did and still does through his body. The solution to the habitually sinful, the sinful lifestyles of someone in your life: Overlook or accept the sin. Condemn and reject the person. Love them and point them to forgiveness in Jesus, while never accepting or condoning the sinful choices.

Family Perks

Family Perks: Children of Promise Galatians 4:21-31 1. Salvation does not occur because of us, but because of God. (vv. 21-23) 21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. As we wrap up our series on family perks we look as Paul tries again to show the church in Galatia that they are no longer slaves, but children of God… Children of Promise! Up to this point in history every religion had a works aspect as part of their beliefs in order to get to God. Now that God has come to us through Jesus Christ, we no longer have to work to get to Him. This was revolutionary, but hard for many to grasp in the early church, as well as the church today, as they tried to hold on to the idea that people have a role in their eternal salvation. To help illustrate this issue to the church, Paul decides to use a story that everyone would remember: the story of Abraham and his two sons. 2. When it comes to salvation it's either God or God plus something. (vv.24-27) 24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said, “Rejoice, O childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into a joyful shout, you who have never been in labor! For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband!” When we look at salvation we can either look at it as God alone or God plus. We either trust God fully in our salvation, or our faith is in God plus something. Paul talks about God’s promise to Sara and Abraham in the same light as God’s promise to those who are lost. God made a promise to Abraham that He would have a child, but he and Sarah thought they needed to help God. They decided to let Abraham have a child with the servant Hagar. This caused many problems that we are still dealing with to this very day. God is faithful, and if they would have put their trust in Him alone, a lot of heart ache would have been saved. Even after being on the earth almost a century Sarah gave birth just as God promised. In this same way, God will save whoever calls upon His name. It doesn’t require them to perform a certain task before; it doesn’t require you to say some special words exactly right; it requires nothing except God. When we try to add to the saving Grace of God, we don’t add anything to salvation, because if we do we take away the amazingness of Grace. Less is more. 3. STOP! Just let God be God. (vv.28-31) 28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. 30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman. We as Christians are children of promise (just as Isaac was to Abraham and Sarah), not children of any work of any man. We are not born again by any human effort, but by the work of Jesus on the cross. Just as Abraham was told to get rid of the human effort (the slave and her son), we are also called to lay down everything we try to add to salvation (legalism), and let God be God, let grace be grace, and embrace our title as the children of promise.

Family Perks

Family Perks: Slaves No Longer Galatians 4:8-20 I. We were all in slavery; 4:8-11. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God-- or rather are known by God-- how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. There were two religious dimensions of the Galatians religious past: they did not know the true God, and the gods they did know were not gods. Despite having received the knowledge of God, they had reverted to their former ways. They had converted wonderfully because of Paul's preaching, but now they were turning back to those weak and miserable principles. What is revolutionary here is that Paul considers moving into Judaism (observing special days and months and seasons and years) as nothing other than a reversion to paganism. For Paul their move from idolatry to Christianity and now to Judaism is no different than a venture back into "idolatry" or "paganism." He had worked hard on the Galatians' behalf and for the gospel. There is great heartache and fear that come when a believer wavers, stumbles, and even falls away. Whatever leads one away from sole reliance on Christ, whether based on good intentions or depraved desires, is not Christian and therefore condemned. Every human being is captive to the “element principles" in some way, and is only set free by Jesus Christ. We are continually tempted to go back to old patterns of behavior, attitudes, ways of thinking, lifestyles, and coping mechanisms. II. Don’t sell yourselves into slavery again; 4:12-20. 12 I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Most likely Paul means something like: "Become like me by freeing yourself from the law of Moses. I became like you Gentiles when I abandoned the law, accepted that I too was a sinner, and then turned to Jesus Christ.” Paul reminds them of how they had previously responded to him, in the hope that they will repeat it, abandon going backwards in their faith, and once again align themselves with the gospel. His illness did not bother the Galatians. They looked beyond it and saw in Paul's preaching the truth of God because his message was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, they received him as if he were an angel, even more, they received him as if he were Jesus Christ himself. Paul says they were so receptive that they would have given their eyes to him, had they been able to. Reminding the Galatians of their former commitment and friendship to him makes the present situation unbearable for Paul: "What has happened to your joy?” and "Have I now become your enemy?" Paul contends that the Judaizers were zealous to win them over. They wanted to alienate them from Paul, so that they may be zealous for them. Paul now interjects that it is good to be zealous if one is zealous for God. It is for no good, however, if one’s zeal is contrary to the gospel. And their zeal ought to be expressed for God always, and not just when Paul was with them. Paul now senses that their “zeal for the gospel" has declined and needs to be rekindled. He wanted the Galatian converts to grow in the Spirit until the image of Christ was formed and transformed in them. Paul must now "again" go through the process of leading them to the faith they once embraced. He wants them to grow into Christ-likeness. The world is full of things and opportunities to pull us back into slavery and its principles, therefore rendering our lives ineffective. We have Jesus as our model with examples in the Bible and other believers who are living in the freedom of Christ. Our old lives, as well as legalism, seek to put us in slavery again. God has given us His Spirit to empower us to live in accordance with the gospel that we have accepted.

Family Perks

"Children of God". The first in a three part series entitled, "Family Perks". Galatians 3:26-4:7 I. As believers, we are all children of God; 3:26-29. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Paul had said that those who believe in Jesus are "children of Abraham," and now he points out that they are "sons of God." Being a "son of God" is a special promise by God for the last days and describes that special relationship of intimacy that the believers can have with God. Baptism in the early church was the initial response of faith. Baptism was a symbol of dying with Christ and rising with Christ. A Christian is one who is “in Christ." Those who are “in Christ Jesus" are those who believe in him. Those who believe in Him come from all walks of life, from every nation, and from both sexes. A Jewish blessing that was prayed daily by some is reversed. "Blessed be God that He did not make me a Gentile, blessed be God that He did not make me a slave; blessed be God that He did not make me a woman." Paul is most likely responding to such a demeaning classification of people. There is a cultural directive where there is "neither Jew nor Greek." Cultural divisions are to have no part in the church of Jesus Christ. All people must be treated in light of God's love in Christ, not in light of their culture. There is a social directive where there is “neither slave nor free." Slavery was widespread in the ancient world among Gentiles and Jews. “In Christ" the slave becomes our “brother." Both freedmen and slaves have the Spirit and are in the body of Christ. There is a male/female directive where there is "neither male nor female." Paul spoke these words in a context that clearly believed in the inferiority of women. There was to be no cultural/racial distinctions and no social status prejudices, and there was to be no male/female prejudice. Everyone who believes, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, is accepted by God. If they are Abraham's seed, then they also inherit Abraham’s promise—a relationship with God that is intimate and eternal. II. As believers, we are heirs; 4:1-7. 1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. A child who is destined to inherit an estate is no different than a slave as long as he is a child. He cannot inherit the estate until he becomes an adult. During this period, he is subject to the "guardians and trustees." The “childhood period" is the period of the law, and the “inheritance period" is the time inaugurated by Jesus Christ. The time of the law is a time of slavery; the time of Christ is a time of freedom. Legalism and the ritualistic way of relating to God are over. God sent His Son so that the inheritance could be had. The barrier was knocked down between God and people, and they could become "sons of God." Being a "son of God" means having God's Spirit, which is the promise of Abraham. The Spirit of God enables the son of God to cry out "Abba."



What God Takes Seriously: Idolatry Deuteronomy 4:15-31 I. God Takes Idolatry Seriously; 4:15-20. 15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. 19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars-- all the heavenly array-- do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. 20 But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. Moses elaborates on the general prohibition of idolatry by listing four classes of forbidden creaturely representations of divinity: large land creatures, flying creatures, crawling dirt creatures, and creatures of the sea-categories borrowed directly from Genesis 1. Moses then turns to a second form of religious perversion: the worship of the sun and moon and stars. An idol may be defined as anything that competes with God—anything we serve in place of God himself. The sun, moon, and stars are good. Wood, stone, and physical things are good and useful for projects and tasks. But when we pervert their function and treat them as ultimate things on which our well-being depends, they compete with God, and that makes them an idol. II. Idolatry Has Personal Consequences; 4:21-24. 21 The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance. 22 I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land. 23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Moses digresses momentarily to express his frustration over Yahweh's refusal to let him enter the land. He recognizes that this exclusion arises from Yahweh's anger toward him, but he blames the people for that anger. There are personal consequences to putting anything before God, including ourselves. III. Idolatry Has Corporate Consequences; 4:25-31. 25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time-- if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. Moses lists five consequences of infidelity that await the Israelites: (1) they will certainly and quickly be removed from the land; (2) they will be utterly destroyed, ending their dream of long life in the land; (3) Yahweh will scatter them among the peoples, driving them to another place like a shepherd drives his flock; (4) a few will survive in the lands where Yahweh has driven them; (5) in the lands where the worship of senseless gods is the norm, they will have their fill of idolatry. The privilege of relationship with God must be answered with grateful obedience to His will, as revealed in the context of His Word. When people forget the grace of God in redemption, revelation, and His promises, they become ungrateful, have no fear of God, and act selfishly. Whatever we are unwilling to give up for the sake of the kingdom have become idols, and God is robbed of the exclusive worship He deserves.

His Word

What God Takes Seriously: His Word Deuteronomy 4:1-14 I. We are to Listen to His Word; 4:1. 1 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Moses functions as a pastor-teacher, reiterating earlier revelation, applying that revelation specifically to life in the land, declaring the essence of covenant relationship, and highlighting the importance of a correct response to the revealed will of God. Moses offers not theoretical speculation but practical instruction for life demonstrated through obedient action. In order to function as God’s people, they must listen to Him and His Word. For us to live God’s people, we must listen to God’s Word. II. We are to Obey His Word; 4:2-8. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. 3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today. 5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Obedience to Yahweh is a matter of life and death. God destroyed all who “followed” after Baal of Peor. The people standing before Moses are alive today because they “held fast" to God. They are living testimony to the importance of obedience to God’s will. The people's faithfulness will be tested every day once they have entered the Promised Land. Moses declares that the nation's greatness does not derive from her own qualities, but from Yahweh their God. The Israelites are uniquely privileged because their God is near to them and He answers their prayers. When other people pray to their gods, they remain silent. Through obedience to Jesus Christ we demonstrate our love of him, but we also display to the world the privilege of salvation, divine presence, knowledge of His will, and blessing. Delighting in obedience to the revealed will of God represents the key to fulfilling the divine mission of reaching the world with His grace. III. We are to be Vigilant with His Word; 4:9-14. 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. Moses concludes his report of the events at Horeb by adding that Yahweh commanded him to teach the Israelites "decrees and laws," which they were to put into practice in the land that they were to enter and possess. We remember God’s Word and work to pass it along to the next generation. If it doesn’t get to the next generation, we have failed to make it a priority. Christians, as individuals and as the church, are increasingly dismissed by outsiders as irrelevant, hypocritical, and self-serving. But in His own farewell address to His disciples, Jesus reminded His followers of the relationship between spiritual statements and life: If you love me you will obey my commands (John 14: 15). If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as l have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).

Resurrection of the Body

Resurrection of the Body 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 I. Analogies of Resurrection; 15:35-44. 35 But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. In their denial of the resurrection it was the assumption that it had to do with reanimating corpses. Therefore, because they could not figure out how, they had given up the resurrection itself. Paul calls them foolish, because they have not considered what God can do. The first analogy Paul uses to help them understand the resurrection is that of a seed and a plant. By being buried in the ground, the seed seemingly dies. Yet out of its death as a seed, new life emerges, totally different in appearance from the seed. Yet, somehow a mature plant remains the same living entity. There still lies ahead for the Corinthians resurrected bodies that will be far more glorious than their present ones. Unlike their current bodies, these new bodies will be created for eternity, never again to die or limited be sin or weakness. II. Adam and Christ, 15:45-49. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. Believers who have shared in the limited, fallen likeness of Adam can look forward to sharing in the kind of perfect humanity Jesus embodies, but only after this life, when Jesus comes back again. A new body is a necessity for experiencing the world to come. III. Assurance of Transformation; 15:50-58. 50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Frail, human bodies cannot survive in God’s eternal and holy presence. One must have a body that is imperishable and immortal. This change will take place instantaneously, not gradually. The climax of these events for believers is the destruction of death itself. Paul reminds us that it is the resurrection hope, and only this hope, that keeps believers from despair and helps them stay faithful in Christian service. Because we will one day fully bear the image of Christ, who is the perfect reflection of God, we should encourage each other to work toward that image even now. Paul ends with a call to “let nothing move you.” This urgency is almost certainly in direct response to the denial of the resurrection by some.

Resurrection of the Dead

Resurrection of the Dead 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 I. Consequences of No Resurrection; 15:12-19. 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. If there is no future bodily resurrection of all Christians, then Jesus Himself was not bodily raised, and that makes Christianity pointless. Paul does not permit a perspective on Jesus that views Him merely as a good, moral teacher. If Christ was not raised, death is not conquered. II. The Resurrection Brings the Defeat of Death; 15:20-28. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. But wonderfully Christ has been raised bodily and has set into motion a chain of events that will culminate in the universal demonstration of the sovereignty of God. Christ's physical resurrection guarantees the future physical resurrection of all believers. This life is not all that there is, nor is life after death simply immortality of the soul. Paul points out the parallel between Adam's sin leading to the sinfulness of all humanity, and Christ's resurrection leading to the resurrection of all His followers. After some unspecified time, the end of human history will arrive. By then, Christ will have destroyed all opposition to His reign in the universe, both human and demonic. Finally, death itself will be destroyed, so that God's people will never again have anything to fear for all eternity. But the last word is not Christ's, but God's. III. Further Consequences of No Resurrection; 15:29-34. 29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day-- I mean that, brothers-- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God-- I say this to your shame. Some of the Corinthians, along with all their other problems, were baptizing people on behalf of unbaptized, deceased believers or others. Paul is in no way condoning the practice. There is no evidence that Christians ever considered proxy baptism valid. What is more, no Scripture ever suggests that salvation is transferable from one individual to another apart from their personal belief in this life. Our persistent sinful nature continues to try to corrupt us when we are surrounded by people engaged in sinful practices. Unless we take deliberate, conscious action to the contrary immorality often flows from false theology. Popular culture and media have a fascination with life after death and near-death experiences. This fascination for the afterlife resembles more the Corinthians' false teaching than true Christianity. Seldom are persons depicted as having fully human bodies in their next life. Virtually never are the destinies of Christians and non-Christians biblically distinguished. Either all people are going to heaven, or else they are distinguished based on how good or bad they were during their time on earth. Let’s not be those ignorant of God to our shame.

Resurrection of Christ

Resurrection of Christ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 I. The gospel is built on the resurrection of Jesus; 15:1-2. 1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. Paul warns not to deviate from the gospel based on the resurrection of Jesus. Believing another gospel is no belief that leads to salvation. Believers remain under the power of sin and death. The resurrection brings us to the very center of the Christian faith. Christ's death and resurrection are inseparable. Christian belief without the doctrine of bodily resurrection proves worthless. II. The resurrection defines the gospel; 15:3-4. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, Paul reminds the Corinthians what they should have remembered. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Jesus himself interpreted his death and resurrection in terms of the Scriptures. This is the gospel message. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, there is no gospel and no salvation. III. The resurrection is historical fact; 15:5-8. 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. Paul lists witnesses to Christ’s resurrection in what appears to be a chronological order. Paul mentions that most of the five hundred were alive at the time of his writing implies a known group rather than five hundred anonymous witnesses. Unlike the Twelve, who participated in the ministry of Jesus, Paul’s call to apostleship came suddenly and unexpectedly. As an unbeliever and persecutor of the church, Paul was in a condition of spiritual death. We are reminded of what must remain central doctrine even for mature believers, tempted to move away to peripheral matters. The resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact not just a spiritual parable. IV. The resurrection is the ultimate act of grace; 15:9-10. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Paul acknowledges his inferiority as an apostle because he had persecuted the first Christians. This weakness is turned into an opportunity to magnify God's grace. Grace led to greater effort and substantial accomplishment, through God’s continual grace at work. God's mercy produces more diligent effort on Paul's part. Paul’s autobiographical statements about his conversion describe God’s gracious call, the righteousness that comes only by faith, and God’s mercy as a pattern for all who will believe on Jesus Christ for eternal life. It is by God’s grace, empowered by the resurrection, through faith that we are who we are as followers of Christ and children of God. It is overwhelming to ponder what God can do through us when we are saved by grace and live in grace, empowered by the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. IV. The resurrection is evidenced as it is shared and believed; 15:11. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. There is only one true gospel, whoever may preach it. All gospel preaching proclaims the resurrection of Christ as a core component; otherwise, there is no gospel. To believe any other gospel is to “believe in vain.” Christianity lives or dies with the claim of Christ's resurrection. Christians must appeal to more than a personal testimony, they must recognize the historical evidence that is on their side.

8. Mark

Living Generously- Part 5 Seedtime

Living Generously: Seedtime Galatians 6:7-10 1. God cannot be mocked by how we live our lives; 6:7. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. No discussion of “sowing seed” would be complete without Galatians 6. Simple Kingdom economics. What you sow you will reap. Many times we deceive ourselves, wanting to believe something that we know deep down is not right. The word “Mock” means "to turn up the nose up at." God has set the world up so that the proper results will take place. This does not mean that all evil people will reap corruption in this life, because the world is in a fallen state. It does mean if one goes through life living for self and rejecting the call of the Holy Spirit, he will live eternally in Hell - separated from the love of God. If we fail to live lives of generosity with all that God has given us, there will be consequences. God is Judge and we can't fool Him. What we do shows our true nature and status before God. No one is going to get away with anything. Ultimately all will reap what they sow in this life. We sow by serving others and being led by the Lord to invest our time, gifts and resources as He sees fit. Just as Jesus is the sower and the seed is the good seed of the Kingdom, as Christ followers we sow our time, gifts, and resources as well as sowing the gospel, scattering the seed, watering, and harvesting in the hearts of our neighbors. 2. We truly reap what we sow with our lives; 6:8. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. We cannot plant one thing and get another. We cannot plant cheap quality corn and expect a bountiful harvest. Not only do you reap what you sow, but you reap more than you sow. This should be encouragement to a Christian. We do not cower at the thought of God judging us, but have even more confidence knowing we have done all that God has called us to do. We've been faithful, not perfect, but faithful to his call. Sow sin and selfishness and reap corruption. Sowing such cannot reap a harvest of the Kingdom of God. Those who plant a nominal Christian life will reap less of a capacity to enjoy heaven. What we plant here has eternal consequences. Generous Living is godly living. 3. Now is the time to live generously; 6:9-10. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Though no one knows, cares, or recognizes your good deeds, God causes a great harvest. There is a temptation to grow weary or tired. We want instant results. Take advantage of opportunities to do good. It is not that we do not have opportunities to do good, but that we do not take them when they come. Take them as they come, do not wait until later. Later is not guaranteed. Our present time is seed time. Simply put – now is the time to sow seed. We’re called to sow seed, not store seed. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (Deut. 15:10) We have learned some keys to our journey of generous living. But we must apply them and walk together on this journey. Ask yourself, with the Holy Spirit’s help: Have we been putting off something that God wants from us? Now is the time. Its seedtime. It is often said that 2 questions will be asked of us in Heaven: 1. What did you do with Jesus? Did you accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection? 2. What did you do with what He gave you? It is now seedtime! The harvest is coming but we will not have a harvest unless we sow. John 15:8 says “My Father is glorified in this; that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Living Generously- Part 4 Tower

Living Generously: Tower 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 1. Living Generously is a matter of trust; 8:1-2. 1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Paul begins with the past experiences of the Macedonians. Their poverty and joy combined to produce such a wealth of generosity. Their generosity is evidence that they passed the test brought on by their afflictions. Such joyous giving in the midst of adversity confirms that their faith was real. We strive for protection - for that manmade hedge around our family. But what does it bring? Stress. God does not bring stress – there may be pressure in life, there may be trials, but stress? Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) He gives us peace – not as the world gives. When we lack that peace, it is time to make sure what you’re doing is in line with what God is wanting to do. 2. Living Generously tears down imaginary walls to giving; 8:3-5. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. They tore down the walls that said they were too small, weak, or poor. Their giving exceeded their ability, and was done entirely on their own as they trusted God. They were pleading to be involved in the collections. Not only did they participate in the collection, but also gave themselves to God and to Paul in accordance with God’s will. The greatest expression of God’s grace is its response to God and His cause. They not only gave their money but their lives to God. 10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. (Prov. 18:10-11) We may think, “I want to be generous with my hands, feet, time, money, ears, and service, but I just can’t right now. I have things that tie me down: job, kids, grandkids, extended family, hobbies, houses, pets, yards, etc.” We’re tied down with ropes of gold. We are enclosed within beautiful walls. If Jesus sets you free you are free indeed. It’s time to say enough is enough, and tear down the imaginary walls that hinder our generous living. I choose to die to self and be free to be generous. 3. Living Generously is an act of grace on our part; 8:6-7. 6 So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-- see that you also excel in this grace of giving. The grace of God received by the Macedonians was their ability to well up with a wealth of generosity toward others in the midst of their own afflictions. Only the grace of God can account for such generosity out of the extreme poverty and yet overflowing joy. Joyful giving and joy in the midst of our own poverty and suffering is the sign of having received God’s grace. Now before you think that this is only a hard lesson to learn for the wealthy, consider the story Re told about his own journey. We touched on it earlier. Re saw those around him that had financial wealth and began to hate them. We all face trouble in this life. We are tested and sometimes feel overwhelmed. We can call upon the name of the Lord, the strong tower. For those of us who are believers: what does running to the strong tower look like? Run to Christ, run to His WORD, and run to His people that we may lift one another up in prayer. Spend time this week asking God to reveal your imaginary walls. Seek His help in dismantling them and running to the strong tower. There is a lost world dying and spending an eternity in a real physical Hell and we’re too tied down by our golden ropes and by our imaginary wall to be generous, to act in grace.

7. Mark

Living Generously- Part 3 Poor

Living Generously: Poor 2 Corinthians 9:12-14 1. Living generously is a heart matter; 9:12. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. The Lord enriches us as his people with ability for great generosity. Our generosity will also bring about a harvest of thanksgiving to God, which will ultimately enable the Corinthians and us to glorify God. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:8-9) 2. Living generously means seeing people and their needs; 9:13. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. So how do we break through? How do we engage with the pain and the poverty when all we see is a vast, faceless need? We start seeing with the eyes of God. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." 46 But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." (Luke 8:47-48) Why does Jesus call attention to what she has done? Has she not suffered enough public embarrassment? Could he not let her go in peace with a silent wink? The public embarrassment caused by singling her out signifies his individual care for her. He will not allow her to slip away and remain anonymous. He forces the issue so that when she leaves healed, she will leave knowing that the one who healed her knows her and cares for her. She is a person who is worth taking time with and addressing. Isolation is no longer defined by how far we are from another person geographically but by the feelings of no one cares. 3. Living generously causes us to be more like Jesus; 9:14 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. In living generous lives, we impact the lives of others, becoming the body of Christ at work in the world. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8) Christ emptied himself – ladled himself out for us. He literally died for us. Our job is to die to self daily, humbling ourselves like Frank learned and serve one another. So, where are you? Take some time this week to “compare yourself with the earnestness of others.” Don’t think that you are on this journey alone. You affect others’ journeys, just as their journeys affect yours. The outflowing of gospel living is in our service. Just as Christ emptied himself, we are called to become poor that others may become rich. Where is God asking me to roll up my sleeves and grab a ladle? Go do it.