I’ll be talking some about consistency in the sermon, mainly as it relates to judging spiritual leadership. The false teachers were picking at Paul. If someone is not 100% consistent, is he not consistent? One of the attacks on consistency, it seems, is the expectation of 100% consistency. Because we live in a sin-cursed world, we have learned, or it is innate to us, not to expect it, almost to wait for the inconsistency to come. A skepticism can grow, because we feel justified in not trusting anything. I believe in a definition of human consistency, we don’t need to have it be 100%. We should look for characteristic consistency. We should think about a direction of consistency, someone who wants to be consistent. A consistent person is correctable in his inconsistency, since he’s striving to be consistent. I write this too because people can become somewhat fatalistic in the expectation of their own consistency, something like the following—“since I can’t be consistent, I give up.” So they live however they want, since they can’t be consistent anyway. Everyone of us only get consistency by the grace of God—we’ve got to trust God to keep saving us from our inconsistency, because we will be inconsistent. We’ve got to want the consistency and strive for it, and when we don’t live it, look to God’s grace to take us through.
The Latest // Thoughts
Often when I think of my life, I think that I do so little for the Lord and am not as faithful as I should be for Him. I don’t think I take Him seriously. But then I don’t live in guilt over that. Shouldn’t I feel guilty all the time? Does this mean that righteousness is on some sliding scale, that we’re just better than others, which is good enough? This is where theology comes in, what the Bible says about righteousness. I don’t feel guilty all the time, because I know that my righteousness is not found in me or in my works, but in Jesus Christ. I have a position by grace through faith that sets me apart as righteousness unto God. So I don’t feel that guilt, because I know my sins were paid for on the cross. The feelings that I have relate more to love. It’s how you feel about anyone that you love, that you don’t feel like you’ve done enough for them, or you’d like to do more for them, except more here, because it’s God. I think about the goodness of God, and that affects me. I am inclined toward doing more for the Lord, serving Him according to His Word. It is still a struggle against the flesh, mostly in doing what He wants, not what I want, and then doing the best or the most that He wants. And I can grow, because God works in me through His Spirit. I am being conformed to the image of His Son. This is one way, among many, that the Spirit bears witness that I’m a child of God.
What great thing about Jesus should you start with in order to capture people’s attention, because He doesn’t seem enough alone to get consideration from those He created? You want to start with how good He is, because that would seem to be a draw. If they understand His goodness to them, perhaps that would move them beyond a condition of indifference. Paul did write that the goodness of God leads people to repentance. Or should you start with Jesus as Creator? If people would recognize that He created them, they would understand that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Him. Maybe if they knew Jesus died for them, that would get some focus and time for Him. Or what about His wrath and judgment? He’s going to judge them by His Words in the end. His wrath will kindle against His enemies, which includes all those who reject Him as Lord and Savior. Perhaps if they gave some prolonged thought to His resurrection from the dead? He did defeat death, not only Himself personally, but the deaths of at least two other people, including Lazarus after a few days in the tomb. Since death is so horrible in so many ways, if people knew that He possessed the escape from the punishment for sin, they would pause to admire Him. What about you? What is keeping you from the devotion to Jesus He deserves? You too busy? Too distracted? Hope not.
Sometimes today you will hear alternative fuel and alternative energy. You’ve got cars that use alternative energy, but they are still unpopular for many reasons. The energy and the fuel produced, called alternative, is often more expensive. Sometimes I think of alternatives myself—an alternative to the life I’m living. Would an alternative have been better? Would it have been better to have attempted to have some alternative “career” that would have paid better, have been more popular, and I would have had nicer things on earth? With every alternative, you judge whether the alternative is superior to the first choice. When I think of the other options on my life, I can’t say “yes” to them, because I know too much. I might even say, unfortunately I know too much, but that wouldn’t be true either. It’s good that I know the truth about time and eternity, so that I didn’t do the alternative. Is it possible that if I had chosen the alternative, that some of you wouldn’t be saved today? That my alternative would have resulted in you going to Hell? Would the alternative have been worth it if one more of you had gone to Hell than would have otherwise? I have to say, “No.” My eternity will be better, but so will others’. So I’m happy to have said and say “no” to the alternative. You want to be honest with yourself and honest with God. It might be a struggle, but the right way is best.
How is it that you can serve another person, specifically another Christian, someone in your church? We are to serve one another, so let me give you some ideas. Provide a meal. You can invite someone over for a meal, bring them a meal, perhaps when someone is needy. You can watch their little kids for them, so they can have a night out. Give them an I-O-U. You could help them fix or repair or clean something of theirs. You could give them a ride, perhaps to the airport. If you have a particular skill or talent, you could use that for someone else. You could give them something, perhaps a book or vegetables or eggs or cheese or milk or money. You could take them out to eat. You could ask if someone might need an evangelism partner and go out with them. You could make a dessert. You could text them with some encouragement. You could write a note of thanks or comfort. You could smile at them, shake their hand, or give them a hug. Walk toward them to greet them. Ask if they need any help. Talk with them. Speak about spiritual things to them, perhaps some area they are lacking in Christian growth and obedience. If they need you to help one of their children, do that. Send them a friendly email. Share an article that you know they would be interested in. Show interest in something that they’re interested in. Pray for them.
Scripture presents life as a series of paradoxes. We are dependent on God and yet taking personal initiative. None of the scriptural paradoxes actually do contradict. They really are contradictions only to natural men, who don’t know God. Trusting God means taking action. I’ve heard this thought in the realm of our sanctification. How are we sanctified? We are sanctified by faith. True. So are we sanctified by works? Yes. Aren’t faith and works mutually exclusive? So how does this relate to Christian living? We live by faith. True. And what does that produce? Works. So you will work if you believe. Faith without works is dead. If you do trust, you’ll work. That’s what faith will look like, like good works. Positional sanctification comes by faith, which will result in works, which is practical sanctification. You will be set apart by what you do. Practical sanctification is obedience and obedience is work. When God works, we work. God works in us, which produces works. Is God doing the work? Yes. Are you doing work? Yes. There’s an aspect to this that is difficult and really impossible to explain. When you do work for God, you don’t take credit for it, because you believe God deserves all the glory. Yet, later, God rewards you for your work. But you didn’t do it, did you? We can handle this paradox. Both are true despite what we can’t explain.
The average age of our church membership is getting older and as it does, the body breaks down. As most churches we have seen the death through sickness or disease of various ones. When this occurs, we are reminded of several scriptural lessons. First, we’re only here for a short period of time. Life is transient and obviously shorter for some than others. We don’t have forever to accomplish what God wants us to do. Second, as our body breaks down, we can still accomplish work spiritually. 2 Corinthians 5 and 6 talks about this. As our outward vessel breaks apart, the inward man can manifest itself through that. We may not move as fast as we once did, but we can still talk, as in preach, pray, admonish, encourage, all of which do not require a lot of physical strength. Third, there is a lesson to young people to use your youth and vitality while you have it. Don’t fritter away the best years of your life straddling the fence, mainly having fun for yourself, acting as if you have forever on this earth. Fourth, the older group is going to pass off the scene—will you be someone who has what it takes to replace them? You’ll show this by your own faithfulness, labor, and wisdom. Even if you might have many years to go, these years also count for you. Be thankful for the good health and strength that you possess, and give it to God, to multiply as He can.
Before Jesus left the earth at His ascension, He told His followers to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). The “gospel” is the “good news.” There is good news. In the midst of whatever bad news is, there is always still good news. The Greek word translated “gospel” is a compound word that means “good” and “message.” The good message is that we can be saved. We need to be rescued, and we can be. A major problem, if you haven’t noticed, is that people don’t think that they need rescuing, so we’ve got to persuade them of that as well. Most people don’t know what kind of trouble they happen to be in. They think they’re fine, they’re OK. They’re even surprised when they find out that we think they are in trouble. They have got to see that they need rescuing if they are going to receive the good news that God has given them. They might know that Jesus died, and even that He rose again and then did ascend into heaven. However, they don’t know why He did die. They don’t know that they would be doomed and damned if He didn’t die. And they don’t know the response that they need to make to Him, to what He did, in order to be saved. We do have good news to tell, folks. We shouldn’t keep it bottled up based on some excuse. We should learn how to tell the good news to others, because they really do need it. You needed it. So do they.
We’ve got a conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. The kingdom of the world is led by Satan and interacts with the lost and the flesh of believers to oppose the plan of God. Satan mainly wants to take people down to Hell with him. God will save people who will be with Him forever, glorifying Him in everlasting bliss. The way into the kingdom of God is to be born again. God changes a person into His moral image through regeneration. People who were dead in sin are now alive unto Him. The kingdom of God is a kingdom with a King. To be born again, allegiance must change from the world, self, and Satan unto God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said that if one were to come after Him, he must deny himself and follow Him. This is the reception of Jesus as King or Lord, which means that you understand that He is the Messiah, the only Savior. Following His every Word is impossible without the new covenant in His blood in which He changes the hearts of those in subservience to Him. Those are now His slaves. They serve the benevolent King, but that is their new position in Him, one of servants, even as those who will be exalted must be abased, even as Jesus Himself humbled Himself in His incarnation. Those slaves of Him are in His Word, knowing and doing whatever it is God wants Him to do.
The mere possibility of error is not enough for doubt. We don’t start with doubt to build a system of belief. Since we know things, we start with the belief that we can know. It is perfectly reasonable to hold to beliefs until there is a clear basis for doubt. God is Truth, and we have no compelling basis to think or believe we won’t know. He is a Revealer. He wants us to know. So doubt doesn’t come from God. It comes from some other source—us, the world, or Satan. As believers in God, as theists, we see in Him the credibility of our ability to know and believe. We trust that we can know, because we are starting with God. He made us in a way that our thinking can be right, that we can know to the degree that we can be sure. We don’t need to doubt. Doubt, especially about the most basic things that we know and believe, is an excuse for self-sovereignty—I can do what I want, because I can’t be sure that what I am supposed to be and do is actually real. The fact that we can know says that we, well, can know, so we should know. And what there is to know is what God has revealed. So that’s what we should believe. It’s all verifiable. Nothing else is. It’s not as though there are other options for us. It’s God or nothing. And nothing isn’t an acceptable position for people who can know something. Since they know, they should also believe.