A couple of weeks ago I had an idea that we (the church) practiced yesterday. Because of the weather, 2019 has made for a rough start regarding the ability for many (most) to be a part of Sunday School and/or worship. So, rather than have our normal time of worship, I called an audible and we had a time of singing (with requests), a devotion about the Body of Christ (Rom 12 and Eph 4) and a couple of opportunities for individual and corporate prayer.
When someone mentions breathing or oxygen and the human body, very few people will first think of bones. But a bone is simply living tissue. Think about it, bones grow and repair themselves when broken, so they are living. Thus, they need nutrition. This nutrition comes in the form of food and oxygen.
The capillaries in the bones bring calcium, oxygen, and other nutrients for the bones to grow and live. In the midst of the bones is marrow which creates new cells which can serve any number of functions. These cells are then transported from the bones throughout the body to where they are needed. Without the blood flow taking oxygen and other nutrients to the bones, the bone or a part of it can die. This is known as osteonecrosis, which commonly is felt in the form of arthritis.
Thus, oxygen is a necessary component to keep bones healthy. Our body certainly has bones to provide structure (more about this next month), but it is our breath that provides the continued health and growth to our bones as well as the rest of our bodies.
Today, we will see an example of dead bones scattered, brought together, but still without function. That is, they did not have function until they received breath which brought life.
Similarly, people may function, but we need the breath of God to bring true life. This life begins when we receive His Spirit – a promise God makes in Ezekiel 26.22-38, and in particular, verses 26-27. When we have God’s Spirit, then we truly have life. (Remember, the word for Spirit is the same word for wind and breath.) And, if we have life, we can live by God’s truth in ways that otherwise will not make sense. Today, I want to take a look at three ways that having the Spirit of God within us can truly make us alive.
First, please take a moment to read John 4.23-24. This verse is in the midst of Jesus talking with a woman at a well. She mentions a dispute about where people can truly worship God. Jesus responds, that true worship is done in spirit and truth because God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Why do I mention this verse from John? Because today’s passage is ultimately about two things – God’s Spirit and God’s truth.
God’s Spirit Will Guide Us Towards Truth
Read Ezekiel 37.1-3
Last week, we saw how God’s truth is alive because Scripture is God breathed. Therefore, as 2 Timothy 3 says, all Scripture is profitable for teaching (preparing us to be right), rebuking (warning when wrong), correction (making it right), training in righteousness (making us right). That is, God’s truth is the principle which teaches, reproofs, corrects, and trains us for righteousness. So, in that sense, God’s truth guides us, but it is His Spirit which guides us towards truth.
Again, last week, we saw that idea in a practical sense, but this week, we see that God’s Spirit guides us physically as well. As we talk about our church being a Hub, this idea is important. The question we must ask ourselves as a church is not only: Where does God want us spiritually? But also: Where does God want us physically? That is, where would He have us serve?
Ezekiel 37 is a vision, but like the vision Paul had of the Macedonian man calling him to come, having a vision can influence where we go. Likewise, Ezekiel has a vision being led by the hand of the Lord, in the Spirit to a valley. For what it’s worth, the idea here is a long and smooth valley not one filled with rocks like much of Israel is. In other words, it is likely scenic. Scenic, except for the bones scattered everywhere.
Verse 2 says that these bones were very dry meaning they had been there for a long time. These bones were not from a fresh battle. It is also worth noting that the text does not say skeletons, but bones. Perhaps, the bones were aligned like a body, but that need not be, particularly if animals had come and eaten on some of the remains leaving the bones strewn around the valley.
So, God has positioned Ezekiel and is now ready to present him with another truth. Notice the question in verse 3: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Now, Ezekiel is a prophet who has been asked to teach in interesting ways, so his answer is honest, yet trustful. “Oh Lord God, you know.” I see this answer as saying, “Well, I must be honest God, I really think your question is a stretch, but, well, you are God.” In other words, I think Ezekiel is saying, “Well, ordinarily, no! But God!”
So, the Spirit has brought Ezekiel this far, guiding him towards a deeper understanding of truth.
God’s Spirit Will Challenge Us with Truth
Think about the four ways Paul mentioned is profitable (2 Timothy 3.16). Why are those true? Because it is not natural to think like God thinks. We are challenged by the truth of God. Specifically, I believe today’s text shares two ways we are challenged.
A Challenge to Our Thinking
Read Ezekiel 37.4-6
Again, Ezekiel had been through a few ordeals with God, but you have to wonder about the idea of prophesying to old bones. It surely seems pointless to me. Unless God is involved. If God is involved, anything is possible, even if it seems improbable.
Think about our collection earlier in the service for example. Three years ago, who might have imagined we would pull a wagon down the aisle once each month to collect money so two pastors in Kenya could have some gas money?
But Ezekiel believed enough and certainly the result impacted his faith. But it is important to notice that as of verse 6, nothing has happened. Ezekiel has been given instructions, and the idea must have been fascinating, but again, nothing has actually occurred. Now, if it does occur, notice what God promises:
These bones will not only rise up and come together, but it isn’t just the bones, it is a full restoration of the bodies – the innards, the skin, everything! (v. 6)
But, again, at this point all Ezekiel could do was imagine what God was going to do based upon what was said. One more step was needed.
A Challenge to Our Obedience
Read Ezekiel 37.7-10
Ezekiel had to obey. Nothing happened until Ezekiel actually prophesied. As I have mentioned before, the word prophesy simply means to tell the truth. We think of prophesy as something that happens in the future, and it can be, but the simplest understanding of the word is truth-telling. So, if we want to think of future prophecies, what we really mean is that something will be true, it just hasn’t happened yet.
For Ezekiel, the truth of God bringing bones together was certainly a challenge. But notice verse 8, everything about the bodies was in place, but life was not present. Why? Because the breath had not come into them. In verse 9, God specifically commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath – that is, to speak truth to the breath. Notice this breath comes from the four winds. This leads me back to a statement I made early this month…the same root word in the Hebrew is used for the English translation of wind, breath, and Spirit. So, when God breathes life into man, it is like the Spirit of God being breathed into man. It is like the wind of God being breathed into man.
Of course, this is the same idea from Genesis 2.7 when God breathed into man. It is the same idea from 2 Timothy 3.16 when God breathed into Scripture. It is the breath of God that causes life. Without this breath, the bodies may have formed together again, but they are otherwise zombies.
But after God commands Ezekiel again regarding the breath, AND after Ezekiel obeys again, these bodies, which had just been a bunch of bones in the valley, come to life. The bodies which represented a great army in the past, are now upright and alive again.
Church, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words in the most pagan place in all Israel – Caesarea Philippi. After Peter made the Great Confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus responded, “I will build my church.” And He added, “the gates of Hades will not stand against it” (Matthew 16.18).
You may think that the church, or even this church, is down, for any number of reasons. But my God knows a little something about resurrection. And if Jesus says His Church will not be defeated, then maybe the church looks like a bunch of bones scattered in the valley, but if we are willing to receive His breath again, then great things can happen! Amen!
And that leads us to the last part of this text.
God’s Spirit Will Inspire Us by Truth
Read Ezekiel 37.11-14
In verse 11, we are told the bones represent Israel who believe all hope is lost. But God promises restoration (v. 12). That restoration comes through the Spirit (the wind, the breath) being within them. Just as God breathed into Adam, so too will He breathe into His people to restore them and give them hope.
It is the Spirit that instill life within us. And it is the Spirit that brings truth to us. And when we recognize the truth of God for ourselves and incorporate that truth in our lives, we will continue to strive for far more than we currently are. If we are still here, God has more for us – and that more includes more than we can ask, think, or imagine (c.f. Ephesians 3.20). That’s what God wants for us. That is how He wants to inspire us. The question is do we really want to live as God desires? I am not talking about rules – I am talking about life!
CONCLUSION (tie to system)
The problem with most people today is they do not have purpose. Without purpose, life has no real meaning. This is true within the church and without. But this truth is most sad for those who claim to be a part of the church because we have the Spirit within us. That is, for those who are born again, we have the breath of God within us to allow us to truly live. But having this breath, and understanding God’s truth is not enough. Because truth must lead to action.
And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is: O – OBSERVE.
Jesus said that the Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16.12), but truth must lead to action (cf James 1.22). Too many people wish for certain things, but do not act. Ezekiel saw something great because he was obedient. He could have sat in the valley and wished the bones had been buried. Or wished the people were still alive. Likewise, we may wish things were better, but WISHING DOES NOTHING. Obedience to God is required! For Ezekiel, that obedience, that action included speaking. Speaking truth is necessary. You might not think it is worthwhile, but once again, consider Ezekiel’s response to God’s question – Can these bones live? The response: “Oh Lord God, you know.”
God did know, but he called on Ezekiel to participate in the process. Like Ezekiel, we are called to participate as well. We are to participate, but the credit goes to God.
PRINCIPLE: Like the dried bones in a valley, some may see us as worthless, but God can breathe new life into anyone.
QUESTION: Do we resemble people, or are we truly alive?
OPPORTUNITY: We must allow the Spirit to breathe new life into us so that we can truly live.
LEARN: Memorize James 1.22 this week. Write down three ideas that you have recently heard that you need to begin to do (better).
LIVE: Of the three items in the LEARN step, choose one on which to focus in March. Place the others on a calendar to remind you to focus on them in April and May, respectively.
LOVE: Many people, all around us, may be living, but they are not fully alive. Love them by sharing God’s truth with them knowing that as unlikely as it may be for them to listen, God can bring dead bones back to life, so He can restore anyone.
LEAD: When you see a problem, do not just wish it were better…do something. Perhaps God brought the issue to your attention because He wants to see how you will respond to Him.
Human understanding of the lung has changed greatly over the years. At one time, the lungs were believed to be cooling agents to offset the heart. Later, although perhaps relatedly, they were thought to help suppress anger which stemmed from the heart. In the 15th Century, Da Vinci was able to accurately sketch the lungs, although his understanding was far from what we know today.
Over time, the understanding of the function of our lungs has changed significantly. Most recently, the focus has moved from merely understanding the function of lungs to creating artificial ones. Granted, the lungs have only been tested on pigs, but this kind of testing always begins on animals and people soon reap the benefits. In this case, over 100,000 people, just in the US, are awaiting a lung transplant.
How did this come to be? Well, researches used what was known, developed new ideas, tested those ideas, and made corrections – over and over again. In fact, in one article, a researcher said it was a paradigm shift that allowed the progress to be made. They were looking at the lung as a whole and then trying to create the smaller pieces, but once they began with the smaller aspects of the lung and worked to the larger aspects, significant progress was made. It took fifteen years to get this far, but listen to her words, “We learned so much from this study. We know what we’re doing right, what we’ve done wrong, and how to make it so much better.” – Joan Nichols, Researcher at the Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas (1)
Nichols words are about the trial-and-error process of science, but I believe they fit well with the verse we reviewed two weeks ago, and that we will continue to review, only in its larger context this week. That verse was 2 Timothy 3.16 which begins: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…. How is it profitable For teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. And why is that important? Verse 17 gives us the answer – that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Let’s dive into each of these four areas and see how Paul instructs Timothy, and therefore, us using the idea of Scripture’s profitability.
Teaching Prepares Us to Be Right
Right is a relative word here. We must realize that if we are taught the wrong things, then we may do them right according to the teaching, but they may be wrong. For instance, someone who is taught to excel at crime is learning how to do crime the right way, but crime itself is wrong.
But our goal is to not just to do things right, but to be right. And that is one of the ways Scripture is most profitable. Let us review the text.
2 Timothy 3.10-11
Paul mentions that Timothy has followed his teaching. He reviews all that has happened to him and notes that Timothy is aware of all of these aspects of Paul’s life (vv. 10-11). Timothy has certainly learned from Paul actually teaching verbally, but also by observing Paul’s conduct, his purpose, his faith, his patience, his love, his steadfastness (steadiness), as well as by Paul suffering through persecution.
Thus, one aspect of teaching is to be reminded of the past. We can learn from the examples of others and be encouraged by their response to various situations. This is exactly what Paul is doing for Timothy – preparing him to be right based upon the lessons observed in the past.
In verse 14, Paul notes that Timothy has learned, but the lessons are not complete because he must continue to follow the example that has been set. By following the example of Paul, who followed the example of Christ, Timothy would become right, not just by what they have done, but because of what Scripture teaches (v. 15) which Paul and Christ followed. Then, Timothy would be competent and equipped for the work he was called to do. Therefore, Timothy could do right…but more importantly, he would be on the path to being right.
Reproof Prepares Us to Fix What Is Wrong
2 Timothy 3.13-15
After Paul encourages him to remember what has been learned, the attention is turned to that of reproof. Now, we need to understand that reproof is showing disapproval in something. It is an admonition or even a warning. In other words, a reproof, or rebuke as some translations read, requires judgment. Again, judgment is biblical, regardless of what our culture might say. But it is God who judges, and it is the Bible which serves as His witness. As Paul wrote in verse 16, Scripture is profitable for reproof.
But reproof is not fun. It is not easy to be admonished, and when done from the perspective of love, it is not fun to admonish others. But again, the Bible is profitable towards this end. And, truth be told, we would much rather be admonished (lovingly) by others in our midst, than to not know we are doing anything wrong, and face the fullness of judgment before the throne of God.
The challenge is that most people judge based upon preference rather than Scripture. Or they interpret Scripture to their aims instead of God’s purposes. But even if Scripture is used properly, people will rebel against being rebuked. Notice that Paul says that those who are evil or imposters (of the faith) will turn from bad to worse. That is, they will ignore the rebuke and not only continue in sin, but dive deeper into it. Furthermore, Paul warns Timothy (and us) that if we are true to the faith, we will be persecuted. Why? Because people do not like to be rebuked. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Paul, and Paul states clearly that all who desire to live a godly life will face persecution as well. How’s that for a biblical promise? A gospel of health and wealth does not mention this truth!
But Paul makes certain Timothy understands this principle as part of the process in his learning. And, as verse 15 says, Timothy is aware of this from his previous reading of Scripture, but Paul is making certain he clearly understands the implications of trying to fix what is wrong.
Correction Prepares Us to Make Things Right
2 Timothy 4.1-5
The next step in the process is that of correction. We must understand that reproof and correction can be related, but a distinction certainly exists. Reproof is showing what is wrong; correction is showing how to set matters right. For instance, reproof would be to talk (hopefully not yell) to someone who has made a mistake, while correction would be to show how to fix the mistake or to do it again with the person.
That last sentence provides a lot of information about how we approach reproof. You see when people make mistakes, we need to help them realize the mistake before it can be fixed. But in reproofing them, we can talk to them, or we can yell at them. We generally do what has been modeled for us (by our parents, friends, etc.), but the reality is that maybe we need reproof in order to stop yelling and start having a conversation.
In any case, Paul then shares with Timothy what is necessary to correct others. He needs to preach the Word. That is, He needs to proclaim Scripture. Why? Because people will stop listening over time. Teaching the Bible will not mean anything. People will desire to listen to people to make them feel good. That is, teach me, but do not rebuke or correct me. Of course, we live in such an age, but this is not the only time in history this has been true. In fact, as much as people want to talk about the faith of the Founding Fathers, they lived, and were heavily influenced by such a time – a time-period known as The Enlightenment.
So, Paul charges Timothy to put forth the truth before it will be further rejected. In fact, in verse 2, notice Paul says to reprove, rebuke, and exhort – but do so with patience. Why patience? Because correction is not as easy as merely rebuking. Anyone can tell someone else they are wrong, but it takes someone competent, and equipped (3.17) and patient (4.2) to take the time to show others the right way to live. And then, once people are on the path to correction, they are ready for the final step – training in righteousness.
Training in Righteousness Allows Us to Be Better
2 Timothy 4.6-8
This passage is quite often quoted, and fairly well-known. The same is true for 2 Timothy 3.16. But I do not believe I have ever heard anyone speak about them in the same thought process. This is remarkable given that the verses are only seven (7!) verses apart.
Like the word “right” in the first point, the word better is also relative. I chose the word better because of the quote I shared from the medical researcher earlier. But in this case, better is not something we can obtain on our own. The better here relates to being like Jesus. And Paul ends this portion of his letter with an appeal for Timothy to take his training to the highest level afforded by Scripture – becoming righteous. This is not self-righteous, where we crown ourselves as good and proper; rather, it is receiving the reward from our Lord, the true judge (v8), who provides the faithful with a lasting crown of righteousness.
Notice the idea of training for righteousness in Paul’s words to Timothy.
I have fought the good fight. A fighter must train to be successful.
I have finished the race. Whether a sprint or a marathon, a successful runner does not simply show up and win. It takes hard work and training to finish the journey.
I have kept the faith. Paul saves the hardest for last. Along the way, he learned Scripture. He was rebuked – by Jesus Himself. He was corrected by Barnabas, by the apostles, etc. And, in turn, he did the same. But, in the end, the goal was righteousness, and Paul has made it.
Ultimately, our ability to become righteous is not about what we may do, but about what Jesus has already done. We become righteous because we gain His righteousness when we receive the gift of life He offers. But that does not mean that our journey is through; rather, as Paul shares with Timothy here, that training which included the teaching, the reproofs, and the necessary corrections must continue to be a part of our lives until the end. And all of this is possible through Scripture which is profitable. See, the Bible is not just a compilation of sacred writings (3.15), it is practical for helping us live (3.16), and to understand that we can also rejoice at the return of the Lord someday (4.8).
Like Paul, we too must press on trusting that Scripture is profitable because God breathed life into it. And thus, we must seek to learn from Scripture until our final breath has passed.
And one day, we will breathe our last. Of course, one day the artificial lung may be fully functional and allow people to breathe – and thus, sustain their lives – when they otherwise would not be able to do so.
But true life comes from God. That is true for humanity and it is true of His Word. It is a magnificent realization that when Paul wrote this letter, he could not have known that his very words endorsing Scripture would later be included as Scripture. He was referring to the Old Testament, and perhaps, one or more of the Gospels. Certainly, Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit, but he was simply writing a letter to a young man who needed encouragement. But all of Scripture is profitable, and God knew we could profit from Paul’s words as well. But while God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55.11), what makes it truly possible is when what we learn turns to action. Therefore, our…
JOURNEY letter for today is: O – OBSERVE.
A question that is sometimes asked is: If no one listens, did teaching occur? It is a fair question, but I think that teaching does happen even if no one pays attention. It does not have to be listening, but learning does require observation – seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, or touching – and then taking the time to think about what has been observed. For instance, Jesus said, anyone who has hears, let him hear. Thus, Jesus was teaching, but not everyone would learn from what He taught.
How can we know we are learning? Not by what we do perfectly, but by what we attempt to observe. Jesus said to His disciples to make disciples not by merely talking to others, but by teaching others to observe all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28.19-20). Thus, doing what we have learned, and doing what we are learning, and doing what we will learn is important. Why? Because Jesus said so. My number one motto for life is “When you stop learning, you start dying.” But again, learning is not just about taking in information…true learning requires us doing something with that information. And that is why Observe is our JOURNEY letter for the week.
PRINCIPLE: Learning is a process which requires teaching, reproof, correction, and additional training throughout our life.
QUESTION: If Scripture is profitable, then shouldn’t it be our primary source for the process of learning?
OPPORTUNITY: Choose one part of the passage today and focus your learning on observing the part of the process (teaching, reproof, correction, and training for righteousness) that you need most.
LEARN: Re-read 2 Timothy 3.10-4.5 and identify an area in your life that needs to be improved through the learning process. Write that area down as a matter of focus this week. Seek other areas from Scripture (all of which is profitable!) to find what Scripture says to do.
LIVE: Begin to OBSERVE what Scripture says from your research in the LEARN step. Take time to record any progress along the way.
LOVE: As you begin to OBSERVE the process, seek to understand how growing in this area will help you fulfill the Great Commandment – to love God and love others – better.
LEAD: Over time, share your progress in this area of growth to encourage someone else to embrace a similar process.
In continuing our study on health body, healthy church we will take time today to look at three healthy practices: Exercise, Rest and Nutrition. These practices are not only beneficial to the body, but also the church. Are you that person who sits on the couch and does nothing? Are you that person who sits on the pew and does nothing?
1 Timothy 4.8: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
NEED 1: EXERCISE
There are five things that exercise does for your body and the church. We know what physical exercise is for the body, but the church (and the church body) needs to practice spiritual exercise daily, not just on Sunday.
1. It Can Make You Feel Happier
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity which relieves feelings of depression.
A happy church is a healthy church. Don’t you want to be happy and the people around you to be happy? Think about seeing people in the congregation with smiles and a more content look.
2. It Is Good for Your Muscles and Bones
Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones. Muscles and bones are the foundation of the body.
A church with a strong foundation of muscle and bone is a healthy church. Parts of the church body are the bones which help to form the structure and other parts of the church body are the muscles who do the work to aide in the movement of the body.
3. It Can Increase Your Energy Levels
Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions. Studies have found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue.
A church that lacks energy slows down, movement becomes harder, and the church fails to grow. Churches that exercise in bursts aren’t as effective. Spiritual exercise (just like bodily exercise) must be constant so that over time it becomes easier.
4. It Can Help Your Brain Health and Memory
Exercise can improve brain function and protect memory and thinking skills. To begin with, it increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.
Who is the brain of the church? Studies have shown that reflective and contemplative spiritual practices grow several parts of your brain. A symptom of weak churches seems to be a slow heart rate. We have heard it said that church problems are not a head issue but a heart issue. Going to church is good for the brain and the heart.
5. It can help you relax.
Regular exercise can help you relax.
The church also needs that time to relax, which bring us to REST.
NEED 2: REST
Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Most of us have our own ideas why attendance is declining. Some feel the heart of the problem is not declining numbers, but commitment.
Church volunteer burnout is a major problem throughout the church body, and it seems to be growing. The burnout is more psychological and emotional than physical. Burnout results from prolonged stress, overextension, and hurriedness. The nervous system gets stretched until it loses its resiliency and renewal capacity.
It’s easier to avoid burnout in the first place than it is to overcome it.
Take time to rest. It’s God’s way of sustaining us for the long haul. It helps to heal a tired rundown body.
In church, we need to sometimes just step back and relax with God. This past week in my chaplain email I spoke on the practice of coffee breaks. Businesses know that employees need time during the day to rest (coffee break). Take time in your church duties to rest.
Pray for your ministry responsibilities. Let God perform the work, using His strength and perfect wisdom. Don’t try to do it all. If God places you in a position, he will provide the means to complete your responsibilities.
Give something up before taking on a new commitment or responsibility. Multi-tasking is something many of us have mastered. Even the best of multi-taskers reach that point where they have taken on too much. Don’t keep “adding floors” onto your already towering skyscraper of activities.
Learn to say, “No,” and to set up reasonable boundaries around your involvement. When people ask you to do something, or they look to you to accomplish their ideas, specify the help you’ll need and the constraints on your time. This is true, not only in your personal life, but also in your church life. You don’t have to do it all.
Set priorities and consult with your family. I have told all of my officers and the law enforcement students at the academy that law enforcement is a way of life that controls your life. It is up to you to make sure this life has a balance.
Church work occupies an essential role in our lives but must never take priority over family.
Look for ways to team up with your spouse in ministry activities. Be willing to occasionally say, “No,” to low priority church activities when they conflict with important family time.
Emphasize grace over works. We don’t earn God’s blessings by the amount of church work we do. God wants us to lead healthy, balanced lives where our ministry service is a joy and source of deep personal fulfillment.
In the absence of such joy, our work life and our ministry turns into burden and burnout.
Jesus knew of the burden of burnout. His words in Matthew 11:28-30 are extremely comforting: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
NEED 3: NUTRITION
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining overall good health. We all eat, but we must try to eat properly.
Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as, Type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Vitamins help your body use energy from the food you eat. Minerals are chemical elements that help regulate your body’s processes. Potassium, for example, helps your nerves and muscles function. Calcium helps your teeth and bones stay strong.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 says: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Some of you may or may not know, but I have lost 50 pounds since September of last year. By changing my eating habits, I have been able to make my body slimmer and healthier.
Just as the physical body needs good nutrition, so does the church body.
Often I have heard people say as they leave church, “Well, I was not fed today. I come to church to be fed and that pastor just does not feed me.”
I hate to break the bad news but your church is not supposed to “feed” you. You are not to come to church to be fed.
This may come as a shock, but people pick a church like they pick a restaurant. One that dishes up what they like and are in the mood for on a steaming plate set before you. One with a pleasant atmosphere, where they can sit, and converse with friends.
Then you sit in judgment. “That was good this week.” Or perhaps, “That sermon was a little mushy, and cold, like overcooked broccoli.”
You tip if the service was good and expect to go home full. You complain and tell all if the service was not up to the standard that you set or expected.
The man in front of you is your pastor not your waiter.
The term “pastor” is from the Greek word for “shepherd.” I tell you the shepherd’s job is to protect sheep. He is to drive them to the pasture and to the clear, clean water.
The sheep eat for themselves. The shepherd does not hold the grass so the sheep can eat it only when served to them by the shepherd. Just in case you did not know sheep eat everyday not just one day a week.
The legitimate role for pastors is found in Ephesians 4. Pastors have been given their gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” God’s purpose in the giving of all of these gifted “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers” is to EQUIP YOU “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
When you come to church, rather than being a passive recipient of the meal, leave and share its gifts with one another. Invite others to come and also enjoy the table that Jesus has spread for you.
Friends, stop asking your church to feed you. Ask your church to equip you.
The church isn’t supposed to be a restaurant with waiters that serve us and cater to our every need. It is supposed to be culinary school.
I want you to think about what culinary school does. It does not feed the students, it gives them tools, knowledge, practice, confidence and helps them find a job cooking in the real world.
I hope this shows a different way to see the church, and your pastor.
One way will make you fat and passive. The other way will change you, your church and the world as you serve it, adding flavor and taste to those around you.
Remember that we all need to work hard to build a healthy body, it does not come easy. It takes time and commitment.
What are you willing to do to help make the church healthy?
Do you want to be that couch and pew potato?
Or do you want to be that fitness coach to help build a stronger healthier body?
Today is the first Sunday of a new month which means we begin comparing a new system of the human body to the system of the church. Last month, we discussed the link between the reproductive system and Jesus command for us to make disciples. This month, we will review the respiratory system with a connection to how God’s breath brings and sustains life.
When we think of the respiratory system, we obviously think of breathing. But most people simply consider the process of air going in and then being released. The reality is that breathing is really an exchange of gases. The human body takes in oxygen and then releases carbon dioxide. That exchange is really the function of our lungs.
However, the lungs are not simply taking in and passing out the same air – rather, the oxygen that comes into our bodies is taken by our red blood cells throughout the body, and those same cells collect any carbon dioxide and bring it back to the lungs where it is discarded when we exhale.
The key understanding for us today is that through our breathing, life is possible. We may focus on our breathing at times – particularly when we find it difficult to breathe, but the process itself takes place so naturally, we rarely give it thought. In fact, the average adult breathes approximately 23000 times per day – each time sustaining the life that has been given.
And that is our focus today – that breathing brings life. Not only does our breathing allow us to live, but the breath of God is what truly allows for life to happen and to have meaning. Later this month, we will review passages that discuss how the breath of God brings life to mankind, but for now, let us focus on the life it gives it gives to Scripture. This week, I will review the first part of 2 Timothy 3.16 that says the breath of God is part of Scripture. And then next week, we will look at how the remainder of verse 16 applies to the verses which precede and follow this verse to show how God’s breath sustains us and prepares us to live according to His purposes.
All Scripture… (2 Timothy 3.16)
Every single word.
Let me ask you this: Do you trust God? If yes, do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word? If yes, then you can trust God’s Word because it is God’s Word. Titus 1.2 says that God cannot lie. But just because something is true does not mean it is helpful, or even particularly relevant today. For instance, did you know that the average salary in 1900 was just under $450 per year? True, but not helpful. Why? Because facts are true, but that does not mean that they are “alive.”
But when God breathes, life begins. It happened for mankind in Genesis 1, and according to Paul, in the verse we are reviewing today, it is true for Scripture as well. What does this mean? It means that Scripture is true (it is from God who cannot lie), and it is also living. Hebrews 4.12 says that the Word of God is living and active. The implication is that we cannot only read Scripture as something that was written for those who lived in the past, we can read it knowing that God’s Word has application for us today as well.
As we discussed last Sunday evening, the words in the Bible only mean what they mean. What God meant when it was written is what each word means. But how those words apply might be as different as the number of people who read it. And that is only possible if the Word of God is living…and it is living because God breathed life into it.
Perhaps we find it difficult to understand parts of Scripture. Do you realize Peter even made this claim about some of Paul’s writings? (See 2 Pt 3.16.) And perhaps we find some parts as more challenging to read for their content (e.g. the genealogies). But our issues with the Bible do not make it any less true or any less applicable.
…is Breathed Out by God
I mentioned in my weekly email and Facebook post this week the importance of the biblical words used for breath. The Hebrew word from the OT is ruach (pronounced roo-awk) and the Greek word in the NT is pneuma (from which we get the English word pneumonia). Both of these words also mean wind. But more importantly, these words also mean spirit. Thus, to say that all Scripture is breathed out by God means that all of Scripture has the nature of the Holy Spirit within it.
If you recall the words of Jesus from John 16, one purpose for the Holy Spirit coming was/is to guide us “into all truth” (v13). This function of the Spirit is certainly possible if He is the very nature of the Scripture that is to be our guide. Thus, we are guided not by some presence or “force” that has to interpret Scripture and then try to help us understand what it means. Rather, we are guided by the Guide who helped create the written Word and thus can enable us to understand the Word from the very Source.
Consider it this way. In today’s world many people debate over the meaning of certain books or movies. But what if, instead of debating what the true meaning of Huckleberry Finn, we could sit down with Mark Twain who authored the book. Well, that is the opportunity that the Holy Spirit offers us.
And because breath brings life, the Word of God is alive. Notice Paul’s words. Scripture is breathed out by God. Thus, it is intended to go into something else. Just as the air filled with carbon dioxide we exhale is taken in by plants and converted to oxygen for our benefit, God breathes out Scripture so we can take it in and convert it to action for the benefit of us and others. Remember, as James said, “But be doers of the Word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” That is, the Word of God is living, so it requires a response.
Let me remind us again of Hebrews 4.12 – Scripture is alive and active. It pierces us to the soul. Again, I mentioned last Sunday night that is why I focus so heavily on Scripture when I preach. Many have commented over the years that they are convicted week after week. Good. But realize that is not me, that is Scripture. And it is Scripture because it alive, being part of the very breath of God.
See, many pastors want you to feel good when you leave the church. My job is not to make you feel good or feel bad. My job is to make sure you realize that you need a Savior. You may be saved, but that does not mean that you do not need Jesus. So, if we preach the living Word of God correctly, not only will you realize that you fall short of God’s standard, but you will realize that He has made a way through Jesus – who may have died, but is now living and making intercession for you!
So, Jesus, as the living Word of God brings the written Word of God to life through ruach, the pneuma, the Spirit. And thus, the Word of God is…
Now we get to the purpose of Scripture. God did not just create Scripture because He needed something to do. He did not just organize a collection of thoughts just because someone needed a book with some history and philosophy. No, God used 40 individuals over about 2000 years to write down His words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, because these words would be useful to people for the next 2000 years (and longer if He delays His return).
One truth in life is that everyone relies on various sources for information to get through life. We may rely on the newspaper, the television, radio, magazines, the internet, an app on our phone, fortune tellers, etc. But here is something about every one of those sources…they are seeking profit for themselves. The local news is not there to inform you of what is happening. The news is there to sell advertising. Same with radio and magazines, etc. Sure, they will help you be informed, but only as long as the overall success of that station or publisher or other business concept has the ability to make a profit.
But the Bible is profitable. It does not need to turn a profit, it IS profitable – to all who read it AND observe it. God gives it to us so that our lives can be profitable. Although God is not seeking to make a profit, it is fair to say that He has made an investment in you – and that investment was the life of His Son. So, God does expect a return on that investment…and He gives His Word, which is profitable, in order that we might become more like Him.
So, how is Scripture profitable?
It is profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting, and training in righteousness. We will explore these four concepts more fully next week; and we will do so in the context of the surrounding verses. For today, we simply need to know that: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” Therefore, if we can trust the living God, we can trust His Scripture because it is living as well.
Our emphasis today has been on the fact that God breathed Scripture which makes it alive…and makes it useful. And, as we will see in a couple of weeks, it was the breath of God that gave man life and made us useful. And, as we continue to breathe, we continue to live. And, thus, our system of the month is the respiratory system. As long as our respiratory system continues to function well, we will have the ability to live. But a day comes when we take our final breath, and thus our life ends which should make us consider how we live our lives in the meantime. And thus, our…
JOURNEY letter for today is: JOURNEY.
We only have so many breaths. But we have our breath and our ability to breathe because of God. So, what do we do with our life? How have we chosen to live? How will we choose to live from this moment until our final breath? Our JOURNEY is not yet complete, but when it is, will we recognize that is was the breath of God which gave us life and sustained us? Of course, this is true in our physical lives, but it is true of God’s Word as well.
So, let us live our lives well. Let us finish our JOURNEY strong. Let us realize that Scripture is profitable and the same Spirit who breathes life into it is ready to guide us along the rest of our path as well.
PRINCIPLE: God’s breath brings life.
QUESTION: Do you believe Scripture is profitable? If so, how can it produce more in your life? If not, why do you believe it is not?
OPPORTUNITY: Just as you have a pattern in your breathing, make reading/studying the Bible a natural part of your life each day.
LEARN: Besides using the four ideas listed at the end of 2 Tim 3.16; write down ten way the Bible has been profitable to you.
LIVE: Reflect on one way the Bible has encouraged you in the past and seek to make that aspect even stronger in your life.
LOVE: Most of us struggle to love everyone. How does knowing the Bible is alive and profitable encourage you to love someone who is normally unlovable?
LEAD: Guide one person this week to better understand how the Bible can be profitable to them.
Since July, on the last Sunday of each month, we have focused on what we have done and are doing related to mission work as a church. As I have mentioned before, this idea was sparked during a conversation between Roger Martin and myself, and the term originated after Roger discussed the concept at a deacon meeting a week or so later. The idea, and the term, is now known as Hub Sunday.
Most Hub Sundays we have reflected on something to do apart from gathering together. For instance, tomorrow night, several of us are going to Maryville to serve a meal to college students and several others who cannot go are helping by providing food and/or desserts that we will take with us. But rather than discussing the spokes of the hub today, I want to focus on the need for the hub itself.
I will cover this idea beginning with the Parable of the Sower in a below, but first I want to remind us that in 2019, we are focusing on the church as the Body of Christ and doing so by reviewing each of the major systems of the body. In January, the system of emphasis is the reproductive system, and last week we saw that the first recorded commandment God gave to humanity (be fruitful and multiply) is essentially the same commandment Jesus gave the disciples before He departed (make disciples), which is only a different context of being fruitful and multiplying.
And, to be fruitful and multiply it is imperative to be in fellowship with one another on a regular basis, as I will share today. With the ability that technology affords, it is entirely possible to believe that you are a faithful saint of God and never attend a church. I say believe you are faithful because it is not truly being faithful to the intent of God.
People “attend” church on Facebook or get teaching via the television, radio, or over the internet via podcasts. Some of the teaching is excellent; some is heresy. But what we cannot overlook is that the Bible is written to a group of people, not to an individual. The OT was written to the people of Israel. The New Testament was written to the Church. In both cases the audience is plural, not singular. And the reading today from Hebrews is a strong command to not cease meeting together. Why? Because, in that context, we must spur one another on – that is, without some measure of accountability, none of us will remain true to what we intend. But in the greater scheme, we are reminded that meeting together is important because “it is not good for man to be alone.” And, as the Body of Christ, no one part of the body can function properly without the other parts.
So, let us turn to the text, and see why the Parable of the Sower is important to us on this Hub Sunday.
The Word of God Impacts People
Take a moment to read Matthew 13.1-8 and 18-23.
The only constant in this parable is the Word of God. All four types of soil have seed scattered on it. All four types begin to impact the soil, but three do not last. Why? Because no root develops. Why doesn’t a root develop? Because the seed does not have time or a place to truly take root and grow.
In the first type of soil, the birds devour the seed before it can truly get planted. Jesus said in verse 19 that the seed did start to get sown into the person’s heart, but then it was snatched away. How? Well, Jesus says the birds represent the evil one. Please understand that Satan knows that God’s Word is impactful, so he comes to steal, kill, and destroy any chance of that seed truly taking root.
The next type of soil was rocky. Notice the seed did produce something. The plant looked like it was going to grow, but it did not. Instead, the soil was shallow. Per Jesus, in verse 20 and 21, the seed was received well, but when challenges came to their belief, the people fell away.
The third type of soil was infested with thorns. The seed made into the soil, but was choked off by the thorns. Jesus interpreted this as someone who “hears the word” but is more concerned with the affairs of the world. Again, the seed begins to grow, but does not have a chance to truly live.
The last type of soil is the one that yielded fruit. Why? Well, the soil was right, and that makes a difference. But I will argue that cultivating the soil is not only important before the seed is planted, but tending the soil is important after the planting. Only then, can a harvest be properly expected. How do we tend the soil? The same way we prepare it – the Word of God.
In each case, the seed represents the Word of God. Jesus says this clearly so that should not be in dispute. What is disputed is whether or not the seed in the first three soils represents people who become Christian or not. Honestly, I have been back and forth on this for years, but more recently, I have become convinced they are not. I am not dogmatic about that because a lot of debate exists on this issue and I realize the arguments against my position. But the Bible is clear that only those who persevere are truly saved. And thus, I have come to believe that only the final soil truly represents a Christian.
What we must understand is that the Word of God does impact people. And the enemy fully knows the power of that impact. Thus, Satan tries to minimize that impact (stealing away the joy, choking it out, making us more concerned about worldly matters, etc.) so we will not reproduce. Because a healthy seed not only grows itself, but that seed will then produce more seeds. That is, it will reproduce. Now the Word of God itself is not reproduced, but its effect is reproduced in others. Thus we can say that the Word of God will produce fruit.
Let’s look at this fact briefly before returning to the focusing on our hub.
The Word of God Produces Fruit
Take a moment to read John 15.1-11.
In this instance, the Word of God is not the written or spoken Word, it is the Living Word – Jesus. Jesus says that those who abide in Him WILL bear fruit. If not, you will be cut away, gathered with other non-bearing branches and burned (v6). Those who remain, those who abide, those who are truly with Jesus will bear fruit. This is not some wish that Jesus makes, it is a fact. Notice a particular word of Jesus in verse 8. We prove we follow Jesus when we abide and bear fruit. We prove we are abiding by following God’s commandments (v10). And the blessing of our abiding is having complete joy in Jesus (v 11).
So, in Jesus words, a disciple (a follower) is one who hears the Word, who receives the Word, and who abides with the Word. If you believe what Jesus spoke, these three statements cannot be disputed by what these passages have revealed. The question, then, is how does this relate to our church being a hub?
The Church is God’s Design for Produce
Let me transition to the idea of our church (any church, really) being a hub by asking a question. What is the name of the section at the grocery store where you can select fruit and vegetables? The Produce Section, right? Why is it called the Produce Section? Because the food was produced. It was planted, it was tended, it grew, it was harvested. But each step happened so what was produced could either be eaten or reproduce seeds for the next iteration of produce.
Well, we are not meant to be eaten, but the seed planted within us is to reproduce. And that reproduction begins within the context of church – not the place, but the people. However, the people need a place in order to be tended, and to grow. That is, if we are to be fruitful and multiply, if we are to reproduce, it is not something we can do on our own, we must do it within the context of the church. After all, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As I have mentioned many times, this instance of Jesus saying church is only one of three times Jesus used the word church – so He must have meant something by it.
So, the church is meant to grow (being built). And thus, the people in the church are to reproduce. That is, we are to bear fruit. And, as we have seen in the passages earlier, bearing fruit is dependent upon the Word of God. And, where else will you get a steady stream of the Word of God? And that is why the church is, and should be, the hub!
Consider for a minute the idea of a huddle in football. Everyone comes to the huddle so they can be on the same page about what is to happen on the next play. Of course, sometimes, the players see a play developing differently (like the receiver breaks out instead of in and the pass is incomplete or intercepted), but they come back to the huddle to get the next play. It doesn’t matter how good of a player you are or how well you know the playbook, if you don’t know what to do in a certain moment, and are not participating as part of the team, you are not helping.
The church, also known as The Body of Christ, is the same. And a weekly service is like a huddle. Of course, a football team might call three or four plays in a huddle during the 2-minute drill, but the church, like a football team, needs to constantly be together, to constantly be reminded, to constantly be abiding in God’s Word, in order to know what God would have each one do – not just individually – but as a team. Thus, the football huddle is like the church as a hub. The huddle provides direction and understanding of how the team’s playbook will help overcome the opponent during a certain part of the game. The hub provides direction and understanding from God’s playbook (the Bible) will help us abide, help us grow, help us serve as well as encouraging one another (Hebrews 10.24-25) during the process at any given part of our life.
But the church in America is in decline. In the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Africa, it is growing FAST. But, if the church is the only place where most people consistently hear the Gospel, then the attendance at our churches matter. So, let me give you some thoughts and statistics that related to church attendance in America. These stats are a little dated (about a decade ago), but matters are only worse now.
The Church in America is Shrinking
1. Fewer children per family
My mom was one of 7 and my dad was one of 3 (only one to survive childhood), yet I was their only child together. The sheer math says that the number in church will go down from one generation to the next.
2. The Halo Effect
People think they are going to church, but in reality, they are not. Surveyors asked: “Did you go to church the previous week?”
In 1939, 41% of people said Yes
2002-2005, 40-44% consistently said Yes
*keep in mind, shortly after 9/11 churches saw an increase
Actual Numbers of 2002-2005
About 1/3 to ½ of that amount is true. So, 14-22%.
(Source, The American Church in Crisis, David Olson, p. 26)
Imagine it this way, if 40% of Fairfax was in church, then approximately 200-250 people would be filling the four churches in the area EVERY WEEK. Of course, some people go to other towns, but some people from other towns come here as well. If we look at Atchison County, then approximately 2200 people attend church every week.
Active Participants (3 times over 8-week period, i.e. more than once per month)
23% are active participants (p 29-30)
12% (about one-half of the total) are evangelical – typically considered as Bible-believing
7% Catholic – who must go to receive grace through the Eucharist
3. People are not making disciples.
If we were doing what Jesus said and making disciples 30, 60, 100-fold, then when we would be exploding. Of course, not all people would come here – and that is ok. I am making more disciples elsewhere than I am here. The focus is to make disciples. I do it here, but I go there as well.
Again, church attendance matters because it is the only place where most people hear the Gospel on a consistent basis. And, although I have strong feelings regarding the importance of church membership, membership does not equal commitment like attendance does. However, true commitment is not to a church; our commitment is to be the Lord. Being a part of a church is part of that commitment, and so is making disciples.
So, we need to be a hub! Because it is in the context of the hub that disciples are made. It is in the context of what Jesus is building that disciples are made. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that disciples can only be made at a church, but I am saying that disciples can only be made by someone connected with a church. And, if we are to be disciples, and make disciples, then we are to be connected, and active in the ministry of the church.
We cannot separate Jesus from the Church! Why? Read and re-read this quote from Henri Nouwen:
“The Church is the Body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church. And without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus.”
So, to not be active, and to not attend, is to not be a part of Christ!
In light of the parable I read earlier, if it is the Word of God that brings the fruit and someone is not consistently present with the Word, then how can they return 30-, 60-, or 100-fold? And, it is in the context of church that the Word is most often heard/read/studied by most people. Thus, attendance is critical for the believer.
Many will talk about numbers in a church, but it is fair to ask how a church should be measured. The ultimate answer is faithfulness, and numbers do not necessarily equate to being faithful to God. But attendance is one mark of a faithful follower, so numbers do have a place in helping to know how faithful the people are…not just those who are coming, but how many disciples they are making when they go. And, while here, the measure will partly relate to our unity of body, unity of faith, and unity of service. And that is why…
The JOURNEY letter for today is: U – UNITE.
As we wrap up the focus on reproduction, let me make one more comparison between the church and the reproductive system. I do this because I realize that people can be followers of Christ without a specific church home. But again, without being a part of the huddle, are they fully equipped, week after week, to fulfill their ministry, whatever that may be?
It is like in vitro fertilization. It is possible for reproduction to take place this way, but the egg must still be inserted into a home for life to grow as it should. Likewise, a person might be saved apart from the church, but needs a place to grow and be nurtured. And thus, Jesus said, I will build my church – the idea where that growth and nurture happen.
PRINCIPLE: The Word of God should be central in a church which produces fruit. To produce fruit, we must be part of a church engaging often with the Word of God.
QUESTION: If a person is not present with the Body of Christ, then how can s/he function within the Body of Christ?
OPPORTUNITY: Reproduction begins, and continues, with being present. We have a chance to be present, and we have the opportunity to help others be present as well.
LEARN: Make a list of any reasons why you choose not to be in a church setting on a weekly basis. Putting it on paper will help determine any real issues that should be addressed by you, or by the church.
LIVE: Make a commitment to be actively involved within the Body of Christ so that you will be more inclined to share life with the Body of Christ.
LOVE: Bearing fruit requires us to abide with Jesus. When you find it difficult to love others (including the church), focus on loving Jesus and realize the church is the current expression of Jesus to the world – whether we do things right or wrong.
LEAD: Listen to others to determine why they believe church is not for them. Help them to see the truth of this parable and today’s teaching. Without the Church, we do not have Jesus. Without Jesus, we have, and are nothing.
Two weeks ago, we began this new series about having a healthy body so we can have a healthy church. The central theme for the series, and for all of 2019, is that we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we can consider that the human body consists of many systems that keep it functioning properly. When one or more of those systems in the human body do not function as they should, the entire body will suffer over time. Likewise, when the church body is not healthy, the church will suffer. And like the human body, the church needs systems in place to function best. So, each month through November we will be comparing a system of the human body to that of the church. And the system for January is the reproductive system.
At first glance, you may wonder how the reproductive system fits into the context of the church. I would argue it is the easiest of all systems to correlate because Jesus said we are to make disciples. That is, as a believer (a disciple), we are commissioned (and expected) to reproduce other disciples. Thus, making disciples is about reproducing, and that fits quite well with the reproductive system.
In fact, as we will see, the idea of reproducing is not just addition, but multiplication, as Reggie taught last week. And we do not just randomly get the idea of multiplication, we see it evidenced in Acts as the early church had numbers added to it (Acts 2.41,47; 5.14) and then soon multiplied (Acts 6.7; 9.31). This idea, related to the church, fits well with the first commandment God gave humanity as well – be fruitful and multiply.
Before we turn to our primary text in Genesis today, you might be surprised to know the Bible talks specifically about the reproductive process even if the actual system is not mentioned. In James 1.15, we find that sin is conceived and then it is birthed before bringing about death at a later point. And this truth about the nature of sin is why we need to make disciples, not just converts.
So, let’s briefly review the reproductive system. First, to reproduce we need two people. And this cannot be any two people. By God’s design it requires a male and a female – that is, the anatomy has to work properly together. But not only does the anatomy have work, the process has to work as well. The male produces sperm and the female produces eggs. This production is regular and consistent over many years, but if the timing is not right or if the overall health of the individual is not right (even influenced by another system in the body), then conception will not occur. So, not only does the anatomy matter, but the timing does, and then of the hundreds of millions of sperm that are released only about 1 in 20 reach the fallopian tube where the egg is, and only 1 – ONE! – will be able to penetrate the egg and allow for reproduction to be possible. At that point, new life has begun, but then prenatal care is important, and finally birth. And then, for parents, the real work begins.
So, that is an abbreviated look at the reproductive system. Let us now turn to the Bible to see how it fits with God’s purpose – beginning in Genesis 1.
1. God commanded humanity to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1.26-28)
We must remember that Genesis 1 and 2 are two accounts of the same story. Genesis 1 starts in the beginning and goes through Day 6. Genesis 2 begins with Day 7, but then backs up and provides some detail of what happened on Day 6.
Day 6 consists of the creation of animals (Gen 1.24-25), but then shifts to the creation of mankind. Verse 26 helps us understand why God would command mankind to reproduce. In Genesis 1.26, the text says, God (singular) said, “Let us” (plural). Thus, God is more than one person. In fact, we call that concept the Trinity. God is three persons in one – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, God had never been alone when mankind was created which is why in Genesis 2.18, God said it was not good for man to be alone. Adam had just named all of the animals, and in some sense realized nothing was like him. But Adam did not know it was “not good.” But God knew it wasn’t. And therefore, God made a woman from man (Genesis 2.21-22).
So, God was (and is) multiple persons and now humanity consisted of multiple persons as well. But unlike God, who is eternal, the human body is not, and thus, to perpetuate humanity, God commanded His new creation to be fruitful and multiply.
I mentioned the reproductive system a few moments ago. A person does not have to understand the system to reproduce. And, due to human nature as the result of the sin in Genesis 3, the curiosity of the anatomy of the opposite sex has been on the minds of men and women (and boys and girls) ever since. But I can’t help but imagine what Adam and Eve thought the first time they were ready to obey God’s command, which was the first command that is explicitly recorded as given to humanity. They had to know their bodies are different, although they were unashamed. But what happened when Eve started to “show.” Can you imagine the conversation? “Adam, why am I getting fat?” “Eve, did you eat from that tree?” “No, Adam, I promise I didn’t…and wait, something just kicked inside of me.” “Eve, were you eating burritos again? You know those can upset your stomach.”
In reality, we have no idea what the conversation might have been. But it must have been interesting!
So, to restate point 1, God gave humanity the command to be fruitful and multiply. And they began to do so.
2. God commanded humanity to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1.28)
Before God gave this command, He had already given a task to the man. We can see this by reviewing Genesis 2. Originally, God created the man outside of the Garden and then moved the man into the Garden (see Gen 2.5, 7-8). While there, the man took care of the Garden and gave him the task of working it (Gen 2.15) with one warning – do not eat from a certain tree (Gen 2.17). So, man was created with the task of tending to God’s Creation. Then the animals passed before the man and he gave names to all of the animals (Gen 2.19-20). And then, God created the woman.
The sequence here is important. God created the man with the purpose of working and keeping His creation. And, everything was in harmony. Yes, man had to work, but it was not difficult labor. In fact, we might say that his work was fruitful.
But after God created the woman is when the statement in Genesis 1.28 is made. Notice God said to them…that is, God spoke the command to be fruitful, to multiply to both of them. And then, He continued by giving authority to both of them. Now, truly all authority belongs to God, but He entrusted that authority to the first man and woman. They were to fill the earth (reproduce) and subdue it. That is, they were given dominion over the earth. In fact, specifically, if you read the remainder of verse 28, their dominion was over birds, fish, and anything that moves. God then gave them all plants for their benefit – including those with seeds for their food.
The words for subduing and having authority convey the idea of having an active power – even using force, where necessary. Thus, God gave full authority to mankind – both male and female – over the rest of His Creation. And, as they multiplied, that authority was to be passed down to their offspring as well. Why? Because the authority was given to the first man and woman – who were made in God’s image (Gen 1.26, 27) – and as their offspring we are made in that image is well.
So, God commanded the first humans to be fruitful and multiply. Then He gave them His authority over the earth. But that authority and the fruit of our labor was challenged because of sin.
3. Humanity lost our intimacy and our dominion because of sin.
Genesis 3 is known as the Fall of man, or simply, the Fall. But before we briefly state effects of the Fall, let us look Genesis 3.8. Consider the intimacy of Creation at this point. The man had and intimate relationship with:
the Garden. He tended it, and it produced. (Genesis 2.15-16)
the animals. He named each species of livestock, the birds, and beasts of the field. (Genesis 2.19-20)
the woman. They were naked and unashamed. (Genesis 2.24-25)
God. (Genesis 2.18, 21; 3.8)
All of this intimacy was how God designed it to be. Again, we can conclude this is God’s design because of the intimacy of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit – united as One. But sin ruined all of it for humanity. Notice, the effects of sin – mostly from Genesis 3:
The intimacy was broken. The man and woman now covered themselves. (Genesis 3.7)
Being fruitful and multiplying became challenging. For the woman, it meant that giving birth would be increasingly painful (Genesis 3.16). For the man, it meant that thorns, thistles, and sweat would be part of the “fruit” of his work. (Genesis 3.18-19)
Humanity’s authority was forfeited to Satan. We see this in God’s response to the man, but we can see it more clearly in passages like Matthew 4.9 (where Jesus does not refute that Satan can make such an offer) and Ephesians 6.12 (where Paul says cosmic powers are in play), and very directly in Colossians 1.13.
But God! Our sin is why Jesus had to come!
4. Jesus reclaimed the dominion over this world, and has now commissioned us to be fruitful and multiply a new type of people. (Matthew 28.18-20)
Yes, Jesus came to die for our sin. But it is more than that. God gave authority to humanity to rule over His Kingdom. But mankind lost that right. Actually, it was stolen from them when the serpent deceived the first man and woman. So, Jesus comes and says, that the Kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4.17). That is, the time of Satan’s domain including the world was coming to an end and people needed to repent of following the dark ways – the ways that broke the intimacy between all aspects of Creation – and turn to the coming Kingdom, the returning Kingdom, where Jesus has all authority as the King of all kings.
Please understand, God never lost full dominion. We see evidence of this in Job 1 where Satan had to go to God for permission. But humanity lost the dominion we were given by God due to our sin and the separation we have from God. But Jesus’ sinless life captured that dominion once again, and His death confirmed that He alone is worthy and should have the dominion.
So, what does Jesus do after He has regained the authority – now not only as God, but also acting on behalf of man? He says the same thing that God said in Genesis 1.28 – Be fruitful and multiply. Of course, Jesus used different words. His words were “make disciples.”
In Genesis 1, God needed the humans to fill the earth with other people – those created in the image of God.
In Matthew 28, Jesus needs the humans to fill the earth with other humans – those restored into fellowship with God.
This is an amazing parallel. We did not lose our commission to multiply. But the form was changed. Rather than reproducing humans, we are to reproduce disciples. And just as God gave the responsibility to the first humans to reproduce, Jesus has given His disciples the responsibility to reproduce.
We know longer have the dominion – it was given to man (Adam), but he proved irresponsible, and Jesus had to win it back. But now Jesus has all authority, but He entrusts it with us (we
We will look a further look at the idea of bearing fruit, reproduction, and the effects on church attendance next week. But for now, let us just realize that God’s reproductive system is about us making disciples even more than it is making babies.
Reproducing disciples is not as easy – or as fun! – as reproducing children. But the process is similar. Notice the similarities.
You need two people.
Discipleship – guided by Holy Spirit – puts the right discipler with the right disciple
Human Reproduction – two people are necessary to bring life into the world
The discipler needs persistence.
Discipleship – not easy, which is why many do not participate or succeed.
Human Reproduction – 250 million sperm are released and only 1 in 14 million make it far enough to have a chance.
The disciple must be receptive.
Discipleship – The timing must be right for the person to grow
Human Reproduction – the egg must be ready to be fertilized
Early care is critical.
Discipleship – A study diet of the Word of God is important. Opportunities to serve others is critical as well.
Human Reproduction – The food a child ingests can drastically impact the health of a child in the womb (as does the presence of harmful substances, such as drugs), and eventually a newborn
Guidance is necessary.
Discipleship – Disciplers are to teach others to observe all that Jesus commanded. That means showing others the way not just talking about it and leaving them on their own (although that comes later).
Human Reproduction – a baby cannot care for self. A child needs guidance until they can begin to live on their own.
A new generation reproduces.
Childhood – just as a young child gains confidence and begins to explore life, a new Christian begins to explore the parameters of their faith.
A teenager may rebel against authority, but love can help to retain the necessary bonds. Likewise, a new Christian may rebel for a time, but a gracious and loving God will welcome the person back – and uses humans to show the love necessary to restore the individual.
Adults typically seek a mate and eventually procreate – reproducing a new generation to carry on their life. For the Christian, reproducing is not about them passing down their own genes, but making Christ known to the next generation so that His life, ministry, and mission is carried forward for generations to come (see 2 Timothy 2.2).
The JOURNEY letter for today is: O – OBSERVE.
We may be willing to follow certain commands of Jesus, but are we willing to make disciples? As our Lord, our King, it is not for us to choose, it is for us to follow. We must observe in order to be a better disciple, and we must observe in order to make more disciples as well.
PRINCIPLE: We are not asked to reproduce. We are commanded to do so. Make disciples!
QUESTION: Who are you intentionally making a better disciple?
OPPORTUNITY: Make 2019 a year to strengthen this Body of Christ by reproducing disciples for Jesus.
NEXT STEP(S): Become a more complete disciple of Jesus. The idea of being a disciple is to learn what a master teaches and to do what He says.
LEARN: Take time to learn what Jesus taught. If you need to be a better disciple (and we all do), ask someone to lead you.
LIVE: Begin to live as Jesus lived – which included making disciples of others.
LOVE: Find a way to share the love of Jesus with a random person this week.
LEAD: Begin praying about one person you can disciple.
Key Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (KJV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
Other references: Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, John 20:21-23
On a mountain somewhere around Galilee, a group of men (Jesus’s disciples) were given the greatest challenge to tell others the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of God’s love and forgiveness to a broken and sinful world.
The Definition of a disciple according to:
Merriam-Webster dictionary: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity: one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
Bible dictionary: a scholar, sometimes applied to the followers of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14 ), and of the Pharisees ( 22:16 ), but principally to the followers of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matthew 10:24 ; Luke 14:26 Luke 14:27 Luke 14:33 ; John 6:69).
Cambridge dictionary: a person who believes in the ideas of a leader, esp. A religious or political one, and tries to live according to those ideas
We can conclude then, that the definition of a disciple is someone who receives instruction from another person. But a Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Christ, one who believes the teaching of Christ.
With that definition, we are now going to look at this command from six questions: Who? What? Why? Where? When? and How?
I. Who gave the Great Commission and to whom was it given?
Verse 18, “and Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”
There is only one person who can give such a great challenge, and that is Jesus Christ, the son of God. Mark makes Jesus place clear in Mark 1:1 where he wrote, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
The deity of Christ is further stated in John 1:1-5, “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. 2 the same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 in him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Genesis 1:26a says, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
In Colossians 1:15,16, we find more about Jesus “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Then, Paul continued in Colossians 2:3,9-10, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… 9 for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
God became man. He walked and communed with man. He died on the cross and was raised from the dead to save people from sin and to give them eternal life, to those who accept him into their heart.
Turning to Matthew 19b, Jesus affirms the reality of the Trinity: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”
Jesus says baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is sharing the three-in-one nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is baptism unites a believer with Jesus Christ in their death to sin and resurrection to new life. Baptism symbolized submission to Christ and a willingness to live God’s way.
To whom did Jesus give the Great Commission?
He gave it to His 11 disciples but also to every Christian who believes on him. When we represent Jesus Christ as his disciple, we are representing the One who possesses all power, wisdom, and authority.
John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
But you might say, the 11 disciples were different from me. They were much more extraordinary. They possessed something more powerful. Much better than me.
But they were just common, ordinary people. A working class of people having the same weaknesses as you and me. The only two differences are:
1. They experienced seeing Jesus crucified, resurrected, and then watched Him ascend into heaven.
2. They were the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
II. What is the Great Commission?
Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Jesus’s command is to take the Gospel to every person to every part of the world and to make disciples in all nations. But it doesn’t stop there. It involves training. Training these disciples to spread the Gospel in their area and to train these disciples to train other disciples to do the same. Generation after generation. We’ll call this spiritual multiplication.
What is the difference between spiritual addition and spiritual multiplication? Spiritual addition is one person leads someone to the Lord and then leads someone else to the Lord and continues this process, one by one. On the other hand, spiritual multiplication is a Christian disciple introduces a non-Christian to Jesus and then trains that Christian to share the Gospel. Then they each introduce someone to Christ. This process continues and expands resulting in Christian multiplication.
Our responsibility is to preach and teach the Gospel, it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to make our witness effective.
III. Why should we help fulfill the Great Commission?
Let’s look at 4 reasons.
1. Jesus commanded us to do so. Jesus said, “Go!” But the sad thing is, most Christians have never taken this command seriously. But look at the world around us, what’s happening, what’s going on?
If we take our Lord seriously, we must dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to fulfill the Great Commission. Remember what Jesus has done for us.
Consider Mark 8:34-38. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”
2. There are people who are lost without Jesus Christ; this includes family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, associates, etc.
Romans 3:23 reminds us, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,…”
John 14:6 states that Jesus is the exclusive answer. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
In Acts 4:12, we see again that only the person of Jesus can save us. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
3. People everywhere are hungry for God. All over the world.
4. There is an urgency. We must have an urgency to complete this command while the doors of opportunity are still open.
John 4:35-36, “Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”
IV. When will the Great Commission be fulfilled?
The Great Commission is God’s idea and only He in his almighty power and all knowledge knows when and how it will fulfilled. Consider some of the following verses from Scripture:
Acts 1:7, “And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
Matthew 24:36, “but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
Mark 13:32-33, “but of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”
As Christians sharing the Gospel should be our number one priority each and every day, each and every minute, to each and every person. Why? Because the message of Jesus brings joy as we see in the story of Jesus’ birth? “And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2.10).
V. Where must we go?
Acts 1:8, “but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
We are to be involved in helping reach the entire world, but here Jesus gives us a strategy.
Jerusalem: in your own home, in your neighborhood, in your school, at your work.
Judea & Samaria: in your community, in your county (Atchison, Holt, Nodaway), in your state (Missouri), your nation (United States).
Rest of the world
But, as we go, Jesus gave us a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.20b).
Jesus is telling His disciples then and His disciples now, He will be with His followers spiritually until the end of this age, meaning until He returns.
Matthew 1:23b says, “and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
We must go out and obey His commission. Because even when we fail, He is faithful.
VI. How can I help fulfill the Great Commission? (Application)
Remember the 3 T’s: Time, Talents, Treasure
1. Become a Christian.
2. In everything, start with prayer. Take time to pray-ask God for guidance. Pray for the pastor, others, missionaries. Pray hearts will be softened.
3. Take inventory of your talents. How can you serve? We have all received gifts the we can use to help fulfill the great commission.
a. Be in church, be in bible study, be in Sunday School, be in fellowship.
b. Learn how to share the Gospel.
5. Be a mentor. Who can you come alongside? Invest in another. Teach another Christian to share the Gospel. Remember it is about multiplication.
6. Share your treasure. Give.
7. Develop a strategy: home, neighbors, relatives, work, school, county, state, nation, world.
The Great Commission reveals the heart of God. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that it is God “who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
As we gather on the first Sunday of 2019, many of you will have made resolutions for this new year. For most people, the essence of making a resolution is personal. What can make me feel better? What can make me look better? This is true whether the resolutions are about tangible items or intangible goals. But many resolutions have to do with health. And really health deals with both of the two questions I just mentioned – feeling better (physically, emotionally, spiritually) and looking better (to ourselves, in the eyes of others, etc.)
I can relate. I recently looked at my passport picture which was taken just four years ago. The picture on the left is from a little further back – just over seven years ago, shortly after we moved to Fairfax, and the one on the right was taken last week.
Although my change in appearance was not due to a new year’s resolution, I definitely feel better and look better. And it is more than the eye test. My blood work and other numbers reveal that I am much healthier now than I was then. That does not guarantee that I will be alive tomorrow, but being healthy usually allows us to accomplish far more than when we are not healthy.
Over the past few months, we took a high-definition look at the modern church (including our church) against the early church. (That sermon series, The Church in HD, can be found on the blog’s previous host: ffxbc.blogspot.com.) Looking in high-definition allowed us to see more clearly the areas where we need improvement. Around the same time, God provided this year’s theme for our church, and thus 2019 is The Year of the Body. Just as individuals need to be healthy to reach our personal goals, the church needs to be healthy to accomplish the goals God has for us. After all, the church is the Body of Christ. So, this year we will be reviewing the major systems of the human body and compare those systems to the necessary processes (systems) that can help to make the church healthy. The eleven major systems of the human body are (in the order of review for us): Reproductive, Respiratory, Skeletal, Circulatory, Muscular, Lymphatic/Immune, Nervous, Endocrine, Digestive, Exocrine, and Excretory.
Before we move into our passage for this week, let me share one other picture that will serve as a reminder for us in 2019. The picture is of a bucket filled with water. The phrase “the weakest link” is a common expression meaning that a chain is only as strong as the weakest of the links. The picture of the bucket represents something similar. The bucket can only hold water up the point of the shortest part. Anything more begins to spill out.
Our goal this year as a church should be to strengthen all parts of the bucket, but in doing so, we must make sure that the sides of the bucket are patched, repaired, or whatever else is needed to make the bucket not only stronger, but we must make the sides taller as well. How do we do this? Well, it all begins with Jesus.
Jesus Is the Image of God (Colossians 1.15)
Paul’s words in Colossians 1, beginning in verse 15 are almost certainly part of an early Christian hymn. Scholars have not found evidence if Paul wrote the words originally or if the lyrics were borrowed from the hymn for inclusion here. Ultimately, that does not matter. What does matter is that these words represent a very high view of God, and Jesus.
Specifically, this part of the passage says that Jesus is the image of God. Why is that important for a discussion related to healthy bodies and healthy churches? Because Jesus had a body. John 4 tells us that God is Spirit. But Jesus is God in the flesh. The people alive in the 1st Century saw God living in the flesh when they observed Jesus. And not just any flesh, but human flesh. And not as isolated, but among us. You may know this conceptually, but does it grip you? Of course we just celebrated Christmas – the birth of God as man. But God became man. And Jesus was the man. And thus, Jesus had a body and needed to keep it healthy just as you and I need to keep our bodies healthy.
But as God, He was interested in more than the human body, He was interested in developing a body of people who followed Him and would represent Him through their lives when He departed. Thus, the body of Jesus may not be physically present now, but the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church) is now the image of the invisible God. We are the ones who make God known today.
Michael Lucaszewski says it this way. “The church is the closest representation of Jesus we have on earth. Jesus is invisible and I have never been to heaven. But the church is the body of Christ, and I can see that. When local churches love and serve their community, worship wholeheartedly, and give generously, it’s a very real picture of Jesus.”
So, Jesus is the image of God, and the body of Christ now serves as the image of Jesus.
Jesus Is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1.16-20)
Beginning in verse 16, Paul clearly presents the Son as having authority. Notice the terms Paul used.
- 16a – Everything was created through Him
- 16b – Everything was created for Him
- 17a – Everything comes after Him
- 17b – Everything is held together in Him
- 18 – Everything is under Him
- 19 – The fullness of God is in Him
- 20 – Creation is reconciled through Him
And in verse 18, we have the term body referring the Church. Thus, the church is a part of everything that is under Him. Of course, our bodies are physiologically beneath our heads, but the Body of Christ should be figuratively under Jesus – as our head.
The term head is used intentionally here as Paul is referring to the church as a body. Why? Because Jesus came in the flesh. Paul has already made this clear in verse 15 – that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Something that is invisible, does not leave a shadow, so it is not that kind of image. Jesus was truly flesh and blood (see verse 22), and the idea of Jesus as the head, and the Church as His body reflects that truth perfectly.
The question is: are we truly the Body of Christ? I don’t mean should we be; I mean are we functioning as His body? Let’s take a few moments to review what we must consider for us to be functioning best.
If Jesus is the head, then we should be developing the mind of Christ (Phil 2.5). That means we should:
- make disciples – that is, generate new members of the Body of Christ (Reproductive System)
- teach others to trust and follow Jesus as the head of the Body of Christ (Respiratory System)
- develop leaders to better support the Body of Christ (Skeletal System)
- share with others the sacrifice Jesus made for the Body of Christ (Circulatory System)
- flex our muscles by serving others inside the Body of Christ (Muscular System)
- create processes to better protect the Body of Christ (Lymphatic/Immune System)
- show our care by responding to needs of others apart outside the Body of Christ (Nervous System)
- improve the communication within the Body of Christ (Endocrine System)
- focus on what we take into ourselves as the Body of Christ (Digestive System)
- consider how to best care for the facilities used by this Body of Christ (Exocrine System)
- evaluate and remove harmful or unnecessary components impacting this Body of Christ (Excretory System)
As we begin this year, I see two major problems with the ideas I just shared. First, we have a lot to consider. But we must begin somewhere. If you go to the doctor for a check-up, and you are told to “get healthy” that is too ambiguous to really help. Instead, the doctor might say, “Let’s start with your diet.” Now you have a focus. You still have to choose to do something but you have a starting point. That is what this year is…a starting point towards having a healthier church. And that leads to the second problem.
Second, to become healthy will take all of us. We do have a lot to consider, but what should we put aside? Like the human body everything mentioned above is important. Do we stop making disciples? Do we care for others who are part of His body? Do we stop teaching or serving? Of course not. Why? Because the Head, Jesus, said these aspects are important for the Church He wishes to build. Thus, we need everyone involved. We have reviewed 1 Corinthians 12 a few times over the past several months, and we need to keep the idea of all parts of the body working together fresh in our minds. As I mention a lot, our vision is to be a large church in a small town. Again, in this context “large” refers to the amount of influence we have. I believe that is what our Head, Jesus, wants from us – to influence Fairfax and beyond for His glory. But to do that will require this Body of Christ to be commited to following our leader – the head of the Church, and the head of this Church – Jesus.
Let me give you one more quote before we return to the idea of the bucket.
“I’m convinced that the influence a church has on its community will be determined in large part not by the personality of the pastor, the size of its building or how long the ministry has worked in the community. It will be determined instead by the percentage in the ministry of each member.” – Wayne Cordeiro
In other words, the impact of a church is based upon how active each member of the Body of Christ is. To remind us of that fact, it is likely that quote might surface a few more times during this series. For now, let’s consider the idea of a new year’s resolution once again.
I began this post with the thought that many (most?) resolutions have to do with people’s thoughts on feeling better, looking better, etc. But the idea of better is relative and depends upon our perspective. Of course, our perspective is how we think about things and we think with our brain. And our brain is in our head. Thus, it begins with the head.
And the head is Jesus! As the church – the Church – Jesus must be our perspective. With that in mind, have you ever considered the notion that Jesus might have a new year’s resolution? He might have one for you individually, but I am certain He has one for this, and every church.
For Fairfax Baptist Church, I am convinced His goal is for us to be healthier as a church body at the end of 2019 than we are at the beginning of it. That does not mean that we are not healthy in some areas, but it does suggest we need to improve in others. And even where we may be healthier, we should all be able to admit that we all have room to grow – individually and collectively – because we are not yet perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus.
So, let us not forget the bucket, but more importantly let us not forget the Head of all of our ministries, our systems, and everything that makes us a part of His Church.
The JOURNEY letter for today is: J – JESUS.
Jesus is the head – plain and simple. We are called to be His body. But it a choice we must make individually and collectively. However, nothing we decide will change the fact that He is the true Head of the Church. And thus, our first letter for the new year is J – for Jesus.
LEARN: In 2019, take time to discover how you best fit into the Body of Christ.
LIVE: In 2019, take time to be an active part of the Body of Christ – perhaps by trying new areas of service, but serving faithfully as He has gifted you.
LOVE: In 2019, take time to love others within the Body of Christ – even if they may be very different from you.
LEAD: In 2019, take time to lead others to find their place within the Body of Christ. It takes a fully healthy body to do all that our true Leader wants us to do.
After nearly three years of posting weekly (or more) on Blogger (ffxbc.blogspot.com), we are moving the Bread Crumbs blog to our website. We believe this will better help us communicate in writing what is taught and shared at Fairfax Baptist Church in Fairfax, Missouri.
Most of the rest of this post remains the same as the first post on our old Blogger account because the purpose of the blog remains the same. However, migrating to WordPress should allow us more options as we move forward.
The posts on this blog will largely be from the pastor but may include the thoughts and reflections of others from time to time. Largely, the content will be an adaptation from a sermon, or other time of teaching, but again, the option exists for other possibilities. The intention is to blog here once weekly after providing some introductory thoughts, and some catch-up posts transitioned from another blog. The pastor, Dr. Andy Braams, also has his own blog which will, at times, provide reflection to the posts made here, and at other times focus on other areas of his life and or ministry, as well as covering aspects of ministry in general. Again, this blog will be exclusive to teachings and other thoughts specifically related to Fairfax Baptist Church.
The idea for the name stems from two important pieces. First, the Bible is often referred to as the Word of God. But other monikers exists as well, and one of thought, as used by one devotional is that the Bible is to be like our food – our daily bread. And wherever bread has been, crumbs are left behind. These crumbs are evidence of something greater that exists (or existed, if already eaten), but whether we cut the bread before we eat it, or slice it into more manageable pieces, crumbs are left behind. Likewise, when we peer into the Bible, whether in deep study, or at a passing glance, we may take part of the meaning with us, but we cannot consume all of it. Thus, what we take is more like a crumb. And a crumb is never enough to sustain us, but enough crumbs may allow us to maintain our strength until we can return for more substance.
The second piece of the puzzle relates to the church’s strategy. Our strategy is built around the idea that we are on a JOURNEY. A set of posts will be added soon to discuss this in more detail, but each of the letters are part of an acrostic that helps guide us in knowing what we need to do. (Our ministry is guided by words with a theme of traveling – we are all on a journey, for instance – which you can find out more about here.) But the journey we travel, or at least one that has been set for us, is marked by the examples of others who are further along the path, by the example of Jesus when He lived among us, and certainly by the written Word of God. Whenever traveling in a new area, it is nice to have known markers to have as a guide in knowing the proper direction to continue. Having someone further along the journey who is willing to leave bread crumbs can help those who come along behind. Of course, true discipleship is walking alongside of another, but we are all following the bread crumbs of someone who has gone before us.
It is acknowledged that bread crumbs are used by many to know how to backtrack out of a situation as well, and while that possibility may be pertinent at certain points on this blog, the primary purposes are the two pieces from each of the preceding paragraphs.
So, welcome to the new blog home of Fairfax Baptist Church. May it encourage you, comfort you, inspire you, and challenge you on your journey through this life. May the bread crumbs left by others guide us to learn to walk with God more faithfully. And may we learn to leave bread crumbs behind so that others will learn to walk more faithfully as well.