“Breaking Free”

Susan and I did away with regular television over four years ago. We did it to save money in order to go to Israel and never added it back. Now, that doesn’t mean that we do not watch shows because we have Amazon Prime and temporarily subscribe to CBS All-Access to watch a few shows during the winter and early spring. And I subscribe to Sling for four months while I host guys for the Football Fellowship during the fall. But otherwise, we do not have regular TV.

However, that does not mean that we are not inundated with commercials for certain types of pharmaceuticals. And nothing has changed related to these commercials. A new drug is promoted on a commercial, and the benefits are mostly clear, but the potential risks seem to be the bulk of the advertisement. Why? Because the medicines we take are foreign substances and our bodies do not always react well to them. These medicines are manufactured to help our bodies, but our bodies’ natural reaction to the foreign substance causes other problems. And these reactions can cause bigger problems – largely because of the response of the immune and the lymphatic systems – systems designed to prevent foreign substances from causing us harm.

Those two systems have been the emphasis for the month of June. We have reviewed these reactions with a comparison to an invasion by the enemy during a time of war, a deception by the enemy to prevent war, and an eroding of a nation’s health over time which caused the need for a drastic treatment. Today, we will look at the idea of being free from the trappings of religion to focus on the purity of the relationship with God as we emphasize the idea of being a hub of ministry.

The text this week is one we have reviewed a couple of years ago, but it is a great passage about freedom. The passage is Galatians 5 where Paul tries to stir the churches in the region of Galatia to embrace the truth of the freedom all believers have in Christ, to accept the responsibility that comes from the freedom, and to live according to the Spirit which brings that freedom.

Background

The churches in Galatia had received the truth of the gospel. That truth was shared by Paul, but others came to refute that truth and were claiming that the people needed to do certain things to truly be saved. A major part of that claim involved circumcision, but regardless a false gospel was being proclaimed (Gal 1.6-9). And that false message was causing people to question their faith. With that brief introduction, let us turn to Galatians 5.

Read Galatians 5.1

We Are Free in Christ (Galatians 5.1-12)

Galatians 5.1 could be the focus of sermons for an entire quarter. But let me get to the idea Paul is sharing here. I mentioned above that Paul was trying to refute a false gospel – and that message included the need for these Galatians (as mostly Gentiles) to be circumcised. After all, that was the “mark” of God’s people in the Old Testament. But the mark of a New Testament believer is a heart that is circumcised. And we cannot see the heart; rather, it is evidenced by the change in a person’s life. But that change brings true freedom when the change is due to Christ. That is Paul’s point in these first several verses of Galatians 5.

Paul uses metaphors to make his point. These metaphors relate to the rules and regulations that others were requiring of the churches in Galatia. Two such metaphors are being “hindered” (v. 7, in Greek, being “cut in on”) and emasculation (v. 14), both of which apply to the  idea of circumcision. Paul explicitly says that to view the religious rituals as necessary is to be bound by works and when that happens, we fall from the grace of God, content to earn salvation for ourselves. But we cannot earn salvation as Paul stated here and elsewhere. Our salvation comes from Jesus – nothing more, nothing less.

Now, as we will see below, we do have responsibilities because of our faith, but not to gain faith. We are free because of Christ and thus we should live like it. But that leads to one final thought before we move beyond this point. Galatians 5.1 means that we are free in Christ; we are not simply free. The freedom we have is from Christ, and therefore the freedom we have is in Christ. As we will see in our third point, that freedom does not mean extreme liberty. As Paul wrote in Romans 6.1, our freedom does not provide a right to sin; rather, that we have forgiveness when we do.

We Are Called to Serve (Galatians 5.13-15)

In the middle paragraph of this passage, Paul provides our true responsibilities. Again, he has just refuted the need to do anything to EARN salvation (it cannot be earned, Ephesians 2.8-9), but we should respond TO the salvation we have received. How? Verse 13 says we are to serve. Furthermore, that service is to be through love.

The whole purpose of our Hub Sunday focus each month is to share the idea of our need to serve others. Today marks the 12th Hub Sunday and we have settled into a routine with this idea. Much of the service is the same, and when I preach I often tie the message to the monthly theme, but this focus at the end of each month is more about what God has called us to do in serving others. Thus, next month, we will begin to hear testimonies from how others are serving. Some of that may be shared from time to time in the newsletter or in comments made from the pulpit or in a teaching/classroom environment, but people in the church are serving and that should be celebrated. So, beginning next month, we will bring more focus to that on Hub Sunday.

Additionally, you will hear from other people. Many of the Hub Sundays have seen others preach, but oftentimes, you are still hearing from me. As I mentioned last month, that is about to change. For instance, I already have individuals who have agreed to preach on Hub Sunday for each of the next six months.

The key for Paul and thus, the key for us, is that as we find ourselves free in Christ, we are free to serve as He calls us to do. Again, that service is to be done in love, and, hopefully in the coming months, we will learn of ways our congregation is involved in loving and serving which should inspire us to do more as a church as well as allowing us to celebrate what God is doing through this church.

We Are to Live by the Spirit (Galatians 5.16-25)

The last part of this chapter is rather well known. It contains a list of activities that are not reflective of Christian behavior and, even more well-known, a list of the various parts of the Spirit’s fruit. These nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit are to govern how a believer lives. That is, if we are free in Christ, then we have the Spirit of God within us, and we should find ourselves maturing in each of these areas. The areas are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As we begin to excel in these areas, we will find ourselves truly experiencing the freedom we have in Christ, and desiring to serve God by serving others in love. That is, as we become more like the Christ (which is God’s goal for us), our selfish desires will change (see verses 17-21) and we will desire what God desires which was evidenced by the life of Jesus.

CONCLUSION

I began this message by discussing that all of the medicine we use has side effects. What I didn’t mention then is that the same is true with most vitamins, mostly because of how we take them – for instance, many are in capsule form. When I began taking more vitamins a few years ago, one that Susan offered to me was called Milk Thistle. I had never heard of this vitamin, so I asked what the purpose was. Her reply, “to help the liver because of all of other vitamins.” Now, in reality, milk thistle may help in many other ways, but many studies have been inconclusive. However, I had extreme jaundice as a baby, and my liver has always been suspect when tested, so if milk thistle helps the liver, then I am all for it.

But again, I am taking another pill to help offset the other pills. The same is true with another pair of medications I take. Thus, we try to become healthy, but can find ourselves becoming more ill. That Galatians knew this well. They wanted freedom in Christ, but were being bound by traditional religious customs. Please do not misunderstand me. Observing some religious practices are important/ The Bible is clear that are to be in fellowship with one another (Hebrews 10.24-25), worship in song and practice (1 Corinthians 10.31; Ephesians 5.19-20, Colossians 3.17, 23), etc., but much of what we claim to be necessary is not biblical (like circumcision in the case of Galatians 5). Alternatively, some of what we do not think is important (i.e. attending church) is actually important based upon the verses I just mentioned above (and many others).

Thus, we need to keep Jesus as our focus. It is Jesus who purchased our freedom. It is Jesus who deserve our allegiance. Therefore, our…

JOURNEY letter for today is:  JJESUS.

Jesus has made the way. And the Spirit is now our guide to that way. And the way we are to live is about serving others through love – a love that begins with God and is given to others.

PRINCIPLE: Our freedom in Christ will lead us to serve Him and others.

QUESTION:  Will you live in the freedom of Christ or in the fear of religion?

OPPORTUNITY:  Focus on the Spirit of God.

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE:   Live by asking yourself how the Spirit would have you live according to His fruit. Too many Christians focus on what they do (or might do) wrong. Yes, we should ask for forgiveness when we sin, but when we focus on what the Spirit would have us do right, rather than what we might do that is wrong, we will live our lives in freedom instead of fear. And that is a part of the victory that come with knowing Jesus!

“Strike the Arrows” (Hub Sunday)

Last July, we began Hub Sunday. Hub Sunday is a monthly focus to specifically remind us that our church is a hub. We are a hub intent on engaging people to be on mission within the community and around the world.

As I mentioned last month, my intent is to provide opportunities to others to share what God has laid on their hearts on Hub Sunday. I can stand and convey my thoughts, and I will from time to time, but you hear from me most every other week. So, hearing from others, gives us all a chance to hear how God is using the church as a Hub, rather than me simply trying to encourage us to be a hub.

Now, I know the response from some may be that, “Well, what are we paying you for if you are not preaching every week?” But the reality is that equipping others to serve, including to preach, should be a key part of my responsibility – particularly, according to the Bible. And God has gifted all of us in some way to serve Him, and a part of my gift, and more specifically right now, my development, is to equip and empower others.

A part of that empowerment is why we must think of ourselves, as Fairfax Baptist Church, as a hub. If we think about the messages this month, as it relates to building our muscles of faith, hope, and love, we can see why being a hub should be paramount.

We have hope – something that most people do not have.

We have faith – in Someone most choose not to believe.

We can love – with a purpose that most people cannot give.

As a true hub, we can show others the love of God, because of our faith in God, and give others a reason to have hope in God as well.

Showing love and sharing our faith is absolutely required according to Jesus’ own words in the Great Commission. It was echoed by the NT writers like Paul when writing to the churches to do this work. Why did Paul need to write then? Because of the same reason we need to review his words now. Because most people, including myself, do not follow the commands of Christ as we ought. And when I say most people, I mean all but just a very select few, at least most of the time. Why do I say this? Because I am convinced that the world is filled with four types of people. We will concentrate on the last of these today, but first let me define the first three.

People Who Do Not Know

This group of people represents most of the world. Estimates are that 7.7 billion people live in the world (more than double the number from 1972!). In 2015, the number of people who call themselves Christian was 2.3 billion, and I believe that number is VERY generous. Still, 2.3 billion is less than one-third of the total population which means approximately 70% of the world does not know Jesus. They need people to leave the hum long enough to tell them what they do not know.

Quote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” – Carl F.H. Henry

People Who Do Not Grow

This group of people may know about Jesus, and may be a part of that 2.3 billion who call themselves Christian, but they do not grow in their faith. This group would also include those who may have been a part of a (or this) church for a while, but assume they already know enough and/or get bored with God. Thus, they may or may not be Christian, but they do not care about growing to be who God has created them to be.

Quote: “The church exists for one reason – to draw men unto Christ, to make them little Christ.” – C.S. Lewis

People Who Do Not Go

In one sense, this group includes those who might not go to meet with others who are born-again, such as at a church service like this. In fact, church researches now call those who attend church less than 15 times each year – the nominally churched. This percentage of people is growing. Sadly, they think they go to church, and will tell you they do, if asked, but the math says that 15 times per year is not much more than once per month.

But the other sense of this idea is the people who may go to church, but do not engage with what God is doing within the walls of the church, and are especially unengaged beyond the church walls. In that sense, they literally do not GO. They are tied to the hub and will not release out to be a part of the spoke. Many reasons exist, but fear is the primary reason. And, frankly, even the most dedicated Christian will claim that excuse at times.

Quote: “Untold millions are still untold, you have one business on earth – to save souls.” – John Wesley

But, we still have one more group to cover. And this group is even more true of most Christians most of the time, including myself. And, we find an example of a person in this group in 2 Kings 13 verses 14-19.

People Who Do Not Go Far Enough

In this story, the King, Joash (also Jehoash), seeks the counsel of Elisha. Why? This holy leader is dying and the King wants a blessing from him. The phrase the king cries out may seem strange, but this is the exact phrase that Elisha cried out when he saw Elijah being carried up into the whirlwind (2 Kings 2.12). Thus, Joash was linking the power of Elisha and Elijah – two of the great miracle-working prophets of the Old Testament.

So, Elisha tests him. First, Joash is instructed to take a bow and draw it. Then, with Elisha’s hands on Joash’s, Elisha says to have the window opened and to release the arrow. The king did so and Elisha said that Israel would be victorious over Syria (their enemy).

Then, Elisha instructed Joash to take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Again, the kind did so. But then we get an unexpected surprise. Elisha was angry and said that Joash should have struck them several more times to make the victory complete. What we must realize is that Elisha said to strike the ground. He never said stop.

The issue is that very few people are willing to go as far as God wants them. I will admit, I have had a few times when I have been determined to go that far, but most of the time, I do not. Some will say that I may go further (and/or farther) than others, but that is not what God asks. God asks us to go as far as He leads.

The Example of Jesus

Think about Jesus in Gethsemane. In Mark 14, Jesus leads His disciples to the garden. He tells the main group to stop before leading Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden (v. 33). But then, He tells them to wait and the text says, “And going a little farther…” (v. 35). Jesus went a little farther. The problem for most of us is that we think Jesus will ask too much of us. We may be willing to go, but we are not willing to go too far, lest we find ourselves in trouble. But notice that Jesus did not do that with his disciples, and He will not do that to us. He knew what His disciples were capable of doing, and how far they were capable of going at that moment. He will lead people farther, but prepares us along the way. It was true then; it is still true today.

The Example of Paul

At the end of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about running the race to win the prize. He says that he disciplined his body so he would be ready and not be disqualified. I hear a lot of athletes who say, “I am just grateful to be here.” For Paul that was not enough. Paul wanted to win. And it was not just a race of running with his legs; it was the race of faith which he later says he finished (2 Timothy 4.7).

Both Jesus and Paul did not quit until they were told to quit. But Joash did. We are not told how many arrows he had. Maybe it was three, so he struck once for each arrow. Or maybe he struck three times because three was a ritualistic number in Old Testament times. We simply do not know that answer. But we can know that he stopped short of what was required, and thus, Joash and the nation of Israel would not receive the benefit he, or the nation, desired.

In the words, used earlier, Joash was willing to go, but he was not willing to go far enough.

Quote: “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is, where life and death, sin and grace heaven and hell converge.” – Robert C. Shannon

Our JOURNEY

As we consider the idea of a hub, each one of us has to ask the following question: Which category best describes me? Are you one who does not know, who has not grown, who does not go, or, like me, one who often does not go far enough?

You cannot truly engage the JOURNEY until you honestly answer that question for yourself. But if you want to be on a true JOURNEY with Jesus (which certainly implies going!), then you have to ask yourself the next question: What will I do differently to move to the next type of person? Or said another way: What can I do to move beyond these classifications and truly be who God has created me to be?

Our vision is to be “a large church in a small town” which is based upon Jesus statement that we ARE the light of the world. Are you shining or have you burned out? The more we shine individually, the brighter we are collectively, and the benefit, in Jesus’ words, is that the Father in heaven will be glorified.

Again, Jesus will not push you too far too fast, but He does expect all of us to grow and go further than we are currently going. Like with His first disciples, He took them as far as they could go in that moment, but eventually He sent them into all the world.

What’s Next? The Challenge

You might recall the question I asked so often last year. I have modified it a bit, but for our light to shine and to be the church God wants us to be does not require rocket science. It requires obedience to serve in a way that He has already gifted you to serve. Thus, in going a little further, a practical outlet can begin with the question:

What can I do, if done well, can benefit this church and the Kingdom of God?

I need to engage other people in the process. You need to let others know what God is doing in your life. We all need to simply encourage one another, and to inspire others, and then invite them to join. But unless we all go a little bit further, we will not be as effective as God wants us to be, as Wayne Cordeiro reminds us in the following quote.

“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

We have everything we need to overcome any problem we are facing. But we must have faith in the One who has given us what we need to use what we need to accomplish what He needs.

God’s work will be done. He is waiting for people who will go a little further to make it happen in our midst. He is waiting for people to be obedient to what He has called them to do. As Gandhi said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.” If that is true for the world, then it must be true for this church, and it certainly is at the heart of what Jesus wants from us for His Kingdom.

“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” – Hudson Taylor

Next Step:        LIVE – Go a little further even if that means going a little farther.

“Three Needs for a Healthy Body” by Rick Sons

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?

“The Breath of God Brings Life” (Part 1) by Pastor Andy Braams

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…

…(and) Profitable

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

NEXT STEP(S):

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.

Hub Sunday – “Fruit Bearers” by Pastor Andy Braams

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?”

Perception

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.

CONCLUSION

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: UUNITE.

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.

NEXT STEP(S):

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.

“The Great Commission” by Reggie Koop

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

Setting:
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.

4. Learn.

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.”

“It Begins with the Head” by Pastor Andy Braams

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.

Pastor Andy in Oct 2011 and Jan 2019

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.

Credit for the image to benleney.wordpress.com

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

JOURNEY:

The JOURNEY letter for today is:        JJESUS.

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.

NEXT STEP(S):

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.