Blessed Hope

July 10, 2020

Titus 2:11-13

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;

As we wrap up this short study on the subject of hope I want to encourage us to be faithful. There is a reward for the faithful followers of Jesus Christ. The world we live in is not all there is. One day the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth and establish his kingdom on earth.

How close is that time? It may be closer than we think. Paul, near the end of his life, wrote a letter to encourage his son in the faith Timothy. There is no greater tribute than the testimony of Paul and his appeal to finish the race strong:

2 Timothy 4:6-8

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

As these men came to the end of their lives they began to realize that Jesus was not going to return in their lifetime. The blessed hope would be reserved for others. Peter wrote these words in 2 Peter 3:

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Today, we are 2000 years closer to the return of Christ. The signs of his coming are here. The antichrist will not be able to gain control of the world without the demise of the American democracy. We see the trends pointing in that direction. The spirit of antichrist is in the world. The mark of the beast has never been a closer reality than it is today with the covid19 tracking technology available to the world. A global pandemic, a global crisis, a global uprising… they all point to a global solution?

One day a world leader will emerge and have the answers to the problems facing the world, or so it will seem. This will all come to pass before the Lord Jesus comes back to earth. It would be easy for us to lose hope as we see the signs appearing. But our hope is not in the things of this world, but in our savior Jesus Christ.

We have a blessed hope. Teach this to our children and grandchildren. If we are not the generation who sees these things, they very well could be. Stay strong, fear not and pray for the soon coming of our blessed hope.



Staying Connected

One of the big difficulties we face as a church during the Coronavirus 19 pandemic is staying connected with one another. “One another” is a well-used phrase in the new testament. It represents the bond we share as members together in the body of Christ, a love and a responsibility we have towards all the people who call Cypress home and the neighbors and friends we come into contact with.  A virus will not destroy that bond, it will cause it to grow stronger as we care for each other, check on each other, pray for each other and care for each other. As circumstances change in our personal health and income we will rise to the occasion as each of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit to meet the various needs of God’s people. Read more…



Morning Devotional 11-18-16

11-18-16
Friday
 
One of the most difficult parenting challenges is to have influence with your children. Influence is different from control. From childbirth we have total control over our children: when they eat, when their diapers are changed, when they sleep (ok, when we put them down for sleep), where they go, what they wear, who they meet… all these things we control. We are the law to our children.
 
But one day they learn a new word: NO!
 
And control begins to diminish. Less control at 2, even less at age 5, less when they go to school, and in the middle school years – sometimes you think you have lost all control.
 
And that is when you crave influence. If you have developed influence with your children they will follow your advice, your rules and your direction. Not because you are in control but because you have a relationship with them and they love you and respect you and want to please you.
 
Will they always do what you want them to do? No. But the only way you will ever have an adult relationship with them is by giving them freedom and love in generous amounts.
 
That’s what God does for us. He gives us grace and mercy and covers our sin. He cares for us with overwhelming amounts of love and blessings we don’t deserve and then he asks us to serve him by serving the people he loves. How can we refuse?
 
God desires an adult relationship with us as mature sons and daughters. He influences us with his love and grace. As we learn how to love him we are drawn into a life of awareness to the needs of other people. We become alive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and his guidance and (here is the word) influence of God our father.
 
Does he want to control every aspect of our life? No, that would be law.
 
Does he desire to influence our choices by his word and his spirit within us? Yes, that is what it means to be loved by God.
 
Prayer: I understand that freedom comes with grace and love and your will is what I desire to follow.


Representing Jesus

11-16-16
Wednesday
 
 
Galatians 5:13-16
13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
 
 
As believers we are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Jesus Christ to the world. We are called to be his hands and his feet to a world who does not know him. And we are called to share the gospel. To spread the Gospel through demonstration.
 
 
Marcus talked about the gym on Sunday and about the commitment it takes to be in good physical shape. But here is another side of the equation: Suppose you decide to join a gym and get in shape? And you meet with a personal trainer who is going to introduce you to all the gym has to offer. But this personal trainer is 100 pounds overweight and he is breathing heavy just walking you down the hall. Not only is he completely out of shape but he smells like he hasn’t showered in a couple days.
 
 
Would any thinking person go back to that gym? We don’t have to think negative thoughts about the personal trainer to keep ourselves from going back, we just put that person out of our mind and move on.
 
 
We are called to be examples to people who don’t know Christ, but we are sometimes rude, sometimes indifferent, and sometimes inconsiderate with people and they are looking at us like we would look at the personal trainer. And their thought is this:
 
 
“If this is what Christ is like I’m never becoming a believer.”
 
 
Now that example is way over the top but you get my point? We represent Jesus. We spread the Gospel through demonstration. What kind of gospel are we presenting?
 
 
Every day we have an opportunity to choose to be like Jesus. We can choose to look at people as temporary distractions, or we can look for ways to bless people. We can choose to ignore them or we can see them as people for whom Christ died… infinitely valuable to God.
 
 
How could we not choose to serve them?
 
 
Prayer: Give me the grace to people as you see them.


Jesus: Our Example to Follow

11-15-16
Tuesday
 
 
Matthew 20:28
28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
 
 
Serving is the measure of the believer’s way of life. Love is the core attribute of serving. Serving for any reason than because of the love of Christ does not negate the obligation to serve, it does however make serving a chore instead of a pleasure.
 
The reason why many believers don’t serve others is because it is a chore.
 
So how do we serve with gladness of heart and from the wellspring of Christ’s love?
 
 
Can I let you know it does not happen overnight? There is a component of our fallen nature that is very tenacious when it comes to caring for anyone other than ourselves.
 
 
But we have an example to follow. His name is Jesus. On the night he was to be arrested he took the basin and the towel and he left us an example to follow. He took the position of a slave, not out of some stringent requirement but because of his love for them and for us.
 
 
The way to serve others is not to drum up some kind of false love for others, but rather to remember what Christ did for us. He died for us when we were far from him. He loved us and pursued a relationship with us when we were unlovable. He forgave our sins and gave us eternal life. And there is nothing we can do to repay him for what he did for us.
 
But we can love others because he asked us to do that. He commanded us to love one another like he loved us. And we don’t love others in some abstract way of thinking. We love others with our actions. Love is a verb… and serving is an action.
 
 
Prayer: Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.


Unworthy Manner

I Don’t Know What I Believe – Friday Day 15

Unworthy Manner

 

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another–if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-34

 

The Apostle Paul had some concerns about the way in which the Corinthian church was participating in the Lord’s Supper. His concerns tell us two things: There is a right way to take the supper and there are many wrong ways to take the supper. The Corinthian Church was doing a number of things wrong surrounding the practice of the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s warning to them is also an instruction for us today.

 

Jesus instituted the supper at the end of a Passover meal. Perhaps the Corinthians thought every Lord’s Supper should be after a meal, so they were engaging in a meal before the Lord’s Supper and then adding the supper to the meal. However, in their meal they were not waiting for one another, some had plenty to eat and others had little, some were getting intoxicated at the meal and there were divisions and open conflict. Paul tells them “if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”

 

God was judging their behavior and condemning them for it. Paul was in effect saying, “Take a look at what you are doing. Do you think your activity is worthy of such a sacred rite?”

 

I’m convinced that every Christian who heard Paul’s letter understood exactly what he meant. Unfortunately, there are many today who misapply it to their lives and as a result create all sorts of anxiety in their minds and hearts as they come to take the Lord’s Supper.

 

What does it mean to take the Supper “unworthily”? Does it mean that we are to be unworthy of such a sacrifice? Does it mean that those who do not have perfect lives should not participate? Does it mean that if we can think of any way in which we do not measure up that we should not participate? The answer to all these questions is “no.”

 

This is not a discussion of the character of the worshipper but the conduct of the worship. Paul says, Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty…” In an unworthy manner is the “way” we take the supper, the attitude of the heart during the supper, the care for one another at the Lord’s Table. Paul even says to wait for one another… meaning they knew each other and who they were waiting for. It was for members only. Unbelievers and people excluded from fellowship were not allowed to partake in the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 5).

 

The Lord’s Supper is a continuing reminder that there is forgiveness for the sinner and strength for the weak and weary, therefore discern the body. But the warning is not to come to it when we are insensitive to His presence, unloving to our fellow church members, or regretful for His great sacrifice on our behalf.

 

If we truly enter into the spirit of the Supper we will have a heightened sense of our own unworthiness and of God’s grace. This awareness of God’s love for us ought to make it easier for us to love one another. It also should make us value this ordinance to the degree that every member would participate every time the Lord’s Supper is offered. United in love for Christ, discerning the body, fellowshipping in the spirit together as the Local Church.

 



The Lord’s Table

I Don’t Know What I Believe – Thursday Day 14

The Lord’s Table

 

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29

 

The second ordinance given to the church is the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Remember that, like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is not ours to change as we see fit. An ordinance by definition is an authoritative order; a decree. We don’t choose the ordinances, God has chosen them for us. We don’t get to decide how we carry out the ordinances, God has already given us specific instruction as to how to carry out these ordinances. We don’t get to change them to suit our individual tastes and preferences because they do not belong to us… they are given to us by God.

 

Notice that Jesus instituted the supper, it is His table. He selected the people he wanted to be there, his church, and He selected the menu of the bread and fruit of the vine and he even selected the order of how the meal is to be eaten. He blessed the bread and the cup in separate prayers, He passed them out to be shared by everyone present, and He reminded them of the next occasion he would have to share the supper again with His church which is in the future kingdom when He returns.

 

The Lord’s Supper is rooted in history. It was a certain man, the Lord Jesus, and it was a certain night, “the same night in which He was betrayed” (1Co_11:23), and it was a certain event in which He took real bread and real fruit of the vine and instituted the supper. The Passover meal that had preceded the Lord’s Supper looked back in Israel’s history to the event by which God delivered Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. The Lord’s Supper at the time of its beginning looked forward to an event of deliverance for all mankind, Christ’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection.

 

The Lord’s Supper is about God’s gift. We catch the work of sacrifice in Christ’s words “this is My body which is broken for you.” In this statement He is identifying Himself with the Paschal Lamb, the lamb that was sacrificed in connection with the Passover. But we make a mistake if we interpret the admonition to “do this in remembrance of Me” (1Co_11:24) as a call to remember only His death. We are to remember that His death brings life. But we are to remember His life and His teaching, His Resurrection and the hope that it brings, and we are to remember His purpose in the world.

 

Therefore there is in the observing of the Lord’s Supper a proclamation. Christ had said to them that every time they shared the supper together they “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1Co_11:26). This is a word of evangelism and also a word of hope. In this Supper, Christ gave the church another way of being touched by the gospel, a way for the eyes to see as well as for the ears to hear. A way for the senses to feel and smell and taste. It is an illustration… for as the physical body partakes of the elements of the supper and they become a part of the person eating and drinking. It is a physical reminder of the reality of Christ’s death on a cross for us and of the spiritual results of faith in Christ. It reminds us that Christ is in us, living in us because of the new birth.

 



Symbolic of a New Reality

I Don’t Know What I Believe – Wednesday Day 13

Symbolic of a New Reality

 

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38

 

When we accepted Christ as our personal savior a number of things happened to us that we may not have been aware of. The specific order of events happened in a moment, but they happened in a particular order, according to the scriptures.

 

First of all, before you believed that Jesus was the Son of God and before you placed your faith in him as your own personal savior the Holy Spirit was at work in your heart convicting you of truth and convicting you of your sin and your need for a savior. Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit there can be no salvation. The Holy Spirit revealed truth to you and at the moment you believed you became a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

 

The moment you believed you were given the righteousness (right standing) of Christ and the Holy Spirit began to dwell in you. You were immersed (baptized) by the Holy Spirit into Christ. Paul says in Ephesians we were “placed into Christ” and “in Christ” we have forgiveness and peace with God.

 

Paul also says in Romans that since we have been placed into Christ through the Spirit we have retroactively been crucified with Him.

 

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

 

And if we were buried with Him through this baptism into Christ then we were also raised with him at his resurrection. Paul says this is to give us power to walk in newness of life.

 

There are many Christians who have not fully embraced this truth and live defeated lives, not allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them or even recognize that there is a better way to live life now that you have become a child of God. This is why the divine order of salvation, baptism, church membership and personal accountability is so important.

 

We need the love of other believers to guide us into all truth. We need the experience of corporate worship and preaching to open our hearts to the things of God and to remind us of the beautiful things God has done for us.

 

Peter told the men and women who were convicted by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost exactly what to do. Repent means to turn away from confidence in yourself and place your confidence in what God has done for you. Just like the people of Peter’s day, it was our sin that caused Jesus to die on a cross.

 

Then Peter tells them to be baptized for (because of) the forgiveness of sins. Not to get forgiveness, but rather because you have been forgiven. And on that day 3000 people were baptized and added to the church.

 

The physical baptism was an illustration of the spiritual baptism that had already taken place. It is still a public confession of our faith in Jesus Christ and an act of obedience in following Jesus which symbolizes our old life has been crucified with him and we have died to our old way of life and we have been raised to walk in newness of life.

 

This is what is required to follow Christ. This is baptism and it is the first thing we are to do after we believe. This is the reality of our new way of life and it begins with baptism.

 



God Given Authority

I Don’t Know What I Believe – Tuesday Day 12

God Given Authority

 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

 

When I was a kid we had a small pool in the backyard where I spent a lot of my time. We played all kinds of games in that tiny pool, and I did a fair amount of baptizing my brothers and friends. Having grown up in church I knew how to do it. I said the right words, I held up my hand and waved it to heaven and then I tipped them backward into the water and brought them right back up. Baptism right?

 

Not exactly. Christian baptism requires a proper candidate, the proper mode and the proper authority. We occasionally had a proper candidate for baptism, a born again believer who wants to follow Jesus. We had the proper mode of baptism, immersion in water. But nobody was successfully baptized in that pool because we had no authority to baptize. That authority can only come from God through one of His local New Testament churches. Without the proper authority, the person being baptized is just getting wet.

 

John the Baptist was set aside by God from his mother’s womb to present Jesus Christ to the world. He was sent by God to prepare the way for the messiah by calling Israel to repentance and then baptizing all who confessed their sins and turned towards God. He was preparing a people for the coming messiah Jesus Christ. This was something new, this was not the same old washings of consecration that Israel was used to… this was public and it demanded personal sacrifice and commitment.

 

John’s ministry came to a climax on the day he baptized Jesus. This is what he was called to do and he was faithful to his calling. After John baptized Jesus his ministry began to diminish. He continued to baptize others but most of the ones he baptized began to follow Jesus. The authority John had been given to baptize was never handed down to John’s disciples, they had no calling or authority to continue baptizing after John died. However, we are told that Jesus began to baptize those who believed in Him as savior, although Jesus never personally baptized anyone, but His disciples did the baptizing.

 

We can see that the line of authority was very clear: From God to John to Jesus to His church. Anyone outside of that line has no authority to baptize. Believers who are not part of the church have no authority to baptize.

 

In Acts 19 Paul encounters some believers in Ephesus who wanted to serve God in the church there but they had no gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul inquired about their baptism and found out they had not been baptized by the proper authority. They were likely baptized by some of John’s disciples and God had held back the gifts of the Holy Spirit from them until they had proper baptism. After their “re-baptism” they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit and were able to exercise them in the church at Ephesus.

 

How important is proper authority? If it was important in Paul’s day it is still important to us today. Proper candidate, proper mode and proper authority.

 

 



Scripture and Tradition

I Don’t Know What I Believe – Monday Day 11

Scripture and Tradition

 

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

 

We are closing out the series called I Don’t Know What I Believe with a look at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We could easily do a series on each of these topics but we are looked at these two very important ordinances of the church in one message yesterday and will examine them this week with a little closer look.

 

An ordinance by definition is an authoritative order; a decree. When it comes to the church, we don’t choose the ordinances, God has chosen them for us. We don’t get to decide how we carry out the ordinances, God has already given us specific instruction as to how to carry out these ordinances. We don’t get to change them to suit our individual tastes and preferences because they do not belong to us… they are given to us by God.

 

The ordinances were given to the church by Jesus. He gave the apostles instructions regarding these ordinance during His personal ministry. We have these instructions passed down to us in two forms: Scripture and tradition.

 

Scripture is the word of God passed down in written language.

Tradition is the word of God passed down by observation and repetition.

 

There was a time, before the Bible was produced where churches everywhere conducted themselves by tradition, oral tradition and physical example. They did things like they had been instructed and continued to do things the way they saw the Apostles model them. These became the traditions of the early churches. And these traditions were considered to be as authoritative as scripture.

 

So why do we baptize like we do? Why do we observe the Lord’s Supper in the way we do? The answer is scripture and tradition. “We have always done it this way” is a perfectly appropriate reason for the way we conduct the celebration of the ordinances.

 

We have a long celebrated history as English speaking Baptists, going all the way back to the first century converts who were instructed by Paul and returned home the Wales. There is a long celebrated history of the Baptist churches in Wales going all the way back to 93 AD. Prior to the year 300 Baptist churches in Wales flourished and were making many converts of the pagan religions. But beginning in 300 AD these churches were being forced underground because of persecution by Roman Catholics, their leaders were killed, their histories were destroyed… all because these Baptist churches refused to submit to Catholic teaching and baptism. They were called ana-baptists because they re-baptized the converts from Catholicism, refusing to accept their infant baptism as scriptural. This is the heritage we have as Baptists. We are not Protestants, because we never came out of the Catholic Church (protesting the church) we were throughout history, in various places in the world, local New Testament Churches, separate and distinct by their tradition and doctrine. They held fast to the traditions and to the scriptures and refused to change the ordinances given to them by Christ.

 

This is our heritage, holding fast to the traditions and standing on the truth of scripture we move into the future… knowing what we believe and why we believe it.

 

 

 

 



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