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People Matter PDF

1 Samuel 30:7-31

In the first 10 verses of 1 Samuel 30 God had untangled David from having to join the Philistines in battle against Israel. Yet when he and his men returned home they found their city, Ziklag, burned with fire and all their families carried off with the spoil. His men threatened to stone him, but David encouraged himself in the Lord. His response might not seem all that significant for a man after God’s own heart except that sixteen months have passed in his life since the last time the Bible recorded His seeking God in his troubles. He had survived by pragmatism and deception, but such tactics are no substitute for walking with God. So as hard as the Ziklag experience was for David, the shock of it drove him back to the Lord, and that was a good thing.

Let your distress drive you to God – Remember God. Ask God. Obey God.

7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor. 11 They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, 12 and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. 14 We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.” 15 And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.” 16 And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. 20 David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David's spoil.” 21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” 23 But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. 24 Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” 25 And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.26 When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.” 27 It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, 28 in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, 29 in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, 30 in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, 31 in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed.

These verses fall into four sections, each dealing with a different set of people:

I.              Broken Throwaways: Divine Tools (11-15)

II.             Captive Loved Ones: God-given Recovery (16-20)

III.            Weary Brothers: Selfless Sharing (21-15)

IV.           Hospitable Friends: Grateful Generosity (26-31)

The first kind of people we meet in these verses (11-15) in the person of the Egyptian slave is the Broken Throwaways. We see that they are actually are divine tools to accomplish God’s will. David’s treatment of this throwaway became part of God’s provision for regaining what David lost. In verses 16-20 we see Captive Loved Ones and a God-given recovery. Then in verses 21-25 we see Weary Brothers and the response to them is selfless sharing. Finally we see Hospitable Friends in verses 26-31, and David shows them grateful generosity. 

People Matter! We would not expect it in the Old Testament in the midst of blood, war and fugitives. This is a theme we would expect to find in the New Testament. The reality is that the Old and New Testament declare one theme—the changeless character of God. People matter to God. He accomplishes His purposes through them. They also matter to the godly. The truly godly understand God’s heart and God’s grace not only to us but also to others.

I. Broken Throwaways: Divine Tools (1 Samuel 30:11-15)

11 They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, 12 and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago.

They found an abandoned throwaway. He was dying of exposure, hunger, and thirst, but he was ministered to by those on God-directed mission. It was not even clear that they knew he was associated with the fleeing Amalakites. They may have suspected it, but they treated him as a person made in the image of God. After he has revived, David questioned him and found out that he was part of the Amalakite family. He was abandoned because he was sick and of no use to his master—but of great use to God and God’s people. The success of the whole rescue operation hinges on the “chance” finding of this abandoned Egyptian slave.

Think about what this teaches you about God. God has everything, including human beings, at His disposal to accomplish His good pleasure and to fulfill His promises to His people. God used the illness of an Egyptian slave and the heartless response of his Amalekite master. He directed the steps of David and his men to happen upon this slave in the open field. His desperation opened his heart to kindness and shifted his loyalties from the enemies of God to the people of God.

David’s kindness to the slave (3x “they gave”) convinced him to be a crucial informant for finding the Amalekites. In fact, David’s behavior in this chapter is entirely consistent with the character of God. What happens when a man is walking with God. And David finally is doing so again.

God’s whole plan of salvation displays grace, mercy, love toward broken people aligned with God’s enemies. The state of the human race, drowning in its own sin and death, the twisted, broken, marred universe—all this looks hopeless, broken beyond repair. But God rescues broken throwaways and makes them instruments of blessing to accomplish His purposes in the earth. When God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, look at how He treated broken people destroyed by sin and its curse. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-20)

And they came – a  hated tax collector among his chosen band of apostles, lepers, deaf, dumb, blind, demon-possessed, dead; women, children, self-righteous Pharisees, and heart-broken prostitutes, pagan Romans and Greeks. These all heard his invitations to life and many came. Those who did felt His power to save from dread disease, sin’s tyranny, and death’s suffocating grip.                                                 

Why God not only can save you and use you but is pleased to do so, however sordid your history and sin-produced troubles. Jesus is so seriously committed to this restoration work that He took your sin on Himself and died to satisfy the death penalty our sin deserves, rose again, and intercedes for you even now.

You might think of your life as so messed up that no one – not even God – would want part of it. But that is not the way God is. He takes the broken throwaways. He binds the brokenhearted. He looks at the humble soul in the dust and says, “Mine.” I love you. I you enough to die for you .I love you enough to make you my own and give you an everlasting inheritance. Even a person like David has proven to be a person full of flaws, yet God keeps reaching into his life and moving him toward God’s purposes for his life. This is the gospel in the Old and New Testaments. This is what the story is. This is the point of it all. The more we are in tune with our thinking with the gospel and the God who created it and the Christ who brought it to pass, the more we understand how to treat people.

1 Corinthians 1:27:  “God uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.” How we respond to broken people reveals how well we understand God. Look what He has done for us.

Romans 15:1: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

1 Corinthians 12:22: “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. We cannot say ‘I have no need of you’.”

James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

James 2: Here we are instructed to show no partiality. Don’t treat the wealthy man in fine clothing better than the poor man in shabby clothing.

James 3:17: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

How do you respond to needy people – people who are broken in body and mind, backslidden, and ruined by sin? Here’s their hope and yours—a God who salvages broken people and makes them key to amazing victories. He makes them part of this victory march that centers in the cross but leads to a throne. Never underestimate the immense value of a broken throwaway rescued by God for His use.

II. Captive Loved Ones: God-given Recovery (I Samuel16-20)

The second group of people we meet is the captive loved-ones. You have a repeated thought – recovered all, nothing was missing, brought by all, captured all.

18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. 20 David also captured all the flocks and herds

The driving reason for the campaign was the fact that few experiences reach our hearts more than when our loved ones are at risk. You remember that after 16 months of David’s apparent self-sufficiency, the burning of Ziklag and the capture of his family along with the families of his men is what God used to knock out all the props and set him seeking after God once again. God knows what your heart treasures most. He will put His finger there when He is doing transforming work in your life.

Not every battle brings a victory, not every rescue operation achieves its objective, but God had promised David this outcome:  “And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” (v. 8)  He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” Whatever God promises, you can count on. When you act on the promises and direction of God, your risk tolerance goes way up—you can’t lose. Courageous undertaking is the only policy that makes sense.

Your family is worth fighting for. Go after the enemies that threaten their safety or that hold them hostage. Use the weapons God has given for spiritual warfare with great confidence in the One who has proven throughout human history that the battle is, in fact, the Lord’s. It is not a battle you can win, but it is a battle you can’t lose if God is in it and God is at work.

Consider further that those who are children of God through the Savior-King Christ Jesus, have a Sovereign Father who does battle royal for them. “All things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” Think about the lengths God has gone to rescue you as His child. It is extraordinary. It would be the stuff of fantasy if it were not true. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31). A church family that understands this goes to all lengths individually and corporately to look after those at risk, those taken captive by the enemy of our souls, casualties of spiritual war. The little ones. The lambs. The wounded.

III. Weary Brothers: Selfless Sharing (I Samuel 30:21-25)

The third group of people we see is the weary brothers.

21 The two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” 23 But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. 24 Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” 25 And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.

David has such wisdom in how he deals with them. He reminds them of what the Lord has given them. The wicked, worthless fellows are operating out of greed, selfishness, and lack of appreciation for the contribution of others. It seems they have already forgotten what happened when they left Ziklag undefended. It only made sense to leave those who could not make the journey to do their part by guarding the baggage the warriors could not take with them when speed was so critical.

This shows to us that carnal people devalue those they think have lesser abilities and responsibilities. Those filled with the Spirit see more clearly. We each have our assigned roles in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 21-26:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 24 . . . But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Jesus Christ built the church, created His body, the church, to display this reality. It is about God. It is about what the Lord is doing. People matter, but it is not that we are people-centered. We are God-centered, and God is at work in and through people who otherwise would be useless throwaways. Because we recognize that, we don’t elevate one above another or treat one group as though they are more valuable than another. If we belong to Jesus Christ, we are all part of the same body.

If you saw a severed finger on the sideway, what would you be asking? You immediately would want to know to whom it belonged. The finger would be significant, but your concern would be for the person to whom it belonged. I am not significant. You are not significant. We are significant because of who we belong to. If we are in Christ, we are part of His body, and we are significant.

The person sitting next to you may have a vastly different personality, but you are part of the same body if you both have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Because they are part of the body, you treat them with the Spirit of God – the Spirit of love, help, and value.

Now we come to the fourth group of people.

IV. Hospitable Friends: Grateful Generosity (1 Samuel 30:26-31)

26 When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.”

31 . . . for all the places where David and his men had roamed.

These are the ones whose territories David has roamed during all those years of fleeing from Saul. He sent part of his spoils to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD— an important reality. God had given them the spoil. The battle was fought not only because David’s family needed to be rescued. The battle was fought because these were the enemies of God. It had been so for centuries. You recall that King Saul’s first great disobedience was failing to obey completely  God’s command to destroy the Amalekites. Throughout Saul’s reign, right to the report of his death in 2 Samuel 1, the Amalekites kept showing up like a bad dream. The Amalekites were a thorn in the flesh.

Are the Amalekites people God doesn’t care about – do they matter to Him? We know the gospel is for all ethnicities, but consider this sobering reality. You set yourself against God—His purposes, His people—and you are adopting a suicidal course of action. God will take you down. You can’t win. If you humble yourself, repenting of your sin, and trusting in Him, you can’t lose. Christ died for us when we were still His enemies. But His work of grace in us does not leave us rebels. It makes us children who delight to do their Father’s will. As long as we are enemies of God we are in deep trouble.

David’s words also form the basis for his giving so much of the spoil away. It is spoil the Lord gave (v. 23). It is spoil from the enemies of the Lord. All this stuff is God’s stuff. God’s victory. So David uses it for God’s glory. He gives much of it away. To whom? To those whose land he had been living off of during his fugitive years. He did not forget them. What the Lord had given him was in part theirs by virtue of their help over the years.

If you are not giving away some of “your stuff,” you do not fully understand whose stuff it is and where it came from. If you are not giving to the Lord, you are sinning against the Lord. You are blaspheming Him. You are acting like you did it all, and you are aligning yourself with the worthless and wicked fellows.

Think back over the years of your life. To whom do you own gratitude? Who has helped you survive? Whose lives have you made more complicated? Whose good graces have you benefitted from?

Okay, when God gives you opportunity, how can you acknowledge your awareness of their contribution to your life? How can you show them grateful generosity?

David’s God-reflecting behavior toward these of people groups (broken throwaways, captive loved ones, weary brothers, hospitable friends) is what we would expect from the anointed king to be, the man after God’s own heart. More significant yet, it is behavior that points us to the loving character of a great Anointed One than David: David’s distant son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus came into the world to save not the self-sufficient righteous ones, but the sinners, the broken throwaways. Not until I realize that I am among them do I recognize my great need for a Savior. When He opens my heart and rescues me, I find it a joy to join His army on the march to certain victory.

It is a victory that recovers His children, whom He has loved from eternity past and will love forever. He will not fail in His rescue. He will not lose one soul the Father has given to Him. John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. . . . 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

He values every member of His body, assigning to each ability and function to build up the whole body in love.

And when Jesus rose from the dead He gave gifts to men so that the church could function in this way. It is a foretaste of greater joys ahead because He has made us joint-heirs with Him of an everlasting kingdom, an inheritance among the saints that never fades, reserved in heaven for us. Because of Jesus we can say with the Psalmist: “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever!”

LifeGroup Questions

1.    How does the truth that God rescues broken throwaways and makes them His tools to accomplish His purposes impact your view of yourself and of others?

2.    Why do you think God describes the men who did not want to share the spoil with the weary ones who stayed by the baggage as worthless and wicked? What insight does such a description (and David’s response) give you into how important it is to treat the weary and unappreciated members of the body well?

3.    Who are some of the people that have contributed to your life and how have you shown generous gratitude to them?

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

July 13, 2014

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Focus Your Thinking PDF

2 Timothy 1:3-7

 

Let’s think back several millennia to the kind of situation Paul would have been writing this letter in, as he awaited execution for the Lord Jesus Christ, and as he was about to pass off the mantle of responsibility to Timothy, who would be living in a world very different from the one in which he came to know Christ. This would be the mid-60s A.D. and before that decade was done most, if not all, of the apostles, save John, would be gone, martyred, as Rome turns its might against Christianity rather than defending it, having made it an enemy of the State. It was really important at this time that Timothy be encouraged to keep the faith, to stay the course, and to lead with power. As we looked at the overview of 2 Timothy we saw:

Keep the Faith

1.   It’s a priceless gift from God.

2.   Pass it on to those who will pass it on.

3.   It equips you to survive and thrive in perilous times.

4.   We all will answer to the Sovereign King and Righteous Judge.

 

The last time we were in 2 Timothy we looked at the greeting in the first two verses:

Promise of Life in the Face of Death

·       Promise by Divine Authority (2 Timothy 1:1)

·       Gifts of Divine Love (2 Timothy 1:2)—grace, mercy, peace

The way the letter starts is so suited to Timothy’s situation. Survival would have much to do with the mindset Timothy and his generation cultivated – how they were thinking. Think about an athlete ready to start a game, a person ready to step onto the stage, or to play the piano at a recital. A lot of what helps you to perform well in those situations is whether or not you have focused your mind. As soon as Paul gives his greeting he immediately moves on to this need for Timothy to focus his thinking. I don’t know what has you worried or fretful, or makes you unsettled, but here is Paul the apostle saying to focus your thinking. You’ll see it in the text, 2 Timothy 1:3-7:

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

You look at these words and what you see over and over is remember, reminded, remind. Paul tells Timothy to be mindful—to focus your mind, and direct your thinking.

Focus Your Thinking.

·       Remember the God you serve (2 Timothy 1:3a).

·       Remember your Christian brothers and sisters in prayer (2 Timothy 1:3b-4).

·       Remember the sincere faith your mentors displayed (2 Timothy 1:5).

·       Remember the gifts God gave you (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

 

I. Remember the God You Serve. (2 Timothy 1:3a)

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience.

Notice that Paul leads off with gratitude. Gratitude presumes a history. This is not a God of philosophy or of creative writing. This is the God of history, with a proven track record, not just in our own lifetime. Paul could look back well beyond his own experience to century after century of God showing Himself faithful. This God whom my ancestors served, I serve.

Remember the God you serve. This is critical to holding fast to the faith in times of turmoil, danger, and suffering. We have to place our circumstances in the context of sacred history, redemption history. Don’t look at your life in terms of just this lifetime.

That history has a theme: the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. God is calling out a people for His name, restoring a broken, lost creation, reversing the power of death, breaking the power of sin. This is the history, the story. God is doing it, and you serve that God.

The hero of that story is Jesus Christ, the God-man Savior, Yahweh saves, Jesus, the anointed One. It doesn’t matter whether the kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. It doesn’t matter how many of God’s people they kill or imprison. God wins. He has set up the King, and his name is Jesus Christ. He calls on people to show Him homage before it is too late.

We are part of that history. Redemption history did not end with the writing of the book of Revelation. That book is prophetic, much of it has not happened yet. Today is part of redemption history and part of God’s story. You are one of the players in it. If you are trusting in Jesus Christ, you belong to that history and are on the winning side.

As you think about your life, with mortgages, graduations, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, and battles with sin, remember that your life is part of that history and the theme of that history is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep that story central in your own life. This is the God that you serve.

Don’t forget the hero. Exalt the Hero. Think of who Jesus is and how He dealt with broken people, with rebels. What did Jesus do for rebel sinners, dying in their sins? He laid aside His robes of glory, came as a baby, lived the human life, and endured human suffering. He walked where we walk, He felt the onslaught of Satan’s hatred and those that belong to Satan. He took your sin on Himself. He died for that sin, rose again and broke the bars of death. That Jesus is your hero. He’s the one that makes it a good news story, not a bad news story.

If you don’t remember the God you serve, the point of the history, the hero, you will lose your grip on reality. Part of the exercise we have to go through when we hit the rough spots and are tempted to quit is to remember that we are part of this story. It is like reading the book, being midway, and coming to a dark, hard part, but the book has an ending the author has already written, because the hero is Jesus Christ.

In light of that, Paul lives his life as an act of worship to this God. He says “I serve God” and the word he uses is the word we get liturgy from. This is a worship service. The real liturgy is the life that you are living. There should be connection between the songs you sing here in worship of God and the life you are living and the way that you think. Don’t leave your worship of God in a building or leave it for somebody else to talk about God to you. This is the God you serve. If God is the God of history, and the point of the history is redemption, on what day is it inappropriate to worship Him, to serve Him, to be in awe of Him, to do what He wants you to do? You only have a Sunday box if you have a Sunday God. He’s an all week, morning and evening God. He is not an idol you set on a shelf. All of life is worship for a person who knows God is everywhere and deserves everything. Sometimes our so-called worship is entirely for us or for fellow human beings. It also seems sometimes that worship is confined to when you are having a service with people gathered. Worship happens all the time if you know the God of the Bible. We want our lives not to be missing God.

Paul serves God in worship with a clear conscience, not sinless, but that he knows of no sin in his life that he has not confessed before God. “He refused to entertain sin knowingly.” (Kitchen, 305) The real God is a personal god who has a personal relationship with you and who knows you inside and out. There is a sense of accountability to this God who knows the very desires and musings of our heart. Our conscience is not the absolute standard of right and wrong. Just because we have a clear conscience doesn’t mean we are right with God. Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 4. We stand before the Lord and ask Him to search us and try us because we want to be clean before Him. How we respond to what would defile our conscience reveals our view of God. If you believe in this God, you are not a different person in the church gathering than you are in the home or in the workplace or on vacation. You are the same person because you serve the same God. This is the God who is everywhere.

We have to remember the God we serve. This is what helps us think right in a topsy-turvy world. We have to be God-centered because this universe is God-centered. It exists because God spoke it into being. Remember the God you serve.

 

II. Remember your Christian brothers and sisters in prayer. (2 Timothy 1:3b-4)

…as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.

There is never a time your brothers and sisters in Christ don’t need prayer. I know that through years of pastoring. I know you are struggling with things because you are a human being and life under the sun is not easy. It’s tough. You may have it easy in one place and very difficult in another. There are some things you share and some things only you and God know that you are struggling with. We want to remember one another in prayer. You know your Christian brothers and sisters need prayer because you know you always need it. When you think you don’t need it is when you really need it. We know without God we can do nothing. You’ve had the experience where during the day you are upbeat, but at night there are all kinds of things that plague your soul and you need to know someone is praying for you.

There have been many times I have been lifted by the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ shared in a critical time. Prayers like that let you know you do not fight your battles alone. Not only do fellow believers identify with your struggles and wade in to help you bear the load, but they call upon heaven itself to come to your aid. Sometimes you can be beaten down so much that you can hardly utter a sound in prayer to the Lord. To know that someone else is waging battle before the throne of grace for you is an awesome thing.

Occasionally you are having a tough time and you come across a passage of Scripture that leaps off the page and God says “This is for you!” Those times can stir your soul. Second to that are the times that someone says they are praying for you. It has been uncanny at times that people are praying for me in ways I had not told them the need, but it is because they are praying in the Spirit.

There are all kinds of ways you can help your brothers and sisters. What’s wonderful about this is that it’s not just that Paul is praying for Timothy day and night, but that he tells Timothy he is praying for him. He assures and encourages him by telling him he is with him, although in prison facing death. Here is Paul awaiting execution and facing death and he is praying for Timothy day and night. One of the best things to help you deal with your problems is to get your mind off your own problems and start praying about someone else’s. We’re in the battle together. Paul displays that.

There are so many ways you can let people know. We live in an age where it is easier than ever to let them know. Pull out your cell phone and send them a text letting them know you are praying for them. Send them a portion of a verse. A lot of you do this and you are teaching me to do this. We send those little “holy texts” all around. Sanctify your texting with scripture and prayer and use it for spiritual alliances.

Paul’s last parting with Timothy was tearful, as we would expect anytime we are saying final goodbyes to people we love who have had profound impact on us. The feelings are mutual. It wasn’t just that Timothy had great regard for Paul. Paul also had great regard for Timothy. Paul was not a “better than you are” kind of apostle. Paul’s heart yearns to see Timothy. He knows if they could see one another again it would be a time of great joy. This is the way brothers in Christ feel toward one another. This is why it is so important to gather together this way and pray for one another. It feels good to walk into a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who you are praying for and they are praying for you and you have gone through the battles together. It ought to be a happy, joyous time on the Lord’s Day to see and encourage one another.

Paul’s prayers for Timothy are rooted in a deep relationship developed over the years, not just in social occasions. They had suffered together, had engaged in missionary work together, had been through thick and thin together. This kind of relationship makes for more effective praying because you know what to pray for. You are able to call that person by name since you know what he is dealing with right now.

For whom are you praying?

Whom do you know well enough to pray intelligently for what they are really facing?

With whom could you share your prayer needs regarding the real battles you face?

In what ways do you let other believers know you are waging battle royal for them in prayer?

Paul prayed night and day for Timothy. Are you so focused on your own crises that you don’t have time to think about let alone pray for the needs of others? How would you describe your feelings for other brothers and sisters in Christ? Would you be able to use Paul’s terms? Longing? Tears? Joy?

We need to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is part of focusing our thinking.

 

III. Remember the sincere faith your mentors displayed. (2 Timothy 1:5)

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Sincere means unhypocritical. His faith is not for show. It is for real. It has taken up residence in Timothy, but it was first evident in the lives of his grandmother and his mother, as well as in Paul.

Timothy’s dad was Greek, his mother Jewish. She and her mother were likely believers initially from an Old Testament perspective—faith in God and the coming Savior. Paul, or perhaps another Christian, shared with them that the Savior had come in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Their faith in the coming Messiah was sincere and naturally transferred over to Him when they came to know His name and that He had indeed come and fulfilled the ancient promises.

Timothy had the privilege of seeing up close what genuine faith looks like. Have you had that blessing? Do you know people that you are absolutely sure know Jesus? You know them well enough and you have seen them in the good days and the bad, to know that the power of God, the life of God is in them, that they are trusting Jesus for real. Many of Timothy’s generation and ours have never seen that. When they do, it is powerful incentive to trust Jesus themselves.

Had I had to live with the hypocrisy that marks so many that claim to be Christian, it would have been hard to believe the gospel was anything more than garden-variety religion. But I knew too many people that had sincere faith in Jesus and whose lives showed it to cast it off as fake. The more I read the Scriptures and saw their lives, the more I knew it was something I could bank on.

Whom do you know evidences sincere faith? What do you learn from them?

What would they say to you now regarding your walk with Jesus or lack thereof?

What evidence do you see that your faith in Christ is unhypocritical? Is it for real?

Remember the sincere faith your mentors displayed.

 

IV. Remember to use the gifts God gave you. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We don’t live in a culture where you have to keep the fire alive for cooking and warmth. If you’ve gone camping, you know the fire burns low and can go out overnight. If you’ve banked it properly, you should be able to stir it up and fan it to flame for cooking and warmth. The gift of God is that fire, but you must tend it, feed it, fan it. If we were using a farming metaphor, you would cultivate the seed.

The particular gift Paul talks about here is not just Timothy’s new life in Christ, but Timothy’s call and gifting for pastoral ministry, as evidenced by the phrase “laying on of my hands.” It symbolized affirmation that the Holy Spirit had conveyed to Timothy the ability to do the work of the ministry. Jesus gives the Spirit to all genuine believers. And the Holy Spirit evidences himself in a variety of abilities distributed for the common good of the body of Christ and for the advance of the gospel. If you don’t have the Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ, you don’t have life yet. If you have the Spirit, you have the gift, you have the fire and you have to fan that flame. You must take what God has given you and cultivate and use it.

In a time of crisis, grief, and danger like the one Timothy was facing when Paul writes this letter, it would be easy to stifle the gift, to keep silent, or to bury it. Timothy’s gifting by the Spirit was to preach and teach the Word of God. This is the wrong time in history to do it. You are taking your life in your hands to do this. This is a time when it would be easier to read your Bible in private rather than share it openly. Yet it was in the sharing it openly where he was using the gift for what it was given. Paul says it is not safe to keep silent. Safety is not our goal, faithfulness to the Lord is. Fan that gift to flame.

I believe that is what he was driving at because he says God has not given us the spirit of fear. Cowardice is not from God. Abandoning your duties before God out of fear is like someone who runs from the battle because of being terrified. That was not why he was trained. He was trained to keep his head, to stand his ground, to win the fight. He was trained to do battle royal, in this case for Jesus.

God does not give fear. God gives power, love, and self-control, and not just to a preacher like Timothy, but to all of us. God gave us a spirit . . . of power and love and self-control. Power is one of the words for miracle. You can do this in God’s strength. To say you can’t do it is a lie. He gives you the ability through the Spirit of God.

He has given you self-sacrificing love, the ability to love and die for someone the way Jesus died for us. He has given us self-control, or the ability to keep our head when everyone else is losing theirs. 

If the Spirit of God is in you enabling you, what ministry to others should you be fanning to flame?

What abilities has God given to you?

What burdens has He laid on your heart?

What kind of opportunities has He given to you? Are you seizing them?

Are you fanning to flame the gift God has given you?

If not, what causes you to fear doing so?

What would God’s miraculous power motivate you to do?

What needs would self-sacrificing love move you to serve?

In the middle of pain, risk, emotional stress, how can the self-control (the discipline of mind) God gives through the Spirit keep you on course serving others in Jesus’ name in a courageous way that fulfills God’s mission for you?

Soldiers of Christ must not run away, having lost their heads, but stand their ground and take back what the enemy has stolen from the God of the universe.

 

We have to focus our thinking in these ways:

·       Remember the God you serve.

·       Remember your Christian brothers and sisters in prayer.

·       Remember the sincere faith your mentors displayed.

·       Remember and fan to flame the gifts God has given you.

May God help us to focus our thinking so we fulfill our mission in our time just as Timothy needed to fulfill his.

 

LifeGroup Questions

1.   What part does gratitude play in seeing yourself as part of God’s history of redemption and how can seeing yourself as part of that gospel story help you keep your head in the battle?

2.   How does focusing on praying for the brothers and sisters in Christ you love help you keep your head in days of difficulty and danger?

3.   Who are some of the faithful mentors God has used in your life and how has their influence helped you survive spiritual attack?

 

4.   Why is fear (cowardice) the opposite of power, love, and a disciplined mind? How do these three characteristics relate to fanning to flame the gift of the Spirit God has given to each of us?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC  29609

July 13, 2014

 

 

 
Children of the King in a Rebel World PDF

Philippians 2:12-18; 3:17-21

 

When we think of America and the kind of lives we live, we typically will use terms like comfort and affluence. Even though we have our wars, we largely enjoy a peaceful existence. I’d like to remind us that this is not how it started. If you look into the lives of people living even to this day and every decade, there are difficulties, trials, heartache and even dangers.

William Bradford, in his chronicle Of Plymouth Plantation, talks about some of the reasons the Pilgrims came to America. They initially fled England because of persecution there. William Perkins (a famous preacher from that era), quoted on p. 5, said: “In England at this day the man or woman who begins to profess religion and to serve God must resolve within himself to sustain mocks and injuries as though he lived among the enemies of religion.”

It wasn’t that it was not a religious kind of place, but if you did not follow the dictates of doing a certain way of religion, you suffered immensely for it. Those who became known as the Pilgrims lived in Holland for 12 years. God sustained them there, but there was still great pressure to return to Romanism. The difficult living conditions over the years had taken their toll with prematurely aging members of the congregation. Most distressing to them was the influence of a godless culture and its temptation on their children. As they thought of alternatives they looked at the land we know as America. They had a great desire to evangelize those living in this region of the world. At that time this area would be considered as one of the uttermost parts of the earth to which the Gospel was to go. Bradford writes (p. 49): “So they left that good and pleasant city, which had been their resting place for nearly twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.”

Followers of Jesus Christ are deeply grateful for the parts of our history that evidence the hand of God and the acknowledgement of His truth. Not every colony was founded by believers. Nonetheless religious freedom gained a strong foundation in early America, and colony after colony frankly acknowledged the gospel of Jesus Christ and the law of God, right in the founding documents. To be sure, we find plenty of evidence of man’s corruption in our history, along with the abuses that ungodliness generates. But the witness to the truth is there. Scriptures adorn our national buildings. National calls to prayer punctuate our history. The gospel is still preached in the city and the countryside. Every year people are trusting in Jesus as their Savior and believers are growing in grace. We know that there is a decided effort at every level to revise the history, to redefine right and wrong, and to dismantle laws and practices that have served as safeguards for more than two centuries.

What is a truly born again believer to do in such a time? There is little value in merely fretting and fuming over what is wrong in our country today, any more than at any point of our history. What will best turn the tide, if God chooses to have mercy on our land despite our rebellion? What should we be busy about if we are truly patriots of our land?

I ask the question because our situation is not new at all—not in the USA, not in any place or any age. This is the story of the church living in a rebel world. Ultimately the transforming power of the gospel is the only thing that really changes people. When people change, then their country changes. Think of the first century church. What a minority they were in an empire dominated by pagan thinking and practice!

Think about the Christians Paul writes to in Philippi. They live in a city named after Alexander the Great’s father and were granted Roman colony status when Octavius (Caesar Augustus) defeated the armies of Brutus and Cassius in the civil war that followed the assassination of Julius Caesar. Philippi, because it was a colony of Rome, was a little Rome. The people had Roman citizenship, Roman law, and Roman customs. Those who lived there were very proud of their Roman culture and ways. Christianity was a threat to their very culture.

To be a Christian in Philippi meant risk, suffering, and persecution. There was so little biblical influence before Paul got there that there were not even ten Jewish men necessary to having a synagogue. Paul basically founded the church from a prison cell after delivering a soothsayer from the demon that possessed her. These brothers and sisters in Christ, born into the family of God in the midst of a dominant, very pagan society, became the most supportive of all the churches Paul planted.

How did Paul teach the Philippian believers to live in such an atmosphere? His instruction to them will help us know how to live for Jesus in our country at this time of history. No matter how pagan it becomes, these truths will still stand the ground and give us direction. Two paragraphs from this letter will serve as our focus this morning.

Philippians 2:12-18:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 3:17-21:

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

Children of the King in a Rebel World

·       Shining Lifestyle (Philippians 2:12-16)

·       Joyful Alliances (Philippians 2:17-18; 3:17-19)

·       Glorious Destiny (Philippians 3:20-21)

 

I. Shining Lifestyle

Empowered Diligence (Philippians 2:12-13)

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Note that this verse starts with a “therefore.” In the preceding verse we find one of the most famous passages in the Bible about Jesus humbling Himself. Because Jesus has humbled Himself on the cross and is risen, exalted by God the Father and to whom every knee will bow, confessing that Jesus is Lord, work out your salvation to its intended goal. God is energizing you both to will and to do what pleases Him, regardless of who else is there to help you or to see.

This shining lifestyle in a dark world rises from the work of Jesus and from the power of God and nothing less than that. Right at the beginning we start with the reality that if you are not born again, you cannot do this. If you have not been rescued by Jesus Christ and are just trying to do the best you can or to conform to the culture, none of that is going to help you get done what needs to be done here. You have to have life from God and be born again.

As important as Paul was to this congregation, he was not the secret to their power. We have a tendency to transfer our dependence to the human vehicles of God’s grace to us: to our parents, to a pastor, a mentor, a Christian school, a movement, or to the local church.  The Christian life is meant to be lived in connection with other believers, but God is the One at work in us to save us from our sinful selves. Here is the problem: we may fret about the evil around us, but the evil is in us, and we are part of the darkness. Without the power of God in us, we remain in the dark and continue to produce works of darkness. We have to have God’s life in us. The Christian life is about God empowering us and rescuing us from ourselves and by doing that, displaying to others that salvation or deliverance is possible.

Are you actually empowered by God? If someone asks for evidence that God has been changing you, what would you offer? Or are you just conforming to the culture? There are a lot of churches larger and smaller than ours, but there are enough people here, there is enough of a subculture here, and there are enough guidelines about how you are supposed to live, that you can just flow along to get along. That is not what this country or this world needs. That is no good news. The good news is God giving you life and empowering you. Is there the power of God in your life? This comes through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, through ceasing from your self-direction, self-trust, and self-pursuit and saying you want Jesus instead.

If there is anything wrong with America it’s that those who claim to know Jesus don’t “live” Jesus and don’t show His power. Without power evident in our lives, the gospel seems trivial and unnecessary. The power of God calls us to serious cultivation of our new life in Him. All that work is futile if there is no life power from God, and all the power loses its purpose if we don’t use it for what it’s for. If you have the power of God in you, get serious about living for God and stop riding the fence. We have to get dead serious about what side we are on and live for Jesus.

 

Distinctive Innocence (Philippians 2:14-15)

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

The impact of a cross-centered gospel on a believer changes how he responds to difficult situations and irritating people. Of all the things Paul might have chosen to be evidence of being part of the darkness or part of the light, he talks about grumbling and disputing. Other things might be more ceremonial or outward, but this actually reveals your heart. If I’m keenly aware of how God has treated me with grace and continues to bless me in ways I could never deserve, if I know I’m safe in Him, if I know all good things come from His loving hand and that He has the power to turn to good even what is damaging and evil, why would I complain and gripe? But I do, do you?

Every time we complain and gripe we are not thinking in tune with the gospel at all, but thinking like part of the darkness. With all the ways we have to communicate, complaining and griping is a national pastime. What does Paul say to these believers? Stop it! If you are to shine out as children of God you cannot live that way. If I am esteeming others more significant that myself even as Christ did when he humbled himself in status and through suffering to save me, why would I engage in pride, bitterness, and contentious behavior? Wherever you find such behavior you see darkness. It shows the same twisted perverseness that dominates the world—always finding fault, ungrateful, unholy, battling for one’s self at the expense of others.

What does Paul say to the Philippian believers? Strive side by side for the sake of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). Don’t be afraid of your opponents. In chapter 4: Euodia and Syntyche—get along! Work it out between you. You are companions, co-laborers in the gospel, that’s what matters. Stop the friction.

What happens when those who are to be light in the world become darkness? It is easy for us to start thinking of materialism, to be self-centered lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The darkness is aggressively knocking at your door every day. It comes through your cell phone, your computer, through the conversations at work. It is everywhere vying for your mind and trying to suck you in to think just like the world. Do you invite it in?

When believers engage in grumbling, contentious behavior, or prideful spirit, those who have yet to trust in Jesus observe those who claim to be His and find their behavior just a holier-than-thou version of what they already find all too common in a dog-eat-dog world. Such behavior declares to the unbeliever that the gospel does not work. It’s just another empty promise, another version of self-advancement at the expense of others.

Divisions, backbiting, and slander are the positive scandal of the church. It is especially blasphemous because such carnal behavior is so often sold as taking a stand for God.  It is so offensive that at times, even as a believer, you may think, if that is what God is like, I would rather be an atheist. What are people observing about the believers they know? This is exactly the kind of behavior Paul targets at the beginning of chapter 3 as the behavior of vicious dogs, evil workers, mutilators of the flesh. The false teachers supposed zeal for God was marked by the spirit of Satan. This is darkness and we need to shine as light.

 

Word Tenacity (Philippians 2:16)

16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

The Spirit uses the Word of God to plant the life of God in the soul of man. The Word gives us light, washes us, trains us, it equips us. It is the Sword of the Spirit. Be sure Satan will try to separate you from it, to leave you wandering trying to find your own way using your own ideas or whatever is popular at the time.

This shining lifestyle is not possible if you let go of the Word of life. That is why we have the slogan “Life by the Book.” The church did not create the Word, the Word created the church. The world, Satan, and our own flesh conspire to loosen our grip on the Word. Nothing is so discouraging to a godly mentor than to see those he’s poured his life into let the Word of life slip from their hands in order to grasp some cheap substitute.

Substitutes don’t produce genuine spiritual growth. You can paint them as godliness, you can pretend like you are happy, but the Word alone produces this kind of lifestyle. The substitutes breed corruption.

“This Is the Word of God” (Michael Morrow, verse 2)

This is our only hope—redeemed with Jesus’ precious blood,

saved from the empty way of life through faith and hope in God.

And since you call on Him who judges all the earth,

live your lives in rev’rent fear, rememb’ring your redeemer’s worth.

 

II. Joyful Alliances (Philippians 2:17-18; 3:17-19)

2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

 

Pauls’ reason for rejoicing may seem strange. He says he gladly pours himself out like a libation (drink offering) on the altar of the Philippians faith. Paul said if getting the gospel to the gentiles meant he would be mobbed by angry Jews, sent to prison, end up in Rome and eventually executed, that it was worth it for their faith. At the beginning of Philippians Paul says these things have happened to me for the furtherance of the Gospel. It is worth it to suffer in prison for spreading the gospel to the gentiles when the gentiles are living in a way that displays God’s life in them. Paul finds joy in it because their advance made his sacrifice meaningful. They need to recognize that his personal sacrifice testifies to how valuable and how effective their receiving the gospel actually is.

Keep following my way of life, he says—imitate me as I imitate Jesus. It is worldly religion that shrinks from sacrificing self for the benefit of others. Worldly religion exists to advance the cause of the worshipper not the glory of God. It is appetite driven, earthbound, glorifies what people ought to be ashamed of, and destines them for hell. Who would want to be part of that when you can experience the life transformation power that is in Jesus?

Self-sacrificing connections with brothers and sisters in Christ bring positive joy. Christ said in Matthew, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad when men persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake and the gospel. This is the way they treated the true prophets. When we see suffering for Jesus this is not something to be fearful of, but to rejoice in, because it displays to the world how valuable and powerful what we have is that it would sustain us. It really comes down to daily decisions and sacrificing yourself for other people. Are you going to live for yourself or live for people who have needs?

Are you unhappy as a Christian today? Try giving yourself away to someone in need. We are the least happy when we are the most self-absorbed. The more focused on yourself you are, the more unhappy you will be. The more you pour out yourself for others, the more you give yourself and lose your life for Christ and the Gospel the more you find your life. If you are unhappy today as a believer it’s because you are not living as a believer ought to live. There are days of great pain and sorrow, but I am talking about what’s in your heart and your soul and what the character of your life is.

One of the most common causes of dull, unhappy Christianity is the stagnation of self-absorption instead of letting your life flow out like a river to meet the heart needs of others. If you get an individual believer off the couch of doing nothing for anyone but himself, get him into the aerobics of serving others in love, and his heart rate increases, the endorphins kick in, and he finally finds that his life matters. Happiness results despite the personal cost. Or we could say happiness results because of the personal cost.

In what ways are you using your life to serve the needs of others the way Jesus did? This is something for you to jot down and think about. It doesn’t have to be someone far away. The person could be three feet away. How do you serve the needs of the everlasting souls that are part of your family? Think of family members, coworkers, neighbors, anyone you meet in the course of any day. Would they know what the heart of Jesus is through their interaction with you—or would your life be an obstacle they’d have to overcome?

Look at what the world is looking for. What would resonate with them would be if you and I showed them genuine love where it cost us something. If we don’t have a connection with people we can’t serve them. We have to build the connections. We have to show them love; this is what they need. They don’t need someone telling them they should be a republican or a democrat. They need somebody to actually love them, serve them, and sacrifice for them. When they enter a community of believers that’s what they need to see, that all these different people are that way. They have a common heart that drives their life because of Jesus. That would change the world and that would change our country.

It is so interesting how quickly we get incensed with the sins of those who are elected to office and how forgiving we are of our own when they are the same things.

 

III. Glorious Destiny (Philippians 3:20-21)

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Nobody who belongs to Jesus ought to be among the fretful, angry mob when things don’t go our way in this life. We have a bright future because we already belong to the body politic of heaven. Anyone who is going to believe in the realities of the gospel and what it promises needs to see people living like those promises are for real. They need to see that there is a future beyond their 401K, and that no matter what happens they know they have a secure inheritance that is part of an everlasting kingdom.

We have not experienced the best part of our salvation yet. We eagerly wait for the return of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. We will complete what He has begun. He will transform our lowly body of humiliation to the shining splendor that characterizes Him as part of the exercise of His infinite power over the universe.

Such an identity, such a future, changes how we look at our present challenges and changes how we look at the country we live in. We are not chasing dreams confined to this life only. We have a secure future that no one can take away. We’re ok giving up rights and possessions for the sake of Jesus, for the sake of brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of those yet to believe the gospel because we know we can’t lose. What can we possibly gain for ourselves in this life that could even compare to what God has promised is ours in Christ forever? It is like obsessing over a dollar bill when you have a billion dollars laid up for you. It doesn’t make sense.

We are children of the King in a rebel world. We have our work cut out for us, but it is work that God empowers when he made us His own. We have a shining lifestyle. We engage in that shining lifestyle together in joyful alliances where we willingly sacrifice ourselves and find joy in it because we have a glorious destiny that nobody can take away.

 

LifeGroup Questions

1.   What kinds of behavior would indicate that you’re actually empowered by God rather than that you’re just conforming to a Christian culture?

2.   Why would Paul target griping and contention as part of the darkness contrary to shining as children of God in a twisted, perverted world?

3.   In what other ways do professing Christians join the darkness in their behavior?

4.   What are some ways you have found help you hold tightly to the Word of life?

5.   In what ways are you (or could you be) pouring out your life to serve the needs of others the way Jesus did?

6.   Why do you think keeping your heart connected to your glorious destiny as a believer is so important to fulfilling mission in this life with the right spirit?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

July 6, 2014

 
Paul’s Message to the Ministers PDF

 

Acts 20:17-35

This passase is Paul’s only message in Acts delivered to Christians only. Luke personally heard this message.

Miletus was a port city about 36 miles (60 kilometers) from Ephesus. Today this city is 10 miles from the sea because of silting. Asia Minor is now part of Turkey. Paul was on his way from Greece to Jerusalem to:

(1) give a report to the church leaders,

(2) deliver an offering for the Jerusalem church from the churches he had founded, and

(3) fulfill a vow.

He was hoping to arrive before Pentecost. His message is primarily to the elders or pastors of the churches in Ephesus, but it is a challenge to all leaders of Christ’s church.

I. The Consistency of His Ministry (Acts 20:18,31)

  A. He was with the people; not aloof from them like a priest or monk. He worked with them and lived with them.

  B. The foundation of his ministry among the Ephesians was his Consistent Life among them.

  C. Observation: It is easier to begin a ministry well than to finish it well. How to have longevity in the ministry: Do not quit.

II. The Characteristics of His Ministry (Acts 20:19-23)

  A. Characterized by Serving – “serving the Lord”

       1. Not man-centered

       2. Served the Lord

       3. Example of Jesus – John 6:38 – In doing the Father’s will, Jesus served others.

  B. Characterized by Selflessness – “with all humility”

       1. Example of Christ

           a) Self-description by Jesus (Matthew 11:29)

           b) Acts of Jesus

       2. Example of Paul

           He did not serve the Lord or people for what he could gain from them.

  C. Characterized by Sympathy

       1. Tears for the Lost, especially his own people (Romans 9:2-3)

       2. Tears for the Saved – compassion for the welfare of others

           Reasons for the Tears

           a) Physical suffering of others

           b) Spiritual suffering of others

           c) Future spiritual danger of others

       3. Tears for Himself – II Corinthians. 11:23-29

Use: The minister of God WILL get discouraged and lonely and frustrated. It is okay to cry out to God for comfort, but do not remain in self-pity anddo not call on your church to pity you. That will ruin your ministry.

III. The Content of His Message (Acts 20:20,21,26,27)

  A. His Message was the Whole Counsel of God

       1. He was not embarrassed to preach the whole counsel of God.

           a) Followers of many religions are embarrassed to teach the whole of their doctrine.

           b) The Christian minister should know his Bible good enough not to be embarrassed to preach all the doctrines of the Bible

       2. He was not intimidated from preaching the whole counsel of God  (vv. 20, 27). “I did not shrink back.”

           a) Intimidation from outside the church (v. 19; Luke 12:4). The purpose of Satan’s persecution of Christians is not primarily to take away their happiness and comfort but to silence the Gospel through intimidation.

           b) Intimidation from inside the church

  B. His Message was to the Whole World of Mankind (Acts 20:21,26)

       1. The Gospel is not for only certain classes of people.

       2. We are most comfortable taking the Gospel to people like ourselves.

       3. There can be societal pressure to exclude certain groups.

       4. Remember that all humans have exactly the same spiritual need of salvation through Jesus Christ.

IV. The Core of His Message (Acts 20:21)

       The Heart of the Gospel: Repentance and Faith, not one or the other.

  A. Unbalanced Ministry

       1. Faith without Repentance (James 2:17-22, v. 20 James 2:19 Romans 8:13-14)

       2. Works without Faith (Galatians 5:4)

       3. A Faith that Works

           a) I John was written so we can know for sure that we are Christians (I John 5:3)

           b) Paul, in warning the Galatians about salvation by works, made sure that they understood that salvation was by a faith that does work (Galatians 5:19-21; Galatians 5:24)

V. The Course of His Ministry – his goal in life (Acts 20:24)

  A. The Course of This World (Ephesians 2:2)

  B. Paul’s Course in Life – his focus and goal was to successfully finish the course set before him. (II Timothy 4:7)

       1. A Course Set by Jesus Christ  (Acts 20:24

           a) Christ called him into the ministry, not man.

           b) However, Paul’s call was confirmed by the Apostles and Barnabas.

       2. A Course With a Purpose (Acts 20:24)

VI. The Caution of His Ministry – (Acts 28-31) “Be on guard”

    A. Guard Against Savage Wolves

       1. Jesus’ warning of how to spot a wolf (Matthew 7:15-16)

       2. Peter’s warning of how to spot a wolf  (II Peter 2)

           a) v. 1 – They introduce destructive heresies.

           b) v. 2 – They follow sensuality, causing the Gospel to be maligned or spoken evil of.

           c) v. 10 – They indulge the flesh.

           d) v. 3 – They are greedy.

           e) v. 10 – They despise authority.

           f) Conclusion – They minister for what they can get from others.

  B. Guard Against Becoming a Wolf  (Acts 20:30)

  C. Guards Against Wolves from Without and Within – Follow Paul’s Example (Acts 20:31-15)

       1. v. 31 – He faithfully taught the truth of God’s Word.

       2. v. 31 – He had a true compassion of the people he ministered to – “with tears.”

       3. v. 32 – He viewed the church as God’s, not his own, property.

       4. v. 33 – He did not covet what belonged to others. He was satisfied with what God had supplied.

       5. v. 34 – He was diligent in his work ethic.

       6. v. 35 – He helped the weak.

 

Requirements of a Pastor

1. 1 Timothy 3:1-7

2. Titus 1:5-9

Responsibilities of the Congregation

1. Follow a true shepherd.

2. Support the pastor financially. (1 Corinthians 9:11-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-11)

3. Use your Spiritual Gifts to make the church a mature, functioning body.

 

 

Rev. Ken Jensen (guest preacher)

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC 

June 29, 2014

 

(This message was preached on the occasion of the ordination of Joshua Jensen, son of Reverend and Mrs. Ken Jensen, to the gospel ministry.)

 
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