Archive for the ‘Church’ Category
A farmer called the church office and asked the secretary to see “The Head Hog at the trough.” The receptionist said, “Sir, if you’re talking about our beloved pastor you should be more respectful and call him Reverend or Pastor. It’s not proper to call him “the head hog at the trough.” Well, alright,” said the farmer. “I just sold all my hogs and was going to donate $20,000 to your church, so I was hoping I could talk to him.” “Oh, just a minute sir,” said the receptionist, “I think I heard the little porker just come in.”
A Pastor was greeting people at the door after Easter service and decided to ask one of the members why he didn’t come to church more often. The person responded, “Pastor, I’m just following the Lord’s example. If Christ can rise up early only one Sunday a year, that’s good enough for me, too!”
In my last post we looked at the topic of peace and the Fruit of the Spirit. We learned that we need both the peace of God and the peace with God. But what about having peace with other people. What happens when the peace between you and another person no longer exists. How do you restore it? It’s by being a peacemaker.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (NIV)
Today we’re going to look at five ways to become a peacemaker.
1. THROUGH COOPERATION
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)
Not only are we to be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also “with everyone.” What does Paul mean by the phrase, “as far as it depends on you?” He means that it’s our responsibility as individuals to do all that we can do to live in peace with all men, and not wait upon someone else to take the first step.
Psalm 34:14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (NIV)
You need to take the initiative and not wait for the other person to make the first move. In 1979 Anwar Sadat was given the Nobel peace prize. Why? Because he took the initiative. He broke through a 2000 year barrier and was the first Arab leader to fly to Israel and set down and talk. Peacemakers always take the initiative.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (NIV)
One of the most basic reasons why peace does not exist between husbands and wives, church members, and churches is because someone is too proud to take the first step, and refuses to initiate peace.
Yet even when one party is willing to have peace, it takes two to make it complete. That’s why Paul begins Romans 12:18 with the words, “If it is possible”.
Even though one party might do everything in their power to bring about peace, there are still those who refuse this offer of peace.
For example, even though God has made it possible for all mankind to be at peace with Him by giving His Son, Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins upon the cross of Calvary, there are still millions today who refuse to accept this offer of peace from God. While we might not be able to be at peace with everyone all the time, we can certainly try.
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (NIV)
While many people might be seeking ways to bring about dissension, strife and hatred, the Bible teaches us to do the things that will lead to peace. What is another way we can be peacemakers and bring about peace? Second, we can be peacemakers…
2. THROUGH FORGIVENESS
Matthew 5:23-24 So if you… remember that your brother has something against you, 24 …go at once and make peace… (TEV)
If you want to have peace you will need to set up a meeting so that you can talk about the offense. When should you do this? Jesus said, “go at once”. That means, don’t put it off. You might think things will get better over time, but actually, the longer you put off talking about them the worse things are going to get. So “go at once”.
That doesn’t mean you run headlong into an argument. It doesn’t mean you go mad. There are some things you need to do before you go. One of the things you need to do is pray.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Without prayer you can’t have peace in your own heart or achieve peace with others. But what do you pray about? Before you confront the person you need to pray for and seek God’s wisdom in the matter. Make sure you ask God for direction and insight so you can achieve peace.
James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is… peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. (LB)
Whatever you plant, you’re going to reap. That’s the law of the harvest. It’s a universal principle. If you plant inflexibility, dominance and insistence, you’re going to reap conflict. But if you plant the seeds of peace, you’re going to reap the blessing of peace in your life.
Something else you pray for before you go to confront someone is humility.
1 Peter 5:5b All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV)
Doing these things before you go and confront the person is vitally important.
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
That doesn’t mean you attack the person. Instead you need to focus on the problem that exists between you. It takes courage and boldness to confront someone.
Proverbs 10:10b …bold reproof leads to peace. (LB)
The question is, “What if the person keeps causing problems?” What if they say they won’t do it again, but then they… do it again?
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (NIV)
Why do we have to forgive each other so many times? Look at what this next passage says about that.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
It’s because Christ has forgiven us! You’ll never have to forgive some else as many times as Christ has forgiven you! So, I can be a peacemaker through cooperation and forgiveness. A third way I can be a peacemaker is…
3. THROUGH GOD’S WORD
Psalm 119:165 Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. (NLT)
When you’re following the Lord’s commands and doing what He wants us to do, then you’re going to be at peace. The reason why we have so many conflicts with each other is because someone isn’t listening to God’s word.
Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (NIV)
Yet, what does the Bible say about those who are wicked, and refuse to obey God?
Isaiah 48:22 “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (NIV)
2 Peter 1:2 Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace? Then learn to know him better and better. (LB)
That means we need to ready and study the Bible. That means we need to memorize the Bible. That means we need to practice the Bible. That means you need to come to church and hear the Bible.
So, I can be a peacemaker through cooperation, through forgiveness, through God’s word and fourth…
4. THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Romans 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (NIV)
When you set your mind upon the things of God, and yield yourself to the Holy Spirit to be used by Him as He sees fit, then you’ll have peace. The natural result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is having peace in our lives because the fruit of the Holy Spirit consists of peace.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (NIV)
The key here is surrendering my life to the control of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to fill my life each and every day.
So, I can be a peacemaker through cooperation, through forgiveness, through God’s word, through the Holy Spirit and lastly, I can have peace and be a peacemaker…
5. THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace… (NIV)
This shows us that the source of all peace must come through God Almighty. The closer you get to God, the more peace you’re going to have in your life.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (NIV)
Is there any circumstance where God isn’t able to give us peace? God is able to give us peace in every circumstance in life. It makes no difference how bad the circumstances are, God is able and wants to give us peace.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)
The peace that God wants you to have doesn’t come from the world or the things of this world. The peace that the world offers us is temporary, and only able to help in certain circumstances, but the peace that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ, is eternal and able to help under any CIRCUMSTANCE.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
Jesus can take the broken pieces of your life and replace them with His unbroken peace. He’s the secret of peace. When you get Him in your life you’re going to be at peace with God and then you’re going to have more peace with other people.
God is the original peacemaker. He made peace with us through His son Jesus Christ and has given you the ministry of being a peacemaker. When you’re being a peacemaker and restoring relationships, you’re doing the work of God.
Who do you need to seek reconciliation with? A Husband? Wife? A daughter? A son? A neighbor? A church member?
Before you try to seek peace with someone else, you first need to have peace within yourself. Where do you find the peace you need in your heart in order to make peace with others? It’s through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. You need to ask God to put His Spirit of Peace in your heart.
Your life is like a tube of toothpaste, whatever’s inside is going to come out when you’re squeezed. If you’re filled with God’s peace, His peace is going to come out when you’re being squeezed and feeling the pressures of life. But if you’re filled with yourself, ego and pride, that’s what’s going to come out when your being squeezed.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives… (LB)
Doctors are always telling us how to be healthier. They say if we want to live a healthy life we need to eat the right kind of food. They also tell us that to be healthy we need to get the right amount of exercise. But something else that they talk about that is very important is that if we want to be healthier we need to be happier. That’s because being healthy has a lot to do with your mental outlook on life.
But what we’re going to talk about today is much better than happiness. Today we’re going to look at the fruit of the Spirit called, “Joy.”
There’s a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends upon happenings. Happiness is external; joy is internal. Happiness is based on circumstances; joy is based on Christ. Happiness is based on chance; joy is based on your choice.
Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
How many of you are glad to be alive? How many of you are glad to be forgiven? How many of you are glad you are a Christian? How many of you are glad to have a home up in heaven? You need to inform your face! Before joy can be expressed on some people’ faces, they’re going to have to have God give them a face lift.
As God’s people we ought to be the most joyful people on the face of the earth. Yet it seems as though many of God’s people walk around with frowns and scowls on their faces these days, rather than grins and smiles.
What are some of the things that can fill us with joy? Let’s look at five things that God does for us that can fill us with joy.
1. I CAN BE FULL OF JOY BECAUSE OF GOD’S LOVE
Psalm 31:7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (NIV)
What is it about God’s love that should fill us with joy? Knowing that God cares about what I am going through should fill me with joy. David said that God sees my affliction and knows the anguish of my soul. God knows what you’re going through and He cares!
Job 36:5 Although God is mighty, he cares about everyone… (CEV)
1 Peter 5:7 God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him. (CEV)
2. I CAN BE FULL OF JOY BECAUSE OF GOD’S SALVATION
Luke 10:17, 20 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” …20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (NIV)
The disciples were filled with joy because the demons were subject to them. But Jesus told them to rejoice because “your names are written in Heaven.”
Knowing that we are forgiven of our sins and have a home up in heaven should give us great joy.
1 Peter 1:8 You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory. (NCV)
Some today have lost the joy that they once had in their salvation. Instead of being full of joy, they are full of grief and sadness.
Psalm 32:3, 5 There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was.* But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration… 5 until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess them to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (LB)
Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior you will then experience God’s joy in your life.
3. I CAN BE FULL OF JOY BECAUSE OF GOD’S WORD
Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.
As God’s people, when we hear the Word of God taught and preached, or when we are just read it and study it on our own, it ought to fill us with joy. The very reason why the Bible was written was so we could have joy.
1 John 1:4 We write this to make our joy complete. (NIV)
When you discover the teachings, truths and promises God has made to you in His word it is going to cause you to be filled with great joy.
Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (NIV)
4. I CAN BE FULL OF JOY BECAUSE OF GOD’S CHURCH
Psalm 122:1 I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (NIV)
One of the things that should fill us with joy is the opportunity to go to church and worship God. Today for many people, going to church is the most boring and unhappy day of their lives, yet David was glad to be able to go to God’s house.
Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (NIV)
I should be full of joy because when I go to church and worship God he fills me with the strength and joy I need to make it through life.
1 Chronicles 16:27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. (NIV)
Isaiah 56:7a I will bring these people to my holy mountain. I will give them joy in my house of prayer. (ICB)
If you want to have joy in your life you need to come to church each week. When you come to church there will be several ways that you can express your joy.
One way we can express our joy to God when we come to church is through our SERVICE.
Psalm 100:2 Serve the Lord with joy; come before him with singing.
A lot of times instead of serving God with joy and a smile on our face, we do it with a disgruntled attitude while we gripe and complain about it. God wants us to serve Him with joy.
Another way to express your joy when you come to church is when you SING PRAISES to the Lord.
1 Samuel 18:6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.
Another way in which we as God’s people can express joy is through MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
1 Chronicles 15:16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. (NIV)
Psalm 47:1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. (NIV)
Another way that you can express your joy when you come to church is through your GIVING.
2 Corinthians 8:1-2 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)
5. I CAN BE FULL OF JOY BECAUSE OF PROBLEMS
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
One of the hardest things to do as a child God is to be full of joy even when we are having troubles and trials. Yet, we are commanded in this verse to consider it all joy, when we encounter various trials.
Even though we as individuals, or our church as a whole may have troubles, we should not allow these things to get us down, but rather we should realize that they serve a purpose in our lives and consider it a time of joy, rather than a time of sorrow and grief.
1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (niv)
2 Corinthians 7:4d …in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (NIV)
Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Romans 5:3-4 We can be full of joy here and now, even in our trials and troubles. These very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character… (Ph)
It’s always easier to handle a hurt when you know God can use it for good in your life. That’s what this verse is saying. How does He use our hurts? He uses them to build our character, if you choose to respond in the right way.
Paul says in this passage that “We can be full of joy here and now.” He’s not talking about just having joy in the sky by and by, he’s talking about having it now, even if you’re having trails and troubles in your life.
Some people think, “When I get all my problems solved, I’ll be happy.” Fat chance! Life is a series of solving problems. As soon as you get one solved you’re going to have another one that’s probably even bigger. God allows us to go through these trials and troubles to build our character. If the only time you learn to have joy in your life is when you don’t have any problems; guess what? You’re never going to have joy in your life.
Philippians 4:4 Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! (LB)
How is that possible? To always be joyful? When Paul wrote this verse he was in prison and about to be executed. He was writing to the Phillippian church which is the New Testament book on joy. Nineteen times in the book of Phillippians he used the word “joy” or “rejoice”. If you’re depressed, you need to read through that book. It’s only four chapters. Underline whenever the word “joy” or “rejoice” is used.
You have to learn to have joy even in the middle of problems while you’re working on them. You don’t wait for all your problems to be solved. Be joyful even in tough times. That’s where joy is learned. How do you do that? How is it possible to rejoice in the midst of difficult circumstances?
1. BECAUSE OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Isaiah 43:2-3 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3 For I am the Lord your God… (TEV)
The fact is no matter what you’re going through, you’re not going through it alone. So it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. What God wants to say to each of you today is He is with you right now.
Psalm 16:11 You make the path of life known to me. Complete joy is in your presence. Pleasures are by your side forever. (GW)
Anytime I don’t have joy it’s a warning light that I’m not spending enough time with God. It means I’ve forgotten that He’s with me. Second, I can be joyful in spite of my circumstances…
2. BECAUSE OF GOD’S PLAN
He’s not only with me, He has a plan for me. God isn’t worried about the problem you’re going through. He knew it was coming, He saw it, and He wants you to trust him.
Jeremiah 29:11 I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. (GW)
Psalm 50:14c I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you and you can give me glory. (LB)
Lastly, I can be joyful in spite of my circumstances …
3. BECAUSE OF GOD’S POWER
Psalm 62:8 …trust him all the time. Pour out your longings before him, for he can help! (LB)
God never puts more on you than He puts in you to bear it up. He will help me.
Psalm 43:5 O my soul, why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God! I shall again praise him for his wondrous help; he will make me smile again, for he is my God! (LB)
Have you lost your joy? Are you discouraged? God is waiting to help you. Jesus said, “Ask, that your joy may be full.” He’s waiting for you to ask so He can help you.
The Bible says “the fruit of the Spirit is joy”. That means joy isn’t something you can manufacture on your own. You can’t just work it up. It’s the natural by-product of letting Jesus Christ live in and through you. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior you can experience His joy no matter what the situation is.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
Some of you today need that kind of joy in your life. If you’d like to receive God’s joy, you can by simply receiving His Son Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Let me know if you made that decision.
1. LOVE IS THE GREATEST
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)
The first thing that the fruit of the spirit consists of is “love”. What does the Bible say about love?
Here in these verses Paul tells us that without love we are no better than a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”. He tells us that without love we are nothing. And if we do not have love, everything else we do is worthless and does not benefit or profit us.
What are some of the other things that Paul says about love?
1) It is patient.
2) It is kind
3) It is not jealous.
4) It does not brag
5) It is not arrogant.
6) It does not act unbecomingly.
7) It doesn’t seek its own.
8) It is not provoked.
9) It does not take into account a wrong suffered.
10) It does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
11) It rejoices with the truth.
12) It bears all things.
13) It believes all things.
14) It hopes all things.
15) it endures all things.
16) And it never fails.
As God’s people if we are producing love in our lives, then each one of these characteristics should also be found in our lives.
While many people today emphasize the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge, Paul tells us in the last verse of this chapter that, “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
What else does the Bible say about love?
2. LOVE IS THE BOND OF UNITY
Colossians 3:14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)
What does Paul mean by the word “perfect” in this verse? He means that nothing else can substitute for love and still bring about unity.
In order for there to be unity between a husband and wife, between two friends, between church members or churches, love must exist between them. When there is an absence of unity, this shows that there is an absence of love, and visa versa.
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. (NIV)
How is it possible for God’s people to live together in peace and harmony even though we treat each other like “dogs” at times? The answer is, because of love.
If we truly love one another as we should, then we will not be so fast to judge one another, be vengeful towards one another, or get our feelings hurt every time someone says something to us. And if someone does sin against us, our love for that person should over ride our fleshly nature and cover that transgression.
When you cover something that means you can’t see it anymore. And if someone sins against us personally, our love should cover it so that we no longer see it or remember it any more.
If we love one another as we should, then we will not be bringing up things that someone did in the past, but rather we will forget those things as God has for us.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (NIV)
What else does the Bible say about love?
3. LOVE IS PROOF OF DISCIPLESHIP
John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (NIV)
Here in these verses Jesus commands us as disciples to love one another just as He loved us. What will happen if we are producing love for one another. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples…”
The early Latin writer Tertullian of Carthage, wrote that the one thing that converted him to Christianity was not the philosophical arguments they gave him, because he could always find a counterpoint for every argument presented. “But they demonstrated something I didn’t have. The thing that converted me to Christianity was the way they loved each other.”
Matthew 7:20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)
If we are producing love as we should, then those we come in contact with will recognize us as followers of Christ. That’s why we are told to do the following:
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love… (NIV)
1 Corinthians 16:14 Do everything in love. (NIV)
Since we are commanded to produce love in our lives, how should this be done?
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (NIV)
The word “sincere” comes from the Greek word “hypokrisis” which means, “to play the part”.
Today I am afraid that to many of us go around telling people that we love them, when in reality we hate their guts. That’s being a hypocrite.
Love is not to be produced in hypocrisy, but rather in sincerity.
1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (NIV)
This shows us that it takes a lot on our part to love, and therefore we must work hard to produce love in our lives.
4. LOVE IS AN ACTION
1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (NIV)
As God’s people we should not only produce love with our words and tongue, but also with our actions. Love isn’t just a word that comes from our lips when we say, “I love you”. It is an action that can be seen in our lives.
Love is not something you say or feel it’s something you do. It’s a behavior, an action, a way of acting. Love is a verb, it’s something you do. A guy kept telling his girlfriend, “I would die for you.” Eventually she said, “You’re always saying that, but you never do it.” Love is something you do.
One of the actions of love is telling the truth. John said we are to also “love… in truth. Healthy Christians are truthful Christians.
Ephesians 4:15 Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ…” (CEV)
Every healthy, strong relationship is built on two legs. These two legs help the relationship to stand. If you want to have a healthy relationship, you have to learn how to confront in truth and affirm in love. If you only do one, your relationship isn’t going to be able to stand. Some people do real well when it comes to confronting in truth. But sometimes the truth hurts. So, in order to help the person you also have to affirm that you love them, and let them know that they’re important to you and that you don’t want to hurt the relationship but improve it.
In theory we think that “honesty is the best policy”, but practically, there are times when we don’t think it’s such a good idea.
For instance, you might be thinking, “If I told my husband how I really feel about our marriage, he’d blow up.” “If I told my boyfriend what I don’t like about him, he’d leave me.” “If I told my wife about my frustration with our love life, she’d accuse me of a one-track mind.” “If I told my boss that what we’re doing is unethical, I’d get fired.” “If I confronted my friend and told him he needed counseling, he’d wouldn’t like me anymore.”
Love isn’t always easy or fun. Sometimes it downright tough. That’s why it takes courage to love someone.
Matthew 24:12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (NIV)
One of the signs of the end times is a lack of love. He says that there will come a time when, “the love of most will grow cold.”
1) Is your love for Jesus what it ought to be, or has it grown cold?
2) Is your love for one another what it ought to be, or has it grown cold?
3) Is your love for this church what it ought to be, or has it grown cold?
4) Is your love for God’s word what it ought to be, or has it grown cold?
5) And is your love for the lost what it ought to be, or has it grown cold?
Revelation 2:4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (NIV)
How do you learn to love like God loves you? How can you have a healthy love?
Ephesians 5:2 Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (MSG)
Jesus is our example and model in how to love. And the only way you’re ever going to be able to love like Him is by accepting him into your heart. When Jesus died on the cross, He stretched his arms out wide and said, “I love you this much!” That’s how much Jesus loves you! If you haven’t accepted His love for you, I invite you to do it right now.
The IMPERISHABLE crown
The crown of EXULTATION
The crown of RIGHTEOUSNESS
The crown of LIFE
The fifth and final crown that God has available for us as a reward is…
5. THE CROWN OF GLORY
1 Peter 5:2-4 Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (NAU)
This crown is different from the others in that it is for those who serve in a pastoral position and faithfully shepherd the flock of God according to the requirements listed in verses 2 and 3. This could refer to both ordained pastors as well as lay pastors who shepherd God’s flock as helpers.
Three things can be seen in these verses concerning the ministry of a pastor or shepherd.
1) He is to feed the church – “shepherd” means “to feed”.
2) He is to exercise oversight over the church.
3) He is to be an example to the church.
Notice also four qualities that should characterize his ministry.
1) Willingness – “not under compulsion, but voluntarily.”
2) Obedience – “according to the will of God.”
3) Right Motivation – “not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.”
4) Servant’s Attitude – “nor yet lording it over those allotted to your charge.”
These are the eternal rewards that a servant of the Lord can receive.
What are we going to do with these crowns if God gives us one of them?
Revelation 4:5-11 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (NIV)
We will not show them off and brag about them to one another. But rather, we will bow in worship to God and cast our crowns before him, giving him all honor, glory, and praise.
Are you serving God?
Are you influencing those around you to serve the Lord?
Are you going to receive one of these rewards, or will you stand before God empty-handed?
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
An elderly missionary couple who had served God for 50 years in a remote African village returned to the United States for a well-earned retirement. When they arrived, however, no one was there to greet them because of some confusion at the mission office. They had no one to help them with their suitcases and trunks, and no one to move them into their home. The old gentleman complained to his wife, “We’ve come home after all these years and there’s no one who cares.”
The man’s bitterness grew as they settled into their new home. His wife, a bit fed up with his complaining, suggested that he take up the matter with God. So the man went to his bedroom and spent time in prayer. When he came out he had a new look on his face, which prompted his wife to ask what had happened.
“Well,” he replied, “I told God that I’ve come home and no one cares.” “And what did God say?” she asked. “He said, ‘You’re not home yet.’”
You too may serve for years in a place where no one notices you or cares what you’ve done. But God sees and cares. One day, when we reach our eternal home, “each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). In the meantime, let’s be faithful.
The world rewards success; but God rewards faithfulness!
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For the past few days we’ve been looking at the five crowns mentioned in the Bible. The first crown available to us from God as a reward is the IMPERISHABLE crown. The second crown is the crown of EXULTATION. The third way that God can reward you is with…
3. THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8in the future 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. (NAU)
Today there are some who might confuse this with the righteousness which is a gift from God.
The “crown of righteousness” however, is not a gift but a reward which the servant of the Lord can earn if, like Paul, we live each day anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ.
The reward of righteousness is based upon right living as we wait for Jesus to return.
If He should come today
And find my hands so full
Of future plans, however fair,
In which my Savior has no share,
What would He say?
If He should come today
And find my love so cold,
My faith so very weak and dim
I had not looked for Him.
What would He say?
If He should come today
And find that I had not told
One soul about my Heavenly Friend
Whose blessings all my way attend,
What would He say?
If He should come today
Would I be glad, quite glad?
Remembering that He died for all
And none through me had heard His call,
What would He say?
If Jesus should come today, what would He say about your service to Him?
Would He be happy with the way you have served Him… would you receive the crown of righteousness?
If we, as servants of Christ, look for and love the second coming of Jesus, it will affect our lives three ways as seen in verse 7:
1) We will fight the good fight.
2) We will finish the course.
3) We will keep the faith.
Have you ever received one of those sweepstakes letters in the mail? Like the one that says you are an instant millionaire! Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Yet, if you read the fine print you will discover that by law the people who sent you the letter are required to disclose that the chances of you actually winning the said amount are astronomical. One such letter says your chances are 1 in 80 million. Now that’s remote!
Contrast that with Paul’s anticipation of what awaited him in heaven: “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Note his assurance: “There is laid up for me.” Not “there might be” or “there’s a slight chance,” but rather, “there is.”
J. Oswald Sanders writes, “This crown is awarded to those who have completed the Christian race with integrity, with eyes fixed on the coming Lord. It is the reward for fulfilling the ministry entrusted to us.”
If you have welcomed Christ into your life, long for His appearing, and are faithfully running your race, then the crown of righteousness awaits you. Count on it, plan on it, anticipate it! It’s a promise from God.
The fourth crown that is available to us is.. Come back tomorrow and you will learn what it is.
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2. THE CROWN OF EXULTATION
To the church in Philippi Paul said:
Philippians 4:1a So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy and my crown… (GW)
The crown of exultation is also referred to as the “crown of rejoicing” or, “the soul winners crown”.
A missionary was once asked about his salary. The person knew it couldn’t be much, and he wanted to know why the missionary would give so generously of himself to help total strangers, yet be paid so little.
The missionary pulled out a letter and read these words: “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t know Jesus Christ as my Savior. Every morning I kneel in prayer, thanking God for everything you’ve done for me.”
“That’s my pay!” said the missionary.
The apostle Paul must have had something similar in mind when he wrote to the believers in Thessalonica. Listen to how Paul refers to the Christians in the church in Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? (NASB)
In a day when there is so much emphasis on acquiring material wealth, how refreshing it is to hear of Christians whose greatest reward is to see people accept Christ and grow in spiritual maturity.
Are you making it a practice to share the gospel with others? If you are, you’ll be rewarded with the best pay of all. You’ll enjoy thrilling satisfaction here on earth, and you can look forward to an even greater reward in heaven!
God does not pay as others pay,
In goods that perish and decay;
But this is sure, let come what may,
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay. –Anon.
We should work for the Lord because the retirement plan is out of this world!
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, services we can do as servants of the Lord is to help someone learn about being saved through Jesus Christ. Plus, it is also a great source of joy to see someone accept Jesus as their Savior.
Psalm 126:5-6 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (NIV)
Luke 15:10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NIV)
The degree of our joy here on earth is determined, in part, by the souls we have had a part in leading to the Lord. Those who will receive this crown are those Christians who are faithful to declare the gospel and lead souls to Christ.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)
D.L. Moody a famous evangelist once said concerning witnessing: “I believe that if an angel were to wing his way from earth to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, ‘Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ.’ There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God’s hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven.”
The third crown mentioned in the Bible is… Come back tomorrow and you will see!
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Serving Jesus Christ is the most rewarding thing you can do. It not only has its temporal rewards here on earth, but also its eternal rewards in heaven.
Here in our text we find Paul speaking to the church in Corinth on the topic of eternal rewards. I would like us to notice four biblical facts about rewards that Paul mentions in this passage.
First, we are told that rewards are given on the basis of an individual’s work – (vs 13a) “each man’s work”.
Second, he says that rewards are given in heaven, not on earth – (vs 13b) “will become evident” (vs 14b) “he shall receive a reward”.
Third, rewards are given on the basis of the quality of an individual’s work, and not on the quantity. – (vs 13d) “the quality of each man’s work”.
And fourth we are told that rewards can be lost – (vs 15). Since rewards are earned on the basis of a person’s work, it only stands to reason that they can also be lost if a person does not serve Christ properly.
Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (NIV)
2 John 1:7-8 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. (NIV)
Today we’re going to look at five eternal rewards that we as children of God can receive if we serve the Lord properly.
1. The IMPERISHABLE crown
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (NAU)
In order to receive this crown, Paul tells us that we must exercise self-control in all things.
Self-control is something that we are to add to our faith – 2 Peter 1:5-6
Self-control is also a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
And, self-control is something that Gos gives to us – 2 Timothy 1:7
The second crown available to us is… Come back tomorrow and you will see.
During this time of year each of us who has received Jesus as our personal savior have a wonderful opportunity to proclaim to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors the real meaning of Christmas. Yet, many choose to remain silent about the light of Christmas.
In order to convince the people of Philadelphia of the advantages of street lighting, Benjamin Franklin decided to show his neighbors how compelling a single light could be. He bought an attractive lantern, polished the glass, and placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house. Each evening when it got dark, he lit the wick. His neighbors soon noticed the light in front of his house. Even those living farther down the street and in the next block were attracted by Franklin’s light. People who passed by found that the light helped them to avoid tripping over stones that stuck up in the roadway. Soon others began putting lanterns in front of their homes, and eventually the city recognized the need for having well-lighted streets.
In verses 6-8 we find that John the Baptist came to bear witness and reveal the light of Christmas.
John 1:6-8 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (NIV)
Another key word found in the Gospel of John is the word “witness” which is used 47 times.
As Christians we are supposed to be witnesses for Jesus, revealing to the world the light of salvation that comes through Jesus.
A few years ago a man in Arkansas who lit his property with more than 3 million Christmas lights was told by the Supreme Court that he had to turn them off.
While he was forced to turn off his lights, many today have chosen on their own not to let the light of Christ shine in their life as a witness to others.
Christmas is one of the most excellent times of the year to talk to people about Jesus. Most people are very open to talking about the birth of Jesus during this time of year. So take advantage of the opportunity and let your light shine for Jesus!
The Center for Missional Research commissioned Zogby International to ask people about their receptivity to an invitation to church over the holidays.
- More than four out of 10 Americans (41 percent) are likely to be receptive to an invitation during the Christmas season.
- The study also showed that 42 percent of the people surveyed would be very or somewhat likely to attend church more frequently as a result of their New Year’s resolutions.
What does this mean for you? Simply, that opportunity is knocking … loudly. Seize the opportunity while people are open and while attention is on the birth of Christ. Don’t let this season pass while people in your area are considering their New Year’s resolutions. No matter where you serve, what the age group is around you, or whether people consider themselves to be religious or not, there are quite a few who will come to church if you’ll invite them.
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)