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What is the Sermon on the Mount?

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The Sermon on the Mount is a message of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5-7. It’s probably the best know part of Jesus’ teaching. John Stott explains, “It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that Jesus ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted  His followers to be and do.” In the sermon, Jesus presents a picture of Christian culture that is very different than what our society offers.
In its context, the sermon describes repentance, the change of mind, and righteousness that belongs to the kingdom and, therefore, the believer. It explains what life looks like when Jesus is recognized and received as Savior and Lord. Within its teaching, we discover the most complete description in the New Testament of genuine Christian culture.
The sermon is introduced to us in Matthew very simply, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…” (Matt 5:1-2). Picture the setting with me. A large crowd is following Jesus. He “went up on the mountain,” which is a large hill known as Karn Hattin, located near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. Numerous scholars have compared the “mountain” here to Mount Sinai, where God through Moses first taught His ethics by delivering the Law.
Jesus “sat down,” assuming the posture of a rabbi [teacher] and “His disciples came to Him,” to listen to His teaching. We read in verse two, “Jesus opened His mouth and taught them.” We, like them, are to listen to the instruction of Christ. To listen to Jesus is to hear, yield, and follow. After all, a disciple of Jesus is one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus.
How do we listen to Jesus? To rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must be willing and prepared to listen and receive. It would be worth your time to explore the parable of the sower recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matt 13:3-8, 18-23; Mk 4:3-8, 14-20; Lk 8:5-8, 11-15). The good news is that God has given us the ability to choose how we will respond to His instruction.
To rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must also listen with an understanding of His purpose (see: John 17, Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer). Christ’s purpose for coming, teaching, and dying on the cross was to glorify the father by pointing to the way of salvation and living the joy-filled life promised to all who receive Him as Savior and Lord. The basics of Jesus’ teaching are profound yet simple enough for a child to understand. Jesus taught that He is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, is the promised One. Salvation is found in Him and Him alone. Here it is in a nutshell; Jesus came to die in our stead for our salvation and taught us how to be saved and live as believers.
Lastly, to rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must listen determined to obey (see: Matt 21:28-31). It’s not enough to know God’s word and go to church; genuine believers follow Christ by living in obedience to the Lord. Our following may not be perfect, but our intent can be as we become more and more like Christ.
The culture and righteousness that Christ describes in the Sermon on the Mount is an inner righteousness demonstrated outwardly and visibly in words and deeds. Such a life can only be lived when found in Christ, receiving Him as Savior and Lord, filled, empowered, and led by His Spirit. Oswald Chambers explains:
“If Jesus is a teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only. He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.”
I really like those last words of Chambers, “the Holy Spirit having His way with us.” I challenge you to take some time to read through The Sermon on the Mount. Before you do, let me encourage you to take a moment to pray and commit yourself to listen to God with a willing spirit, understanding heart, and a mindset determined to listen and obey. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Biblical Truth in a Changing Society

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The Bible is an incredible book. It is one unified book made of 66 individual books, written by more than 40 inspired authors, in three different languages, over a period of 1,500 years. It has been given to us “to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). The Scriptures, inerrant and infallible, are inspired by God and useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).” As John Wesley stated, “If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.” The teachings of Scripture are so crucial to humankind that God the Spirit clarifies the truths within the sacred text to the believer. We call this special work of the Spirit illumination. Both the inerrant Word of God and illumination by the Holy Spirit work together to allow the Christian to understand God’s Holy Word and apply its teachings.
Scripture teaches that illumination does not occur in the unbeliever (1 Cor 2:14). We also see in Scripture that illumination is promised to Christians (1 Cor 2:9-10). Illumination is taught in the Bible to occur in relation to the maturity of the believer (1 Cor 3:1-3). God’s Word then teaches that illumination is the Holy Spirit working in the believer to understand Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that illumination is taking that with error and revealing truth. Illumination is taking that which is inspired by God and making its truths known to a believer that is rendered dysfunctional due to sin.
It is also important to note that the Bible is inerrant. At the center of the conviction in an inerrant, infallible Bible is the testimony of Scripture itself (2 Tim 3:16). Throughout the Bible is the teaching of its authority, and this requires inerrancy (Matt 5:17-20; John 10:34-35). Historically through the testimony of the Church, inerrancy of the Bible has been firmly held. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.” This belief in the inerrancy of Scriptures has been seen from the biblical writers to Luther, Calvin, B.B. Warfield, and present-day Conservative Evangelicals. Epistemologically speaking, inerrancy guarantees the incorruptibility of every statement of Scripture. Therefore, the contents of Scripture can be objects of knowledge.
All of this is of great importance to the believer today. The Bible offers timeless truth in an ever-changing world. Amazingly the principles found in Scripture offer as much a light to follow on our path of life as when they were written (Psalm 119:105). This is due to it being the very Word of God. God is never-changing, all-knowing, perfect, and infinite. He knows the beginning from the end, although He has neither. This I write to explain that although societies change (not always for the better), God has given us timeless truths that can be applied to our lives today.
Society may want to believe it has somehow evolved beyond the Scriptures. But, it is foolish to think that we can live apart from God’s truth and experience the abundant joy-filled life offered to Christians. After all, a Christian, a disciple of Christ, is a person who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus. Following Jesus is the believer’s way, and we learn to follow Him through His Word, the Bible.
The Bible is an incredible book and a marvelous gift given to us by God. Its truth is needed in our ever-changing society. It applies to our current society as it always has been and always will be to the societies of humanity. The Bible as timeless truth is the underlying principle based upon God’s perfect and never-changing character, and the truths of Scripture can and should be applied just as readily today as in the many years past. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Spiritual Warfare

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When the topic of spiritual warfare comes up, there seem to be two extremes often present. Either there is a denial that such warfare is taking place or an over-emphasis in the devil and his workings. Both are detrimental to the believer or anyone else, for that matter. C. S. Lewis writes in his creative work, Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” One of the challenges of the Christian life is to live in the center of biblical tension. A believer needs to be aware that a spiritual battle is waging, but not live in fear or obsessed with the devil’s workings.
As we explore the Scriptures, we discover that a life of victory is the normal experience God intends for every believer. The term “victory” implies a context of challenge, struggle, and danger. This is why, over and over again, the Bible uses the metaphor of “warfare” when referring to the Christian life. When the Christian seeks to know God and make Him known, being a disciple, following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, spiritual warfare will most definitely be encountered.
In each of the synoptic gospels, Satan appears as the tempter of Jesus (Mark 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). From beginning to end, Satan is presented as an enemy of God throughout the Bible and, subsequently, an enemy of God’s people. Although Satan and his demons are finite in power and knowledge, their capacities far exceed those of humans. In the battle, Satan takes advantage of our selfish, sinful nature (“the flesh”) and of the force of each of our sin-filled cultures (“the world”). There is little doubt Satan often successfully draws men and women into sin and away from Christ by glamorizing the desires of the flesh and the allure of the world.
Spiritual warfare is not a yin and yang thing. It is not a battle between equals. Satan is in no way equal to God. God created him to glorify and serve Him. Satan allowed pride to rage within himself, and he desired to be worshiped and exalted like God. As a result, he declared war on God, and one-third of the angels joined his army to oppose the Lord. Judged by God for his sin, Satan was cast down to earth (Isa 14:11-23); Ezek 28:1-19). Upon the earth, Satan appeared as a serpent to tempt Adam and Eve by lying and taking God’s word out of context (Gen 3:1-24). After successfully tempting Adam and Eve to sin, he was judged and cursed by God for his sin and told that Jesus would ultimately come to completely defeat him, though Jesus would suffer physical harm in their conflict (Gen 3:14-15).
The gospel proclaims that Jesus, in His death and resurrection, not only purchased forgiveness for our sins and reconciled us to the Father, He also decisively triumphed over Satan and his forces. Having won the ultimate victory, Christ provides the grace we need to live our daily lives in consistent victory. The indispensable means by which God extends His grace to us are His Word (the Bible), prayer, and fellowship of believers (the Church). As we live in obedience to the Word and walk in the power of the Spirit, following His promptings, we need not fear the challenges and temptations of the enemy because Christ leads us to victory.
How do we fight the spiritual battle and walk in Christ’s victory? We need to acknowledge the adversary. We need to realize that Satan is real. I recently saw a study that showed that just over 40% of Christians in America do not believe Satan is real. This is a tragic mistake since Peter tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). The enemy is real, and the battle is real. We need to accept Christ’s authority. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we remain focused on Christ, clothed in the armor of God. Paul writes of this spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:11-17. The armor pieces are truth, righteousness, Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God. We put on this armor by coming to faith in Christ, walking and growing in Christ, sharing His love and message with others.
Often the battle occurs in our mind. Our thoughts can propel us to victory or serve to halt our progress. When we get thoughts from God, we call it inspiration. When we get thoughts from Satan, we call it temptation. This is why it is crucial to fill our minds with the Word of God (the Bible). The Spirit uses the Word of God we know, not the Word of God we don’t know, to lead us into the victorious Christian life, a life of trusting God no matter what the circumstances.
When all is said and done, we are called to focus on Christ. We need to avoid distractions. We need to keep the main thing the main thing. Indeed, we are not to deny that the enemy exists, and spiritual warfare is real. However, our focus is not to be on the enemy but on Christ. The battle is real, but Christ provides the victory. We are called to focus on Him and walk in the power of His Spirit while resisting the enemy. After all, as John writes, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the secret of the believer’s victory over the devil who controls the world of sinful people. There is a battle, and believers find victory in Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

The God of the Old & New Testament is the Same God

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Sometimes I have heard people after they have read through the Bible, ask, “Is the God of the Old Testament and New Testament the same God?” The reason for the questions is the apparent difference in God’s interaction with people, as revealed in both testaments. At the heart of this question is a misunderstanding of what both the Old and New Testaments tell about God’s nature.
Some see the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament a God of love. Perhaps, in part, the progressive revelation of God in the Bible through historical events and relationship with people has led some to this misconception of comparing the Old and New Testament’s revelation of God as two different Gods or a changing God. However, a careful reading of the Bible as a whole, both Old and New Testaments give evidence of God’s wrath, and love is revealed through the whole of Scriptures in both testaments.
Let me give you an example from the Old Testament. In an interaction between God and Moses, it is revealed that “God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). Fast forward nearly 1,400 years, and we find recorded in the New Testament the loving-kindness of God more fully revealed. We read in John, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Throughout the Old Testament, we see how God related to Israel as a loving and caring father would parent his child. When they sinned, He disciplined them, but He also delivered them when they repented. Similarly, this is how God deals with Christians in the New Testament. The Hebrews writer proclaims, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb 12:6).
We also discover throughout the Old Testament God’s judgment, and wrath poured out on sin. This is also seen in the New Testament. We find in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). It is apparent that God is not different in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, God by His nature is unchanging or immutable (Heb 13:8, Mal 3:6, James 1:17).
The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is one unified book made of 66 individual books, written by more than 40 inspired authors, in three different languages, over a period of 1,500 years. Incredibly, we see a never-changing God from beginning to end, Who is progressively revealed to us. Throughout the Bible, we see that God deals with sin with judgment and wrath. However, He is also the great deliverer to those who turn to Him in repentance. He is a God of love who offers care who not only says He loves us but demonstrated it on the cross, where He died for our sins and bore His very own wrath in our stead. He died so that we can live as we receive Christ as Savior and Lord.
In the Old Testament, God provided a sacrificial system whereby atonement could be made for sin. However, this sacrificial system was only temporary. It merely looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, who would die on the cross to make a complete substitutionary atonement for sin. The Savior who was promised in the Old Testament is fully revealed in the New Testament. Only foreshadowed in the Old Testament, the ultimate expression of God’s love, sending His Son Jesus Christ, is shown in all its glory in the New Testament. All of this to say that the Bible as a whole, Old and New Testaments, was given “to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). When we study the Testaments, the Bible as a whole, we discover that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God of the Old and New Testaments is the same, never-changing God. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Enjoying the Stuff of Earth Without Being Worldly

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Many a believer has asked, “How to enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly?” Worldly is relating to, or devote to, the temporal world. It’s being concerned with worldly affairs, especially to the neglect of spiritual things. Let me share a biblically oriented definition of being worldly. Being worldly is pursuing the stuff of this earth, bent on selfish gain, replacing God as Lord of one’s life and the focus as one’s greatest love.
Paul equates worldliness with spiritual immaturity (1 Cor 3:1-3). Worldliness is acting in a childish, un-Christlike manner. Worldliness acts contrary to Christlike love, living in pride, anger, self-will, and a heart bent away from God. Paul strongly urges the Corinthians to grow up and mature in the faith so that they will cease worldly behavior. Here’s Paul’s point, growing up and maturing in Christ leads to eliminating worldliness.
A tension all followers of Christ must navigate in their life is embracing a single-minded devotion to Christ while enjoying the wonderful, beautiful, and delightful things, such as people, hobbies, and everything else. The challenge for believers is to keep Christ as the supreme love of their lives while enjoying the things the Lord has brought into their lives. Let me share a couple truths and dangers. The first truth, God is to be first in our life with no close rival. Back in the Old Testament book of Exodus, we read, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3). We are to worship the one true God and nothing or anybody else. In fact, Christ, asked about the greatest commandment, answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Lk 10:27a). We are to give our total devotion to God. We are to love God with all that we have above everything else.
The second truth, there is nothing inherently evil with relationships, hobbies, and stuff. Remember, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). He also declared, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 1:18) and created Eve. God even said after His creative work, “This is very good.” Sin has marred what God has declared good. We sometimes pervert what God has proclaimed as good (relationships and stuff). However, there is nothing inherently evil with relationships, hobbies, and stuff.
Now, let’s look at two dangers. The first danger, People, hobbies, and stuff can lead to idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping anyone or anything in place of God. It’s when we allow the things of earth to be too precious to us and love them too much. Paul writes to his young protégé Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs [sorrows]” (1Tim 6:10). Paul is not saying that desiring wealth is wrong. He does warn that such a pursuit comes with particular temptations. Money is not evil. The “love” of money “is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money, things, hobbies, and relationships as not bad, but our desire for them can lead to trappings that bring sorrow. A fulfilled life does not consist in the abundance of things but in faith and godliness – for both rich and poor alike.
The second danger, the way we relate and prioritize relationships, hobbies, and stuff, can lead to ingratitude. Ingratitude is failing to recognize the kindness and favor of God in providing someone or something. It is a lack of thankfulness to God as the ultimate provider of all things. Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus, “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20). James instructs us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (Jas 1:17a). Consider this psalm, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psa 107:1)! We need to be mindful of God’s good character. See all that we have as gifts from God. We are never truly self-sufficient. We are God’s creation, living in God’s creation, enjoying His creation. All that we have is on loan from God. We need to look at all God has given us to enjoy with a heart of gratitude towards Him.
How, then, do we enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly? In order to enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly, we must ask a simple question that directs our steps. Do the things, such as people, hobbies, and everything else in our life point me toward God or away from God? God sometimes uses His gifts to us, the stuff of earth, to lead us to know God more fully. The goal of the Christ follower is to joyfully embrace God’s good gifts to us without letting them become worldly distractions that steal our affection from Him. We are called to enjoy everything in God and enjoying God in everything. I believe the Scriptures teach us that God created the earth and everything in it for our pleasure. God wants us to enjoy all the beauty and wonder that He has made. However, we must hold onto God’s gifts with open hands and open hearts. We must be willing to let go whenever God decides to take away one of those gifts, whether it be an object, a loved one, or anything else.
God may call you to live with less. God may be calling you to live with abundant blessings as a witness of His goodness to your neighbors, friends, and family. If you daily and earnestly seek the Lord, He will lead you in how to rightly handle your possessions, relationships, and hobbies. Trust Him with your hands wide open, palms titled up in praise for His gifts, always offering them back to Him, believing in your heart that He is good, and desiring to live in His will for you. How do we enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly? We come to know God and love Him with everything. Having done that, we establish in our very souls that God is supreme. We love Him above all. Then, we receive the stuff of earth as a gift and enjoy them for His sake. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

God’s Judgment & Grace

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I have heard people ask, “Is God a God of judgment or of grace?” The answer is both. God is a God of judgment and grace. I understand the question. For instance, it is easy early in our walk with God to feel like the New Testament is a book of love and the Old Testament is a book of judgment. I will not tackle the unity of the Bible as a whole or God’s revelation throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. I will point out that The Old Testament mentions mercy three times more often than the New Testament. Also, there is equal treatment to God’s grace and faithfulness in both Testaments. Both testaments also deal with God’s judgment. All of this to say, God is always the same. Therefore, God is a God of grace and judgment.
Let’s look at an account from Scripture that I believe deals so wonderfully with this topic of God’s judgment and grace. Jesus is having a conversation with a spiritually curious man by the name of Nicodemus. Jesus shares that, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:14-17). Notice the passage uses the word condemned instead of judgment. Jesus did not come to “condemn the world,” but that He “might” “save” the world. This is an interesting picture of judgment and grace.
There is also a sacrificial picture presented to us in John 3. God “gave His only Son” to offer salvation to us. Let’s look back to the sacrifices offered in the temple. When a Hebrew came to the temple with a sacrifice, he did so to deal with the guilt of sin in his life. When, for instance, he came with a lamb, he was not “innocent,” rather the sacrifice of the lamb paid the penalty in his place. Therefore, he was not condemned. God offers grace by sending Christ. When we receive Christ, we are not condemned. This speaks of the substitutional sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. He bore our judgment.
To understand more fully the judgment and the grace of God and our choice, we need to go back to the account Jesus references in our text. Jesus tells Nic, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). What is Jesus talking about here? We have to go back to the original account that is recorded in numbers.
In Numbers 21, we read, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Numbers 21:6-9). What was causing the people to die? The snakes. However, if you look at the context, the snakes were sent as a judgment for sin. It’s fascinating that God tells Moses to have them look at a representation of what was making them die. Perhaps, this account teaches us that we must look at and take seriously and confess our sins. The first step to salvation (receiving God’s grace) is to face and confess our sins (admitting we deserve judgment).
Look back to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is the Gospel in a nutshell. God gave His Son by sending Him into the world and by giving Him over to death. Jesus humbled Himself by coming with the purpose to die for our sins. He died in our stead. We deserved to die due to sin. He did not. He paid a price He did not owe, for each of us who had a price we could not pay. When we “believe” in Him, receiving Him as Savior and Lord, we are given “eternal life.” The believer receives this life now and will enjoy it for all eternity. We either choose to face our sins and be saved by grace, or we prefer to remain in sin and reject Jesus. God is a God of judgment and grace. However, He desires for all of us to choose grace.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, specifically Revelation 14, we read about the message for those who live at the end of days. We discover. Judgment is coming. The proper response to this impending judgment is to be in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Choose grace.
Here is the gospel truth, a judgment is coming, and we deserve it. The good news is that Jesus offers us an escape from condemnation. Jesus is the lamb of God who has died for our sins. If we face our sins by confessing and repenting, we receive salvation, grace, and eternal life. Judgment or grace? The choice is yours! God is a God of judgment and grace, and we have a choice. We deserve judgment but can choose grace because of the extreme act of love of Jesus dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). The bad news, we deserve judgment. The good news, we can choose grace. I hope you will choose grace. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Community Impact

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An overview study of the Book of Ephesians leads to discovering the foundational way of thinking about the church and its call to impact the community where we live. God used His ministry through the Apostle Paul to raise a small body of believers in the thriving city of Ephesus (Acts 19:1-9). When Paul arrived at the city, Ephesus was the capital proconsular of Asia and a center for trade and commerce, with a population of around half a million. Paul’s tenure in Ephesus was marked by his dispute with the artisans in the temple, who made their living selling likenesses of the goddess Diana. A riot broke out, led by a silversmith who convinced the artisans that Paul was a threat to their businesses. Ephesus was not a place friendly to the gospel of Jesus Christ – but Paul stayed the course and was used to develop a church there.
The book’s overall theme is that Christians are all members of Jesus’ “body,” the church. A key verse in Ephesians is Ephesians 2:22, “In him [Jesus] you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” God does not live in a building, but He is present in the Spirit with His people wherever they are.
The first truth we discover in Ephesus about the church is that we are called out for something specific (Eph 1:3-10; 3:3-6). Paul answers the question: What is this church of God’s intent? We, the church, have been called out of the world by God. We have been set apart for a purpose. God has called us out for a specific mission. The church’s mission is to personify the transformed life found in Christ through being a reconciled community that invites others to be reconciled and renewed by coming to Christ and being part of His church (Eph 2:15).
The second truth we discover in Ephesian about the church is that we are called together for something specific (Eph 1:7-8; 2:1, 9, 11-22). Paul answers the question: What is this church like? We, the church, have been made into a new community of reconciliation and social healing. We no longer live as mere individuals but as a community belonging to God and embodying His concerns. We have been called to be a place to belong, find grace and forgiveness, and demonstrate a new way of living together, caring for one another in Christ Jesus. We, the church, are revolutionary disciples who hold in tension a compassionate concern for justice with an evangelistic zeal for people to encounter Christ.
The third truth we discover in Ephesians about the church is that we are called for something specific (Eph 1:13; 2:4-7, 18; 1 Peter 1:23-2:4). Paul answers the question: How will this church function? The church is to function by being in relationship to Christ, allowing God to be at the heart of our community call to be together. We are to function with the understanding that there is no other reason that we are together than to be friends with God inviting others to join us.
The fourth truth I will share that we discover in Ephesians about the church is that we are called to something specific (Eph 1:6, 18; 2:8-10; 3:14-19; 4:11-16). Paul answers the question: Why does this church exist? We, the church, exists to be on mission. We are on the move. We are to participate as being part of God’s presence on earth. We are the body of Christ continuing His incarnational ministry. We are filled with the Spirit of God – His peace and power and love – so that we can be transforming agents in this world – our community.
We, the church, participate in the reign of God through beating the rhythm of being a unique community called to display what life is like as the forgiven and forgiving people of God. We bear witness to the transformational nature of God as well as exemplifying service in this world. We are to be the church in word and deed. Words are not enough, and deeds are not enough. Witness consists of words and deeds. Words are authenticated by incarnational living of the gospel in the everyday lives of Believers.
The church is not simply a gathering of people and a sender of select missionaries. We are the sent ones. We are the church on the move impacting homes, streets, neighborhoods, and communities. Community impact begins with you and me answering God’s call to bring His love and message into the places we live, work, go to school, shop, and on and on. If you see a need, you are the answer. Pray, Obey. Be Christ in the midst of the need. You don’t need permission to be the church. We are the church, called out for a purpose, called together for a plan, called for loving God and others, called to be God’s redemptive agent in the world today. We, the church, are called to know God and make Him known, making a kingdom impact in our community. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Biblical Worship

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Worship is derived from an old English word that means “worthship,” signifying the worthiness of an individual to receive special honor in accordance with his/her worth. Therefore, Christian worship acknowledges that God is worthy of the highest praise due to His matchless worth. In the Bible, we find two principal terms (Hebrew – saha, Greek – proskyneo), which emphasize the act of prostration, the doing of obeisance, or curtsy. There is no more humble nor vulnerable position than to lay prone. In fact, to lay in such a manner before a person shows the utmost trust. To obeisance or curtsy, someone is a sign of genuine respect. Inserting these word pictures into the previously mentioned definition of worship brings greater clarity to the true meaning of worship. Worship is honoring God by expressing trust and respect toward Him through acknowledging His matchless worth.
Worship is expressed through presenting our lives to God as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). This is done both through a commitment to outward obedience and inward attitudes, which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in and through a person’s life, holiness.
Worship is expressed in numerous ways. A life lived for the Lord is an act of worship. The most basic acts of worship in a personal and corporate manner are the reading and exposition of Scripture, prayers, and the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as well as the observance of the sacraments. I do not believe that true worship of the individual nor corporate worship is limited by structure so long as they fall within the framework of biblical standards.
At Crosswinds, we believe God has called us to know Him and make Him known. Therefore, we strive to communicate the gospel and worship in a way that reflects this reality. We desire for worship to be expressed from the individual to God. Since all people are different, we strive for an open and honest expression of worship that is both meaningful to the individual and not distracting to others, especially those who have yet to make a decision for Jesus Christ. In our “worship” services, you will find people raising their hands (Psalm 28:2; 63:4), clapping their hands (Psalm 47:1), kneeling (Psalm 95:6), singing (Psalm 30:4; Col 3:16), as well as standing in quiet reflection and meditation (Psalm 77:12, 119:15).
It is also noteworthy that, like the worship of the early Israelites, we strive to use our senses, believing that the example of the early church was in like manner. The Israelites used sight through the beauty and symbolism of the tabernacle, where every color and hue had a meaning. They engaged their hearing through the use of music. The Bible records many instances of music used as worship as well as many songs. They used touch by literally touching the head of an animal to be sacrificed, symbolizing the fact that it took their place. They used smell through the scent of the sacrifices burning. They used taste through the feasts, which were celebrations and memorials, where much of the food was symbolic. We strive to follow this example through utilizing technology such as video, a live band, and the sort and other sources such as a creative stage with backdrops, refreshments in the lobby, and many other means to engage people in a worship experience that connects them to God and one another.
Since worship is honoring God by expressing trust and respect toward Him through acknowledging His matchless worth, God’s church, by definition, is a worshiping community. The apostle Peter wrote, “…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). When the church gathers, they are to do so in a worshiping attitude, which both honors God and signifies to those who have yet to make a decision for Christ that God is real and relevant and desires to be in right relationship with them. It ought to be noted that the church has from the very beginning gathered regularly for worship and is commanded to do so (Heb 10:25).
Worship is to be expressed both personally and corporately, and both are to be done in a manner that is represented by a life surrendered to the Lord and actions representative of such a life. The importance of personal and corporate worship cannot be overstated. Both allow the individual as well as the “Body of Christ,” His Church, to grow in knowing God and making Him known. Or otherwise stated, both allow the individual and God’s Church to grow in their intimacy with the Lord, community with other Believers, and influence on those who are yet to believe. Therefore, worship is to be central to the life of the Believer and that of the church, being expressed daily through personal time alone with God as well as regularly gathering together with fellow Believers. Worship is to be expressed in the way we live our lives each and every day. God’s worth is beyond comprehension. Therefore, in awe, we are to offer what is due Him, from first to last, giving our all in honoring Him by expressing trust and respect toward Him through acknowledging His matchless worth. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

What is a Wesleyan?

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When people realize that Crosswinds Church is part of a denomination, The Wesleyan Church, there is usually a question that follows. What is a Wesleyan? This is a good question that I will try to answer as accurately and briefly as possible.
The Wesleyan Church is an orthodox, protestant denomination from the evangelical tradition. It is organized for worldwide outreach. Wesleyans believe that faith in Jesus Christ brings one into an eternal life-giving relationship with God. This life lived by the power of His Spirit empowers us for witness and assurance of life eternal in paradise with our Savior. Life in Christ gives us strength for today and hope into the never-ending future.
Our name is in honor of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, whose emphasis on knowing God and making Him known, growing in ever-increasing Christlikeness, is our example. There are currently around four thousand Wesleyan churches in over forty nations worldwide. The Wesleyan Church can be traced back to a split with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1843 over the issue of slavery. Wesleyans united around abolishing slavery. The leaders of what later became The Wesleyan Church saw a need to spread scriptural holiness over the land and secure justice for all people. In addition to social causes like slavery, Wesleyans emphasize a deepening experience with God.
In keeping with our heritage, The Wesleyan Church today emphasizes applying the Christian experience to social issues. Discrimination and prejudice are key topics of concern, whether applied to race, gender, age, or other areas of life. The foundation for our concern in this area is Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Wesleyans have been at the forefront of the egalitarian debate, insisting that women are fully equal with men with regard to their position and function in the church.
Wesleyans believe in one God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Savior of all men and women who put their faith in Him alone for eternal life. We believe that those who receive new life in Christ are called to be holy (Christlike) in character, love, purpose, and priorities. We can only live this way by being filled with the Lord’s Spirit. We believe in the Bible and seek to establish our faith and actions on its teachings. We believe God wills for people everywhere to know Him and that the purpose of the church is to make Him known through sharing Christ’s love and message with others.
Wesleyans believe our faith applies to every area of our lives and communities. Our call to Christlikeness (holiness), knowing God and making Him known bound all Wesleyans together as a diverse family of multiple nationalities, races, languages, and cultures. The Wesleyan Church continues to be a catalyst for individual and social transformation.
Much more could be written about The Wesleyan Church’s history, beliefs, and vision. However, I believe this gives us an honest and straightforward glimpse of where we have come from and who we are today. Wesleyans are followers of Christ, being changed by Him, and committed to living on mission with Him. Soli Doe Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Discerning God’s Will

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When we come to Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord, we surrender our will for His will. Before coming to Christ, we usually did what felt best. One of the benefits of coming to faith in Christ is His leading us in our daily living. Knowing God’s will for our lives at times might seem like a mystical adventure that is beyond the normal Christian’s reach. However, this way of thinking is contrary to what we find in Scripture. Christ taught,  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7). Then, we have this from the Book of James, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). We, believers, are encouraged to ask, seek, and knock in confidence, knowing God will answer our prayers.
When we don’t know what to do, we are to ask God. Notice, “who gives generously to all without reproach.” The Apostle Paul, writing to the faith community in Rome, addresses this very issue. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2). Here’s the point. Doing God’s will is not some super-Christian feat; it’s what God would have any everyday believer do.
So, how do we discern God’s will? How do we make choices that honor God? I like the imagery of a telescope to help me get a handle on the process of renewing my mind and, as a result, discern God’s will for my life. A refracting telescope has two or more lenses. I believe, for us to discern God’s will for our life we need to look through four lenses. These lenses are Foundation in Christ, ABC’s of Christianity, Model of Christianity, and Unique Role and Call. To fully understand what God’s will is for your life, takes a look through all four lenses. The problem is that all too often, the only lens that gets a look through is number four, Unique Role and Call. This is a significant error. The Christian who does not carry the DNA of a Christian will never be a healthy part of the “Body of Christ,” understanding his or her unique role and call. This leads to frustration and burnout.
The key to discerning God’s will is to look through the first three lenses (Foundation, ABC’s, and Model) before looking through the last lens (Unique Role and Call). I am going to give a summary of each lens. I know most of us are wired to like a sequential list, but here the telescope imaginary begins to break down a bit. What I am about to share is fluid. Think of it this way. Discerning God’s will is more a value-based journey than a task to be mastered. With that all said, let’s look through the lenses of our telescope to focus on God’s plan for our life.
If we are going to have a renewed mind, discerning God’s will, we have to reset our understanding of our foundation. The first lens is our Foundation. Jesus is our true foundation (1 Cor 3:11). He is the light that guides us to a straight path whenever we are in darkness.
We also need to understand the second lens that is the ABCs of Christianity. “A” is the Great Commission and Great Commandment. A disciple is a believer living out the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) and the Greatest Commandment (Matt 22:37-39). “B” is gaining a kingdom vision. Much is written about this kingdom vision throughout Scripture. Paul describes the Christian life or presenting a kingdom vision in Philippians 3:10-14. “C” is kingdom values or having a holistic Bible approach. The psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). God’s Word directs our steps. We need to know the Bible and walk in its truth.
Then, we have the third lens that is the Model of Christianity. Paul writes, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2).  Jesus is our ultimate model to follow. If you want to know what to do, start by finding out what Jesus did. Also, look to church history. For instance, the picture of the early church described in Acts 2:41-47.
Fourthly, we have the lens of our Unique Role and Call. We can understand our call in two tiers that we need to keep in alignment. We have our primary or common calling. We are to be disciples, who make disciples, wherever we are (Matt 28:18-20). Then we have our secondary call or callings. As Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). A believer must keep his or her unique secondary calling aligned to his or her primary calling to make disciples who make disciples. (2 Tim 2:2) This is true whether we are pastors, teachers, students, clerks, moms, and dads…you get the picture. It is also important to know your gifts, abilities, and passions (1 Cor 12, Rom 12:1-8, Eph 4:11-13). We all are unique. We are all called to make disciples. How that looks in your life and mine may be quite different.
How do we discern God’s will? We look through the four lenses. Then, we prayerfully and with godly counsel decide. It is essential to allow God’s Word to renew our thinking and then, prayerfully and with godly counsel, let God’s Spirit direct our steps. To this, let me add several principles. Believe God will guide you. Surrender your will to God’s will. Listen carefully for God’s voice. Wait on the Lord. And, obey when God and wherever God leads you.
I wonder what it would look like if, for just one day, every follower of Christ throughout the world would live each moment of just one day on mission with the Lord. After all, a disciple is a person who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus. To do God’s will is not for the Super-Christian; it’s what God would have any everyday believer do. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!