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Teaching Truth for Transformation

Acts 2:41 – Method or Message – Church Growth

Acts 2:41

Method or Message – Church Growth

Acts 2:41 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added.

The context of this verse is Peter’s preaching at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost or Weeks, 50 days after Passover.  The people were questioning what was done and Peter stands up and boldly proclaims Jesus as Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  It was this Jesus they crucified (2:23) as a nation.  The Gentiles carried out the crucifixion.  The Messiah was put to death, but physically arose 3 days later and Peter quotes extensively from the Old Testament to prove this, as well as stating the Apostles and others were witnesses (2:32).  Then Peter commands them to repent (2:38) and be baptized, as the expression of repentance and faith in the Messiah.  It was these words and others, he exhorted them to be saved (2:40).  3,000 believed.  There was no methodological means, but the preaching of truth.

What about today?  What about the current “Church growth” movements?  Many have their own strategy, ideas, techniques or fads of how to grow your Churches… in numbers.  Many others flock to hear these individuals whose Churches have grown exponentially over a short period of time to see “how they did it so we can copy it.”  It should make us think.  Why are we so focused on the method over the message?  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There should be a plan, prayer and a strategy.  We see this in Scripture with Nehemiah or where the church and the Lord called out people to go, like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 12:25-13:3.  But we see a drastic and dramatic difference from what Scripture says to what is done today.  We are more focused on the method than the message!  We think numbers equal converts and that is not necessarily true.  Numbers are fine if they are true Christians, but we’re not called to make numbers, but disciples, Matthew 28:19.

The problem is we equate “God’s blessing” with high numbers and in our era of immediate gratification, if we can get lots of members quickly, then we’re doing great and “God is blessing.”  High numbers may be a sign of God’s blessing, but that’s not always true.  There are many false teachers who have tens of thousands going to “their churches.”  We call them “successful.”  God calls them heretics because they proclaim a false gospel, Galatians 1:6-9.

In the early Church was prayer and fellowship in the Apostles doctrine, Acts 2:42, in context in anticipation of the Kingdom. There was truth, love, commitment and community focused on God, His glory and His plan with the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We believe it’s “up to us” to grow the Church, when it has little to do with us, but Him who uses His children to proclaim His word and pray, because He is the Lord of the harvest.  He changes the heart and He grows His Church.  We are to be faithful to keep His message pure and proclaim that message and leave the results to Him.  So we must ask, do we as individuals focus on the method or the message?  Do we as the Church focus on the method or the message?  If the method eclipses the message, the message will suffer…

2 Timothy 4:5-6 – Dying with Purpose

2 Timothy 4:6-7

Dying with Purpose

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The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with tombstones

 

 

2 Timothy 4:6-7 – For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

Death is part of life because of Adam’s sin, Romans 5:12-19 and it is sad when we have to say goodbye to those we love.  Young Timothy was reading the last letter from his mentor, friend and teacher, the Apostle Paul, as soon after Paul would be beheaded for the faith.  Paul wrote this while in a Roman prison, 2 Timothy 1:16, 2:9.  Paul likens his death as a drink offering, one of the offerings done at the Tabernacle or Temple as an act of worship towards God and thankfulness and faith for His provision.  Paul knew he was about to die and he was ready.

 

Many people fear death for a variety of reasons and if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you should fear death.  If you don’t, you are very foolish for the burning pain of the Lake of Fire awaits you for eternity.  Everyone dies.  There are young, elderly and those who are sick who want to die with “dignity.”  Societies idea of dignity varies, some perverted, like helping someone die, and some good, like bringing loved ones around the person who is about to step into eternity so they can see them one last time.  But the main way to die with dignity is to know you died with purpose!

 

Paul “lists” 3 things that gave him the strength to die with dignity.  The first is he fought the good fight.  He didn’t waste his time on meaningless fights as in battling with foolish arguments for mere argumentation.  He did not fight in the wrong way, but the good way.  He did not fight out of pride or a desire to prove something, but fought for God’s glory and picked his battles wisely.  He trusted God for the outcome of his life and his battles. Second, he uses the example of a race, which he often does and said he had completed it.  He had run the race God set before him.  While he was human like the rest of us, he ran by faith to the end, where he would get his reward.  Each Christian’s race is different, meeting different people and going different places.  Run the race God sets before you. Third, he kept the faith.  Yes, he had faith and walked by faith, but he kept the faith, the entire body of truth revealed by God in His word.  He did not waiver from God’s word, but though he was human, he persevered to the end.  It’s interesting to note the Greek form of the 3 verbs mentioned has the idea of a completed action with continuing results.  This is obvious, since we are benefiting today from his words written so long ago.  Will our lives have continuing results as well?  No life is a waste and Paul lived for God’s glory, died for His glory too.

 

We can do the same.  Paul lived a life dedicated to the Lord in faith.  Whatever race God has put before you, whether a parent, student, businessman, teacher, pastor or janitor, you can run the race by faith for the glory of God.  You can serve Him there as well as in your Church because wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you say, as a Christian, you represent Him.  By faith, we too can fight the good fight, finish our race and keep the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  When we do that, we will not only live with dignity, but die with purpose.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – Where do you get your doctrine?

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Where do you get Your Doctrine?img_0342

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

Paul writes his last letter to his pastor friend, disciple and man of God, Timothy.  This letter records Paul’s last written words we have in God’s word.  Paul tells Timothy what a man of God looks like and where the man of God gains his strength – the Scriptures.  He then exhorts young Timothy to “Preach the word…” and be ready at all times to proclaim that truth, 4:2 because a time will come when no one wants to hear it, 4:3-4.  Paul focuses on the Word of God – the Bible, in context the Old Testament and by implication, what was being written by the Apostles in the New.  The Scripture is the one thing necessary to become the man or woman God we are supposed to be.  This is where we get our doctrine.

 

What about you?  Where do you look to be conformed to the image of Christ and be equipped for every good work?  Programs, Christian psychology, fads, gimmicks, books, music, 4 step programs to become a better Christian and many other things are used today. Some have their place, but none of them will make you a mature Christian!  Only studying the Bible will do this.  Why?  For one, that’s what it says.  Secondly, when we study the word of God we get to know the God of the word.  When we get to know Him we learn to depend upon Him more and He conforms us to the image of Christ, based on the doctrine we learn and believe.

 

Doctrine means “teachings.”  It refers to objective truths we believe.  While there is true and false doctrine, the truth is, if we “get” our doctrine from anything outside the Bible, we are asking for trouble and will fall into error.  Paul says the Scripture is sufficient to make us mature.  Peter says something similar in 2 Peter 1:2-4.  We should be involved in a local church, we can learn from others and should read good books written by reliable teachers, but God will never lead us in the wrong direction from His word.  He cannot.  It’s against His nature!  So many today get their doctrine primarily from a feeling, an experience, someone else or something else other than Scripture.  By this, they say the Bible is not sufficient.  Then they wonder why there is no balance, foundation, power, strength or purpose in their life.  I’m not saying if you know doctrine, life will be easy or you will understand everything.  When you know what the Bible says, you discover there will be problems in life, but you also know to an extent, why and that God has a reason for all things and will never leave you alone in them.

 

True doctrine will lead you to true worship, praise and service the Lord more deeply and sincerely.  The deeper you dive into the sea of Scripture, the higher you soar in worship and praise.  The more you know God, the more you see Him for Who He is and for what He has done and the more love you have for Him, therefore you worship, praise and serve Him with passion and conviction because your doctrine, knowledge and love for Him grows because you learn of His love for you.  True worship is about the God we are honoring with our words and lives.  This is part of the good work we are equipped for, because we turned to Scripture alone (and not our experiences) to find our doctrine.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – Conviction and Confidence

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Conviction and Confidence

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

 

Paul addresses his last letter to his young pastor and disciple, Timothy.  Paul was going to be martyred soon for the faith.  His last exhortation to this young man and his friend focuses on God’s word.  While the context refers to the Old Testament, it also refers to the things written in the first century by the Apostles, known as the New Testament.  He tells Timothy that all of God’s word is inspired, or “exhaled from God” that is, through men with their own personality to write what He wanted without error in the original texts and we have excellent copies today.  Paul says the Bible is sufficient for a man, or woman of God to be equipped for every good work in this life.

 

Paul wanted young Timothy to have the conviction that God’s word is true, adequate, authoritative, applicable and useful.  He wanted Timothy to have the conviction that the Bible alone is GOD’S WORD and the confidence it was what it claimed to be.  While other resources are useful, the Bible stands alone!  When a preacher or teacher believes God’s word to be what it is, he has the confidence to proclaim it without fear because he knows it is the means which God uses to change the hearts of people.  This is not having confidence in oneself, but in the One who has always been and will always be.

 

Do we have this confidence in God’s word?  Do we believe it is what it says it is or do we think we need something more?  While medicine is needed at times, do we think we need more pills?  Do we need a “new revelation” or a “feeling” from God?  God gives no new revelation, but illumination out of His word.  So many Christians are powerless today or have fallen into sin because we don’t have the conviction that God’s word is from Him.  I include myself.  If we had the conviction and confidence that the Bible is something God wrote and is sufficient for all of life, our lives would be drastically changed!  May He grant that to us!  Even if we don’t fully understand it, it is still God’s word and we should obey it.

 

For most of us however, including myself, our confidence is usually in ourselves, our plans, our intellect, wisdom, money, desires or goals.  We leave out our Lord and His word, though not completely at times.  We want to do things “our way” and sometimes God says “ok” and we fall flat on our faces, sometimes literally.  But don’t mistake conviction and confidence someone has in the Bible as arrogance, pride or stubbornness.  No, not at all!  We must hold fast to it for as the old saying goes, “If we do not stand for something, we will fall for anything.”  Only when we have the conviction God’s word is His word, then we will have the confidence to proclaim it and live it out by His grace and through His power without fearing the consequences.

 

2 Peter 1:20-21 – But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Sorry for not posting recently

Hi everyone… sorry for not updating you sooner, but things got busy with Christmas, New Years and planning my wedding, so I will get back to posting as soon as I can :).

2 Peter 3:15-16 – How to Interpret Scripture

2 Peter 3:15-16

How to Interpret Scripture

 

2 Peter 3:15-16 – …as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

 

Peter wrote about false teachers and the return of Christ.  At the end of his epistle or letter, Peter tells his readers Paul wrote of these things too, which he calls Scripture, which the false teachers twisted.  The question arises, if there is a wrong way to interpret Scripture, then how do we properly interpret it?

 

The first thing we must remember is that the Bible is God’s book and only He can give us understanding, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16.  Unless you are a Christian or the Holy Spirit is working in your life, you cannot understand the Bible.  If you are a disobedient Christian, don’t expect God to speak to you unless it is for conviction of sin.  Next come 5 principles for which I will use the acronym G.L.I.T.C.H.

 

G – Grammar.  God used written language to communicate.  Language has rules, structure and form.  Each language uses figures of speech, poetry and historical narrative to communicate, including the 3 languages the Bible was written in, Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament and Greek for the New.

 

L – Literal.  God’s word is to be taken literally.  This means we take into account figures of speech, phrases used in the culture of that day, but if it says David was the King of Israel, which it does, then it means David was the King of Israel.  When it says God is our rock, we know it is a metaphor to speak of Him being our strength.

 

I – Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible.  God “breathed out” His word through men who wrote it, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  In the original writings or autographs were inerrant or without error.  They were also infallible or incapable of having error, because it was from God.  How we view Scripture will partly determine how we interpret it.

 

T – Time and Prayer.  One thing many people forget or neglect is that it takes time and prayer to understand God’s word.  You cannot learn it overnight, nor understand all it contains.  Because it came from God, we must seek His guidance and insight to understand His truth.  Be patient and ask Him to teach you.

 

C – Context.  This is a major one.  Context is the way words and phrases are put together to form meaning.  There is immediate context, like the chapter and book or letter you are reading, then overall context which is the entire Bible. The Bible interprets itself as you compare truth with truth.  God wants us to understand His word!  If we take Scripture out of context, we will say God said something He did not say!

 

H – History and Culture.  The Bible is a theological book written in a historical context.  It’s a book about God and His work in history.  Without an understanding of history and culture during the time the Bible was written, which you can get from Scripture and other wonderful resources, you won’t understand certain things.  Yes, God can “speak” to us without this knowledge, but we will hear Him more clearly if we learn to properly interpret His word and keep us from error.

 

These principles will help you to properly interpret the Bible to learn what God meant when He inspired men to write it and keep you from having a G.L.I.T.C.H. in your thinking.  Yes the purpose of properly interpreting the Bible is to know God more intimately, but we cannot do that if we do not get back to the meaning of the original writer.  When we start with the original meaning of a text, we will better put the Bible together as 1 book, with 1 central theme – redemption of fallen humanity through the Messiah.  While there is only 1 proper interpretation of a passage, there are many applications.  Today, we must learn to properly interpret the Bible because so much teaching is based on “feeling” or is perceived “need based” rather than Biblically based.  To o prepare for the future and live our lives for His glory and properly know God, we must learn to correctly interpret His word.

2 Corinthians 11:2 – Godly Jealousy

2 Corinthians 11:2

Godly Jealousy

 

2 Corinthians 11:2 – For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

 

Paul wrote to a church that was a “thorn” in his side.  They had many problems and were much like the church today, yet Paul loved them and told them the truth.  Paul is concerned with their faithfulness to Christ and purity in Christ and they were being swayed by false teachers away from the truth.  He told them he loved them and he is jealous for them with a “godly jealousy.”  Is God a jealous God? Yes.  He said to Israel in Exodus 20:5 in regards to the command not to make idols, “you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.  For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…”  Wow!  Do we think of that?  Some have taken this out of context or totally misunderstood it.

 

When we think of jealousy, we see “green” and think of an obsessive person who is angry, insecure and is afraid they will lose what they have, are threatened or have a sense of “entitlement,” that they deserve something.  We don’t think jealousy can be a good thing but it is a characteristic of God Himself.  God’s jealousy and Paul’s, was based in holy love!  Paul wanted the Christians in Corinth to be pure in their doctrine and practice because he wanted them to be pure before their husband, Christ.  We, as the bride of Christ, should be holy and pure and that’s what Paul wanted.  That is also what God wanted for His people Israel and for us today too.

 

There are 2 kinds of jealousy: 1) Jealousy of someone or 2) Jealousy for someone.  There is a big difference.  Jealousy of someone is based on pride; a desire to control, obsession or wanting what he/she/they has and is sinful.  There’s no trust.  Jealousy for someone, based in holy love, means you want what is best and you will do what is necessary for him/her/them in order to bring it to pass.  This includes protecting, providing, encouraging and rebuking, which is what God does with His people and what Paul was speaking of.  This godly jealousy includes a deep desire to make sure the other person is pure, honest and truthful because you care for their well being.  This kind of jealousy, because it’s based in holy love, doesn’t lower itself to manipulative tactics, control or false guilt.  It realizes others have their own wills, lives and decisions to make but is deeply hurt when someone sins and hurts their own life.

 

All of this is because of love.  That is the key to godly jealousy.  The husband, who sees the potential for his wife being placed into a dangerous situation at work with her male boss, is wise to speak up.  The wife or girlfriend who sees her husband or boyfriend being flirted with and jumps in to let the other female know she has no place in doing that does the right thing.  While this can also be from the sinful jealousy, godly jealousy protects the one(s) loved!  This is not out of insecurity or lack of trust, but standing for the truth, purity and because of holy love and a commitment made.

 

What about us?  Do we want the body of Christ to be pure as Paul did?  Do we love others with godly jealousy or sinful jealousy?  Sin distorts that which is pure into something destructive!  Do we love as God loves and as Paul loved?  Think of the impact this would make in the lives of families, relationships, with friends, those in cults and others if we were not sinfully jealous, but passionately loved in holiness with a godly jealousy.

2 Corinthians 10:12 – Comparison and Contrast

2 Corinthians 10:12

Comparison and Contrast

 

2 Corinthians 10:12 – For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

 

Paul was speaking of false apostles whom he would not compare himself to, not out of pride, but humility because he would not promote himself as these false teachers did.  These individuals boasted in that they set up a standard they met and then told others to see how “spiritual” or godly they were.  This of course was an attempt to draw people away from the truth to their lies.  Paul says these individuals who set up their own standards that they can meet and then boast about it are not wise.

 

This is pride.  If I set up my standards I can meet, then I am ok.  This makes others feel small when they cannot reach these standards people set up.  This is legalism, setting up unbiblical rules in place of salvation by grace through faith.  This is deadly, emotionally, mentally, physically because it is deadly spiritually.  But there is an application to this Christians and non-Christians fall in to.

 

So many compare themselves with others in regards to intellect, finances, physical ability, knowledge, strength, talent, ability to teach and more.  We say, “I can’t do this as well as…”  We say, “I don’t have as much (money, knowledge, understanding or ability” as…”  How many of us have said these things?  Everyone.  We have all compared or contrasted ourselves with others.  This is not humility, but pride.  It is the pride that says, “God hasn’t provided what I need to live.”  This pride says, “God has made a mistake and didn’t give me what I think I deserve.”  While usually compare ourselves and “beat ourselves up” in the process, one form of pride, sometimes we do the opposite and become more prideful in a different way.  This is when we compare and contrast ourselves with those who may have less education or money than we do and say, “They don’t have what I have and therefore they are less than me.”

 

This kind of comparison and contrast too is not wise.  We should compare and contrast ourselves with someone, but not who we normally think.  We need to compare and contrast ourselves with Jesus.  We need to ask, if you are a Christian, how we compare to Him?  Are we living a life pleasing to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit?  If you are not a Christian and compare yourself with Christ you find He is holy and you are not, He is pure and you are not, He is righteous and you are not.  While any Christian sees these same truths, a Christian has admitted his/her sinfulness, repented from sin and turned by faith alone in Jesus alone for salvation.  Only then, as a result of believing the truth, does He cover us in His righteousness and we live accordingly.  This is a wise comparison and contrast.

 

Colossians 2:6-7 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – Passion

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Passion

 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

 

Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth for the third time; see 2:4 for reference to the “2nd” letter.  This is a personal letter for him as he has to defend himself from false teachers and their accusations, not for his sake, but for the sake of the gospel, 10:12-18.  He deals with many issues and the context is about false apostles boasting in themselves rather than in the Lord.  In these 2 verses, Paul tells these Christians it is Christ’s love that compels them.  “Compel” means, “to hold together, confine, secure, to hold fast,” Vines Complete Expository Dictionary, p. 124.  He says it is because of Jesus’ love and refers to the Atonement, where Christ died in our place not only to save us, but so we would no longer live for ourselves but for Him.

 

Paul tells them why he is doing what he is doing – Christ’s love.  This is not referring to our love for Christ, but His love for us expressed in His death in our behalf.  The effect of Christ’s love for Paul and for the Corinthians, led Paul to write these things.  That was Paul’s passion.  In Philippians 3:10 Paul says, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death…” and you can read the context.  The passion of Paul’s life was to know Christ because he understood His love for him!  What is passion?  The dictionary defines it as “strong emotion or enthusiasm, object arousing passion” and I would add it is something that drives us to do or say something or go somewhere.

 

A man who is passionate about “winning” the heart of a woman, does anything to show her his compassion and sincerity.  He believes his love for her will be the start of their relationship holding fast and she responds.  Paul’s passion was the love Jesus had for him!  That drove him to have a deep desire to know Christ, to write what he wrote, to say what he said, to preach what he preached, to go where he went and to make disciples of all nations.  The reason Paul had a deep knowledge of Christ’s love for him is because he knew how much he had been forgiven of.  “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” 1 Timothy 1:15.  “Chief” means “first” and Paul thought of himself as the worst sinner in the world, not in false humility but because was “a blasphemer, a persecutor and an insolent (violently arrogant) man…,” 1Timothy 1:13, “less than the least of all the saints,” Ephesians 3:8 and “the least of the apostles… because I persecuted the church of God,” 1 Corinthians 15:9.

 

What is our passion?  Is it to know Jesus and make Him known?  Is it because we understand His love and sacrifice for us?  Is our desire to obey Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us?  Are we living for ourselves or “for Him who died… and rose again?”  If our passion is anything other than His love for us, then our passion is misplaced, though it will be expressed differently in people’s lives, depending on their calling and vocation.  We develop this passion by praying, studying and discovering what and who He has saved us from and saved us to, through His Passion on the cross.

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