Sharing Jesus Part Three

Sharing Jesus Part 3

Real Discipleship

Over the course of the last six weeks, we have been laying a foundation for our future together as a congregation. We talked about prayer being the center of how we face forward and move in accordance with Holy Spirit’s guidance as we follow Jesus. For two weeks we talked about the inspiration, authority, interpretation, and application of the Bible in our lives. The Bible is the supreme authority to guide our lives and our ministry. Since it was written by God through the work of people, we can have assurance that the Bible will never lead us astray. However, we must read the Bible in the correct historical context to the people it was originally written to based on the original language it was written in before we ever think about how it applies to our own lives. When we read the Bible and study it, we always, always, always start with “what does the Bible say?” We do not get to read our own ideas, our own standards, our own presuppositions into what the Bible says. We don’t read our politics, traditions, or preferences into the Bible either. We start with this is what the Bible says, and if we don’t understand what it says, we can use resources to help us understand. We never get to say, “the Bible says, but…” We need to keep our butts our of it.

We have two guiding principles. We are never called to condemn anyone. Jesus came to save the world because the world is already condemned, we are here as his hands and feet to share Jesus love for humanity that they may come to him to be saved. Even when we use the scriptures to bring correction into the lives of fellow believers, we never use the Bible as a weapon. We do everything in love. Love is the rule of the day. Love God, Love others, Love one another are the three great commandments. It is only in the context of our relationship with God as our Father, Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and the indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide that we live our lives according to God’s standards, not the world’s standards. The Bible itself should shape our entire worldview, so that we live lives that are set apart as a beacon to draw people to Jesus, not drive them away.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the command that we have to make disciples, our Great Commission, Jesus said

‘Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’

Matthew 28:18-20

He had also said in Acts 1:8 after telling his disciples to expect Holy Spirit to come,

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”’

Acts 1:8

Part of what we discussed last week is the fact that Holy Spirit is with us whenever we are talking about our faith experience with another person, so we rely on him for the words to speak. However, it is usually far better to listen than to speak. If someone knows you care and you are listening attentively, you might be very surprised about how much they really end up sharing with you. Talk about a great opportunity to share how God has been walking with you in your life!

We over complicate how we witness, give testimony, or share our faith so much in our minds that many times it causes us not to try at all. Remember, sharing how God has walked with us through our lives can be as easy as sharing the details of eating at your favorite restaurant. If you have walked with God for any period of time, you have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness. My friend, Rick Grace, just last weekend called these your pivotal circumstances. My story may seem extraordinary to some, or your story may seem uneventful to you, but there is a story there if you take the time to reflect on it.

However, making disciples goes far beyond just getting someone to believe in Jesus. Making disciples is about teaching and instruction, about walking a path of faith, about living a life that reflects God’s glory as we become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Roman 8:28-29 says,

‘And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’

Romans 8:28-29

Our purpose is to be conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Right doing through right learning about who Christ is and what, within the context of our relationship with Him, God expects from his people is what being set apart is. Over and over again through the scriptures God gives instruction and direction about how his people are set apart by how they act.

Jesus said,

‘“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ‘           

John 13:34-35

Paul says to us,

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ‘

Romans 12:1-2

And he told Timothy,

‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Through the power of the Spirit we learn to live lives set apart for God through the instruction of his Word. Our actions and attitudes are what define us before people, so it is our actions and our attitudes that become conformed to the way God wishes us to be living out godly lives in accordance with Christ’s righteousness covering us. All of this is gained through proper discipleship, as we make disciples by teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded his apostles.

            True discipleship is not what happens on Sunday morning or even at the our Bible study groups. True discipleship is a one-on-one personal walk with another believer who is more mature than we are or those who are mature spiritually walking and teaching someone newer or less mature in the faith. A prime example of what discipleship in the church should look like is the relationship between a sponsor and a sponsee in a twelve-step program like AA. In AA, a sponsor is someone who has worked the 12-steps, is continually sober, and living in such a way as to be a good example of sober living. It is a person the sponsee wants to pattern their life after. This is what a disciple of a rabbi in the Jewish culture did. Jesus’s core disciples lived with him, worked with him, ate with him, slept near him, watched everything he did and taught, and tried to pattern their lives after him. His disciples experienced true discipleship walking with Jesus. Discipleship doesn’t happen on our own or in a vacuum.

            According to the book, Biblical Discipleship, a disciple is a person who places him or herself under the instruction of an expert or master with the goal of becoming like the person they are following. There are four key elements to biblical discipleship…

  1. Discipleship is a process that happens to a person, it takes place at the individual level.
  2. Discipleship requires a relationship with someone else.
  3. Discipleship requires an expert teacher. The Expert Teacher is Jesus himself and we have his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one we are following, and we need a growing understanding of who he is, what he taught, and what he expects from his followers. We find all this in the scriptures.
  4. Discipleship has a defined goal or destination. Jesus expects his follower to grow in their obedience to him until they finally become like him.

This is what Paul meant when he told the believers in Ephesus,

‘when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ‘

Ephesians 4:21-24

As we grow in our knowledge, love, and obedience toward Jesus as our Savior, we are being active in our path of discipleship. As we move forward as a congregation, following the Lord’s will for us making disciples throughout our community and engaging in or supporting opportunities to make disciple throughout the world, these are the actions we need to be taking in actively making disciples of those already here and those who are coming.

            Maybe through the course of the last few weeks, you’ve realized you aren’t following Jesus quite the way you thought you were, or maybe you need to recommit to following Jesus closer, or maybe you have yet to commit your life to Jesus and start the process of discipleship. or maybe you’ve been a mature Christian for a while now, but you have not been active in making disciples. However, maybe you have been active in making disciples and now you are looking for ways to help others to learn from your experience. Pray for God to bring you in step with what his Holy Spirit is doing, so you can be a part of building his kingdom.

Sharing Jesus Part Two

Sharing Jesus Part Two

Do we really think about the fact that every person we encounter is potentially going to spend an eternity in hell if they don’t first hear and then believe the Gospel? We also talked about the top 6 reasons most believers are hesitant about sharing their faith in Jesus with others. When it comes to asking people to decide in their own lives regarding faith, it becomes a bigger wall for many people. We can sometimes do okay telling people how God has worked in our own lives but asking them to commit their life to God is an insurmountable task for us. As I said before, not every believer is an evangelist in the sense of Billy Graham or the apostle Paul. However, it is the job, the Great Commission, of every believer to make disciples. Making disciples starts with sharing our faith wherever and whenever we have or create an opportunity. Those opportunities are most effective within our one-on-one relationships with people.

Speaking of one-on-one relationships with people, do you know Jesus and Moses spend a lot of time together now. They are really great friends. One day while walking on the beach, Moses said to Jesus, “You know what really moved me?” “What?” Jesus replied. “It’s when you walked on water. That’s when I came to understand that you were truly the Son of God. Do you remember that?”

Jesus replied, “How could I forget? It was my most famous miracle. It made ALL four Gospels!” Moses asked if he could do it again and Jesus easily obliged.

But after getting a way off from the shoreline, he started sinking. Never needing to learn how to swim, He desperately thrashed about using all his energy to stay afloat and just barely make it to the shore alive. With Jesus gasping for breath, Moses ran up to him and frantically asked, “My Lord! My Lord! What happened?”

Jesus replied, “Last time I didn’t have these holes in the bottom of my feet.”

When it comes to sharing our faith in Jesus and asking others to make a commitment to faith in him themselves, the most important part is what we are asking people to believe. It’s what exactly we are asking them to have faith in.

Paul says,

‘For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

To make it very simple, what we must believe is who Jesus was and what Jesus did.

         I told you last week we would be looking at how the biblical writers shared their faith. As we read the Gospels, the historical biographies of Jesus’s life and ministry, we find a common theme. Matthew starts in chapters 1 through three talking about identifying who Jesus is before he begins talking about anything Jesus did or taught. Mark only spends the first 11 verses of his Gospel talking about who Jesus is, but the pattern holds. Luke spends his first three chapters plus part of chapter four building on the idea of who Jesus is. John uses his first 34 verses to identify Jesus, but in his very first verse he makes a very clear point…

John 1:1 “’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.’

From identifying the Word as fully God, John then builds up to the fact the Jesus is the Word and the Word is God, but John doesn’t actually mention Jesus name for the 1st time until verse 17.

         The point is, with every Gospel writer, who Jesus was is the first point about Jesus every one of them makes. For each of them, building Jesus identity by what he did up to the point of his death, burial, and resurrection is the stamp of authenticity on the Gospel message. Why? Because Paul tells us that without the Resurrection, the final proof that Jesus is truly the Son of God, our faith is useless. It is only the fact that Jesus was himself God the Son that gives his death any meaning at all. There are millions of people who have sacrificed their lives for one cause or another since the beginning of time. There are many who have died for their friends, what Jesus calls the ultimate act of love in John 15:13. Only the Resurrection gives Jesus’s death any meaning, because through Jesus’s Resurrection we are given an eternal relationship with God the Father through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit covered by Jesus’s righteousness and forgiveness before God.

         Answering the questions of faith, It really comes down to two things: who he is and what he did. In their book, “The Path” some dear friends of mine, including one of my mentors Dr. Daniel Goepfrich, phrase the answer of faith this way…

To call Jesus “Lord” or “Christ” is to acknowledge that he is the one sent from God to rescue humanity and that he did that through his death and      resurrection – nothing more, nothing less.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:19-20

In another conversation, Paul used the word “repent.”

“Although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he

now commands all people everywhere to repent , because

he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in

righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

To “repent” means to “reconsider and act.” In order to believe the truth, we must honestly consider it…the truth about ourselves and our sin, about Jesus and his death and resurrection. God wants us to change our beliefs based on the truth.    Believing in Jesus alone for salvation means that we have reconsidered our position; we have “repented,” accepting the truth. We accept that only God can rescue us from sin and hell, and we embrace it.

Naturally, the first step in sharing our faith with others is to have that kind of faith ourselves. If we don’t have a firm foundation in the faith that we have, we’ll have a really hard time trying to articulate any of that to someone else.

         However, there are some great benefits to sharing our faith. When we overcome our fear, get over the excuses that we don’t have experience or haven’t practiced, realize that every believer in Jesus as Savior is fully qualified to share the Gospel, rely on God to walk us through it knowing that we can’t screw it up, put sharing our faith at the top of our priority list in our relationships, and develop the ‘want to’ attitude to at least plant the seeds for someone to come to have eternal life the benefits become:

  1. It increases our own faith to share our faith with others
  2. Sharing our faith brings us deeper into the Presence of God
  3. It naturally makes us more aware of Holy Spirit working in our lives
  4. Our love for others will grow tremendously
  5. We are partaking in God’s Great Commission to make disciples
  6. Sharing our faith also protects us and prepares us for battle against the spiritual forces of darkness that rule this world.

Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6 starting in verse 10,

‘Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.’

Ephesians 6:10-20

When we are sharing the good news of our salvation through Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the leader of our lives, we are engaging actively in spiritual warfare. Some time, we’ll do an entire series on the Armor of God, but Paul is making a point here that as we live in Christ and share our faith following the Great Commission to make disciples; we will experience the attacks of the enemy.

         We need to pray for one another as Paul asked the believers of his time to pray for him. We pray that we may be given the message when we begin to speak to confidently make the Gospel clear, and that we may be able to speak boldly about the faith that we have.

Sharing Jesus part one

Sharing Jesus part one

There was a red convertible roaring down the highway. The guy driving saw the local pastor standing on the side of the road holding a sign saying “the end is near.” What an idiot the guy thought… Up ahead, he saw the Catholic priest with a sign too. It said, “turn around before it’s too late.” This time the driver honked his horn and flipped the priest the bird. What a prick, he thought… The priest and pastor watched as the car went flying around a bend and then they heard screeching tires, a crash, and a loud splash. The priest walked up to the pastor and asked, “do you think we should change our signs to say the bridge is out?”

How often, when trying to share about our faith with someone, do we find ourselves misunderstood or not being able to really communicate with those we are trying to reach? How often do we struggle to go outside of our comfort zones? How often are we afraid to get asked a question that we don’t know the answer to? Especially in this country, for the longest time, we have been told that it is impolite to discuss religion and politics at the dinner table or in any other type of polite social event. In recent times, discussing spirituality has become more acceptable during and post-COVID, but we are a relativistic post-Christian, post-modern society in the United States, where anything you want to believe goes and saying there is only one way to approach God can be considered hate speech. The loudest voices we hear in our culture and in the media are the ones shouting to drown out or twist the message of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and grace that is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even our own churches end up drowning out the message that God so loved the world by condemning the secular culture and screaming about abortion, homosexuality, addiction, sanctity of marriage, the Ten Commandments, and social justice or injustice depending on your viewpoint.

Romans 1:18-20 says,

‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. ‘

Just looking around at the state our world is in through the will of what mankind has done, the unrighteousness of the world and the pain it causes is evident. What do we do?

Peter says,

But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

1 Peter 3:14-17 NLT

We typically hear verse 15 in this way,

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

1 Peter 3:15 NIV

Many pastors will use this as a plug to tell you that you need to memorize as much of the Bible as possible. If you could quote chapter and verse from Genesis to Revelation, that would be best. That way you always have an answer, right?

There was a story of a great orator, and he was putting on a show in front of a couple thousand people. Being a conservative crowd, he chose to memorize and dramatize Psalm 23, you know, that passage about the Lord is my shepherd. As he began to speak, the crowd fell silent; as he finished, he received a round of applause. As the crowd was clapping, a little old man, grizzled and frail, walked up to the podium. As he began to speak, the crowd fell silent. He also recited Psalm 23. As finished, there was not a single dry eye in the crowd, some people were crying hard, then the entire crowd rose in a standing ovation. Afterward, a reporter went up to the orator and asked him what had happened. They had both recited the same words, and he was a professional, why had the crowd reacted so differently to the old man’s words. The orator said, “I knew the words of Psalm 23 and spoke them well, he knows the shepherd.”

The people we meet, the ones we try to invite to church, the folks we invite to lunch or talk to passing in the grocery store; don’t need to hear a bunch of memorized lines. They need to hear your personal story of your personal relationship with God and how he has walked with you through thick and thin. Do you know the shepherd, or do you know the words? Will they ask us questions we don’t know the answers to, sure. It’s also just as important they know that we have faith and hope, without knowing all those answers. But we can always try to find those answers, preferably together…

While there are many commands given to believers throughout the New Testament, there is one given that is certainly near the very top of the list,


The imperative command to make disciples is found in Matthew 28:18-20. It is also the only imperative command in that passage. To not be making disciples is to be directly disobedient to the calling every believer has in our relationship with Jesus.

The passage is this:

‘Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore going and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’

Matthew 28:18-20

Going, baptizing, and teaching are continuous actions that convey means and method of what it entails to make disciples. However the command is to make disciples. Not just make believers, not just preach the Gospel, not just running around the planet, not just baptizing as many as possible in the lake at one time…to make disciples is a lifelong process that starts with the unbeliever coming to believe in Jesus and then learning to obey EVERYTHING that Christ commanded his early followers and for us EVERYTHING that the New Testament writers through Holy Spirit’s power command to us. The process of discipleship starts each of us sharing our faith and with those who have yet to believe hearing of the Gospel.

Over the next few weeks, I want to dive into the way some of the New Testament writers shared their faith to teach people what a relationship with God through Jesus is like. First, take a look at this youTube short…it’s titled, “The Gospel in a Nutshell.” It’s an example of one of those elevator speeches. If you haven’t heard of those, I’ll explain that in a minute.

Don’t worry, my mom already chastised me for recording that while driving. I did do all the editing after I got home though.

If you search youtube for the words gospel in a nutshell that pops up as the 7th result on the second page of the search. So number 17… It has had six views and two likes. If you search gospel in a nutshell about 259,000 results. I did find pretty good video called “How to share the Gospel in 5 minutes” by John Benzinger. ( In 15 months, his video has had almost 5,200 view and 196 likes. But how effective do you think either of these methods actually are?

I would say, not very effective.

Statistics say that personal evangelism, one-on-one conversations, are the best and most effective way to share your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If we truly believe that the scriptures are written by God through men, if we truly believe that through faith in Jesus is the only way to get right with God, if we truly believe that the world already stands condemned before God and anyone who chooses not to believe in Jesus as their Savior is going to spend eternity in hell, if we truly believe that a fulfilling, purposeful, contented, joyful, loving life can only be found in a relationship with our heavenly Father the Creator on all things through forgiveness and the righteousness of his Son, Jesus, in the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit; shouldn’t we want every single person on the planet to have that kind of life as well. Do we really think about every person we come in contact with is potentially going to spend an eternity in hell if they don’t first hear and then believe the Gospel?

There are dozens upon dozens of resources that teach people how to share their faith. Hundreds and hundreds of messages have been preached on the subject. If you Google, “what is the gospel?” there are over 233,000,000 million results. So, what excuses do we have for not sharing our faith?

Last Saturday, at the Biblically Bold men’s conference, Pastor Fred from Faith Covenant, shared his top six reasons he thinks people don’t share the Gospel. I agree with these, but I really think it all boils down to the last one.

6.      We just don’t want to…

5.      It is not toward the top of our priority list.

4.      We think somehow we’ll screw it up and blow it.

3.      We think we are not qualified to share the Gospel.

2.      We don’t have any experience and have never practiced.

1.      It all boils down to fear!

There is a resource out on the welcome desk from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Simply sharing Jesus. But I want you to know, it all starts our own personal experience of growth in our knowledge and love of God. If we are not living out our faith, any testimony we give is ruined by our own hypocrisy. Fortunately, we have the mercy, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness of Jesus covering us and Holy Spirit’s indwelling power helping us. When we live out loud in the love of God and show that love to each and every individual we meet following the three greatest commandments, Love God, Love People, Love One Another. Then our personal relationships with others will give us a one-on-one platform for sharing our faith.

Interpretation and Application of the Scriptures

Interpretation and Application of the Scriptures

Okay PJ, that’s enough of this college Bible study stuff. Why does all this stuff matter? Can’t we be good Christians without worrying about what the Bible says? That’s debatable. Can you live a healthy lifestyle if you never eat? Even as babies, we need our mother’s milk or formula; as adults we learn to feed ourselves, but what we choose to eat has a big impact on how healthy we are… Case in point…my big belly.

Many Christians, who by now should be mature in their faith, will say that they come to church on Sunday to be fed. I have a very good pastor friend who will ask, “At what age did you start feeding yourself?” If you are a mature Christian, you should at some point be feeding yourself to nurture your spiritual life and growth in your relationship with God the Father through Jesus and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. At a point in our spiritual lives, our ability to understand and apply the Word of God to our lives becomes a true matter of spiritual maturity.

Paul says,

‘So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people?’

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Last week, we talked at length about the inspiration of the scriptures. If we have established that the Bible is the inspired Word of God himself given as a gift to humanity so that we can learn to walk in a right relationship with him. If the Bible is truly written with Holy Spirit guiding every word, then the Bible itself bears witness to its full authority to direct our lives. That being the case, making sure that we read and study what is written and try to apply it to our lives today becomes of paramount importance. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jesus said in John 8:32, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” He also said that he was, “the way, the truth, and the life; no one come to the Father except through me.” In John 14:6. Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Truth in John 14:17, John 15:26, and John 16:13. That is the same Spirit that carried along, inspired, and breathed into the prophets and biblical writers to convey the Truth of how to relate to God, to one another, to ourselves, and to our world.

By its very nature and definition, if one thing is true, it is the actual state of the matter, conformed to fact and reality, verified or indisputable; everything contrary to it, twisting it, or accepting of only part of it, must be false. God’s inspired Word written by men directed by God’s Holy Spirit is Truth, therefore we should read and apply it with the utmost confidence.

Remember we said last week,

‘Every scripture is inspired by God (God-breathed) and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3:16-17

How much of the scripture is inspired? Every, or some translations say “All.” Every single scripture is inspired. All scripture is useful and meant to be used for what? Teaching. Yes. Reproof and correction. Oh boy, we don’t like those very much. Especially if it exposes sin in our lives. And, training in righteousness. Doing good and doing the correct thing and acting in a godly way, in each and every circumstance. All that, so that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. Meaning we have work to do. Period. We all have ministry to accomplish to the glory of God.

Going back to the teaching, reproof, correction, and training stuff; what did I say last week is our default mode any time we are handling the Bible when it is applied to other people’s lives. LOVE. If people don’t know how much you care, they don’t care how much you know…or at least think you know. We do not use the Bible to condemn people. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn people, so we are not left in the world as Jesus’s body to condemn people. When the Bible talks about judging people, it is talking about condemning people. We don’t get to do that, even with Bible in hand. It is more hurtful than helpful. But we do teach and study the scripture to rightly apply it to our lives and use it to expose sin in our lives and correct it in others. We are not judging people, God is the judge, the word of God itself is the judge, we teach the word. What the word says is what the word means typically. However, in order to do any of that, we must know how to read and interpret what the Bible actually says.

The Bible itself does the work.

2 Corinthians 4:1-2 says,

‘Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God.’

We proclaim the truth clearly and without distorting the word of God. The word of God speaks for itself. And we are told in Hebrews 4:12-13,

‘For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.’

The word of God itself is living and active, not changing, living and active because the word itself is carrying the very will of God through Holy Spirit’s power. Holy Spirit is alive and active in the lives of believers, and the word itself is the work of the Spirit. What is the living word doing, why is the word so sharp? The word of God itself is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. How? The word of God contains the will of God through the Spirit of God. It says, no creature is hidden from God. Including us. Through the word of God, everything we do and think is judged by the only one qualified to judge us. Everything is exposed to the only one qualified to condemn. It does not take me or you wielding the word of God as a weapon, as a hammer to beat people with, or as a rope to hang people. The word of God, when read and applied, is active and alive and does all of that for itself.

We only study and teach the word, because we are commissioned in the Great Commission to make disciples by teaching them everything God through Christ has commanded us. Our record of all those commands is found in the Bible itself.

If we are reading, studying, and teaching the Bible; we, every one of us, had better make sure we are looking at it properly.

Interpreting the Bible is NOT, and I emphatically repeat NOT, about deciphering hidden codes, finding deeper hidden meanings, pulling out little proof texts here and there to make one point or another out of context. Interpretation is NOT making the word fit what we think it should mean by how we feel or what culture thinks is acceptable. The word of God itself is NOT politically correct and we don’t have to interpret it that way. We look at the words in the literal way they were written, with first what literal meaning they would have had to the original audience historically. We look at the grammatical style they were written in. Poetry is poetry. Historical narrative is historical narrative. For those who remember English class, similes, metaphors, hyperboles, idioms, proverbs, alliteration and so on, all existed then in a similar way to what it does now.

What interpretation is, is taking the words as they were written to people 2,000 to 3,500 years ago and understanding them in our own language today, and how to apply those precepts, commands, and principles to our lives today to live the same kind of countercultural life God designed his people to live. Last week, I used one of my favorite examples. The word love.

In the original languages, to the original audiences, the word of God was not written to be confusing. It was not written to lead people astray or away from God’s will by a matter of misinterpretation. The word of God was written to clearly express the will of God to the people set apart by God. So we read the word of God and try to place our minds in the minds of the people of that time.

When we read love one another 20 times in the context of believers’ fellowship with each other. When we read God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son. When we read husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. When we read the two greatest commandments are love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. When we read a new commandment I give you, to love one another. We are talking about God’s sacrificial, unconditional, compassionate, active action of love. We are not talking about the ‘60s free love movement, we are not talking about making love to anyone (married or not), we are not talking about my love of bbq ribs, or my love of Star Wars movies, or my love of driving. This is why we study the scripture and interpret it according to the time and culture it was written to…

To properly interpret the Bible, we read first and foremost and now and always the words that were written. No, we can’t read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. At least most of us can’t. However, we have very skilled and talented people who have worked hard to do that for us. In order to understand it in English, read 4 or 5 translations of the same passages. I like the NASB, NIV or CEV, NET and NLT. I, personally, avoid the KJV because most people today don’t understand the archaic language. There are some versions or translations I don’t like, and there may be some you like better, but read several and compare them.

Read the word in its original context, read the passages around the passage you are reading within the context of the same letter, book, or chapter. Does the writer of that passage write on the same subject in a different place, of course remembering Holy Spirit inspired it all? So, does the Bible say the same thing in other contexts about the same subject? It should because the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. If we find apparent contractions, it’s because we don’t understand what God is telling correctly. Not because God is telling us two different things.

How do I apply this to my life? There are examples of what to do, what not to do, what things are good, right, and beneficial, what things are sin and against God’s will for our lives as believers. How do I align my life to what the Bible is telling me?

The number one place believers get off track is when we say, or we hear someone say, this is what the Bible says, BUT… We need to keep our butts out of it. What the Bible says and what the Bible means, has nothing to do with how we feel or what we think, We don’t change the Bible, the Bible is meant to change us….

Biblical Inspiration and Authority

Biblical Inspiration and Authority

Today we’re talking about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. I was going to include interpretation and application this week, but we wouldn’t be able to beat the Baptists to the buffet, so I’ll take two weeks for this extremely important topic.

I heard of a teacher who quizzed a group of college-bound high school juniors and seniors on the Bible. The quiz preceded a Bible-as-literature course he planned to teach at the Newton (Massachusetts) High School, generally considered one of the best public schools in the nation. Among the most astounding findings he got from the students were:

Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers.

Jezebel was Ahab’s donkey.

The four horsemen appeared on the Acropolis.

The New Testament Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John.

Eve was created from an apple.

Jesus was baptized by Moses.

The answer that took the cake was given by a fellow who was in the top 5 percent of the graduating class, academically.

The question: What was Golgotha?

The answer: Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the apostle David.

What we believe about the Bible and from the Bible perhaps impacts how we approach life and ministry more than anything else in our lives.

If we believe the Bible is just a bunch of made-up stories written by mostly men with a middle-school or less education by modern standards (which a friend of mine does believe) then it really has less bearing on our lives than most elementary school textbooks. If we believe it is the final authority on everything necessary for life and godliness through the power of God’s Holy Spirit that rules and guides our lives, how we live, think, and behave will be vastly different.

One set of statistics from in the Holland Sentinel from 2012 says, On average, 85 percent of U.S. households own a Bible; the average number of Bibles per household is 4.3. 36 percent of Americans read the Bible less than once a year or never while 33 percent read the Bible once a week or more. Apr 19, 2012

Between then and 2021, those statistics have not changed much,

The 2021 report is, as you might expect, a mixed bag. For churchgoing folk, there are encouraging findings. Twenty-four percent of Americans increased their Bible reading in this past COVID-pandemic year, while only 9 percent cut back. And 16 percent of Americans read the Bible at least four times a week, up from 12 percent the year before.

With all that said, within this church, within our denomination, and I personally ascribe to this statement from our Churches of God General Conference Statement of Faith.

“We believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” From the CGGC Statement of Faith.

Isn’t that a bit naïve though? Most of the world doesn’t see the Bible in this way, why does a relatively well-educated man like myself, along with millions of far better educated people like me believe that this is the truth of the power and authority that should be given to a simple book?

Well, part of the reason is, it is far from a simple book…

I’d like to first share some math with you, admittedly not my best subject…


Let me explain my arithmetic to you…

  • 3 original languages,
  • 40 identified authors plus anonymous,
  • 66 canonized books or letters,
  • over 1,500 years in the process of writing
  • including complete translations in 704 languages plus the New Testament alone into 1,551 additional languages plus or minus 60 separate versions or unique translations in English alone
  • which results in one unified text with the unique ability to transmit the will and ways of one Creator to his creation.

Seriously, wow. Absolutely no other book or document on the planet can make that kind of boast. No “holy” book, no book of prophecy, no news article, constitution, proclamation, meme, tweet, post, or snap can rival it.

In addition to that, 100% of every specific foretelling or prophecy contained within it has either come true as predicted or is yet to happen.

If we consider a bare minimum of 48 prophecies (and there are over 300) regarding the birth, life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection of one Man, the prophesied Jewish Messiah or in Greek Christ meaning ‘anointed one’, Jesus son of Joseph son of God from Nazareth have all come true. The odds of that alone are 1 in 10157. That number is so large and the odds so small, Mathematician Peter Stoner describes it as a man trying to find one electron in a mass solid ball of electrons, extending in all directions to the distance of six billion light-years 6 x 1028 times with an electron microscope.

Those are just the prophecies concerning Jesus, if we include everything else in the Bible predicts and teaches denying the inspiration of the Bible Stoner says is, “rejecting evidence so overwhelming that no human mind can make any start at comprehending the definiteness of it.”

If we start with all those wonderful facts and statistics about the inspiration of the Bible, then we tie those to whether the one or ones who wrote it have the authority to dictate how we live our lives. The Bible itself says,

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

The NET translation says,

‘Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3:16-17

The word translated God-breathed or inspired, is pneuma. Elsewhere in the Greek language this word is translated WIND, and both in the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament is translated spirit and ghost. The Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the wind that moved over the waters of Creation is the same word as referred to as writing the Scriptures.

Peter says it this way,

‘Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.’

2 Peter 1:20-21

That’s a big batch of mumbo jumbo to say that yes, the Bible should be able to dictate how we live our lives and how we function within the context of life together and ministry to the community and world that we are a part of. Since you’re here in the first place, I hope that gives you some confidence to stand on your faith in what you believe and what has been written. We believe that not only the words of scripture are inspired, also the intent of what was written is as well in their original languages and historical context.

Now on to the second part of today’s message, sorry, not time for lunch yet…

Why did I say in their original languages and historical context? Let’s dig deeper…

Do you know the Bible says in Psalm 53, there is no god?

Let’s look at it,

‘Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They sin and commit evil deeds; none of them does what is right.’

Psalms 53:1

Oops, what mistake did I make? I pulled four words out of context, right?

But the Bible also says there is no resurrection, Matthew 22:23, Luke 20:27, and Mark 12:18 in the Gospels, Acts 23:8 and also twice in 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; we have corroboration from six sources of scripture that say there is no resurrection. That’s more than enough to build doctrine, right?

The Gospels and Acts all are recording the fact that the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, not confirming it as true.

The most important truth, in fact one at the heart of the Gospel is the 1 Corinthians 15 passage.

It says,

‘Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.’

1 Corinthians 15:12-23

The lesson here is this: we can make the Bible say practically anything we want if we pull words, verses, and passages out of the greater context of the inspired scriptures that begin with Genesis and end in Revelation.

The same problem exists with some words or phrases, one of my favorite examples is the word, love, because it is so foundational to the Christian faith.

If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you’ll know that has 22 definitions for the word, LOVE.

If we look at some of the more popular uses of the word in English we get examples like…

I love smoked bbq ribs. I love racquetball, golf, and fishing. I love my mom and dad. I made love to my wife. I love my kids. I love watching my bobber on a quiet morning fishing. I love Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek and the Middle Earth movies, and 90s alternative music, but I love contemporary Christian too. “Love is love” is a popular phrase in our culture today.

When the Bible says, love the Lord, love your neighbor, love fellow believers, husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and God so loved the world he gave his one and only son; None of the ways I used the word love apply to the Greek word, AGAPE, that is used in those passages. AGAPE is the unconditional, sacrificial, perfect love that Christ displayed on the cross to bring us into relationship with God. AGAPE love is the heart of the Gospel. Not the way I love ribs, racquetball, and movies.

The Greek uses different words in those different contexts, not like us using English. That is why, we have helps that we will talk about next week when we talk about interpretation and application.

If we can mostly agree that the Bible as written in its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is inspired by God and its writing was directed by his Holy Spirit in the work of the men who did the writing, and we can agree that since it was written by God the supreme Creator and the only one with any real and eternal authority to speak into our lives, then next week, we can address how we read, interpret, and apply the Bible’s precepts and teaching into our lives and ministry.

Prayer in Action

Prayer in Action

When I first visited the church that I now pastor, I had told them that there were 10 things that I believed we would need to do in order for us as a congregation to unify ourselves with God’s will for this congregation and our work in this community and the world. You’ll find those in my last message, Guide our Steps.

The very first thing I said that we would need to do was unite ourselves in prayer. That prayer should be our first response, not our last option. Far too often we reach out in faith to God last, instead of submitting to his will first.

In my life, I have struggled with prayer, and maybe you have too. As some of you know, my oldest son is multiply disabled. I have very well-meaning people ask to pray over him and say, he’ll be healed; when he wasn’t it would rock my faith at times. Well, if you were so sure he would be healed, is my faith lacking so he wasn’t? Or, did you take God’s name, his identity, in vain and trying to pray according to a will that was not in line with God’s. If so, why doesn’t God want my son to be healed?

We ask him for all the things we want, instead of being grateful for him meeting our needs. We go to God as if he is a vending machine, we insert our magic coin, make our selections by telling him everything we want, push the AMEN button, and expect everything we asked for to come out. Or we treat God as a genie in a bottle… We rub the magic prayer lamp, tell God what we wish for, a better car, a bigger house, the billion-dollar lotto jackpot, whatever it might be, and expect Poof, there it is.

Or maybe we just get frustrated with God. God, you tell us to pray and you’ll give us whatever we want, right? Mark 11:24 says, “whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Matthew 21:22 says, “And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive.” John 16:23 says, “At that time you will ask me nothing. I tell you the solemn truth, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

Outside of the greater context of scripture, we can get really drawn in with these ‘promises,’ it is the idea of believe it and receive it. We can even be really well-meaning with this, I believe I will be healed of this injury, I believe she will be healed of this illness, I believe I will have these resources to start this ministry… And then we ask God in frustration, why didn’t you heal me, or her, or give me this so I can do that, it’s all for your glory and kingdom…why God?

We get into trouble and pray what we call ‘foxhole’ prayers. “God, the bullets are flying over my head, please save me from this distress.” And we bargain, “God, I promise I will give my church 20% instead of 10% for a tithe if you’ll let me win the 20-million-dollar jackpot, think how much ministry we could do.”

Speaking of prayer, I heard something new this week… Dial-a-prayer for atheists! Apparently, when you call, it rings and rings, and no one answers.

Second to our salvation, the most important part of our relationship with God is our prayer life… From the beginning of time, God has been trying to commune with his creation. He takes great join from being able to have a relationship with us. So much so, he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to die as an atoning sacrifice to cover our multitude of sins with his Son’s righteousness. Added to that, he gives us his indwelling Holy Spirit so that he can be in the closest possible fellowship with us, living within us… Yet, we commonly neglect talking with, fellowshipping with, communing with our Father in heaven.

We do so, even though we have a hotline to heaven, a red phone in the corner that is a direct dial to the throne room, far better than Commissioner Gordon’s batphone…! We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul tells us,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.

Romans 8:26

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.

Romans 8:27 NET

This issue is so important, in CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape writes this to his nephew, the young tempter, Wormwood…

“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so.  The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves.  Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by their own wills.  When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them instead start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing.  When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave.  When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven.  Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling…”

Jesus taught on this subject himself in a very famous passage of Scripture. And, yet, we still missed the point… He said,

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.  When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:5-8 NET

In the following verses, comes what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer”, which is meant to be a template for how to pray that he gave to his disciples, but in our humanity, we turned it into another thing to mindlessly recite… he just finished telling us not to do that, not ‘babbling repetitiously’. He was trying to give us a pattern for how to start a conversation with God.

I will give you two more patterns that you can use to pray that follow Jesus’s example to his disciples…

PRAY – Praise Repent Ask and Yield

ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication

God wants a relationship with us. He is not a celestial vending machine we plug our prayer quarters into and make our selections of what we want. He is not a genie in a bottle waiting for us to rub the prayer lamp to grant our next wish. He is a heavenly Father with a deep desire for a relationship with his kids. He wants us to pick up the phone and call him frequently. He does want to meet our needs, but what Father only wants a call from their kids only when they want something???

Paul tells us the cure for anxiety is prayer…

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NET

James the brother of Jesus, who was know as James the camel kneed, because his knees were so callused from constant prayer tells us,

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.

James 5:16 NET

Jesus even tells us later in his Sermon on the Mount, after introducing the template for prayer…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 5:43-45

Pray for those who persecute us…? Whoa Jesus, you’re going a little too far there, are you? But, I was told a long, long time ago, that if I had a resentment against an individual, I should pray all the blessings I would want for myself for them instead… doing so, my resentments quickly melt away and Scripture says in Romans 12:20,

“Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.”

Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t why I am praying blessings for them, because earlier in the passage it says in verse 18, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” But, some people are obviously much easier to live peaceably with than others, if we are truly honest… so, by praying for those people, I can deal with those EGR’s, remember those Extra Grace Required people, in a much more patient and loving way, than if I were not…

The point is, if we are to grow spiritually, have a vibrant and fulfilling faith, and have a true relationship with our heavenly Father through his Son, Jesus, we need to be deeply in touch with him in prayer through the Holy Spirit that is right here, in us, all the time! When we pray, we also need to take time to listen, he will answer, through intuition, through other people, through signs, through his Word, through peace that surpasses all understanding, through healing, through all sorts of other ways, if we are praying according to his will. And, as Romans 8:26-27 says, the Spirit will express his will in prayer through us in ways we can not express for ourselves, and he knows all our needs… we just need to pray!

It all begins with our prayer of confession and repentance, turning our lives over to the care of God through the sacrifice of Jesus… that prayer can create or restore our fellowship with our Creator and our Father.

I want to pray Psalm 130 over you, but I am taking liberty to substitute the Church for Israel…

‘From the deep water I cry out to you, O Lord. O Lord listen to me! Pay attention to my plea for mercy! If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored. I rely on the Lord, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word. I yearn for the Lord, more than watchmen do for the morning, yes, more than watchmen do for the morning. O Church hope in the Lord, for the Lord exhibits loyal love, and is more than willing to deliver. He will deliver the Church from all the consequences of their sins.’