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- • Identity in Christ: Just the FACTs - In Christ, I am Accepted and Loved
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- • Identity in Christ: Just the FACTs - In Christ, I Am Transformed and Victorious
April 20, 2016
For you, what is the bottom line on your decision making? How do you ultimately decide if you will or won’t do something, believe something, or say something? In other words, what is the ultimate source of your authority in life?
The Apostle Paul centered everything in life by Jesus Christ and His Word. For Paul, nothing was as important as a pure, unadulterated gospel message. It was salvation by grace alone, or it wasn’t salvation at all. Because of this critically important truth, Paul would go to any length to defend the true gospel message. This is why Paul spends at least 4 chapters in his letter to the Galatian churches to defend his authority as an apostle and to defend the gospel of salvation by grace.
Ultimately it came down to God as the source of authority and the Word of God as the validation of the truth of the good news that Paul preached. After two and a half chapters of defending the authenticity of his apostleship, Paul finally turns to the basis of all he preached concerning salvation by faith – the Word of God itself (Galatians 3:6-14).
Quoting from Genesis, Paul recounts the story of Abraham being put right with God through faith.
Galatians 3:6 (NLT) – “In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
Sometimes we look at Abraham as a great saint and man of God. Yet the record of Scripture is that Abraham, like all the natural descendants of Adam, was a sinner, destitute of any righteousness in the sight of God. He, just like us, stood in need of being put right with God. There was nothing he could do to work for or merit God’s favor. That came about only because God granted Him favor. Abraham placed his hope in God and God counted it as enough!
While this argument in the letter to the Galatians for salvation by grace through faith doesn’t end with this story of Abraham, it does illustrate an important principle for us to follow. Here is Paul, perhaps, the greatest missionary to ever walk the earth, a great man of faith, a great lover of Jesus Christ. Yet when it came down to it, relying on the Word of God was absolutely crucial. It is one thing for Paul to say, “This is the truth,” it is another thing to back it up with the Word of God.
As you make decisions in your life, I pray that you are continually consulting the Word of God as the only authoritative source for decisions and guidance in your life.
See you Sunday!
March 02, 2016
This past Sunday we began a series on worship, “A Heart of Worship.” Paul Holmes reminded us that the highest priority in our life is worship. This is our first priority in life. Unfortunately most people don’t understand what worship really means.
A great verse to help us grasp the true meaning of worship is Romans 12:1.
Romans 12:1 (NIV) – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Notice that first word – “Therefore.” What Paul is saying is this: In light of all that God has done through Jesus Christ to forgive our sin, to give us the gift of eternal life, to place His Holy Spirit in us, and to give us the assurance that nothing will ever be able to separate us from God’s love – in light of all this, “offer” yourself to God. That, my friend, is what worship is all about.
For Paul, true worship is:
(1) My response to God’s love. Worship is the way I react, the way I respond to God when He loves me. That’s what worship is. It is my response, both personal and with my church family, to God—for who He is and what He has done—demonstrated in and by the things we say and do.
(2) Worship is giving back to God. God gives to us, we give back to Him. And whenever you give back to God, whenever you offer anything to God, that’s called worship. And that brings pleasure to God.
So what, then, am I to “offer” to God? What am I to give Him? After all, God owns everything, so what can I give a God who already has everything? We can give Him our love. Jesus was very specific about how we give our love to God.
Mark 12:30 (NIV) – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Notice that God wants us to love Him in three different ways:
God wants me to love Him thoughtfully. Love Him "with all your mind.” Thoughtfully. Not just going through the motions of ritual, but with the mind engaged. God wants me to worship Him thoughtfully, to know and to love Him thoughtfully.
God wants me to love Him passionately. “With all your heart and with all your soul.” God wants me to love Him passionately, because He loves me passionately.
God wants us to love him practically. “All your strength.” Practically. With your abilities.
Think about this: Even though God created the entire world, the universe, and He created you and me, there are three things that God doesn’t have unless you and I give it to Him. He doesn’t have your attention unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with all your mind. He doesn’t have your affection unless you give it. That’s loving God with all your heart. And He doesn’t have your abilities unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with all your strength.
This week remember that God gave you the mind with which you focus your attention. He gave you the heart to feel affections. God gave you your abilities to serve God and others. What He wants is for us to give them back to Him. Any time we take what God has given us and give it back to Him, that is the heart of worship!
See you Sunday!
February 18, 2016
The power is on, but are you plugged it? I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit and I’m talking about the spiritual gift(s) that He has given to you when you surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 4 – “. . . he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ” (Eph. 4:7, NLT).
When the New Testament speaks of spirituals gifts, it often uses a word from which we derive our word charismatic. It is a word that literally means “grace-gifts.” The picture is that God’s grace is poured out on each individual believer with the effect that the church is filled with believers who have received a multitude of different gifts – some one gift, others with two or more gifts. Imagine the church as a prism with the light of God's grace pouring down on that prism. The result will be the light of God's grace refracting through the prism of the church into a multitude of different spiritual gifts. The key thought in Scripture is that these gifts are given to the church to be used in the church to serve or minister to one another.
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) – “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”
The gift or gifts I receive are not for my benefit. They are given for the benefit of the church body.
1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) – “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”
So again the question, where are you plugged in? You’ve got the power – the Holy Spirit-given gift in your life; so are you using your gift or gifts to serve God by serving others in the community of believers. Think about the frustration we experience every Christmas when you put the tree up—inevitably there is at least one string of lights that doesn’t light up and the tree isn’t as wonderful as it could be. For me the problem is usually that a string of lights in not plugged in. When I plug it in, suddenly the tree is beautiful! Think what Christ’s church would look like if everybody were plugged in – serving, ministering, using their spiritual gifts? Paul indicated that it would be a healthy, growing, loving church!
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) – “He [Christ] makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
The power is on, but are you plugged in? Where are you serving? How are you employing your spiritual gift? God didn’t put you in the body of Christ to sit and soak but to serve and soar!
If you don’t have a place of service at Calvary, let me mention just a few areas where we need people to plug in – we call them our Sunday morning ministries – helping in the children’s area and the youth area, working on the audio-visual team, participating in the worship team, or serving in the welcome team of greeters and ushers. Consider being a part of the Sunday morning team if you are looking for a place to plug in. For more information simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you Sunday!
February 01, 2016
Yesterday we talked in the worship service about what it means to pray "deliver us from the evil one" as Jesus prayed in His model prayer (Matthew 6:13). I used an acronym R.E.S.P.O.N.D. from the book "The Battle Plan for Prayer" by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. Here is an excerpt from that book:
The following R.E.S.P.O.N.D. acronym is a powerful, biblically based battle plan to help you strategically respond to a personal attack of the enemy. This can be used anytime the devil starts tempting you to lust, fear, or live in condemnation. It also works when discouragement climbs on your shoulders, sin is being rationalized, or lies are trying to take root in your heart. When the devil attacks, the first thing you should do is…
1. RESIST Satan in Jesus’ name. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Jesus resisted Satan on several occasions. He said, “go away, Satan on one occasion (Matt. 4:10) and get behind me, Satan!” on another (Mark 8:33). We should do the same thing, but we do so in Christ’s name and by His authority, not our own. So when you are confronted in combat with the devil, resist him by calling on the most powerful name known to man. Either confront him directly with, “Go away Satan, in Jesus’ name” or indirectly in prayer, “Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask You to rebuke Satan” (Jude 9). He must flee!
2. ESCAPE with Scripture. God promises to always provide a “way of escape” from temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). Every time Jesus was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-13), He raised the shield of faith and strategically cut down Satan with the sword of the Spirit by quoting the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). We should trust and utilize an appropriate verse that deals with the specific temptation or deception at hand (Matt. 4:1-11) God has given us a fully loaded cache of powerful ammunition in Scripture, ready to fire at the enemy. You just need to learn verses that deal with you issues so when Satan tempts or plants a wicked thought in your head, like “You are unloved and will fail!” you can respond with, “Get away from me, Satan, in Jesus’ name. Romans 5:8 says God proved His love for me when Christ died for me. And Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
3. SEARCH for unconfessed sin. Times of testing should become catalysts for cleansing. The book of James says, after you’ve submitted to God and resisted the devil, you should “cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts” (James 4:8 HCSB). Victory necessitates repentance. Repentance helps you stand strong against temptation. But there’s a difference between being tempted by something and being tormented by something. Everyone is tempted by something. Everyone is tempted. Jesus was. You will be. It is not a sin to be tempted. But if the enemy is constantly tormenting you with something, there’s a good chance unconfessed sin from your past has given him a foothold of operation he’s using to establish a stronghold (a network of lies) in your heart (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Though the truth will set us free, lies can keep us in bondage. We must throw off any hindrance of sin “which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1) and the lies that go with it so we can walk in the victory and freedom Christ has already won for us on the cross. The enemy’s attacks today may or may not be because of yesterday’s sin. Regardless, we should pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24 NIV). Then if God reveals an area of unrepentant sin from yesterday or even a decade ago, quickly admit it and empty yourself of it. Go back to where the ground was first given and confess what gave it up.
4. PLEAD the blood of Jesus. When we admit sin and plead (appeal by faith) for God to cleanse us by His blood, He is faithful to forgive and wash us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9). But we should rest in this. Forgiven believers who don’t believe they are forgiven will not act like believers. Easy marks for enemy fire. It’s true, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—no doubt. But by faith in Him, we’ve been “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…in His blood” (Rom. 3:23-25). Only His blood washes away sin. If God says you are forgiven, do not call Him a liar in your heart by believing you are not. The Lord told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). The devil might continue steady accusations against this truth as part of his overall attack. But just because he says something and you believe it doesn’t make it any more accurate. Cling to the unalterable settings of Scripture when your emotional compass reading are spinning around the dial. There is power in the blood. Plead it. Ask for it. Trust it. Move to the safe fortress of faith where your cleansing has already been assured. Pray, “Father, I plead for You to cover me and cleanse me with the blood of Jesus. I trust Your faithfulness and rest in Your forgiveness.”
5. OVERTAKE ground given to Satan. In spiritual warfare, we are wrestling against “principalities and powers” (Col. 2:15)—rulers of darkness who claim jurisdiction. But through the cross, Jesus fully disarmed the power of the enemy (Col. 2:8-15). So Satan no longer has bullets in his gun. But he still bluffs and deceives people into submitting to him. When you sin or believe his lie, you are yielding control and giving him ground (John 8:34; Eph. 4:26-27). But as you repent and believe the truth, he loses control over you (2 Tim. 2:24-26). As you cast down his lies and any wicked imaginations from your own heart, you also need to ask God to be Lord over you and occupy those former areas with His Spirit and His Word. That’s how you bring every thought “captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). So at this point, present yourself back to God and rededicate yourself completely to the lordship of Christ. Ask Him to take back full control of every part of you so you can love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And pray that He would strengthen and enable you to keep advancing across ground He’s already died to claim.
6. NAME someone in targeted prayer. After the apostle Paul discussed the sword of the Spirit, he said we should get busy praying for others (Eph. 6:17-19). But not only does this strategy help others; it helps us as well. Instead of continuing to wrestle with a temptation or a lie or on “not sinning,” we can just refocus on interceding for others. If you’re being tempted by a lustful thought, for example, then resist the devil, escape with the Word, deal with past sins, rededicate your mind to God, and then start praying for and thanking God for your spouse (or future spouse). When tempted by discouragement, pray for your pastor or someone dealing with depression. Greed? Pray for your children to be grateful. Prayer allows you to climb off the endless worry-go-round and experience the “peace of God” that can “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
7. DELIGHT in the Lord. “And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD” (Ps. 27:6). Now it’s time to celebrate what just happened. The enemy approached. He brought his worst. He bore down with all his weight. But in Christ, you stood firm. You resisted, counter-attacked, and defeated him without stumbling. Even on ground where you’ve so often fallen before and been taken prisoner, you whipped him and lived to tell about it. You responded with the Word. You made it. God did it. Praise the Lord! And doesn’t that feel amazingly better than before? Remember, “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Prov. 24:16). Be thankful for that. But who says you can’t march ahead with one victory after another, gaining momentum, actually experiencing the free, abundant life you’ve been promised? You can.
If you will learn this and do this, the devil will tempt you less and less when he realizes his attacks only remind you more to call on Jesus, quote Scripture, repent, pray, and praise. Learn how to R.E.S.P.O.N.D. And let Satan be the one who’s in for a surprise.
January 13, 2016
This past Sunday’s message zeroed in on the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come.” This petition serves as a real challenge to us as believers. Too often our world revolves around “our kingdom” and our interests, our needs and our wants. Jesus calls us to take our eyes off ourselves and look around at all those who need to be under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ.
We have more than our share of people who need Christ to reign in their life. We live in a pretty pagan community with less than 10% of our population who are followers of Jesus Christ. Sadly many of these are nominal believers at best. What God our Father really wants is for the residents of Elko and Spring Creek to come to know and love Him as King of their heart. That’s part of what it means to pray, “Your Kingdom come.” We want God to rule and reign over this city, over the families, over the businesses, over the schools, and yes, over the churches gathered in Elko/Spring Creek.
This is the thrust of our prayer War Room that begins this coming week. This on-line prayer room will be praying for spiritual awakening and revival in our community and in our churches. There is still plenty of time to sign up for a time slot. My prayer is that each and every one of you will find ONE HOUR a week where you can visit the War Room and pray for God’s kingdom to come in our town. Just let me know by email – Sam Crouch – the day and the hour that you can pray, I will add you to the list and will furnish you with the password and brief instructions to get started praying for God’s kingdom to come in our world. This is a once a week commitment for the next year. I hope you will rise to the challenge to become a prayer warrior on behalf of our community and world.
See you Sunday,
January 06, 2016
Jesus told His disciples to begin their prayer with God and His holiness. “Hallowed be your name.” When we pray that prayer we are asking that God’s name be made holy – in our lives, in our day, in our world. So how is our Father made holy in our lives? You guessed it – by us seeking to live our lives in a holy fashion. Nothing does more for the Christian faith than when God’s children live lives that reflect His holiness in their daily routine. Conversely, nothing does more damage to the holiness of God than when His children live unholy lives.
The word “hallowed” carries with it the idea of separation God and the things of God from that which is common. Translate that into our daily routine and it is a picture of God’s children living different from the world around them. Do you stand out in the crowd as being uniquely God’s child? Or have you adopted the language, the habits, and the attitudes of the world around you? Paul put it this way: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:1-2, NLT).”
So again the question – Are you hallowing God’s name today in all you do? Don’t copy the ways of the world – that’s the common. We are to live uncommon lives – holy lives. In this way we fulfill the will of God that is expressed in this very first petition of the Model Prayer. “God, may your name be hallowed in our world and in all I do today! I want to be uncommon for You!”
See you Sunday,
December 30, 2015
Nothing is as unlimited as the power of prayer. When we pray God unleashes His creative, redemptive, and caring power into the situation with which we are wrestling. We have a waiting invitation from Jesus Christ Himself – “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours (Mark 11:24, NLT).”
In Sunday’s introductory sermon where we introduced a model for prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 – a.k.a. the “Lord’s Prayer”), I shared with you the amazing story of the 100 years around-the-clock prayer watch of the Moravian Brethren in Herrnhut, Germany. Generation after generation of these faithful prayer warriors kept that 24 hour prayer vigil going each and every day for over 100 years. Their faithfulness in prayer was instrumental in over 300 missionaries being sent out throughout the world. But even more importantly, the prayers of these people impacted the start of the Great Awakening in Europe and America in the 18th Century like no other force.
What could God do through a group of people who are committed to pray for spiritual awakening in our world? The answer is as unlimited as God is unlimited. This past Sunday I issued the call for God-hungry prayer warriors to join me as we begin our prayer “War Room” this coming year. The War Room will be an on-line webpage for praying for spiritual revival in our churches and spiritual awakening in Elko and Spring Creek as well as in our world. The goal is to cover all 168 hours each week for one year. I am realistic enough to know we are not going to have all the hours covered as we begin. But I also know that God can do mighty things through 10, 20 or 40 people who will faithfully pray for spiritual awakening on a regular basis. I want to challenge you to begin praying about your own commitment to be a part of the War Room. Pick one day of the week, one hour of the day – of course, you can pick more than one day, and more than one hour if you choose – and make the commitment to enter the War Room at your chosen time for the next year and let’s just see what God will do to honor the prayers of His people.
This prayer emphasis does not take the place of our prayer chain, but is an addition to it as we pray strictly for spiritual awakening in individuals and in our community, nation, and world.
The sign-up poster can be found in the foyer, but don’t sign up until you feel strongly led by God. The Bible is plain about the seriousness of making a vow before God and then not following through.
War Room praying will begin the week of January 17. We will have two identical training sessions on January 10 and 17, following each morning service. This 5-10 minute training period will equip you with your password to the War Room and instructions on how to access the webpage. In addition, I will share briefly on how to pray in the midst of spiritual warfare – after all, this is a battle against Satan and all his schemes and forces. You only need to attend one training session. If later on you choose to become a part of the War Room, we will arrange individual training.
What does James tell us? “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:16, NLT).” Let’s prove to be a generation of prayer warriors for God!
P.S. Don’t miss the FREE showing of War Room at Calvary Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, New Year’s Eve!