The Normal Christian

Normal

Sunday 03/03/19

Series: Walking the Talk

Message – The Normal Christian

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The Normal Christian

Since the start of the year I have felt drawn to teach you lessons which have to do with living a real and genuine Christian life.

There are LOTS of ways to live wrong, but only one way to live right as a Christian.

While there are many names by which we are called as Christians – some good and favorable and some not so much, I choose the word Christian purposefully and it fits into our lesson today quite nicely.

Christian” according to Acts 11:26 was a term created by the citizens of Antioch. Up until this time, among member of Christ’s body, they had always referred to themselves as “saints”…and the term was almost always used in the plural.

The word saint means…consecrated to God, holy, sacred.” This reflects not just the individual and their consecration to God, but also their connection to a group of people… All of whom, by their own self-designation are set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom.

So the word Christian, though many take it to mean “little-Christ” actually means to be of the same party as the Messiah. Christ = Messiah and “-ian” means “of the party of”.

This is helpful especially in modern America. When we think of a political party – we think of opposing sides with opposing agendas whose members are borderline fanatical.

So you could literally say that I’ve been teaching you how to be a “Christian” in the most straightforward meaning of the word. A dedicated, loyal follower of Christ who is aligned with His party. Which is different than being aligned with Christians. Christians are to be aligned with Jesus.

In the Christmas Cards Teri & I sent out to you to, I told you that this year would be about exercising what we know.

We began by looking at what it means to have a Righteous Perspective…meaning, what does it mean…what does it look like to be a Christian…how is it lived out…to be “of Christ’s Party”.

We went from there to look at the Parable of the 10 Minas, which has had us focus down on two aspects of our Christian walk.

  1. Anticipating His sudden and unannounced Return
  2. Do business until His return.

We defined “doing business” in several ways, but we all agreed that the letters to the churches would most certainly outline the “how tos” in regard to “doing business until He returns”. I even read a few examples from

  • 1 Peter 3:8-22 which regards Representing Him
  • Being Salt & Light & therefore bringing Glory back of Him – Matthew 5:13-20
  • Stewardship of the gospel, our gifts & callings – 1 Cor. 9:16,17; 1 Peter 4:10-19; Col. 1:24-25

So today we will continue with that method of demonstrating how to do “business” until He returns by beginning a walk through of one of the letters to the churches.

This is NOT a departure from my stated goal of exercising what we know – because as we go through these letters you will find very little that we have not covered – that you do not know on some level…but we are approaching these lessons with new fervor to implement what we know – to walk the talk- as it were!

Turn with me to Colossians the first chapter.

Who is Paul addressing?

Col. 1:1-29, Weymouth  “(1) Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God–and Timothy our brother:  (2) To the SAINTS – the people of God and the believing brethren at Colossae who are in Christ.

Who were these Christ followers in Colossae? I like what Guzik writes about them…

“The city of Colossae was probably the smallest and least important city that Paul ever wrote to. It might surprise us that Paul would turn his attention to the Christians in Colossae at a time when he had so many other concerns. Yet he apparently thought the situation in Colossae was important enough for apostolic attention.

Paul wrote because there were doctrinal problems among the brethren in Colossae – sometimes described as “The Colossian Heresy”.

It is difficult to precisely describe but it probably was…the first century religious environment was much like our own. It was a time of religious mixing, with people borrowing a little from this religion and a little from that religion. The only difference was that in the first century, one joined a group who did the borrowing. In our modern culture one does the borrowing one’s self.

Whatever the problem was precisely, Paul dwelt on the solution: a better understanding of Jesus. Knowing the real Jesus helps us to stay away from the counterfeit, no matter how it comes packaged.”

Now, we also have to bear in mind that Paul knew the meaning of the word “saints”. The use of the word was deliberate! Paul was addressing His letter to those who were consecrated to God, holy & sacred.

So it could be argued that before we should even continue, we must…

  1. Realize that people whose lives have been noticeably CHANGED by the Gospel are those Paul is addressing. People who are devoted and consecrated to God. Not worldly or world loving, not flesh pleasing, not complacent or lazy – but devoted, loyal people whose live shine as uncommon (or holy) lights in a world of darkness.
  2. And that Paul intended audience is “faithful” which here carries the meaning of faithful in duty to oneself and others – particularly the brethren. People of genuine and sincere fidelity.
  3. Ask ourselves…do I fit his intended audience?

You can readily see this letter was addressed to an entirely different caliber of Christian than those who typically attend church in our modern age.

However… we in this church are determined to not be defined by the church culture of our age, but by the defining characteristics of a Christian according to scripture!

Another important point which is a central theme of this letter is ONENESS with God and our fellow CHRISTIAN. YOU CANNOT PROGRESS IS CHRIST WITHOUT TRUSTING RELIANCE IN THE GOD FOR POWER & STRENGTH AND WITHOUT UNITY WITH YOUR FELLOW BELIEVERS.

As such, Bengel,  says that even as “saints” implies union with God, so words “the faithful brethren” implies union with fellow Christians.

Paul’s Greeting & the purpose for his prayers

“May grace and peace be granted to you from God our Father.  (3) We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, constantly praying for you as we do,  (4) because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you cherish towards all God’s people, (5)  on account of the hope treasured up for you in Heaven.”

I have spoken to you about this greeting many times. As we will see in a few verses Paul prays for spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear about Christ DUE to their faithfulness to God in trusting His Gospel and loving His saints. This pattern is repeated in another letter. I believe it is a response to faithful stewardship. They had been faithful over what they’d heard concerning Christ through the gospel, so it was appropriate for them to be blessed with more.

If you remember in James the 1st chapter that was the pattern.

  • Hear
  • Go through opposition/temptation/trial
  • Endure / bear fruit (proof of Union is unwavering good character)
  • Be honored with knowing Him more (crowned with life).

Notice that the basis for their actions of faith & love was their Hope! Just like we’ve learning!

Though worded differently here, their hope was not unlike what we’ve covered recently in other places…and in fact Paul re-words this HOPE later in this first chapter of the letter as “Christ in you.”

“Of this hope you have already heard in the Message of the truth of the Good News.  (6) For it has reached you, and remains with you, just as it has also spread through the whole world, yielding fruit there and increasing, as it has done among you from the day when first you heard it and came really to know the grace of God,  (7) as you learned it from Epaphras our dearly-loved fellow servant. He is to you a faithful minister of Christ in our stead,  (8) and moreover he has informed us of your love, which is inspired by the Spirit.”

Notice that the HOPE of Christ in us was considered a primary part of the Message of the Gospel (Good News).

It is worth noting this, because people who came to salvation in Christ, did so in response to what was taught…which obviously included the knowledge that becoming LIKE Christ was their shared goal!

The gospel was not a message simply about forgiveness, acceptance and salvation from hell, or from this evil generation but salvation was identified with and considered complete only when the saint has arrived at complete fidelity to their Lord’s image and likeness!

Is it any wonder then that the church Paul was addressing, was radically different than the average church goer in our day – to whom nothing about conformity to Christ has been preached and from whom no conformity to Christ is expected.

Notice also that this type of preaching was not simply from the Apostles, but this church “learned more fully about the gospel from Epaphras – which teachings clearly included conformity to Christ!” Proving it is the message all saints preach and demonstrate.

Paul Prays that they come to know Jesus

“(9)  For this reason we also, from the day we first received these tidings, have never ceased to pray for you and to entreat that you may be filled with a clear knowledge of His will accompanied by thorough wisdom and discernment in spiritual things; (10)  so that your lives may be worthy of the Lord and perfectly pleasing to Him, while you exhibit the results of right action of every sort and grow into a fuller knowledge of God.”

Paul wants them to not be simple-minded followers but energetic students of Christ.

The picture he paints here is not of passive learners, but aggressive diggers into God’s will and ways.

Paul is not praying something which will not be answered. He knows that it is those who SEEK who find, it is those who KNOCK who have the door opened. This is as much a prayer to stir and encourage seeking and knocking as it is for them to find and have spiritual understanding opened.

AND all of this learning was not simply for knowledge sake – which is why we are seeking to LIVE OUT WHAT WE KNOW. This was Paul’s desire as well! He prayed that their growing knowledge of God and spiritual insight would produce lives which constantly exhibited righteous living of every sort (fruit bearing as some translations have it) and as a result – advance even further into a more perfect and experiential knowledge of God.

THIS is Normal Christianity in action!

If you remember, I’ve taught you about 4th generation faith. Do you remember what I meant by that?

  • 1st generation seeks God and experiences God and knows Him BY experience.
  • 2nd generation lives off their experiences, but has none of their own and so just goes through the motions (hearts far from Me).
  • 3rd generation sees the emptiness of their beliefs and turns to their own way – producing death.
  • 4th generation seeks God and experiences Him and knows Him BY experience.

This of course happened because the 1st generation only taught ABOUT the God they knew. They did NOT invite and evoke their children to know Him themselves.

Know God by being able to repeat the “rules” approach does not work.

Of course this pattern is able to be broken under the New Covenant because we do not have to turn each one to his neighbor and tell them to “know the Lord” for they will “ALL know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.”

This IS the NORMAL Christian life. What we have lived out before us in the modern churches is a 2nd generation faith which is WHY there is no life and why people are staying away from church in masses! It is also why there is such a need to generate superficial excitement, through laser light shows and smoke machines in their worship to their Hollywood produced video dramas and church commercials. 2nd generation faith has to mimic the excitement it’s predecessors had to simulate what they believe was their experience. I just recently heard an example again of two local young men attending a superficially excited church and they saw through the smoke and mirrors.

In regard to this real spiritual knowledge gained by experiencing God One-on-one and producing every kind of godly fruit in our lives Paul goes on to talk about the strength which makes it happen!

“(11)  Since His power is so glorious, may you be strengthened with strength of every kind, and be prepared for cheerfully enduring all things with patience and long-suffering;  (12) and give thanks to the Father who has made us fit to receive our share of the inheritance of God’s people in Light.”  

So we are not just bearing fruit of every kind – in order to do so we must receive strength of every kind which only comes from knowing God intimately by experience!

Notice that this kind of Christian life comes with real suffering!

Blessings! 

 

I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. If you do not know Him, please use our ‘Contact Us‘ page and reach out so we may have the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will be mentioned.

If you have been spiritually fed by this ministry and wish to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but all outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.

Blessings!

Hi I am Pastor Mark...

I have been a pastor for nearly 30 years now (2018), though never quite like I am today. (more on that in a moment)

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As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my best friend, greatest personal support and most valued critic.
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As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught. I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled). Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then,

"If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling."

~ Fredrick Buechner

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As I said, as of 2009 I’ve been a Pastor for nearly 20 years. Earlier in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our church was not in keeping with the New Testament. This was a shock to me and it is was a revelation that did not come all at once but over the course of a few weeks.

We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until about 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We believe the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly and though we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me. I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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