08-26-12 Sunday Main

 

 

Freed to Love XII.mp3

Stir it up! – PDF

Key Texts: I Jn. 4:18, 19; Deut. 30:6

References used:

  • II Thess. 3:5
  • Isa. 14:12-17
  • I Peter 5:6-11
  • Acts 13:10
  • Eph. 4:25-30
  • Eph. 6:10-20
  • II Tim. 2:24-26

  • James 4:4-10
  • Jn. 8:44
  • Isa. 58:1-4
  • II Tim. 3:1-9
  • II Tim. 1:2-14
  • II Cor. 2:10,11

     

Review:

Last week we introduced 3 ways in which we are free to love or more specifically, three expressions of love we have been set free to express and live out in our lives.

“Freed to Love” …how?:

  1. In believing what God has said and not wallowing in the mud of our old self-identity any longer.
  2. Spending ourselves on others. – Phil. 2:1-18
  3. Forgiving our brother.

We covered the 1st one last week

Point #1   We are Freed to Love…in believing what God has said and not wallowing in the mud of our old self-identity any longer.

Much of the Grace teaching in the church today is very egocentric. Its focus is almost entirely on God’s love for us rather than God’s love within us. We mentioned again one of our key verses – Deut. 30:6 which says that in the New Covenenant God was going to cut with the world He would cut away the callous from our hearts – freeing us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. We have turned this truth around to say that God has cut a callous off of His Own heart which has freed Him to start loving us with all His heart. What a distortion – what I devil inspired lie!

God has ALWAYS loved the world – HE is NOT the One Who needed fixing – WE WERE and ARE!

In this “love is all about me” focused gospel, we are practicing the very thing Paul warned the Galatian church about,

” 13. For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love

  14. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
  15. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
  16. I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
  17. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. (See Rom. 7:15-21)
  18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Gal. 5:13-18

 

People who live in this self-focused “Gospel of grace” do not realize what a blasphemous notion this espouses. Grace is God’s influence on our hearts – so a self-oriented and thus, selfish gospel being “sold” as the result of God’s inner influence is nothing short of heresy. God’s influence does not encourage nor produce devil-like qualities of selfishness and pride.

In a unbalanced gospel overly emphasizing God’s Grace as if it were a means of liberty from good works is sin! Our works are equated with “fruit” in the New Testament. Far from being a “dirty word” in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the work of Grace in the heart produces fruit or works in the life. What is the definition of grace again?

 

Grace (χάρις) cháris means…

The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude.

 

God’s grace effects HOW WE WALK! If we are walking in self-awareness, always protecting ourselves from the vulnerability and lack of control that grace influences us towards, then we are not walking in true grace, we are walking according to the flesh.

Works are evident PROOF of genuine faith!

I am NOT condoning the pursuit of works by a flesh effort – I am condoning the pursuit of God resulting in works befitting and produced by our union with Him!

“He who places his trust in Him is not being judged. He who is not believing, has been judged already, and is as a result under judgment, because he has not put his trust in the Name of the uniquely-begotten Son of God, with the result that he is in a state of unbelief. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the universe and is here, and men loved rather the darkness than the light, for their works were pernicious. For everyone who practices evil things hates the light, and does not come and face up to the light lest his works be effectually rebuked. But he who habitually does the truth comes and faces up to the light in order that his works might be clearly shown to have been produced by God. ~ John 3:20-21

Paul praised Timothy for his genuine faith – II Tim. 1:5. The word genuine essentially means “faith without hypocracy”. In other words it was the real thing – it both SAID & DID!

Every time, without fail genuine, non-hyprocritical reliance (faith) generates works or fruit in our lives. “…works….produced by God.”

This is NOT a new battle, James addressed the Jewish converts of the dispersion concerning the same dilusion,

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.

You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe–and they shudder. Foolish man!

Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?

Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route?

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” ~ James 2:14-26

 

This is the delusion of living in our own self-oriented story.

That story protects and excuses our weaknesses rather than bringing them “to the light”. This is NOT the Gospel of Grace nor the Gospel of God’s love. God’s love – loves TOO MUCH to leave us unchanged by His power, He inhabits our hearts and induces change from within by our reliance upon His power within through our vital union with His risen son!

Jesus said, if your love Me you will habitually keep my commandments (Jn. 14:21; I Jn. 5:2,3). This was not a challenge to prove our love for Him, but a immediate proof that we do love Him. It is not a work we produce to prove our love is real – our love is proved as real because we obey.

“Answered Jesus and said to him, If anyone as a habit of life loves me with a divine and self-sacrificial love, my word he will keep, and my Father will love him, and to him we shall come, and an abiding place with him we shall make for ourselves. He who is not habitually loving me with a divine and self-sacrificial love, my words he is not keeping. And the word which you are hearing is not mine but belongs to Him who sent me, the Father.”Jn. 14:21

So if our works are the proof of our love and reliance upon God in Christ, then that brings us back to our ORIGINAL Questions….

If we love God because He first loves us – then why do we not find ourselves genuinely loving God?

Has He failed to love us? Absolutely NOT!

Why then do we not love? Because we don’t know nor rely upon the love He has for us.

Why don’t we know and believe? We don’t sincerely seek!

Why don’t we sincerely seek? Ah, now there is the REAL question!

It was suggested that fear played a large part of the reason why do we not seek to now His love. However, I believe even the fear has a deeper root, one which is much closer to the real issue.

Michelle said that she believed a primary reason why we do not truly seek the knowledge of His love for us is because we do not want to change. I concur – that is at the root of our fear and our unwillingness to seek.

As humans we are not only influenced by God, we are also influence by the devil. The devil can only influence you with what he has – which is blind pride, self-seeking and a deadly dedication to his own self-promotion.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ~ Isa. 14:12-14

I began to tell you about spiritual warfare and why, as a church, we have been moving away from much of the entrappings of modern Christian doctrine concerning spiritual warfare. As an elder in this church, I truly believe that spiritual warfare is quite real. I also believe that the primary ways in which Christians deal with this warfare in the modern age is completely extra-biblical. God never encourages His people to be devil focused! What God DOES tell us to do I will bullet point some highlights of  below…

  • Submit to authorities, be alert and watchful, humble yourselves before and under God – I Peter 5:6-11
  • The enemy’s work is to pervert righteousness or to distort our understanding of right standing with God – Acts 13:10
  • Speak truth, deal with hostilities PRIOR to the end of each day – do not sleep on or with your anger, do not offer “heart real-estate” to the devil, minister grace to your brothers and do not make the heart of the Holy Spirit heavy with your indifference to these things – Eph. 4:25-30
  • Be strong in God’s might and power, allow God’s provision in you to be your protective armor, the Sword of God’s word (Rhema – Rev. 1:16) use in prayer before God always – Eph. 6:10-20
  • Do not walk in strife, but be kind, patient teachable with others so that God may deliver them from satan’s snare – II Tim. 2:24-26
  • Submit to God, draw near  to Him, speak truth, do not slander or condemn your brother – James 4:4-10

Notice how all of these are NOT focus on the devil at all! They acknowledge his existence, are watchful and aware of his tactics, but all affirmative action is towards God NOT the devil! Furthermore, the shield of faith is just that – a shield! Modern Christianity has reforged the shield of faith into the sword of faith. Faith = total reliance upon. This shield is a defense against weapons NOT an offensive weapon itself. It will quench the fiery darts if our reliance is real!

So how do we overcome him? (Rev. 12:11)

  1. By the power of Jesus’ blood to eradicate the power of sin unto death within us (Rom. 7:24-Rom. 8:2)
  2. The living words which offer testimony to our lives lived in total reliance upon the inner working of God through Christ.
  3. By not loving our earth bound lives and holding them precious and ear to ourselves even to the point of death.

The key one here is #’s 2 & 3

Michelle said we do not want to change.

Why? Because deep within we know that the change is not just a topical change – it is a radical change. What needs to change is WHO IS IN CONTROL. The fear is of a surrender of control. People do not like to be out of control. Surrending control makes us feel vulnerable and open to a lack of protection, safety and justice. If we were to allow the fears of our hearts ability to voice their concerns it would sound something like…

“If I surrender to God, I wont be able to make that other person pay for what they did to me.”

“If I let go of control, I can no longer pursue my own self-oriented story or self-ambitions. I will live a mediocre existence and shallow and unspectacular story”

“If I surrender control, I will have to forgive and then that other person will have gotten away with what they did or even worse they will see me as weak and able to be easily walked on!”

You may remember Emmanuel from Jason Gray’s youtube video (Time Stamp 2:55) and how the same struggle nearly kept him from coming to Christ in the first place.

Are such concerns unwarranted? Yes and No.

– No in that you will be influenced by God to loose your own ambitions and self-guided story [Mark 8:35]

– No in that you will be influenced by God to forgive injustices – I Cor. 6:1-10

– No in that you will be influenced by God to let go of offenses – Col. 3:13; Rom. 12:16-21.

– No in that the Holy Spirit CRAVES control over you. – James 4:5

– Yes in that God’s influence is to a life lived in Him which is FAR GREATER than satisfying our own selfish petty needs for significance or revenge.  – Phil. 3:7-21

– Yes in that in the control the Holy Spirit yearns to have over us is a both loving and doting. – James 4:5 (look up the words to this verse)

This apparent “NEED” to control our lives comes from an external influence. This has to be so, because even those in the world were created in God’ image and “protecting self” is not a god-like tendency.

The New Testament offers a list of outlandish qualities indicative of the last generation. Here is the list as offered in II Peter 2:10 & Ii Tim 3:

 

He wants you to see yourself independant of God. Is it any wonder than the largest thrust of the spirit of this age is self-promotion through independence? God spoke of this later generation and one of the astonishing tell-tale signs of the last age was going to be people who despise authority 2Peter 2:10 in 2Tim 3 Paul offers another list:

  • lovers of themselves
  • lovers of money
  • boasters
  • proud
  • blasphemers
  • disobedient to parents
  • unthankful
  • unholy
  • unloving
  • unforgiving
  • slanderers
  • without self-control
  • brutal
  • despisers of good
  • traitors
  • headstrong
  • haughty
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

 

These people, Paul says, all have a form of godliness but denying its power!

What is the power of godliness? The blood of Jesus and Himself as risen Lord!

So in essence what are they denying? His blood and His position as Lord.

How does the bible tell us again that the Church overcame the enemy? (Rev. 12:11)

  1. By the power of Jesus’ blood to eradicate the power of sin unto death within us (Rom. 7:24-Rom. 8:2)
  2. The living words which offer testimony to our lives lived in total reliance upon the inner working of God through Christ Jesus as Lord and Master.
  3. By not loving our earth bound lives and holding them precious and ear to ourselves even to the point of death. – Mk. 8:35

“Christians” make much of seeking God daily and delight to know His ways. We can ask of Him the words of Justice and take delight in approaching and drawing near God – all the while being miles away from Him. The verse we have quoted many times, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” is just a partial quote.

Here it is as a full though…

“Stop and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with beer. For the LORD has poured out on you an overwhelming urge to sleep; He has shut your eyes–the prophets, and covered your heads–the seers. For you the entire vision will be like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to one who can read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read it, because it is sealed.” And if the document is given to one who cannot read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read.” The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service–yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote– therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden. Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the LORD. They do their works in darkness, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”Isa. 29:9-15

One of the works we hide is mentioned prominently in the list above and that is unforgiveness. Which is the last of the three ways in which we are freed to love God and our brother.

I am encouraging you to get before God this week, BEING KEENLY AWARE – that the Holy Spirit is NOT condemning you! He dotes on you and craves possession of your soul, that through you He can establish fruit which is honoring to God and fitting of the invitation you have received to be His glorious sons and daughters. [Rom. 8:31-39; James 4:5; Eph. 4:1; II Thess. 1:11,12; II Tim. 1:8-14]

This whole past 8 months has been leading to this point in time. DO NOT MISS THIS DAY OF VISITATION. I tell you I could not have set this up any better. I NEVER saw this complete circle coming and it was in the making with every message we have heard.

What then should be our response to God’s pursuit of us as a church body through the foolishness of the message preached?

It SHOULD have these TWO primary effects on our hearts.

  1. Feel cherished and pursued – because it was God Who spoke to me on the bridge about teaching grace instead of coming at you with a gavel. He had your restoration in mind – not your punishment nor your undue grief or sorrow produced from self-reflections.
  2. You should be all the more diligent to enter in – Call upon Him while He is near.

 

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 aid.
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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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By 2009 I’d been Pastoring 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!