Living for Jesus in difficult Times

Living Jesus

Sunday 08/30/20

Series: Do we REALLY believe?

MESSAGE: Living for Jesus in difficult Times

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Living for Jesus in difficult Times

Last week we examined some of the things we were called to. In a nutshell they were blessing…meaning the receiving of the blessing of being IN Christ AND the givers of the blessing by honoring those in authority over us as if we were serving the Lord EVEN if we have to suffer for it SO THAT the Gospel of Jesus Christ may not be hindered!

The venues Peter used to drive his point home were the hardest arenas of life because they are where we live and conduct MOST of our lives – that was work and towards those within our own family and home.

  • Citizens with their rulers
  • Slaves with owners
  • Servants with masters
  • Wives with husbands
  • Husbands with wives
  • All of us with each other

Of course in other places in scripture added to this list are children with their parents and congregations with their pastors and all of us with those who have some sort of stewardship over us either spiritually or naturally.

Some of the primary things Peter stresses throughout this letter are:

  • The need to honor God in all things
  • The need to conduct your life in a way that keeps your conscience clear before God
  • Not to place too much emphasis on natural things including our appearance
  • Set apart Jesus as LORD in your hearts
  • NEVER do ANYTHING to hinder the gospel.

One thing we read last week which I THOUGHT might raise some questions was Peter’s statement about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison and baptism.

I thought I’d touch on it briefly, mostly because what I know about this is only speculative.

1 Peter 3:18-22, “(18) For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.  (19)  In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison  (20)  who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared; in it, a few–that is, eight people–were saved through water.  (21)  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (22)  Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subjected to Him.”

Regarding the first part, Peter mentions it again in Chapter 4 saying that the gospel was preached to the dead. The only thing I can make of this is that those who never knew the promise of Messiah specifically AND those who did, but who did not place faith in Christ since He had not come –  but were believing in a coming Messiah. These it seems are intended that Jesus preached to as well as perhaps those who were Gentiles who had been worshipers of God, but who did not have the covenants and so only showed the love and piety that towards God that they knew to offer. These were faithful over what they had and so to them the Gospel was preached after death, that they might place faith in Christ Jesus specifically and be born of God.

Regarding the statement about baptism – I am more than a little disturbed about this. I was challenged on this a while back by another pastor who had visited our church website and liked what he saw, but wondered at our beliefs regarding baptism. I did a check throughout the New Testament and the need for Baptism in direct relation to salvation redeeming us was pervasive. There were only a few places where it was not mentioned and time after time all who came to Christ in the New Testament were baptised. This passage alone seems to indicate what we have always taught – that Baptism does not have anything to do with salvation but is a testimony before those in our old life and those in our new spiritual family that we have died with Christ and risen to new life with Him – nothing more. It was a dramatizations, used as a testimony and a visual cutting of ties with our old life – to illustrate what had already happened within. I am no longer sure of that, but I am not concerned about it either. Everyone in our church has been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus following placing their faith in Him for salvation – so there is no call for alarm. However, it is too pervasive in scripture to just ignore so I am spending more time with it. At present I honestly believe it was a cultural way of giving testimony – a way of proclaiming Christ and belonging to Him before the world – without which He will not confess us before the Father. Baptism in the early church was associated with Jewish purification rituals and to be baptised into Christ was a HUGE thing!  It was a very public proclamation of leaving purification by the law and by sacrifice and placing the whole of one’s trust in Christ Jesus ALONE. It was NOT something someone did lightly -for to do this one was in most cases ending their previous life – including their affiliation with other Jews and even their families. To NOT be baptised in the early church might very well have been tantamount to denying Jesus – that may be the reason for the emphasis…but I simply cannot be totally sure of that at this point.

Now let’s move on in Peter’s letter picking up in chapter 4.

1 Peter 4:1-19,  

“(1) Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same resolve–because the One who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin–  (2)  in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.”

“(3)  For there has already been enough time spent in doing the will of the pagans: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry.  (4)  In regard to this, they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation–and they slander you.”

This wording was very likely intended to be a shout back to his previous comments regarding the flood and those who did not believe then.

“(5)  They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.”

“(6)  For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.”

“(7)  Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer.”

“(8)  Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

“(9)  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” 

Let’s stop here! This is NOT a casual mention of a side issue which only demands a fraction of your attention. This IS the gospel and obedience to it! 

Responsibility to minister in God’s house

“(10)  Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.”

Paul said something very similar in 1 Cor. 12:4-7,

“(4) Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit.  (5)  There are different ministries, but the same Lord.  (6)  And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything.  (7)  A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:”

Now a mistake people often make is to assume that the list in 1Cor. 12 is a comprehensive list which of course it is not – more are mentioned here in Peter’s letter and more still in Romans 12.

Romans 12:4-6, “(4) Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function,  (5)  in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.  (6)  According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith;”

Here Peter sums the gives up into two categories – speaking gifts and gifts of servitude…

“(11)  If anyone speaks, his speech should be like the oracles of God; if anyone serves, his service should be from the strength God provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 

Testing & proving were never very far from their minds

“(12) Dear friends, when the fiery ordeal arises among you to test you, don’t be surprised by it, as if something unusual were happening to you. (13) Instead, as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah rejoice, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. (14) If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

“(15) None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a meddler. (16) But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he should not be ashamed, but should glorify God with that name.”

“(17) For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?”

“(18) And if the righteous is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? (19) So those who suffer according to God’s will should, in doing good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.”

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

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

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about 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 following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. 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.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While 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.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

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

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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