Monday, November 30, 2009

A Whole Notha' Level

Memory Verse:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” - Matthew 5:17

Big Idea:
Jesus very clearly tells us that He didn’t come to “do away” with the law and bring a new law. Rather, Jesus tells us that He came to fulfill the law and to fulfill all the prophecies that proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. The law represents the character of God. The Law represents the righteous requirements of God. The law has not changed just as God has not changed. However, scripture tells us that we have a new covenant in Jesus Christ because only in Christ can we fully meet the requirements of the law. This new covenant is all about the heart. God wants our hearts, and when He has our hearts, we can live for Him like we couldn’t before - because of Christ.

With Christ, it is different. When we accept Him as our sacrifice, we not only receive forgiveness, but we are actually made into new creations. The old passes away and the new comes. Our hearts are filled with His grace that gives us what we need to live for God in a new way. Jesus takes it to a “whole notha’ level”. He fulfills the law.

God’s grace changes our hearts and empowers us to live for God - to live for righteousness and say no to evil. Sin is dead in us and we can now walk in newness of life because the work of Christ on the cross is complete and fulfills the law. The grace of Jesus Christ is powerful! The law hasn’t gone anywhere. God’s requirements remain the same. God still requires holiness and righteous living. However, in Christ “we now have all we need for life and godliness” - 2 Peter 1:3.

Scripture and Discussion Questions: Read the Bible passage(s) and discuss the questions.
1. Matthew 5:17-20 – Why is the Law still good? How did Jesus fulfill the Law? How did Jesus fulfilling the Law change everything? What does it mean to you and your daily life?
2. Ezekiel 11:19-20 – Why did we need a new heart? How does a new heart of flesh change us? Have you experienced an ability to follow the commandments of God since receiving your new heart in Christ?
3. Titus 2:11-12 –Beyond forgiveness, what does God’s grace do for Christ-followers? What areas of your life need a dose of this kind of grace? Take hold of God’s grace and in faith ask God for deliverance.

Kids Corner:
Setup a racecourse or an obstacle course in your backyard or in your living room. Race your children. Have fun with it. Next, tell your children that they can only hop on one leg for this next race. Then have one final race using both legs again. Read Matthew 5:17-20 and ask your children the following questions: (1) Was it easier to run with both legs or just one? (2) Where you faster with one or two legs? (3) Can you run longer one two legs or using just one? Talk to your children about the new covenant in Christ Jesus where He fulfilled the law which means we have His powerful grace that has two spiritual legs – one leg provides for our forgiveness while the other leg empowers us to say no to sin and to live for God. Read Titus 2:11-12 again and talk about how God’s grace helps them do the right thing.

Prayer Time:
Have a discussion with God about what you have just studied. Repent if you have only looked to His grace for forgiveness and not for the power to say no to sin. You are forgiven. Now confess Titus 2:11-12 and thank God for the new covenant in Christ Jesus that both forgives you and empowers you to kill sin and break bondage. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area where you need God’s grace to break bondage. Ask God for His grace to destroy that bondage, sin, habit, or lie from the enemy. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law and in Him you have all you need for life and godliness. It is by His grace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Live It & Share It

Memory Verse:
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:16

Big Idea:
In this sermon, Jesus tells us that we are different and that we must maintain our difference. We are called to be salt to a rotting world. We are called to be light in a world of darkness. However, simply being different is not our entire mission. Jesus also tells us to go and share the difference with others. He tells us to bring His righteousness into this lost world. We are called to be holy as Christ is holy and then to bring the holiness of Christ into the darkness. We are called to be salt and light and we are called to be change-agents for the glory of God.

Jesus tells us that if we lose our saltiness, then our ability to help save the world is compromised. We can lose our saltiness and our impact for Christ in this world by allowing impurities into our life, like ongoing sin, and worldly affections. Likewise, if we cover up the light of Christ in us, our usefulness is snuffed out. If we don’t share Christ with others, His flame in us can actually be extinguished because we do not let it shine. Jesus calls us to live for Him and to share Him with others.

There are many ways to be salt and to be light. There are many ways to bring righteousness and share Christ. Here are three places to start. (1) Prayer: praying for others and also praying with others who need a touch from God. (2) Living it out in actions and deeds: We are light in the darkness as we daily say yes to righteousness and no to evil; as we show others love and compassion; as we love our neighbor as ourselves. (3) Sharing truth: Ultimately, we must open our mouths and share the gospel of Christ with others. We are called to go beyond living an obedient & godly life. We are also called to tell others about Christ. LET’S LIVE IT AND SHARE IT. Let’s be salt and light for the glory of God.

Scripture and Discussion Questions: Read the Bible passage(s) and discuss the questions.
1. Matthew 5:13-16 – What kind of things can cause you to lose your saltiness? Discuss practical ways you can protect yourself from these things. Strategize how you can “let your light shine” in your family, neighborhood, work, friends, and community. How do you feel when you live it and share it?
2. Romans 10:14 – It is important to live in such a way as to glorify Christ, but why is it important to tell people about Jesus? If you had two minutes to tell someone about Jesus, what would you say?
3. Romans 1:16 – Why is sharing the gospel with people so important? What has prevented you from sharing the gospel with others? What can help you push past your fears of sharing Christ?

Kids Corner:
Make some popcorn without any salt (or butter) and have your children have a few bites. Now add salt (be generous) and ask them if they like it better with the salt. Read Matthew 5:13-16 and ask your children the following questions: (1) What made the popcorn taste better? (2) Why does Jesus call us the salt of the earth? (3) Why does bringing Christ into the world make it better? (4) Have your children brainstorm and come up with ways they can be salt in the world.

Prayer Time:
Have a discussion with God about what you have just studied. Repent of past failures to be salt and light. You are forgiven. Now confess Romans 1:16 out loud three times. Cry out to the Lord for boldness and courage. Reject the spirit of fear and ask the Lord for His powerful grace for you to be salt and light in the world. Challenge: (1) Map out your “network of influence” and plan how you will share the light of Christ and then go for it. (2) Commit to praying with at least 4 non-family members every month. Be salt and light. Live it and share it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where does persecution come from?

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; - Psalm 143:3 nasb
Persecution comes from the Devil, not people. It comes through people, not from people. This is how Jesus, while He was being crucified, was able to say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Because He knows it is the Devil who persecutes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12
We live in a lost world. We live in a world that is ruled by an anti-Christ spirit. We live in a dark world. And, if we live in a dark world, then the darkness will persecute the light. If we live in a world that is against Christ, then we who are in Christ won’t fit in and we will be persecuted.
Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. – John 3:19 18
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” - John 15:18-21
Jesus tells us, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you." There are people who believe that if they love the world enough; if they do enough good things for people; they will be loved. But, you just can’t love people enough for them to love you back. Jesus is perfect love. He loved the world in word and in deed. He healed, He comforted, He forgave, He even made water into wine, but the world still crucified Him.

In fact, the more loving you are, the more Satan hates you and the more you will be persecuted.

Why do we get persecuted? Because of righteousness; because of our relationship with Christ; because we live for Him; because we bring Him into our lives and into the lives of others. Being persecuted because you tell a bad joke or because you don’t shower doesn’t count. Jesus is talking about the persecution that comes because He is evident in our lives. This is what the Devil hates and this is what He fights against.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Got persecution?

In His final Beatitude, Jesus tells us that it is about to get tough. Persecution happened to the prophets, it is happening to me, and it will happen to you.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12
In our sterilized view of Christianity (primarily here in America), we think that once we get saved that everything should work out for us. In fact, if we have any problems we are shocked. “How can this happen to me? I am a Christian. Where is God? Everything should be ‘hunk dory’ in my life because I am a Christian. Right?” Most Christians throughout history and even now throughout the world know that problems and persecution don’t disappear when we come to Christ, but in many ways, they begin. God actually promises us…
In fact, everyone (all) who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12
How many followers of Christ will experience persecution? ALL. In other words, ALL who live the Beatitudes will suffer persecution.

Some Christians try to hide from the persecution. But, God doesn’t want us to live under the radar. The devil would love for us to hide and not let anyone see Christ in us and not share Christ with anyone else. The devil tries to convince us that it is best to just not make any waves; don’t rock the boat. But, we know that that is not what we are here for. We are here to make a difference. We are here to bring Christ into the lives of a lost and dying world. We are called to be peacemakers. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be let the light of Jesus shine. And when we do, we will be persecuted. Many people don’t like Jesus and if we are ambassadors of Christ, many people won’t like us. That is just the way it is and we must be OK with that.

So are you suffering for Him? Are you catching some flack for your faith or are you a secret agent. Do people know that you are a follower of Christ?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Got Peace - Part Two

We are called to be peacemakers. So, what is a peacemaker? A peacemaker is someone who brings righteousness (Jesus) into a situation. You actually make peace by sowing righteousness. For instance, if you don’t have peace in your marriage, don’t avoid the conflict. Rather, bring your marital relationship into right standing with God. Bring righteousness into the relationship and peace will follow.

If there is an area of conflict in your life, then examine to see if it is in right standing with God. Bring righteousness into that area of your life. Make it completely right before God. Totally surrender it to Him. Give it to Jesus! Righteousness will bring peace!

How do we stay in the place of peace? We stay focused on God. Check out this scripture:
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3
We stay in perfect peace when we stay focused on God. No matter what the world says, no matter what our circumstances are, no matter the economy, no matter the doctors reports, no matter what. So, do you want peace? Then bring God into your situations and stay focused on God and His truth. What does God say about it? Believe it, confess it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Got Peace - Part One

Peace is being in right relationship with God! Peace is being in right standing before God. Peace means that Jesus is Lord of your life, your relationships, your attitude, your finances, your everything.

Peace is not the absence of something, but rather the presence of someone. You can have a storm, but if Jesus is in the boat, you can have peace. Peace is the presence of Christ. Peace is present when Christ is present. Peace is present in your relationships when Christ is the Lord of your relationships. Peace is present in your finances when Christ is the Lord of your finances. Peace is present in your marriage when Christ is the Lord of your marriage. Peace is present in your heart when Christ is the Lord of your heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:9

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Keeping the heart pure

"If the pure in heart see God, then tell me how to have a pure heart because I want to see God."

Let me start out by emphatically stating that the only way we can ever have a pure heart is to invite Jesus to reside, rule, and reign inside our hearts. He alone is the essence of purity and holiness. So, there’s no hope for a pure heart without God.

But know that in Christ, we now have the ability and responsibility to actively pursue this progressive work of developing a pure heart. “I can do all things through Christ…” My heart can be purified. I am called to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” I am called to work on my heart.

Our responsibility in our relationship with Christ is to give our heart to Him every day and not give it to the world. We must build our affections for God and allow the affections for this world to be cut off. How do we do this? Scripture clearly points to some things that must be present in the life of one whose heart is being purified. These are often called the spiritual disciplines. Don’t discount them, because they are used powerfully by the Holy Spirit to transform us and to purify us. Here they are...

1. Repentance: “Thinking differently about things.” Thinking God’s way about stuff.
“8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phil. 4:8
2. This involves RENEWING OUR MINDS: We renew our minds by reading the Word of God – the Bible. When we read God’s Word, we fill our minds with life and with truth – with purity instead of filling it with the filth and follies of this passing world.
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (be purified) 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 12:2
3. Prayer & Fasting: Communing with the Holy One purifies our hearts. When we pray and when we fast, our focus is on God and nothing else. This strengthens our heart. In fact, scripture tells us it is so important that we should, “pray without ceasing” – 1 Thes. 5:17. Always be in a state of prayer (communing with God); allowing God to be involved in our everything. We need to wake up praying, not planning our busy day – Praying. It is no accident that I see God and His will so much clearer when I am purposely focused on Him during times of intense prayer and fasting? Could it be that my heart has undergone a cleansing from other affections? Could it be that I have just taken a spiritual bath and come to a place where my heart has been rinsed of gunk that had attached itself?

4. Fellowshipping with Christ Followers: You have probably heard the saying, “you are who you hang out with.” This is so true. Hanging out with negative people will suck the life out of you and you will become negative and critical. Likewise, if you hang out with people who are passionately pursuing God, you will find yourself passionately pursuing God. You will find your heart being purified and you will see God and you will be Happy in God! AMEN!
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. - Proverbs 13:20
5. Let me add one more thing: Ask God for help. Not just once, but daily. Listen to King David, the man after God’s heart,
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10
Tell God you want the other stuff that is trying to pull your heart away from Him to be cut off.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Want to see God?

So, the pure in heart will see God. To “See God” means to see Him both in eternity and now. Again, we see the eternal blessings and the now blessings in the Beatitudes. Yes, the pure in heart will see God in eternity. They will see Him face to face in heaven. They will actually live and rule with Christ in the new earth. The pure in heart will be forever in His presence. Hallelujah!

But, the pure in heart will also see God now. The pure in heart will see God moving in powerful ways. They will see God in miracles; they will see God move spiritual mountains and heal physical disease. They will see God changing hearts and transforming lives. They will see God defeat the Devil and drive back the enemy. They will see God in dreams and in visions. They will see God in the midst of life’s circumstances – holding you up, protecting you, and walking with you. They will hear His voice and feel His touch. God is alive in amazing and awesome ways to the “pure in heart”.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. – Matthew 5:8

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The way to God is through the heart

Yesterday we talked about how the PURE IN HEART chase after God and not other stuff. The PURE IN HEART pursue God and not selfish things. The PURE IN HEART seek God and they find Him because God has told us, “If you seek me, you will find Me.” The PURE IN HEART forsake all other affections and long for God alone. The PURE IN HEART are crazy in love with God and don’t allow anything else to compete for His affection.

You see, God wants our hearts. He wants us to crave Him. When we do, we will see Him.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. – Matthew 5:8

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What motivates you?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. – Matthew 5:8
Pure in heart means to be “free from corrupt desire.” It means that we are motivated by God and not by self. Pure in Heart means that we are led by the Holy Spirit and not by our corrupt flesh. It means that Christ is our deep desire. It means that we have died to self and that our inner motivation and the craving of our soul is Christ centered.
“A wicked heart is a mind in a state of devotion to self; a pure heart, a mind in a state of devotion to God. It is a state of moral purity, resulting from a committal of the soul to God.” – Charles Finney
So, what is your devotion? What is your motivation? Is it your happiness, your comfort, your reputation, your acceptance, your desire to avoid pain? Or, is it a heart-felt desire to obey God, to follow Jesus, and to glorify the Lord? How you answer this question matters tremendously. It is all about the condition of your heart – your motivation. Is your motivation (heart) turned to you or is it turned to God.