In this lesson we look at some common misunderstandings about the church that Christ promised to build and try to clear them up.
4 Ways to Serve Like Christ (Josh Cochran) and Things Needed for Church Growth Past and Present - part 1 (James Pasley)
We all know that we can’t live without our head. Our head controls the actions of our body. Even those actions that are involuntary are still controlled from the head. In spite of this knowledge we sometimes think that as Christ’s body, the church, we can do things without being controlled by our head, Christ.
The fact is that if a church body is acting without being controlled by Christ it is not his body, it has some other head that is controlling it. A church may be under the control of Christ as her head or she can remove herself from Christ and have some man/woman as a head, or some group of people as a head, but if she does that she is no longer the body of Christ.
As parts of the body of Christ we must respond appropriately to our head, Jesus. When a part of our physical body doesn’t respond to our brains we know there is something wrong and we seek medical attention. The same is true when a part of the spiritual body is not acting in accordance with the messages from the head – something is wrong and help is needed.
Jesus tells us how we are to live, think, speak, act, worship, teach, and believe if we are to be part of his body. Of course, any human can during their life do whatever he or she wishes, but if we are going to be part of Christ’s body with him as our head and be pleasing to him we must obey him in everything (Ephesians 5:23-24).
As we go into a new year let’s examine our lives and see what areas we have not fully put under the control of our head and work to be proper body parts that function in conjunction with the other parts of the body to fulfill the instructions of the head. What thoughts, words, and actions are there in your life that Christ our head doesn’t approve?
It is the time of year when many are exchanging gifts. Some will receive gifts they love and others will not be so pleased. Some will find a unique gift for each individual and others will give everyone the same thing. Some gifts will be expensive and some will be priceless. Some will be given out of love and friendship some out of guilt or duty. Some gifts will not be fully appreciated at first and some will become a disappointment with time. There are many highs and lows when it comes to the giving and receiving of gifts. What is the best gift you have ever received?
If you are a Christian I can answer that question even though I probably don’t know more than a few of the gifts you have been given in your life. How can I be so confident? Because it is Jesus. John 3:16 speaks of God giving the greatest gift that could be given and how he did it because of his great love for us. We looked a few weeks back at Christ as a giver of gifts, but let’s admire him as the most spectacular of all gifts ever given. In 2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul gives thanks to God for Christ and in various translations refers to Christ and the salvation that comes only through him as God’s inexpressible/unspeakable/too wonderful to describe gift. And truly what words could express God’s giving of his own Son.
Giving of some kind or another is so common a theme in the Bible that some form of the word is mentioned over 2000 times in some English translations. But of all the giving that is mentioned, and a good bit of it is mentioning the things God gave, nothing compares to this gift that we as humans can’t fully comprehend or explain. But Jesus was given for us. Unlike many of the things that we give which are limited, God gave Christ for all mankind and everyone can have this indescribable gift. Give thanks to God if you have received this gift which is precious beyond words. If you haven’t received Christ, Why are you waiting? By receiving him you are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
As sad as it is there are many who deny that Jesus is God. That is nothing new, many of the Jews of his own day who saw the multitude of miracles he performed did not believe in him. Sadder however is the fact that some who call themselves Christians don’t believe that he is God. They may believe that he was a righteous man or a prophet, or even that he is the Son of God, but still reject him being God in the flesh.
In the early days of Christianity there were some called Gnostics and Docetists who came up with elaborate theories to explain that Jesus was not really God or at least that the part that was God didn’t die on the cross. There are still many today who reject the idea of God dying for mankind, and I understand it may be impossible for us to understand, but we cannot reject reality just because we don’t understand it. There are many basic things that we deal with every day that we don’t understand. Just consider hundreds of tons of water hanging over our heads in clouds, how? Or that the Earth itself is simply hanging in space (and also moving), how? - Job 26:7-8.
Jesus made it clear in John 10:30-33 saying, “I and the Father are one” The Jews understood what he meant even if they rejected it. They were ready to stone him to death, “because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus taught the disciples the same thing in John 14:7-9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”. Even when Thomas fell at his feet proclaiming, “my Lord and my God” in John 20:28, Jesus could have corrected him if this was not accurate, but Jesus honored his statement instead. There should be no question in our minds that Jesus is God, if we believe the Bible.
In John 10 Jesus compares us to sheep and he speaks of the religious leaders of his day as hirelings who will run away at the first sign of trouble. The good shepherd is not like that at all, however. Instead of running away, the shepherd will die to protect the sheep. The hired hand doesn’t care about the sheep, only about himself, but the good shepherd is different. He knows the sheep by name and they recognize him and his voice.
Of course, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are his sheep. He knows us and cares for us. He was willing to and, in fact, did lay down his life for us. He didn’t throw himself between us and a bear, but in dying for our sins on the cross he did come between us and the roaring lion who is trying to devour us.
Jesus even says that this sacrifice of laying down his life is a reason his Father loves him. Of course, his life would not be laid down permanently because he would take his life back in the resurrection. He also explained that no one was taking it from him. If it had been taken from him by force it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice.
The final thing Jesus told his Jewish listeners was that they were not his only sheep. He explained that he had other sheep that were not part of the nation that had been God’s people. We can be grateful that through Jesus both Jews and Gentiles are able to be part of the same flock of sheep and that we don’t have to depend on hirelings. We must still watch for false shepherds and religious leaders who try to lead us away from our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Don’t let anyone lead you away from the shepherd who died for you.
Did you follow the hoopla over our governor’s race in Georgia and the circus that seems to always be Florida politics? I, for one, am glad that whatever state I live in and whatever human gets elected to that state’s highest office; as a Christian, Jesus is my governor and no one can ever vote him out of that position.
In Psalm 22:28, the Psalmist describes the Lord as the governor among the nations. Some translations say ruler over the nations or something similar. Of course governors of the past were not like our American governors. In those days the king would appoint the governor, the people didn’t vote for one. The governor didn’t have a legislature or even a judiciary to balance his power. The king would give his authority to the governor to rule.
In the case of Jesus, the Father appointed him and told of it beforehand. In Isaiah the prophecy of the child to be born included the phrase, “the government shall be on his shoulders”. In other words, he was given the right to rule over the people. He will be our governor until he gives that authority up to the Father at the end of time. No one can take it from him. No one can vote him out.
Frequently in our country and in others as well, governors and other officials are caught up in scandals and guilty of corruption. Isn’t it comforting to know that our governor is perfect and we don’t need to ever be ashamed of him. Let’s strive to live in such a way that he doesn’t have reason to be ashamed of us either.
In Christian Love
Did you brave the stores on Black Friday to get deals for gifts? Have you done all your gift shopping? Are there some people for whom it is difficult to buy the right gift? Do you wonder if the gifts will be appreciated? Giving gifts has been a part of human cultures for millennia. I guess the first gift given was not a good one (Eve gave Adam the fruit) and we have been trying to do better ever since. But seriously, God is a giver and since we are created in his image it is natural that we want to give as well.
We know God is the greatest gift-giver because he gave his only son for us, according to John 3:16. Other passages tell us about the things God has given us as well, and as God’s Son, Jesus is also a giver. Ephesians 4:7-8 tells us about Christ’s gifts, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,’When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’” When Jesus rose from the grave he gave us gifts. Those gifts are available to all mankind and we need to be letting everyone know so they can receive their gifts from Jesus.
In addition to grace that is mentioned in verse 7, what are some of the gifts mentioned in verse 8 where he paraphrases Psalm 68:18? He gave us hope that we could overcome death because he rose again. He gave us freedom from the fear of death that has such a powerful hold on humanity. He gave us confidence that God’s promises are trustworthy. He gave us a pattern to imitate in baptism as a way to show that we are freed from sin. There are more gifts he gave through his loving sacrifice and his conquering the enemy of death. We need to be thankful for all these gifts and share them with others.
What gifts that Christ gave are you most thankful for? What gifts have you overlooked? Let’s show our appreciation to Christ by living our lives for him every day and giving him our devotion in return.
Jesus uses this phrase 4 times in the book of Revelation to describe himself, 1:11,17; 2:8; 22:13. It is combined with other phrases like “Alpha and Omega” and “the beginning and the end” as well as two times mentioning that he had been dead but was now alive. This last may have reference to him being the first fruits of the resurrection in addition to the idea of beginning and end. Of course all of these symbolic descriptions point to his deity and his position of being before time was created and existing after time as we know it ends, in other words being eternal.
You probably knew this phrase was associated with Jesus and maybe that it was used in Revelation, but did you know that the Lord uses this same description of himself in the Old Testament? Employing a similar phrase to explain the actions of a king is used 9 times in the Chronicles. The image of first and last is used throughout the Bible for other reasons as well, like when Jesus says “the first shall be last” and he fulfilled this idea in a sense as well by being first (God) and becoming the least or last by dying a criminals death on the cross.
In Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 the Lord proclaims to Israel that he is the first and he is the last. It is no accident that Jesus pulls this same moniker from the book of Isaiah and applies it to himself in Revelation to let his people know that he is the same God that Isaiah prophesied for. And of course the idea of him being first in the sense of being before all things and first in the since of being greatest are taught other places also.
Will you put your trust in and serve the one who was before the world existed and who will remain after all is said and done?
It is always good to have a little evidence that a promise will be fulfilled. We like a down payment on something we are selling, an earnest check on a house sale, free taste tests of foods before we buy, a try it before you buy it, and many other things like that. It should come as no surprise, then, that we would really like something to help us trust some of God’s promises, too. He has promised many things in the past that came to pass already, but we still wonder about the future promises sometimes.
God has promised eternal life. He has promised that even if we die he will raise us back to life. Does he give us a free sample to help encourage us? Yes, he has. He raised Jesus from the dead to show us that he has the power and the desire to raise us as well. Jesus being raised from the dead is referred to as the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” in 1 Corinthians 15:20. Now if y’all have read your Bibles then y’all know that Jesus was not the first person to come back from the dead. There were even people in the Old Testament that were brought back to life hundreds of years before Jesus was on Earth. Jesus even during his ministry raised some people from the dead, so why is he the firstfruits instead of any of them? The simple answer is that there is something unique about his resurrection.
All of the people in the Bible who rose from the grave died again, except Jesus, who rose to never die again. That is why his resurrection is so much more important than the others and that is why we can trust God when he promises us resurrection and eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection is the free taste test. His is the down payment. Rom 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
His resurrection is also a promise of Judgment day. Act 17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Are you ready to be raised like Jesus at the last day?
Articles from our bulletin. Mostly written by James Pasley, our preacher and Sunday's Sermons.