Monthly Archives: November 2013

New Creation = Cross Boasters

To close out this week of New Creation implications from Galatians 6, I want to take a second to highlight Paul’s heart. It’s what he expressed about himself at the very end of the letter. . .

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14

A New Creation Boasts ONLY in the Cross of Jesus. images-1

Tim Keller wrote, “Ultimately, Paul says, the heart of your religion is what you boast in. What, at bottom, is the reason that you think you are in a right relationship with God?”

At the end of the day, the new creation, the genuine Christian – who keeps in step with the Spirit of God – rejoices in, brags about, boasts in, exults in one thing when it comes to being in a right relationship with God and going to heaven – Jesus’ work on the cross. The reason we bear burdens for each other, the reason we confront sin, the reason we love the Word, the reason we do good to others, the reason we gather on Sundays, the reason we do Sunday School, the reason we sing, the reason we baptize, the reason we do Lord’s Supper, the reason do anything and everything we do is because Jesus did it all for us. Our hope, our boasting, our joy, our bragging, our confidence is in Him and Him alone.

This means, then, we don’t boast in anything else. We don’t boast in ourselves. We don’t exult in our efforts. We don’t brag about – when it comes to being in a right relationship with God – anything other than the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

How would you answer Keller’s question quoted above? “What, at bottom, is the reason that you think you are in a right relationship with God?” 

Seriously – think about that. It is a tough, but essential question.

Whatever the answer – don’t stop until you can say with confidence with Paul that your boast is in the cross.

“Father, make us new creations who gladly boast in nothing but Your Son’s finished work on the cross for us.”

Five @ Free Flow Friday!

Happy Black Friday Everybody!

Whether you are waiting in line in a store (you’re crazy), sitting in a deer stand or duck blind (you’re crazy too), still in a turkey induced coma from yesterday (you’re a glutton, or a Baptist – but more on the normal side), angry at the lights on the tree that don’t work from last year (you’re pretty normal), or pacing around the house anxiously waiting for the Iron Bowl to start (completely normal!) – here are some articles for your weekend reading pleasure. . .

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#1.Thanksgiving Through The Eyes of IMB Missionaries by Commission Stories

While you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, please take time to remember those who have sacrificed time with family and friends in the United States to serve around the world for the sake of the Gospel.

We asked just a few of our nearly 5,000 missionaries what they do for Thanksgiving, what they miss most about Thanksgiving in the U.S. and how you can pray for them during the holidays.

Please read about and pray for these amazing people serving King Jesus around the world. 

 

#2. 8 Things Never to Say at Thanksgiving Dinner by Shannon Rouss

“‘Do you know what they do to the turkey before it’s slaughtered?’

We’re not saying that you don’t have a valid point to make, but bringing this up just as Dad’s about to carve the turkey might ruffle some feathers.”

Hope you didn’t commit any of these yesterday!!

 

#3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Alissa Wilkinson from Christianity Today

I think the reason the books resonated so much with teenagers is that they know, all too keenly, the importance of performing—high school often resembling the arena more than we might like. But let’s not miss the larger critique: ‘performing well’ is what we demand from our celebrities and political figures (and our celebrity pastors, too). The presidency was irrevocably changed after the first televised debates between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960; how you look is now just about as important to the average person, if not more, than what you actually think or do.

This is an incredibly insightful article based on the book series known as ‘The Hunger Games.’

 

#4. Black Friday Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader by Tim Challies

If you own a Kindle, you know this is a good time to be a reader of Christian books. Publishers continue to spoil us with great deals on books new and old. There will be a lot of deals coming our way over the Thanksgiving (and Black Friday and Cyber Monday) weekend. I am going to keep an eye out for the ones you may be most interested in and list them right here. Check back throughout the weekend as the list will be changing a lot, I’m sure. (I will soon have a second list for Black Friday deals on printed books and other material.)

Have any of you found any other, cheap or freebies? If so, comment below!!!

#5. How to Deal with Holiday Family Tensions by Russell Moore

Jesus never, not once, seeks to prove he is right, and he was accused of being everything from a wino to a demoniac. He rejects Satan’s temptation to force a visible vindication, waiting instead for God to vindicate him at the empty tomb.

Often Christians veer toward Satanism at holiday time because we, deep down, pride ourselves on knowing the truth of the gospel. The rage you feel when Uncle Happy says why ‘many roads lead to God’ might be more about the fact that you want to be right than that you want him to be resurrected.

Plus, we often forget just how it is that we came to be in Christ in the first place. This wasn’t some act of brilliance, like being accepted into Harvard or some exertion of the will, like learning to put a Rubik’s cube together in 20 seconds. ‘What do you have that you did not receive,’ the Apostle Paul asks us, ‘And if you received it, then why do you boast as though you didn’t receive it?’ (1 Cor. 4:6-7)

Remarkably real issues coupled with tremendous counsel. Great article. Sorry for those of you who wish I had linked to this on Wednesday!

New Creation = Opportunity Knockers

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Instead of “Throw it Out There Thursday!” I am taking a break to discuss  New Creation implications from Galatians 6. Check out the first three here, here, and here

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A Fourth implication of a new creation is to seize every Opportunity that Knocks

Check out what Paul says in verses 9-10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially those who are of the household of faith.” 

Those who live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit are constantly looking for ways to ‘do good’ with the specific opportunities God puts in their path. Much like “bearing one another’s burdens,” a new creation in Christ is free to do good to those around him/her. Instead of longing and hoping and waiting for others to ‘do good’ to them, they are – instead – consumed with ‘doing good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith.’ 

How do they do this? How do believers live this way without ‘growing weary’? One, simply because their joy and approval and needs are being met by God through their faith in Jesus alone for their Savior. Their Savior is Jesus – not attention from others or hoping someone else will meet their needs that only God can fulfill. But also, as the text says, they know they will reap a harvest of eternal life when life on earth is done. They wear themselves out doing good knowing that the harvest of their ‘goodness toward others’ will be experienced in the life to come. In short – a new creation doesn’t hope in the here and now. No. A new creation hopes in what Christ has done and in what Christ is going to do. 

With family today? You will have TONS of opportunities to do good. Toward some who follow Jesus. And toward some who don’t. 

Will you – right now – ask God to give you opportunities to do good today?

Will you – right now – ask the Lord to remind you of what you have in Him because of Jesus?

Will you – right now – reflect on the reality that you WILL reap a harvest of goodness for all eternity in the life to come?

Now – what’s keeping you from looking for opportunities to do good to all people, especially of the household of faith?

 

New Creation = Word Lovers

We’re taking a break from the normal routine to talk about what a new creation looks like according to Galatians 6. Day 1 is here and Day 2 is right here.

A Third distinction of a new creation is being a Lover of the Word.

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Verse 6 of Galatians 6 says, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.”

What does THAT mean? I’m glad you asked.

It means those who are taught the Word of God every week need to give all their good things to the one who teaches. And I live at this address. . .

Okay, okay. I’m teasing. . . Sort of.

Here’s what is really going on: A new creation in Christ has a new and fixed relationship with the God of the universe. A new creation longs to know their new heavenly Father more and more and more. How do you do that? By learning the Word! A new creation loves to read and be taught the Word! Therefore, he or she wants to make sure the one teaching the Word has ample time and energy to prepare to teach. How can a new creation do that? By sharing their resources.

This is Paul’s way of saying, “Demonstrate your love for the Word by doing for the preacher/teacher what is necessary so he can adequately and appropriately teach the Word.”

Today, in most churches, this is done through the giving of tithes to a pre-approved church annual budget. In other words, if you don’t give a portion of your resources (‘share all good things’) to the church – preachers’ will have to get another job. If they get another job, time and energy in the study will be robbed. When time and energy in the study is robbed – the efficiency of the teaching of the Word will weaken.

Do you see the ripple effect?

Do you demonstrate your love for the Word by eagerly giving to the church so the Word can continue to advance throughout our city?

Do you demonstrate your love for the Word by respecting, honoring, and appreciating your Sunday School teacher for taking the time to prepare? 

Do you demonstrate your longing to learn more by praying for your pastor as he prepares and before he preaches?

Do you demonstrate your love for the Word by going to bed early on Saturday night in order to be alert and ready to go on Sunday morning?

Do you demonstrate your love for the Word by personally studying it during the week? 

Do you love the Word of God? How does your life demonstrate that?

 

 

New Creation = Burden Bearers

What in the world is going on? Why is Pastor Matt blogging on Tuesday and what’s up with this ‘New Creation’ stuff? If you missed yesterday, start here. If you did already, or don’t have the energy to click here then keep reading and/or be thankful this post isn’t about laziness!

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A Second way new creations interact with each is they Bear each other’s Burdens. Galatians 6:2 is crystal clear: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Followers of Jesus don’t bear burdens for each other in order to make God like them more. No, no. That has already been fulfilled by Jesus. This ‘law’ (the fact that God TOTALLY loves you completely already!), however, plays itself out in the believer’s life by seeking to walk with another believer with a burden they may be carrying.

A genuine follower of Jesus understands that the law has been totally fulfilled by Jesus. Their ‘burden’ has been totally lifted and paid for. They are completely and eternally right with God the Father. This reality sets them free to live for others. They aren’t looking to see how others can bear their burdens. No, no. They are free from this due to their relationship with Christ. They are living to help others’ burdens be lifted and carried. Jesus came to bear our burdens so that we could live and thrive. His followers – those who have His Spirit living within them – now live with that exact same mentality. Christians are fulfilled and taken care of by Jesus. They aren’t constantly looking to be fulfilled by others; rather, they are looking to how they can help others endure and thrive.

Think of it this way: When speaking of why spouses cheat, I’ve heard this phrase: “When the home fires aren’t burning, they go looking somewhere else to get warm.” The point? When fulfillment ain’t happening at home, spouses go looking elsewhere for it. When a follower of Jesus is “keeping in step with the Spirit” and is looking to Jesus – alone – to be their Savior and God, their need for attention and love and care gets fulfilled. They are free to live for others, not themselves. But when those ‘needs’ are being sought outside of Jesus . . . uh oh.

So. . .

Evaluate the last week of your life. Do you spend more time hoping someone will notice your burdens or do you look more for burdens others are carrying?

Do you have a network of close Christian friendships that allows you to know about burdens others are carrying?

Why is it – do you think – that most church people put on a mask and refuse to allow others to see their burdens?

How can churches more effectively cultivate a culture of healthy vulnerability with one another?

New Creation = Vulnerable Restorers

I know what you’re thinking: “What??? Where in the world is Pastor Matt’s ‘Now THAT’s a Good Question!’ segment???? Doesn’t he know it’s Monday?!?!?!?!?”

Believe me, it bothers me too. I’m a Baptist. I don’t like change either. But would you allow me to break from the ‘norm’ of the blog this week?

Yesterday morning at FBC El Dorado I finished a series through the book of Galatians called “I Pity the Fool!” You can listen to the series and/or listen to yesterday’s message here when it’s posted later this week. Due to time, circumstances, and the overall purpose of my preaching through Galatians I merely highlighted 5 evidences of being a new creation Paul identifies in the 6th chapter. I’d like to take each weekday this week and interact a bit more with the 5 evidences. images

So, what does it look like for a person to “walk by the Spirit“? How does bearing the “fruit of the Spirit” play out in church life? How does a “new creation” interact with others? (For more on what these highlighted areas mean PLEASE listen to the last 2 messages in the series.)

First – Paul says they will be Vulnerable Restorers.

Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Those who walk in the Spirit as new creatures are those who look to lovingly restore their fellow Christian brothers and sisters beyond various sins. We aren’t on “Sin Patrol,” looking for people to sin so we can arrogantly call them out. Rather, we are on “Sin Control.” We do all we can to keep sin at bay – under control, if you will – in each other’s lives and church body as a whole. We – as followers of Jesus – understand our own tendencies (“Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”) and need for sin to be aggressively attacked and fought in our lives. We love each other too much to allow sin to carry on in each other’s lives. We seek to RESTORE our fellow brothers and sisters because we know what sin – left unchecked – does to a heart and life and surrounding relationships.

Can you imagine how many Christian marriages might have been restored to health before it was too late had another Christian – who had some “red flags” about their friend – gone to them, gently, in love, and confronted/questioned them about their concern . . . and then took the time to walk them through it with them?

Notice something here: Paul doesn’t say to go home, call some friends, and share with them a “prayer request” about “so and so” and “pray” about the person struggling with sin (translation: GOSSIP). No! He says to GO TO THAT PERSON very carefully and gently, with the aim of restoration, while guarding your own soul against sinning (Vulnerable Restorer).

A new creation lives like this. A new creation HATES sin and loves their brothers and sisters too much to allow sin to carry on in their lives unnoticed/unchecked. A new creation isn’t concerned what their friend will think. A new creation isn’t going to call their friends to “share.” A new creation doesn’t feel inferior or superior. A new creation is approved, loved, valued, honored, treasured, and satisfied by their relationship with God through their only Savior and Lord Jesus. Thus, they don’t NEED to be stroked by their own “superior righteousness;” or, by others in the church they can “share” with. They are content in their souls with who God is for them through faith in Jesus.

Do you have someone in your life who you can count on to lovingly seek to restore you when they see sin?

Are you a part of a small group that shares life together enough, giving you the freedom and liberty to lovingly and gently restore them?

Do you think you need it? (If not, go back and read this.)

Are you guilty of secretly enjoying learning about someone’s sin?

Do you enjoy “sharing” something you saw or heard with a friend as a “prayer request”?

How does a new creation handle hearing or seeing a sin in a fellow Christian’s life?

Bottom Line: How can you position yourself to obey Galatians 6:1?

 

 

 

 

 

Five @ Free Flow Friday!

Yep. It’s Friday. The Friday BEFORE Thanksgiving. You know what that means, right? Yep. Most of you are looking at a weekend, a two/three day work-week, followed by a LONG weekend next week.

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Between trips to the grocery store this weekend, take a look at these articles:

#1. 5 Things Mistaken for Evangelism by Mark Dever

Additionally, the truths of the gospel are not yours, in the sense that they uniquely pertain to you or your perspective or experience, or in the sense that you came up with them. When you evangelize, you are not merely saying, ‘This is how I like to think of God,’ or ‘This is how I see it.’ You’re presenting the Christian gospel. You didn’t invent it, and you have no authority to alter it.

What do you think? Is Dever right? What else can you think of?

#2. Is New York City on the Brink of a Great Awakening? by Joy Allmond

20 years ago, Eric Metaxas knew practically every born again believer in Manhattan.

‘It was like a spiritual ghost town,’ the cultural commentator, thought leader and author recalled.

Yet, over the recent decades—particularly this last one—New York has seen a surge in evangelicalism. Some cultural experts believe the Big Apple to be on the brink of another ‘Great Awakening.’

Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College—the only free-standing Christian institution of higher learning in New York City—compares this rise in Christianity to the the great Wall Street revival of 1857.

‘I would say there is a very special moment of spiritual renaissance happening in New York City right now,’ he said.”

Fascinating. May it be so!

#3. Trophy Kids and the Great Commission by David E. Prince

When parents and coaches turn off the scoreboards and hand out participation trophies as though recognizing winners and achievement is unspiritual, sports are stripped of the essence that makes them such a valuable metaphor for the Christian life. The desire to win and receive the prize in athletic competition is the very thing Paul latches onto as a transferable concept for cultivating a single-minded focus on the advance of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:24-27). There are eternal winners and losers (Rev. 3:21), and we are to count the cost, take up our cross and follow him because we know what is at stake. Our task demands courageous, self-sacrificial, Great Commission gospel warriors. And at its best, athletics provide Christian parents and coaches a limited but genuine theater for the examination and cultivation of Christ-honoring characteristics.

When everybody is a winner, nobody wins. When everybody gets a participation trophy, everybody loses. Christian parents and coaches ought to know that better than anyone.”

Hands down . . . the best article I read this week. How does this relate to Upward Basketball?

#4. A Church for All Generations by Tyler Braun

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes Francis’ actions when he says ‘The Church is the Church only when it exists for others.’ Before any local church body can act in this way, you must first choose to live this way. The Church as a body of people exists to proclaim good news to all the generations. A place to serve and be served, to bless and be blessed, to meet the needs of a hungry, hurting world; to be a welcoming home of safety and peace, all for the glory of God.”

Is Braun right? What/Who is the church for in your opinion?

#5. What Millennials Think When Christians FIGHT (It’s Not Good) by Thom Rainer

The issue for the Millennials was not an expectation of Christians and churches to compromise their doctrine. They simply are attracted to Christians and churches where unity is real and evident.

For almost all of the Millennials in our study, 97 percent to be precise, mutual respect was a critical issue in any relationship. And 64 percent of them expressed these feelings strongly, higher than all the other attitudes we measured.

It seems, therefore, that Christians and churches will win the right to be heard by Millennials when those Christians and churches demonstrate love and unity among themselves. And the early reporting from the Millennial generation about this issue is not too encouraging.”

Yikes. Any Millennials out there agree? What do you look for in a church?