"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can most be used in winning souls for Christ."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunday School Message #9

Introduction: Well, today is our last Sunday to meet together. I want to tell you all that it has been a privilege to study God’s Word together with you and I look forward to more opportunities we will have to interact in the years to come. Today we are studying the final, and most important, aspect of “How to Think Like Jesus.” Today we are going to study A Heart for Love. Let’s begin in prayer…

8. A Heart for Love
a. Mat.22:37-40
- We’re reminded of the importance of love in Jesus reply to the lawyer in Matthew 22. “Jesus said unto him…” Jesus said that all of the laws of God hang on those two commands – to love God and love others. Today we’re going to focus on the second of those commands. What does the Bible have to say about loving others? How did our Lord Jesus treat others? Because as always, we need to follow our Lord’s example.

b. Jn.13:34-35
- This passage is the first time that Jesus commanded His disciples to love each other. He says, “A new commandment…” Two things in this passage are very important. Jesus says that we should love each other as He has loved us. This is the best way to describe our love for each other in one phrase. We should love others the way Jesus loves them – the way He loves us. We need to see people the way He sees them. They are not just another irritation; not just another person to get in the way of our lives. They are a special treasure that Jesus cherishes. We ought to love others the way Jesus loves them. The second thing that is important is verse 35. Jesus says, “By this shall all men know…” We have talked often about the importance of our testimony as a Christian. Jesus tells us here that if we love each other, the world will know that we are His disciples. This is probably the most important motivation we have for loving others – the world will know that we are His disciples.

c. Jn.15:9-13,17
In this next passage, Jesus repeats His command for us to love each other and explains it to us more. “As the Father…” Notice, if you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love. Again we see the connection between obeying God’s law and loving others. In verse 11, we learn that loving others is the key to having joy in our lives. “These things have I spoken…” And in verse 13, Jesus tells us the ultimate demonstration of love – to give one’s life for his friends. Very soon after Jesus spoke this, His disciples would understand exactly what He was saying and exactly how much He loved them. Then notice in verse 17, Jesus repeats His command. “These things I command you…” Remember that anytime the Bible repeats something, it is because we need to take special notice of it. We are commanded by our Lord to love others.

d. Jn.17:21-26
We have looked several times at Jesus prayer to His Father in John 17. In these verses, Jesus prays the same things to His Father that he taught to His disciples. “That they may all be one…that the world may believe…the love…may be in them.” So we see that Jesus didn’t only teach these things to His disciples. He prayed that they would follow them.

e. Rom.12:10
Look now at Romans 12:10. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Be kindly affectioned…” Notice he says that we should have “brotherly love” for each other. As Christians, we are a family. We ought to have the same love for each other that a family has for each other. And then he explains this by saying, “In honor preferring one another…” This is a very simple explanation of how we can love others – we prefer their needs above our own.

f. Rom.13:8-10; Gal.5:14
These next two passages talk more about how love fulfills the law in relation to those around us. “Owe no man…” And Gal.5:14 says, “All the law…” Love does no evil to another person. It’s simple.

g. Eph.4:1-2; 5:1-2
But you say, “It can’t be that simple. If I treat people like that then they will just walk all over me. They will treat me badly, because they know that I will not treat them badly in return.” What does the Bible say about that? Look at Ephesians 4. “I therefore…” Notice the words in verse 2 – lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing. Yes, when you love somebody the way Christ loves us, you may be hurt at times. You may be mistreated. But wasn’t Christ? When Christ was mistreated and hurt, did He ever respond by hurting others? No. He was humble. He was longsuffering. We’ve seen in passages already that we are to love others the way that Christ loved us! We are to be humble, longsuffering, meek, and forbearing. And notice chapter 5, “Be ye therefore…” When we love others the way that Christ loved us, we are being “followers of God, as dear children.” We are “walking in love.” We are giving “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.”

h. Phil.2:2-5
We studied this next passage when we were talking about humility. But look again at how it also describes our relationship with others. “Fulfill ye my joy…” Did you see the phrases “like-minded”, “having the same love”, “lowliness of mind”, “esteem others.” Those same attitudes that have been described by other passages in the Bible are also true about our love. And look at verse 5, “Let this mind be in you…” This is the mind of Christ.

i. I Cor.13
For our last passage today, we are going to read the most famous passage on love in all the Scriptures: I Corinthians 13. “Though I speak…” Let’s break down this powerful passage and examine the many aspects of love. Verse 1 – Love is more important than our gifts, talents, or abilities. Verse 2 – Love is more important than our knowledge or our faith. Verse 3 – Love is more important than our good deeds. Verse 3 – Love suffers long. Again we see this principle of suffering in relation to our love. It is not always easy to love, but it is always commanded. Love does not envy. Envy wants what somebody else has so much that you even wish they didn’t have it. A relationship, a family, a house, a car – these are all things that we can envy. But love does not envy. Love does is not puffed up. Love does not exalt itself before others. Love does not show off. Love is not proud. Verse 5 – Love is not rude. Love considers others above itself and acts in a way that does not offend others. Love does not seek her own. We’ve seen this in several verses now. Love seeks the good of others above itself. Love is not easily provoked. It is not made angry easily. If you love somebody, you will not be constantly getting angry with them. Love thinks no evil. Verse 6 – Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. If somebody loves you, they will not tempt you to sin. They will not encourage you to lie. They will not hinder your spiritual life, but they will help you to grow. Verse 7 – Love bears all things. Again we see the idea of longsuffering. Love believes all things. Every love relationship is based on trust. Love trusts in those it loves. Love hopes all things. Love is always seeking the good of those it loves. It hopes for their best and brightest future. Love endures all things. No matter what hardship if goes through, love will always come out on top. Love can never be taken away by circumstances or situations. It endures all things. Verse 8 – Unlike many other things, love will never end. And finally verse 13 – Now we live our lives with three things – faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.

Today’s lesson was very short. But that is because this teaching about love is very simple. We must love others as Christ loved us. We must have the same mind as Christ had. Young people, love one another. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Conclusion: This has been a wonderful time for us to study together over the past two months. I thank you all for your faithfulness, your attention, your participation, and I pray that as I go back to the States for a while, that you will all remember the things that we have studied. I pray that you will all be able to think like Christ. I pray that you will make your decisions, during these important years of your teenage lives, the way that Jesus would. So remember, to think like Jesus, you must have a heart for the lost, a heart for prayer, a heart for God’s will, a heart for others, a heart for purity, a heart for service, a heart for faith, and most of all, a heart for love. Let’s pray…

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sunday School Message #8

Introduction: Let’s begin… Until now in our study on “How to Think Like Jesus”, we have studied about having “A Heart for the Lost”, “A Heart for Prayer”, “A Heart for God’s Will”, “A Heart for Others”, “A Heart for Purity”, and “A Heart for Service”. What we’re going to study today is “A Heart for Faith”. We have a lot of verses to look at today, so let’s begin in prayer.

7. A Heart for Faith
a. Phil.3:10; Psalm 119:11; Jn.17:3
- I want to start by asking you this question? How can you have faith in something that you do now know? You can’t. If you want to increase your faith as a Christian, the best thing you can do it so study God’s Word. The more you know God’s Word, the more you understand how the different doctrines of Scripture work together. The more you know the teachings of Christ, the more you have faith in His promises and His faithfulness. The Bible says, “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Jesus Himself says, “…this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” I want to share with you my life’s verse, Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” That is what I want for my life. My goal in life is to know my God and my Savior. I want to experience the power of His resurrection. I want to experience the fellowship of His sufferings. And at the end of my life I want to be made conformable to His death. I can think of no greater honor than to give my life for my Lord.

b. Js.2:14-26
- Ok, let me give you an example of the importance of the knowledge of God’s Word. I want to ask you a few questions and I want some of you to answer them. Does faith save a person or works? Faith? Faith alone? So our works have nothing to do with our salvation? Then let me read a passage for you. “What does it profit, my brethren…” Somebody explain that to me. Did the Bible just contradict itself? This is why Bible knowledge is so important. Suppose you were trying to witness to a Catholic and as you’re telling them that they don’t have to do the works that Catholics teach will save people, that person quotes this passage to you. What would you say? Here is the answer. Faith and works always work together. The Bible is very clear in other passages that faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. The key to this passage is verse 18: “…I will show you my faith by my works…” It is faith alone that saves, but then that faith, if it is genuine, will always produce good works in a creyente’s life. Do you understand? Faith is essential to salvation; works are the evidence of faith. So we need to recognize the need for a solid understanding of God’s Word in order to have faith.

c. I Tim.1:5,18-19;
In this passage, the Apostle Paul is giving advice to the young pastor Timothy, whom he had taught personally. We’ve talked about this before. Now listen to the advice that Paul gives in these passages. “Now the end of the commandment…” And then in verses 18 and 19, “This charge I commit unto thee…” He tells his disciple to fight a good fight, holding two weapons – faith and a good conscience. This verse shows us the importance of our faith. If Paul, a mighty man of God, sent out his young disciple with only two weapons, they must be the two most important things in all of his Christian life.

d. I Tim.4:12; I Tim.6:12; II Tim.4:7
- But you say, “How can I have that kind of faith? I’m just a teenager.” What did the apostle Paul tell to his disciple Timothy? “Let no man…” He said, “Be an example…in faith.” I want you all to understand this. I’ve told you before that your teenage years are some of the most important years of your lives. Right now, you are becoming the person you are going to be. And Paul’s challenge to Timothy is a challenge to us also. He says that we should be an example to those older than us in our speech, our conduct, our love, our faith, and our purity. If you were to look through the Scriptures and study the lives of the great men of faith, you will see that the majority of those men began studying God’s Word and living for Him when they were a youth – great men like Joseph, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I pray for all of you to be great men and women of God one day, so you need to begin developing your faith now while you are a youth.

- The notice that Paul also tells Timothy that faith is a fight. He writes in I Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith…” And in II Timothy 4, we have the final recorded words of this great man of God before he was killed for his faith. He wrote, “I have fought…” He fought the fight, he finished the course, and most importantly to him, he kept the faith. Until the end of his life, Paul’s greatest priority was his faith.

e. I Jn.5:4
- Listen to what this verse says about our faith. “…this is the victory…” It is through our faith that we can conquer the world. The world is constantly attacking us with lies. The devil wants to destroy our faith in God, the Bible, and Christianity. Paul says that our faith is what will give us victory over the world and its lies. In our society, we are constantly being faced with new lies. I don’t know how things are here in Mexico, but in the States, we are hearing new lies all of the time. About two years ago, a man named Dan Brown wrote a mystery novel called, “The DaVinci Code”. Have you all heard of that? It was then made into a movie last year. This book had a story that was very interesting and well-written. But in the middle of the book, it tries to convince the characters in the book and the readers that Jesus was not the Son of God. It teaches that Jesus was secretly married to Marry Magdalene and they had a child together. That teaching is blasphemy! It is against everything that the Bible teaches. Even now in the States, there have been three books written for children that are trying to tell them that there is no God. They teach children not to believe anything their parents teach them about God. They teach children that the church is just a bunch of old people trying to control what they do. The author of these books said that with these books, he is trying to destroy God. They are currently being made into movies also, because that is what most kids today watch. The first of these is called “The Golden Compass”, and the second is in production right now. Young people, you need to have a solid, confident understanding of God’s Word, so that you will not be deceived by these kinds of lies that Satan is throwing into our world.

f. I Pt.1:5-9
- The Bible says that faith is to believe in things that we cannot see. Listen to this passage about how our faith will one day be realized. “…who are kept by the power…” This passage says that the trial of your faith is more precious that gold. When your faith is challenged, it helps you to grow. If somebody challenges something you believe in, you must go to the Bible and study it and find the truth.

g. Js.1:3-6
- Look now at James chapter 1. This verse says something similar to the last passage. “Knowing this, that the…” Notice two things from this passage. First, “…they trying of your faith works patience…” When God brings trials into our lives, we often don’t understand why. We often feel mistreated. We feel like God made a mistake. But we learn from this passage that many times God uses trials to increase our patience. Second, notice that faith is the key element in prayer. We must pray in faith – faith in God’s sovereignty, faith in God’s promises, and faith in God’s power. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering…”

h. Matt.17:20
- This next passage is one of the most well-known of all passages on faith. Jesus Christ tells us, “If you have faith as a grain…” You will be able to move mountains. The Lord Himself says, “…nothing will be impossible to you.” Let me ask you this. When was the last time you asked God for something that only He could do? When was the last time you saw God do something that was impossible in our eyes? Have you ever seen that? If you haven’t, I challenge you to do so. Think of something that only God can do and pray for that until He answers! Don’t give up too soon. I believe that one of the main reasons that we don’t have our prayers answered is that we give up too soon. Maybe it is a family member who needs to know Jesus as their Savior. Maybe it’s a financial problem. Find something. Pray for it. Put your faith to the test and watch God show Himself faithful.

i. Heb.10:38; 11
- One more passage and we’re done. I want to close by reading to you a very powerful chapter of Scripture. In the book of Hebrews chapter 10, we read, “…the just shall live by faith…” and the author continues on to write about many heroes of the Bible who showed their great faith in God. Listen as I read: “Now faith is the substance…” Young people, your name could be written there right beside those people. You can be men and women of faith. You also can be people “of whom the world is not worthy”. And I pray that you will be.

Conclusion: So our study today really has two points. If we are going to think like Jesus, we must have a heart for faith. And if we’re going to have a strong faith, we must be in God’s Word daily and have a strong understanding of its teachings. We need to grow in our faith, study God’s Word, and prove through our works that we are Christians. Let’s pray…

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Ministry of Reconciliation - II Cor.5:18-21

Tipo de Sermón: Expositivo

Titulo: El Ministerio de la Reconciliación

Texto: II Corintios 5:18-21

Tema/complemento: Dios nos ha dado el ministerio de la reconciliación

Asunto: Estamos aquí satisfacer el ministerio de la reconciliación

Propósito del Orador: Quiero motivar mi audiencia tomar parte del ministerio de la reconciliación
Interrogativo: ¿Porque debemos satisfacer el ministerio de la reconciliación?

Transición: Debemos satisfacer el ministerio de la reconciliación porque es comandado, es temporal, y es bendito.

“The Ministry of Reconciliation”

“Good afternoon, brothers. Thank you for coming this afternoon. I can’t tell you what an honor it is to preach to you from this pulpit, where so many men of God and missionaries have preached in the past years. I do not feel worthy of this honor – I am nobody – but I am very excited about what I believe God wants to say to all of us today. I am here to preach God’s Word to you. I am not here to share my own thoughts, opinions, or ideas. If I was, we should all just go home now, because nothing I say is important. But today I have the opportunity to be God’s messenger and to communicate His message to us. So if you would, please open your Bibles to the book of II Corinthians. As you are turning there, I want to ask you a question:

Why are we here?
- Why are you here? The answer to that question could be different for every person in the world, could it not? Some people are here to make money. Their goal in life, their only purpose for living, is to make money. How much? Nobody knows, but it’s always more. Some people are here to have a family. Their purpose for living is to get married, raise children, buy a home, and provide for their family. Some people are here for fame. Their purpose for living is to be well-known among men. They may do this through a life of sports and athletics, movies and Hollywood, politics and government, or business and enterprise. Some people are here for love. Their purpose in life is to find love in relationships with another people. Some people are here for people. Their purpose is to help mankind, improve the world, and change the society. These are all purposes that people could have for their lives. Some are more noble than others. But in this church today, I am preaching to believers. I know that the majority of you know Jesus as your Savior. And therefore, every one of us in this church have the same purpose for living, according to this passage that we’re going to study tonight.
- So you are probably all thinking “The Great Commission”. Well, I’m not going to preach about the Great Commission tonight, not because it’s not important, but because the guys told me, “All of the gringos who come preach on the Great Commission!” Ah, right? I mean, you all know why, don’t you? I promise you that it’s not because we think you’re all simple, ok? I’m serious. That’s not why. I believe that all of the gringos, all the Americans, all the preachers from the States preach on the Great Commission because that it what’s on our minds. That is the reason that we have come to your country – to obey the commandment of our Lord! The Bible says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Amen.” God’s Word says in Acts 1, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” When Americans come here to Mexico, it is because we want to fulfill the Great Commission.
- But tonight, I want to talk to you about something more basic. Oh it is related to the Great Commission, but it does not have the same focus of going “into all the world”. Tonight, we’re going to study together a passage that describes the most basic responsibility of every believer in Christ. Tonight, we are going to find out, if we don’t already know, “Why are we here?” The answer is this: We are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation!

- We’re going to read together II Corinthians chapter 5, verses 18-21. Let’s stand together in honor of God’s Word. Everyone together, “All of this comes from God…” May God bless the reading of His Word. Let’s pray… “Our Father, we give you thanks for the opportunity to study Your Word this afternoon. I ask that you would give us wisdom tonight as we study this passage. I ask that you would open our eyes to the responsibility that you have given us here on this earth. I ask that you would speak through me, that you would teach us, and that you would motivate us to fulfill the purpose for which you have left us here on the earth. I ask you to give me Your words; help me to speak your message clearly, for I know I can do nothing without you. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.”

- We are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation. My purpose in this message is to motivate us as Christians to fulfill this wonderful ministry God has given us. In this passage, we learn three things about this ministry of reconciliation. We learn that the ministry is commanded, the ministry is temporary, and the ministry is blessed. So let’s begin with the first point of this passage in verse 18

I. The Ministry Is Commanded (v.18a)
- We see this fact in the phrase, “Now all these things are from God…” That means that they are…

a. By the Will of God (v.18)
- “All these things” – What things? Look at verse 17 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” The whole work of reconciliation is from God. It is by the will of God, not the will of man.
- “Sinners cannot decide to be reconciled to God and devise a plan to reach Him. That is what all false religion in the world is. All the world’s false religions are the same thing – sinners devising a way to be reconciled to God. Christianity is God determining a way to be reconciled to sinners. God alone can change our relationship, and that’s the good news, ‘God so loved the world that He’ made a way of reconciliation.” Notice also that the ministry is literally…

b. By the Command of God (Mat.28:19-20;Ac.1:8;Tit.1:1-3)
- You know the Great Commission – “Go therefore and make disciples…” “You will be my witnesses…” Is that an option or a command? It is a command! Jesus didn’t say, “Well, I’d really like it if you would go out and made disciples.” He didn’t say, “Would you like to be my witnesses?” No! He said, “Go!” He said, “You WILL be my witnesses.” Brothers, the ministry of reconciliation is commanded! Tell me this, if you can. Where did we receive the idea that we can control our own lives? Does anybody know? I don’t know, but it’s not from the Bible! What does the Bible say? “…You are not your own…You have been bought with a price...Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.” My brothers, we are not servants of Christ – we are His slaves! Slave is the word in the original Greek text. Young people, do you remember this? We talked about this in Sunday School last week. A servant is one who places himself in a position to serve another by his own will. A slave has no choice. A slave has been purchased by his master. A slave must do everything his master commands. Brothers, we are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation! Notice also that the ministry of reconciliation is commanded…

c. By the Heart of God (Lk.19:10; Mat.4:19; Ez.34:16)
- Luke 19:10 tells us that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” When Jesus called His disciples in Matthew 4:10, He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Listen to this passage from Ezekiel 34, “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick…” It is the heart of God to seek sinners. When Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden of Eden, we don’t see Adam walking through the garden saying, “God, God, where are you?” No, it was God saying, “Adam, Adam, where are you?”
- God has always been the seeker of men. And when our Lord returned to heaven, He commanded us to carry on his ministry, the ministry of reconciliation. We are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation. Notice now in our passage, the second point; that…

II. The Ministry Is Temporary (v.18b-20)
- I want to read you a quotation from one of my favorite pastors and theologians, Dr. John MacArthur. When I was the youth pastor at Cornerstone in Illinois, I often tried to explain this concept to my teens, but was never able to put it into words this clearly. Listen to this, Dr. MacArthur says…

"You know, Christianity can get very complex. Your Christian life can get very complex. Your Christian calendar can get very complex. And so, If I might, I'd like to simplify everything and pull it down to the irreducible minimum of what it is that you're all about and I'm all about as Christians. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. It is simply this: Our duty is to tell people they can be reconciled to God. That's what we do. Our mission is to preach the fact that God will forgive all someone's sins forever. That the relationship of hostility and hatred and enmity and bitterness and alienation from God can be totally changed - that enemies can become friends, aliens can become sons. That is the good news...The good news is that alienation from a holy God, which carries the price of eternal damnation, can end, and you can be reconciled with God and enjoy His glorious heaven forever, all your sin having been dealt with. Our high calling and our high privilege is simply to tell people that God will forgive all your sins forever. Are you interested? This is what we live for; this is what we preach for; this is what we teach for; that people might be reconciled to God...That's what we do. That's why we're here. Folks, that's the only reason you're here at all! If we had been saved purely for fellowship with God, we might as well go to heaven, because the fellowship here isn't what it ought to be. If we were saved purely for fellowship with each other, we might as well go to heaven where it is perfect, because it's imperfect here. If we were saved to have triumph over sin, we might as well go to heaven, because the triumph here is severely checkered, isn't it? And we all live in Romans 7 somewhere - wanting to do what we don't do and not wanting to do what we find ourselves doing. We've here because there's one thing we can do here that we can't do in heaven, and that's the ministry of reconciliation...That term defines the heart and soul of our responsibility as believers in the world..."

- Look once again at verses 18-20. These verses describe for us exactly what the ministry of reconciliation is. Verse 18 says, “…who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…” So this ministry is only done through Christ – through His power and through his work on the cross. Verse 19, “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” This is literally how a righteous, holy God can allow sinners like us into heaven. He cannot overlook or ignore our sins, but He does not count them against us. He satisfied His judgment against sin when Christ bore that punishment on our behalf. And this is literally how we should present the gospel to people – that God will not count their sins against them if they accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We have already seen in Acts 1 that…

a. We Are the Witnesses (Acts 1)
- In that passage that Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth…” Geographically, that would be as if Jesus said to this church, “You will be my witnesses in Jiménez, and in all Chihuahua, and in Mexico, and to the remotest part of the earth.” This ministry is temporary, but we are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation. We are to be witnesses everywhere we go. This is the only reason we are here. Jesus also described our temporary role in the ministry of reconciliation in the Sermon on the Mount when he called us…

b. We Are the Salt and Light (Matthew 5:13-16)
-“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” This passage teaches that our ministry of reconciliation includes the way we live our life. A girl friend of mine in the States reminded me last week of a phrase her mother taught her: “Be a witness everywhere you go and use words if necessary.” And the greatest responsibility of all is taught in our passage.

c. We Are the Ambassadors (John 17:4,6,9,11,15,18,20)
- Do we really understand what it is to be an ambassador? An ambassador is one who goes in the place of his master. An ambassador speaks what his master would speak. An ambassador acts as his master would act. An ambassador is to complete the mission that his master wanted to complete. Verse 20 says, “…we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…”
- Tell me this: Is Jesus Christ here with us today? Sorry, trick question. Yes, He is here with us. We know that from the Bible, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world”, and we believe it as Christians. But is he physically here with us, so that a lost person could walk by that door and see Jesus Christ in here with us? No, He is not. The only “Jesus” that the world can see is a Christian. You are the only Jesus that some people will ever see. My pastor at my home church in Illinois would often quote a poem that says this: “You’re writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by deeds that you do, by words that you say; people read what you write, whether faithless or true; say what is the gospel according to you?” We are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation. This ministry is commanded of us; this ministry is temporary; but notice from the last verse in our passage that…

III. The Ministry Is Blessed (v.21)
- Look at verse 21, one of the most powerful verses in all of the Scriptures, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” What a blessing! Could there be any greater blessing in our lives? God made His own Son to be sin in our place, so that we can become the righteousness of God. When God looks at you as a Christian, He no longer sees a sinner – He sees His own Son. God punished Christ as if He had committed every sin that I have, and He treats me as if I have lived my life with the perfect righteousness that Christ did. What mercy! What love! What a blessing! As we take part in the ministry of reconciliation, I tell you all, it is a blessing! The Bible says in…

a. Lk.15:10
- “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” If you have seen this happen, then you know what I am talking about. I cannot describe to you the joy that fills your heart when you see God work in the heart of a sinner, bring them to an understanding of their need, and grant them faith in His promises and repentance from their sins. It will totally change your life! When you share the gospel with another person and see God work in their hearts this way, you feel like you’ve done nothing, because God has done all the work. You were just His messenger. You feel unworthy to be used by God in this way, but very blessed to be a part of that work. Before we close, I want to share with you a few…

b. Testimonies
- …where I have seen God do this amazing work. The very first Saturday I was here, I had the chance to go on visitation with Adrian. And that was a very different experience than in the States. Many times in the States, you have a hard time just getting people to take the tracts. On that afternoon, I saw how open people are and ready to receive the gospel. That afternoon, I stood by and watched as Adrian led two ladies in a prayer to receive Christ as their Savior. That was a very powerful experience. Over the past 3 months, I’ve been able to see many different people receive Christ. God is working here in Mexico! We are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation and this church is fulfilling that mission! I have shared these next two stories briefly with you, but I want you to hear them in detail. A few weeks ago when Brother Lanny was here with the medical team, I had my first opportunity to lead a lady to the Lord all on my own. And I will tell you all, I was scared to death. I was standing right back there in the corner when the Lord pointed her out to me and said, “Go talk to her.” And I argued with God. I said, “God I can’t do that. The gospel is something that she HAS to understand to believe. I can’t be messing up my Spanish when I talk to her.” She was sitting there reading the little Bibles we had in the seats. I could tell that she didn’t know what she was reading and I was reminded of the story of Philip in Acts 8. He met the eunuch from Ethiopia, who was reading the Bible, and so he went up to him and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” And the eunuch said, “How can I unless somebody explains it to me?” So I walked up to this lady, whose name was Marina, and I said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” She looked at me and wanted to say yes, but just shook her head. So I said, “Would you like me to explain it to you?” She said yes. So I tried the best I could to explain the gospel to her – that she was a sinner, she needed a savior, and could make that decision today. The whole time I was talking, I just kept saying, “Do you understand me?” She did. So I led her in a prayer and she received Christ. It was just amazing! I felt as if I had just been watching somebody else witness to her and not myself.
- This last story, I told you last Wednesday. When I was living here in town with Brother Brian, almost every night, I would walk down to the sports park and get quesadillas for supper. Then on the way back, I would stop at this store to get a drink. Well, two weeks ago, as I was in the store, the owner, Maria, was there with another lady. And as I was paying for my drink she says to the other lady, “This guy comes in here about every night and he’s always so happy and has a smile on his face.” So the other lady says to me, “Is that true? Are you always happy?” I said, “Yes ma’am, always!” I saw that this was a good opportunity to share Jesus, so I was looking for a tract in my pocket, but I didn’t have one, so I left the store and went home. When I got there, God told me, “Go back there and talk to her.” So I took a few tracts and went back to the store. When I found Maria, I told her, “Ma’am. I have something for you. You asked me why I’m always so happy. Well it’s because of this. I am a Christian. I have Jesus living in my heart and I have a purpose for my life. I’m a pastor from the United States and I’ve come here to share the Word of God with people. So I’d like to give you this to read.” She said she would read it, so I told her, “Well I’ll probably be back here tomorrow or another night, so we can talk about it if you want.” So that Wednesday night, I asked all of you to pray for her as I went back to talk to her. So I was praying that she would have read the tract and that God would make her ready to receive Christ. As we began to talk that night, I asked her if she understood the tract. I asked her that if she were to die tonight, based only on these verses, where would she go. This is what she said: “Well, I don’t know. I mean I certainly don’t want to go to hell, but this says that sinners can’t go to heaven. And I know that I’m a sinner, so I just don’t know…” And I said to her, “Well I know.” She said, “You know?!?” I said, “Yes.” So I told her how she simply needed to believe and confess it with her mouth and that night, Maria accepted Jesus as her Savior. I tell you, brothers, that the ministry of reconciliation is a blessing!

Conclusion: Brothers, we are here to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation! It is commanded of us, it is temporary, and it is a blessing! May we recognize this great responsibility and privilege and go out there and win the world for Christ…

Monday, May 19, 2008

3 Weeks Left... Back to the Ranch

Hey Everyone,
I thought I should send you all an update just to let you know that I will probably be out of contact for the rest of my time here, or at most, online once a week. I've only got three weeks more before heading back to Illinois. Where has the time gone? It seems like I've been here forever, but I'm not ready to go back, even though I can't wait to catch up with everyone again. Actually, there is a possibility that I may return for one week in July, so the idea of leaving isn't as hard for me. Last night we moved back to the ranch with Randy and Gwen and now all the boys are back living with us again.

I also have some good news for you. During the next 3 weeks, we will be making a promotional video for Rancho La Fe, interviewing the boys who live with us as well as a few men who have come through the boys home and are now in full-time ministry. I know some of you have been asking for a video like this and Brother Randy asked me yesterday for the same thing. So that will be my final video project down here in Mexico. It will certainly be finished before I leave, as I need to leave a copy with Randy and Gwen, but I may not be able to post it until I get home. We'll see how that goes. This week, I am double busy, as I am preparing my notes for youth Sunday School next week as well as my sermon for Sunday afternoon. So my video work will have to wait mostly until next week.

Last night, I was talking with Adrian about preparing my sermon. I am getting so excited to preach it! I already have my basic outline mostly completed and now just have to script it out and translate it. But in the process, God has been showing me more and more Scripture to use in my sermon and giving me more and more to say. I have even heard things related to my message in this week's messages by Brother Randy and Brother Mike Combs. It's just an affirmation of what I believe God wants me to say. I am still nervous about the actual speaking part, doing it in Spanish, but I know God will speak through me.

So thank you all, and I suppose, goodbye for a while! God bless you all and thank you for the critical part you have played in my ministry opportunities here through your prayers, support, and encouragement.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sunday School Message #7

Introduction: Let’s begin… Today we’re studying the 6th point of our study on “How to Think Like Jesus”. We have talked about having “A Heart for the Lost”, “A Heart for Prayer”, “A Heart for God’s Will”, “A Heart for Others”, and “A Heart for Purity”. What we’re going to study today is similar to “A Heart for Others”, but instead of focusing just on humility, we’re going to focus on service. In order to think like Jesus, we must have “A Heart for Service”.

7. A Heart for Service – Sacrifice

a. Matt.23:11
Let’s look first of all at a very brief passage that gives us Christ’s view of greatness. “But He that is great…” How contrary this is to the world’s thinking. I mean think about our society today. In a typical business, who has to do the lowest jobs of service? It is those who are least important, right? It’s the janitors, the maintenance people, or the trash collectors. Those people who are “the greatest” in the business are those with the big offices, the fancy suits, the personal assistants, and the large salaries. This is the way of the world. Our Lord has a different view. He says, “If you want to be the greatest in my eyes – in the kingdom of heaven – you should be the servant of all.”This type of thinking is not natural for us, but is a very important part of our lives as Christians. We need to develop a pattern of thinking where we seek the lowest position and serve everyone around us. Let’s continue on to see what other things the Bible says about being a servant.

b. Mk.9:33-35
In this story, we see Jesus’ disciples expressing this same view that we typically have when it comes to greatness. Somebody read this passage for us, please. “And He came…” Notice two things from this passage. First, did you notice that when the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest, it was just amongst themselves? Jesus was not included in that conversation. Do you know why I believe that is? It is because they had seen such a different example in their Lord. They had not seen Him trying to be the greatest. Rather, they saw Him being the servant of all. And second, notice that Jesus already knew what they were talking about. You know, there is something important about the timing of correcting or confronting a person who is wrong. I remember my parents doing this often when I was young. Jesus let them finish their conversation. He let them argue about who was the greatest and why they thought they should have the best positions in the kingdom of heaven. Then once they had fully exposed their true heart motives, Jesus says, “So what were you guys talking about?” And look, they didn’t answer Him. So look at verse 35, “He sat them down…” and taught them this principle. “If any man…”

c. Mt.20:20-28; Mk.10:42-45
Notice now, this next passage. This thinking was not only how Jesus’ disciples thought, but now we see it in one of their mothers. There are actually two different passage that record this story – one in Matthew and one in Mark. We’re going to read the one in Matthew 20. “Then came…” This story always makes me laugh a little, because it sounds just like something a mother would do. It is the mother of James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples. She comes to Jesus and basically asks him to do favor for her. She then asks that her two sons would be able to sit on Jesus’ right hand and left hand in the kingdom of heaven. Now you have to remember that during all of this time, the disciples were believing that Jesus was getting ready to establish His kingdom on earth and destroy the Romans who had taken over control of their land. Also, we need to understand that in the culture of that time, to sit at the right or left hand of the king was the highest position of leadership one could achieve. So basically, James and John and their mother were asking Jesus if they could have the two highest places of authority in the kingdom. And notice also in verse 24, that this request made the other disciples angry. They, too, wanted the best positions for themselves. Jesus’ reply was, “You know not…” Jesus basically says, “Look, I know that you’ve seen that example set by the leadership of the Gentiles, but that’s not the way it is in the kingdom of heaven.” And then Jesus uses the example of His own life as the example of how we should serve.

d. Jn.12:26
This next passage is very short, but I think it’s important for us to see it. This is our Lord telling us to follow the example that He has set for us. He says, “If any man…” We have studied in every point of this study that we must follow the example of Jesus. Well, here, Jesus Himself tells us to follow His example, and He gives us a promise as well. He says at the end of the verse, “…if any man…”

e. Lk.10:38-42; Ps.51:16; I Sam.15:22
Now as we are studying about service, we need to make sure that we have a biblical view of service. What I mean is that “service is not the most important thing in our spiritual lives. We see in Psalms that God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than our external behavior. David says, “For thou desirest not…” The prophet Samuel says in the Old Testament, “Hath the Lord…” We have noticed many times that Jesus scolded the Pharisees because they were righteous on the outside and wicked on the inside. Look, now at this story in Luke 10. Somebody read verses 38-42 for us, please. What happened in this story? Jesus comes to visit his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who lived in the town of Bethany. When He arrives, Martha is busy preparing the dinner, cleaning the house, and trying to serve Jesus. However, Mary is just sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him. Now we would typically look at Martha and say, “What a hard worker she is! She is such a good servant to Jesus.” But look at what happened. She goes to Jesus and says, “Lord, dost thou…” And Jesus’ response to her is, “Martha, Martha…” He said that Mary had chosen the better part. So that means that Jesus would rather Martha just come and spend time with Him than to be busy serving Him.

This is a very important point for us to remember. God wants for us to serve. We are to serve God. We are to serve others. We are to serve in the church. But in the midst of all the work, we must remember that it is more important to spend time at the feet of our Lord Jesus! Someone once said, “Do not get so busy with the work of the Lord that you forget about the Lord of the work.” Jesus talks in John 14 about how we must abide in Him each day if we are to bear fruit in our spiritual lives. Your daily time with God in His Word and prayer is the most important aspect of your life as a Christian. Once that is done, we are then to follow Christ’s example as a servant of all.

f. Lk.22:27;Jn.13:3-17
This next passage, I believe, is the most powerful of all. I want all of you to turn there, if you would. We’re going to read John 13. Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 22:27, “I am among…” And then in this powerful passage, He demonstrates it. As we read this story, I want you to imagine that you are one of Jesus’ disciples. “Jesus knowing that…” Ok, imagine this scene. You are one of the 12 disciples. You have been following Jesus for 3 years now. You have seen Him do countless miracles. You have heard Him teach the Scriptures. But tonight, He seems different. You sense that something big is about to happen. He has told you things that you don’t understand, saying He is about to be given over to the Pharisees and killed. You have just finished eating the Passover dinner, which is always a special time with Jesus. But as dinner finishes, you see Jesus take a towel and a bowl of water and begin to wash the feet of the other men. “What was He doing? He shouldn’t be doing this! This is the job of a servant. He is our Lord. I don’t want Him to wash my feet! They’re dirty and they probably smell bad. He doesn’t deserve such a low position.” As if it wasn’t low enough for the God of the universe to come to earth as a human, He lowered himself further by taking the lowest position known to men – to be the servant of all men.

This man was our example. Christ was the ultimate servant. But you know what? I prefer a different title. I don’t like to be called a servant. The word is “a slave”. “Slave” is the word in the original Greek text. Do you see the difference? A servant is one who places himself in a position to serve another. A slave is one who is owned. A slave has no choice. A slave must do what his master commands. A slave has been purchased by his master. So as Christians, we are slaves of Jesus Christ!

g. Gal.5:13
One more passage and we’re finished. It’s very short and very simple. The Bible says, “…by love serve one another.” So who are we to serve? The Bible says we are to serve God first and above all others. And then we are to serve those around us – that means everyone. Young or old, rich or poor, white or black, saved or unsaved – we are to serve all men. Remember what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments – Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. All of the commandments are fulfilled in these two.

Here is the bottom line. We Christians need to develop what is called a “Servant’s Heart”. It is a state of mind. It is not something that we do from time to time. It is an attitude that we live with every day. It is a way of living that says, “Everybody else is better than I. I should serve them in every way I can.” This is how Jesus lived.

Conclusion: If we are going to think like Christ, we must follow his example and serve others in every way we can, every chance we get. Jesus was the ultimate servant. Remember His words: “Whoever shall be greatest among you shall be your servant.” Let’s pray…

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Search for a Soul

You'd think after a good while of seeing God's power that you would eventually get used to it. Not so. Every time I see God work in a new and different way, I am astonished again by His power.

Yesterday I wrote of a lady at the store that I had the chance to talk to for a few minutes. I left her with a tract and said that I would come to talk to her about it another night. Tonight in church, I shared that story as a testimony and prayer request. I asked the family to pray for her and for me as I tried to share the gospel with her further...

After church and driving the bus route tonight, I went over to Pastor Jose Luis and Mary's house for dinner. We finished around 9:00 and I told them, "OK, I've got to go witness." So I stopped by Brian's house, grabbed a few tracts, and headed out towards the store. I prayed as I went that God would give me the words to say and prepare her heart to receive them. I determined to go right in the store this time. I would not get scared and sit outside like last night. When I got there, she was the only one at the store. God couldn't have set it up more perfectly.

I picked out my Coke and vanilla Submarinos (like Twinkies) and went up to check out. After we talked for a bit, I asked her, "Hey did you ever get to read that thing I gave you?" "Yes, I did. I read the whole thing." "And did you understand it?" "Well, most of it..." "Then do you believe it?" "Oh yes, because it's the Word of God!" So we got to talking. God had brought her to the perfect level of understanding. Listen to what she said: "Well, I understood from the beginning how all of us have sinned. And I know that's true, because I know that I'm a sinner. But I didn't understand exactly HOW Jesus saves us. I mean if He died for our sins, does that mean that ALL people will go to heaven?" I said, "OK, let me ask you this. If you were to die tonight, based ONLY on this book and these verses, where do you think you would go?" She said, "Well, I don't know! I mean I really don't want to go to hell, but these verses say that I can't go to heaven if I am a sinner. So I don't know." I smiled and told her, "I do." "You do?" "Yes, I do." "So you're going to heaven when you die?" "I KNOW I am!" "Well how?" What a great place to start!

So I opened my Bible and reviewed the Romans Road on sin and the penalty of sin. We talked about how Jesus lived here on the earth for 33 years without sinning. So he did not have to pay the penalty of death for Himself. But He chose to die anyway for us. So I told her that the work of salvation is complete. Jesus has done everything He had to do to make salvation available to us. Then I gave her the example of the Coke I had just bought. I said, "Suppose I want to give you this Coke as a gift. I have already paid the price for it and I'm just holding it out to give you - like this. What do you have to do to make it yours?" She replied, "Well, nothing more than to reach out and take it." "Exactly!" So we read Romans 10:9-10, "That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." She said, "That's it?" I said, "That's it!"

We talked a bit more and I told her a little about what it would be like if she accepted Jesus as her Savior - how the Holy Spirit would live inside her and clean up her heart and change her life. I told her how if she received Jesus as her Savior then God would write her name in the Book of Life in heaven and one day, when she dies and stands before Him, He will open that book and read her name. Then He will look at her and see no sin, because Jesus paid for them. He will look at her and see His child.

By this time, it was actually time for her to close her store. She said, "Would you like to come back tomorrow and talk about this some more?" I said, "Sure, I can come back sometime, but let me ask you this. Do you believe all of this?" "Well, yes." "Then do you think that you're ready to receive Jesus as your Savior tonight?" "Yes, I am." So I led her in a prayer, and she prayed and asked for God's forgiveness for her sins, and asked Jesus to be her Savior!

Tomorrow or another day, I'm going to go back there and take her a Bible, in case she doesn't have one yet. But praise the Lord for His great work and join in the celebration that is going on in heaven tonight!

"Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." - Luke 15:10

Listening to God - Two True Stories

Last night (5/13/08):

So I walked down to get quesadillas and our two neighbor boys went with me. They're the two that we're praying for and trying to get to church. OK, so on the way back, we stopped at this "abarrotes" (that's a small convenience store) and I bought the boys these little snack cakes or something and my Coke for my quesadillas. So while I was paying for it, the lady at the store had another lady there with her. She said to the lady, "This guy comes in here about every night and he's always just so polite and he's always got a smile on his face." So the other lady says to me, "Is that true? Are you always happy?" I said, "Yes, ma'am. Always," wishing SO badly that I had a tract with me. But I didn't. And with the other two boys with me, I really couldn't stick around and talk long. So we left...

Then I'm sitting here finishing up my quesadillas, when I remember about listening to God. I'm sitting here thinking what an opportunity that was and how I don't wanna miss a SINGLE opportunity I have here. So I grabbed a few tracts and left.

I walked back to the store and got scared (I'm such a fraidy-cat). So I sat at the corner near the store to pray. There were several people inside, so that was my excuse to wait. I started to review what I was going to say and pray through the sinner's prayer on my own in Spanish to practice. I started thinking, maybe I'll just give this to her tonight and then talk to her about it tomorrow. But I knew that was just my excuse for being too scared. So I was like, no I'm gonna talk to her now. So as the store kinda calmed down in like 10 minutes I went up to her - her son was there with her.I said, "Good evening, ma'am." "Good evening." "I have something for you. You asked me why I'm always so happy, right?" "Yes! I was telling my friend that you come in every night with a smile on your face and you're always happy." "Well, this is why," I said, handing her the tract. "This is?" "Yes, ma'am. I'm a Christian. I have Jesus Christ living in my heart. And I have a purpose for living my life. See, I'm a pastor from the United States and I've come here to work with Iglesia Bautista La Fe over on 8th Street and Bustamante y Tagle. Well this little tract here just has a bunch of Bible verses that explain about Jesus. Do you know who Jesus is?" "Oh, yes. He is the Son of God." So we went on talking a little bit and she was very open and agreeable. Then she said, "Well thank you and I will read all through this tomorrow." It's a pretty thick tract with all kinds of different Bible verses and topics other than salvation, too. So I said, "OK, ma'am. Well hey, I'll probably be back by here tomorrow or another night, so if you want, I'll stop by here and we can talk about that some more." She said, "Ok, great. I'll read through this before then."

So now I've got the chance to go back. Next time I'm gonna start right off with so after reading that tract, do you know where you would go if you were to die? So it'll be cool to see where that goes...


This afternoon (5/14/08):

It is so cool to listen to God! It's even more cool, when you come to the end of your day/trip/whatever and KNOW that you heard exactly what He said because of some way that He confirms it.

I was hungry (big surprise, huh?). So I decided instead of hot dogs and fries today, I wanted the giNORmous burrito from El Guero. So I was gonna take the bike, but it wasn't here. Come on, Adrian! What did you take the bike for? Now I've gotta walk all the way into town and back! Ah, but THAT was what God wanted...It is probably about 1.5 to 2 miles into the "centro commercial" from here, so I grabbed some tracts and went out the door. I didn't take very many with me - maybe 7 or 8. So I got stepping. First of all, I put on Pastor Steve's Mother's Day message that I just downloaded onto my iPod and started listening to that. I passed by many people, but I only had a few tracts. So it was practice in listening: "OK, God, where are these people I'm supposed to give these to?"

I found the first one. It was an older man, just sitting outside of his house. People around here do that all the time. They'll just sit here all day and watch people go by. Who else would have more time to read a gospel tract? " Good afternoon, sir. I have something for you. This is the Word of God." "Oh thank you, sir." "This little tract here has a lot of verses from the Bible that tell us about Jesus Christ and God's plan for salvation, for all of us. It's very important, so you read it, ok?" "OK, thank you and God bless you!"

When I got into town, I found the second person. He was also an older man and this guy had a shoe-shine business. He didn't look very busy and these people also just sit there all day waiting for business. So I gave him the same little message. Just as I was leaving a man came up to have his shoes shined, so he says to me, "Hey I'll share it with this guy, too. He's really lost!" "OK, brother, you do that."

Then I got to the restaurant and ordered my burritos. As I was walking up to the restaurant, I saw my last 5 people. "Hey, guero! How have you been?!?" It was one of the teens that Adrian and I have been spending time with and trying to witness to. Adrian knows him from the streets. They grew up together as the gangsters of the town before Adrian got saved and became a pastor. Well, our two teens prayer projects were there with two more of their gang friends and a girl who worked at the store that they were talking to. It would take a few minutes to make the burritos so I stayed there and talked with them for a while. As I did, I pulled out one of the tracts and started to read it. I kept two of them in my other hand. Just as my burritos were finished and ready to go, I start saying goodbye to the guys. "Hey what's that you've got there?" "This?" I said, handing him the tract, "This is the Word of God." "Oh! Are you like giving these to people in town?" "Yeah." "Well can we have these?" "Of course you can!" I said, giving them all out to them. "These are really important, so y'all make sure you read them, ok? God bless you guys!"

It was so cool. On the way back, I wasn't sure how many tracts I had. I just kept reaching in my back pocket til they were gone. And I realized those were the last 5 I had. I mean God told me to give tracts to 7 people and I only had 7 tracts in my pocket. He's so awesome!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Time Has Come... Please Pray!

What an amazing change God has made in me over the last 10 months. It was last July, just after I got back from our youth group trip to Mexico, that I began to pray about coming back here to Mexico to serve God full-time. It was last July that I started seriously working on my Spanish. It was last July that I talked to Brother Randy about coming here to serve with him. At that time I told him that I wanted to come back as soon as I knew Spanish well enough to preach without an interpreter. Well that time has come, so I need all of your prayers!

Yesterday afternoon, Pastor Jose Luis came up to me just before the evening service. At first, he scared me to death! He came bouncing up 5 minutes before the service, as if he'd been looking for me, and says, "Ready?" "Am I ready for what?" "To preach tonight." "What? I'm preaching tonight?" "Yeah!" "Right now?!?" "Yes. Don't you remember we talked about it two weeks ago?" I got really worried. We HAD talked about it two weeks ago, but I'd tried to tell him I need some more time to prepare my sermon in Spanish. Maybe he didn't understand me! At first, I thought he was joking - he's always messing around with people like that. But then Pepo and Keko were there saying the same thing. "Are you serious? I didn't know I was preaching tonight." Keko says, "Yeah, you said you were going to." Pepo says, "Just preach what you did in Sunday School this morning." They were all just staring at me, wondering why I didn't remember. "Well, I guess I could preach that again." Then he got his big ole' smile again and said, "Ah, don't believe that! I'm just kidding!" I was like, "Oh, Brother, you scared me!" He just cracked up laughing!

Then he asked me if I can preach in two weeks for the afternoon service. Next week, Brother Randy is preaching in the morning and Brother Mike in the afternoon. Then the week after, somebody will be preaching in the morning and then I preach in the afternoon. That is the next to last Sunday before I head home to Illinois. God's timing is perfect. So, this is it...

This is what I've been preparing for during the last 10 months. Of course, I'm really nervous, but not as nervous as I would be if I hadn't been able to teach the youth in Spanish for the past 6 weeks. God has constantly been reminding me that it is HIS message and I am just His messenger. He has spoken through me to the teens. He spoke through me to Marina. So I know He will speak through me again. But I did want to write this to all of you to update you and ask for your prayers. I will be preaching on "The Ministry of Reconciliation" from II Corinthians 5:18-21.

I miss you all and can't wait to catch up with you again! Dios les bendiga!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday School Message #6

I was having a really hard time speaking Spanish today. I mean I kept messing up my words and I couldn't really think straight when trying to go away from my notes. I prolly sounded like a little kid trying to talk. You know how they always say things really simply and pronounce them wrong and everything? That was me today.

But then we got to the important part - and that REALLY connected. You'll see the part where I was like, "Young people, listen to me. I'm going to tell you something that is not very popular..." And I told them that I have noticed that it is very common for women to have children outside of marriage down here, but that does not change the truths of God's Word; it is still a sin against God and our own bodies. Man, were they all listening! I don't think they were expecting for a foreigner to speak out against the sin in their country, especially as specifically as to say, "To have sex outside of marriage is a sin against God." I felt like God really confronted them with that.

It was weird to be convicted by my own sermon. Like in the main sermon, some of the things that Pastor Jose Luis convicted me, but I kept hearing my own words convicting me. "I can't make this choice for you...your parents can't make the choice for you...your church can't make the choice for you...if you are going to live a pure life, you must make that decision and take the action and obey the Scriptures for yourself...to have an impure mind is just as serious to God as having an impure body..." It was so strange! I had just said these things and now God was saying them to me in my own voice, as if I were up there actually in the pulpit, preaching to me sitting in my seat.

Anyway, here's the message:

Introduction: Let’s begin. This morning we’re looking at the fifth area in our study of “How to Think Like Jesus”. So far we’ve seen that in order to think like Jesus, we must have “A Heart for the Lost”, “A Heart for Prayer”, “A Heart for God’s Will”, and “A Heart for Others”. Today we’re going to talk about a subject that is sometimes difficult to discuss, but is incredibly important in our lives. So let’s pray that God will give us wisdom and open our eyes to the importance of this topic…

2. A Heart for Purity

a. Psalm 24:3-5
In this study, as with our others, we need to begin with a passage our motivation for living pure lives. Psalm 24 is a passage that God has used at many times in my life to challenge my walk with Him and remind me of my need for purity. Notice what the Bible says in verse 4. This passage teaches that the Lord dwells with him “who has clean hands and a pure heart”. If we want to dwell with God on a daily basis, which we learned last week is the key to thinking like Jesus, then we must constantly work to keep our hearts pure. And verse 5 adds, “He will receive…”

b. Matthew 5:8
Now look at a passage in Matthew 5. In this chapter, which is the beginning of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus lists of 8 different types of people who are blessed in God’s eyes. Verse 8 tells us, “Blessed…” Imagine that – to see God face to face! Jesus Himself teaches us that those who are pure in heart shall see God. What a motivation to live a pure life!

c. Phil.1:8-10
In this next passage, the apostle Paul is writing a letter to a church that he had started in Philippi. In these verses he expresses his urgent desire to see them again and his prayer for them that they should grow more and more. Listen to what Paul prays for this group of believers who were very dear to him. “For God is my witness…” The primary desire of Paul’s prayer for them was at the end of verse 10, and everything before that was an explanation of how they would achieve that end. He prays that they would be “pure and blameless.” And he says that they will do that by having a love that abounds “more and more…” So those three steps are very important for us if we want to be pure and blameless. 1. A love that abounds more and more 2. With knowledge and discernment 3. Approve what is excellent.

d. Phil.4:8; Mat.5:27-30
Let me ask you this? Is God only interested on what you do on the outside? Is God only interested in what you do physically with your body? Absolutely not! Remember that Jesus always rebuked the Pharisees because they were only pure on the outside. This next passage shows us that the same principle is true with purity. This passage talks not about what we do, but how we think.

This is why the battle for purity is so difficult, and as a man, I’m speaking mostly to you men. You know, it is relatively easy to be pure physically with our bodies. It is relatively easy to keep yourself pure and not give your body to a woman who is not your wife. All we really have to do is avoid situations with a woman where we could be tempted to commit adultery. But this battle of the mind is a daily battle, is it not? It is a struggle EVERY day to guard what you think about. But listen, this battle of the mind is just as serious as the battle of the body. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard it said…” Jesus Christ says that it is just as bad to look at a woman sinfully as it is to commit adultery physically. So how can we keep our minds pure? We will see what God says about that in Psalms 119 in a few minutes.

e. I Tim.1:5
I want all of us to look at this next passage in your Bibles. The book is I Timothy. Can anybody tell me who Timothy was? Timothy was a young man who was saved under Paul’s ministry in his missionary journeys. Look at verse 2 of I Timothy chapter 1: “To Timothy…” Paul calls him “my true son in the faith”. Timothy was also a young man that God called and Paul trained to be the pastor of a local church in Ephesus. So in this letter, the Apostle Paul is writing a letter to this young pastor. He is bringing his advice, based on many years of experience, to this young pastor, to equip him for the work of the ministry. Now with that background, let’s read what the teacher says to the student in this passage: “The aim of our charge…” That means that Paul is about to sum up in one statement the complete goal of his ministry and his life. “Love…” Everything in our life is about love; and we will be talking about that in 3 weeks as the last point of our study. Now listen, “…love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.” What is the very first thing that Paul mentions as a need in the life of a Christian? A pure heart. If we are to live a faithful Christian life, one that God can use, we must fight to keep our hearts pure. There is nothing that will bring a man of God down faster than moral impurity.

f. I Pet.1:22-23
Look now at I Pet.1:22-23. This passage tells us how we can purify our hearts. “…by your obedience to the truth.” This study on purity will not purify your hearts. Memorizing these verses on purity will not purify your heart. Confessing your struggles to another person will not purify your heart. The only thing that will purify your heart is “obedience to the truth”. These passages will give you the truth. They will warn you against impurity. They will tell you how to avoid impurity. But the only thing that will purify your heart is action! You must make the choice! You must fight the fight! You must say no to impurity. Only you can make that decision for yourself. I cannot make it for you, the church cannot make it for you, and your parents cannot make it for you. If you are to live a pure life, you must choose it for yourself.

g. Psalm 119:9-11
So how can we do this? We see from these passages the importance of keeping our hearts, our minds, and our lives pure, but how can we really do this in a practical way? Do we just lock ourselves in our rooms and avoid all contact with the world, so that we are not tempted with moral impurity? We have a few more passages of Scripture to look at today and all of these tell us exactly HOW to fight the battle for purity. Look together at Psalm 119:9-11 to see what we must do to keep our lives pure? Somebody read that passage please. What did verse 9 say? It asks us this same question: “How shall a young man…” And then it gives us the answer: “by taking heed…” And it continues on: “With my whole heart…” In order to stay pure, we must be seeking God with our WHOLE heart. It speaks of prayer: “…let me not wander.” We need God’s help in order to stay pure. And it gives us a weapon: “Your Word have I hid…” There is a reason that the Bible calls itself “the Sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6. It is because we are to use the Bible to fight against the lies of the enemy and the temptations of the world. We need to have memorized, stored up in our hearts, an arsenal of verses to throw at the enemy when he tries to tempt us with sin. Isn’t that what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan in the desert? He was tempted three times that we know of in Matthew, and every time, He answered the temptation with a verse from God’s Word. If we are to win the battle for purity, we need to stop being on the defense all the time; we need to go on the offense and attack the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s Word.

h. II Tim.2:22; I Cor.6:18-20; Prov.2,7;Gen.39 – How to Battle Temptation
Now I want us to look at 4 different passages of Scripture that speak of fighting moral impurity and see if we can find a common pattern in them.

II Timothy 2:22 is a very helpful passage because it tells us not only what we shouldn’t do; it tells us what we should to. “Flee… but follow…” Remember how I said that we should not be on the defense all the time? This verse teaches the same thing. Offensively, follow righteousness, faith, charity, and peace. If you are busy seeking these things, you will not be so easily distracted by moral temptations. In addition, this verse gives us more advice: “with them…” If you are going to live a life of purity, you must surround yourself with other Christians who are also committed to purity. Then you can be a help and support to each other in your daily battles for purity.

Listen now to the powerful truths from I Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee fornication…” Is that a choice or a command? That verse is a command. But it doesn’t give us this command without explanation. Listen to the explanation: “Every sin…” Did you hear all of those reasons? To commit adultery is to sin against your own body. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been bought with a price. You are not your own! What a statement! You don’t have the option as a Christian to decide if you want to be pure or not; you are commanded! “Therefore glorify…”

We won’t read all of these passages, but I want you to notice a few verses from Proverbs. 2:1,16-19. To receive the words of God and keep His commandments within us will keep us away from an immoral woman. Notice also a few verses from Proverbs 7:7,8,21-27. A man sees a youth walking and describes him as simple, void of understanding. He passes her street corner and takes the way to her house. She tempts him and with her many words, she entices him. Then listen, he follows her “as an ox to the slaughter”. He does not know that it will cost his life. She has brought down many strong men. Her house is the way to hell.

Look finally at a passage in Genesis 39:7-12. Joseph points out first of all what we often forget - that immorality is a great sin against God. There is really one thing I want us to notice in this passage. What was Joseph’s response? First he refused. Second he refused and spoke out as to why he refused. Third, he fled. He didn’t try to stay around and face the temptation. He ran.
What does Paul tell Timothy? Flee. What does Paul tell the Corinthians? Flee. What do the Proverbs teach? Flee. What did Joseph do when tempted by Potiphar’s wife? Flee.
Young people, hear me. I want to tell you something now that is not very popular. I want to tell you something very serious. The Bible teaches that adultery is sin. The truths of the Bible do not change from culture to culture. I have noticed here in Mexico that it is very common for women to have children outside of marriage. In fact, I have noticed that it is actually difficult to find a woman over the age of 18 or 20 who does not have children. But hear me – the fact that it is common does not make it any less of a sin. Young people, this is not my opinion; these are not my thoughts. This is the unchanging truth of God’s Word. To commit adultery is a sin against God. To have sex outside of marriage is a sin against God! I want you all to understand the seriousness of this. God cares deeply about the purity of your heart. God commands us to be pure. God enables us to be pure. But it is our choice and our responsibility to take action and fight for moral purity.

Conclusion: In closing, if we want to think like Christ, we must constantly fight to have a pure heart. There is nothing that will more quickly destroy the character of a man or woman than moral impurity. God dwells with him who has a pure heart. And dwelling with God is the key to thinking like Christ. Let us take warning from God’s Word, beg for his help in this area, and fight for purity in our lives.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"And Thy House..."

Tonight, I have a story to share with you all. I'm not fully informed on all the details, so forgive me, but I write of what I witnessed tonight during visitation.

The part of the story I do not know began 8 months ago. A young Mexican man got saved in Denver, Colorado. He was originally from here in Jimenez. Somehow over the past 8 months, he's gotten in touch with our church and asked us to pray for his family who lives here in Jimenez. So we've been praying for them for several months. Well, finally we found out where they live. And tonight we went to visit them. The following is a true story, a firsthand account of the work of God...

So we get to the address and their little shop on the corner is open. We go inside and meet a young man, Marco Antonio Hernandez. He appears around 18 and not too excited to see us. I can't figure out if he just woke up from a siesta or if he's just had a really boring day. Pastor Jose Luis walks up and pulls a Pepsi out of the fridge to buy. As he is paying, he tells him that we've heard from his relative in Colorado (I'm not sure if this guy was his brother or cousin or what). He says that his brother has met Jesus Christ as His personal Savior and that he wanted us at Iglesia Bautista La Fe to come and tell his family about his new Lord. Boy did that open the doors. So we stand there as Pastor Jose Luis explains to him the gospel and his need for this same Savior who saved his relative. I watched and listened as this young man's face changed from one of disinterest to one of great hope and understanding. When Pastor Jose Luis asked him if he wanted to receive Jesus as his Savior, there was no hesitation and an excited, "Si!" So he prayed a prayer of salvation right there in his family's little store. Praise the Lord! One down...

We then walked out of the store and around to the house side of the building. After knocking and waiting for a few minutes, a man came out of the house. Pastor Jose Luis told him why we were here and as soon as he mentioned his son's name, the man lit up and invited us in saying, "Mi casa es tu casa!" So we began to talk once again. This man was much more familiar with the Bible than his relative in the store. He would quote some of the verses along with Pastor Jose Luis. Pastor was happy to hear his familiarity with the Bible and began to question him whether he believed everything the Bible teaches. The man answered, "Yes, of course." "So then you believe that when you die, you will go to one of two places - to heaven, in the presence of our Lord, or to hell, a place prepared for Satan and his demons. Let me ask you then, if you were to die tonight, which of those places do you think you would go?" The man's expression changed to an embarrassed look, like a child who had just been caught in a lie: "Well, I have really sinned a lot. 'For all have sinned...', right? So I guess that I would have to go to hell." "Oh, but you don't!" Pastor said, with hope. He went on to share the reason for which Jesus died on the cross. Moments later, he asked the man, "Would you like to receive Jesus as your Savior?" "Well, yes I would." So he prayed the prayer of salvation right there in his own living room. Praise the Lord! Two down...

Pastor Jose Luis stood up from the couch, looking to me like an enthusiastic child ready to "go outside and play" again, and said, "Well then, let's go find your wife!" So the man gave him directions to another store where she was working. We arrived at that store to find a very hard woman with an irritated look on her face. "Oh boy," I thought, "This one's not gonna be so easy..." Pastor Jose Luis began to explain to her that we had heard from her son in Colorado and his desire for his family to receive Jesus the way he had done. She eyed him carefully, like a salesman trying to sell a phony product: "Well, I don't have time right now, I'm really busy..." So Pastor says, "OK, well what he wanted us to tell you is very simple. Basically, it's about our Savior Jesus Christ..." He went on, undeterred. I stood a few feet behiind him, praying that God would soften this lady's heart and give her an understanding of her need. When somebody would come in, he would stop talking and move out of the way, so that she could go on with her work. It didn't take long for him to explain things to her. Her answer was, "Well, I'm a Catholic, so I already know about Jesus." "Oh good," Pastor went on, "the only thing we're here to do is to tell you about Jesus. We're not trying to change your religion and make you a Baptist or anything, we just want you to know that Jesus wants to save you from your sin and be your personal Savior." So he made things quite simple. It was masterful how he led her using things she already believed in to an understanding that she needed to act on what Christ had done for her. He said, "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" "Well, yes," she said, really thinking through her answer. "Do you believe that He died on the cross for your sins and rose again the third day?" "Yes." "Do you believe that you are a sinner and cannot make it to heaven through your own efforts?" "Yes." "Do you believe that God is holy and must judge sins?" "Yes." "Then the Bible says this: 'If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.' Do you want to do that right now and receive Jesus as your Savior?" She paused. I could see her thinking logically through these truths of Scripture and considering her answer carefully: "Well... yes I do." She prayed the sinner's prayer with Pastor Jose Luis and we left the store with a lady with a smile and a pleasant expression on her face. Praise the Lord! One more family won for His kingdom...

At the end of this day, I had one verse ringing in my head: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house..." I had never seen this before. I have seen a whole family saved at once (on a previous trip to Mexico, in fact), but never like this - at three different times, all unaware that their other family members had also accepted. There was no way that their decisions could have affected each other's. I can only imagine the conversation going on tonight, as each one of them realizes that the other's had also received the same Savior, the same day. Praise God for His promises and His mighty power...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gloria al Señor!!! Praise the Lord!!!

Today I saw the power of God in a more real way than I have during my entire trip here to Mexico. Today I saw God cross the language barrier with the power of His great salvation. Today I saw God use an American man to bring a Mexican woman to an understanding of the gospel. Today I saw God save another of His lost sheep.

This week and next, we have a team of doctors here from the United States, led by Brother Lanny Ashcraft, to perform free cataract surgeries on the many under-privileged people here in Jimenez who cannot afford medical expenses. So we're working together with the hospital and the Lion's Club here in town. The people go to the Lion's Club to register and get an examination. Then they come over to the church to wait for the surgeries at the hospital.

So we meet at the church like usual on Saturdays at 10:00 AM for visitation and witnessing in town. So Pastor Jose Luis asks where we should go today and says we could either hand out tracts in town like normal or stay here and talk to people waiting on their surgeries. Most of the guys wanted to hand out tracts (isn't it always easier to just hand somebody a tract and walk away?), but I said, "Pastor, I think we have an opportunity here that we don't have on other weeks. We don't need to go out to the people because they're coming to us today." He said, "That's right, they're already here! Let's go talk to them." So some of the guys went to hand out tracts and Jose Luis and Jesus and I (that's Jesus Chaparro, not Jesus Christ, although He was there too) stayed at the church to talk to people." Today I saw the benefits of my training day of witnessing on the south side of Peoria - to listen to God.

I'm going to tell you something for all of you who have never been on a missions trip and/or can't speak another language. It is very easy to be a Christian missionary when you are with national believers who have been trained in witnessing. All you do is stand there with your smile, your Bible, and your tracts, drawing people in by your "Americanism", and listen intently while the nationals explain the plan of salvation and lead sinners in a prayer of repentance. That is very easy. It is also very powerful. If you haven't seen it, I tell you it will change your life. But listen, it is not enough to use them (the nationals) as a crutch. It's the same way that I used to tell the teens at Cornerstone, "Don't use your tracts as a crutch. Leave them on the tables at a restaurant, if you must, but don't use that as an excuse not to talk to somebody." Do you want to see God use you? I mean YOU! Then you have to step out in faith and put yourself at risk, in a vulnerable position, and see what God will do through you. This is a lesson I am learning.

So we are at the church with lost people flooding in to have their needs met. They come for their physical needs; we seek to meet their spiritual needs. We have New Testaments and tracts placed all over the seats at the church. Nearly everyone is reading something. So now I stand there, listening to God, asking Him where to go, and whom to talk to. Pastor Jose Luis starts up a conversation with a couple who claim to be Catholic. Everyone else seems occupied with their crying children or their friends, so I sit in and listen. Pastor Jose Luis begins explaining sin and our need for salvation. He never mentions church. He never mentions religion. He talks about Jesus Christ, us, and sin. The man and wife listen. The man understands. The woman says, "But he's a Catholic." Jose Luis doesn't mention the church. He says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." He explains the plan of salvation and the need to receive Christ as his personal Savior. And the man, understanding, says he wants to pray. So Pastor Jose Luis leads him in a prayer of repentance right there.

So that group leaves for the hospital. It's about noon now and Pastor Jose Luis asks if I can stay at the church and be in charge until Brother Martin arrives at 2:00 PM. So I agreed and he left for lunch. So it's just Jesus and I. The next group of people comes in and I'm kinda walking around the church listening for God to tell me whom to talk to. Meanwhile, Jesus walks across the street. There were about 4 or 5 men who had gathered across the road, just to watch what was going on with all this activity at the church. Oh, just so you all know, Jesus is one of our boys from the ranch who is 17 years old. About 20 minutes later, Jesus walks back across the road and says to me, with a smile on his face, "Dos." What a coward I am! A 17 year-old just went and talked with 4 or 5 guys twice his age and returns having won two of them for the Lord!

So I went back inside and that's when I saw her. She was sitting all alone on the left side of the church, flipping through the Bible in the seat. God said, "There she is. Go talk to her..." So I walked up near her and waited. I watched her as she quickly read through some of the tract. I was trying to see where she was, following along in my own tract, to determine when to jump in and say something. I hesitate, "God, I can't do this. I can't talk to somebody in Spanish about salvation. This is something that they HAVE to understand. What if I can't explain it to her clearly?" I waited. She picks up the Bible and starts to read it. I could see as she read that she was lost - lost in the pages and lost in sin. She starts to read at the beginning (that's what you do with a book, right?); she skips to the end (that's what you do when you don't understand a book, right?); she starts to flip through pages in the middle (maybe looking for pictures or something that would help her understand). Then she kinda sets the Bible in her lap and looks around. She didn't say anything, but I could sense the attitude: "Does anybody know what this is all about?" God commands me again, "Go and talk to her. She's ready." "But God, what if I can't explain it to her? I don't even have my own Bible with me with my notes and memory verses." He rebukes me, "Listen, you little scaredy-cat, it is my message and you are just my messenger. Now go..." I don't mean to make this over-dramatic, but this is just the way everything was happening in my head.

As I look back on this, I think of Moses. God says to him, "Come, I will send you to Pharaoh..." "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh..." And God replies in Exodus 4:12, "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."

So the Lord bought to my mind Acts chapter 8 with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch: "Do you understand what you are reading?" "How can I, unless someone guides me?" That was my cue. I walked up and sat in the chair next to the lady: "Good afternoon, ma'am. Do you understand what you're reading?" She smiled and said, "Well..." wanting to say yes, but then honestly says, "No, I don't." "Well would you like me to explain it to you?" She nodded. So I took the tract that we had and began to explain to her that every one of us has a problem - sin. We walked through the Romans Road as I told her that our sin separates us from God. I watched her face very carefully to see if she was understanding. Over and over I asked her, "Do you understand me?" She did. So I told her that Jesus Christ has paid the price for her sin. "Do you know who Jesus Christ is?" "Yes, He is the Son of God." So I read to her Romans 10:9 and said that all she has to do to repent is to believe this message in her heart and confess with her mouth that Jesus is her Lord. I asked her, "Do you believe that this is the truth?" "Yes," she said. "And would you like to make this decision right now?" "Yes." So I told her that I would lead her in a prayer, but that the prayer wouldn't save her - because I am not God and I do not save anybody - but her faith in God's Word and in Jesus Christ would save her. So I led her in a simple prayer of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus and she asked Jesus to come into her heart and save her! It was the most beautiful thing I have seen! I felt as if I were watching somebody lead her to the Lord, rather than doing it myself.

So then I told her that now we are a family. I told her how God was writing her name down in the Book of Life. I told her that now when she reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit inside of her will show her things and make her to understand it. Then I left her alone and went for walk to try to take in everything that had just happened. I was praising and thanking God for using a weak, fragile vessel like me to shed his light into the darkness of a sinful heart. Then I returned to the church. I wondered what she would be doing. The Bible says, "...by their fruits you shall know them." When I got back to the church, Marina was sitting there still with her Bible open. She was no longer skimming through it; she was reading it. The surgeries go relatively slow with so many people to operate on. So Marina and her group were there for about 2 1/2 hours waiting. I never saw her put her Bible down once. She sat there and read it the whole time. At 2:00 PM, Brother Martin arrived and decided to get up in front of everyone and preach the gospel, instead of just going one on one. As he did, I watched Marina. Martin says, "How many of you know that if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?" All of the church members raised their hands - and so did Marina. The patients/visitors did not. As he preached, He would say things like, "How many of you believe that hell is a real place?" Marina raised her hand. "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" Marina raised her hand.

It was beautiful. She had understood. And now I understood as well. When I am weak, He is strong. When I cannot speak, He will speak. When I take the risk, He takes the action. What a wonderful God we serve! And what a privilege to be a part of His work in this world!

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
- Psalm 107:1

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sunday School Message #5

Introduction: Ok, let’s get started. We are studying together in this class “How to Think Like Jesus”. And we’ve already studied the first three points of this topic. The first was “A Heart for the Lost”. The second thing we need was “A Heart for Prayer”. And last week, we talked about “A Heart for God’s Will.” This week we’re going to study the fourth thing that we need to have in order to think like Jesus. That is “A Heart for Others”, a heart of humility. Let’s pray together and we’ll get started.

2. A Heart for Others – Humility
a. Matthew 22:35-40
I would like us to begin with this passage from Matthew this morning, because in this passage, Jesus tells us in one statement the importance of how we treat others around us. Note that in verse 35 one of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, asked Jesus a question trying to test Him. This was a common thing that the Pharisees would do to Jesus. He lived His life so perfectly and blamelessly that they were constantly trying to make Him say something wrong that they could use to accuse Him. This Pharisee asks Jesus, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Let’s read Jesus response in verses 37-40: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” What Jesus meant in verse 40 is this: That every law written in the Scriptures is concerning your relationship with God or your relationship with others. Jesus says that if we will love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, AND if we will love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be obeying every law of God in the Scriptures. Think about that. Of all the laws in the Scripture, which we couldn’t even remember if we tried, we will obey them all if we love God and love others. It’s simple. So this matter of having a heart for others is indeed a very important aspect of our Christian lives. To think like Jesus, we must have a heart for others – a heart of humility.

b. Isaiah 57:15
Look now, in this next passage, at another motivation for keeping a spirit of humility. Somebody read for us Isaiah 57:15. What an amazing thought! God says that He dwells “in the high holy place, with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit”. When you live together with somebody, you learn who they really are, you learn how they think, you learn how they respond to different circumstances, and you learn how to be like them. This could be the key to our whole study! What better way is there to learn to think like Jesus than to live with him daily? And that can only be done, according to this verse, when we have a humble spirit.

c. Prov.6:16-19(17)
Now, I want us to take a quick look through the book of Proverbs and see a number of different passages that talk about humility. The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom. And God will only give wisdom to those people who walk humbly with Him. This first passage gives us a list of things that God hates. Notice – what was the very first thing that God hates? It is a proud look. Pride is something that God hates to see in our lives. We’ll talk a little bit more about what pride actually is in a few minutes.

d. Prov.8:13
This passage teaches us again that if we fear the Lord, we will hate pride, the pride that is in our own hearts.

e. Prov.11:2
These verses teach us that pride brings shame. When we have pride in our hearts, we will bring shame upon ourselves. But with the lowly, that is, with the humble is wisdom.

f. Prov.15:25,33
“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud… the fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.” We saw in the last passage that pride brings shame and now in this passage that humility brings honor. God hates pride, but loves humility.

g. Prov.16:5,18-19
This passage teaches us that people with proud hearts are an abomination to God – that is the strongest word in the Scriptures for something that God hates – it is an abomination. And then in verses 18 and 19 we see that pride will lead us to destruction and the Lord says it is better to have nothing, with a humble spirit, than to be very rich with other proud people.

h. Prov.22:4
In this passage, we learn that the Lord will reward the humble. He says “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life.”

i. Prov.29:23
And our final passage in Proverbs speak again about the honor that God will place upon the humble – “Honor shall uphold the humble in Spirit.

j. Matthew 23:1-12
OK, now everyone turn to Matthew chapter 23 and we’re going to see something very familiar that we have seen in almost every aspect of this study. Jesus teaches the people not to behave like the Pharisees. Listen to how Jesus describes the religious leaders: “Do not after their works… they say and do not… all their works they do to be seen of men… they love the uppermost rooms… and the chief seats… and being called Rabbi... he that is greatest among you shall be your servant… whoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled… whoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.” This was the one thing that Jesus kept returning to when He confronted the Pharisees – that they were clean and righteous on the outside, but dirty and sinful on the inside. The Pharisees knew the Law. They had it memorized. They went to the temple every day. They gave tithes of everything that they had. They would pray many times throughout the day. But the Son of God, who knows their hearts, saw that they were full of pride. In fact, the rest of the chapter is Jesus’ strong rebuke to the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
Our battle with pride is one of the most difficult battles to fight. Pride is not an action; it is an attitude. We can have pride in about anything. We can be proud of our accomplishments. We can be proud of our abilities or talents. We can be proud of our intelligence. We can even be proud of our Christianity. If pride were an action, like many other sins, we could just say, “Don’t do that.” But since it is an attitude, we must always ask ourselves, “Am I doing this because of my pride?” Because of that, every person struggles with pride, some just handle it better than others.

k. James 4:6-10
Look next at James chapter 4. This passage tells us that God resists the proud people but give grace to the humble people. Now listen, when God resists a proud Christian, that doesn’t mean that we lose our salvation. Think of it this way. Our earthly father is a picture of our Heavenly Father. With my earthly father, it is possible for me to hurt, disobey or disrespect him. But when I do, that doesn’t mean I am not his son anymore. However, when that happens, we don’t have the close fellowship that we had before. This is the same with our Heavenly Father. When we as Christians have proud hearts, God resists us. We are still His sons, but He refuses to have fellowship with us unless we have humble hearts. And then listen to these verses: “Submit yourselves to God…resist the devil…draw nigh to God… cleanse your hands… purify your hearts… humble yourselves… He will lift you up.” That is the attitude of the humble. We must do nothing to promote ourselves. We must do nothing to make ourselves look better.

l. I Peter 5:5-6
The attitude of humility is one of submission. To submit yourself to another is to acknowledge their leadership over you, to voluntarily place yourself under their control. Peter encourages us to “be subject one to another, and clothed with humility”. And again we see that if we humble ourselves under the hand of God, He will exalt us in His timing.

m. Phil.2:2-11
And finally, I want to look at the most powerful passage on humility in all of God’s Word. Turn to Philippians chapter 2. As with every aspect of our study until now, we always finish by looking to our Savior and seeing a perfect example of how we should live. This topic is no different. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of humility. There is nobody who could begin with a higher position than He had and nobody who could take upon themselves a lower position than He took. Listen to this beautiful and powerful passage. “Fulfill ye my joy…” And we all say, “Amen” to that passage. Let’s think for a few moments about this. Jesus Christ is the Creator of the world. But He then became a human, one of us whom He created, in order to save us from our sins. But even in that, He did not come as a king, or a rich person, or even a normal person; He came as a poor carpenter’s son, a virgin’s son, and was born in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the inn. So then He went throughout His life and what did He do? He served EVERY person he met. He taught them. He healed them. He cast demons out of them. He fed them. He washed their feet. He loved them. He blessed their children. He raised them from the dead. And then, in the end, He gave His own life for them. He died for the very people who killed Him. His last words to His Father for them were, “Father, forgive them…” Until the moment that He died, our Savior Jesus Christ was our perfect example of humility. And what did God promise towards the humble. He said that in His timing He would exalt them. Verses 9-11 show us that God was faithful to that promise. “Wherefore…” That word means, “Because of all of that, God did all of this…” God raised up His humble Son to the most high position possible.

Conclusion: Therefore, if we are going to think like Jesus, we must have a Heart for Others. Jesus always considered others before Himself. Jesus always put the needs and desires of others before his own. Jesus was the most humble man who ever lived. If we are going to think like Jesus, we must think of others before ourselves. Let’s pray…