media

 

Sermon Series

 

“Godliness Training”December 10, 2017 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

SERMON “Godliness Training”

1 TIMOTHY 4:1-16 [NLTse]

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.

3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.

6 If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for

the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

SERMON

In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul wrote, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” “Godliness” is an old-fashioned word that means God-like-ness, so, training for godliness is training that makes us more like Christ, more like God. In this passage, the parallel between “physical training” and “training for godliness” teaches us something about that.

First off, Paul tells Timothy and us why we should take up godliness training: And that is, because there are false prophets and false teachers out there who are teaching – not God’s heart and mind and Word, but – the deceptions of demons(!), Paul warns. By “out there” I mean, in pulpits, on TV, writing popular blog-posts; wearing coats and ties, wearing skirts and dresses, wearing jeans; preaching and teaching to hundreds, preaching and teaching to thousands, preaching and teaching to small groups…

At a recent study and prayer meeting of the elders and deacons, we were sharing stories of our run-ins with the devil and his crew of fallen angels (demons). Everyone who shared made a similar observation: Satan doesn’t appear wicked; that is, nobody who’d encountered the devil saw the red, two-horned, pointy-tailed creature with the pitchfork we see in so many depictions of the evil one. No. The embodiment of evil (at least for each and every one of the elders or deacons who shared) appeared normal, typical, average, like anybody else…

We all can be tricked into thinking that we live in a world like Dick Tracy, u where all the good guys looked like good guys and where u all the bad guys looked bad. But the truth is, bad guys can be attractive and be good preachers, too, and bad gals can be attractive and work wonders, too. And that’s why we need to be warned, u and that’s whhy we

need godliness training, because Paul tells us that, in truth, these folks are hypocrites and liars not sensitive to God’s Spirit and who, though seeming faithful, have turned away from the true faith. But we can’t know that if we haven’t trained ourselves in godliness.

And, let’s not fool ourselves into believing that false prophets and false teachers might just be leading us astray about aspects of our faith that don’t matter day by day. No. Paul gives the example of people teaching about what you can eat and who you’re free to marry! These deceivers the devil has sent to infiltrate Christ’s Church are not only taking the freedom of the gospel and twisting it into a new kind of slavery, they’re not only taking the Christian’s desire to obey God out of love and gratitude and twisting it into an obedience coming from fear and obligation, and they’re not only taking the gracious gift of salvation and twisting it into something you or I could take credit for ourselves, but these wolves in sheep’s clothing – these pagans in pastor’s clothing – are also taking the glory of the cross of Christ and equating it with the color of this or that political party or the flag of this or that government; they are also taking the wild and gentle wonders of all it means to be male and female in the image of God and neutering us all down into tame and bland counterfeits; they are also taking the wealth and riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ and making Christian people want the wealth and riches of this life more. We need godliness training so that we can recognize the subtleties and nuances of such differences, especially since (on account of how attractive false prophets and false teachers can be) we can be far down the slippery-slope of their inspiring and entertaining ways before we realize the evil that’s being done to us.

It happened here in this church, for the handful of you here long-enough to remember it. Tim Dean, an elder of the church who has now moved down to Delaware for retirement, was on the committee of

church members who originally interviewed me and eventually hired me to be your pastor. Tim told me about the pastor who was here before me, a fellow well-versed in the Bible and who preached and taught well and often about the cross of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But, after a while, Tim said, somethings just seemed to be off in the ways he was encouraging the church to apply the Scriptures. It eventually got to seem so “not right” to him that he began going home after Worship and looking up the context for all the passages the pastor had referenced in his messages. It became very clear to Tim that the pastor was taking the truths of the good news but twisting them to move the church according to his own plans and agenda. A sermon that pastor gave, sadly titled the “Palm Sunday Massacre” by many who were in the church at that time, woke the entire congregation up to the reality that, nice guy though he was, he was a false prophet and a false teacher, and, praise God, you fired him for it…

Yes, no matter the benefits we can receive from dieting and working out, godliness training is even more important because it affects not only our health and welfare in this life but also affects our place and station in the life to come! And Paul writes in another place, “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

What does godliness training look like? Paul says it includes exercising and practicing-using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us. Paul says it involves giving our complete attention to the things of God: “Throwing yourself” into God’s work, he writes to Timothy. It involves both how we’re living our personal lives as well as what we say and teach publicly to be true about Jesus.

In physical exercise, we train our muscles to be strong and flexible by regularly forcing them to do things that are hard for them to do. Over time, our muscles develop the ability to do these hard – and even harder – things, but only because we have

consistently worked them to do things that, at first, seemed almost too hard for them!

Likewise in godliness training, we won’t grow unless we continually challenge our spiritual “muscles” to do things we find hard. With that in mind, let’s u ask ourselves:

What am I disciplining myself to do that is hard for me to do? As we ask ourselves this question, let’s keep in mind that what is hard for someone else may be easy for us. We’re looking for things that we, personally, find hard to do. “No pain, no gain,” as the weightlifters say.

u Another question: How regularly am I requiring myself to do these things? Down through the centuries, many have found it helpful to have some daily routine of spiritual practices. “Once in a while” has proven not to get the job done. Likewise in physical training: The athlete who finds him- or herself saying, “I’m too busy to train today; it won’t hurt to miss just one day,” is probably not someone you’ll see playing past the high school level, and someone you definitely won’t see competing professionally or winning a medal in the Olympics. (And we are training for a prize far more precious than wealth or fame or 5-minutes of glory on a podium.)

For example, think about something like daily Bible reading. Many would say, “But I can’t read the Bible every single day. There are some days when I’m just too busy to get my reading done.” Well, yes, it is hard — and therein lies the value of it, at least from the standpoint of godliness training. The very act of doing that which is hard is beneficial (not to mention all the other benefits of reading the Bible itself).

The willingness to pay the price and do the hard things is what separates those who are genuinely head-over-heels for Christ and who genuinely desire to be close to Him and like Him from those who simply think of Christianity and faith and Heaven as all being nice ideas.

I hear the Lord calling to me (I hear Him calling to us all): “Honestly, how much do I really mean to you?”

My friends, with all the ways the devil is active trying to trick us and distract us and to satisfy us with lesser things, are we willing to train for Christ’s sake? Are we willing to ask the hard questions and do the hard things to show Him our love and gratitude for saving us in Christ?



“Glory! Plain & Simple”November 26, 2017 A.D.by Pastor Ben Willis

SERMON – “Glory! Plain & Simple”

2 CORINTHIANS 1:1-12 [NLTse]

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of His holy people throughout Greece.

2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with His comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, Who raises the dead. 10 And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

12 We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have

depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.

SERMON

I don’t know about all of you but I think that we’ve been tricked. At least, I know I have.

I’ve long been a fan of superhero fiction, and have always loved watching or reading about the hero fighting to keep the damsel safe, rescuing her at great odds, and then living together happily ever after. Glorious!

The medium is a little bit different, but you see the same deception if you’re a fan of People magazine or of Woman’s Day or of Men’s Health: The lives of the rich and famous often seem so much more interesting and adventurous and “what life is supposed to be like” than our lives; in those pages the diet always succeeds and the workout always leaves great results. Glorious! Our TV shows and pop-music also portray and sing of bigger-than-life-romances and more-interesting-than-our-lives relationships, bigger-than-our-business deals, more-productive-than-we-could-ever-be movers-and-shakers, and of having a cleaner house and running a tighter ship than we ever could. Glorious! There’s engaging drama. There’s edge-of-your-seat suspense, There’s breath-taking passion. Glorious!

I say that I think we’ve all been deceived because the world portrays all of these things as “glorious”: Bigger-than-life! Heart-rending or heart-stopping! Earth-shaking! I think we’ve all been tricked into thinking that all of this is what “glory!” looks like.

Even here in Christ’s Church the idea of God’s glory shining through seems to be equated with bold healings, shocking deliverances, heartfelt reconciliations, mass conversions, awesome manifestations of the Holy Spirit! Glory is acknowledged at times when God gets us a new car or helps us win the lottery or does something else that we really, really, really, really want Him to do.

But I think the Lord Jesus is revealing to us today (by the Apostle Paul) that glory can be big and loud and attention-getting, but that glory is, perhaps even more often, a quiet, often-unnoticed breaking-into-our-world of Heavenly truth, character, and wonder.

1 Kings 19 memorably records a time when the Prophet Elijah needed encouragement from the LORD. And so, 1 Kings 19 records: “A mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper… And a voice said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (19:11-13)

We so often only expect God to show Himself in the hurricane-, earthquake-, and firestorm-like visitations of life! But oftentimes God’s simply there, waiting for us to notice that small bush-on-fire on the mountainside, waiting for us to notice that it’s not spreading or going out. Waiting for us to draw nearer… We so often only expect God to show Himself in the heavenly choir singing “Hosannas” and praise! But oftentimes He’s simply there, walking into our midst in the disheveled form of a lone angel messenger, waiting for us to give Him our attention. Waiting for us to give ear to His message. Waiting for us to draw near…

As we read through 2 Corinthians this week on our way through the Bible in 2017, Paul gives us images and examples of God’s glory shining quietly and mildly in the midst of the everyday mundane.

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when we’ve trusted in Christ and the result is pain, grieving, disillusionment, fear, or confusion. Heaven shows itself shining around us in such moments in the form of God Himself comforting us through His Word or through the Body of Christ… The angels cry, “Glory!”

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when He calls us to move in a certain direction on a given matter for Christ’s sake even though all the world around us is moving in the opposite direction. (Paul makes clear that we’re not moving in that direction because we’ve become passionate about it or because it’s come to break our hearts, but only because Christ has asked us to move in that direction for His sake and His sake alone.) Heaven shows itself shining around us in such lonely moments by having the Holy Spirit silently remind, encourage, and convict our hearts of everything Christ has ever promised… The angels cry, “Glory!”

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when we are treated by unbelievers around us as though we are repulsive, ugly, uneducated, uncouth, evil – as though we are giving off some kind of cringing stench – treating us that way just because we are Christians. Heaven shows itself shining around us in such moments because, unknown to us, at these very same times other Christians around us and those Jesus is calling to Himself are finding us supernaturally attractive, beautiful, wise-beyond-our-years, gracious, noble – as though spreading an intoxicating perfume across their lives… And the angels cry, “Glory!”

In our reading, Paul tells about a time when God’s glory burst into he and his fellow-missionaries’ lives as they were sharing the gospel. He writes, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure! We thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.” But Heaven showed itself, Paul said, because in those moments they stopped relying on themselves and learned to rely only on God. They thought they were going to die, but they knew that God raises the dead! God rescued them, Paul rejoiced! And he and his companions were confident God would keep rescuing them again and again!

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when we don’t give up or give in to the world’s threats, persecutions, judgments, and pressures. Heaven shows itself shining around us in such moments by the Holy Spirit granting us supernatural faith in the unseen realities of the life to come and supernatural confidence in our own resurrection on account of His having raised Christ… And the angels cry, “Glory!”

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when we bear up under the weaknesses and infirmities of these earthly bodies. Heaven shows itself shining around us in such moments as the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with assurance concerning our promised heavenly bodies… And the angels cry, “Glory!”

Paul shares that God’s glory bursts into our lives when we bear the grace and good news of Jesus to others as His ambassadors. Heaven shows itself shining around us in such moments as God makes Christ – afresh and anew – to be the offering for the sin of the world so those around us can be made right with and draw near to God… And the angels cry, “Glory!”

2 Corinthians 4:7 compares Christians to “fragile clay jars” containing great treasure. (Maybe like this McDonald’s cup containing this delicious chocolate milkshake.) Like the flimsy plastic casing of this cup, the Apostle Paul says that God likes working through our human weakness and fragility because it makes it clear to all those around us that any great power we demonstrate must be from God and doesn’t come from us, ourselves. After all, what are we? [Put the cup down and smash it with my foot!] [Try to smash it again and again and again!]

We’ve been deceived. God’s glory is not most often expressed in grand, attention-getting acts. It is most often expressed in flimsy, quiet acts of

faithfulness, servant-heartedness, self-sacrifice, and weakness… [Pick up the cup and put it on the Table.]

When people see us responding to hardships with grace, everyone with eyes-to-see knows that Heaven has burst into the world and sees God’s glory shining among us!

Let us live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministries. In everything we do, let us show that we are true ministers of God. Let us patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. Perhaps we’ll be beaten, put in prison, have to face angry mobs, be worked to exhaustion, have to endure sleepless nights, and/or go without food. May we prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. May we faithfully preach the truth!

God’s power is working in us!

May we use the weapons of righteousness in our right hands for attack and the weapons of righteousness in our left hands for defense. May we serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. Let us be honest even if they call us liars. Let them ignore us; we know we are well-known by God! Even if we are made to live close to death, let us not forget that we are still alive! Even if we get beaten, let us praise the Lord that we haven’t yet been killed. Even as our hearts ache, let us always thrill in the joy of the Lord. Even if we are made poor, let us know the glory of giving spiritual riches to others. Even if we own nothing, let’s always remember that, in Christ, we have everything!

O, those angels are crying, “Glory!”



“Beautiful Feet”November 19, 2017 A.D.by Pastor Ben Willis

Sermon – “Beautiful Feet”
ROMANS 10:4-15 [NLTse]

4 …Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which [God’s Law] was given. As a result, all who believe in Him are made right with God.

5 For Moses writes that [God’s Law’s] way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to Heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by be-lieving in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew

and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, Who gives generously to all who call on Him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 But how can they call on Him to save them un-less they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

SERMON – “Beautiful Feet”

The good news of Jesus Christ has become bad news in much of the public eye. The message has been distorted, twisted into something very different from all the Lord Jesus came and preached and died and rose from the dead and went back up into Heaven to convey to us.

Some of the better-known versions of how Christ’s message has been twisted is that Christ has come and died to pay price for human sin and so now Christian-people can sin all they want – it’s okay! – because Christ has paid the price for sin! (But that’s not the message.)

Another twisted version is that Christ came and lived and then died and rose and ascended to show people what a sinless life looked like so that we can now follow after Him and do likewise. Folks who think this is the message believe a person has to get their act together, straighten up, and stop sinning in order to be welcome and able to go to church, and to Heaven. (But that’s not the message, either.)

Of course, the true message is that Jesus Christ – God the Son – came and died to pay the death-penalty all human beings deserve for our sin, and so everyone who believes in His saving-death is forgiv-en their sins for all time. And Jesus came and died so that human beings would no longer be under the power of sin so that we can stop sinning, or at least,

sin less and less and less, until Jesus returns and makes us brand new.

There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the heart of the good news. However, most people don’t know that. They just know one of the twisted ver-sions. So, Abba is sending us out to be His messen-gers to tell those around us the truth.

Revelation 12:11 says that we, Christians, over-come the devil “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.” And the apostle Peter writes in his first letter, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) So, we gain power, authority, and confidence in our faith and against the spiritual realms as we trust in the sin-sacrifice of Jesus and as we share what God’s done in our lives with those around us. At the very same time, since Christ has called us to be holy – dif-ferent – then there tends to be a difference between our actions, attitudes, and priorities and those of the people we work with and go to school with and

whom we shop with… And when people around us notice the difference and ask us, “Why are you dif-ferent?” we need to be ready to tell them that we are different on account of Jesus!

Probably the most effective tool we have for sharing our faith with others is our testimony: The story of how Jesus Christ has brought us into a close relationship with Himself and how He’s enriched our lives because of it. The Apostle John wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3). And that is exactly what our testimonies are, right: Simply proclaiming to others what we have personally seen and heard about Jesus Christ.

Now, the purpose of preparing our testimony ahead of time is to help us be ready: To help us put into words some of the important and interesting details of our coming to Christ and of our lie with Him, details we might forget to share if were we simply talking off the cuff.

Of course, our story serves mainly as a “door opener.” Many people aren’t going to be convinced

that they need Jesus just by hearing what He’s done and doing with our lives. But listening to our stories can often open up a conversation that might allow us to share the gospel more fully later.

The apostle Paul shares his testimony three differ-ent times across the Book of Acts. If you read Acts 26 out loud it takes about three to five minutes to say, the perfect length of time for a testimony that will get peoples’ attention without having their minds wander because our story goes on and on.

In vv. 1-5 Paul describes the ways he thought and the things he did before he became a believer. In vv. 6-11 Paul explained how he became a believer. And in vv. 12-21 Paul explained how becoming a believer changed his life. What a great pattern for a Christian testimony!

So, with preparing our own testimony in mind, we might want to start with what our lives revolved around, where we looked for security and happiness before we became Christians, and what happened when those crutches began to let us down? Then, it

might be good to move onto telling of when we heard the gospel for the first time, or when we ex-perienced genuine Christianity for the first time: What was that like for us, what was our initial reac-tion? And then, how did our attitudes about it begin to change? What was the hardest parts about Jesus’ good news for us to accept? And then, why did we finally accept Christ? Lastly and perhaps most im-portantly, of course, we likely want to end with how giving our lives to Christ changed us: Not just our behaviors, but our character, our attitudes, and our perspectives on life, as well.

We’ll want our testimonies to be personal, not preachy: So let’s use “I” and “me”. And let’s write it down the way you would speak it, since when we do share it we’re going to be sharing it informally and casually with another person, the same way we’d be informally and casually sharing anything else.

When we talk about how our lives looked before we were Christians, let’s not dwell too much on past

sin or “how bad we used to be”. That can distract people and even come across kind of arrogant. We need to simply make it clear that we knew we need-ed something more.

When we share how we came to Christ, let’s make the specific steps clear, such as, “I bowed my head and asked God to forgive me my sins and take control of my life,” or “I went forward and when the pastor prayed for God to forgive me my sins and become the lord of my life, I agreed with his prayer and gave Jesus my life,” etc… Anyone hearing or overhearing this part of our testimony should know how we became a Christian and how they can be-come a Christian, too!

Of course, when we start talking about how Christ has changed our lives, we need to make sure that God’s the One Who looks good, not us. Our testimony isn’t so people can say, “Wow! Look at Ben!” No, it’s so people can say, “Wow! Look at Je-sus!” Let’s include how the Holy Spirit has changed and is changing our attitudes about some of the

things we’d earlier said that we struggled with be-fore we were Christians. But let’s be specific. Let’s not just say, “I have such peace now.” What does that mean? Yeah, let’s let people know that in the same kind of situation that used to make us respond in anxious, frantic ways, that now we respond in confident, hopeful ways. (Or whatever is the truth about us since Christ.) We want to make clear that we still have struggles, but we also want to make clear that we now have a sure and certain hope, and a path ahead of us and a Helper on that path – Jesus Christ – to get us and keep us there.

Someone said that, “Today’s test is tomorrow’s testimony.” And someone else said, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Let’s make our feet beautiful.