Being the Church; Ephesians 1-4

Main Point: Being the church is a glorious calling.

Today is a special day for me because it was 15 years ago that I preached my first sermon as one of the pastors here. I am keenly aware of how much grace you have given me because of my pride and fear and immaturity and selfishness. I pray that I make progress in putting off these sins. This means anything good in this church is the product of God’s grace working in us and through us. I thank God for you.

If you would humor me, we are going to push pause on our journey through Acts and look at the book of Ephesians and the great blessings that our ours and how these blessings should shape us for the next 15 years.

Read Ephesians 1:15-23

I. You have received the greatest and strongest blessings

Here is the strongest and greatest blessing on which every other blessing depends

  • We have been united to Christ

I want to introduce you to what it means to be united to Christ because our experience of the blessing of being the church will grow as our understanding and dependence on Christ grows. Turn now to Ephesians 1:1. This letter was written to the saints in Ephesus. 1:4 celebrates the fact that Christians are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before him. God’s goal for your life is holiness. We are made holy and kept holy in Christ (1:1-4). We can’t keep ourselves, but Christ makes us and keeps us pure.

The big picture is we are blessed in Christ. 1:3 tells us that we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We have the righteousness of Christ, the gift of the Spirit, the loving care of the Father, eternal life, a sure inheritance, the church, and so much more. We are #blessed.

We are chosen in Christ, chapter 1 verse 4. Before the foundation of the world, God set his love on particular people; he set his love on us. Just as we are made holy in Christ and blessed in Christ we are also chosen in Christ. Every good thing, even election, is connected to Christ.

With Jesus, we are given the rights of sons. Chapter one verse 5, the Father determined to make us his sons and daughters through Christ. You don’t get yourself to God. God gets you to himself through Jesus. This is power and faithfulness and love.

But before you get too puffed up, remember we are the display of God’s grace in Christ. Chapter 1 verse 6, we are to the praise of his glorious grace. We look around and understand the only reason for holiness, the only reason for blessing, is the grace of God. None of us deserve to be here. None of us deserve to be loved or cared for or made holy. We, once broken and powerless, live lives of faith as a display of God’s grace. We were trapped in sin, but God saved us by his grace.

So, remember how we got here. We have been redeemed from sin through Christ’s death. Chapter one verse seven says we have redemption through his blood. Chapter two verse seven looks into the future saying in the coming ages God will show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For all of forever, we will celebrate God’s kindness towards us because of Jesus Christ. We have a future!

We have an inheritance in Christ. 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance.” The God who works all the details of every good thing and every bad thing according to his will, has committed to giving you a good future. You may have been dealt a terrible hand of difficulty or suffering, but God has promised to gather all the cards, make all things new, and give you a glorious future. You are sore from the fight but lift up your eyes to the blessing of what lies ahead.

Look around and take in what is happening right now. In Christ, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13-14). You heard the gospel, believed the gospel, and received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit in you, strengthening you, correcting you, and speaking to you, is the guarantee that you will make it to God. That’s chapter one! Now some of the blessings of chapter two.

We are brought to life with Christ. 2:5, “we were dead in trespasses and sins.” We were set on destroying ourselves living life without God. We were slaves to our dreams of a better life on our terms. But God brought us to life. God opened our eyes. God made us alive with Christ. This is resurrection language. We are blessed with the ability to live a new life. Do you hear the emphasis on “we”? You are not alone.

We are brought into the people of God in Christ. Jesus is the gate through which we get in. 2:13 paints a dismal picture of our past lives. We were far away from God. We were outsiders. We had no hope and were without God, but God brought us in by joining us to Christ. Some of you grew up with an awful biological family. God has given you a new spiritual and eternal family.

Hold fast to the truth that all these blessings are undeserved and unearned. We have these great gifts because we have Jesus.

We are reconciled to God through Christ. 2:16, both Jews and Greeks are reconciled to God together. At Mary’s funeral, Manuel reminded me of the recent story of rival gang members in Coffield prison being baptized together. In Christ, because of the blessings of Christ, those who were once separated from each other come together. And we come together to form something unthinkable.

In Christ, we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Look at 2:21, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” God’s plan is to dwell with us. We are gathered together each Sunday. We roll ourselves out of bed and we dust ourselves off from a hard week so that we can come together as the dwelling place of God on earth.

What a blessing! God wants to be with us. Church, we have only scratched the surface of what it means to be the people of God. These good things we are enjoying are the smallest taste of the good to come. So, why do we gather together? We gather as the church each Sunday because God wants to be with us. We are united to Jesus and he brings us to God. We are drawn together by the Holy Spirit to be the temple of God.

We have received the greatest and strongest blessings and we want to grow in them. We want more of Jesus! And here’s what’s cool about us getting more Jesus. When we get more Jesus, it puts the goodness of God on display.

II. God’s plan is to display his glory through us

Let me prove to you that God wants to demonstrate his greatness through little old Mambrino Baptist Church. Let’s start big

  • God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ (1:10, 22)

Ephesians 1:10, God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ. When the time is right, when the fullness of time comes, the Father will make everything right because of and through the Son. Look over at 1:22, the Father put all things under the Son’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Right now, God wants to demonstrate the greatness of Jesus. Do you know how God plans to show his glory? The Father has given his Son to Mambrino Baptist Church so that we can be filled with the life, joy, and holiness of God. The church is currently the fullness of him who fills all in all. Let’s start getting specific about how this works

  • The salvation of these early Jews and Gentiles displays God’s glory (1:12)

When Ephesians was written, Jews and Gentiles were like rival gang members; they did not get along with each other. Go back to Ephesians 1:12. Those early Jews and Gentiles were given an inheritance and predestined for the express purpose of praising God’s glory. The world looked at those early Christians and said, “Would you look at that! Those enemies who despised each other now love each other. That is God’s grace!” Now, what was true of them is supposed to be true of us.

  • The church is the display of the wisdom of God (3:10)

Flip over to Ephesians 3:10. After celebrating this unthinkable, spiritual, and God glorifying union of Jew and Gentile as the people of God, we learn God’s plan, “so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

There is so much hatred in the world. There is so much pain and selfishness and abuse and tyranny. There is too much pride and waiting on the other person to make the first move. But look at the church. There is the manifold wisdom of God. The church is a people where enemies become brothers. Satan and the fallen angels who rebelled with him see the wisdom of God in the unity of the church. Satan and his angels are meant to see the wisdom of God in the unity of the church. This is precisely why Satan works so hard to divide Christians. Satan doesn’t want church members united around Christ. Our unity is a display of God’s wisdom. Every word out of our mouths must build up and give grace to those who hear because our unity displays God’s wisdom. We are made to glorify God through our shared concern for one another and

  • We are meant to be a display of God’s power (3:20-21)

Look with me at Ephesians 3:20-21 and you will see something wonderful, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Now let’s be careful and follow Christ our example. God’s power worked in Jesus’ death and his resurrection from the grave. While it is not always the case, it is generally the case that God’s power at work in us is God’s power at work in our weakness and sacrifice and suffering. Like the Son dependent on the Father, we are to be dependent on Christ. God is most clearly glorified when we keep asking and keep trusting and keep depending. God has designed this world so that his power is seen in our weakness.

Let’s ask it this way, what will it look like for God to be glorified in Mambrino Baptist Church?

III. How we can live for the glory of God

Ephesians chapter 4 is a fundamental passage in my thinking when it comes to the actual structure of a church. This chapter helps us understand what a church should look like. Now let’s consider how we should live for the glory of God. God is glorified by

  • Everyone being careful

We are so often slow and selfish, weak and wrong-headed. We dig our heels in and stand our ground when we should go and be reconciled. Look into chapter 4 and how we should live. This is 4:2, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Be careful how you think about these brothers and sisters. Be careful how you talk about these brothers and sisters. Christ gave his life for him. Christ gave his life for her. Address weaknesses, sin, and disagreements with care. A careful church glorifies God and God is glorified by

  • Everyone coming together

4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” It’s easy to focus on just the local church. It’s easy to focus on just the universal church. We glorify God when we strive to come together on both levels around our reconciliation with God through Christ. But there are so many disagreements and there are so many things to do. God is glorified by

  • Everyone getting equipped

The picture painted by Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 is that every Christian has been gifted by the Spirit of Christ in order to do good to others. Some Christians are gifted to be, Ephesians 4:11, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.” I believe the offices of apostle and prophet ceased when the foundation of the church was laid but evangelists, shepherds, and teachers continue in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Every one of us gathers with the church in order to be better trained to go out and do ministry. In some sense the church is like a gym where we gather to get bigger, stronger, and faster so that we can go out and do the work to the glory of God. God is glorified by

  • Everyone getting to work

The image of Ephesians 4:11 and 12 is not a pastor doing all the ministry or a group of pastors doing all the ministry. The image here is every member doing his or her part of the ministry. Pastors and teachers lead the members to do the work. We all do our part because God is not glorified by you showing up each week and then doing nothing. God is glorified by you working to help and encourage and strengthen your church family. God is glorified by everyone working and by

  • Everyone growing up

Verse 12, we’re all working to build up each other with the goal of spiritual maturity. We labor, verse 13, to attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. At times, we are going to disagree about what it looks like to follow Jesus. Go back to 4:1-6 for direction here. We are going to disagree; that’s ok. What’s not ok is to respond to one another sinfully when we disagree. What’s not ok is to let disagreements fester. Listen, baby Christians are not bad. I hope we always reach more souls and have a steady influx of baby Christians. That is good; stuck Christians are bad. Stagnant Christians are bad and easily swayed by false teaching. We must keep growing together by teaching the truth and correcting error. Know this, God is glorified by

  • Everyone speaking the truth in love

Instead of being sneaky, crafty, underhanded, or deceitful, we must (verse 15) speak the truth in love. We must work out our disagreements and differences with love. We don’t gossip. We don’t talk behind people’s backs. We say what needs to be said in order to build others up and we say it with love. A healthy church is made up of members who say hard things to each other because of love. It is this loving truth-telling that keeps us following Jesus and growing more like Jesus. When each joint of the body is loving the others and serving the others the body builds itself up in love.

I want us to think now about specific ways Mambrino Baptist church can glorify God. Let’s talk

IV. Priorities for the future

  • Grow in our dependence on Christ

Since every blessing is received and enjoyed because of our union with Christ, we need more of Jesus. We need to gather around the word of God that points to Jesus every Sunday and throughout the week. We need to gather together and praise God as God’s house and house to house. We need the big family gatherings and the one on one gatherings. One on one discipleship is necessary to help one another grow in dependence on Christ. We have different gifts and different circumstances, so we need particular help. Expect us to keep urging you to gather with the church, join a Sunday school group, and meet up with others throughout the week so we can enjoy more of Christ.

Here is our next priority

  • Get into the Next Gen building

We need you to continue to give, to get back to giving, or start giving. Thank you for what you have given.

If you have ever worked on a house or built a house, you know it takes a lot of mental and physical energy. A building can be a great tool. Let’s keep at it and get in it. The spray foam insulation is in and the sheetrock is coming next. The metal walkway has been painted and the metal is going up soon. In our Members’ meeting on August 25 you’ll get a detailed update as to expenses to date and cost to finish. And let’s remember that this building is a tool to help us do ministry. Another priority moving forward is for us to

  • Get into our community to meet needs

We want to equip you to do the ministry. We want to give you opportunities to do ministry. We want you to join us Thursday at 2pm when we go to Mambrino Elementary School to encourage and pray with teachers. They know we’re coming, we’ll have cold water and sodas for you to pass out. Let’s go and serve others this Thursday, 2pm at Mambrino Elementary.

But that’s only the beginning. Baptist Student Ministry lunches will start soon at the Granbury campus of Weatherford Community College. Be watching for this opportunity to get to know college students and share the hope of the gospel with them. Our youth are working on mission projects to encourage one another to get out and care for others. The new Sunday school year is starting for our students and AWANA will begin on September 4. Brothers and sisters, we are called to evangelize and disciple the next generation. Our moms and dads are doing great work. We need you to volunteer to come alongside that discipleship in the home. Come and be a part of this church glorifying God in a hundred different ways. Stand firm on Christ. He is the blessing and the only firm foundation. Let’s look to Jesus.

Toward a Gospel Culture, Titus 2:1-6

Main Point: Healthy doctrine produces godly people.

We live in a day when gospel-fueled men, women, and families shine brightly and are attacked ferociously. The apostle Paul wrote in a day when gospel-fueled men, women, and families shone brightly and were attacked ferociously. Christians have always stood out for blessing or for persecution because of the healthy doctrine that men should look and act like men and women should look and act like women.

In this day, our call as a church is to be counter-cultural. But we are not to stand on the outside of our culture blowing the whistle and throwing the penalty flag. Instead, we are called to live out the implications of sound doctrine in the culture. We need sound doctrine and faithful teaching in order to shine like lights in this crooked generation. We are here because healthy doctrine produces godly people. The deeper we go into the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the more winsome we should become. Sound doctrine produces sound men. Healthy doctrine produces healthy women. A robust church family produces robust biological families.

I want to take the opportunity provided by Mother’s Day to teach what accords with sound doctrine. I want us to consider the implications of the gospel for the family. We’ll take up Titus 2:1-6 as our text today. Working through the passage, we will give some attention to older men, older women, and younger men. The majority of the text is devoted to younger women, mothers in particular, and so we will give the majority of our attention in this sermon to mothers.

Together, let’s take another step in our growth as a gospel-fueled church filled with godly men and women. Let’s read Titus 2:1-6. This is what Christ has purchased and grace produces.

In verse 1, Titus is commanded to teach what accords with sound doctrine. Pastors are called to help the church work out the implications of good healthy doctrine. It is not enough to teach the truth; pastors must help the members live in step with the truth.

Let’s look at how older men, older women, young women, and young men are called to live. First, lets define those categories. We can’t be dogmatic, but it is safe to say the young would start with the teenage years and the old would start with the 40’s. Let’s start with

I. A vision for older men

Verse 2 addresses older men, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

  • Older men should be godly pillars

I chose the word pillar because when I think of a pillar, I think of that strong support that holds everything up. The presence of older men should produce a sense of safety and strength in the members. He is godly, honorable, selfless, and dependable. In an ever changing world, we should look at the older men and say, “Thank God he is here.”

Women, what type of man are you looking for? Men, what type of man should we strive to be? Verse 2, older men should be sober-minded. The simplest meaning here is don’t be a drunk. A drunk old man is a great shame. But this word means more than never drunk. It is right to expand the requirement to sober-minded. Godly older men are called to be thoughtful, clear, and discerning. Add the next word, “dignified.” We are beginning to see the picture of a man who thinks clearly about what needs to happen and he carries himself in a way that is worthy of respect. He’s not a fool or a goober. He has wisdom and is worthy of honor because he is living obviously for the glory of God and the good of others.

Older men should be sober-minded, dignified, and self-controlled. Self-control is an important word in this letter to Titus. According to Titus 1:8, elders must have self-control. Older men, young women, and young men must be self-controlled. In Titus 2:12 it is God’s grace that trains all of us to live self-controlled lives. Grace trains us to turn away from selfishness for the good of others. In Titus, the emphasis on self-control is matched by the call to be devoted to good works. Doing good works is mentioned seven times in this short book (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 5, 8, 14).

Older men should be marked by good sense. Knowing the good, and possessing control of themselves, they should pursue the good in an honorable way. So, the wisdom of the aged is displayed in men who know what is good and pay the price to attain the good.

Verse 2 goes on to call men to the standard of sound in faith, love, and steadfastness. To be sound is to be correct and accurate. Older men, we need you to master the faith. Let the world figure out how to make more money. You figure out how to follow Jesus. And instead of pulling away from relationships the older you get; we need you older men to keep loving. Keep giving, keep serving, keep sacrificing. Old men should be models of biblical conviction, sacrificial love, and enduring strength. Sure, you can’t dig postholes like a 20 year old, but you know how to endure the ups and downs of culture and suffering and loss. Older men, man up! We need you. We need godly pillars. Now,

II. A vision for older women

Verses 3-5 develop a picture of godly womanhood. Women receive more instruction here, not because more is required of them than men, but because so much of Scripture is already addressed to men. Right now, let’s honor women.

Read verse 3 with me, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women.” The expectations for older men are matched by the expectations for older women.

  • Older women should be godly priestesses

We need godly pillars and godly priestesses. I get priestesses from the word behind our English “reverent in behavior”. Her actions should be the obvious product of her religious beliefs. She should live out the pursuit of holiness. Sound doctrine must be the reason for her good works. This means a godly older woman enters every situation like a priestess entering the temple. She serves her family and her church with the understanding that she is serving her God.

It is unthinkable that there would be gossip or slander on her lips. Dirty old men are a shame and gossiping old women are a disgrace. The warning concerning alcohol is also here. Older men must be sober and older women must not be slaves to much wine. Ladies, you know your life is a waste if you are sitting around drinking wine and talking about other women. God doesn’t want you to gossip about other women, God wants you to teach younger women.

Verse 3 commands older women to teach young women what is good. Now, there are more women on this earth than ever before and there seems to be more confusion about being a woman than ever before. Why is that? Older women are not rising up to their calling. Older women, we need you to teach young women what is good. Older women, God expects you to be actively teaching young women what is good. Show them and lead them to live out the glories of womanhood. In a culture pressing men to act like women and women to act like men, we need you to shine brightly. The vision for young women creates the lessons plans for older woman.

III. A vision for young women

Older women we need you to pursue this vision, verse 4, “so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”

  • Young women should be taught

The big and broad great commission, “go and make disciples,” finds its feminine expression here. God does not want young women to figure life out on their own. We need godly older women to teach. Many young women are frustrated in life needing a godly priestess. So what verse 4 does is give young women the freedom and encouragement to ask older women for help. Verse 4 gives older women the freedom and encouragement to ask young women if they can help. God expects older women to teach young women. Now back to those lesson plans

  • Young women should be loving wives and mothers

The world has puppy love and maternal instincts. We must go beyond infatuation and nesting. The older women of the church should be actively raising up the joyful, intentional, and sacrificial love of Christ in the church. In Crete, where Titus was serving the churches, the world was telling women to love themselves and look after themselves. Abandon husband and child for self! Against this cultural pressure Titus was called to teach sound doctrine in such a way that older women took up the responsibility for teaching young women how to love. We need a solid definition of love. Here it is: love is the giving of self for the good of others. Love is the sacrifice of self for the good of others.

Warm mushy feelings come easily early on but unfortunately, they will soon fade. The requirements of marriage and parenting will soon tempt each young woman to resent husband and children. A mother of small children is exhausted by sleepless nights. A mother of grade school children is exhausted by the never-ending pile of laundry, dishes, schoolwork, and events. Constantly teaching, correcting, comforting, and refereeing can be grueling. Without the careful craft of older women, young women will become bitter taxi-drivers fantasizing about a better life with someone else or a more glorious life by herself.

So many Christian young women are suffering silently with this thought in their minds, “I don’t know how to love these people.” Older women, we need you. We need you to teach young women how to love and how to be godly.

  • Young women should be godly

Verse 5 repeats that word, “self-controlled.” Remember, it means sensible. There is a progression here in discipleship. An older woman brings a young woman to her senses, she’s being trained. She’s growing in the ability to pick the good and pursue the good. She’s learning to be pure. At a basic level this is sexual purity; it means she is chaste. The push for sexual freedom was as alive and well in Crete as it is today in our culture. The world is training our daughters, the world is awaking our daughters’ senses, are we answering with a better more joyful way?

Notice the pairs in verses 4 and 5. Love husband is paired with love children. Self-controlled is paired with pure. Working at home is paired with kind. Add verse 11 to this, “grace is training her to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life in the present age.” Older women, your discipleship of young women doesn’t depend on you. Older women, of course you don’t have what it takes to disciple young women. God will give you the grace you need. Training young women depends on God’s grace. The God who saved her is the God who is strengthening her to devote herself to her husband and children. God will provide what we need. We all need God’s great grace as we seek to follow Jesus.

Think about the cross. The cruciform life is a life shaped by the cross. In Ephesians 5 husbands are called to live cruciform lives, lives of loving self-sacrifice for the good of their wives. The paradigm of Christ is now laid upon young ladies. Deny yourself for the good of others. Tell yourself no so that you can say yes to others. Loving those people will require you to pay a cost that a solitary existence would never require. Love calls for the greatest of sacrifices and grace empowers joyful living.

To the world, working hard at home is anything but glamorous. Cooking meals, doing laundry, caring for sick children, and teaching children is hard work. Motherhood is a 365 day a week 24 hour a day job. Motherhood is a God-glorifying sacrifice of self for the good of others. Yes, being a mother and a wife looks like a waste. You have so much to offer in the work force out there while the kids and husband don’t seem to care. It’s just like the sacrifice of Christ for sinners like you and me. The humiliation and sacrifice of the glorious Son of God looks like waste. Jesus is so smart and resourceful. He’s such a powerful thinker and leader. Yet there he is doing nothing for 30 years and then spending himself with those 12 misfits. Then he dies! What a waste and what a love. Young mothers, work hard at home, your work is glorious. Work hard and be kind.

Kind appears so strange at first, its strange to everyone except the sacrificial and submissive young woman. That young husband is often foolish and fearful; he lacks self-control. Submitting to him is hard. Submitting to him with kindness is even harder. Those children are so demanding. The moment the laundry is folded, or the meal cleaned up, or the home tidied, it all needs to be done again. The most natural thing for a young wife and mother to become is harsh. Older women and grace are given to train her to be kind and submissive.

Look at the middle of verse 5. Train them to be “submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Her looking after their good is submission. Her following his leadership is submission. As the husband gives himself for his wife, the wife gives herself for her husband. I really don’t think our problem is with sacrifice- people sacrifice all the time for their careers, health, and hobbies. The problem is sacrificing for the good of someone who doesn’t deserve it. The problem is sacrificing career, health, and hobbies for the good of someone who doesn’t deserve it; someone like your husband and your children.

Here is teaching that accords with sound doctrine. The gospel of Jesus’ self-sacrifice must work into husbands who lay their lives down for their wives and wives who submit themselves to their husbands. Mean, selfish, resentful, bitter women cause the gospel to be mocked as a fairy tale. Foolish, selfish, weak, faithless men cause the gospel to dragged through the mud. The gospel calls us to a better way. The gospel calls young men to a better way.

IV. A vision for young men

Look at Titus 2:6, “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.”

  • Young men should bring all of life into submission to the gospel

At first glance verse 6 sounds like a copout compared to the laundry list given to young women. But consider two points, first, we see that the vision for young men is that they will learn to master themselves for the good of others. Look at a 13 year old male and consider what it will mean for him in every area of life to sensible. In his work, in his education, in his relationships, in his soul, in his humor, in his love, in his care for others he must be sensible. Young man, master every desire and bring every thought captive to Christ. Young man grow up. Church, boys will stay boys if we don’t urge them to grow up. Titus 2:6 is an all-encompassing command.

The second reason this is not a copout is because Titus is a young man. Every command given to Titus needs to be translated and applied to his fellow young men. Young men must renounce ungodliness and worldly passions to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Their hope must be the appearing of their great God and savior Jesus Christ. Young men must be zealous for good works.

Titus must set the example for young men and call them to a better way. Titus must preach the gospel and apply the truth in such a way that moves every age group toward a gospel culture. We must move

V. Toward a gospel culture

This passage points us in a thousand directions as we consider older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. There is so much for me to work on. For simplicity, I want to give us two broad categories that I hope can help each of us.

  • First, consider your own situation

How does this passage encourage you in your particular situation? Where do you need to make progress? Where is the disconnect in your life between sound doctrine and godly living? Get precise. In what particular area of life is the Spirit calling you to make progress? Fill in that blank

Sound doctrine is calling me to grow in _________________

What is your next step toward greater health? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Is it the pursuit of accountability or discipleship? Take that step today.

  • Finally, consider your fellow church members.

We provide a church member or family for prayer each week in the bulletin. Use the paradigms of Titus 2:1-6 to pray for those members. Is it an older man? Pray for him to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Is it an older woman? Pray for her to be reverent in behavior, not a slanderer, not a slave to much wine, and pray she makes disciples among the women of the church. Is she a young woman? Pray for her to love her husband, love her children, to be self-controlled, pure, diligent at home, kind, and submissive as a display of the glorious gospel. Is he a young man? Pray for self-control in every area of his life.

Where do you need to grow? How can you build us up? Identifying these areas will cause you to become a person who stirs us up to love and good works. As each of us grows in godliness we will shine brightly in a confused culture. May God display his glory through godly men, godly women, and godly families.

Be Baptized

Text: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38

Main Point: Baptism is commanded, practiced, and meaningful.

Today we have the great honor of baptizing a believer. But before we baptize, we are going to take some time to consider what God says about baptism so that we follow His commands and obey His voice. So, more than an accurate understanding of baptism, we want to faithfully baptize. Here’s the big picture: baptism is commanded, baptism is practiced, and baptism is meaningful. We are going to cover a lot of ground today, so I have listed the passages in the notes and given supporting references. In the Church there are a great deal of disagreements concerning baptism. Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, and Baptists have separate denominations for a few big reasons. One of those big reasons is baptism. I am an elder of a Baptist church for several big reasons and baptism is one of them. So, I want to make my case from Scripture and then lead us to celebrate baptism with faith and joy. Let’s begin with the command; Matthew 28:16-20

I. Baptism is commanded

  • Jesus commands us to be baptized

With your Bible open in front of you, I want to make some observations from Matthew 28:18-20. The command to baptize is tied directly to the authority of the risen Lord. Verse 18, Jesus has all authority over heaven and earth. In light of his all-encompassing authority, his disciples are told to go and make disciples. The King of all creation commands his disciples to go into all nations and make Christ-followers; make learners of Christ and his life and his ways. And what do we do with these disciples? We baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a testimony to the work of the Trinity. Baptism is a testimony that the one being baptized is owned by God. Alongside the command to baptize is the command to teach the one being baptized to obey all of Jesus’ words. This makes baptism the beginning of a life of discipleship. It looks like this- become a disciple, then be baptized as a disciple, then keep growing as a disciple. I could say a lot here but for our purposes today I want you to see that baptism is commanded by Jesus. Make disciples and baptize them.

Jesus’ command to baptize is also given in Mark 16:15-16, “Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

So, after his resurrection and before his return to the Father, Jesus appeared to his disciples and commanded them to go to the nations, preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize those disciples, and then teach those disciples how to follow Jesus. Jesus didn’t have to explain baptism to his disciples because, according to John 3:22-24, they had already been baptizing a lot of people.

Okay, now turn over to Acts 2:37. Peter has just preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He made clear that the people who had just been yelling for Pilate to crucify Jesus were in big trouble. That Jesus, you killed, has been raised from the grave and installed as king. Let’s pick up with Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So, Jesus commands baptism and the apostles commanded baptism.

  • The apostles commanded people to be baptized

The people were convicted of their sins and Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized. So that’s what they did. Verse 41, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” The disciples did what Jesus commanded. They preached, made disciples, and baptized them.

We see this repeated with Ananias and Paul. We read it yesterday in our daily Bible reading. Acts 22:16, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” The command to baptize or be baptized is clear. Now, that’s the command, let’s look at the practice.

II. Baptism is practiced

  • The book of Acts illustrates the practice of baptism

We have already seen Acts 2:41 how Peter preached and commanded baptism. Nearly 3000 responded that day. The next place we see baptism practiced is in Acts 8 as the gospel spreads further out from Jerusalem. In Acts 8 it is Philip who is preaching Christ. Look at Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” What is interesting here is that these disciples believe the good news and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but do not receive the Holy Spirit. This requires Peter to come, and when Peter lays his hands on them, they receive the Holy Spirit. The order here is preaching, belief, baptism, then receiving the Holy Spirit.

Our next reference to baptism is again in connection with Philip, later in chapter 8, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip starts in Isaiah 53 and tells the man the good news about Jesus. Apparently, Philip included Jesus’ command to be baptized because when they passed some water, the Ethiopian says, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Obviously, Philip judged him ready for baptism because, verse 38, he commanded the chariot to stop and Philip baptized him. They went into the water together and came up out of the water together. Baptism.

Next comes Paul’s baptism by Ananias in chapter 9 (9:18). We’ve already seen that one. Let’s go to Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter is sent by God to preach the gospel. The climax of Peter’s message is in 10:43, “To Jesus all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” The Holy Spirit falls on everyone who heard the word and they start speaking in tongues. What happened in Acts 3 is repeated here. So, Peter asks, verse 47, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” There are no objections, verse 48, “Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Cornelius and his household hear the word, receive the Spirit, and are baptized. Baptism is what you do.

Next comes Lydia in Acts 16:14. Paul is preaching, God opened her heart to pay attention, then she and her household are baptized. Immediately afterwards comes the baptism of the Philippian jailor, also in chapter 16. Verse 31, the Jailor takes Paul and Silas to his house, Paul preaches the gospel to all in the house, they go get baptized, and then they go back to the house and celebrate.

Two more- Acts 18 and 19. In Acts 18 Crispus is the leader of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth. Acts 18:8, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” Last one, Acts 19, some disciples of John in Ephesus. Acts 19:4, “Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Viewed collectively, it’s right to understand five elements showing up when someone responds to the gospel. There is repentance to God, there is faith or belief in Jesus, there is a confession of Jesus as Lord, there is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and there is baptism. Now, when you sit down and read through the book of Acts this question is likely to come up

  • Was baptism practiced or reported occasionally?

There are multiple instances where the gospel is preached, and people believe, but there is no mention of baptism (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 6:7; 11:24; 13:48; 14:21; 17:34). Should we then assume that the early church baptized some disciples but not other disciples? Or, should we assume that the church baptized all disciples but did not mention their baptism on every occasion? In light of Christ’s command, the practice of baptism, and the terminology of adding people to the Lord, we should understand baptism was practiced consistently but reported occasionally. Additionally, the reported baptisms follow Jesus’ instruction that the disciples serve as his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). More than simply recording baptisms, the sequence of the report verifies the advance of Jesus’ mission. Since its beginning and up to today the Church has baptized God’s people. Baptism is the biblical and common practice. Now, let’s look at the meaning of baptism.

III. Baptism is meaningful

  • Baptism is union with Christ

Romans 6:1-6 (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12)

Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Baptism needs to be understood as the desire for and the display of union with Christ. By faith, the one being baptized is looking to Christ to take away sin, free from sin’s captivity, and give life. With Christ’s crucifixion sin is atoned. With Christ’s resurrection sin’s power is broken. With Christ the believer has life and that is precisely life with God. The church should baptize those who long for life giving union with Christ because baptism puts this desire front and center. Baptism displays unity with Christ for the whole world to see. This one is united to Christ and will walk in newness of life. This one is united to Christ and will begin to look more and more like Christ. Baptism is union and…

  • Baptism is an appeal to God for a clear conscience

1 Peter 3:21-22 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [to Noah’s ark] now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

It’s not the outward working of water that makes the person clean. Baptism is not as simple as taking a bath. What is essential in baptism is the appeal to God for a clear conscience through the work of Jesus Christ. But how does this relate to Noah’s ark? I’m glad you asked.

The waters in Noah’s day were the waters of God’s wrath because of sin. The wages of sin is death and death came upon the whole world because of sin. The entire world was judged and put to death because of sin. In a moment, we will put this new believer under the waters of God’s wrath because of her sin. She will join Christ in a death like his, in a death because of sin. The waters of God’s wrath are similar in Noah’s day and in baptism. The ways of escape are also similar. In Noah’s day, all those who believed God and got on the ark were saved from his wrath. Because of the ark they went safely through God’s wrath. Now, Jesus is a better ark! All those who trust in him. All those united to him, all those who get into Jesus, will be carried safely through the waters of God’s wrath.

In a moment, we will bury this young lady under the waters of God’s wrath because of her sin. In baptism, she will be making public her personal faith in Jesus Christ. She will submit to the waters of God’s wrath and appeal to God for the forgiveness of those sins through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus will save her.

The baptism prayer is simple: God I deserve your wrath because of my sin but give me life because of Jesus Christ.

To put it another way, baptism must not be separated from repentance. It is the one who feels her sin and wants to be saved through Christ who is baptized. The reality of sin, the connection with Noah’s ark, and the promise of life in Jesus’ name lead us to the baptistery.

In a pointed way baptism puts the faith of the person being baptized on display.

  • Baptism is the demonstration of a person’s faith

Through baptism, the person being baptized goes public with her faith. She declares, “I’m with Jesus. He is my life and my Lord.” I think it’s helpful to think about baptism like putting on the jersey. Dak Prescott used to be a Mississippi Bulldog. He was lost in darkness wearing maroon and white. Then, he was drafted by the cowboys. The cowboys picked Dak as their own and there was a transfer of ownership. With the transfer of ownership came a new jersey. At the end of the draft Dak held up a blue and white jersey. Dak went public and declared that he now belongs to the cowboys.

In a way, baptism is like that. In a few moments this new believer will put on Jesus’ jersey. She will put on death, burial, and resurrection. She will go public by declaring her union with Christ and demonstrating her faith. This is what Christians do. We live like Christ because of Christ. We look like Christ because we are joined to him. Union and faith should be obvious in baptism. Baptism is the demonstration of a person’s faith and

  • Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are inseparable

In the book of Acts there is a minor plot line that deals with the differences between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism. John the Baptist’s baptism and new covenant baptism are not the same things. The difference between the two baptisms is the gift of the Holy Spirit. You can start with Acts 1:5 and trace it out. Jesus says, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit now many days from now.” Wait, go back to John 3:22, Jesus baptized with water. That’s right, Jesus baptized with water and the Holy Spirit while John only baptized with water.

The reality of the Spirit is what makes Acts 8 and the Samaritans being baptized so important. The Samaritans heard the gospel and were baptized in Jesus’ name (that’s water) but they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. Peter’s coming and laying on hands so that they received the Holy Spirit completed their conversion. Until the Holy Spirit was given, their conversion was incomplete. Concerning this fact Robert Stein writes, “The litmus test that determines if a person is truly a Christian in Acts is the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 10:47; 11:17-18; 19:2; Rom 8:9-10; Gal 3:2)” (Stein, 38). This truth is why the Apostle Paul asks John’s disciples in Acts 19:2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

In Acts 2, Peter quotes from Joel to clarify that the mark of membership in God’s new covenant people is possession of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18). God’s people are convicted of their sin by the Spirit and therefore they repent to God. God’s people are convicted by the Spirit that Christ is their righteousness and therefore they put their faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches God’s people that the resurrected Jesus is King and therefore they confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit speaks to God’s people and convinces them that they are children of God. The Holy Spirit works in the believer and makes her more like Jesus. Is this you? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Then be baptized. If this is not you then I urge you to pray the prayer Jesus taught, “Father, give me the Spirit.” The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13).

Several weeks ago you heard this new believer’s confession. You’ve had time to talk with her and get to know her. Now it’s time to baptize her. Baptism is something we do because, finally,

  • Baptism and the church are inseparable

In the book of Acts we see people joining the church and we see the church’s numbers increasing. And how did people join the church? In the New Testament, we see no other means of joining a church but through baptism. Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are not identical, but they are inseparable. Baptism and church membership are not identical, but they are inseparable.

In response to God’s work through Christ and in this new disciple it is time for us to make good confessions. It is time for her to confess that she belongs to Jesus and it is time for us to confess that she belongs to us. Now that we know, let’s celebrate union with Christ in baptism.

Dinner 6- What is it?

dinner 6

Dinner 6 is an opportunity for people (around 6 in a group) to get to know one another. Basically, you get together and eat a dinner or dessert at a place of everyone’s choosing. Your group can meet during the week, for Sunday lunch, or at the park on Saturday. Is a child or grand child playing a sport? Your group can meet up and watch the game.

FAQ’s-

1. How can I sign up to join a group?

You can comment below and pastor Paul will get you into a group.

2. When do we start?

Groups are being formed now and the list will be ready on Sunday, February 4. Groups can meet up after the worship gathering on the 4th and choose the first meeting.

3. Do I have to host a dinner?

No, your group may want to meet at Kroger and get the salad bar each time. Or, your group could meet at Braum’s. Meeting in homes is great, too. It’s up to your group to decide the best time and place.

4. We start Feb 4. When do we stop?

Our goal is for each group to meet up every other week and meet four times. So, Dinner 6 will wrap up at the end of March.

5. Is there any curriculum or a bible study planned for use with Dinner 6?

No, our goal is to get people together to get to know one another. Groups are encouraged to share prayer needs with one another and discuss their daily Bible readings and Scripture memory.

The Blessing of Deacons

Text: Acts 6:1-7                                                                      4/23/2017

Main Point: God has blessed his church with deacons.

Church polity, or government, can be a lot like money. We can trust it, put our hope in it, or ignore it. It is easy to find a person who puts her trust in money. This person thinks she is okay because she can pay the bills, has sufficient insurance, and is saving enough for retirement. Money makes her feel safe. Others put their hope in money. This person thinks he will be happy if he gets a little more. He lives in a constant state of frustration because he doesn’t have what he thinks he deserves. More money would solve his problems, or so he hopes. Still others choose to ignore the subject of money. I think this is where most of us are, seeing that American credit card debit recently crossed the one trillion-dollar threshold. We don’t care if we can pay for it, don’t even think about that, just buy it. This leads to crazy amounts of stress because we know we are in trouble but we never really know how much trouble. Just go buy something else and forget about it.

I bring this up because many of us think about church structure or polity like we think about money. Some of us put our trust in polity. This person thinks she’s okay because all the offices are there and they are all filled. We’re safe because, while the world is changing rapidly, the church remains the same. The way this person “does church” provides comfort and security. Still others put their hope in the church. After trying to bring change to the political world and failing, this person turns to the church. If only he can get the church in order then he will feel like he’s done something. He can’t change the world but he can change this church. His hope, his legacy, is polity. Still others, and again it’s probably most of us, ignore polity all together. Like forming and keeping a personal budget, forming and keeping a biblical church structure just isn’t a priority. We ignore polity because, after all, just getting ministry done is ultimately what matters. We’ll let the eggheads fight about polity while we go win souls for Christ!

Like order and structure in our families, like order and structure in our finances, God has revealed his intentions for order and structure in the church. We put our trust in the gospel, not in polity. We put our hope in Christ, not in polity. And we will not ignore polity. Instead, we seek to understand how we out to behave as a church. There is a blessing for us in a proper understanding of the offices of member, elder, and deacon. Having looked into congregationalism and the office of pastor/elder/overseer, we now need to seek God’s blessing through the office of deacon.

Acts 6:1-7

I. We want deacons because they bless the church in many ways

Deacons are awesome. The more I study this office and the more I spend time with faithful deacons, the more I see how helpful deacons actually are. Let’s talk blessings, #blessed

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by protecting and restoring joy in the body

In Acts 2 the church is in a most excellent state. They are growing in the gospel, they are caring for one another, prayers are being answered, and as any has a need the church body is meeting those needs. Acts 2:46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The church in Acts 2 is marked by glad and generous hearts. They are sincere, happy, and focused on caring for one another. But then things go sideways; Acts 6.

Acts 6:1, as the church grew, so did the number of needs. When the number of needs grow, but the people available to meet those needs does not grow, it is a recipe for strife. The Hellenist widows, that is the Greek speaking Jewish widows, began to complain about being neglected in the daily distribution of food. They were hungry and had no means of income. The church was responsible for caring for its poor but these women were being overlooked. What was the outcome? Complaining started to happen. No longer were they looking after one another resulting in glad and generous hearts. They were growing bitter.

The solution was to create a new office, an office that hadn’t existed previously in the temple or in the synagogue. The office of deacon was created in order to restore and protect the joy of the church. Biblical deacons bless the church by helping address conflict in the body. Deacons are spiritually-mature gospel-saturated men. They have been given authority to meet needs and help the church. Don’t complain, go to the deacons. Deacons bless us by protecting our joy and unity. Also,

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs

This is the model we see in Acts 6. When we compare the qualifications of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 we see quickly that their character qualifications are almost identical. What differs is their job descriptions. While elders must be able to teach, there is no similar requirement of deacons. The title, deacon, gives us insight into their job. Deacons are set apart by God to serve the church like a table-waiter. This is why, among us here at Mambrino, our deacons are actively involved in benevolence or mercy ministry. When a member of the church or community comes seeking financial assistance, it is the deacons who respond. What if you need work done around your house? What if something needs to be fixed on church property? Deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs. Go and ask them for help. Go be blessed. Deacons bless us with joy, they bless us by meeting needs, and

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by encouraging biblical elders

I gave this truth to you earlier regarding elders; biblical elders bless the church by encouraging biblical deacons. When elders do their teaching and equipping work it frees the deacons to focus on their ministry of meeting needs. When the deacons focus on their ministry of meeting needs it frees the elders to focus on their ministry of teaching and equipping. We need clarity in these offices so we can do more better. Faithfulness in one office encourages faithfulness in the others so that the church is blessed. Another avenue of blessing relates to discipleship.

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by modeling and encouraging sacrificial service

Every Christian is called to serve others (1 Pt 4:10). Every deacon is a servant. So, should we pay deacons to serve in our place so we don’t have to? If we have biblical deacons are we off the hook? No, we should look to deacons as models of ministry. Just as we look to elders to teach us how to rightly handle the word of truth, we  also look to deacons to teach us how to rightly meet the needs of our members and neighbors. Deacons set the pace for service in the church.

Romans 12:8 tells us some members will be particularly gifted with generosity and doing acts of mercy. I think it is a fair connection to say the deacons should be actively looking for and encouraging those members who are gifted in the body to perform acts of mercy. Deacons should be multiplying themselves, equipping others to meet needs. So, deacons do not just bless the church by meeting needs. They also bless the church by setting the example and raising up others who are glad and generous givers. We need deacons because they are a blessing and now

II. We need to think about the church as a family

In many ways, deacons are to elders what wives are to husbands. Stay with me, and think about responsibilities. It is the responsibility of husbands and elders to lead. It is the responsibility of wives and deacons to help accomplish the mission in the family and in the church. When husbands and wives neglect or overstep their responsibilities then the family suffers. When elders and deacons neglect or overstep their responsibilities then the church suffers. The dysfunction of the family is mirrored in the dysfunction of the church.

We need to clarify roles. Deacons are not do-boys or yes men. Wives are not slaves. The offices of deacon and wife carry identity, work, and authority. A deacon’s identity is a servant of a particular church. His work is to meet needs in order to protect and strengthen joy. His authority is to collect and disperse funds as well as train and send out ministers of mercy in the church. While elders and deacons are not essential for the existence of a church, they are both necessary for a healthy church.

I want to offer an honest word of critique aimed squarely at us pastors. One of the reasons churches struggle to enjoy a biblical leadership structure is elders seem to be faithful to the church about as long as husbands remain faithful to their wives. When the going gets tough, elders and husbands either check out or run off. The difficulty finding faithful pastors should not surprise us. It is difficult to find faithful husbands. We need elders who will stick around and labor for the good of the church like a husband and father sacrificing and working for the good of his wife and children.

But it takes two to tango. Beware of the non-committal husband and

  • Beware of the insubordinate and nagging wife

The sheer number of horror stories and jokes about deacons reveals a glaring problem. Deacons and elders work together for the good of the church. When deacons refuse to work with the elders there will be big problems. Avoid deacons who think their calling is to keep the elders in check, constantly nagging and complaining. Deacons who want to stir up controversy in the church, are as helpful as an insubordinate or nagging wife. And I think it is necessary to note that a great deal of the problem with bad deacons can be tied to bad elders. When the office of elder is neglected or abused then the office of deacon will suffer. Likewise, when the office of elder is faithfully discharged then the office of deacon will most likely blossom and vice versa. So please do not hear this as an indictment of deacons as a class and it is certainly not the case for our deacons here. We are blessed with faithful, godly, and biblical deacons. It is our responsibility to raise up and affirm more men like them.

  • We do need to challenge common misunderstandings about deacons

We must also beware of the unfit deacon. To keep the image going, beware of the unfit girly-deacon. Now there is nothing wrong with being girly. Women should look and act like women. But men should look and act like men. Women should not look and act like men and men should not look and act like women. Deacons should act like deacons. So, what should we avoid when raising up and affirming deacons? Look back at the way deacons should bless the church. If deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs then we should avoid selfish men. Ask, does he actively and sacrificially work to care for people in need? Then he should be considered. Next, if deacons bless the church by encouraging biblical elders then we should avoid men who don’t understand polity. Men who play the devil’s advocate, or like controversy, are unfit to serve as deacons. Never affirm a man who likes to stir the pot. A deacon’s responsibility is to speed up and advance the work of pastors, not serve as a check or governor on their work. A deacon’s responsibility is to strengthen and protect the joy of the church. A man who constantly produces strife and conflict is unfit for the office.

Another common misunderstanding is seeing deacons as a separate branch of government, like elders are the Senate and deacons are the House of Representatives. I understand the sentiment but if taken too far, the separate branches idea puts elders and deacons at odds with one another. Some may even think elders are Republicans and deacons are Democrats, so that opposing philosophies or personalities are encouraged. Maybe you have heard of schisms in other churches trying to get their man elected as deacon in order to represent their desires in the church. This is not helpful or biblical. Instead of being a separate branch of government checking the authority of elders, deacons are mature and godly workers who help keep the elders going. Instead of houses of government, think about a team. The elders are like coaches and the deacons are like trainers. Both groups work together to keep the team healthy and help each player improve.

That leads us to a helpful form of deacon ministry

  • Task specific deacons

In Acts 6, those men weren’t chosen because they met the qualifications. They were chosen because they met the qualifications and there was a job to do. These proto-deacons of Acts 6 were charged with making sure the Hellenistic widows were cared for by the church. They had a specific and helpful job description- make sure all the widows have enough food and money for daily life.

Originally, it appears that deacons served the church through what we call benevolence. Deacons have particular responsibility for caring for the poor. If someone has a financial need then they should go to the deacons. Additionally, it is right for us to think about the deacons taking on those tasks in the church that must be done but are not necessarily related to teaching. Tasks like greeting, benevolence, counting offerings, building maintenance, running the sound board, and setting up for church meals could easily be given to task-specific deacons. Do the members need help around the house, a ride to the doctor, or meals during illnesses? Then you members should go and take care of those needs. As those needs multiply or continue over a long period of time, we should expect a deacon to take the lead to ensure the need is met. So please do not think that deacons do all the work. Elders and deacons work together to make sure the members are healthy and able to do the work.

As we move forward as a church, it is my recommendation to you that we adopt task-specific deacons. The starting point is not with a man but with a need. The elders, current deacons, and the members will work together to determine these needs, find suitable men, and then appoint them to the work. Deacons should not continue on in the office indefinitely. It’s not once-a-deacon-always-a-deacon. Instead, it’s here’s a need that is distracting or dividing the church and here’s a man to meet that need. When the need no longer exists, or the man needs a rest, then he no longer serves as a deacon. He returns to the regular work of a faithful member.

As we close this morning I think it will be helpful to step back and get the big picture.

III. The big picture

  • In a healthy church, every member is being equipped and doing ministry

Here, I remind you that we are all in need of sanctification. No one here is perfect. We all need to helped along against sin, toward Christlikeness, and with the work God has given us. We all experience seasons of need. So, if you see a need, meet that need. Do you see guests among us? Go and greet them. Do you see members who need encouragement? Go and encourage them. Does someone need to be discipled? Offer to meet up to read the Bible and pray together. Is something old, worn, or messy? Clean it up or replace it. We are after every member ministry. Let’s get specific.

  • In a healthy church, every elder is equipping the members for ministry through preaching, teaching, and overseeing ministry

The primary task of pastors is to shepherd the sheep. Elders are under-shepherds, entrusted by Christ with caring for the members. Are you struggling against sin or with unbelief? Are you wanting to grow in godliness? Come and be fed through preaching and seek out opportunities to talk with your pastors. But elders can’t do everything.

  • In a healthy church, every deacon is protecting and strengthening joy by doing what needs to be done

Are you discouraged, unable to pay your bills? Go seek the help of a deacon. Are you a single-lady or widow and need work done around your house but you are afraid to just call someone in the phone book? Go seek the help of a deacon. Do you see something around the buildings that needs to be tended to? Go talk with a deacon. As elders help us lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us, so also deacons help us lay aside the physical and financial distractions that so easily entangle us.

When we talk about biblical members, elders, and deacons we are talking about a healthy church that enjoys Trinitarian unity. We want our unity to match and proclaim the unity of God himself. Oh, how good it is when the family of God dwells together in spirit, in faith, and unity. Oh, how good it is when we have biblical members, elders, and deacons. Let’s pray and work for unity.

What We Expect from our Members

Have you ever been suckered into a commitment? Like the telemarketer who promises to be brief but is still rambling 15 minutes later. Have you ever been sold a lemon? Like Matilda’s dad some used car salesman put sawdust in the transfer case to keep the rattle down and you found out once you are too far down the road to turn back. We do not want to do that with church membership. We want to be clear about expectations and there are many biblical expectations for church members. Part of discipleship is teaching others how to obey what Jesus commanded concerning the church. This morning as we continue working through the biblical material from our new members class we come to the topic of expectations. What is it that we should expect from our members?

I. We expect our members to make the good confession (Rom 10:9, 10; 1 Tim 6:12: Heb 3:1; 4:14; 10:23; Mt 10:32; 1 Jn 2:23; 4:15; Titus 1:16; Eph 4:5-6).

A.  Make the good confession at salvation (Rom 10:9-10)

When a person goes from being dead in trespasses and sins to alive in Jesus Christ that person always confesses Jesus Christ as Lord. I have given a host of passages to you in the notes so you can track them down and test what I’m saying. For now quoting one will due, Romans 10:9 and 10,

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. For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Your verbal confession of Jesus as Lord is the public proclamation that you belong to Jesus. You fly his flag and wear his colors. You are not your own master and commander. Jesus is your Lord and master. He saved you. He bought you. You belong to him.

God requires the good confession so we expect each member to make the public verbal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. We also expect the public side of your faith to match the personal side. We expect repentance and faith.

B.  Repentance and faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21)

Jesus began his ministry and filled his ministry with the words, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” The Apostle Paul’s ministry could be summarized with the same message, “repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.” The defining mark of a Christian is repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ.

In order to become a Christian you must acknowledge your sin before God and trust Christ crucified to remove those sins. God, this is my sin and I hate it. I am sorry and I trust Jesus died and rose again to atone for that sin. You cannot be a Christian without repentance and faith. You can ask Jesus into your heart and not be a Christian. But if you experience godly grief over your sin leading you to cry out to Jesus for salvation then you are a Christian.

Repentance and faith mark the beginning of salvation and repentance and faith continue in every Christian. Think of the opposite. What does it mean to fall away? It means you stop repenting and you stop believing. What does it mean to mature as a Christian? You continually root out the sin that remains trusting the work of Christ to change you. Salvation must always be tested by repentance and faith. God requires repentance and faith so we expect repentance and faith from every member. We also expect every member to be baptized.

C.  Baptism (Mt 28:18-20)

Jesus commanded us to take his disciples, those who have believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths, and baptize them. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Baptism is a public confession of the personal facts of salvation. I was dead but now because of my faith in Jesus I am alive. Now that I am alive in Jesus I will live a new life in obedience to Jesus. You were raised to walk in the newness of life. Baptism in water, being immersed or going all the way under the water, is the faithful biblical way to be baptized.

We expect every member to be baptized as a public confession of each members’ personal union with Christ- united with Jesus in death, burial, resurrection, and a holy life. This confession leads to the Lord’s Supper.

D.  Lord’s Supper

As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). In the Supper we are proclaiming the Lord’s death which bought us and by which we are made His own. We are confessing his work on the cross as the sure and wonderful ground for our forgiveness. We gladly confess that his shed blood and broken body have reconciled us to God. And we keep proclaiming his atoning death because our Lord is coming for us.

So, while salvation is a personal matter it is never a private matter. Your confession, our confession, is fundamentally a public act. You are announcing the change of your allegiance because God has changed your heart.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14).

Salvation begins when you repent and believe. You are joined to Christ by faith which leads to joining Christ’s church through baptism. Through baptism you are declaring your allegiance to Jesus Christ. You belong to Him and will therefore be a part of His church. And it is Christ’s church which confesses Jesus Christ as Lord. We confess Christ as Lord by following him every day. We expect every member to confess Christ, follow Christ, and strive to be holy like Christ. Since we are a people who confess Jesus Christ as Lord we expect every member to make the good confession. And

II. We expect our members to love (1 Cor 13)

1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter and few Christian weddings are finished without quoting or referring to some aspect of God’s wonderful call to Christian love. But did you know 1 Corinthians 13 is first and foremost about the love between church members? 1 Corinthians 13 was written to teach a local church how to live as the church. I want to encourage you to sit down this afternoon and read 1 Corinthians 13. As you are reading ask God to show you how to love Mambrino Baptist Church according to a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

One of the marks of love for the church is prayer for the church

A.  We expect each member to pray for the church

We expect church members to pray for the church. Last year Lynn put together a new directory with pictures precisely so you and I could be better equipped to pray for the church. He is currently working on an update so you and I can pray for every member by name.

We pray our way through the church membership role throughout the year as well. On the tear off tab in the bulletin you have your daily bible reading plan, weekly scripture to memorize, and a church member to pray for by name. We need you to pray for us. We expect you to pray for us and we expect you to

B.  Build up the church

In 1 Corinthians 12 we are told, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7, 14:26). Every Christian has been gifted by the Spirit to build up a particular local church. The temptation is to only value the speaking gifts like preaching and teaching. Gifts like administration and caring for children are discounted or ignored in the name of the “higher gifts.” May we as a church honor the one who labors in the nursery like we honor the one who labors in the pulpit. It takes all of us doing our part for the church to mature.

I want to encourage you to serve your church in weird and wild ways. Do things outside of your comfort zone. Work in the nursery. Go mow someone’s lawn. Take a widow to the grocery store. Go fold a young mom’s laundry. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Invest yourself in your church. We expect you to build up the church.

C.  We expect you to commit through covenant

We have a church covenant. A church covenant is a simple summary of what it means to be a member. Think this way, a statement of faith summarizes what a member believes. A church covenant summarizes what a member does. In our bi-monthly members meeting and during the Lord’s Supper we read our church covenant. Every prospective member reads through the covenant in order to determine if he or she actually wants to do what is expected. We have printed that covenant on the back of the bulletin to remind our members and help those considering membership. We expect you to commit through covenant. And once you are in we expect you to pursue unity.

III. We expect our members to pursue unity (Eph 4:3, 14)

Turn over to Ephesians chapter 3. Chapter 3 ends with an amazing promise- God is not limited by our requests. Look at Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Where is this great and generous God supposed to be glorified? To him be glory in the church. How is the church supposed to glorify God? How are you and I expected to glorify God? Let’s read Ephesians 4:1-3.

In order to glorify God in the church we must walk worthy of the gospel. How do we do that? We walk worthy of the calling by being humble and gentle with one another over the long haul. We walk worthy of the calling by graciously enduring one another’s quirks, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. We walk worthy of the gospel when we eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit. We expect you to

A.  Eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit

Doing something eagerly means doing something with intense effort and motivation (Louw Nida 68.63). Have you ever been wrestling in a pool and been held under water long enough to freak out? Have you been under water so long your lungs start to ache and burn? When you have the motivation to breath and not die you make an intense effort to reach the surface. Did you know you are to eagerly maintain the unity of this church like that?

Through the work of the Spirit we are brought together as one body in Christ Jesus. We are all unworthy sinners clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We are all unwanted orphans adopted into the family through Jesus Christ. Being joined to Christ is the fundamental quality of every Christian. We are to maintain that unity in the bond of peace.

We protect that unity by keeping our undeserved salvation the focus. We protect the unity of the Spirit and we strive for the unity of the faith.

B.  Strive for the unity of the faith

God is glorified when his sons and daughters united in Christ strive to understand him and obey all of his commands. God is glorified when his sons and daughters united in Christ strive to know and worship God with great faithfulness. What I’m saying is we all have errors and weaknesses which must be rooted out. Not one of us is perfect and not one of us will be perfect until Jesus returns so we must work at the unity of the faith. Being a full-grown mature Christian is work. Being a mature Christian is the product of a healthy church.

Notice in verse 11 how spiritual leaders are given to the church in order to equip the church. And what is the church equipped to do? Verse 12, we are equipped to build up the body. But for what purpose or goal are we building up one another? We are after the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. We want everyone to be faithful to God’s word accurately reflecting God’s Son.

There are many ways to strive for the unity of the faith. One way to keep us all moving in the right biblical direction is to have a biblically accurate statement of faith.

A statement of faith is a summary of what the bible teaches concerning core doctrines. Who is God? Who does what in relation to the Trinity? Who is man? What is sin? How is a person saved? What are we saved for? What is the role of the Old Testament Law? What about singleness, marriage, family, money, government, reconciliation, and the church? It is one thing to say, “I believe the bible.” That is well and good. But it is quite another to know what the bible teaches. It is even more important to live in light of what the bible teaches.

We have a statement of faith precisely because we are commanded to pursue the unity of the faith. So I ask every new member if he/she has any questions about or disagreements with our statement of faith.

When this church was founded in the late 1800’s those Christians chose the New Hampshire Confession of Faith as an accurate biblical summary of core doctrines. It is still our statement of faith today. Copies are available in the foyer and you can find them easily online. Read it. Track down the references. Pursue unity by striving for the unity of the faith. And pursue unity be graciously confronting gossip.

C.  Graciously confront gossip

God is clear concerning what to do with a divisive person, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

God is serious about divisive attitudes, words, and people because they tear apart a church. It is okay to disagree. It is okay to not like what someone says or does. It is not okay to undermine, plant doubts, or poison relationships. If you have a problem you go to the person you have a problem with; it’s simple but hard.

For a couple of years now I have been giving all our new members a copy of the article “How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip[1].” Copies are available in the foyer and you can find a link on my blog. Do you want to be a productive member who builds up others while pursuing unity? Read this article and put the biblical wisdom into practice. We must pursue unity by talking to one another not about one another. We must graciously confront gossip.

Here’s what I want you to do with all of this

IV. Join this church

This church rocks.

A.  Do your homework before you join.

Do not let your children or your preferences rule your commitment to a local church. Your children and your preferences will change. It is better to ask, Is this church committed to and pursuing Jesus Christ according to His Word? Talk to members. Talk to pastors. Read the statement of faith. Work through the new members’ class. Do your homework before you join.

B.  Prayerfully consider if God is putting you in this body

As much as you can, seek to accurately know the body while seeking God’s will in prayer. Meet with mature believers and ask them to pray with you. Ask members of the church you are considering joining to pray with you and for you. When you are sure God is putting you in that body

C.  Join the church

Don’t cohabitate with the church. Don’t sporadically attend the church. Don’t go to the church. We’re not talking about friends with benefits. Join the church. Commit yourself to the church.

Asking to join a church is like asking your girlfriend to marry you. You want to commit to her but she must be willing to commit to you. Some of you are dating this church and dating that church buying time until something better comes along. I mean Mambrino Baptist Church isn’t your dream come true but it’s better than being alone so you’ll string us along until your prince charming church comes along. Joshua Harris reflects the heart of God when he says, “Stop dating the church.” It’s time to commit.

Committing is what you’re doing when you come forward and say, “I want to be a member of Mambrino Baptist Church.” Church membership is a commitment. You want this body, these people, to care for you and protect you. You want to care for and protect these people, this body.

Our brother Rick whose work moved him to Arkansas just joined a local church there. Rick has it right when it comes to church membership. He says, “belonging to a church is a big deal.” Church membership is an honor and a commitment. Are you ready to commit? Come forward today and make your desires clear. Do you still have questions? Ask them. I would love to talk with you more about Mambrino Baptist Church and what it means to be a member. I love this church. I love you. While we are a little rough around the edges we are lovely because of Christ. I want you to be a part of the body.

As we individually consider what it means to be a member of this local church we will collectively confess our submission to Jesus Christ. We’ll sing hymn 285 together, Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.

[1] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/02/12/how-to-stop-church-killing-gossip/

Give Your Friends a Hunting License

hunting license

Christian friends are not only to honestly confess their own sins to each other (James 5:16), but they are to loving point out their friend’s sins if he or she is blind to them (Romans 15:14). You should give your Christian friends “hunting licenses” to confront you if you are failing to live in line with your commitments (Galatians 6:1). Christian friends are to stir one another up, even provoking one another to get them off dead center (Hebrews 10:24). This isn’t to happen infrequently but should happen at a very concrete level every day (Hebrews 3:13). Christian friends admit wrongs, offer or ask forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32), and take steps to reconcile when one disappoints another (Matthew 5:23ff; 18:15ff).

From Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, page 115