Do Good Works; Acts 9:32-43

Main Point: The resurrected Jesus is doing good works through his people.

We are back today in the book of Acts and, Lord willing, we will work our way through the book of Acts over the next several months. Specifically, we are in Acts 9 and the transition from Saul back to Peter. We shifted away from Peter in chapter 6 with the calling of the seven to serve with the apostles. As Acts 6 continues, the focus moves to Stephen. There is an increase of persecution and preaching. After Stephen is killed in chapter 7 the church is scattered. Philip is the focus of Acts 8 and Philip preaches to Simon the Magician and the Ethiopian eunuch. Chapter 9 opens with the conversion of the persecutor who had two names: Saul among the Jewish people and Paul among the Greek people. Saul is born again and begins preaching the gospel. The Jews hunt Saul to kill him but when he finds out about their plans he escapes. The escape of Saul from Jerusalem to Tarsus brings us back around to Peter about 2/3rds through Acts 9.

Ultimately, it looks like Luke (who wrote the Book of Acts) is tracing Peter’s whereabouts so that we are ready for the hugely important conversion of Cornelius in chapter 10. Acts 10 and the conversion of Cornelius helps us understand why we do not follow all the law the way the Jewish people did.

But, before we get to chapter 10 we need to look at good works in Acts 9. We need to understand that Jesus is working through his church; every Christian is gifted to work. So, we don’t work in order to get saved; we work because we are saved. Ephesians 2:10 says, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” You don’t work to get saved; God works in you and then you work. It is our union with Christ which empowers our work for Christ (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-8). Jesus is alive and well and working through his church.   

Let’s consider the good works of Acts 9:32-43. We see the saints healing, helping, and raising. Let’s get to work! (Read 9:32-43).

I. Do good works by healing (32-35)

What are we all called to do?

  • We all have the call to build one another up

We’re going to talk through the details and even consider if we should seek to revive the dead. But before we do that, it is important to nail down a proper understanding of the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to do good works. The fundamental spiritual gift given to every Christian is a saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord. It is by the Spirit that we say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3). The gift of the Spirit given to every Christian is the gift of personal allegiance to Jesus Christ. We have been bought with a great price. Jesus is our Lord.

Bigger still, our individual union with Christ is the source of our union as the church. The church, the body of Christ, is filled with different gifts. We all have the manifestation of the Spirit and that gift is for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). So, we have our shared confession of Jesus as Lord and we have different gifts (1 Cor 12:27-31). Brothers, are we all going to do exactly what Peter did? No, we have different gifts. Sisters, will you all do exactly what Tabitha did? No, you have different gifts. We will all be working but we will not all work the same way. We will all devote ourselves to good works that put the same glorious God on display. But these good works will look different. Our union with Christ and our diverse gifts are blessings for the body. We all have the call, 1 Corinthians 14:26, to build one another Let’s get to work! Look at Peter’s work

  • The healing of Aeneas

Look back at Acts 9:31. The church is no longer experiencing a high level of persecution. There is peace and the members are building one another up. They fear the Lord, they are comforted by the Holy Spirit, and the church is multiplying. The increase of peace and the multiplying of churches means Peter is on the move. Where is Peter going? Verse 32, Peter is going here and there throughout the area surrounding Jerusalem.

In verse 32 we come across a city new to us. The city is Lydda and Lydda is about 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Lydda is about 10 miles from Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa is the port city that Jonah ran to when he was running away from God. As the gospel spreads and churches are formed, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8. Holy Spirit empowered witnesses are going out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Now, what do we find in Lydda? There are saints in Lydda and saint is another word for Christian. We are saints, set apart for God’s use, made holy through Jesus Christ, and gifted with the Holy Spirit. Connecting verses 31 and 32, the church is made up of saints.

Among the saints in Lydda is a paralyzed man named Aeneas who has been bed ridden for 8 years. Look at what happens in verse 34, “Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose.” First, I need you to notice who does the healing. Does Peter heal Aeneas or does Jesus? Jesus, who is alive and well is doing the healing. Jesus works his works through us! Second, there is a pattern developing in the Bible connecting the work of Jesus, the work of Peter, and the work of Paul. Jesus healed a paralyzed man in Luke 5 and another in John 5, Peter heals a paralyzed man in Acts 3 and another in Acts 9, then Saul heals a paralyzed man in Acts 14. The disciples imitate their teacher.

Looking at resurrections, Jesus raised the widow’s son in Luke 7 and Jairus’s daughter in Luke 8. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in Acts 9 and Paul raised Eutychus in Acts 20. The point being made here and that needs to be fleshed out in your life is that Jesus works through his people. If you belong to Jesus, you have work to do and power to do the work.

How do we figure out what to do? It is in discipleship relationships and entering into various ministries of the church that we discover our gifts and begin learning how to use those gifts. Peter learned by being discipled and we are no different. We have differing gifts, but we are all meant to learn how to use those gifts through discipleship. So, the application here is to get involved and ask for help. We need help setting up and serving for our members’ meeting next Sunday morning. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper next week and it takes work to bake the bread and set up the cups. Vacation Bible School is coming June 15, and we need your help. There are teaching opportunities through Sunday school now and AWANA when school starts back. Our summer mission trip needs workers, and we need members to help us keep track of our missionaries’ needs. We have sick and struggling members who need your prayers. There’s work to do! Talk to an elder or a deacon and we’ll get you working.

Look at the results of Aeneas’s healing; we are after the same results. Look again at verse 35, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Turned to the Lord is salvation language. When Paul is writing about how the Thessalonians were saved he said, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). They were saved to serve!

Becoming a Christian involves turning from idols to God. A person turns from chasing after the world to chasing after God. Becoming a Christian means starting the fight against the destructive things the world wants in order to gain the good that God promises. And we need Christ for this fight. So, we turn to the Lord for direction and for strength. We pray. We fight. We grow in godliness. This is what the Spirit does in those who turn to the Lord. May God use your good works to show his goodness to your neighbors and may God use your preaching to turn your neighbors to the Lord. Do good works! Seek the good of others. Pray for healing!

II. Do good works by caring for the poor (36, 39)

Let’s start big and then get into the details

  • We all have the call to help those in need

Titus 3:14 says, “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” Galatians 6:10 says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” 1 John 2:15 calls us away from loving the things of the world so that we can lovingly meet the needs of our brothers and sisters (3:16-17). James 1:27 defines pure and undefiled religion as visiting orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping oneself unstained by the world.

Jesus’ plan is to work through you. Jesus’ plan is to work through you by you meeting needs in his name. Your good deeds, your helping people in need, is a big deal advancing the kingdom and bringing healing. Keep helping! Let’s look now at

  • The generosity of Tabitha

We’re in Acts 9:36, “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.” The translation of her name from Greek into English is unfortunate, but she was truly a lovely woman. Her name means gazelle and she had the one-two punch of good works and helping the poor. Here is a woman, a disciple, who Jesus is working through to bring good to her neighbors. Looking down in verse 39 we see that Tabitha was an accomplished seamstress and generous with her work. The widows were mourning her death and proving her abilities. Tabitha took care of people. What are your neighbors going to say about you when you die? Ladies, will your neighbors say “Who,”, will they say, “Good riddance”, or will they say, “What a loss”?

Now ladies, does this passage command you to leave here and learn how to sew? No. You are not commanded to sew any more than verse 34 commands you to make your bed. Though I do recommend sewing and making your bed! The point is that Tabitha was a faithful follower of Christ seeking to use her gifts and resources to do good to her neighbors. Ladies, Jesus wants to work through you, you are disciples of Christ, go and do good works. Go and meet needs. Let’s commit ourselves to helping like Tabitha.

Now let’s take up the resurrection in verses 37-43

III. Do good works: the resurrection (37-43)

  • The resurrection/resuscitation of Tabitha

I use both words because I want to be clear that what happened to Tabitha was more than a resuscitation and less than the resurrection. This is more than a medical resuscitation using CPR and this is less than a resurrection unto a glorified body; Tabitha was raised but died again.

Let’s look, verse 37, “In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.” The normal practice was to bury the dead before sunset. Why did these Christians not follow the normal practice of almost immediate burial? I believe there is a desire for her resurrection.

Lydda and Joppa are close, about 10 miles apart. Apparently, the church heard about Peter being in Lydda and they heard of the miraculous healing of the paralyzed man. So, they sent for Peter and Peter goes with them to Joppa. They take Peter to the upper room and there the widows of the church are weeping. Tabitha is dead but her body is there.

Starting in verse 40 I want to show you how Peter the disciple is following the example of Jesus his teacher. Peter put them all outside, just as Jesus did when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Mt 9.25). Peter then knelt down and prayed because the power to heal came from Jesus; Peter’s power did not come from himself. Peter said, “Tabitha arise” just like Jesus said “Talitha arise” (Lk 8:54). After speaking to her, Jesus took Talitha by the hand and raised her (Mt 9:25). After speaking to her, Peter took Tabitha by the hand and raised her. Jesus called Talitha’s parents and gave her back to them. Peter called the saints and gave Tabitha back to them. Peter did the good work of raising the dead and this was a great good for the church.

Verse 42 gives us the results, “And it became known throughout all of Joppa and many believed in the Lord.” The physical resurrection of Tabitha led to spiritual resurrections when the people heard the voice of Jesus, believed, and were given eternal life. There is a physical resurrection and there is a spiritual resurrection (John 5:25). The hour of physical resurrection is coming; we live in the hour of spiritual resurrection. When the people saw the miracle and heard the gospel they came to life. They believed in Christ.

This is such a crucial phrase that we must define it every time we see it. What does it mean to believe in Christ? We defined turn to the Lord from verse 35 as turning from idols to serve the living God. This is a change of direction. While turning deals with the direction of your life, believing in the Lord deals with delight and dependence. Believing in the Lord is seeing that he is worth turning to; gaining him is worth leaving these things behind. Believing in the Lord is seeing the resurrected Jesus and seeking him as your greatest treasure. There is delight and there is dependence.

If you are not a Christian, imagine for a moment that there is a God and when you die, he will judge you according to his own perfect righteousness. What are you going to depend on, trust, or believe in? You can believe in yourself; you can believe you have done enough good works to not only offset the bad but also attain the level of the very righteousness of God. You can try to earn your salvation by your works. You can believe in you or you can believe in the Lord. To believe in the Lord is to trust that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to forgive you and give you the very righteousness of God. Believe in Jesus and put your trust in his good works!

Belief is dependence but dependence is not only for judgment day. Belief in the Lord is for every day. I have yet to master John 15:5 so I bring us back to it repeatedly. Jesus said, He is the vine and we are the branches, apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and he abides in us we will bear much fruit. It is depending on Jesus every day that leads us to a place of fruitfulness in God’s kingdom. Peter turned to the Lord, believed in the Lord, and was fruitful. May we follow Peter’s example in repentance and faith.

I have good news. You can be saved today. Repent to God, believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. That is good news! Let’s wrap up with some quick thoughts about raising the dead.

  • Resurrections are incredibly rare

How many resurrections have you experienced? I’m not talking about resuscitations (which are miracles in themselves). I’m talking about dead for hours, washed up by Wiley’s funeral home, and then brought to life. Resurrections are rare. Think about the 4,000 years of history recorded in the Bible. How many resurrections are there? There are 9 resurrections in the Bible plus the saints that were raised at Jesus’ death.[1] If we are generous and say 91 people were raised at Jesus’ death that would put the resurrection count at 100 in 4000 years. That’s incredibly rare. But

  • Resurrections will be incredibly common

Revelation 20 and John 5 point to the resurrection of all people. Listen to Jesus in John 5:28, “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” What happened to Tabitha will happen to all.

Think for a moment about what side you will end up on. When Christ raises your body and brings you into judgment will you enjoy the resurrection of life or suffer the resurrection of judgment? The good news is you’re not dead yet! Turn to the Lord, believe in the Lord, and by the Lord’s power do good works. Because of the redeeming power of Jesus, you can enjoy the resurrection of life. You can be saved. Repent of your sins and believe in Jesus. Come tell us and seek baptism. We want you to be with him.

Here’s our last question for this morning,

  • Should we seek to revive the dead?

What do you do when your Dorcas dies? After reading these accounts, it is natural to ask the Lord for a resurrection. I think of the death of my wife or one of my children. I would ask for a miracle, but I hope they would be a little disappointed if I got it! Going through death to the Father is better than staying in this life no matter how good it is here.

Think of Jesus celebrating the good of his return to his Father through death and resurrection. The good of the Son being with the Father should even overrule the disciples’ grief (John 14:28). We need to think of the apostle Paul telling us that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Church, let us return to a biblical view of death. To remain in the flesh is necessary on the account of others but to depart and be with the Lord is far better. Here is our delight- to depart is far better. And here is our dependence- to remain and do good works is necessary. Let us trust the Lord and do good. Let us long for the good of being in the fullness of the presence of the Lord. Should we seek to revive the dead? Probably not, to depart and be with the Lord is far better.

Father, we ask that men and women would repent, believe, and seek baptism today. Jesus, thank you for redeeming us through your death, empowering us with your life, and unity us as the church. Holy Spirit, give gifts to your church. Empower us to work because we are saved. Correct us anytime we try to earn our salvation by our works. We pray especially for the women of Mambrino. We thank you for these disciples and ask that they would be full of good works and generosity.

God, show us your glory. Open our minds and strengthen our hearts to see your greatness and desire you above all else. It is you we long for; you are our desire. If it is your will that we remain, help us to work hard for the good of others. Use us to heal the sick, help the needy, and raise the dead. Use us to bring many sons and daughters to salvation. We pray these things longing for Jesus’ return. Amen.

All I Have is Christ


The Law and Gospel

Does believing the gospel mean the law has no more bearing on our lives?

1 Timothy 1:8-11

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

John Stott helps us keep the law and the gospel in the right place, “It is particularly noteworthy that sins which contravene the law (as breaches of the Ten Commandments) are also contrary to the sound doctrine of the gospel. So the moral standards of the gospel do not differ from the moral standards of the law. We must not therefore imagine that, because we have embraced the gospel, we may now repudiate the law! To be sure, the law is impotent to save us, and we have been released from the law’s condemnation, so that we are no longer ‘under’ it in that sense. But God sent his Son to die for us, and now puts his Spirit within us, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:3-4). There is no antithesis between law and gospel in the moral standards which they teach; the antithesis is in the way of salvation, since the law condemns, while the gospel justifies” (The Message of 1 Timothy, 50).

Discuss Acts 9:32-43

  • In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  • Do you think you should be doing good works? Why? What is the gain?
  • Why is the Spirit-given ability to say “Jesus is Lord” the fundamental spiritual gift that unites us and empowers us? See 1 Corinthians 12:3.
  • In the church, we share the same confession of Jesus as Lord but we all have differing gifts. How can you use your gift to build others up and protect the unity of the church?
  • Do you like the idea of calling every believer a saint? Why is it correct to call every Christian a saint?
  • Acts 9:32-43 makes the point that Jesus is working through his people. If you belong to Jesus, how is He working through you?
  • Describe how God turned you from chasing after the world to chasing after God.
  • Who is sick and what would it look like for you to pray for him/her to be healed?
  • What do you want your neighbors to say about you when you die? How can you depend on Jesus and do good deeds?
  • What does it mean to believe in the Lord? Do you believe in the Lord?
  • What do you think about your coming death? Are you ready? How can you get ready?
  • Why would a resurrection like Tabitha’s be a good thing? Why would a resurrection like Tabitha’s be a disappointing thing?

Discuss Lamentations 1-3

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How do you describe the wrath of God?
  3. Recall a time when you saw God fight for you.
  4. Do you think wrath is a praiseworthy attribute of God? Why or why not?
  5. Define sin in such a way that demonstrates God’s wrath is appropriate.
  6. The wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23). Is that fair?
  7. Why does having the Lord as your portion produce hope? How does this work in your daily life?
  8. Do you agree with Gustav Stahlin? Stahlin said, “Only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy.”
  9. If you read your Bible and prayed as a means of getting mercy and help for each day, how would your practice of reading and praying change?
  10. Two choices lie in front of you. You can trust that Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for you on the cross or you can drink the cup of God’s wrath forever in hell. Which do you choose?

Ministry & Motherhood

Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

Main Point: Motherhood is good ministry and good for ministry

Sometimes we learn great things from unlikely sources. I was surprised to learn that football greats like Lynn Swann, Herschel Walker, and Barry Sanders took ballet in order to become better NFL running backs. We can learn from unlikely sources. Jesus tells us that we can learn to trust God by studying a flower or watching a bird gather food (Matthew 6:25-34). So, it may surprise you that you can learn how to be more faithful in your work by studying motherhood. If you’re one of those guys who thinks children are women’s work and mothering is equal to weakness, then you need to repent; there is much to learn from the glory of motherhood.

In Isaiah 66:13, when God describes the way he will treat us, he uses the picture of a mother, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Our Father is compassionate like a mother. When Jesus was heading into Jerusalem he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus longs to gather his people like a hen gathers her chicks. When the apostle Paul was shocked to hear of the Galatian church abandoning the gospel he wrote, “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19). Salvation, the new birth, is like physical birth. There is a glory and strength in womanhood that is worthy of imitation by all.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul describes the ministry of the apostles using the example of a mother. So, we’re going to follow his lead and learn about ministry by studying motherhood. Lord willing, we will pick up 1 Thessalonians 9:9-12 on Father’s Day. Today, let’s learn from mothers. Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8.

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Let’s start with the big picture of ministry in verses 5-6. These verses call us to be faithful in the work God gives. You must

I. Be faithful in your ministry (5-6)

How do we do that? Where does faithfulness come from? Faithfulness and fruitfulness come from God. God gives us the ability to do the work.

  • Work hard because of grace (1 Cor 15:10)

1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is another one of those apostle-sections of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

The apostle Paul did a great work because God gave him great grace. The strength to work, and ultimately the results of the work, were all the product of God’s power working through the apostle Paul. Paul depended on God for the ability to do the work.

Here comes a simple and profound call to prayer. James 4:2 tells us we do not have because we do not ask. Paul was constantly asking the church to pray for him so he could accomplish the work (Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:11; Phi 1:19). When is the last time you asked someone to pray for you? You’re bringing up a child. Who is praying for you? You’re trying to win your neighbor. Who is praying for you? You’re trying to evangelize your Sunday school class. Who is praying for you? You’re discipling a new believer. Who is praying for you? If we are proud and self-sufficient then we won’t ask for prayer and we will accomplish little. If we are humble and God-dependent then we will ask for help accomplishing God’s will. In ministry, we pray and we get to work. Also be sure to

  • Preach don’t flatter

Looking into 1 Thessalonians 2, we see that Paul took a beating in Philippi and when he made it to Thessalonica, he had a rough go. By God’s grace he preached the gospel. Let’s note how he did that ministry, verse 5, “For we never came with words of flattery.”

There is a big difference between saying something to build a person up and saying something to get a person to like you. Flattery is not necessarily lying. Flattery can use lies, but flattery can also be telling someone true things to get them to like you or give you something.

You can win people to yourself with flattery, but you can’t win people to Jesus with flattery. The only way to win people to Jesus is to preach the gospel; tell people the truth about their sin and God’s love. In your ministry, in your work, are you preaching the gospel or are you manipulating people? Preach the gospel and

  • Be on guard against greed

Let’s finish 1 Thessalonians 2:5, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.”

Listen, if we say nice things and do nice things there is a good chance people will give us nice things. If we don’t watch our hearts, we will end up working simply to get stuff from people. Regularly ask, “Why do I do what I do? Do I work because God gives grace or because people give stuff? Do I work because I love people or because I love money?”

Falling into greed is as easy as falling off a log. Watch yourself and your ministry. Invite brothers and sisters around you to watch your ministry. Instead of seeking money

  • Seek the glory that comes from God

Put your good eye on 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Paul says, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.” Seeking praise and affirmation from people is often the unconscious motivation of ministry. It is easy to do ministry in order to be seen and celebrated by people. But seeking glory from God and not from people is essential to Christianity. Jesus told a crowd he knew they didn’t love God or love what God loves because they seek glory from one another and don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God (John 5:41). A person can’t be a Christian if he’s so worried about what people think about him that there is no room to hear what God says about him.

So again, faithful ministry is not spent trying to win people to ourselves. We’re not looking for likes; God already loves us perfectly and powerfully. Faithful ministry is loving people and preaching the gospel so that God is seen as glorious. Jesus gives life; we cannot. We must decrease, but Jesus must increase. Seek the glory that comes from God. Though no person may say it of us, may we hear Jesus say, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Here is one way to do faithful ministry

  • Use your authority carefully

Some people view all authority or power as evil. But this cannot be true because Jesus has all authority and power and he is not evil. Other people view authority or power as their excuse to take from others or to abuse others. This also is wrong because Jesus has all authority and power and he came to serve others. The all-powerful Jesus is a giver, not a taker.

Look again at 1 Thessalonians 2:6, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

Jesus could have played the God-card. Paul could have played the apostle-card. If you have authority you could use that power take from people what you think you deserve. But this is worldliness and faithlessness. If God has granted you some measure of strength, influence, or authority please recognize that you have that gift in order to do good to others. Don’t reject strength, influence, or authority as evil. Don’t use strength, influence, or authority to get money or glory for yourself. Use the strength, influence, or authority you have to do good; protect others, serve others, and lead others to life with Christ. Let me put it this way

II. Be like a faithful mother in your ministry (7-8)

Look at verse 7, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”

  • Take care of others with gentleness

What does a faithful mother do? She takes care of her children with gentleness. What is faithful ministry? Taking care of your spiritual children with gentleness. It can be tempting to use power and authority to beat people up. Resist the urge! Gentleness is the virtue of being tender and considerate, concerned for the wellbeing of the other, instead of being severe, gruff, or hard (Green, PNTC, 127).

We become rightfully angry when a mom shakes or slaps a baby because we understand a faithful mother takes care of her child with gentleness. A faithful mother teaches, corrects, and disciplines with gentleness. We all have a choice when it comes to speaking the truth. We can speak the truth with love, or we can speak the truth with a flamethrower. Love is the better way!

It is true, ministry, evangelism, and discipleship will require us to do and say hard things as we correct error and teach obedience. We must care for our disciples the way a mother cares for her children.

We provide and protect. We teach and correct, and we do all of it putting their needs in front of our own. What they need is the gospel. What they need is the life of God through faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 8 we see the apostle Paul sharing the gospel and sharing his self. So next,

  • Share the gospel

Paul shared the gospel with them because Paul loved those people the way a mother loves her child. A mother who says she loves her child but does not care for her child is a mother living a lie. A ministry that claims to be Christian but does not consistently celebrate the gospel is not a Christian ministry. The gospel is the good news that we are reconciled to God and live life with God because of the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gift of the Spirit is for all who will believe!

We give good to those we love. The best and greatest that we can give is reconciliation with God. The best we can give is right now life with God. The best we can give is access to abundant grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The best we can give is teaching others to be led by the Spirit. Like a faithful mother who gives her good things to her children, so we must faithfully give the gospel to one another.

But like Paul, we’re not about cold content. We must

  • Love and enjoy people

Look at these phrases in verse 8, “being affectionately desirous of you, we shared ourselves with you, because you had become dear to us.”

Is this how you view the church? Is this how I view the church? Is the church simply a place for you to hear preaching? Or, is the church a people that you love and want to be with? God is loving and self-giving. A growing Christian is loving and self-giving because he knows God.

Let us ask God for more grace so we can get to know one another. Let us ask God for more grace so we can love one another. Let us ask God for more grace so we can enjoy one another. To love and enjoy people we need quality time and we need quantity time. Come early, stay late, get together, and talk to others in such a way that you build them up. Move beyond the shallow stuff to talking about God’s stuff. The way the people of God enjoy one another is by enjoying God together. You have to be here, and you have to be Godward.

Alright, we have seen that motherhood is good for ministry. Let’s look now at how motherhood is good ministry.

III. Be a faithful mother

I’m talking to moms who have physical children and I’m talking to moms who have spiritual children. How are you ladies going to raise children and make disciples? Start here

  • Abide in Christ

Apart from Jesus and his grace you can’t be a faithful mom. Apart from Jesus and his grace you can’t make disciples. I have seen the agony of labor. I have seen the sleep deprived mother. I have seen the wear and tear of constant teaching and correction. It blows my mind that women generally live longer than men. Being a woman looks like terribly difficult work. I think if the male body had to do the female thing it would shorten our life spans by 10 years. So yes, take a nap if you can, and cry out for constant help because you must. When you are walking down the hall for the fifteenth time, ask Jesus for grace. When you get the text message you dread, ask Jesus for grace. Jesus has promised to give you what you need. Trust him.

Spend time in the word and prayer every morning not because it’s the right thing to do but because you need to plug into the source of grace for the day. A faithful minister asks for help and a faithful mother asks for help because the job is too much for us! Moms, this you must do

  • Speak the truth in love

The easiest thing for me to do is to be harsh with my children. Using kind words to correct over and over, again and again, is like pulling a volkswagon beetle around the house; it’s hard work! Thankfully my family has pretty much grown out of the spanking phase, but I remember how being gentle and tender when spanking was so incredibly difficult. Mom listen, your child needs you to stop being a jerk. Mom, your child needs you to stop being a wimp. Speak the truth in love. Let’s combine B&D. Letter D is “Be mom with gentleness.”

Raising children means you will have to do and say hard things. Stop seeking glory from your children. You are going to ruin yourself and your child because you and your child make terrible gods. Because of God’s grace, be mom. Give yourself away. Do hard things over and over. Say hard things over and over. Do all of it with strength, love, and gentleness. This means we must

  • Seek God not money

Moms, what do you want to give your child? Jesus said it is tragic for a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul. It is equally tragic for a mom to give her child the whole world and then he lose his soul.

Think about it moms, what do you worry about? Money is necessary, I get that, we have to buy food. But, what do you worry about? Do you worry because there is no money in the bank or do you worry because there is no Jesus in your child? What do you work hard to give your children? Do you work hard to give them the stuff they want, or do you work hard to give them the Jesus that will satisfy their souls? Mothers, I plead with you,

  • Share the gospel

The gospel is the good news that sinners can be reconciled to God through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news that sinners can enjoy the fullness of life with God through the work of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the content of the gospel must be there. And moms, with the content of the gospel, share your joy in Christ with your children. Show them why you love and trust Jesus by bringing them into your prayers and your singing and your ministry. Tell them why you pray and why you sing and why you give. Share the gospel with your children and share your joy in Christ with your children.

Like Paul with the Thessalonians, I want you to

  • Love and enjoy your children

I just encouraged you to share your joy in Jesus with your children, when is the last time you shared in your child’s joy? When is the last time you enjoyed something with your son? When is the last time you enjoyed something with your daughter? Yes, that easy to please little cuddle puppy of a child has grown up into a teenager, but she still enjoys things. He still enjoys things. You love him. You love her. Maybe it’s time for Barry Sanders to learn ballet.

It’s time to get back into the game of parenting. Ask for grace and strength because you need it and Christ gives it. Share your joy in Jesus with your child. Teach and correct with gentleness. Love and enjoy your child. Motherhood is a great model for ministry. Motherhood is a great good. May we as a church strengthen and honor godly women who are making disciples and raising children. Let’s pray for and give thanks for moms.

Discuss 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How do you define motherhood and what are it’s blessings?
  3. Do you depend on God’s grace to do your ministry? How can you depend more on God’s grace to do the work?
  4. In your work, are you preaching Jesus or manipulating people?
  5. Why do you do what you do? Is there love of God and love of others in your work, or are you driven by a love for money? How do you know?
  6. How can you fuel your desire to seek glory from God and decrease your desire to get glory from people?
  7. In what ways are you tempted to use your strength, authority, or influence for evil? In what ways can you use your strength, authority, or influence for God’s good purposes?
  8. Why are discipline and gentleness necessary to motherhood and ministry? What happens when the a person is more of a disciplinarian than gentle? What happens when a person is more gentle than a disciplinarian?
  9. The gospel is the greatest good we can give to others. What is the gospel and how can you more clearly explain the gospel to your children or neighbors?
  10. Make a list of 2-3 church members that you recognize but don’t know their names. Use the church directory to get familiar with their names and make an effort to connect with them next Sunday. Come early, stay late, get together, and talk about Jesus.

10 Questions at the End of Quarantine

Christians need to be thinking about the way we live life and the priorities we set. Often, as our families, bosses, neighbors, and the church present us with their priorities we adopt as many as we can. The result usually ends up somewhere around shallow-busyness or a hectic pace.

Seeing that we are coming near the quarantine period in this Covid19 situation, I think it is important for us to look at what we have learned about ourselves, our families, our work, and our churches. On one hand, we have dearly missed some aspects of these relationships. On the other hand, we have been deeply grateful for the dropping off of some aspects of these relationships. God grant us discernment moving forward!

So, relying heavily on Don Whitney’s pattern of asking 10 questions at the start of each new year, I want to propose 10 questions at the end of quarantine.

1. What’s one thing you did (individually or as a family) during quarantine that increased your enjoyment of God?

2. After some alone-time during quarantine, what do you want to see change in you or in your family? 

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year? (This question is straight Don-Whitney-gold)

4. What spiritual discipline did you begin (or grow in) during quarantine and how do you plan to continue in that discipline?

5. Looking back at the way you were doing life, what was the single biggest time-waster, and what will you do to avoid it in the future?

6. What did you miss about gathering with your church and how can you strengthen this part of being the body?

7. Who did you meet or grow to know better in your neighborhood? How can you cultivate that relationship for evangelism or discipleship?

8. What patterns or routines have you adopted that you want to continue through the year? What is your plan?

9. What one thing did you think was important, even crucial, but after quarantine you see it is insignificant?

10. What single thing, that you plan to do now, will matter most in ten years? In eternity? (another Don Whitney question)

Preparing for Baptism Bible Study

Ready for Baptism

Is your child ready to be baptized? How do you know? This five week Bible study was written to help parents and disciple-makers teach children how to obey Jesus’ command to repent, believe, and be baptized.

Please feel free to use this material but do not change the content in any way.

Discuss Weeping & Rejoicing

Consider Hebrews 13:8-16; Ezra 3:8-13; and 2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1

  • In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  • Thinking about God’s greatness and faithfulness fuels our praise. Look back at days when it was hard for you to praise God. Are these generally days when your mind is set on earthly things or on heavenly things?
  • What does it look like for you to continually offer up praise to God through Jesus Christ?
  • All the good you currently enjoy will not last. Everything changes. How do you maintain joy and thankfulness without being cynical or Utopian about this life?
  • Are you holding onto some sin that if left unchecked could destroy you (Matthew 5:29-30)? What should repentance look like in your situation?
  • What has God restored in your life? Take a moment to give Him thanks and to rejoice.
  • What is the difference between wanting to get back to the way things were six months ago and wanting Jesus to return? Which one do you want?
  • Considering your current situation, where are you groaning and where are you rejoicing?
  • Why does sinfulness decrease our joy in God and why does obedience increase our joy in God?
  • Why are you sorrowful? Why do you rejoice?
  • How can you grow in your ability to be sorrowful but always rejoicing?

If the Lord Wills; James 4:13-17

Main Point: It is good to feel our frailty and rest in God’s sovereignty

I want to ask you a question. Who knows best, you or God? Most of us, if we are answering biblically, would say “God knows best.” However, when it comes to everyday life, particularly when it comes to how we go about our work and doing business, we give the opposite answer. We wake in the morning and plan the day without God because we actually believe we know what is best. We give our attention to our desires and the world’s demands because we believe our desires and the world’s demands have priority. We go about the work of the day and make plans for tomorrow without God because we honestly believe we don’t need God. I can handle it. I am what I need. I got this. So, we may say on a Sunday that we need God, but our godless plans reveal the truth. We actually believe God is a nonessential worker when it comes to everyday life. By ignoring the Word and refusing to pray we try to make the nonessential God shelter in place. Obviously, this way of living is not good.

We’re looking at James 4 today and the sovereignty of God. The main point of this passage can be uncomfortable. James 4 is uncomfortable because it proves our weakness. But it is good to feel our frailty and rest in God’s sovereignty. You see, when we feel our frailty, we stop trusting ourselves and we stop listening to ourselves. Our bodies are weak, our desires are weak, and our plans are weak. God, however, possesses all strength and wisdom and his plans are unstoppable. God possesses all strength and all wisdom and his plans are all good. Let’s look at James 4:13-17 and seek the good of boasting in our weaknesses so that we learn to trust God’s power.

Read James 4:13-17

In this letter, James is concerned about money and the will of God. James 1:10, “the rich man…is like a flower of the grass he will pass away…in the midst of his pursuits.” James 1:17, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:18, “Of [God’s] own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

The rich are weak and temporary; their plans are easily cutoff. God is good and eternal; his plans will not be stopped. Your salvation and your work are a product of the will of God. James addresses money and the will of God.

In chapter 4, James contrasts the themes of pride and God, trusting self or resting in God’s sovereignty. Let’s do this first

I. Consider what your words are saying (13, 16)

Look at James 4:13. James is summoning people who speak a certain way. He wants us to think about the words that are coming out of our mouths. Here’s why

  • Your words come from your heart

Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt 12:34-37).

If you store up bad things in your heart, then bad things will come out of your mouth. If you believe wrong things, then you will say nasty things. If you store up good things in your heart, then good things will come out of your mouth. If you believe true things, then you will say good things. The condition of your heart is demonstrated by the quality of your words. Your words come from your heart.

Now we need to

  • Consider these words from James 4:13

“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit.”

We need to look at the words and then examine the heart. The first thing we see here is there is no God in these words and there is a lot of self. We will do this thing. We will do this thing in this place. We will do this thing in this place for a year and we’re going to make some cash money. We leave soon and it’s on!

These words are all about me and my plans and my success. Think about your annual planning and your daily to-do list. Is God’s will driving these plan? If you’re like me, you need to repent at this point. I make a lot of plans based on my strength and my desires. This is arrogance!

Now, planning is good if it comes from a good heart. But planning is evil if it comes from an evil heart. And these words are evil. Look over at James 4:16, “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

  • These words come from an arrogant heart

Wait. What? I thought I was just making some business plans; just doing some forecasting. It’s just a to-do list. Yes, those things would be good but your heart is arrogant. This word “arrogance” means pride without any basis for that attitude (Louw Nida, 88.219).

It is right for us to boast in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9) because we have a solid basis for that attitude. It is right for us to boast in the power of the cross of our Lord (1 Cor 2:23-31) because we have a solid basis for that attitude.

We do not have any basis for strutting around making plans like we are in control. We don’t have any basis for confidence in our success because we have left God out of the plans. This is nasty boasting in arrogance and James 4:16 says, “all such boasting is evil.”

The arrogant heart functions in its own strength without God; this is evil. Therefore, the selfish heart storing up self-centered treasures will gush forth selfish words. The selfish heart will fight and quarrel, slash and burn with painful words (see James 4:1-12). This person has Sunday faith and everyday arrogance. Here’s the solution

II. Consider your frailty (14)

Look with me at James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring.”

Here is our first step toward learning how to boast in our weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength. You must admit that

  • You do not know

These past 6 weeks have revealed to me one simple truth: there is a lot that I don’t know. There are really two profound things that I know. I know that I am quite small, and I know that God is in control. I don’t have the capacity or ability to know all things. I simply do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Acting like you know and are in control is the epitome of arrogant and evil boasting. Let’s be clear, this is not a denial of absolute truth; like it is impossible or evil to claim that you know anything. James is dealing specifically with the evil pride that believes I am in control of my life. Do a simple search of the word, “know” in your Bible and you will find plenty that you can know and know for certain. But these things are based on God and God telling us. Knowing for certain is never based on us or our planning.

Let’s do a little mental exercise. Go back to the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. What did you plan for the spring of 2020? Do you know what tomorrow will bring? We must stop playing the fool and acting like we know. Again, this is not saying “don’t plan because planning is boastful evil.” No, these verses are telling us to stop relying on our own wisdom and desires to do our planning. Why? Because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We are frail. Here’s our second step toward learning how to boast in our weaknesses and boast in the Lord’s strength. Store this truth in your heart

  • You are a mist

What is your great might and wisdom and planning compared to? Verse 14, “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Look at it. Think about it. It’s not our plans for 2020 that are a mist; we are a mist.

Listen to Psalm 102:11 and 12, “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”

Listen to Isaiah 40:6&8, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers; and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

You who are strong and powerful, what are you like? You are like a mist that appears and then is quickly burned off. You are like grass that withers in the heat. Your plans, your glory, and your strength are like the flowers of the field that come up over night and die in the afternoon heat. We will all soon vanish. To trust our strength and our plans is to trust the mist.

This is discouraging, even near to nihilism, if it were not for the power, presence, and promises of God. Don’t shy away from thinking about your death. Death comes quickly and what will come of your plans? This is what we must do

III. Consider God’s sovereignty (15)

The sovereignty of God is not merely the ability of God to know and respond to all things. James 4:15 pushes us further back into the power of God. We must go beyond God’s rule over the moment into God’s planning and willing which precedes all our moments. The key statement here is, “if the Lord wills.”

We see the willing or planning of God early in the Book of Acts. Acts 2:23 explains why the cross happened, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 4:27 goes further in saying Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews did whatever God’s hand and his plan predestined to take place. Now, if this is all we have we would be right to say God wills some things but not all things. God is prior to some things but not prior to all things. James 4:15 helps us on this point

Instead, we ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Here’s the point

  • All of creation is dependent on the Lord’s will

Arrogant boasters believe their continued existence and success in business depend on their own wills. Those who speak evil here are those who think their decisions are determinative, “I’m going here to do business and make money”. But the idea that the individual man is the ultimate determiner of his fate cannot be held in light of James 4:15. And James 4:15 does not stand alone. Jesus makes the same point in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Our God is in the details of the lives of the most insignificant of birds. So, if God is the determiner of the lives of sparrows, and if you are of more value than many sparrows, what are you afraid of? You are in the Father’s hand and cared for according to his good will.

I have been listening to John Piper’s book, Christ and the Coronavirus. He makes a helpful point about the sovereignty of God and the difficulties we face. The sovereign God who could have stopped it but didn’t, is the sovereign God who will strengthen you in it. In all of this, God will work your escape or your endurance for good. The God who could have stopped it but did not is the good God who has good purposes and will strengthen you in it. This is true for the birds of smallest value; surely it is true for you.

As we store up the treasure of God’s good and strong sovereignty in our hearts, this comes out of our mouths, “If the Lord wills, I will live.”

  • If the Lord wills, you will live

Trust in the good and sovereign God, coupled with an awareness of my frailty, leads me to say, “My life is in God’s hands.” Stop and consider that we are not yet talking about the details of your business, that’s coming. For now, we are looking at the big picture of your life itself.

Here are two passages, deep and satisfying, on this point. First comes John 10:27-30. Jesus tells us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

We are safe in life and in death. The hirelings will flee, and the wolves will come, but we are safe. This takes us to Romans 8:38, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, not powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Listen, all kinds of hard and painful things are coming. All kinds of costly suffering and anguish are bound up in following Jesus’ voice in this age. But, because God is sovereign over all things and his will rules over our lives, we can look for the love of God in the sorrow.

We look at the big picture of our rapidly approaching funerals and say, “I will live to the end of the day if the Lord wills and what the Lord wills is always good.”

That’s the big picture, now for the details. We also say, “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.”

  • If the Lord wills, you will do this or that

The weak and suffering New Testament church rested in the sovereignty of God. Paul told the church in Rome that he was praying that somehow by God’s will he could make it to Rome (Rom 1:10). After spurring the church on to maturity, Hebrews 6:3 records these words, “And this we will do if God permits.” Paul told the church in Antioch, “I will return to you if God wills” (Acts 18:21). Jacob, in Genesis 28, knew he was dependent on God being with him, keeping him, giving him bread to eat and clothing to wear.” We pray for our daily bread because God is sovereign over the details (Mt 6:11).

Some may ask, “But if God is sovereign, why pray?” The best answer I can give for why I pray and trust in the sovereignty of God is because God has ordained prayer as the means by which he accomplishes his will. God has chosen to do his thing through my prayers! That’s great encouragement to pray! God wills for our prayers to be powerful.

This we must do

IV. Trust the Lord and do good (17)

Let’s wrap up with James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” The right thing to do is acknowledge God in our daily plans; bring God and his will to bear on our desires. Again, start with the heart

  • Your words come from your heart

The right thing to do is to think deeply about the sovereignty of God such that his goodness and strength are treasures stored up in your heart. Shallow or wrong thoughts about God in our hearts will produce evil and boastful words. Lord willing, we will work through Lamentations soon to encourage these deep thoughts. Two other potent places to dig into the sovereignty of God are the books of Daniel and Isaiah; particularly Isaiah 40-66. Read the book of Daniel looking for God’s sovereignty. Read Isaiah 40-66 looking for God’s sovereignty. Make notes, ask questions, memorize truth, and trust yourself to the God who rules over all.

Simply saying the words “If the Lord wills” is not what we are after. Our goal is to trust ourselves to the God of the details. Read, study, memorize, meditate on, and obey God’s word. Work God’s word into your heart until it changes your speech. Next

  • Make your plans seeking God’s will

A person could read James 4:13-17, look at the sovereignty of God over the details of the day, and say, “I guess my work of planning is a waste.” But this is not true to the Word. Instead, plan to do God’s will. We should plan and we should save, and we should pray. Look at verse 15, this is no denial of the need to pray and plan. Instead, when we plan, we should seek God’s will. We should make plans asking what God has revealed in his Word about money, work, family, government, church, and rest. We don’t pray with blind eyes. We pray with our eyes on God’s word because there, in God’s word, God has revealed his will.

If you are wondering about money and spending, move right into James 5:1-6. If you have questions and don’t know how to find answers in God’s word, please ask. As a church, we want to make disciples. We would love to help you discover God’s will in God’s word. Sent a text or an email. Make a phone call. Ask for help. So, we make plans seeking God’s will and we make plans depending on God’s will.

  • Make your plans depending on God’s will

What kind of hope does mist have? What kind of strength does the flower of grass possess? We have hope and strength because we have a great God. Trusting Christ means praying for his strength to work and plan and love and forgive and repent. Trusting Christ is admitting that we are weak, and he is strong. Trusting Christ is not strutting around with arrogant self-confidence. Trusting Christ is living with an awareness of our weaknesses and an awareness of his presence, power, and promises.

So, what do we do? Repent of our self-confidence; repent of our work even today that has been done according to our plans and our power. Look to your sovereign God who longs to forgive you, direct you, and give you strength.

The call today is to trust and obey. Trust the sovereign God and seek to obey the will of God. There is joy for us according to God’s will. God is an essential worker. Let’s run to God and shelter in his goodness and sovereign will.