Archive for the ‘In Christ’ Category


I am always fascinated when I see a baby start to walk. Especially my grandchildren. Some have toddled and crawled for a couple weeks, but Laila stood up and started running and has not stopped yet.

Sure, it can be scary while they figure it out. You can try hard to keep them safe while they learn to walk. However, THEY have to learn how to walk. You cannot do it for them. They will fall. They will get bruises. They will have to decide that it is better to walk and run than to crawl around the rest of their lives. So must Christians discover how to walk and live the Christian life God designed for us. We have to decide that we do not want to crawl the rest of our Christian life.

It Is No Little Thing To Be A Christian.

Many people come to Christ and seem overwhelmed with ‘being a Christian”. If being a Christian seems too big for you, just say “That is very good” I would not have it if it were as small as I am. Being a Christian must be something really big if it is to get me anywhere!

The bigger being a Christian is, the mightier the dynamic force that is behind the Christian Life. The greater is the POWER to Walk the Christian Life!

Romans 1-7 is the Gateway into the Christian Life.

The word written across the portal of that gate is FAITH. On the Gate, is the Cross. Faith in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the way in, and seven chapters are devoted to that way. In Chapter 8 you find what kind of life is on the other side of that gate, the other side of the cross.

Chapter 8 is the real nature of this Big Life into which we have come. In this chapter there is one word which stands out-it is the word SPIRIT. This whole chapter that describes this Big Christian Life springs from and centers on this matter of the Spirit!

This Big Christian Life begins there: The Law of the Spirit of Life IN Christ Jesus!

We are through the gate, we are through the Cross, and here we find what we call “The Life in the Spirit”. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church, ushering in a new dispensation, the one we are living in now. It is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament dispensation, the dispensation of God’s dealing with the Jews, is past. Now He is dealing with the church, the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is an entirely new and different age, marked by the coming of Jesus Christ, and concluded with His return.

The character and quality of this dispensation is entirely the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has come; He has introduced a new order of things entirely; and, until we understand that order, we shall not make any progress in our Christian life. It is very necessary for us to understand that.

The effect of the Holy Spirit, simply but fundamentally, is that He joins us to Christ. He brings about a vital union with the Lord Jesus. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” 1 Corinthians 6:17. To Live this Big Christian Life requires not our self-effort, but our walking after and relying upon the Holy Spirit.

So We must WALK…AFTER THE SPIRIT. That is what we will focus on in Romans 8 verses 5 – 15.

We found in the first four verses of Romans 8:

I. New Life in Christ – New Walk in the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Vs 2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Vs 3: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Vs 4: so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We are One with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit

  • In Jesus we are not condemned
  • In Jesus we live by a new law – freee from the law of sin and death.
  • We Walk Knowing what Jesus has done for us (vs 3)
  • We walk knowing what the Holy Spirit will do IN us (vs 4)

The Christian Life Is a Life Lived In Not In Our Flesh, But In The Spirit! Verse 3 reveals that God did for us what we could not do in ourselves-he removed the fundamental ground of our weakness-he crucified our old man, so that we could be free to walk in the new man of the Holy Spirit. Verse 4 reveals that the Law is fulfilled in us by walking in the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

What Does It Mean To Walk After The Holy Spirit?

1. Not a Work, but a Walk.

For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Colossians 1:29

We allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.

D.L Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.” J. Kuhatschek, Taking the Guesswork Out of Applying the Bible, IVP, p. 153ff.

Paul contrasts the WORKS of the flesh with the FRUIT of the Spirit (Gal 5:19, 22)

  • Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Galatians 5:19
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Galatians 5:22

The Christian walk is not up to us, to our works, just as Salvation is not up to our works. Salvation is entirely of Grace, so the Christian Walk is to be entirely of Grace. The Spirit produces the fruit. We are merely the instrument.

2. To Walk After Implies Subjection/Submission

Subject means to be placed under the authority of another. We must willingly place ourselves under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18

  • No matter what the cost, or what the imposition.

When we follow after our flesh the Holy Spirit will shrink back.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

3. Walking After the Spirit Requires a Mind Set upon Him!

“to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” Rom 8:6

Hurewicz was a mathematician noted for work in topology and being distracted. He was the original ‘absent-minded professor’.

While on the faculty at MIT he once gave a colloquium lecture at Penn State. Several colleagues from Boston schools decided to attend the talk and they took the train to Pennsylvania for the lecture. Afterward, as usual, they went to dinner had a nice discussion, then all boarded the train and returned to Boston. Hurewicz could not find his car at the train station. So he reported it stolen. A few days later, the police called and said that they had located his car. It was in a parking garage in ………….. Philadelphia.

In 1956 while attending the International Symposium on Algebraic Topology in Uxmal, Mexico he climbed to the top of a Mayan pyramid. The story is that he forgot where he was. He stepped nonchalantly and fell off to his death.

Jesus made it clear that what we set our mind on is critical to the advancement of His Kingdom:

Mt 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

We are to have the mind of Christ, who set this self-less and flesh-less example for us:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

4. Minding the Flesh Produces Conflict With God

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

Walking after the flesh means I yield to the authority and dictates of the flesh. Romans 8:5-8 shows where fleshly walking leads me. It brings me into conflict with God. The word used by the King James is “enmity”. It means “the extreme ill will or hatred that exists between enemies.”

Paul uses a noun not an adjective for the word ‘enmity’. The reason is that walking after the flesh does not taint us, it shows WE are tainted!

  • It is not that we can be opposed to God, but that we ourself is opposed to Him!
  • We not at enmity, but enmity itself!
  • We are not black, but blackness!
  • We are not corrupt, but corruption!
  • We are not rebellious, we are rebellion!
  • We are not wicked, we are wickedness itself!
  • We are not just deceitful, we are deceit!

The fleshly walk does not submit to the Holy Spirit. The fleshly walk does not and cannot please God.

II. Walking After The Spirit Brings Me Into The Law Of The Spirit Of Life.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:9-15

The Spirit must LEAD us. Not only Setting our Minds on Him, but also Following Him. (Not enough to only think about Him, you must obey). My kids usually minded me, but I don’t think their heart was in it all the time!

Much more than minding. It requires that you submit to His leading. You cannot be independent of Him.  You must be subject to the Holy Spirit. Only as we yield ourselves to obey Him shall we find the law of the Spirit of Life in full operation and the “ordinance of the law” being fulfilled.

  • Everything we have been trying to do to please God is now reality simply by our submitting to the Holy Spirit.
  • As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God. (Rom 8:14)

Why is it so important to be led by the Holy Spirit? Understand God’s design:

  • The Love of God is the source of all spiritual blessing
  • The grace of the Lord Jesus has made it possible for that spiritual wealth to be ours.
  • The communion of the Holy Spirit is the means whereby it is imparted to us.

What the Father has devised, the Son has accomplished, and the Holy Spirit communicates directly to us. If we are not walking after the Holy Spirit, we are missing out on all the Father hand the Son have for us!

III. We Walk as His Son

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Imagine walking as His Son. You are no longer crawling, you are WALKING as the SON of GOD! This is the Normal Christian Life we are to lead!

  • 2 John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.”
  • 1 John 2:6 “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
  • Ephesians 5:8, 9 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)”
  • Romans 8:4 “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after theSpirit.”

Walking in the Spirit is not an option for the Christian – it is a command of God: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

But, how do we walk as His Son?

A Son Believes His Father. A Son Trusts His Father.

  • See the Contrast

David vs. Saul and the Army of Israel

We see this in the contrast between the way the army of Israel approached the giant named Goliath and the way David did in 1 Samuel 17. The soldiers allowed did not believe in the power of their Jehovah God, for they did not see Him as their all-powerful Father. They all “ran away in great fear” while David, who knew the power of His God, and knew his special relationship with God, “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” in verse 48.

Your relationship determines your walk!

Joshua and Caleb vs. the Children in the Wilderness

This is the choice the Children in the Wilderness faced: Do we believe God or do we trust what we see? When the 10 spies told of the giants, the Israelites had no thoughts of their relationship with Jehovah God. They had no thoughts of His power, so they became afraid and disobeyed.

Joshua and Caleb knew the power of God, knew of their beloved relationship with Him, and knew they could go in and defeat the giants. Do you approach the giant fears of your life as a helpless orphan, or do you approach the giants as God’s beloved son?

A. We are a Son of God by the Holy Spirit

Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

  • Not the works of the spirit! – Not the influences of the spirit, or the general character which comes form the indwelling spirit,…but the Spirit Himself!
  • “The difference between the regenerate & the unregenerate is not of degree, but of kind!” (Spurgeon at His Best; Rom.8:9)

The question you must ask yourself:

Does the Spirit of Christ live in me? What evidences of the Holy Spirit do I  see in my life?

  • Do I constantly worry?
  • Do I get upset at even the tiniest of things.
  • Do I have sins that you can’t seem to control.
  • Do I read the Word of God and know that God speaks to me as I read it?
  • Do I have times when you just need to talk to your Father?
  • Do I constantly think about Jesus, do I praise Him, do I ask Him for advice?

If you truly are born again, you will walk in the Spirit of Christ. If you do not, then you need to do a Spirit Check.

B. Enemy of Sonship: The Phony Christian Walk

If you do not have the Spirit, you are a phony. You start Minding the Flesh, because you can’t mind the Spirit.

Evidence of phonies are:

1. Cliché Christianity. A cliché is a phrase that is said too many times in a certain situation. Take sports for example. We hear: Take it one game at a time. Records are made to be broken. This team has overcome a lot of adversity. They control their own destiny.

Christians resort to clichés as well, and in many ways those cliché’s define the way they live. Some have sarcastically referred to this practice as “Jesus jargon”. These overused phrases convey little meaning because we hear them way too often. Unfortunately, many of us just repeat the expected vocabulary without really thinking about what the words mean. As a result, they lose their impact. Here are some that come to mind: Just have faith. God touched me. Let go and let God. God told me. I’ll pray for you.

Here is the danger. You and I can say the right sayings and yet our hearts can be far from God. And, since most Christians use these common clichés, it is easy to fall into a superficial spirituality. On top of that, we can fool others and even ourselves simply by saying the right words.

But none of this fools God as Isaiah 29:13 reminds us: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…”

2. Right Rules. Some of you are trying to live the Christian life by a set of rules: “Do this, don’t do that!” The problem of living by rules is that it can lead to legalism. It also is walking in the flesh. On top of that, according to Colossians 2:22-23, it does not work anyway: “These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

God is not impressed either as the second part of Isaiah 29:13 says: “…Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

3. Formulaic Faith. Some of us are trying to live our faith by following formulas. These formulas are everywhere: Three Avenues to Answered Prayer, Four Steps to Spiritual Success and Five Ways to Walk in the Spirit. There are at least two problems with formulaic faith. First, it can lead to mechanical Christianity. Second, it doesn’t work very often.

4. Performance Posture. Way too many of us are trying to please God by our performance and some of us think that He will only accept us if we make ourselves acceptable. As the early chapters of the Book of Romans make clear, we will always fall short.

5. Extra Experiences. Some people try to live the Christian life by seeking deeply moving, life-changing, earth-shattering, emotional experiences with God. The problem is that experiences do not last because we must eventually come off the mountaintop and resume life in the valley. And, if you seek experiences, you will yo-yo in your faith, going up and down depending on the experiences you have. While God uses conferences, camps, mission trips, moving movies, and dynamic speakers, they alone cannot sustain our faith.

6. Coasting Christianity. Some of you have settled into a mediocre, lukewarm Christian life. You might be a coasting Christian because you think Christianity is too difficult. It is too hard to follow this unseen Holy Spirit.

Do any of these alternatives describe you? Let me say that there is some truth in each one. Most of the clichés we use represent real truth. Rules can be good. Formulas can be helpful. God is pleased when we obey Him. Ecstatic experiences with the Almighty can be life-changing. And finally, Christianity is too difficult – if you try to live it without the Holy Spirit’s power. The life of faith is impossible without the empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit. You cannot live the true Christian Life without following after the Holy Spirit. Anything less is PHONY!

WATCH FOR THE SIGNS OF PHONY WALK! Learn to talk tough to yourself. This may sound strange but it’s actually quite helpful to audibly attack error in your thinking.

  • Sometimes I say out loud: “This thinking is wrong. It’s from the pit of hell. I refuse to entertain those thoughts.”
  • This goes back to the word “set” in verse 5 as it refers to a “fixed mindset.”
  • We see this in Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” A mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
  • That’s exactly what Isaiah 26:3 in the New Living Translation proclaims: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
  • In other words, we must let the mind of the Master be the Master of our minds as Philippians 2:5 says: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

C. The Holy Spirit Is Alive Within Each Christian.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

If you don’t have the Spirit, then you don’t have spiritual life. That means every believer is home to the Holy Spirit. This denotes a “settled permanent penetrative influence.” You don’t need to ask Him to come in because He enters at conversion, you don’t need a “second blessing” or worry that He’s ever going to leave.

Jesus in John 14:16-17: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Galatians 4:6 describes the intimate relationship between the Holy Spirit within us and God the Father: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

The Holy Spirit desires to have control in each Christian’s life. Since the Holy Spirit lives within believers, you and I must give Him control of our lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

The issue is not getting more of the Holy Spirit but allowing Him to have more of us. When we received Christ, we received all of God we will ever get. As born again believers, we don’t need to receive the Holy Spirit; we need to respond to the Holy Spirit whom we have already received.

When a toddler begins to walk he may revert back to crawling because it is still most natural to him. Walking is scary/risky. But there is some serious issues if your teenager keeps reverting back to crawling!!!

Is it more natural now in your walk with the Lord to walk in the flesh, or in the Spirit? Do you walk as His son, or as a phony?

D. Walking after the Spirit is a Life of Sonship

VS 14-15: For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:14-15

We have all benefited from the milled ridges that line our highways now. Driving over them produces a loud rumble that quickly wakes you up or tells you that you are drifting off the highway.

Well, the Holy Spirit works even better than those rumble strips when we start to do a mental lane change.

He ka-thump ka-thump ka-thumps upon our heart, warning us to get back in our Spirit lane, when we start crossing over into the flesh lane! We need to be reminde we are His son!

Galatians 5:16: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Another translation puts it this way: “Keep in step with the Spirit…” The key is to keep in step with the Spirit, not lagging behind and not racing ahead.

BY walking after the Spirit, you are walking in the New Law and you experience the Righteousness of Jesus Christ and THROW OFF YOUR WRETCHEDNESS!

  • So, go to bed tonight & say, “If I die before I wake, I cannot be condemned!”
  • Should you wake the next morning go into the world & say, “I am not condemned!”
  • When howls at you tell him, “you may accuse me, but I am not condemned!”
  • If your sins arise say, “I know you, but you are all gone forever. I am not condemned!” [adapted from Spurgeon quote]

Un-Believers: [Re-read vs.1] – This also means “There still hangs a most weighty condemnation upon all those who are not IN Christ Jesus!”

And what did verse nine say, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His”. Be His today!

Say “Yes” to the Spirit of God and you will live as His Son. The flesh will be of no power when you walk in the Law of the Life of the Spirit!

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A young boy had just gotten his driver’s license. He asked his father, who was a minister, if they could discuss the use of the car. His father took him to his study and said to him, “I’ll make a deal with you. You bring your grades up, study your bible a little and get your hair cut and we’ll talk about it.”

After about a month, the boy came back and again asked his father, if they could discuss use of the car. They again went to the father’s study where his father said, “Son, I’ve been real proud of you. You have brought your grades up, you’ve studied your bible diligently, but you didn’t get your hair cut.”

The young man waited a moment and replied, “You know Dad, I’ve been thinking about that. You know, Samsom had long hair, Moses had long hair, Noah had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair!”, to which is father replied, “Yes, you’re right, and they also WALKED every where they went!”

We have come to Romans 8, a chapter in the Bible which more than any other talks about our walk with the Holy Spirit. In fact, our walk in the Holy Spirit is to become so natural that we hardly notice it, becasue our walk in the Holy Spirit is to be the New Law of our Christian walk.

What is a Law? A Law is a general rule that happens over and over again, without exception. Every April 15, we are reminded that without exception some accounting of your income must be made to the IRS. It is automatic. Every time you jump up in the air you come back down. The Law of Gravity is something we just accept.

When you drive, you know you must keep track of your speed. When you see a Red Light you know you should stop. We drive on the right side of the road. In England and Australia they drive on the other side of the road and it is the most unnatural feeling in the world.

When we live according to a Law, it is so accepted that it is natural.

Romans 7 revealed a struggle that Paul had, a struggle that ran him right up against a Law, A Law of Sin. It was a Law that his flesh was comfortable with, had accepted, and was struggling with.

Even though in Romans 6:6 (Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.)  he had taught us

1. KNOW our old man is dead.

Then he taught us in Romans 6:11 (Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord) to

2. COUNT on God that it is so.

Our old man is dead. Depend on it. God says it is true. And then Paul taught us, that if our old man is dead and we can count on that like money in the bank, then our flesh is unemployed, and so it must be…

3.PRESENTED to God for Him to use.

He taught this in Romans 6:13: (Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.)

Still Paul struggled with his will. He testified to this in Romans 7:15-20

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

The reason for his struggle is that he discovered something: “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Romans 7:23

There is a law that governs how we live in this flesh. It is the Law of Sin and of death and it cripples man’s will to do good. Man wills to be different, but the law of sin is relentless, and no human can resist it.

So, how can we be set free from this law of sin and death? We certainly need freedom from sin, we certainly need freedom from death, but most of all we need freedom from this LAW of sin and death.

  • How can we be delivered from the constant repetition of weakness and failure?

The Key Phrases

There are two phrases that we see in Romans 5:12-6:23:

“in Adam” and “in Christ”

There are two phrases we see in Romans 7:1-8:39:

“in the flesh” and “in the Spirit”

POSITIONAL Experience

“In Adam” and “In Christ” picture our position. At birth God views us in Adam. All that is Adam’s is our. His sin nature, his sinfulness, that is our position at birth.

When we are born again through faith in Jesus Christ, we are placed “in Christ.” God no longer sees us in Adam. He declares us justified, righteous. Our sins are forever forgiven. We have the life of Christ.

PRACTICAL experience

“In the flesh” and “in the Spirit” relate to our practical experience.

It is not enough to simply know what your position is. You need to experience it. To be in Christ is not enough. To have our old man crucified is not enough. To present our members as servants of God is not enough. The only way the New Law becomes effective and practical in our lives is when we learn to walk everyday “in the Spirit!”

We need to see there is a New Law that we Christians are to live by. It is as natural as the Law of Gravity. It is a more powerful law than the law of sin.

The key to this Law is walking in the Holy Spirit.

This is why the first part of Romans 8 is so centered upon the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Romans 8 no less than 19 different times. No other chapter in the New Testament contains as many direct references to the Holy Spirit. While it is true that our old man is crucified, and we are freed from the power of sin, if we do not mind our walk, and learn to walk in the spirit, then our lives will be a contradiction to the fact of my position in Jesus Christ.

If we walk in the flesh, what is true of me in Him will not be expressed in my life.

Positionally I may be in Jesus, but practically, my temper, or my lust, or my jealousy, or my greed may be in evidence.

The truth of who we are in Jesus Christ cannot be experienced by walking in the flesh. That is totally the experience of Paul in Romans 7. The flesh is no match for the Law of Sin. The only way we can experience the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives is by living according to a New and greater Law, the Law of Living in the Holy Spirit!

Living in the Holy Spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself. This life is completely different from the life I would naturally live myself!

  • This is not a life of TRYING but of TRUSTING!
  • This is not a life of STRUGGLING but of RESTING!
  • Whether your problem is a temper, a sarcastic tongue, a critical spirit, impure thoughts, you do not set out by sure will power to change yourself.

    If you are Living in the Spirit, you know and count yourself dead to those things and then look to the Holy Spirit to produce in you the needed purity, humility, patience, meekness, and you are confident He will do so. In fact, you thank Him in advance for deliverance from those sins.

    As Exodus 14:13 states: Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you!”

    When the Holy Spirit takes matters into His hands, there is no need for strain on our part. It is not a matter of counting to 10, of going home and taking it out on a pillow, there will be no need, for the Holy Spirit has worked it in you.

    Real victory over a sin, over a habit does not come by fleshly effort, but by the Holy Spirit and our living in Him!

    This is why Satan is so active in the world tempting us to stay in the flesh. This is why John warns against loving this world:

    Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16

    If you are in love with the world, the love of the Father is not in you. That is because the love of the world has brought you into a fleshly walk, and not the walk of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is LOVE!

    When you love the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of possessions, you are not living according to the Law of the Holy Spirit! You are settling for the bowl of lentil soup that Esau sold his birthright for. In the Holy Spirit is our life of Blessing!

    Temptation gets us off our walk and exposes us to struggle and defeat!

    When the Japanese invaded China, their overwhelming strength destroyed most of the Chinese tanks within the first three months. They were unable to deal with the Japanese armored tanks until they devised this scheme:

    A sniper would be set up in a hidden place and would fire a single shot at the Japanese tank. After at least 15 minutes he would fire another single shot. Then after ten minutes or so, the sniper would fire another shot. He would keep doing it until the Japanese tank driver, eager to locate the source of the shots, would pop his head out to get a better look around him. The next shot would put an end to the Japanese driver.

    As long as the driver remained in the tank, he was safe. The scheme was devised to get him out in the open.

    Satan’s temptations are not designed to get us to do something really sinful, but simply to act in our own energy. As soon as we step away from the Holy Spirit, and start acting naturally, in our flesh, he has the victory.

    This is the lesson of Galations 5:16-18:

    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Galatians 5:16-18

    THE FIGHT WITH THE FLESH IS NOT OURS, BUT THE HOLY SPIRIT’S.

    These are in opposition one to another! So the Holy Spirit bears the burden of fighting the flesh, and the result is that we not do as we normally would. In fact, the result is that we are not under the Law, becasue we are walking according to a New Law, Life in the Holy Spirit!

    When we depend upon the Holy Spirit, and do not allow the devil to lure us from his cover, He is then free to meet and deal with the flesh in us.

    Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh!

    Our deliverance and victory lies not in our own fleshly strength and determination, but by our abiding in Christ and and simply counting upon His Holy Spirit with us to overcome fleshly lusts with HIS OWN DESIRES!.

    • The Cross procures our Salvation
    • The Spirit produces that Salvation within us!
    • Christ risen and ascended is the basis of our salvation;
    • Christ in our hearts by the Spirit is its power!

    So what does Paul exclaim in Romans 7?

    I  THANK GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!

    Up until his exclamation, he used “I” or “me” over 25 times. in just a few verses. He was totally struggling in his flesh! But when he exclaimed I thank God through Jesus Christ, it became him and he and we! That is what Paul revealed in Galatians 2:20:

    I live, yet no longer I, but Christ!

    When the focus is on the I, it is “What a Wretched Man I am!” When the focus is on Christ, we shout THANK YOU GOD!

    Christians do not have a changed life. God offers us an exchanged life! We exchange our natural, fleshly live for the life of Jesus Christ within us! We do not produce within ourselves the life of Christ. We don’t try to act like Jesus. Jesus really lives through us by His Spirit!

    The Holy Spirit reproduces the life of Jesus in us! That is what Galatians 4:19 reveals – Christ is formed in you!

    What brought victory for Paul? He explains in Romans 8, that there is a new law that supercedes the law of sin. This law is not a fleshly law, but it is a law nonetheless. As such, when you start to walk in this new law, it will become natural, it will produce the same result over and over again. After all, it is a Law.

    So how do we learn to walk and live in the Law of Life in the Holy Spirit?

    Only when we we become aware of our great need for His life! We get to the point where we see our deficiencies and our inadequacies and our failures and we can do nothng else but cry out to Him!

    Does that sound like salvation? Yes, and sometimes when someone has led a life of sin and then realizes their need makes a dramatic turn to Jesus Christ, and immediately everything about their life is changed. They immediately begin walking in the Holy Spirit.

    But Paul reflected his experience where he came to Jesus but then tried to walk in his flesh, becasue he was a Jew, used to following a set of laws. But his frustration led him to the point of seeing his total inability. Then he cried out to Jesus and saw the light of the Life in the Holy Spirit.

    Many people who get saved as a youngster and grow up in a Christian home take Jesus for granted. They get out into the world or college and get lured into the love of the world. They try to live the Christian life in their fleshly strength and fail miserably. Then, when they get to the end of themselves, and realize they cannot live the Christian life in their own strength, they are ready to give everything over to Him and let Jesus live His life through them. Then is when they find victory.

    Romans 8:1 No Condemnation

    Paul goes from a wretched man in Romans 7 to this amazing declaration:

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

    There are two kinds of condemnation:

    1. Before God
    2. Before Myself

    I have no problem seeing my sins forgiven on the cross. I have no problem seeing that God no longer condemns me becasue I am in His son. I do have a problem with a condemning heart. I experience defeat in my life, and my heart goes into hyperdrive condemning me.

    But in the Spirit, there is no condemnation.

    What lay behind my condemnation? It was my experience of defeat. Before I saw Christ as my life, I labored under a constant sense of a handicap. I was limited, confined to a wheelchair, disabled. I cannot do this. I cannot please God! But there is no “can not” in Christ! THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION, THERE IS NO FAILURE, THERE IS NO DAMNATION, THERE IS NO REGRETTING! THERE IS ONLY THE LIFE OF Jesus Christ in me!

    For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the condemning law of sin and death!

    God wants us to realize that as Christians he doesn’t just leave us at the Cross. We don’t come to Christ as Savior and then walk away on our own. God wants us to realize that Jesus Christ wants to live through our lives, in fact, God wants us to realize that we are united with Christ. Everything about us, our identity, our life, our career, our family is inextricably tied up in Jesus Christ!

    God wants us to walk under a New Law, a Law that is to be so natural that we take it for granted, just like gravity. He wants us to walk according to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Jesus Christ!

    When we close our eyes to seeing this new Law, to seeing the Holy Spirit as Lord of our life, we open our eyes to the world and all the associated temptations. If we are not in the Spirit, we walk in the flesh, and so we walk as Romans 7 Christians, always struggling with guilt and failure and problems. Most fleshly Christians end up turning away from God at some point, for the Christian life seems to conflict with the fleshly world and all they experience there.

    Let me illustrate how this works.

    This past weekend Lydia and I were in Boonville, MO. staying at the High Street Victorian Bed and Breakfast operated by Kriss and Gene Royer. Friday night Lydia and I walked three building down to the Hotel Frederick to sit out on the balcony and watch the sunset over the Missouri River (which was at flood stage).

    It was very busy and the people were real friendly. The beer and cocktails were flowing freely, as well as the conversation. People would ask us what we were doing there and Lydia would proudly say that I had decided to ride my bicycle the 76 miles from Clinton to Boonville (on the Katy Trail) on my birthday (the day before). They would offer their kudo’s and looks of unbelief, etc. There was a group of people from the “R” bar in Kansas City and one of the guys appeared to be a “Cowboy” complete with the slow Texan draw. He was real friendly and at some point the ‘question’ got asked. It is the question that many Pastors are afraid of, especially in a crowd of people who don’t seem to be church-goers. He asked, so what do you do? I simply said I’m a pastor of a church. There were several ‘oh’s’ and some furtive glances away, but this ‘Cowboy’ seemed real interested. He immediately perked up and said he goes to church and he was a ‘Methodist-Buddhist-Muslim’. Now my attention was peaked, and I mentioned my curiosity as to how that could work. We discussed several topics in a gentlemanly way. All in the open, with others listening.

    At one point he came over to our table and engaged me one-on-one. As much as could be, this was a private conversation. He shared that as a 13 year old, he had asked Jesus Christ into his life, and admitted that growing up he went to a Gospel-Preaching Methodist all the time. I got the sense that he genuinely believed in Christ, but somewhere along the line he had gotten into a bunch of ‘worldly’ beliefs. I also found out that he is an attorney, and much of his ‘Cowboy’ display is a cover for a very intelligent, shrewd lawyer. Soon after his confession I was led to say that I have found that whenever a Christian strays away from his belief in Christ (at which point he said ‘I’m still a believer’), it is usually the result of at least one of three things. It is either because of moral impurity, deep-seated bitterness, or a temporal value system. At this point he got rather defensive, and launched into another defensive move. He decried a God who could allow such evils as 9/11, Katrina, child abuse, etc. He said he could not believe in a God like that. It hit me that he had some deep-rooted bitterness toward God over sometning in his life.

    I said that many times we make a decision with our mind to believe in Christ, but God says in Prov 23:26: “Son, give me your heart!” God wants our heart, God wants our trust. There are many things that happen in our lives that we can not understand. There are many experiences that will try to destroy our trust in God. That is why God wants our heart. Regardless of what we experience, regardless of what we think, we are to trust in God and His Word. Otherwise, we give our heart to the things of this world, the philosophis of this world, the hurts and disappointments of this world. Before long, our heart is far away from God, from Jesus, from a faith that has real application in this world.

    We conversed over an hour that evening, and while I could see a searching in his eyes, his heart is far from the Jehovah of the Bible. He has gone after a god of his own making, one who embraces Buddhists, Muslims, and all the other deluded people of the world. All becasue he is bitter at the True God for something He did or failed to do. To Mark, there is a Jesus, but He has no reality in this present world.  And so, in all practical aspects, Jesus is dead to Mark.

    And so it is with many Christians, even good Baptist(ha) ones, who make a decision to follow Jesus, but because their focus is not on the Law of the Spirit of Life, they do not see how Jesus relates to their everyday lives, and soon Jesus is an ornament, or a figurehead of something you do on Sunday, if they go at all. They too are focused on the flesh, focused on the world, and Jesus is far from their heart.

    Let’s see what effect this New Law is supposed to have upon Christians. God wants the Truth of Jesus Christ to be superior to our experiences. We are to walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT. When Christians fail to see the Power of Christ for their everyday lives it is because they are letting their fleshy experieces rule their lives.

    Kriss and Gene Royer, InnKeepers

    The Innkeepers of the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at are a marvelous Christian couple. We had a long conversation with Kriss about one of their children, Ashley Ann. They adopted Ashley Ann when she was nine years old. She had been in the foster care system since she was five, and in four short years had already had over twenty foster homes and over twenty different schools. I will let Ashley tell you why (from an essay she wrote for a Scholarship to Southwest Baptist University):

    “My life as a small child was filled with life experiences no one should have to go through, especially a little child. I was deliberately and repeatedly abused and abandoned. At age two, my father shoved my face into a brick wall from which I still have scars. My mother was a prostitute, drug user and dealer. I have seen everything imaginable. I have been sexually abused, deliberately burned, stripped naked and beaten, had needles stuck into me like apin cushion just for the kicks of the drug addicted friends of my mother. They would tell me there were ‘doctors’. At age three I was often left alone for days to look after my brother (who was 11 months older than me and had cerebral palsy) and my newborn sister. I had to learn to be resourceful to find food for us all, and ‘played mommy’ becasue no on else was there to take care of us. While I was still three, the Social Worker took me away from my mom permanently and placed me with my grandmother. This was no better because she allowed my mom to stay at her home against the rules of the social worker. My grandmother continued the abuse, and even went further, forcing me to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. When I refused, she would beat me and even burn me. At age five I was permanently placed in the foster care system. By the age of nine I had gone from foster cfamily to foster family for an average stay of three or four months. I attended twenty seven different schools. No one wanted me, and although I had learned to be flexible with so much change in my life, I was an insecure, untrusting, angry and scared little kid. I quickly learned that if I rejected others before they had a chance to reject me, it wouldn’t be so painful.”

    If the story stopped here, she would have grown up to be another abusive woman, angry at the world, angry at her children. The cycle would have continued, and everyone would have understood.

    Ashley wrote:

    “I think success in overcoming childhood trauma and abuse in a person’s life is much more difficult than attaining worldly success. I have learned that bad things can happen to a person becasue of other people’s choices. I too make choices and it was up to me whether I would carry those painful memories and emotional scars the rest of my life. I could chose to let them weigh me down and keep me stuck in a life filled with anger, pain, self pity and bitterness. Or I could use them to become a better person.”

    What made this transformation possible? How could someone so abused and hated and discarded even begin to hope there was something more to this life?

    Ashley made a startling discovery. She discovered a different foster family. “They really did want me even though they were told I was mean, angry, aggressive, violent, used bad language and tried to hurt others. They loved me no matter what I did, and believe me I tested them plenty to be sure they weren’t going to throw me away like everyone else in my life did!”

    Ashley discovered love for the first time in her life. But then she discovered the reason for that love.

    “One of the things that was different with my new family…was their faith. My new mom and big brothers worked at a family camp and I got to go with them every day. I loved this camp and I got to experience being a kid, and playing and swimming and all the things a kid should experience. And I loved singing the new songs I learned every day. It did not take long before I made this faith my own. I discovered a faith that would carry me through all the trauma of my childhood, and bring complete healing and a wholeness I never thought possible.” Ahsley reveals the power of Jesus Christ when she states: “Through my faith in the Lord I have learned how to forgive those who hurt me and how to release each of those pains and not carry them.”

    She admits it has not been easy, and yet through it all, time and time again, she has seen that “I have a power inside me bigger than myself, and that with God, all things are possible!”

    This is the choice each Christian must make. Your background does not matter. What matters is are you going to believe in the power of Jesus Christ for your everyday life? Are you going to walk according to the NEW LAW, the “Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus?”

    Only as Christian’s walk in this new law are we able to enjoy the overcoming, abundant life of Jesus Christ.

    Or, we can let our failures, the abuses, hurts, pains and evils get us to where we are bitter, disillusioned, defeated. Jesus Christ is little more than a teacher, an ideal, who has little impact on this difficult life we lead.

    It’s up to you whether you will carry your failures and bad choices with you the rest of your life. You can choose to let them weigh you down and keep you stuck in a life filled with fleshly effort, fleshly choices, and all the anger bitterness and pain they bring.

    You have a choice of who you want to become.

    You can be a fleshly Christian, struggling the best you can to be like Jesus, always vacillating between defeat and victory, constantly being drawn away by your fleshly focus.

    Or you can be desperate enough to simply say,”Holy Spirit, I want the life you have for me. I want you to live Jesus through me.” You can stop struggling and start resting. When you realize you need His power, and stop using your own, is when you will see the reality of Jesus Christ.


    • We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars-Oscar WildeRefining Fire of Marriage
    • They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake…Alexander Pope
    • Because marriage, more than any other relationship, reflects God’s involvement with us and bears more potential to draw our hearts to heaven, it can more readily give us a taste of hell (Dan Allender & Tremper Longman III)

    We all associate the image of fire with hell. And many marriages in American have gone through this fire of Hell. Whether the marriage ends or the couple stays together, marriage is seen by some as hell on earth.

    The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with fire.

    Peter knew refining fireHe denied Jesus while warming his hands over fire. Jesus questioned his love while fish were roasting over fire. In both cases he associated fire with a test. One he failed another he passed. I think that is why he wrote these verses in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT):

    1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

    1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT) So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

    Fire is certainly viewed as destructive and dangerous. Fires destroy forests, but fires also lead to renewal. Fire burns away the dross surrounding certain metals and reveals the pure gold or silver. The fires of life can destroy our marriage, or, if survived, purify our marriage. The fires of our marriage can draw our hearts to heaven or leave us with the taste of hell.

    In the Movie Fireproof

    FireProof - the Love DareCaptain Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is a firefighter in Albany, Georgia. His seven-year marriage to Catherine is falling apart. Neither one understands the pressures the other faces, and after a heated argument in which Caleb screams in Catherine’s face, she declares she wants out of the marriage, and takes off her wedding ring.

    While Caleb claims to his friends and co-workers that Catherine is over-sensitive and disrespectful, Catherine simultaneously claims to her peers that Caleb is insensitive to her needs and doesn’t listen to her. Further catalyzing Catherine’s motivation for divorce is Caleb’s addiction to Internet pornography and a large sum of money ($24,000, to be exact) he has saved up for a fishing boat he intends to buy, ignoring the fact that Catherine’s disabled mother is in need of hospital equipment that she cannot afford, and which insurance refuses to cover. Caleb tells his father John about the impending divorce, and John challenges Caleb to commit to a 40-day test called, “The Love Dare.” Caleb reluctantly agrees to do the test, but more for the sake of his father than his marriage. Catherine initially sees through Caleb’s half-hearted attempts to win back her heart, which deepens Caleb’s frustration. But with his father’s encouragement, Caleb continues with The Love Dare, and eventually makes a life-changing commitment to God, unbeknownst to Catherine.

    The movie has some various twists but the end result is Caleb and Catherine realize they need each other, and at the end they renew their vows in an outdoor ceremony, this time as a covenant with God. Their marriage becomes FIREPROOF.

    Marriage is a Covenant

    Marriage a Covenant to GodDid you see your marriage vows as a marriage Covenant? Did both you and your spouse get married knowing you were making a covenant before God! You did, whether you realized it or not.

    Definition: a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing; compact

    We know of Covenants from the Bible. God put a rainbow in the sky as a covenant that He would never destroy the world by rain. He made a Covenant with Abraham, He made a Covenant with David, He made a Covenant with all who by faith believe in Jesus Christ. That Covenant was sealed by the blood and body of Jesus.

    When we get married, we enter into a covenant before God. In a Covenant, you make a binding agreement to stay with this woman or man until they die. In that Covenant we also promise to do so and so.

    Most people believe “Well, my husband broke his promise to love me, or take care of me or so and so, so it’s OK for me to break my promise to him.” Or, well my wife is no longer the person I married, so my vow does not apply.

    We Draw a Line in our Marriage

    We Draw a Line in our Marriage“I’ll keep my end of the covenant as long as you don’t cross over this line.” I’ll keep my word as long as you don’t … … … But as soon as you do, that’s it, I’m out of here!

    That would be OK if marriage was merely a contract between two humans. But it isn’t. Marriage is a Covenant before God. Whether you believe in God or not, marriage was designed by God and no marriage is undertaken without His knowledge. God is in every marriage, whether you are a Christian or not. In fact, God often uses marriage to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

    Your marriage vows are made to God as well as your spouse. Regardless of what specific sins you commit, you are still married before God. You have entered into a Covenant with Him, and He wants you to keep to your WORD. It is binding, there are no exception causes, right person or wrong person, you are held to your word by God. And God will use this spouse that you married to work His will in your life.

    So this morning, I want you to consider not taking the Love Dare, but the God Dare.

    I dare you to bring God into your marriage, and to hold Him accountable for your love for your husband or your wife. I challenge you to trust God to use whatever sin besets your marriage, your relationship, your love to work His will in your life and make you like Jesus Christ. Regardless of where you are in your marriage, each day you get up and dare God to show you how he is using your spouse to make you like Jesus.

    The God Dare is to Learn to Love and Forgive your spouse the way God does, and to realize that He will use your spouse to make you like His Son!

    No partner left behind – unless you are my spouse

    Dont Leave Your Spouse BehindCaptain Holt was a firefighter. He lived by the fireman’s creed “Never leave your partner behind

    The Army Ranger Creed “Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

    No man left behind, No partner left behind. These are your buddies who serve by your side, who watch your back. If they should suffer harm, you don’t run to save yourself, even t the risk of your own life you rescue them.

    We make a vow, a covenant to marry this man or this woman, but as soon as they cross over the line, or fail to live up to what I expect a marriage should be, we cut the line and run?

    • We are expected to save our bunk-mate but not our bed-mate?
    • We are expected to do our job rather than keep our Vow to Almighty God!

    We all stumble in many ways

    James 3:2 (NIV) We all stumble in many ways.

    We All Stumble in Many Ways

    Joe works hard for his family. His job requires long hours, with a long commute to boot. He leaves early gets home late. Joe complains that his wife Cheryl is always on the computer, chatting with friends. He gets home and she is on the computer. She seems to chat more with her friends than with him. Cheryl complains about how he is never home, and when he does he just flops down in front of the TV. She complains about his big expenditures and how he has run up the credit cards. He never has time for the kids.

    marriage lose respectThe reality is that Joe and Cheryl have become adversaries. They still loved each other, but in reality they resented their spouses and resented their marriage. They are like Caleb and Catherine Holt, resenting each other and looking for a way out.

    If we are honest, we have all experienced times when we resented our spouse. We may have even asked that question – did I marry the right one? Did I miss God’s perfect will? Or we meet someone else who seems to be our “soul-mate” and thank we are missing out on life. Marriage is the proverbial “ball and chain” and we are living as a condemned man or woman. Such questions can lead to contempt for our spouse, contempt for our life, contempt for our marriage.

    If marriage is to accomplish what God intends, and that is to make us Holy, to empower us to be Victorious in Christ, then there are some fundamental decisions we must adhere to, and they center upon what God delights in! We must take the God Dare with our marriage. We must trust Him with our spouse.

    We must commit to seeing our marriage as God sees it – the way to bring holiness to two stumbling sinners.

    I have talked with so many men, so many wives who were totally frustrated with the behavior of their spouse. They won’t stop doing this, they won’t stop doing that. They treat me so and so. I always ask, have you told your wife or your husband how you feel. They will usually say, they don’t want to listen to me, or they will say yes, but it doesn’t do any good. They might change, but pretty soon they are right back doing so and so again.

    I simply tell them to bring God into the situation. Simply tell your husband or wife that you are not expecting them to change, in fact you don’t care if they change or not. You have given them to God and are trusting Him to work in their life to make such and such like Jesus. That may scare them, or make them laugh, but that is not enough, you need to tell your spouse that you are asking God to use them to make you like Jesus.

    So honey, if you mistreat me, God will use that to make us both like Him. He will teach me to forgive and to love those that persecute or hurt me, and God will open your heart to see how your actions or words are hurting Him. God will use our marriage to produce the character of Christ in our lives. He will use our marriage to prepare us both to live with Him in heaven.

    Marriage makes Stumbling Sinners into Holy Saints

    How does God use Marriage to Refine stumbling sinners and Make us Like Christ?

    There are certain qualities that are ever present when we are dating. These qualities are often what single out that guy or gal from the rest of the herd.

    Yet these very same qualities are the ones that seem to be tested the most in our marriage, and yet will bring that sweetness of the fruit of Jesus Christ in our lives.

    Those Qualities are Respect, Selflessness, and Acceptance. When you are dating, thinking they are the one, you notice how they respect you, think you are something. They listen to you, your thoughts and opinions are important. There is selflessness about them. They sacrifice what they want to do what you want. They seem to put you first. They accept you the way you are. They love that thing that you are so embarrassed about. They seem so close and loving; they accept me and love me just as I really am.

    Something about marriage will test these qualities. Yet these qualities are what we need to be like Christ.

    Marriage and Respect

    Marriage and RespectRespect for others, respect for Life is foundational component of society. Without respect for life murder is commonplace, without respect for authority society breaks down into anarchy. Without respect for others it becomes every man for himself.

    Jesus was the picture of respect. From the lame, blind, poor, tax collectors, prostitutes, people of all walks of life were treated with respect by Jesus. His respect for His Father was greater than anything, and that led Him to throw the money changers out of the Temple. That led Him to call Hypocrites those who burdened people with so many restrictions that they could not come to God.

    We find it easier to respect an image, an ideal rather than actual real, flawed people.

    We fall in love with this striking woman or gorgeous hunk of a man. We have this ideal in our mind – they will love me, they will treasure me, they will protect me, they will provide for me. But the closer we get the more flaws we notice. Instead of an airbrushed beauty we discover wrinkles, moles, flaws. Instead of that dashing white knight we find a guy who scratches and belches and had bad breath at times.

    Our ideal mate is in reality made of flesh and blood. We discover they can be selfish, tired, non-communicative, boring. And as the ideal gives way to the reality, often times our respect and admiration turns to resentment, and even contempt.

    When our respect slips into contempt, it’s because I am weak, not because my wife is failing. If I was really mature, I would have the same compassion for her weaknesses as Christ does. Respect is a spiritual discipline, an obligation I owe my wife.

    • Contempt is conceived with expectations
    • Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.
    • You chose what you obsess over – expectations or thanksgivings.

    PERSONAL TESTIMONY

    In the mid-eighties Lydia and I went through a rather difficult time in our marriage. We had six children ranging from 2 to 10, selfishly I had bought a big house that we really couldn’t afford, money was extremely tight, the economy sucked so business was bad, my dad was under a great deal of stress. My wife was under a great deal of stress. I was under a lot of stress.

    Instead of focusing on God and what he wanted me to do, I focused on unfulfilled expectations. My dad wasn’t paying me enough, Lydia wasn’t paying me enough attention, she wasn’t taking care of the household duties, and she was worn out, living in ratty sweats. I began to resent my life ad even resent my family and my wife.

    overboard4Then I remember watching the movie “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. He was a single dad with four hellishly awful boys and he finds Goldie Hawn washed ashore with amnesia. He convinces her she is Annie, his wife and he brings her home. At first it is too much for her, but she gets the house under control, the kids under control, Kurt Russell under control. Wow, she becomes super Mom and Super Wife. I wondered why Lydia couldn’t do that. Stupid expectations, stupid unrealistic expectations.

    Just when my marriage was about to fall apart because I did not respect and value my wife and all she was doing for me, God brought me to the place where my wife and my children were all I had. I saw my wife in an entirely new light-her love and respect for me, even though I had failed and disrespected her. She stuck by me when my brothers kicked me out of a company I had regarded as my own, as my life, as my reason for living. God showed me that without my wife and my children, I was nothing. She stuck by me the next few years as we struggled financially, and then started a paving business. She put food on the table for six growing children when we barely had enough to feed ourselves.

    I’m not saying my wife is a perfect saint, but her decision to stay with me even though I was a stumbling and resentful sinner who did not show her the respect that God desired, brought about a change and work in my life that resulted in God showing His ability to transform stumbling sinners into strong saints.

    • Husbands – You Are Married To A Fallen Woman in A Broken World.
    • Wives – You Are Married To A Sinful Man in A Sinful World.

    Get An Eye Check Up

    Get an Eye CheckupJesus lays out an amazingly simple solution – check your eyesight for splinters and specks before you start complaining about the planks in your wife’s eye.

    If you say “But my wife is the one who has the plank”, you are exactly the one Jesus is talking to. Jesus wants us to have humble spirits, humble hearts. We must cast off contempt and resentment and learn the spiritual discipline of respect.

    Look at the people Jesus loved and offered respect-publicans, tax collectors, adulterous women, prostitutes, financial cheats, traitors, betrayers.

    He washed their feet, he spent time with them, and he ate with them. Where was His contempt? There was none. He gave them His respect, He gave them His hand. We need to extend our hand of respect to our wives, our husbands, regardless of their sins.

    Marriage and Selflessness

    Once we have obtained that goal of marriage, most men will move on to what they are all about – Ambition and Accomplishment. Wives nowadays are about the same thing, perhaps on a smaller scale.

    Marriages become preoccupied with accomplishments. We brag about our job, our money, our car, our home, our friends, our deer, our golf game. These accomplishments become a substitute for the selflessness and humility that are the foundation of intimate relationship.

    The man is off making his way in the world, trying to provide for his family, while the wife is either working as well and at the same time becoming a taxi-driver and errand girl for her children. Instead of the intimacy that marriage is designed for, it becomes a series of accomplishments and errands.

    Marriage and SelflessnessBill McCartney became famous overnight in Christian circles in the early nineties. A successful college football coach, he started Promise Keepers, which swept the nation. Yet his wife was lonely and hurting, which led to severe depression, during which she lost 80 pounds. Her busy husband didn’t even notice. She said she felt like she was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Bill admitted his hard-driving approach to the ministry was distracting him from being a promise keeper to his wife and family.

    Once he realized what was happening, he took the drastic step of retiring from coaching and stepped away from Promise Keepers to devote his life to his marriage. The McCartney’s are together and thriving in their marriage relationship today because of his decision.

    Too often spouses struggle because one is making the other look smaller, while promoting them self. In marriage, being Godly is being selfless. I am no longer free to pursue whatever I want. I am no longer single; I am part of a team.

    Marriage is about reining in your ambitions to what God wants. And God wants your marriage to be alive and thrive. But we must experience the cross daily. Jesus Christ set aside His ambitions and powers to become a selfless servant. He went all the way to the Cross, dying for you and me. God says we must be willing to die for the benefit of our marriage, our spouse. Paul said he died daily. Husbands, wives need to discover that selflessness that attracted them in the first place. That selflessness is a daily bowing before the Cross and dying to what each other wants and living to what God wants.

    If I was the type of husband who expected my wife to cook for me, have sex with me whenever I wanted, keep a perfect and quiet home for my enjoyment. I would be the type of Pastor who would “browbeat you to fall in line regardless of your particular gifts and talents.”

    Likewise if a wife abandons her family to ambitiously serve God, she will likely display the same lack of compassion and empathy for others as she does for her own family.

    Our ministry and service to and for God is based on selflessness, and that is an integral part of marriage. God wants us to have the mind and heart attitude of Jesus Christ:

    Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

    Marriage is about selflessness, about putting the needs of your spouse first. Those ambitions and accomplishments mean nothing if you lose your wife or your husband.

    PRAYERS – If you fail to practice selflessness in your marriage, it can hinder your prayers.

    1 Peter 3:7 (Phillips NT) “similarly, you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with, honoring them as physically weaker yet equally heirs with you of the grace of eternal life. If you don’t do this, you will find it impossible to pray properly. (Hindered)

    Word is ekkoptō, to cut off. Without this quality men, you will keep getting dropped calls when you are praying. Your prayer life is inextricably tied in with your relationship with your wife. Why should God care about your prayer rquests when you don’t consider your wife’s needs?

    Marriage and ACCEPTANCE

    Marriage and AcceptanceWhen most of you that are dating, I imagine you had your spats. There may have been that fight followed by a long phone call and hopefully then that makeup kiss. The acceptance was there, the reconciliation was quick, complete, without damage to the intimacy of your relationship. In fact, often the misunderstanding brought a renewed and deeper intimacy.

    Marriage is acceptance to the extreme. We are constantly confronted with things that we don’t like about our spouse. We either accept them and move on, or we argue, get hurt, stop talking, and stop having relations.

    Marriage forces us into the intense act of reconciliation and acceptance. It’s easy to get along with people if you never get close to them.

    Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

    If there is no acceptance in the marriage, things get really icy!

    Marriage dissatisfaction reveals unrepented sin. Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erodes the relationship.

    We all enter marriage with sinful attitudes. When these attitudes surface, the temptation will be to hide them so they are not so well known, or flaunt them out of ignorance or pride.

    Dating is like a dance where you try to put your best feet forward, look your best, act your best. But spouses need to admit their sin and not run or hide from it, but use the revelation of your sin as a means to grow in the foundational Christian virtue of humility, leading to confession and renouncement and acceptance.

    Then grow further by adopting the positive quality that corresponds to the sin you are renouncing.

    • If you’ve used women in the past, practice serving your wife.
    • If you’ve been quick to ridicule your husband, practice giving him encouragement and praise.

    View marriage as an entryway into sanctification-as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you an opportunity to address them before the Lord.

    Here is what happens in a selfish marriage. Our partner does something she or he know ticks us off. It could be anything, but let’s give an example like, he goes out with the guys or hunting or something when you had something else planned.

    Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) “In your anger do not sin… and do not give the devil a foothold.

    When we get angry or upset or feel neglected, we usually have a fall-back sin that we excuse and resort to. Kind of like, “we’ll I’ll get you back”. Anger and or feelings of contempt give room for the devil to maneuver in our lives. That old temptation rises, but this time we are powerless to resist. Or we resort to a learned bad behavior.

    When the marriage is actually designed by God to be a mirror so we can we can our sin and weaknesses, confess and clean up, sometimes we throw the mirror down and break it.

    We are accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6) Husbands and wives must realize that each has ugly sins that will surface from time to time. But they must be committed to accepting the ugliness and working through it to producing that peaceable fruit of righteousness.

    Marriage is a Spiritual Discipline. And disciple is painful:

    Marriage is Spiritual DisciplineHebrews 12:11 (ESV) for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    Marriage is Seasoning for heaven

    Mark 9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.”

    Stress-free, comfortable marriages are an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned”, immature Christian.

    God has ordained that our refining process takes place as we go through difficulties, not around them.

    We must go through the Red Sea, into the fiery furnace, through the River Jordan, to the Cross. God gives victory through our problems. Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)

    Like climbing a difficult mountain, we need to step back and say “this is tough, how do I keep loving this person in the face of this challenge?”

    Would I rather live a life of ease and comfort and remain immature in Christ, or am I willing to be seasoned with suffering if by doing so I am conformed to the image of Christ?

    If it was so easy to love someone till death do you part, why would we need to promise to love each other “till death do us part?” It is precisely because our society knows such a promise will be sorely tried and tested.

    WE DON’T PROMISE TO EAT OR TO BUY CLOTHES.

    Every marriage comes to a time when the “RUB” goes the wrong way. It is for those times such promises are made.

    The Seasoning “Rub” of Marriage is for Eternal Glory

    Gods Seasoning Rub of MarriagePaul wrote in 2 Cor 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

    Any Sports Team-football, baseball, soccer, can go undefeated if they play weak teams. We love teams that have given it their all and have championed against the powerhouse team. We love an underdog that has vanquished a mightier foe. There is something about a struggle that brings out the best in our teams. We know when they’ve given it their all.

    Young couples need to hear that: “A good marriage, a lasting marriage, an overcoming marriage is not something you find; it is something you work for! There will be struggles, there will be trials and tribulations, sometimes from without and sometimes within. You must learn to crucify your selfishness. There must be times of confrontation, and there must be times of confession. Eventually through the refining fire of this relationship will emerge a relationship of beauty, trust and mutual support.”

    Working through problems is taxing. It is much easier to go shopping or dancing with the gals or go out with the guys or a sports game than to deal with intimacy issues or rejection issues or a relationship that is cold and going nowhere. It’s easier to look elsewhere for emotional satisfaction.

    When you see marriage in the light of God’s design, then you realize there are spiritual benefits to working on this relationship, and therefore there are eternal benefits.

    Otto Piper: “If marriage…is a disillusioning experience for many people, the reason is to be found in their passivity of their faith. People dislike that the blessings of God may only be found and enjoyed when they are persistently sought (matt 7:7; Luke 11:9) Marriage therefore is both a gift and a task to be accomplished.”

    Don’t run from the struggles of marriage. Embrace them. Grow in them. Draw nearer to God because of them. Through the struggles of marriage you will reflect more of the spirit of Jesus. And thank God He has placed you in a marriage where your spirit can be perfected.

    JohnWesleyJohn Wesley married a widow at the age of 48:

    A greater source of trouble was his marriage to Mrs. Vazeille, February, 1751. Having come to the conclusion that “in my present circumstances I might be more useful in a married state,” he speedily consummated his design. Unfortunately, he could scarcely have hit upon a more unsuitable woman. Of a bitter and angry spirit — indeed, almost if not quite insane — she became the torment of his life. A number of times she left him, and again returned. She defamed him in private, and seized his letters and put them in the hands of those she knew were his enemies, interpolating so as to make them bear a bad construction. In one or two instances she published them. At times she was outrageously violent toward him, and there was always little else in their intercourse than constant connubial storms.

    Wesley was almost worn away. February, 1756, he writes: “Your last letter was seasonable indeed. The being continually watched over for evil ; the having every word I spoke, every action I did —small and great — watched with no friendly eye; the hearing a thousand little tart, unkind reflections in return for the kindest words I could devise, ‘Like drops of eating water on the marble, At length have worn my sinking spirits down.’

    Yet I could not say ‘ Take thy plague away from me,’ but only ‘ let me be purified, not consumed.’ “Wesley patiently endeavored to win her to a better mind, but all was in vain. His domestic wretchedness was protracted through thirty years, until she died October 8, 1781.

    His love letters to her make tender reading. “My dear love, I know not how to stay a day at any place without writing a few lines,” he wrote to Molly on April 2, 1751. “I wonder at myself. How is it that absence does not lessen but increase my affection? I feel you every day nearer to my heart. O that God may continue his unspeakable gift! That we may both daily increase in faith, in zeal, in meekness, and in tender love to each other!”

    But after only three months into their marriage, Wesley seems to have been troubled by the increasingly jealous disposition of his wife. “My wife, upon all supposition that I did not love her, and that I trusted others more than her, had often fretted herself almost to death,” he wrote. Wesley talked with her about it and “by the blessing of God the cloud vanished away, and we were united as at the beginning.”

    Sometimes Mrs. Wesley drove a hundred miles to see who was with her husband in his carriage. John Hampson, one of Wesley’s preachers, witnessed her in one of her fits of fury, and said, “More than once she laid violent hands upon him, and tore those venerable locks which had suffered sufficiently from the ravages of time.” She often left him, but returned again in answer to his entreaties. In 1771 he writes: “For what cause I know not, my wife set out for Newcastle, purposing ‘never to return.’ Non eam reliqui ; non dimisi; non revocabo.” (I did not forsake her; I did not dismiss her; I shall not recall her.)

    Charles and Anne Lindberg

    linddeadCharles and Anne Lindberg had their 18 month old baby kidnapped. A ransom was paid, but the boy never returned. The boy was found 10 weeks later, dead, in the woods near their home. His body had been ravaged by wild animals. Reporters snuck into the morgue and took pictures of the badly decomposing body and put them on the front page.

    She started writing, something that her husband’s fame had prevented. She wrote: “One can perhaps say that sorrow also played its part in setting me free” She expounds, “What I’m saying is not the old Puritan truism that ‘suffering teaches.’ I do not believe that all suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable”

    A difficult marriage, in and of itself, may not cause us to grow, to become holy. We must respond with understanding, love, patience, and a pursuit of virtue within that difficult marriage.

    There is no room for victims in a difficult marriage. To become holy we must commit to virtue in the midst of difficulties. We can’t control how our spouse will act or how the world will act, but we can control how we will act and how we will respond. Seeking after holiness, virtue in the midst of hardship, abuse, neglect puts you in the driver seat. There are no victims in God’s marriage design.

    Virtue means strength of character. It is power to do right, make the right choice, power to overcome the weakness of sin, bad choices

    Anne Lindbergh wrote that “Undoubtedly the long road of suffering, insight, healing, or rebirth is illustrated in the Christian religion by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    There is not a marriage represented in this sanctuary that has not experienced sorrow, not experienced trials. There isn’t a shared bedroom in Cass County where tension doesn’t occasionally or even frequently lift its snarling head.

    Seasoning Brings Life

    Anne Lindbergh wrote Second Sowing:

    grain comes to life in second sowingFor whom the milk ungiven in the breast
    When the child is gone?
    For whom the love locked up in the heart
    That is left alone?
    That golden yield
    Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
    Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
    Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
    Break down the bolted door;
    Rip open, spread and pour
    The grain upon the barren ground
    Wherever crack in clod is found.
    There is no harvest for the heart alone;
    The seed of love must be
    Eternally
    Resown

    As long as our pain and wisdom and lessons remain locked up in the heart or hoarded high in barns, they remain sterile and unfertile. Useless. To grow in the midst of difficulties, we must rip open the bags of grain and seeds and pour them out wherever we see fertile ground.

    My Marriage is Worse than Most

    olderadultsYou don’t understand what I’ve been going through!

    Accept this: We often can’t choose which trials we faceSome of us have physical maladies. Unfortunately we do not get to chose whether we get cancer, kidney stones, arthritis, eyesight loss, brain aneurism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes. We all must face the truth that our body will degenerate as we get older. You don’t get to pick which part goes out of whack.

    1223CharlesNita8We need to have the same attitude with our marriage. We each experience certain things with our spouses that are difficult to accept. One may struggle with alcohol, one with smoking, one with drugs, one with addiction to pain killers, one frail health, one anger, one physical abuse, one unhealthy sexual proclivities, one with Alzheimer or dementia, one with wandering eye, one with poor communication skills.

    Sometimes we “put up” with the problem because of the benefits. We’ve all seen movies or TV stories about politician’s wives who put up with certain failings because of the “benefits” of her life.

    But when there is not that benefit, when the struggle or hardship is so overwhelming that it obscures everything around it, such hardships become chains, a taskmaster, a tyrant, a brutal burden.

    Where do you draw the line?

    Look to God and forget the LineI will love my wife as long as she doesn’t do this, weighs this, stays this way. If she does this, gets this disease, looks like this, I’m out of here! What kind of Honorable person does that. Not one who shows respect, not one who is selfless, not one who is accepting. Not one who is willing to be seasoned by their Covenant before God!

    There is no line in God’s Marriage Book. He has no lines with us. If Christ lives in your heart, there is total acceptance. There is no longer any sin that you could commit that would put you over the line into hell. You are His.

    TotallyMarriedOur marriage is a picture of God’s Love and acceptance for us and His total satisfaction for what His Son Jesus Christ did. If we are like Christ, there is no line we can draw in the dirt. This man, this woman, God wants us to stay joined to the rest of our lives. We are both stumbling sinners, we have both been loved and accepted because of Christ. God is using our marriage to conform us to Jesus Christ. We must live by the God Dare, and trust God to use our spouse to season and perfect and discipline us, and to yield that peaceable fruit of righteousness.

    • TOTALLYMARRIED Christians Focus on the Eternal Benefits of the refining fires of marriage
    • TOTALLYMARRIED Couples Focus on Pleasing God

    You are either seasoned to death or seasoned to life!


    Importance church covenantA mere two months after the Los Angeles Dodgers inked a new, two–year, $45 million guaranteed deal with power hitter Manny Ramirez, the slugger got hit with a 50–game suspension for using a banned performance–enhancing substance. The reason, a “Behavior” clause written into his contract. The 50 game suspension will save the Dodgers 8 million dollars.Manny Rameriz

    Earlier this year Kellogg’s backed out of an endorsement deal with Michael Phelps because of a “Behavior Clause” they had written into the contract. You know them as “Morality Clauses”, but because of changing morals, they have become specific “behavior” clauses.

    There was once a time when an advertiser could get an agent to agree to the following clause: “If [Celebrity] has committed any act that offends the community or any segment thereof and/or public morals and decency, such behavior shall be considered a material breach of this Agreement incapable of cure, and if in [Advertiser’s] sole judgment such breach is likely to cause a diminution in the value of the [Advertiser’s] commercial association with [Celebrity], then [Advertiser] shall have the right, in addition to any other rights [Advertiser] may have as a result of such breach, to immediately terminate this Agreement on written notice to [Celebrity]. In such event, there shall be no further compensation payable to [Celebrity] and such termination shall not limit or effect any other rights [Advertiser] may have against [Celebrity] under this Agreement on account of such termination.”

    Phelps breaks Behavior ClauseHowever, society’s views of morality have changed, so contracts have gotten to be very specific as regards the “behavior” of the celebrities. With Michael Phelps, public drug use was clearly prohibited.

    These behavior clauses have even entered the world of Big Banks and Big Business. The latest banking crisis underscored the importance of not appearing greedy in the face of massive government bailouts at taxpayer expense. The government refused to give “Bailout Funds” unless certain behavior standards were met. Corporate executives lost their jobs and had their pay cut because of lavish extravaganza’s and exorbitant bonuses while Americans saw Billions of dollars in savings wiped out. Now the excessive compensation and perks of CEO’s is under scrutiny of enraged shareholders.CEO Behavior Clause

    In the sports world, in the corporate world, in the banking world, how we behave and act is very important, so important that people lose millions when they fail to live up to certain standards.

    AIG Bailout and BonusesEven in the church, our behavior is important.  George Barna has become well-known because of the extensive research and surveys he conducts. He has noticed some alarming trends in the church, particularly in regards to our “Biblical World view”. A Survey published in March of this year produced these results:

    For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.Biblical Worldview

    The same questions were asked of respondents in national surveys by Barna in 1995, 2000 and 2005. The results indicate that the percentage of adults with a biblical worldview, as defined above, has remained unchanged for more than a decade. The numbers show that 7% had such a worldview in 1995, compared to 10% in 2000, 11% in 2005, and 9% now. Even among born again adults, the statistics have remained flat: 18% in 1995, 22% in 2000, 21% in 2005, and 19% today.

    Varying numbers of Americans embrace the different aspects of biblical worldview thinking. The survey found that:

    • One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.
    • Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. That proportion includes the four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur.
    • Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. Even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.
    • Similarly, only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.
    • A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes that He was sinless.
    • Seven out of ten adults (70%) say that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules it today. That includes the 93% of born again adults who hold that conviction.

    troubling change in churchesGeorge Barna, who has directed this tracking research since the early Nineties, pointed out, “There are a several troubling patterns to take notice. First, although most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of the Bible, less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions. Second, the generational pattern suggests that parents are not focused on guiding their children to have a biblical worldview. One of the challenges for parents, though, is that you cannot give what you do not have, and most parents do not possess such a perspective on life. That raises a third challenge, which relates to the job that Christian churches, schools and parachurch ministries are doing in Christian education. Finally, even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.”Biblical_Worldview

    Now why would any born again, saved child of God be anything less than 100% when it comes to a Biblical Worldview? I would guarantee that even in our church there are some members who would not score very high on Barna’s poll.

    Why have Christians become so watered down when it comes to standards and behavior? Today you have more divorces in the church than in the world; you have believer’s living together; you have leaders of the church struggling with pornography and even getting divorced; you have homosexuality as an accepted behavior, even in many churches.

    Should the church be held to higher standards of behavior? Should a church have a “behavior” clause for their members? Or should we concentrate only on our beliefs?

    My Experience at Prairie Baptist Church.

    Prairie Baptist churchI mentioned last week that my parents marriage was probably saved because they got involved and became members of a Bible teaching and preaching church. It was American Baptist and it was the early 1960’s. But by the time I was in ninth grade (1967) we started to have interesting discussions in youth group. Drug use – is it really wrong? The Bible – is it always right? Hell – is it literal or figurative? Sex before marriage – it it OK. But didn’t really try to present the definitive answer from the Word of God.

    The one on Hell really was the last straw for my parents, plus the type of behavior our older youth we getting involved in. My parents became very concerned about what I was learning, but even more so for the type of behavior some of our youth were allowed to engage in. Standards were lacking, not even taught. The Bible was watered down and not taught as absolute.

    James warns us that “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (Js 1:26).

    In other words, if you profess to be a Christian, but you don’t live a changed life, you should take no comfort in your faith. In fact, the reality is that your faith (religion) should influence your behavior. If it does not, it is a sham, it is powerless. The reason the churches must demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives is evident in what is really happening in America.

    Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter

    Seve  Faith TribesIn this new book by George Barna, Mr Barna sees seven different faith groups that are influencing America. The two largest are of the Christian ‘tribe’. He distinguishes the tribes in this way: Casual Christians represent 66% of the adult population of the U.S. (The percentage of the adult population represented by the other half-dozen tribes included 16% who are Captive Christians, 2% Jews, 2% Mormons, 2% Pantheists, one-half of 1% Muslims, and 11% Skeptics.) Here are some of his answers to questions some have posed:

    Question: You describe the Casual Christian tribe as spiritually middle-of-the-road, perhaps even ambivalent about their faith. Why, then, are they so important to the nation’s future?

    Barna: Each of the seven tribes is important to our nation’s future because they include millions of American citizens. The Casual Christian tribe is especially significant because it represents a huge majority of the nation’s population – two out of every three adults. This particular tribe is comprised of significant proportions of minimally active born again Christians and moderately active but theologically nominal Christians. If a catalyst were added to this mix to deepen this tribe’s integration of faith and lifestyle, or even to simply create a more extensive sense of community and purpose within the tribe, unprecedented changes could occur.

    Question: What have you found to be the appeal of Casual Christianity, as opposed to what draws people to the Captive Christian or even the Mormon tribes – that is, other tribes that are much more fervent about their faith?

    Barna: Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.

    Causual Christian vs Captive ChristianBarna: The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.

    Why is it imperative that we reach out to casual Christians and impress upon them to become Captive Christians, (I CALL THEM COVENANT CHRISTIANS)?

    Here is the Real World the Church is facing:

    Sex Profanity Steal Lie Gossip Moral SinsAmerican society has become more intrigued by moral issues in recent years, as evidenced by the fact that 55% of adults discuss moral issues with others during a typical week. But a nationwide survey by The Barna Group indicates that Americans have also redefined what it means to do the right thing in their own lives.

    A 2008 survey by The Barna Group asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they had engaged in during the past week. The behaviors included looking at pornography, using profanity, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying. Of those surveyed:

    • Twenty-eight percent had used profanity.
    • Twenty percent had gambled.
    • Nineteen percent had viewed pornography.
    • Twelve percent had gossiped.
    • Twelve percent had gotten drunk.
    • Eleven percent had lied.
    • Nine percent had engaged in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married.
    • Eight percent had retaliated against someone.

    One of the most stunning outcomes from the Barna survey was the moral pattern among adults under 25. The younger generation was more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards. Their choices made even the Baby Boomers – never regarded as a paragon of traditional morality – look like moral pillars in comparison.

    For instance, two-thirds of the under-25 segment (64%) had used profanity in public, compared to just one out of five Boomers (19%). The younger group – known as Mosaics – was nine times more likely than were Boomers to have engaged in sex outside of marriage (38% vs. 4%), six times more likely to have lied (37% vs. 6%), almost three times more likely to have gotten drunk (25% vs. 9%) and to have gossiped (26% vs. 10%), and twice as likely as Boomers to have observed pornography (33% vs. 16%) and to have engaged in acts of retaliation (12% vs. 5%).

    According to George Barna, who directed the survey, the results reflect a significant shift in American life.

    “We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America,” said the researcher and author, who has been surveying national trends in faith and morality for more than a quarter-century. “Mosaics have had little exposure to traditional moral teaching and limited accountability for such behavior. The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them – the Baby Busters – pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents – the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.

    “The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges of right and wrong, basing their choices on feelings and circumstances. It is not likely that America will return to a more traditional moral code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choices.”

    • Head Belief is no good. Being a Casual Christian is NO GOOD! Only a Heart Belief that changes your heart and produces right behavior does good.
    • This is what Jesus taught was the foundation for building you life, building the church.

    Wise man and Foolish ManLook at Luke 6:45-49

    A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:45-49MATT_7_24C

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:21-27

    Morality Rooted in Heart BeliefsJesus says it doesn’t matter what you believe in your mind. Your belief will only produce change when it comes from a changed heart. But a changed heart will always bring forth a changed life. Belief’s only have power if they change the way you live. The reason there is so little difference between sinners and saints is because the great majority of believers that think they are born again are not!

    You can stand up here and confess your belief that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, that he died on the cross for your sins, that he was buried and rose again. You can even go forward and confess Jesus before men, be baptized, but if your heart isn’t changed, and that change starts to show in the way you live and obey the WORD of GOD, you are still in your sins, you are still on your way to Hell.

    John says “We know that we have come to know him IF we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3).

    In Short, How We Live Matters. How We As A Church Lives Matters.

    By  the way, we do have a behavior clause in our Church Constitution.. It is called our “Church Covenant”

    WHAT IS A ‘CHURCH COVENANT’?

    What is Church CovenantBrethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Galatians 3:15

    Purpose of CovenantThe Purpose of a Church Covenant is Five-Fold

    1. A CHURCH COVENANT IS A PROMISE – a promise made to God, to a local church, and to one’s self.
    2. A CHURCH COVENANT IS A SUMMARY OF HOW WE AGREE TO LIVE.  While our statement of faith is a good summary of what we believe, our church covenant is a summary of how we agree to live – more importantly, it is a summary of how God would have us live.  It does not include every explicit command regarding obedience, but it does give a general summary of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.
    3. A CHURCH COVENANT IS A SIGN OF COMMITMENT – a commitment to God, to His church, and to personal holiness.
    4. A CHURCH COVENANT IS AN ETHICAL STATEMENT.  Historian Charles W. DeWeese writes, “A church covenant is a series of written pledges based on the Bible which church members voluntarily make to God and to one another regarding their basic moral and spiritual commitments and the practice of their faith” (Baptist Church Covenants, p. viii).   One theologian calls church covenants the “ethical counterpart to confessions of faith.”  A church covenant can be an important part of applying a Christian worldview to every aspect of our lives.  Inherent in the purpose of a church covenant is the understanding that church membership involves being held accountable to live in a manner consistent with a common understanding of Scripture.
    5. A CHURCH COVENANT IS A BIBLICAL STANDARD. A church covenant is helpful in a church that is practicing Biblical church discipline.  As members of a church, we exhort one another to live holy lives, and we challenge brothers and sisters persisting in sin.

    WHERE DO COVENANTS COME FROM?

    Now that we know what church covenants are, where do they come from?  Well, not from the Bible – not, at least, in the sense of being able to turn to the Book of Covenants chapter 3.  But we do see examples of covenants both in the Old and the New Testaments – covenants between God and man, and between man and man.  Moses gives a covenant from God to the people of Israel.  Ezra and Nehemiah do so as well.   And in the NT we find that “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, which is the new covenant in Christ’s blood”.   Primarily, church covenants come from the understanding that churches are to be composed of people who are truly born again.  This is what we call regenerate church membership.

    In the 16th century, men and women of deep conviction broke away from the Roman Catholic Church to form congregations who understood the importance of the doctrine known as justification by faith alone in Christ alone.  No longer did baptism or membership bring supposed new life.  Joining and being part of a church was no longer a civic duty or just part of growing up.  It was becoming what it was always intended to be – a response of faith to the truth of the gospel.  And in this response of faith we gain the most amazing callings: children of the living God, ambassadors of Christ, a royal priesthood; we become the bearers of God’s name in the world.  Listen to God’s word on this issue.  “I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them.  Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (Ezek 36:23).  We are called to be living witnesses of God’s holiness!

    How Important is Keeping Our Church Covenant?

    church-covenantA friend of mine was called to pastor a Baptist church in a small town south of Oklahoma City in 1989. Not long after he was there an acquaintance in the community pulled him aside at a restaurant and asked him if he knew. He said “knew what”. His acquaintance said “Did you know the chairman of the deacons is a homosexual?” He confessed his surprise and then went to the deacon, who confirmed what evidently everyone in town knew. When he then brought it before the deacons, they said they knew, but didn’t see the problem.  He then approached the entire church, and they were OK with it. So, he resigned.

    In the last church I pastored, we had developed a nice worship team lead by a couple of talented gals. One day I went and visited with a family that had been there the Sunday before. They enjoyed the church, but they wanted to know why one of these gals was leading the music. The reason was that he confessed going into the local bar (Wally’s) and this gal was a bartender there. He just thought it strange that she could be a bartender and lead church music on Sunday.

    I told him that I would check into it. Sure enough, it was the truth. I talked with her and pointed out our church covenant, and said that she would have to chose what she wanted to do, serve liquor or serve on the praise team. She said she considered the bar her mission field, really enjoyed what she was doing, and so she resigned from leading music. Of course her friends resigned as well. They eventually left the church. Did it cause some pain? Yes. Was it necessary? Yes. O, by the way, this same gal had wanted to meet with me to see if I thot it was ok to divorce her husband, simply because he didn’t communicate with her very well.

    She no longer works at the bar, and we are still friends, and she is still married. By the way, Dennis Queen a few years later was able to lead that deacon to the Lord. He just this year preached his funeral.

    All across the country church denominational leaders are being attacked by people pushing to allow homosexual pastors. Several denominations have split because they decided to allow such as pastors.

    Churches must make a choice as to how they will believe and act towards each other and the world. Any church can act like a church, can talk like a church, but in their heart, there is no Power of God to live godly lives in the dark, in the areas where people aren’t looking.

    Jesus cares that we live Holy Lives, that we walk in the Power of the HOLY Spirit.

    Christianity is about living a different kind of life, not just talking about different kinds of concepts.

    The church is called to live and act differently.  In agreeing to a church covenant, one is agreeing to be held accountable by a body of believers.  Likewise, one is agreeing to hold a body of believers accountable.  To hold accountable simply means “to take responsibility for.”

    A CHURCH COVENANT, VOID OF THIS RESPONSIBILITY, IS A WORTHLESS DOCUMENT.

    Scripture highlights our need for accountability.

    • Read Matt 18:15-17 – We do not have a license to sin.  More than that, if we do keep on sinning, we risk proving that we have not been given new life from God.  Matthew 18 gives us instruction about what to do with a persistently unrepentant sinner.
    • Read 1Cor 5 – If the Corinthian congregation allowed this man to remain a member of the church, he (and others) may get the wrong impression that his sexual immorality is consistent with what it means to be a Christian.  Weaker members of the body will be confused and hurt as well.  And the church will risk losing her reputation in the local community.

    There will always be sin in the church because we all sin.  What we are talking about is how to deal with people whose lives are characterized by sin, people who agree with their sin against God and His Word, and who try to rationalize their sin instead of pleading before God for forgiveness.  The purpose of such accountability is not to judge people worthy of hell-fire – that’s never been the church’s role.  It’s to protect them from deceiving themselves about their own spiritual state, to protect the corporate witness of the church from being smeared by the non-Christian behavior of professing believers, and to restore the disobedient person to right relationship with God and warm fellowship with the church.

    What then should we expect out of a church covenant?  Expect it to be Biblical – based 100% upon Scripture.  Expect it to be focused on the whole body of believers – it should be corporate not private.  And expect it to be clear and easy to understand by all who desire to join this fellowship.

    The church covenant is equal parts promise, summary of expectations, ethical statement, and biblical standard. We summarize how we promise to live together in the covenant. It forms the ethics, or the moral principles, of our worldview and holds out a biblical standard by which we live.Joshua renews covenant

    Why is this important? Just as Joshua led his people to affirm their following God’s Word, so I believe church’s should regularly affirm their allegiance to their Church Covenant. I believe a church should periodically have a Covenant Service. I believe it should be read at every communion service. The Covenant should be the binding and empowering force of every church.

    Whenever people want to join our church, they should be willing to affirm our Covenant.

    By featuring the covenant in our life together, we strive to protect ourselves from individual and corporate sin. Of equal importance, we spur one another on to live in light of a greater covenant, one initiated by love, sealed by sacrifice, and kept for eternity by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    There are just two final points to make about our church covenant.

    • First, our church covenant should be a challenge.
    • Second our church covenant should be a comfort.

    1. Our church covenant is a challenge simply because there are times when living a godly life is hard. It is also a challenge because each member of the church now bears responsibility for the lives of other believers – this is that “accountability goes both ways” part.  This is serious responsibility.  Not the kind of responsibility you have just because you are somebody’s friend, but the kind of responsibility that comes from saying, before God, “I care for you and will work to encourage you in your discipleship.”  This challenge is a serious thing.

    2. This covenant isn’t just about us challenging each other to be better Christians.  Our church covenant is also a comfort. A comfort to know you’ll be cared for and prayed for, not perfectly, but faithfully.  The comfort is that by joining a church and covenanting with other believers, you now have Christians who are going to build you up when you are down.  You have Christians who are committed, before God, to walk with you, pray with you, serve you.  You have Christians who are so concerned about your spiritual walk, that if they see you break the covenant you have made as a disciple of Christ, they will exhort you to turn back; and if you don’t, they’ll do all they can to make the gravity of your sin clear.  This is our ideal, our vision, what we strive for.

    “A new command I give you: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    Here is the “Champions Covenant” for our church. The numbers correspond to verses listed at the end:

    The Champion’s Covenant

    Introductionchampionscovenant_

    B elieving that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ, and that only by the Holy Spirit is one made alive to God and placed “in Christ” and believing further that the local church is the extension of the Body of Christ and can only be joined by those already “in Christ”, I make the following two affirmations:

    • I have been born again by the Holy Spirit, having personally repented of my sin before God, sought and received His forgiveness, believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ—crucified, buried, and resurrected—as my one-and-only Savior and Lord.
    • I have identified myself publicly as a Christian and have followed my Lord in baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    The Promises

    Having given ourselves to God by our faith in Jesus Christ, and having adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, and as members of this local Body of Christ, we now give ourselves to one another in this solemn covenant. We hereby promise:

    • To be committed to each other in seeking to love and obey Jesus Christ1,5; and for His sake love2, accept3, and forgive4 each other with affectionate care and watchfulness.
    • To join with fellow members to seek God’s will in our common decision-making; to allow every member the privilege of seeking to influence the church in its pursuit of God’s will6; to accept congregational decisions without grumbling7; and to work to prevent division in the body8.
    • love_one_another_To help one another grow in Jesus Christ by building up one another 9, bearing one another’s burdens10, encouraging one another11, exhorting one another12, praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, admonishing one another, , teaching one another, comforting one another, submitting to one another, serving one another, patiently bearing with one another, being hospitable to one another,  being kind and tenderhearted to one another.13
    • To work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we support and sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines. As we are being built up we will reach out to the lost and to the fallen, and through our love and service seek to bring them into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Through self-denial, faith and good works we endeavor to grow together in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.14-21
    • To practice Biblical stewardship22 of our resources, and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.
    • To seek, by God’s grace, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to be an example in our speech and conduct24,25, purposing to lead new and holy lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, especially with regard to the following:
    • To use chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs only as informed by the teachings of the Bible26, wise medical counsel, and the dictates of the law.
    • To flee sexual immorality27; to shun pornography28; to reserve sexual activity solely for one man and one woman united in the covenant of marriage30;  to not initiate a divorce, unless the spouse decisively and physically deserts the relationship, commits repeated, unrepentant adultery, is guilty of protracted, unrepentant life-endangerment, or is guilty of physical and/or sexual abuse of a child or minor.31
    • To protect and defend the lives of our children from the moment of their conception; to bring up those in our home in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example seek the salvation of our family, teaching and encouraging them to love, follow and serve God.
    • To practice justice and compassion toward all people, especially the poor, the sick, the disabled, widows, and orphans.
    • To conduct all business in honesty and integrity32, counting it our chief business in life to extend the influence of Christ in society33.
    • To submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and pursue the fruit that He brings forth34and to work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, that the Kingdom of God may come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    The Protection:

    We enter into this covenant voluntarily and affirm the ambitions of this covenant as our own. We realize that we can only fulfill this covenant through the power of Jesus Christ living in us. We invite fellow members to pray for us, teach us, correct us and rebuke us, if necessary, in a spirit of gentleness and humility should we stray from the Lord’s commands. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the biblical authority of this church35. If we fail to live up to this covenant, we commit to yield to correction with meekness, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and to turn from our sin, relying on God’s grace to lift us up. Should church discipline ever be required, it will always be undertaken for the purpose of restoration to fellowship with God and with this covenant community – and it will always be done in accordance with Scriptural procedures in Matthew 18:15-22 and Galatians 6:1. We further commit to never refuse forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of Godly repentance.36

    If we find ourselves unwilling to try to fulfill this covenant, we commit to remove our self from this congregation. If relocation outside the community prevents us from fulfilling this covenant, we commit to unite with another congregation and to continue to pursue growth as a Christian.

    The Blessing

    May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit Be With Us All. Amen.37

    PPBC-Champions Covenant

    1brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

    2and this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 1 john 3:23

    3 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6

    4and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as god for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

    5if ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the father hath loved me, so have i loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:7-10

    6hard waybut now hath god set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but god hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 1 Corinthians 12:18-27

    7neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 1 Corinthians 10:10

    8that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 1 Corinthians 12:25

    9but ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the holy ghost, Jude 1:20

    10bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

    11not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

    12but exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

    13And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

    14 for we are the circumcision, which worship god in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:3

    15 and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42 confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 1 Timothy 2:8

    16study to shew thyself approved unto god, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 timothy 2:15 till I come; give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:13

    17not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

    18I speak as to wise men; judge ye what i say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17

    19now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, i would not have you ignorant. 1 Corinthians 12:1

    20go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

    21for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10 But  grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of  eternity. Amen. 2 Pet 3:18

    22moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 4:2 as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of god’s varied grace: 1 peter 4:10 Jesus said to them, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to god the things that are god’s.” And they marveled at him. Mark 12:17

    23then came peter to him, and said, lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Matthew 18:21

    24when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 peter 3:2 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:8 let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:4

    25for this is the will of god, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the gentiles which know not god: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For god hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but god, who hath also given unto us his holy spirit. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

    26not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 1 timothy 3:3 deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 1 timothy 3:8 (no longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 1 timothy 5:23 older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, Titus 2:3 and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit; Ephesians 5:18 for a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of god; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; Titus 1:7 who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Proverbs 23:29-33 or do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit within you, whom you have from god? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:19

    27flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

    28for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. Matthew 15:19-20

    Focus on the Family studies that have found that 43% of families say pornography is a problem in their home. And while she acknowledges that the spot has some fun at the porn-consumer’s expense (the last joke in the ad is about the porn-buyer’s mom finding out what he’s purchasing), she says that “many of these people’s experiences with pornography is not funny. Some of their families have been devastated by it.”

    29likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 1 Timothy 2:9

    30now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5

    31and Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore god has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-9 now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from god, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this charge (not I, but the lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:6-16 then said he unto the disciples, it is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:1-2 husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:19

    32in the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

    33and as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31

    34so then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the spirit of god are sons of god. Romans 8:12-14 but the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Galatians 5:22 if we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit. Galatians 5:25

    35obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17 giving thanks always and for everything to god the father in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:20-21 watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth. 1 Corinthians 16:13-16

    “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Then peter came up and said to him, “lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:15-22

    36For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

    37The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14


    I had a call this week from the daughter of a couple that lives near our church. Many of you would recognize her parents name. Seems her parents have been living together the last 20 years or so and never got married. Now they are thinking about making it legal and are looking into having a quaint church wedding. She said that because I was the priest they would want me to do the wedding. I corrected her of course, but I said that as Pastor I take marriage very seriously.

    For Your Information I have four prerequisites that must be met before I will bless the marriage of a man and woman.

    1. The couple must believe that marriage is a Covenant Vow before God
    2. They must not be living together
    3. They must go through premarital counseling before I agree to marry them.
    4. They must have the blessings of both sets of parents.

    We see the church out of focusSome of you are thinking, Brother Jim, that seems pretty harsh. After all, they have been living together and need to make it official. Plus they are our neighbors, and this is a chance to reach out to them. I understand your thoughts, but consider this: Do we ever have an excuse to take God for granted? NO! God is Holy, He is Righteous. He has standards and He reigns in Heaven whether we acknowledge Him or not. One day everyone will have an appointment with the God who created them and will answer for why they took Him for granted. If we can’t ever take God for granted, then we can’t take Jesus for granted. And if we can’t take Jesus for granted, we can’t take His wife for granted. And the church is His wife. Now when it comes to the church, the bride of Christ, we see a Universal application, but we also see a local application.

    I believe Pleasant Prairie Baptist can be a great church. I believe we are sitting in a mission field. And we need to start taking our church more seriously. We can not take it for granted, just as we wouldn’t dare think of taking God for granted. I believe the community around Pleasant Prairie takes us for granted. They see us as a qaint little country church instead of seeing us as the powerful Bride of Jesus Christ. I think that is because we have failed to be a church, we have failed to be a bride, we have taken the Word of God for granted.There seems to be a couple problems in America:

    • We are extremely self-loving.
    • We dishonor the Word of God.

    Because we love ourselves we tend to do what we want when we want it. Because we dishonor God’s Word, we dishonor God, we dishonor the church, we dishonor preachers, we dishonor pastors. When you dishonor God’s Word, you start to dishonor everything about God and what God says is important. We dishonor marriage, we dishonor the family, we dishonor our relationships with each other.

    So for the next two weeks I want us to see from God’s Word Why Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church was put here on the corner of 215th & Y, and then I want to see from God’s Word what we should be doing so that we do not take God’s Word for granted. To do so we need to answer 2 Questions:

    • What Makes a Church?
    • What is Membership All About?

    First, let’s look at Black’s Law Dictionary and see what our Courts say a church is.

    A body or community of Christians, united under one form of government by the profession of one faith, and the observance of the same rituals and ceremonies. Black’s Law Dictionary 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th eds.

    jesus keys to peterLet’s see how this meshes with how Jesus Views His Church:

    • He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, THOU ART THE CHRIST, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, THAT THOU ART PETER Petros (stone), and upon this rock petra (Christ is the great foundation, the “chief corner-stone,”—Vincent’s) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:15-19

    1. Jesus says the church is something He is Building.

    • Jesus is the Architect, the owner, the developer, the reason there is a church.

    2. Jesus says His church has Great Power.

    • Stronger than Hell, Able to Bring Heaven down to Earth

    3. Jesus says His Church is built upon Stones that all Declare the same Message.

    • Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Church is all about Jesus and His Living in us, empowering us to reach out to those who are without Jesus.

    1. The Church is a Living Building of “Called out Ones”

    Jesus says “I will build my church”

    • Church Universal
    • Church Local

    Church made of Living StonesChrist appears here, not as the foundation, but as the architect: “On this rock will I build.” The church is a collection of pieces of living rocks that when combined by the power of God are impenetrable. Peter was the first, just as Abraham was the first.

    A. Jesus Selects Living Materials:

    • John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
    • John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
    • What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19

    church is an altarB. Jesus Transforms “called out believers” into “LIVING STONES”

    • To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5
    • And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2 Corinthians 6:16

    The church is to be like the altar of stones upon which the Jews sacrificed to Holy God.

    • Exodus 20:24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

    C. Jesus Uses Special Stones to Build the Church

    • And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: Ephesians 4:11-1

    2. The Church is the Power of Christ to an Enslaved World

    We have the AUTHORITY & POWER of our King.

    • King Jesus Will ReignMatthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
    • Ephesians 1:22-23 And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
    • 1 Corinthians 12:25 That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another.

    We follow an unseen King, and obey His commands. That obedience keeps us in His Kingdom and not in the devil’s. As long as we obey our King, we have our King’s Authority in this world.

    reconciliationWe are ON MISSION to be Ambassadors to the World

    Since Jesus is reigning in an undisclosed location, and since He is still seeking more living stones to keep building His church, He needs you and me to be Ambassadors to this enslaved world.

    • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 jesus pierced cross

    We are always on mission. This world is always watching the King’s people. We are to go into all this world and hold up the Good News of Jesus Christ. But we are not to merely say it, we are to show it!

    3. The Church consists of Believers in a Covenant Relation with Jesus Christ.

    • We Have a Responsibility to Each Other because We are in Christ.

    We are not a collection of lonely islands. No we are a collection of stones that are made into a huge rocky peak, by the power of God through our Belief and Confession of this Blood Covenant.

    • From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:16

    I can’t see it, I can’t even feel it sometimes, but there is a bond that is stronger than anything else I’ve ever faced. That bond is my marriage with my wife. That bond may be just a piece of paper filed in the Jackson County Courthouse. But it is a bond designed by God to be so tough, that if you ever break it, it will mess your life up and leave scars that only Jesus can heal.

    God_cuts_covenant-abrahamWhen you come to Jesus because His Holy Spirit has convicted you of your sin, and has spoken into the wee small crevices of your heart, a bond was forged between you and God. God says that bond will never be broken because He places the seal of His Holy Spirit within your life. You may not feel it, you may not sense it, but GOD LIVES IN YOU! And if you turn away from God, you neglect His word, it will mess you up! If it doesn’t mess you up to ignore Jesus Christ and neglect Him, there never was that bond.

    It’s like marriage, you know it when you neglect it and turn away from it.

    Now because of this Bond we have with God through Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to love and pray and support others who have entered into this relationship with Jesus. The easiest way to take care of one another is through a local Bible Believing, Bible Preaching Church. The local church is built by Jesus on the Power of our Communion with Him through our Covenant Confession with Him.communion-WITH-JESUS-HANDS

    I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17

    My wife and I have experienced the Power of our Covenant Relationship in Joining in the care of our Children and now our grandchildren. We have begun our own body of Tompkins, and I pray that we will all be built upon Jesus Christ.

    For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

    • We Have a Responsibility to Build Strong Marriages and Families because they Reflect the Power of Christ to the World.

    The Church is the Bride of Christ:

    Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33

    The Church (those written in the Book of Life) is the Bride of Christ

    bride christ marriageAnd there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:9-27

    We See that as far as God and His Plans are concerned, the Church is central, it is key.

    So Why is it important to Join a Church? When we are born again we become members of the church universal, we are baptized into one Body. Why do we need to join a Local Church?

    How Important is Church Membership?

    The leadership of Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church considers membership to be important from a polity and relational perspective.

    • Polity: only members are allowed to have a say in the direction of our church by voicing their concerns and by voting.
    • Relational: Membership enjoins us to certain responsibilities and obligations as detailed in our church covennt.

    We believe church membership is very important for our Spiritual Well-Being, as the following illustrates:

    Five Proofs of the Mandate for Membership in a Local Church

    Each of these proofs reveal that lack of membership would minimize or deny our spiritual growth in Christ.

    1) The Metaphor of the Body

    Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. The original meaning of the word ‘member’ is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear. That’s the imagery behind the word ‘member’ in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

    So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? There is a unity and organic relationship implied in the imagery of the body. There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body.

    2) Christians Required to Submit to Their Leaders

    Church membership is implied in the biblical requirement of Christians to be submitted to a group of church leaders, elders, or pastors. The point here is that without membership, who is it that the New Testament is referring to who must submit to a specific group of leaders? Some kind of expressed willingness or covenant or agreement or commitment (that is, membership) has to precede a person’s submission to a group of leaders.

    Consider the way the New Testament talks about the relationship of the church to her leaders.

    • Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. (Hebrews 13:17)
    • We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
    • Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)

    How is this leadership and this submission going to work if there is no membership defining who has made the commitment to be led and who has been chosen as leaders? If we downplay the importance of membership, it is difficult to see how we could take these commands to submit and to lead seriously and practically.

    3) Shepherds Required to Care for Their Flock

    shepherds care for the flockChurch membership is implied in the way the New Testament requires elders to care for the flock in their charge. Of course elders can extend their love to anyone and everyone, and should, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group—a group of members. Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock.

    Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:8

    This verse does not say elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?

    The way Peter speaks to the elders in 1 Peter 5 is even more clear on this point. Verses 2-3: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

    “Those in your charge” (your portion, your lot) implies that the elders knew whom they were responsible for. This is just another way of talking about membership. If a person does not want to be held accountable by a group of church leaders or be the special focus of the care of a group of church leaders, they will resist the idea of membership. And they will resist God’s appointed way for them to live and be sustained in their faith.

    4) The Church Is to Discipline Its Members

    Church membership is implied by the way the church is supposed to discipline its members. Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15-17 where “the church” (ekklesia) appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership.

    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

    If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community? It’s hard to believe that just anyone who showed up claiming to be a Christian could be a part of that gathering. Surely, “the church” must be a definable group to handle such a weighty matter. You know who you mean when you “take it to the church.”

    5) Excommunication Exists

    Church membership is implied by the simple fact that excommunication even exists. Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 where he deals with the necessity of putting someone out of the church. He says, “What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”

    There are two implications here: One is that there is an “in the church” group and an “outside the church” group. Being in the church is definable. The other implication is that a person can be removed from being “in the church.” Such a formal removal would not be possible if there were no such thing as a clear membership—who is an accountable part of this body, and who is not?

    Expectation for All Believers

    So for these five reasons and more we believe that membership is a New Testament expectation for all believers. Each of us should be a member of a local body of believers.

    • We should take responsibility to discipline those of the body who do not repent from public sin that brings reproach on the name of Christ.

    • We should declare ourselves part of the body so that if we are wayward, we ourselves would be liable to such exclusion.

    • We should take our position under the leadership and authority of our church leaders.

    • And we should find our place in the organic whole as a body part—a member—of a local body of Christ.

    That is God’s plan for us and for Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church. That is what we mean by membership. All of those aspects of membership are rooted in the truth that the local church is an expression of the universal church. Part of what it means to belong to the body of Christ is to belong to a local body.

    A Blood-Bought Gift of God’s Grace

    Church bought through the crucifixionThe New Testament tells of no Christians who are not accountable members of local churches in the sense that we have just seen. “Lone-Ranger Christians” are a contradiction because becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. It seems to us that in the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ. This is why the issue of membership is so important.

    Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ?

    Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. We urge you not to deprive yourself of this blessing.

    Jim and Clare TompkinsWhen I was about seven years old, my mom went away for a while. I did not know what was going on, but I found out later that there was problems between my mom and dad. Dad was a traveling salesman, gone 4 and 5 days a week, and Mom was raising three rambunctious boys. I think something serious happened, because Mom went away to Texas to live in a Psychiatric Hospital. She had a nervous breakdown. She went through electro-shock therapy. I had to go live with a strange family for a while because my Dad still travelled. My Mom and Dad almost didn’t make it. Somehow, Mom came back home and started dragging us to the Prairie Baptist Church down the street. She started making friendships with good caring friends. A couple men started visiting my dad. Glenn and Merl faithfully called on my dad, and didn’t judge him when he smoked and drank in front of them. They just kept inviting him to church. Finally he went, and went and went. Something different was going on in my family. Mom and Dad weren’t fighting like before. Before I knew it, Mom and Dad joined the church. Dad started taking a leadership role. He was different! It was that church and Jesus Christ that made a difference in our family, and the same has continued to make a difference in my family and now my kid’s families.


    The church is Vital and Powerful and is used by Jesus Christ to transform sinners into the children of God!