Mar 30, 2013

Of First Importance — The Cross and Resurrection at the Center: from Al Mohler Blog

The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation. 

The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority. The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case:

  Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”1 Corinthians 15

  Paul points directly to the events of the cross and resurrection of Christ. He is not concerned with just any gospel, but with the only gospel that saves. This is “the gospel I preached to you,” Paul reminds the Corinthians. The same Paul who so forcefully warned the Galatians against accepting any false gospel reminds the church at Corinth that the very “gospel I preached to you” is the gospel “by which you are being saved.” Their stewardship of the gospel is underlined in Paul’s words, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”

   Paul’s statement of priority is a vital corrective for our confused times. Without hesitation, Paul writes with urgency about the truths that are “as of first importance.” All revealed truth is vital, invaluable, life-changing truth to which every disciple of Christ is fully accountable. But certain truths are of highest importance, and that is the language Paul uses without qualification.

  And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation.

   Paul gets right to the heart of the matter in setting out those truths that are “of first importance.” Following his example, we can do no less. These twin truths remain “as of first importance,” and no sermon is complete without the explicit affirmation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So it was then, so it is now, and so it ever shall be until Christ claims his church.

  As Paul reminded the Corinthians — and now instructs us — the gospel is at the center of our faith, and the cross and the empty tomb are at the center of the gospel. “So we preach, and so you believed,” Paul encourages us. [1 Cor. 15:11]

  May the power of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb fill every pulpit, every pew, and every Christian heart — and may the Good News of the gospel be received with joy by sinners in need of a Savior.

Mar 23, 2013

NAMB Annie Armstrong Theme Interpretation

“26 An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: ‘Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ 27 So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem 28 and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. 29 The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go and join that chariot.’ 30 When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ 31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Acts 8:26-31 (HCSB)

   NAMB Annie Armstrong Theme Interpretation: Philip’s obedience to God’s call to do whatever it takes sparked a divine appointment. The Ethiopian, eager for understanding the words of Isaiah, encountered Philip, equally eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ. These men needed each other in those critical moments, and before they parted company, Philip had a new brother in Christ. That intentional commitment to connect the one who has the good news to the one who needs to receive it is embraced by North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries every moment of the day all across the United States and Canada.

   Southern Baptist missionaries are like Philip, who faithfully and obediently respond to God’s call to go wherever they are needed to share the gospel. They understand they have the message of love and hope, and that each lost individual they encounter needs to know and understand the love of Christ. They are eager to share and explain God’s message of salvation. They strategically seek out areas where there are few or no Southern Baptist churches reaching out and teaching the gospel, knowing that each new church multiplies disciples, who in turn multiply the influence and spread of the gospel throughout the world.

   Just like God’s angel tells Philip to travel the desert road to Gaza, we are called by God to travel and seek out the lost. Our mission should be to “get up and go,” looking for opportunities to tell people about Jesus no matter where they are. Our Southern Baptist missionaries are fellow travelers on that journey and need our help.

   Through your church’s gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, you are making a difference in spreading the gospel in North America—one person at a time. People are hearing the gospel and growing in their commitment to Christ, and churches are being started in areas where Southern Baptist presence has been limited.

   During the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, consider how you are doing “whatever it takes” to impact the Kingdom of God through your continued prayers, giving, and going in the task God has called us to passionately embrace. Pray for the spotlighted missionaries who represent the dedicated work of thousands like them.


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Mar 16, 2013

Words from the Lord

Ministry – to each other, Sister churches, Hart County’s lost and backslidden, and unto the ends of the world: How will we?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 28:19 KJV (not prophesy but clarity of the Lord’s teachings.)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The Lord has said, "You shall have peace" '; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.' " For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it?” Jeremiah 23:16-18

“"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings? "Am I a God near at hand," says the Lord, "And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the Lord; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord. "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the Lord. "Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? "Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who steal My words everyone from his neighbor.  Behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who use their tongues and say, 'He says.'  Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the Lord, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all," says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:21-32

Obviously the Word of God can speak for itself, pastors and teachers should especially be wary of speaking “in the Lord’s name” or saying “thus says the Lord.”  As we proceed forward there are decisions needing to be made which will reach well into the future.  Let us be extra cautious that the ideas to which we listen, come from the Lord.  I have my own vision/dream of how the future could look concerning the ministry and reach of Rowletts Baptist Church.  Anyone else who cares about ministering to others will also have their own views.  So in the coming days (weeks), let our prayer be to not be described as these prophets were; but to be people of the Book!

Mar 9, 2013

Become a Small Group Leader

Sharing the Gospel is about making relationships.  Where else can this be done better than in a small group environment?  At their best, small groups will create strong relationships, allow open communication, dig deep into scripture, create an easy access point to personal ministry, and minister to the needs of its members.  Though incomplete here are a few qualities of an effective small group leader. 

Loving: Some other things can be taught, but love will come from the heart.  As Jesus was a shepherd who loved his flock, so will the leader care for those in their group.  A desire to see their group grow in knowledge, size and ability will spur them through their efforts.

Knowledgeable/Studious: No one will know the entire Bible by memory, but a group is established as a way to engage believers in Bible study.  A group will always find ways to challenge their leaders, so the leader must be willing to study and be prepared for the meeting.  Most study materials printed today provide various methods of teaching and studying.  They are great helps if you will read and prepare.

Available/Willing:  Though many groups will meet for an hour or more, it could also be that a group will meet during a lunch break daily/weekly.  The leader must be available for questioning and calls if the group has a need.  Needs will come in waves, and different individuals have different needs.  There will come a time when your individual pursuits will clash with a need of the group, and a great leader will serve their group when in their ability.    

Committed to the Bible:  A small group tends to drift away from study of the Bible and into a social group only.  The Bible is the reason you formed the group, and the source of all your teaching.  A purpose should be formed for each meeting, a certain scripture/concept to teach.  The purpose should be something you yearn to share with the group, like Jeremiah had a fire in his bones.  It could come from the weekly worship sermon, study materials; but should always involve personal study.  Then the leader must remember that there is a time for both study and relationship building.  Often they will feed off each other.  The discussions will lead into the Bible study, and the scriptures will spur conversations about life.  Create the relationship for the purpose of sharing the scripture and let that lead you in creating disciples. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20

Mar 3, 2013

Preserve these Things

The church has always been charged to preserve the teaching and commandments of the Bible.  Along the way the laws of God became mixed with the customs of men, and various traditions; the result was religion.  This continues even until today where many gatherings are nothing more than man-made religion; while few will allow leading of the Holy Spirit.  This being true, there are also “churches” which pride themselves so much for not being a traditional church, that they allow all manner of sin and polluted actions to occur within their fellowship.  So the question becomes, “What is it about our church, worldwide and at Rowletts, is worth preserving?”

Scripture – The Bible is the Word of God, His revelation to us, concerning Himself and instruction for our living.  Our focus should be to ensure our devotion to teaching and order for our lives, stem from the scriptures.  The tradition of man holds no weight if it does not have scripture for its foundation.  Long-established customs lacking a Bible foundation which are splitting churches include: worship or preaching styles, and methods of prayer.  If you have a conviction about a certain practice – be sure you have a scriptural foundation.

Mission – Or our Great Commission.  We, the congregation, are the evangelical arm of the church.  We have been charged to take the gospel to those who have not heard and/or believed.  Then once they believe we are to make disciples.  This would be where we most often find non-scriptural tradition.  When making disciples we should teach the “why” of a practice, more than the “how” of a practice.  Paul left Titus to teach and set in order the believers at Crete.  This included a commitment to good works, an avoidance of sin, and a way of living in expectation of the Kingdom to come.  Let us be sure to establish things to accomplish our mission, and not to institute our traditions.

“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you--” Titus 1:5

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus 2:11-15

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” Titus 3:8-9