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Category: Spiritual Growth

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men*

Matthew 4:19
*Anthropoi, this Greek word is used to refer to both men and women.

There is no doubt in my mind that when the Gospel of Jesus, according to Matthew was written, that God directed his hand perfectly to write down the first command, a call to repentance (Matt. 4:17), then our second command we have this week, is a command to follow.

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Repent. This is one of the first commands the Lord gives us in His ministry. This is also one of the first commands we will be sharing as we continue the challenge we offered out to our followers.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Matthew 4:17

For those of you who missed our last broadcast HERE, towards the end, I issued a challenge to all the listeners to go back into the Gospel of Matthew and write down all the command and instructions Jesus gives, and think about how they can apply to your own life.

What is repentance and why is it important?

Repentance is one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith. One can not enter into the Kingdom of God without first repenting of their sins, and turning to Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse.

Sourced by Google

Repentance is not just a biblical idea, but in our human nature, we find moments in our life when we should do and must repent. This could be caused by an offense we may have committed on a loved one. Or even realizing our criminal actions, and the punishment that awaits us if we continue a life of crime.

It is the idea of feeling deep sorrow for our condition, and the desire to fix it or be free from it. Realizing that our own failures deserve a just response of discipline or resolve.

The bakers bible dictionary shares this...

The act of repudiating sin and returning to God. Implicit in this is sorrow over the evil that one has committed and a complete turnabout in one's spiritual direction: turning from idols - anything that pulls away the affection that we owe God - to God. (1 Samuel 7:3; 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 55:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, James 4:8-10).

Bakers Bible Dictionary

Repentance is more than just asking for forgiveness, it is more than deciding to go to church on a Sunday morning, it is more than just recognizing God as the creator. It is a complete turn around from an old sinful way of life.

What are the Elements of Repentance?

This is where it gets scholastic. How we can recognize if we have had a period of repentance can be viewed in this way...

  1. A recognition of one's sin, its damaging effects on life and nature, its affront to God's word and authority, and its dire consequences (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:23; 8:19-22; Revelation 21:8).
  2. Personal outrage and remorse over one's sin, grief at one's helplessness, and a deep longing for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.
  3. A personal response to God's grace in choosing a new spiritual direction by breaking with the past and returning to God. This includes confession and renunciation of sin, and prayer for God's forgiveness (Leviticus 5:5, Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9).
  4. In some circumstances, repentance may require restitution (Exodus 22:1-15; 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Samuel 12:6; Luke 19:8).
  5. At its core, repentance is a rejection of the autonomous life and surrender of oneself to the lordship of Christ (Jeremiah 3:22; Mark 8:34-38)
  6. The proof of true repentance is the worthy fruit of a changed life (Luke 3:7-14; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 1:10).

If you have not gone through this process, this does not mean it is the end. In fact, this is just the beginning. Christ offers forgiveness to any and all people who would realize their sins and turn from them. If this is you, I would like to encourage you to take a moment to turn off any distractions, find a quiet place and process your sins to the Lord.

So many Christians today, in their zeal to give love to others, unknowingly (or willingly) give their support to sin and sinful behavior. Instead of doing the sinner a favor by bringing them closer to God, the Christian does them harm - and displeases God - by encouraging them to sin.

I'm pretty sure many of us aren't aware that we are already doing it. To help all of us avoid supporting sin in the name of the Lord, here are a few ways Christians support sin "in the name of love."

1) By downplaying the dangers of sin

Christians encourage unbelievers and believers in sin alike to keep sinning by downplaying or ignoring the dangerous effects of sin in our lives.

Sin affects our relationship with God in a bad way. Sin destroys what testimony we have. Sin destroys our lives, not to mention steals our resources and robs us of our peace. People in sin need to be told and reminded of this.

We can't turn a blind eye to the dangers of sin and expect not to fall into a ditch. If we, however, see the dangers of sin but fail to warn others about it, we are to be blamed for their fall as well.

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

2) By focusing only on God's love for sinners

So many Christians today are so eager to share the love of God without even knowing it. They are quick to say "God loves you" to others, not realizing that their intention to spread God's love could backfire and give people a license to keep sinning. Let me explain.

When we approach people in sin but do not address the sin they are doing, and instead just keep telling them "God loves you," they might think, "if God loves me even if I'm in sin, what's the point of stopping it?"

The Gospel is a very offensive message. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us,

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

We cannot focus on just one aspect of God's person and preach it to be His totality. People need to know that He is holy, righteous, and just. We should keep that in mind, too.

3) By playing "nice Christian" to those who are caught in sin

Lastly, when we play "nice Christian" to people who are caught in sin, we actually give them the message that we don't care if they're sinning.

There are a variety of ways to play "nice Christian" to others:

  • There's the politically-correct Christian who avoids telling people what they don't like to hear about sin (see 2 Timothy 4:3)
  • There's the friendly Christian who will be in fellowship with those who are not following the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
  • There's the timid Christian who won't ever dare to say what God says in His Word because he is afraid or not confident of himself before God (see 2 Timothy 1:7)

Such "nice" Christians give people the impression that sin is tolerable and allowable, even acceptable, before God. This is wrong and should be corrected.

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Faithful preaching is expositional, which means that it explains a biblical text in its context and applies the text to the hearers. There have been times, however, when I've heard expositional preaching that makes little or no mention of the Lord Jesus Christ (sadly, I've done this myself). If an unbeliever had been sitting among the hearers, he would not have heard enough of the gospel to be saved. Furthermore, saints would not have heard enough of Christ to move them to live and obey out of love for Him. Scripture teaches that every expository sermon should be Christ-centered.

  1. An expositional sermon, even from a New Testament text, without mentioning Christ except in an evangelistic appeal at the end.
  2. A sermon filled with illustrations and humor, while only nominally mentioning a text, or Jesus Christ Himself, occasionally.
  3. A "practical series" on marriage, joy, etc., without explaining how the person and work of Jesus Christ applies to marriage, joy, etc.
  4. A running commentary on a passage of Scripture without preaching Christ because He is not mentioned explicitly in the text. 

None of the above measures up to the Bible's requirement for preaching. Scripture gives us clear instructions about how to preach. Consider the following.

1. Our Lord Jesus and His Apostles practiced Christ-centered preaching. Every word our Lord uttered ultimately was about His own person and work as our prophet, priest, and king, even when He expounded Old Testament texts, which did not always mention Him explicitly. Christ's Apostles followed His example in their preaching. Every evangelistic sermon in Acts and every epistle was centered on Jesus Christ. The epistles were read to churches in their entirety, including the parts about Christ and the gospel. In every application of the epistles, there is always a reference to Christ, His person and His work. I am not saying that Jesus Christ was mentioned by name in every text of His preaching and the Apostles teaching. What I am saying is Christ was the foundation and goal in the proclamation of every word of God. 

2. The Bible mandates preaching Christ to unbelievers and believers.

First, it is clear that the Apostles preached Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to unbelievers (Acts 5:428:3511:20). Jesus was the center of their message. When Paul first came to Corinth to preach the gospel to the unconverted, he said, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). Jesus Christ was the substance of Paul's evangelistic preaching in Corinth. Peter also preached Christ on the day of Pentecost as well as in the other evangelistic messages of Acts (Acts 2; 10; 17).

Second, the Apostles preached Christ to believers. The Apostles constantly tied their rebukes, exhortations, and doctrinal instructions to the person and work of Christ, past, present, and future. It's impossible to read the epistles without seeing that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the center point of salvation and sanctification. To the Colossians, Paul described his preaching and teaching to Christians: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Col 1:28). It takes little research to see how Paul tied his exhortations to the Corinthian Christians to the person and work of Christ for them. For instance, when warning against adultery, Paul said, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:19-20). Paul based his warning against adultery on Christ's work. Christ Himself was the substance of Apostolic preaching, both to the unconverted and the converted. The Bible mandates Christ-centered preaching both to the unbeliever and believer.

3. The Bible mandates preaching Christ in every sermon from every text. In Genesis 3:15, Jesus Christ is declared the center of God's revelation to man. Adam represented all of his posterity and fell into sin, breaking the covenant of works, which required perfect obedience for life. But Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the only mediator between God and man. Christ satisfied God's just wrath in the covenant of redemption and did what Adam failed to do. Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord of all who believe in Him. The Old Testament records the unfolding of the promise of redemption in Christ found in Genesis 3:15. And the New Testament reveals how Christ came to fulfill that first promise in Genesis 3:15. The Bible's own structure provides us with a theological mandate to preach Christ in all the Scriptures because both the Old Testament and the New Testament are theologically centered in Jesus Christ.

Preachers in the New Testament did not preach in the manner that has become customary to us. They did not take a text out of the New Testament, analyze it, expound it, and then apply it. What did they preach? They preached the great message that had been committed to them, the great body of gospel truth, the whole doctrine of salvation revealed from Genesis to Revelation. My argument is that this is what we should always be doing, though we do it through individual expositions of particular texts. That is the relationship between theology and preaching.

So, dear brothers, are you preaching the Lord Jesus Christ in every expository sermon? Could an unbeliever be saved through your exposition? Can a believer hear enough of Christ to be moved to love Him more and obey Him by faith working through love? May God help us to proclaim Him!

By
Fred A. Malone - Founders Ministries Blog

“That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (v. 30).- 1 Corinthians 11:27–34

The Lord’s Supper is the sign of Christ’s presence among His people and of their unity in Him. As Paul chastised the Corinthians for their factionalism, he called attention to the fact that by warring with one another, they were abusing the meaning of the central ritual of the church (1 Corinthians 10–11).

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Most readers of this site will share my angst about biblical illiteracy. I think we sometimes assume, though, that this illiteracy is simply a problem in the broadest sweep of cultural Christianity. It is there, to be sure. That’s why Christian bookstores (or their digital equivalents) don’t sell many books on the meaning of justification in Galatians, but tons of books with diet tips from Ezekiel or channeled messages from heaven. The problem, though, is far bigger than that.

I’ve never really known how to identify the scope of the biblical illiteracy facing us until I read this past weekend a sentence that perfectly articulated what I had noticed, in David Nienhuis’ very helpful new book A Concise Guide to Reading the New Testament (Baker). Speaking of the students in his college New Testament classes, Nienhuis writes that they struggle with the biblical material “because they have been trained to be Bible quoters, not Bible readers.”

He is exactly right.

Biblical interpretation in American evangelicalism tends to be trickle-down, from the entrepreneurial ministry pioneers to everyone else.

Nienhuis locates part of the problem in the way higher criticism has sought to remove the Bible from the terrain of the church to the alleged expertise of those able to discern the “original context” in ways novel to the reading of the church through the ages. But the problem goes beyond this, he notes. The problem is also the way the Bible is used in churches.

“Some of my students attend popular non-denominational churches led by entrepreneurial leaders who claim to be ‘Bible believing’ and strive to offer sermons that are ‘relevant’ for successful Christian living,” he writes. “Unfortunately, in too many cases, this formula results in a preacher appealing to a short text of Scripture, out of context, in order to support a predetermined set of ‘biblical principles’ to guide the congregants’ daily lives. The only Bible these students encounter, sadly, is the version that is carefully distilled according to the theological and ideological concerns that have shaped the spiritual formation of the lead pastor.”

I would say the problem goes far beyond non-denominational churches, or even entrepreneurial churches, as biblical interpretation in American evangelicalism tends to be trickle-down, from the entrepreneurial ministry pioneers to everyone else.

Here’s the end-result according to Nienhuis: “They have the capacity to recall a relevant biblical text in support of a particular doctrinal point, or in opposition to a hot spot in the cultural wars, or in hope of emotional support when times get tough. They approach the Bible as a sort of reference book, a collection of useful God-quotes that can be looked up as one would locate words in a dictionary or an entry in an encyclopedia.”

If the Bible is God’s Word, we must raise up people who don’t merely believe the Bible but also know what it says.

He continues: “What they are not trained to do is to read a biblical book from beginning to end, to trace its narrative arc, to discern its main themes, and to wonder how it shapes our faith lives today.”

This is not a matter of the educated versus the uneducated. The same problem exists among both. I have noticed people who were experts in the grammar of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles who didn’t really get the flow of the old, old story. If the Bible, though, is God’s Word, and it is, we must raise up people who don’t merely believe the Bible but also who know what it says.

The answer is not easy. Part of the problem is what Nienhuis mentions, the modeling of the use of Scripture in some teaching and preaching. Part of the problem is the larger cultural question of whether the distracted, fragmented modern mind any longer has the attention span to read a text (meaning a literary text, as opposed to a text message). And part of the problem is that in order to train people to read their Bibles, the church must be gathered more than just an hour or two a week. To engage with a narrative requires (pardon this metaphor, my paedobaptist friends) not just a sprinkling but an immersion in the text.

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Recently I was in a conversation with someone and suggested they may be coming up with excuses not to move. Through that, I began to think about my own experience with excuses. I remember years ago, I was into website development and aspired to have that be my career. While I still do enjoy web development in my free time. (Find out more HERE, as well as website hosting HERE) I have since then, followed a different calling.

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The Bible is your daily life playbook, not an outdated relic to be kept on a shelf.

According to LifeWay Research, more than half of Americans have read little to none of the Bible. About 30 percent look up things in the Bible only when they need to. And less than a quarter have any kind of systematic plan for reading the Bible on a daily basis. Some, about 17 percent, simply flip it open to read a passage at random. 

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A call is going out to the pastors in America. Don't give in to the temptation to compromise the Word of God for a greater following. Don't allow the allure of the platform to distract you from preaching righteousness and holiness. There is a warning being issued from heaven to remain steadfast, be faithful to the Word of God and speak the truth. If you give in to the "spirit of the age" (2 Cor. 4:4), you may not lose your platform, following, or popularity—but you may lose your mind.

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