Friday, March 22, 2013

Dont be a Hypocrite!

This week in our lifegroup we continued our study in the “Sermon on the Mount,” continuing the series on the Teachings of Jesus. We started last month in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew. Our aim was to take the word of God and apply it to our lives in such a way that we are living the scriptures in our lives, not just saying the truths but putting them into practice. 

In this week’s scripture reading we started Chapter 6. Our reading takes us to verse 8. We will start in verses 1-4.

1“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Jesus begins this chapter speaking on Giving to those in need. One of the reasons I believe He speaks of the act of charity is because it is first and foremost what God wants those who follow Him to do. God is extremely concerned with the poor and needy and expects His followers also to be concerned with those in need. In fact, Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament is overwhelming that of charity and meeting the needs of others. A Charitable heart and lifestyle is a benchmark of the Christian faith. If anyone in this world were to be “charitable” it should be first the Christ-follower. Even the secular world recognizes this truth. What would the “world” think if they see a so called Christian who is not concerned for the needy? It is unfortunate that the world already sees too many “Christians” today not concerned with the welfare of those in need. We become as the world and even Jesus sees us as hypocrites. Far too often, today’s Christians are so caught up in their own lives and needs that they fail to see the needs of others. These verses in Matthew 6, however paint another picture of the hypocrite, one of showing off there charitable deeds in order to look the part.

Jesus begins this passage by warning His followers not to “be like” the hypocrites. Jesus explains that there are some people that will do charitable things not because they are compelled to because of their compassion or even because God’s word told them to, but so they can boast about how “good” they are. They give to those in need just to be seen by men and to show how religious and generous they are. Jesus calls these men hypocrites. A hypocrite is a person who portrays a different person than who they really are. Jesus warns his listeners to be real - not fake.

Jesus was pretty clear that His followers must do charitable deeds and care for those in need. But a person must not do these things just to be seen by others. Jesus said if you do your good deeds just to show others how much of a good guy you are…then that is all the reward you are going to get. Don’t expect a Godly blessing in your “good works.”

For the Christ-follower you have to choose between getting praise and a blessing from God or from Men. If you choose to show off your faith, then expect God to ignore you.

Additional Scriptures for further study - Dt 15:7-8; Isa 58:7; Mt 19:21 pp Mk 10:21 pp Lk 18:22; Lk 12:33; Ro 12:13; Gal 2:10 1Jn 3:17 See also 2Ch 28:15; Mt 7:9-11; Lk 10:33-35

Giving is an essential part of being a Christ-follower. God in His nature is a servant; He gave his son to a needy world. God continues to give us blessings everyday even though we are not worthy. The greatest way we can show God’s love and that we follow Him is by giving to those in need. Please study these scriptures this week and see the blessings of being a person of blessing to others.

God bless you this week!

Pastor Jay

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time to be different!

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4–6

As Paul was finishing his letter to the church at Philippi he wanted to leave them with some practical tips on how to make their faith in Jesus real, not only to themselves, but also to those outside of the faith. Paul was extremely aware that for Christ-followers spiritual growth was essential. He was also aware that in order for the Church to affect this world for Jesus Christ, the Church would have to act differently than the world did. If the Church reacted to trials and suffering just like everyone else what would be the point of following Christ? Christ-followers are called to be different. Jesus told his followers that they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)! Through the inner change that takes place when one puts their faith in Jesus they would become a refuge of hope and a haven for encouragement when the evils of this world shows itself. The Church at Philippi knew suffering and knew trials. These people were persecuted for their faith, they understood poverty, and saw friends beaten and imprisoned. Paul was writing them to encourage them through these most gut-wrenching experiences. In these three verses Paul gave the Philippians three ways to make their faith real to themselves and to the world around them. If we apply these principles to our lives, we also can experience a powerful faith that will see us through the trials of our lives and reveal Jesus in our lives.

Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”. For me the hardest word in that verse is the word “always”. There are times in my life when I find it difficult or impossible to rejoice. When I am going through trials or suffering, being joyful is too often the last thing on my mind. Paul, however, tells us that as Christ-followers this is something that needs to always be in check. Why? Simply put, because people are watching. Whether it is fellow believers, the world, or even my wife, there is someone who is watching and needs me to find joy that comes from somewhere other than myself. How is it possible to be joyful “always”? Well when you understand that Joy is a divine phenomenon and is supplied by the Holy Spirit, you realize that it is not  something you can manufacture; it only comes from God. With that being said you still have a big part to play in your “always rejoicing”. You can reject that joy and wallow in your circumstances, or you can accept the fact you represent something greater than yourself, and you are being examined by the world around you. Simply said, you can choose to accept the God given Joy, or you can reject it. When you have true Joy through your trials you give others hope.

The second thing Paul expects Christ-followers to keep in check can be found in verse 5 where he states,  “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Christians need to be Gentle people. There are times when we are to be rash and harsh, and times when we are called to be violent (99% of the time we are called to be rash, harsh, and violent is over sin, specifically, Our Own Sin). To everyone else we must be gentle. The people of this world are so used to the dog-eat-dog mentality that when they find a person who is reasonable, mild, patient and so contrary to the temperament of the rest of the world, it gets their attention. Paul says that gentleness is a characteristic of a Christ-follower. 

Finally Paul gives us a practical way to overcome stress when he writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. Paul tells his readers to stop stressing. In fact, he even goes as far as to tell them how - by prayer. Paul is revealing to us that we can combat stress in our lives simply by talking to God, and by thanking Him for the blessings in your life. Paul says that when we will do that, pray, we will experience the peace of God, and the peace that comes when you are going through that trial or suffering you won’t even be able to explain it. Still, it will be a sign to you and to all who witness it that you serve a Mighty and Powerful God! 
Remember this week to check yourself - are you rejoicing? Is gentleness one of your defining characteristics? Have you been praying away your stress? 

Have a great week…
Love Pastor Jay

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's about who ya know,,,

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7–11

What does it mean to really know someone? Our culture today places a huge emphasis on knowing one’s self. That if we “know” ourselves we will find peace and a purpose for our lives. We hear tails of people in the 60’s leaving their homes to “find themselves,” as if leaving everything that shaped them as a person; family, friends, and familiar surroundings would magically open up who they truly were as a person. The problem with “knowing ourselves” is that we become a self-centered person who is just concerned with, you guessed it, SELF. What we see time and time again is that self-centered people are not really pleasant people to be around. They are so concerned with their own success and development that they fail to develop their character; they only develop a persona - an image that is merely surface deep.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was not concerned with knowing himself - his drive and passion was to know Jesus. To him, Jesus was real; so much so that he directed his life in pursuit of this relationship with his Lord and Savior. Paul clearly wrote that everything he accomplished in life, every good thing and every bad thing was rubbish when compared with his relationship with Jesus. He was encouraging the people of the Philippian church to come to the same mindset; nothing is or will ever be more important than your personal relationship with Jesus. And the true basis for this relationship is faith. It is faith that we put our trust fully in God’s word and live to honor God. Faith is a requirement for pleasing God. It is not simply being a good person; it is not simply living by rules and regulations; it is not by going to church every week. Don’t get me wrong, these are something we should strive toward, but they won’t get me into heaven. They won’t in themselves lead us to a relationship with God. The only thing that will is a surrendered life, a life of faith. Saying and living for God the truth that is only Jesus Christ. Paul realized the gift that God gave him (Jesus Christ), and Paul determined in his life that he was going to pursue Jesus with everything he had. Pure Passion!

How about you today? Is your life consumed with the living Savior and knowing Him more? Or is it consumed with the worldly pleasures of this life? If you are a Christ-follower then your drive and passion must be Jesus; He demands nothing less. When Jesus would ask people to follow Him He never sugarcoated what the commitment would demand. In the gospel of Luke Jesus says some pretty tough words to anyone who would follow Him:
23 And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

As Christ-followers we are called to know Jesus -- not just “know of Him”. We are called to connect with Jesus on a daily basis and grow in that relationship. Are you doing that? I have just some quick suggestions on how to grow with Jesus…

  1. Pray more today than you did yesterday, and ask Him to help you “know Him better”
  2. Read the Bible…immerse yourself in the Scriptures for this is how God speaks to us
  3. Spend time in silence…meditate on God’s word and soak up his presence. Psalm 46:10 says Be still, and know that I am God
  4. Find a life group where you can experience this wonderful journey of faith with other Christ-followers, and learn to connect with God with a group of your friends
Hope you have a great week,
Rejoicing always for you all,
Pastor Jay

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“Help Me Help You!!!”

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

Paul appealed to his friends in Philippi to make him a happy man. The one thing that would make Paul’s joy complete would be for the people he taught, loved, and did life with was for them to grow and apply what Paul had taught them to their everyday life. One of the struggles of being a minister is spending year after year teaching undisputed truths and seeing the people you care so much about not applying those truths you share. Year after year you see people not grow into spiritual giants but rather become stagnate in their faith and in turn get smaller and smaller not making one difference in the world for Jesus Christ. I believe that was the concern of Paul as he pleaded with them to “fulfill his joy” by putting into practice the things he taught to them. 

Paul told them there are somethings, things that if pursued with all their being, would make the suffering that he was experiencing all worth it. The first thing Paul mentions is that the church at Philippi must give themselves to unity. He says in verse 2, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul knew that as a group of people with the world against them, that if they were to survive, grow, and change the world for Jesus Christ there must be unity among them. They were a team, a family and as such they had to walk together, step by step. There must not be divisions, quarreling, or meaningless feuds. In God’s church there is no room for superstars, celebrities, or Lone Rangers. The church must be a unit that links arms and storms the beachheads together. In movies like Saving Private Ryan, the open scene was a hard scene to watch, however as you watch the soldiers storm that beach you could not tell who held rank, captains and privates all looked the same; they moved as one. If one person ran up the middle of the beach, we know what the outcome would be -- they would be torn apart. The same is true for the church today. We are to act as one body, fulfilling the great commission for Jesus Christ.       

Paul goes on to say in verse 3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” There is no room for personal agendas in the church. We are under orders to follow our commander only and without prejudice. Humility is a quality that is a requirement for all Christ-followers. Arrogance and boastfulness is repugnant to Almighty God. We as Christ-followers must live a life of humility, removing our own agenda - in doing so we actually freeing ourselves from those constraints that this world has embedded on our expectations.

Finally, Paul gives us the secret to happiness and fulfillment in verse 4 where he says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Why is this the secret to happiness? Because when we seek the interests of others we loose ourselves from the chains of self-gratification. You see we are taught from a very early age that my purpose is to seek pleasure, success, and fulfillment through my own efforts. In other words, the answer lies within myself. This world revolves around me, and I am only going to be happy by satisfying my own desires and lusts.  This feeling has dominated our way of life and is stronger now than at any time in history. I have to get my own, I have to pursue the American dream, I have to feel good, I want this, I must do this…after all isn’t it all about me feeling good? The problem is that when we live our lives for ourselves we end up empty. We always want more and are never satisfied. Paul told the people of Philippi that the Jesus way is to live for others not ourselves. We find fulfillment in living our lives in serving others, that is the gratification that lasts. When you realize that your life is not for you, then you will start to understand the Paradox of sacrificial love, a love always pays you dividends.

Have an awesome week!
Love Pastor Jay

Life Group: Questions to ponder and Journal
  1. How are you applying the truths you hear from your preacher, teachers and godly men and women you are learning from?  Are you growing spiritually?
  2. Are you a person who promotes unity? If not, why and what are you doing about it?
  3. How are you living for others this week?

Monday, December 10, 2012

“Do As Say, Not As I Do”

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

I remember growing up I would often hear adults quote a cliché or an idiom, which to me as a young man, would anger me. Whether it was my parents, teachers, or my brother, when I heard this statement I would sense I was being talked down to, or even worse I would feel as if they were trying to insult my intelligence -- what little of it I had. It was a statement like “Do as I say, not as I do.” To me that statement or something like it was fake and hypocritical, and it truly is. Anytime someone holds you to a standard that they themselves would not live by it is duplicitous (dishonest) and phony. One of the biggest complaints by people who have never put their trust and faith in Jesus is this exact example. Many have said that the church is full of Hypocrites. The sad part is too often it is true. Many in the Church community have placed standards on the world that they themselves do not live by.  

Paul started this 2nd chapter by appealing to the Christ-followers of his day with some strong and moving words…. Paul says in verses one and two, if there is anything good in this “Christian” life, anything that is lovely or pleasing to you, that they, his friends in Philippi could fulfill his joy by…”doing what he does”. This is a radical statement. Paul is not just saying “do as I say,” no Paul is putting his entire “Christian” life on display and said “do what I do”. Paul wanted his friends to make his life an example to live by. This was both radical and dangerous. Does this make Paul arrogant or prideful? No, I think the work that Jesus did with him on the Damascus Road was so profound and so transforming that Paul was confident that he would honor Christ, not just in word but also in deed. 

Paul instructed the people of Philippi to have the same characteristics that were displayed in his life. These characteristics were only present in Paul’s life because of the Holy Spirit. These same fruit are so desperately needed in the church today.  Paul starts this list by saying they should be “like minded”. What he was saying was that they should pursue with all passion and fervency the things Paul pursued. The first thing I believe that Paul pursued even though it is unstated in this scripture was being like his master, Jesus. Paul had a passion to be more like Jesus. He was modeling the life of Jesus, and he was being Jesus to the people he came into contact with. Paul literally became Jesus’ hands and feet and strived to be like His master with all his heart. Everything Paul did was to bring glory to his master. Whether it was planting churches, preaching or healing the sick, he was pursuing this passion. 

In essence, when Paul says “be like me”, he is saying be like the one I try to imitate. Paul was saying be more like Jesus. That is a message we all need to hear. If we are not striving to be like Jesus we are failing as a Christ-follower. Ask yourself frequently this week can people see Jesus in me? And challenge yourself to be more and more like him, making a conscience effort to be like Jesus in your deeds, conversations and your world.

In the next installment we will look at the qualities Paul challenged the church to possess and see how we can apply them to our lives.
God Bless and have an awesome week!
Pastor Jay

Life group – Please read Philippians chapter 2 this week at least once a day and maybe start a Journal where you can record some truths that God will reveal to you this week.