Category Archives: Christian

Called out!

Old-New

Subject: Called out
Text: 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

1. Separate and unequal
2. Unholy associations
3. Being received by The Master

This second letter written to the church at Corinth was in part addressing some issues that we still see in the church and in its members today. We often assume that what was written thousands of years ago in the Bible has no bearing on us today. But consider the church at Corinth and what was going on. There was envy, strife, backbiting, arguing and sins of the flesh. How is that any different than what we see on Sunday mornings?

We have to stop looking at the walls of the church and look at the infrastructure. The church still has issues because we still have issues. The people are the church and if we’re broken, the church is broken. What’s worse is the fact that we embrace being broken. We often attempt to use scripture to justify shoddy Christian living. “God knows my heart”, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, etc. We’re aware that we’re consistently under construction, but nothing ever gets done. That’s not God’s fault, that’s our fault.

Let’s look at some scripture that puts the onus on every Christian to come out from a sinful life and sinful associations, and embrace what God has called us to.

Separate and unequal

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

During the civil rights movement, rather than fully integrating with Blacks, whites offered separate but equal facilities, schools, restaurants, etc. However, what they offered was anything but equal. The facilities were unsanitary and often deplorable. The fact that they had to be separate suggested that they wouldn’t be equal. Such is the life that Christians are called to live by God. We are called out of the world to be separate because we aren’t equal to the world. The world’s condition is unsanitary and deplorable.

This verse has often been used to keep Christians from marrying the wrong people. In matrimony, the saved aren’t to even consider someone that doesn’t believe in and acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. However, this verse actually is an instruction for all of our relationships as Christians. Our love life, our friendships and even our family relationships are addressed here.

The word “yoked” in this text means to be joined. God doesn’t want us unnecessarily mixing with those that are in conflict with how we’re called to live. Now, this isn’t a call to be spiritually proud or uppity. God doesn’t want us looking down our noses at people, but rather we are to remain humble when dealing with the unsaved. We must remember that we were once like them. Though we may still love our lost brothers and sisters, we must learn to love from a distance.

If we consider what light does, it casts out darkness. Even a candle in the darkest of night can be seen. Therefore, when we become children of the light, we can no longer exist where darkness is because we will shine. Also, if we continue to dabble in our old ways and with those that are living in those ways, we can be overtaken again. This is where the humility of this verse comes in. Avoid fellowship with the unsaved, lest you fall. Avoid fellowship with the unsaved lest you cause someone else to stumble because you have become their spiritual role model.

Unholy associations

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 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

Verse 15 continues on with the questions of why we would continue associations with people in our former lives. What concord has Christ with Belial, which is another name for Satan or something wicked. The Apostle Paul also asks why we would associate with an infidel. These sound like harsh words, but what would you consider someone that is in disagreement with our heavenly cause? And why would we call ourselves Christians and continue spending so much time with people that aren’t, unless we were trying to convert them?

Let’s be clear, anyone or anything that is against God, the church or the harmony of the church is evil, according to the Word of God. Looking at Verse 16, the Apostle Paul asks us why there are idols within our churches, and even our lives. Where are the idols in church today? Well, we make idols of people in positions, we elevate the music ministry above the ministry of the Word of God and, dare I say, we make idols of the preachers. This is an offense to God and something that needs to be addressed.

Continuing with Verse 16, Paul says “ye are the temple of the living God”. This speaks to the individual body and the collective body of Christ that is the church. When God is saying that He will “dwell in them” and “walk in them”, He saying that He wants to live within us and among us. But the question remains, can God dwell in the church if we continue to yield to the whims of the unholy?

Once we fully acknowledge God for who He is and allow Him full control of our lives, and thus the church, this 16th Verse says we shall be His people. We can fix our churches by driving out certain unholy behaviors. If we can’t drive the behavior out of the people, they we need to drive the unholy people out. Again, this may seem harsh, but it’s scripturally based (Matthew 18:15-18, Titus 3:10-11). God doesn’t expect us to allow the devil to set up shop in the sanctuary and just deal with him. We are to drive his spirit away, and if a person insists on bringing that spirit into our congregation regularly, we are to drive that person out.

 Being received by The Master

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith The Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you

If you’ve ever been a child dressed in your Sunday best by your parents, you know what instructions usually followed: Don’t go out and get dirty! God is no different when He cleans us up. Once He’s done that marvelous redemptive work on us and in us, He doesn’t want us going back to our old ways, our old friends and down old paths. He wants us changed!

In order to be received by God, we must be cleansed. This can only be done through the blood of Jesus. It’s not Rev. Jackson that’s telling you to be separate from those things and people that used to influence you in the wrong ways. It’s the Word of God.

What is the unclean thing? That would be anything or anyone that comes against the Spirit of the living God. It would be anything or anyone that has you yielding to the flesh and denying the spirit. And just because you’ve known a person for years and have been fellow church members forever doesn’t mean that they’re on The Lord’s side. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you a spirit of discernment, particularly with old friends and family because that’s a soft spot with us and it’s exactly where the devil likes to attack us.

Again, this isn’t to suggest that we become spiritually arrogant. It’s not to suggest that we don’t speak to people, aren’t polite to people or don’t show love to people. We should show the love of Christ to everyone, even our enemies. But God wants the individual Christian and the collective Christians to separate themselves from ungodliness. Drive it out of your home, drive it out of your life and drive it out of the church, all with the Word of God, so that we may be received by God.

Conclusion…

One of the difficulties of being saved is letting go of some things of the past. Let’s be real, the devil makes sin fun. When we’re in the world, we do a lot of things that are enjoyable to the flesh. This is why the saved man is to deny his flesh and live in the spirit. This is what real fasting and praying is about, but that’s another blog for another day. Once we begin living in the spirit as God has called us to, then we can see that some things, some people and some relationships are no longer profitable for us.

Another difficulty of being called out by God is dealing with some of the current and longstanding relationships that we have. I’m often imploring people to examine their friendships and family connections once they’ve accepted Christ. It’s easy to hold on to people that aren’t saved because you love them and you’ve been connected for such a long time. However, we must love no one above God and we must trust no word above His. If He’s called you out from that way of life and the people you love are still in it, you’ve got to let them go.

Lastly, we can’t compromise our Christianity. Look at Psalms 1:1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”. God is telling us that there is a blessing in keeping clear of the sinful. There is no exception made in the scripture for 30 year friendships or your favorite cousin. If they aren’t walking in the path of the saved, they’re no good for you. We’re making too many concessions for Satan and we’re assuming that it’s okay to maintain a relationship with worldly people as long as we’re not discussing “religion”. Jesus says in Luke 9:26 that if we’re ashamed of Him here, He will be ashamed of us in Heaven. Therefore, we should be the Christians of Romans 1:16, not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

We are called out by Christ. He gave His life for us. What are we willing to give up for Him?

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The joy inside your tears

Old-NewSubject: The joy inside your tears

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

  1. Spiritual humility
  2. Consistent prayer life
  3. Favor in spite of your weakness

How often do we really equate humility with godliness? While it may seem to be the perfect match, many people struggle with understanding why God humbles us and how we are blessed because of it. Humility requires submission. It requires keeping a low profile at times. It requires us to lean on God and ignore what we think. This particular text speaks to God keeping us all in check, sometimes physically and always spiritually.

The Apostle Paul is discussing with us how we should handle ourselves when we’re facing situations that aren’t the best. Who do you turn to when you’re weak? Where do you look to when it seems as if the devil is attacking you? When you’re attempting to walk in the ways of The Lord, how do you deal with the fact that something always seems to be weighing you down, causing you pain or just making you feel like giving up? According to this text, you can find joy in the midst of your trials.

Spiritual Humility

6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure

When we examine Verse 6, we see that at times our fleshly desire is to exalt ourselves, even above the God that we’ve prayed to for whatever blessings or gifts that we have. But such thinking is foolishness. We should resist this mindset, lest other people begin to follow us and do the same thing. Whether we’re preaching or teaching the Word of God, our desire should be that man sees all of God and none of us. We’re so flawed that it would be spiritual injustice for anyone to ever give us credit for what The Almighty has done.

This is also where we get into itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3-5), where people love man’s message rather than God’s. The Apostle Paul is writing about speaking the truth. This truth means that it is not a watered down version of the gospel. It is not a message that always feels good or does not include teaching about sin and man’s involvement in his own downfall. However, as you will see when you study those Verses in 2 Timothy, we often run from the truth of God’s Word, looking for a message that suits our fleshly desires.

It shouldn’t be a preacher or teacher’s desire to sting you with the Word, but if that happens, they shouldn’t pull back. The loyalty of the called is to God. This is where the man or woman of God can either rise or fall. He can choose to deliver a crowd-pleasing message that gains him the adoration of man, or he can choose a God-pleasing message that may offend some, but will garner him favor with God and possibly point someone toward salvation.

Looking at Verse 7, Paul’s thorn in his flesh could’ve been a physical or a mental “thorn”. Maybe he was tempted of the devil by some weakness he was attempting to overcome. Or maybe it was a physical ailment, possible a visible one, that caused him to be self-conscious. Though he was called of God, Paul was still in his flesh and he no doubt was superficial at times, just as we are.

A study of Paul does reveal that he had some visible physical ailments. Either way, this “thorn” was there lest he began being too arrogant. However, Paul knew that he needed to pray about his condition. An ailment that keeps us in prayer, whether it’s physical or mental, keeps us humble and keeps us in the knowledge that we need God. In all of His wisdom, God knows that some people suffer from spiritual arrogance and would never pray unless they had an issue or a need. And in the event that everything was okay in their lives, they would take credit for the peace He has given.  

Consistent prayer life

8 For this thing I besought The Lord thrice, that it might depart from me 9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me

How often do you really pray? In the 8th Verse, Paul talks about going to God three times about his condition. It’s not as though God is unaware or hard of hearing, but we still must approach God concerning our needs. Again, this requires humility. It requires us to submit our requests to a higher power, one that can supply what we need.

Another key component to this prayer is our understanding that God may deny a prayer request to fulfill His divine purposes. Whatever you’re dealing with is actually in God’s plan for purposes you may not understand yet. This is where His grace comes in.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. What does that mean? Well, we aren’t worthy of God’s favor. We’re saved by His grace, even though we don’t deserve it and can do nothing to earn it. It is by His grace that we’re able to endure the tests of life. We aren’t even worthy of going directly to God in prayer. However, we have Jesus as our great intercessor. Through Him, we receive God’s grace. Not because we are worthy, but because Jesus has made the sacrifice of His life.

Through God’s grace, we are strengthened. If we never had a weakness, how would we ever know how mighty our God is? This is why Paul says “I rather glory in my infirmities”. He understands that God will enable him to do great things, despite his conditions (this is the true application of Philippians 4:13). He understands that as he goes through, it is God that gets him through. Knowing that God is the wind beneath your wings enables you to soar to greater heights!

We should never assume that God only chooses the “perfect” man to do His perfect will. In fact, God has often chosen the imperfect so that we all can understand that we can be a part of Kingdom building. Verse 9 speaks to that grace of God. It is all we need, even in the midst of physical and mental imperfection. We can find joy inside our tears each time the devil attacks us. When we go to God in prayer, we shouldn’t be reminded of how big the problem is. We should be reminded of how big our God is.

Then Paul speaks about the power of Christ resting upon him. 1 Peter 4:14 says: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified”. Therefore, if we’re enduring difficult times in the name of Jesus, we ought to count it joy. You wouldn’t be under attack from the enemy unless the Spirit of God was within you. As Jesus said, Satan can’t cast out Satan (Matthew 12:25-28). So if you’re already under the devil’s control, there’s no need for him to attack you.

Favor in spite of your weakness

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong

Never place all of your focus on what makes you weak if you aren’t going to look to what makes you strong. Every bit of drama in our lives should point us right back to Christ. Research Romans 5:3-5 and you’ll find that trials bring about patience. Through trials you’ll be better able to deal with difficult situations and difficult people, all because the power of Christ is within you.

Going through tough times in life is difficult when you’re going through them for yourself because we can’t adequately strengthen ourselves. But when you’re going through them for Christ’s sake, you can take pleasure in them. Jesus laid down His life for you. He has already come to your rescue by redeeming you to the Father. Don’t think that He won’t come to your rescue again. Consider all that He went through for us and you’ll realize that what we go through for Him pales in comparison. The reward for what you do for Christ is the gift (because we can’t earn it) of eternal life.

Conclusion…

The Christian should never have a “woe is me” attitude. This can be difficult to manage at times because we’re still in the flesh. This is why I encourage Bible study so much, rather than just church attendance. The Word of God is a guide when you’re lost and strength when you think you can’t go on. You need to lean on it daily and move away from your flesh (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It is God’s grace, His Word and the Holy Spirit that can keep us from losing our focus when it seems that a little situation here or there is getting out of hand. In tough times, you have to trust God more than you trust yourself. The Apostle Paul gives us a powerful lesson in both humility and strength. It’s a reminder that if we lean on God, no matter what the financial situation, physical situation, mental situation, spiritual situation or church situation may be, if we go to God in prayer concerning that “thorn”, even if He doesn’t remove it, He will be there to help us to bear it. And isn’t that all we need when the load gets too heavy?

A Time for Testimony

ExaminerPhotoIt’s never too late to answer the call of God. I know this firsthand now. Unlike other jobs and careers where age or experience may play a role in when you get started, when it comes to working for God, there is no time, no age or circumstance where it’s the “perfect” time. The perfect time is whenever He calls. When you consider the fact that Moses wasn’t sent to free the children of Israel until he was 80, it would also seem that God will equip you no matter where you are when He calls.

This came to my mind yesterday as I watched Detroit weatherman Chuck Gaidica announce his call to pastor a church. After 27 years of being a local weatherman on television, he’s stepping down in August so that he can answer God’s call. At 55, one would think that he had been a minister. We often assume that God calls the very young to work this sometimes very difficult task. While that’s true at times, I point you back to Moses again. One never knows when God is going to call. But what inspired me so much about this man’s call, a man that I have watched on the news for over half of my adult life, was the fact that it seemed to mirror my call.

When I thought of ministers, I always thought of God calling someone young and using them for the rest of their lives. In my mind, there were either young preachers that were starting out, or old preachers that started young. We easily forget Scripture at times and forget that God calls whomever He chooses. So when I saw Gaidica making his announcement yesterday, I felt as though I was looking at a kindred spirit. Someone that God called late in life, but still has great plans for.

I didn’t completely pursue my call until I was in my forties, and I wondered how much I had left for God. I didn’t consider the fact that I’m in good shape for my age, I have no health issues and I have a wife and family that supports my call. More than that, I lost sight of the fact that no call from God really comes overnight. There’s usually a consistent drawing to Him (see Moses). God called me when I was in my 20’s. It simply took me all of those years to slow myself down, listen to that still voice inside of me and do what God had been telling me to do for years.

As do most who sincerely receive a call from God, I didn’t consider myself worthy. I wasn’t always the best person, didn’t always use the best language, and even though I knew quite a bit about the Word of God, I was disobedient to it. But it was that testimony, that seasoning, that story of reclamation that God actually needs sometimes in His messengers. He’s not looking for perfect people to spread the Gospel, He’s looking for the redeemed! I had to realize that I could only go into the ministry in God’s time, and every experience that I’ve had in my life will serve to make me a better preacher.

I have nothing against young ministers whatsoever. I happen to know a few great ones, and the fact is, I admire them for answering the call much sooner than I did. But as one that answered the call late, I have no regrets. In fact, I know it was all done in divine order. Just as Gaidica said during his announcement, sometimes God just grabs you by the collar and moves you right along the path that He wants you to walk. Even though I’m in my 40’s, I feel as if I’m in the prime of my life. I’m right where God wants me to be. I have the right amount of life experience and Christian experience that God wanted me to have in order to begin having an impact on the lives of the young and the old. Just as Gaidica seemed to be as he made his announcement, I’m not as concerned about when God called me. I’m just glad that He did.

Brand new year, brand new me

Old-NewSubject: Brand new year, brand new me

Text: Ephesians 4:17-24

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

For the New Year:

  1. God wants to change your walk (Vs. 17-19)
  2. God wants to change your ways (Vs. 20-22)
  3. God wants to change your understanding (Vs. 23-24)

Isn’t it always this way? December 31st rolls around and we begin taking inventory. We analyze all that went wrong over the past year and vow to make changes. However, during the course of our assessment, our list making and all of the things we find ourselves wanting to get rid of, we often forget the most important element of change: Self improvement. To change our circumstances we must accept the fact that we’ve played a role in those circumstances. And if we’re serious about self improvement, we must first start with ourselves. In order to see change, we must be changed. 

In this text, we will see that God is interested in us as individuals. In the 3 areas listed at the top of the page, we’ll see that God intends to make us better as a people by making us better as individuals.

God wants to change our walk (Ephesians 4:17-19)

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

In Verse 17, the Apostle Paul is calling on us to walk as Christians. The “other Gentiles” in this verse represents those still in the world. Until we’ve separated ourselves from the world’s way of living, we’re not prepared to eliminate anyone from our lives. If we aren’t separated spiritually from the world, how can we really know which people should stay in our lives and which should go? So here is the question that Christians must ask of themselves: Am I still walking according to my own thoughts and understanding?

Look at the word “vanity” in the text. We often assume that vanity means to focus on oneself superficially. However, vanity can also be our willingness to look the other way concerning our shortcomings. It can also be a willingness to believe that everyone else is a problem in our lives, but we have no blame.

At its core, vanity is self-serving and meaningless. As a reference, let’s look at Ecclesiastes 2:11: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of the spirit, and there was no profit under the sun”.

When we take things into our own hands, we receive the fruits of our own labor. When we come to the end of the year and the wrong people are in our lives, or the wrong circumstances exist in our lives, we have to take a look at the work that we’ve done with our own hands. And when we look at our lives and see no spiritual profit from what we’ve sown, we have to be accountable to ourselves.

It’s easy to blame others for bringing misery into our lives, but when we let them in, it’s hardly just their fault. It is the work that we’ve done according to our own understanding of what is and isn’t necessary in our lives. We’ve worked things for our own pleasure, but received no real profit from it.

Let’s look at Verse 18 of our text. To walk in our own way darkens our understanding, which means we’re rejecting knowledge. We become alienated (separated) from God. Many times in scripture when discussing the saved and unsaved, the words “light” and “darkness” are used. We are children of the light and we should have no communion with darkness, as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:14. If we are walking in darkness, we are without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We become ignorant, which simply means to not know. We have a “blindness of heart”, which means we’re aimlessly wandering according to our understanding, which leads to works of the flesh (lasciviousness) (Vs. 19). If God has really and truly called us out from such things, we ought to walk like it. We ought to talk like it. We ought to live like it.

God wants to change our ways (Ephesians 4:20-22)

20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

If we don’t know anything about Christ, we’ll most likely glory in behavior that isn’t Christ-like (Vs. 20). But as Christians, we’re supposed to have an intimate knowledge of Christ and His teachings. And knowing Christ means a change in our ways (Vs. 21-22).

Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Sounds like if we’re cleaning out our circle, we have to start with ourselves, right? To be new, we have to renounce our old ways and embrace a new Christian life. In order to do that, we must be honest about something: Do we really know the truth about Jesus Christ? Not asking are you saved, not asking do you believe that He rose on the third day and not asking are you faithful to the church. Do you really and truly know the truth about Jesus Christ, His example to us and how He wants and expects us to treat one another?

You can’t learn about Christ by word of mouth, you can only be introduced to Him that way. Learning comes from being taught, from studying and from experience. If you’re not in someone’s Bible class, you’re missing out on the truth about Jesus Christ. Sunday morning just isn’t enough. Once we really know Jesus, real change happens. Not through resolutions and promises made on New Year’s Eve, but through spiritual change and dedication to God. The fleshly man is corrupt, but the spiritual man is righteous in the eyes of God.

God wants to change our understanding (Ephesians 4:23-24)

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

What is it that we really understand about ourselves? As you head into this new year, the old you has to die. Before we kick people out of our lives, we have to kick some things about ourselves out. It’s so easy to say that we’re tired of putting up with some of the wrong people in our lives, but we always forget that someone has been putting up with us too. We always wanna kick people out, but we never consider the fact that we may need to be kicked out of some places too. We’re not so much that everybody needs us while we get to pick and choose who stays and who goes.

Having the wrong people in your life is just as much a reflection on you for allowing them to stay as it is on them for being who they are. There’s something in you that’s attracted to them! But God wants to help us with this by telling us to put off the old, fleshly man, which is corrupt, and put on a new creature in Christ that is righteous in His sight. A new man after God is created in holiness, not foolishness. A new man after God is created in righteousness, not selfishness.

God will renew your spirit if you allow Him to. There is a new man that we must put on before we can even understand why God has placed certain people in our lives. Everybody that you want gone shouldn’t be gone. Everybody that you want to stay shouldn’t be staying. Some people we want around because they never tell us we’re wrong. How is that growth? Some people are around because we think we can’t live without them. How is that trusting in God?

There are some people we can’t accept the truth about because we refuse to see them with spiritual eyes. They keep us blinded in foolishness. But when God opens your eyes, you will see just how destructive they are. When God renews your mind, you understand things in His way, not yours.

In conclusion…

Going forward into this new year or any season of change, know that any true renewal starts with us. We can claim to be kicking all of the wrong people out of our lives for all we want, but if we’re still the same, we’ll replace those people with the same types of people. Allow God to clean you up first. Before you take inventory of the people in your life, take inventory of yourself.

Answer these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you attracted to?
  • Why are you attracted to those things or those people?
  • How much of the damage in your life over the past year is self-inflicted?

The Word of God says in James 4:7 to resist the devil and he will flee. These are instructions for us as individuals. It doesn’t call for us to attack the devil or attempt to throw him out on our own. The instructions require us to work on ourselves. It requires us to resist the devil by standing on the Word of God, and if we do so, the devil will flee.

God wants us preparing, not planning. He already has the plan. We just need to be prepared to receive it. We have to set our minds to trust the plans that He has made for us. Psalms 37:23 says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord: and he delighteth in his way”. What am I saying? Well, if we work on ourselves and look to be better people through Christ, we won’t have to kick anyone out of our lives. The wrong people will leave on their own.

Why Sunday morning just isn’t enough

Old-NewSubject: Why Sunday morning just isn’t enough

Text: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 10:23-27

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

  1. What is the Bible for?
  2. Why should we come together for study (church vs. Bible class)?
  3. What you get in Bible class that you don’t get in Sunday morning service (shaping vs. shaking)

Why do you go to church on Sunday morning? Ask yourself that question and then explore the answer that you gave when you get to the end of this lesson. In my time as a teacher of the Word of God and now a preacher, I’ve found that people come to church for a myriad of different reasons, but often they’re coming to church on Sunday looking for some things that aren’t there.

Seems odd that a preacher would say that there’s anything that can’t be found at church on Sunday morning, huh? It would seem that whatever there is for God’s people to hear could be heard on Sunday mornings. However, there’s more for God’s people to hear concerning what He has for them and how He wants them to live and the vast majority of it does not happen on Sunday morning.

Some things we could actually understand better if we’d just learn basic definitions of words. In the dictionary, the word “church” is defined as “a building for public Christian worship” or “a body of Christians worshiping in a particular building or constituting one congregation”. But a class is defined as “a group of students meeting regularly to study a subject under the guidance of a teacher” or “a meeting of a group of students for instruction”. Based on a basic understanding of the English language, you can’t get out of church what you get out of Bible class.

What is the Bible for? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Let’s begin with the basics. To understand what we’re studying, we first need to know where the Bible came from and what it’s meant for. Amongst other passages in the Bible, this particular one in 2 Timothy gives us a complete understanding:

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works

Taken from what are the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus), the Apostle Paul was addressing Timothy on the role of a pastor. In order for any preacher to properly preach and teach the Word of God, He must not only understand where God’s Word comes from (Verse 16; see also 2 Peter 1:20-21), but he must also understand what it’s for. The Bible was written by men that were inspired of God. Man didn’t write the Bible based on his own intellect. Therefore, man shouldn’t attempt to use his intellect to manipulate God’s Word to fit his agenda, lifestyle or circumstances. Once we understand and accept that God’s Word comes directly from Him, we must learn what the application of that Word should be. Even though Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the directions for proper application of God’s Word are for all of us.

When Verse 17 speaks about “the man of God” being “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”, while this letter is written to Timothy the young pastor, it’s meant for all that are disciples of Christ. In The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, we are all commanded to “Go ye therefore and teach”. As men and women of God, we must use His Word as a guide for godly living. Understanding what the Bible is actually meant to be in our lives is essential for the Christian. Without this knowledge, we will lean to our own understanding. Without regular Bible study, we will never know God’s intended application.

Why should we come together for study (church vs. Bible class)? (Hebrews 10:23-27)

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not 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. 26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour our adversaries.

If there were ever verses in the Bible that summed up the importance of both church and Bible classes, these are the verses. Often these Verses (particularly Verse 25) are used to stress the importance of coming to church as regularly as possible and fellowshipping with one another. But I’m always interested in the verses before and after what are considered focus verses.

When Verse 23 talks about holding fast to our hope without wavering, we need more than a fiery sermon on Sunday to do that. We need a deep understand of the Word in order to hold on to our hope. Sometimes that takes more than just the text the preacher used on that Sunday. Here’s a question I’ve often asked in classes I’ve taught: What do you plan to do if the sermon that Sunday had nothing to do with your current situation? Let that one marinate.

Verse 24 speaks to us encouraging one another in our good works. It not only speaks to the encouragement, but also to us holding one another accountable. What are we as a body of believers if we can’t or aren’t even willing to hold each other’s feet to the fire? We’ve gotten so caught up in who is and who isn’t judging us that we’ve rejected any form of Christian correction from our brothers and sisters in Christ. These are all the ways in which we can encourage one another in The Lord through studying together. And in case you haven’t noticed, according to what we’ve always believed about these Verses, we haven’t even made it to Sunday morning service yet (Verse 25).

Looking at Verse 26, we have a stern reminder that Jesus was the last sacrifice for our sins. If we reject Him, there’s nowhere else to turn. The judgment is coming for those that don’t believe and accept Jesus (Verse 27). So it should be upon us to study God’s Word just to know what is and isn’t pleasing in His sight. And while we love to get our shout on each Sunday morning when that choir sings our song or that preacher gets to the Cross, go back to that question I asked: If the man of God doesn’t speak directly to your situation on Sunday, what will you stand on until next Sunday? If he doesn’t hit that scripture that speaks directly to you for the next month, where will you turn to? If church isn’t fulfilling for you and the Word of God isn’t written in your heart from study and regularly assembling with those that do study, what will you do?

What you get in Bible class that you don’t get from Sunday morning service

Again, the vast majority of what God wants us to know isn’t given during Sunday morning service. It’s given in a class setting. Any preacher or pastor that’s honest will tell you that he can give you more in his teaching than he can in his preaching. As much as we preachers love to preach, we should all understand that preaching is just gravy, but teaching is the full meal.

How many movies would you be willing to see if every time you saw one, you were only told half the story? This is how so many Christians approach church on Sundays. Some come to church just for the singing, some come just for the preaching. What’s alarming is how few actually come back during the week for the study. Without knowing the meaning behind the sermon, you’re only getting half the story.

We all love a good sermon. Whether we’re preaching it or hearing it, we want to know that something was said that we can carry out of that church and on into the week as encouragement. But we mustn’t get so caught up in one phase of worship that we forget about the rest. We come on Sunday for the inspiration, but we need to be willing to come back to Bible class for the shaping.

We’ve fallen so in love with the Sunday morning shaking (praise and worship, singing, shouting, the preacher’s “whoop”) that we’ve forsaken the mid-week shaping that God wants to do in our lives. The potter wants to make us into a fully-formed masterpiece. Instead, we’re incomplete works of art.

We have many misinformed Christians in churches all across the world because they refuse to come to Bible class and really get an understanding of what the preacher is talking about from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Without Bible class, they misapply many scriptures that they hear on Sunday morning. They’re more likely to hold on to a clever line that the preacher said, rather than the application of the scripture that inspired that line. They’ve become what I call “catchphrase Christians”.

I submit to you that no matter how much you think you enjoyed that sermon on Sunday, you’d enjoy it a lot better if you had a deeper knowledge of the Word of God. The preacher would be a lot more enjoyable if you were aware of the fullness of the passage of scripture he preached from, things that a preacher sometimes can’t get to in 20 or 25 minutes.

There’s an old saying (and I apologize for not knowing whom to attribute it to) that says preaching pulls Christians out of the world, but the teaching pulls the world out of the Christian. Preachers often have to be clever and creative with their words in order to keep the congregation engaged. I’m not in any way suggesting that they lie, but no one wants to hear a boring sermon. So we have to say things that will excite the crowd as well as inspire and inform them about what God has in store for them. However, when we are preaching, we will inevitably hit some things in scripture that some in the congregation can’t quite comprehend. Because we’re in preaching mode, there’s no time for Q & A. We have to get out what God has put into us for that particular moment.

Church service is where you give more than you receive. You give worship for the majority of the day and you receive an inspired message from God through His preacher or maybe through a song from the choir. However, in Bible class, all you do is receive. You receive knowledge, you receive encouragement, you receive inspiration, and most of all, you receive instruction on Christian living.

Even songs about being in love or having your heart broken don’t completely make sense until we’ve actually experienced those things personally. The Word of God is similar in the fact that we not only have to go through some things in life in order to know how God can protect and keep us, but knowing how He wants us to live can help us to prevent some self-inflicted wounds that are common among Christians.

In conclusion…

In the event that you feel that you can’t grow in your current church or you aren’t being fed, then it is upon you to look for a church that meets your needs. To stay in a church that doesn’t feed you and complain about being hungry, rather than going elsewhere to seek your spiritual nourishment, is spiritual suicide.

Now, let’s understand this completely. Be careful not to look for the church of agreement, the church of “just happy” or the church that never teaches you about sin because it may offend you. One of the most difficult things for us to do these days is to accept instruction in righteousness. No one wants to be told that they’re living wrong. In fact, people would rather hear that God is wrong before they’ll accept the fact that they’re wrong. We’ve become so independent of God’s Word that we’d rather not attend Bible class to hear a minister or a teacher tell us that we need to do better, even if they can support it with scripture.

People sometimes avoid Bible class because they don’t want to know if they’re not living right, but avoiding Bible class also causes us not to know what God does expect, how we can increase our blessings, why we should be thankful for current blessings and how to keep from hurting ourselves and then asking God why it’s happening.

For one to suggest that they can study just as well on their own is to suggest that they know enough about the Word of God that they don’t need any instruction from anyone. For one to engage in this type of thinking is to sell oneself short. Even the preacher still needs to be taught, lest he become complacent and arrogant.

2 Timothy 2:15 says: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This is a mandate for every Christian that wants to get closer to God. Don’t just trust the preacher, don’t just leave it at Sunday morning worship, don’t just download your Bible, you have to study! After all, how can God’s people propose to rightly divide the His Word if they have no desire to study outside of Sunday morning service?

Fighting the real enemy

Old-NewSubject: Fighting the real enemy

Text: Ephesians 6:10-17

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

  1. The enemy identified (Vs. 10-12)
  2. The Word of God is protection (Vs. 13-15)
  3. What will you stand on? (Vs. 16-17)

As a minister, people often contact me so that I may give them a Word of encouragement from God. However, there are times as minister when I need those same words to encourage me. One of the things you notice when you begin preaching are the arrows that start coming your way. They’ve been shot at me from within the church and even from people that opposed this blog, passing judgment on me when they’ve never even met me. But there’s one thing that we all must remember, whether we’re ministers, evangelists, or just Christians looking to spread the Word of God: Just as the righteous are led by the Holy Spirit, Satan has an army led by his spirit as well. And quite often, they’re dressed in a Christian’s clothing.

So when I chose the scripture for this post, I chose based on the fact that we must remember who’s attacking us when we’re being attacked. It’s so easy to look at the person, rather than looking at what’s controlling the person. Just as the unsaved, the judgmental or the “hater” will appear to be attacking us, in fact, they’re really attacking the Christ that they see in us. So let us not look to the puppet when we’re under attack for Christ’s sake, let’s look to the puppet master.

The enemy is identified

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Before even looking to withstand any enemy, we must first look to be strengthened. If we are to be strong in the Lord, we must deny what we believe to be our own strength. What does that mean? We can easily be defeated when we attempt to do things by our own might. When we operate under the armour of man, we’re operating at a disadvantage. We aren’t strong enough to defeat the devil on our own. We need the armour of God to stand against him.

Often, we don’t realize our weaknesses until we’re just about to lose the battle. But God’s strength is not fleeting, nor is it ever faint. So as Verse 10 says, we are to be strong in the Lord. We have access to an unlimited power source.

Verse 11 begins by preparing us for a war with the enemy. If you know anything about war, then you know that you can’t go without some sort of protection. As Christians, we can’t handle all that the devil throws at us without the armour of God protecting us from all danger. We must be mindful that having God’s armour doesn’t prevent an attack. It just gives us something to go into battle with. It gives us what we need to be able to stand.

And what is the “armour of God”? It is the Word of God. His Word is our protection, our strength and our renewing in a time of weakness. It is the way of Christ. It is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). 1 Thessalonians 5:8 says we should be “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation”. Our protection is in reading, studying and living according to God’s Word.

In Luke 22:31, Jesus tells Peter that Satan desires to “sift you as wheat”. So in Verse 11, we see that we also have to deal with the craftiness of the devil. But in Verse 12, we see just how crafty he can be. He seems to pit us against one another and he has us believing that man is our enemy. The fact is, as this Verse states, we’re not fighting against flesh and blood man, but rather the spirit of wickedness that enters him.

Just as Christians are called to walk under the direction of the Holy Spirit, people that thrive on discord are under the direction of the darkness of the devil (spiritual wickedness). Man is simply an instrument that the devil uses to attack you. At times, the people being used aren’t even aware that the devil is using them. They believe that they’re acting on their own. This is why the attack feels personal. How many relationships would we actually be able to hold together if we actually knew whom our disagreement was really with?

Words like “principalities”, “powers” and “rulers” tell you how powerful the enemy is. The devil is no slouch and he will take you down if you take him lightly. Also, when we begin to conform to the ways of this world, we are conforming to the ways of the devil. It is the devil that rules this world, even though God owns it all. However, we are called to a higher purpose, one beyond this world.

When we consider the “high places” of this Verse, it’s not just about people in high positions in the world. While we do battle such things, we have to understand that the devil will also bring the fight to us, often in places where we’d think he wouldn’t be, like our churches. Just because someone has been in your local church for decades doesn’t mean that the devil will not use them to cause discord. We mustn’t underestimate the power and reach of Satan. Though he can’t overpower God, he can operate in places that are supposed to be godly when given an opening by man.

The Word of God is protection

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in that evil day, and having done all to stand 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Verses 13 and 14 describe our battle gear and how it protects us. Having our “loins girt” about us with truth is the same as having a “belt of truth” tightened around our waist. Having that “breastplate of righteousness” covering us means that the heart, which is man’s center of emotion and understanding, is covered. If my heart is covered in His Word, it is protected from the darkness of the devil. Righteousness means we’re right with God, not self-righteous and lording ourselves over someone else.

When we are attacked by the devil, we must be willing and able to stand on God’s Word of righteousness and truth. This is the only way to “withstand that evil day”. The flesh tells us to fight fire with fire when we’re attacked, but scriptures say otherwise. As I’ve taught in Bible class, fire has two functions: It either destroys or purifies. If we’re fighting in our flesh, we can be consumed by the devil’s fire. But if we’re operating in the Word of God, that Holy Ghost fire will purify us.

Verse 15 is key because it talks about having our feet “shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace”. This is critical for those of us that are attacked by people that claim to be using the scriptures to do so or claim to be Christians. How we use God’s Word is just as critical as who is using it and for what purposes.

Having your feet “shod” means putting on shoes. If we’re wearing the comfortable “shoes” of the Gospel of peace, how easy is it for us to walk in God’s statutes? The Word of God is about peace and when we use it to attack one another, rather than strengthen one another, we’re using it out of context.

Does the Word call for us to admonish one another when we’re wrong? Absolutely. But if we aren’t doing it in love, which is at the core of who Jesus is, then we become as wrong as the person we’re trying to correct. Whether we’re disagreeing on scripture, positions in the church or what God has called us to do, one thing we must remember is that He hasn’t called us to strife. He has called us to love one another. We must carry a peaceful Gospel in our Christian walk.

What will you stand on?

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

Speaking of a peaceful Gospel, it takes faith in God and His Word to be able to handle those that speak ill of us for His name’s sake. If your faith is weak, the enemy will easily throw you off track. Study of the Word and more time with God provides you with the knowledge that your strength is in Him. Though you’re wearing the armour, the battle is not yours, its God’s!

Anytime you talk about doing work for the Lord or changing your life, the enemy will attack. Only the Word of God can help you to handle the words and deeds of the wicked that try and discourage you. Attacks of the world can only be defused by sword of the Spirit. We can’t fight it in our flesh because we will surely lose. As Christians, we must continue being led by the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion…

The walk of Christianity, evangelism or ministry is not always an easy one. Though the reward is great, the road is narrow and often rough. But when we arm ourselves with the Word of God, we are prepared for whatever trials are ahead of us. When the enemy attacks (and he most certainly will), we must put on that full armour of God.

If you look at our chosen scripture, God will fully dress us for battle. We have a belt of truth, a breastplate of faith, shoes of the Gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a sword of the Spirit and a helmet of salvation. If you’re fully covered in God’s armour, you can withstand the attack of the enemy. Your call and your commitment will be questioned by man. You will be ridiculed and mocked for Christ’s sake. While it’s easy to argue back and hold grudges against the people that are questioning your new life in Christ, it’s important to know who the real enemy is. This text tells us that we’re always fighting against the devil and demonic ways, not man. Man is simply a tool.

Once you come to this realization, you understand why God doesn’t want us taking revenge on one another. We would only be attacking a pawn in the game, but not the devil himself. More than anything, once you realize who’s really attacking you, you’re less likely to counterattack and more likely to pray for those that speak ill of you. You’re more likely to spread the Gospel of peace.