Armor Up

Samarai armor

This past Sunday I preached the second message out of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6. The critical truth of this armor is two-fold. First, this is God’s armor, God’s strength and God’s protection for us. Secondly, knowing that it’s imperative that we have it to protect us from the Devil’s schemes, we must put it on. That’s our part. So the question arises; how do you put on the armor? Here’s a brief explanation of all six pieces of armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6:

  1. Truth
    • There’s no value in unapplied truth. Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Seek the truth but put on the armor of truth by applying it.
  2. Righteousness
    • Putting on this piece of armor is as much about what you don’t do. Remember, that our righteousness does not come by way of anything we can do. Only true righteousness is imputed (put on us) by God through Jesus. Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) How do you put on the armor of righteousness? Stop trying to be righteous on your own. (We mostly do this through religious yet un-scriptural works.) God is not impressed by us, He’s impressed when He sees the Son’s righteousness on us by faith.
  3. Gospel (Good News) of peace
    • Even in the midst of the spiritual battle that Paul warns us about, and the one that we know’s going on deep down, we can  have peace. How? Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus promised that we can have peace, deep, soul-quenching peace even in the midst of the battle; in Him.
  4. Faith
    • This piece of armor deflects the “fiery darts” of the devil. How do we have it? By continually and deliberately placing the full weight of our faith in Jesus’ ability and not our own. That’s what faith is. So, continue in the process to which Jesus has called you and learn to take faith from your own ability and place it in Christ.
  5. Salvation
    1. I know what you’re thinking; how do you put on salvation? Salvation is of the Lord! That is correct, it is. You put it on, not in any way trying to save yourself, but living as though it matters. You put on salvation by remembering that there’s more to life than just this life. The Apostle John said, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16) If you’re only tied to the stuff of this world, Satan will use that against you. Make sure you’re tied to the next life, store up your treasure there as you live fully here.
  6. The Word
    • This is how God instructs in truth. Just like the armor of truth, it must be applied. But, you will never apply it if you don’t read it. Whatever you do, don’t let everything you know, or even most of what you know about the Bible be second hand. Read it for yourself.

Make sure you put on the whole armor today and live in the protection and security of the Lord!

Below is a link the the full sermon from Sunday:

http://www.viennabaptistchurch.org/sermon_audio/Full-%20Part%2019.mp3

Believer is as Believer Does

Like a lot of movies, if you ask your friends what they think about the movie “Forrest Gump” you’ll hear one of two reactions. They either love it or hate it.

Regardless of what you think of the movie, there is one line that Forrest uses several times that makes a lot of sense. Any time Forest is asked if he’s stupid he answers with the famous line, “Stupid is as stupid does.” What he was saying was that someone only could call him stupid if he was doing stupid things.

Biblically, I can assume this statement when it comes to a true believer. You can do it to. If someone walks up and asks you if you’re a believer (by that I mean a true believer in Jesus Christ) you could answer, “believer is as believer does.”

The only way to truly know if someone is a believer is if it is lived out of their life. (Church attendance is not a way to know if someone is a true believer by the way.)

Jesus said it this way in the context of spotting false prophets:

“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18)

Both James and Paul later write according to this teaching of Jesus. Paul states in Galatians 5 that Spiritual “fruit”, the fruit of the life of a believer, is as obvious as the “fruit” of the flesh.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

James teaches that it’s important that believers “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)

Jesus, Paul and James are not teaching that you should act a certain way to try to “look like” a believer. As a matter of fact, the Bible has a term for that too; hypocrite. What is true, however, is that both you and those around you will know whether or not your a believer by what you do. Believer is as believer does.

You’ll never see me try this illustration in a sermon but here’s a video excerpt by Francis Chan that delivers this question: how many are true believers? Take a look:

The Unlimited Gospel

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Difficulty in ministry and even difficulty in declaring the Gospel does not indicate what God is doing with your labor or with His Gospel.

When Paul goes to Thessalonica (Acts 17), initially, both Jews and Gentiles respond favorably to the Gospel. Paul reasons in the synagogue and proves that the Messiah must have suffered and died, a concept lost to the Jewish people in their religion. Many people, Luke records, come to the faith in Jesus.

But, like usual for Paul and those who labored with him, jealousy with the religious group who worried that they would lose their power and influence began. Paul will be swiftly run out of town and left to wonder if the Thessalonican people will continue in the Gospel and whether the church will grow. Paul does not get to return to find out. These folks are so vicious they even follow Paul to Berea and try to disrupt the delivery of the Gospel there. Unable to go to Thessalonica himself, Paul sends Timothy to see what has become of the Christians and the church there.

This is where we get to see the incredible power of the Gospel of Christ. Against all odds, not only does the Gospel continue in the hearts and lives of those who heard and responded to it, but the church in Thessalonica becomes arguably the greatest church founded by Paul. As Paul writes to the church he tells them, even a little bit to his surprise, what he’s heard about them:

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

Wow! Can you imagine being Paul and hearing Timothy’s account of what he found when he went to visit the Thessalonian church?!

This leads me to two conclusions:

First, the Gospel is not limited, in any way, by external circumstances. The Gospel is that powerful!

Secondly, whether you’re in vocational ministry or a volunteer, if you find yourself leading and ministering in times and places of difficulty, remember this: your labor for the Gospel is producing more than you would ever dream. Sometimes you don’t get to see it but the Gospel is still producing. It’s that powerful!

God’s at work, always at work, even when you can’t see it. Whether your a leader or volunteer in your church remember this, God’s ability is wrapped up in His Gospel not in our ability. Just declare and live the Gospel, give your life away and watch God do things that will glorify Him that will surpass anything you ever dreamed!

But as for you….

2 Tim

I’ve been invited to go to Jamaica next February and guest lecture at a Bible College. The subject; pastoral theology. As I sat across the lunch table from my friend and missionary and we discussed the class, he told me to plan to spend a session discussing things that came up, or that I learned as a pastor, that were never taught in college.

Man, do I ever have some stories….

But, it immediately brought to mind a passage of Scripture that I spend a lot of time returning to. It’s like a security blanket for me as a pastor, though it’s not really an overly happy text. It’s Paul writing to his protégée Timothy. The epistle is 2nd Timothy.

The tone of the letter is not necessarily happy but it is solid, you might even say foundational.

Paul is warning Timothy of the day we’re living in. As a matter of fact, it’s the day everyone one of us who give our lives for the Gospel live in. Every one of us since the beginning of the church. Paul tells Timothy that people won’t listen to sound doctrine and that people will seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. He also states that people will be lovers of self, self involved, unkind….all kinds of things. You can read the list yourself.

If you do what I do, then you know how difficult it can be at times. Even exasperating.

This is why I find such comfort in Paul’s “as for you” statements.

Here’s what he says to Timothy:

Paul tells Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That doesn’t sound like good news. All of us who have given our lives to serve others “in Christ” find that. The difficulty is when you find out who it is that’s actually doing the persecuting. (That’s the biggest surprise of ministry in my estimation.)

It seems to be intimated by Paul that this persecution will cause some to quit. I guess all of us can have that come to mind from time to time. But, here’s where Paul’s first statement reminds of our uncrackable foundation. Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned and believed. (2 Tim. 3:14) That is, that God has spoken and His Word, our Scriptures, are secure and profitable.

Paul warns Timothy of those who will not want to listen to “sound teaching” but Timothy is to “preach the Word.” I have resolved that my preaching and teaching ministry will be just this. Just preach the Bible. It’s all that we all need.

The second “but as for you” is one that I have underlined and highlighted in my Bible. This is the don’t quit encouragement to Timothy.

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

This should be the anthem of Gospel ministry! There’s no quit in this.

I look forward to teaching pastoral theology this winter in Jamaica. Maybe because it’s giving me a reason to remember exactly why it is that I do what I do. In the end, it’s because of Jesus. The ministry is something that causes us to reach people but it’s because of Jesus. He, the living Word, is our foundation. When we remember that, then whatever difficulties come, and many will come, our uncrackable, unbreakable, unshakable foundation will always be secure.

But as for you….