DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Lemmond Farewell (2 Timothy 1:3-7)

  • please open your Bibles to 2 Timothy 1 tonight

  • I've been at Richview just over a year now
  • I've been thinking back - I didn't have a clue what I was getting into!
  • I don't mean that in a bad way
  • it's just a simple fact
  • when a pastor comes to a church, the people don't fully understand who they're getting, and the pastor isn't sure what he's getting himself into

  • well, I'm here tonight to say that God has been good
  • I wouldn't go back
  • Richview has been great
  • there are challenges, but there challenges at every church
  • do you know what joys have stood out?

  • two things
  • for sure - the congregation
  • we've been amazed at how warm, accepting, and gracious you have been
  • we didn't for a minute think that we would experience the love that we've felt
  • and we've only been here a year - it's going to get better

  • but the other area that I've appreciated the most has to do with people like you, Peter, and you, Cathie
  • I've been learning more than ever the joy that comes with co-laboring with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ
  • I've been learning the joy of working side by side with others - to be in the trenches together with those who love Jesus Christ and are just as committed as I am to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Christ

  • now, some people think that the senior pastor should be multi-talented and hire only weaker people to serve with him
  • but it's been my joy to work with people who are much more gifted in certain areas than I am
  • and Peter and Cathie, you've been part of that
  • you have been my colleagues in the ministry
  • we've shared a lot together
  • we've been in some of the same trenches
  • I've watched you both use gifts that I don't even have
  • and what a joy it's been
  • and so tonight I'm giving thanks for you

  • what am I thankful for?
  • look at 2 Timothy 1
  • at the time Paul wrote this letter, he was imprisoned for the last time, and he knew that he was about to die
  • unlike previous times in prison, this time he had little freedom
  • he was probably in a dark dungeon
  • what we have in this book are the last words from the apostle Paul

  • and as he sat in that dungeon, his mind welled up with thankfulness for the privilege he had of serving with the young pastor in Ephesus named Timothy
  • and I'm going to copy Paul in his thankfulness, and apply it to Peter and Cathie
  • FIRST, I'M THANKFUL FOR YOUR SPIRITUAL PARTNERSHIP
  • (2 Timothy 1:3) I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
  • Paul begins with a general, "I thank God for you"
  • and then he launches into a description of that God: the God that he serves with a clear conscience, just as his ancestors do
  • I think he's highlighting the spiritual partnership that he shares with Timothy
  • they are partners in serving God together

  • more and more, I'm developing an appreciation for others in ministry, and their spouses
  • I'm so thankful for those God has placed in church leadership
  • I'm not asking for sympathy here, but pastoring a church has been rated as one of the three hardest professions
  • many people don't understand that, but you do, Peter and Cathie
  • you've been in church leadership, and you understand some of the struggles
  • you've taken the hits that all those in ministry have taken
  • you've seen the discouragements

  • and Cathie, you've also experienced what every spouse of a church leader has experienced: being in the tough place of watching your husband take hits, and being unable to do anything else but take it to God in prayer

  • but you've also had the highs
  • you've also experienced the perks of being in church leadership
  • you've had the joy of being in a front-row seat and watching God work in the lives of people
  • you've had the joy of working arm in arm with those who are passionately committed to serve God
  • you know that the joys far outweigh the lows in church ministry

  • Peter and Cathie, thank you for your spiritual partnership in serving God
  • it's been evident from the day we met that you love God
  • nobody who gets to know you could doubt that you have a desire and passion to serve God and to love him more

  • SECOND, I'M THANKFUL FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP
  • (2 Timothy 1:4) Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.
  • here you begin to see the type of relationship that Paul and Timothy had
  • they were friends, fellow travelers, leaders in the church
  • and Timothy was a son in the faith
  • the last time they left each other, there were many tears
  • it was probably when Paul was arrested and taken to Rome for his second imprisonment
  • the tears they shed at parting revealed the depth of their friendship

  • Peter and Cathie, you have that sort of friendship with many in this congregation, as you've seen tonight
  • you are loved by many
  • we not only appreciate what you've done, but who you are
  • thank you for your friendship
  • I know that my family looks forward to getting together with you in the near future, and we promise that we will continue to pray for you
  • as Paul says, "Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers"

  • THIRD, I'M THANKFUL FOR THOSE WHO HAVE MADE YOU THE WAY YOU ARE
  • (2 Timothy 1:5) I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
  • as Paul looked at Timothy, he saw the connection between the faith of his mother and his grandmother
  • in the same way that I have looked at both of you, and have seen the way your parents have passed on a spiritual heritage which is alive in you
  • and I see you passing this on to your children as well
  • I thank God for bringing people into your lives who have taught you how to be godly and committed to him

  • I could go on and thank God for other things that I've seen in you
  • Peter, thank you for your sensitive spirit
  • Cathie, thanks for exercising your leadership gift
  • Peter, thanks for the great choirs that you've led, and for selecting such great music
  • Cathie, thank you for caring enough about children that you championed a VBS program
  • and we could go on
  • but thank you for all that you are and all that you have done

  • I don't want to say much more, but I do want to challenge you as you move ahead
  • when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, Timothy was facing a tough challenge
  • he was experiencing opposition to his message, and to himself as a leader
  • his youth, his association with Paul, and his leadership had come under fire
  • he wasn't in the easiest church, and there were significant challenges ahead
  • that's why Paul gives two challenges to him

  • I'm going to give these two challenges to you before we pray for you as a couple
  • we're entering a new phase of ministry - one in which we watch each other's ministry from a distance
  • and so I would leave these two challenges with you
  • REKINDLE YOUR GIFTS
  • (2 Timothy 1:6) For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
  • "For this reason..." Paul says
  • what reason?
  • because Timothy is a man of established faith
  • because of this, "Fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you"
  • this is a reference to Tim othy's ordination
  • (1 Timothy 4:14) Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
  • Peter and Cathie, you have received spiritual gifts, as every believer in Jesus Christ has received spiritual gifts
  • but you have also been set aside for church leadership
  • like Timothy, different churches have appointed you to a position of leadership
  • and your gifts can be compared to a fire
  • the idea here of rekindling here isn't that your fire has almost gone out
  • the idea is that the embers need constant stirring
  • so continue to keep those embers hot
  • fan the fire into a flame
  • keep the passion alive within your hearts

  • I'm learning that nobody ever drifts in a positive direction
  • when we begin to drift in any area of our lives, we have a tendency to go south, and I don't mean Florida
  • when churches begin to drift, they lose their vision
  • when marriages begin to drift, the intimacy is lost
  • when pastors begin to drift, they lose their edge

  • as a pastor I face many dangers
  • the two greatest dangers I face are equally dangerous
  • one is outright sin
  • and the other is complacency
  • in one scenario, Satan would destroy my ministry by causing me to stumble
  • in the other scenario, Satan would destroy my ministry one degree at a time, until the flame of my giftedness had all but gone out

  • I've watched both of you
  • I've seen how God has gifted both of you
  • you are quite a team
  • God has given you everything that you need to accomplish all that he has planned for you
  • you don't need any more gifts
  • but as you enter a new era of ministry, keep those gifts that you've received red-hot
  • don't let Satan cool you down

  • BE COURAGEOUS WITH YOUR GIFTS
  • (2 Timothy 1:7) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
  • I love this verse
  • this is a time that calls for courageous actions by committed people
  • it is a day in which God is calling for weak, ordinary people to use their God-given gifts - not because they're great, but because they've received a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline
  • this is not a day for the timid or the weak-hearted
  • this is a day for the courageous to stand up and make a difference for God
  • three things are needed
  • power - enabling us to deal with any situation with moral authority
  • love - self-sacrificing, affectionate service to our fellow believers
  • and self-discipline - the restraint and self-control that every Christian leader requires

  • Peter and Cathie, please be courageous
  • God has gifted you
  • he's called you into ministry
  • he's made us fellow servants of Jesus Christ
  • he's made us friends
  • we give thanks to God for you
  • now, fan the flame of your giftedness
  • keep serving him
  • be courageous
  • give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor for him is not in vain

  • I hope you'll pray with me that our ministries will reflect the words written on an old burial plaque 300 years ago:
  • "In the year of 1653, when all things sacred were throughout the nation destroyed or profaned, this church was built to the glory of God by Sir Robert Shirley, whose singular praise it was to have done the best things in the worst times"
  • may it be said of us that, like the Apostle Paul and like Sir Robert Shirley, we built our ministries to the glory of God by having done the best things in the worst times

Service

  • I'd like to ask you some questions this morning - sort of a personal survey to see if these questions are true of you
  • are you ready?
  • please participate; don't be embarrassed; we're not taking photographs or keeping records
  • how many of you have dialed the phone, called somebody, and when they answered, you couldn't remember why you called them?
  • as a little aside, how many have dialed the phone and not remembered who you called?
  • how many of you have left one room and gone into another room to get something, and not had a clue what it was when you got there?
  • how many of you have been in a conversation, and have talked yourself down a dead-end street, and when you got there you've had to say, "I don't know where I'm going with this thing"

  • these are little instances of the things we do without thinking
  • and we human beings are guilty of going through the motions without thinking
  • sometimes we can get so caught up with the structure that we forget the reason for the structure
  • we get so caught up in action that we forget the reason for the action
  • and it happens everywhere
  • and it even happens in the church

  • I believe that there are churches that are going through the motions
  • there's lots of activity, but there's little progress
  • and as we saw last week, if you walked up to one of the people and said, "What's the point?" they wouldn't have a clue how to answer

  • Richview Baptist Church exists for a reason - a reason that God has given us
  • and on top of that, God has given us five things to do to accomplish our mission
  • from now until the end of October, we're going to look at these five things - five reasons why we exist as a church
  • are you ready?

  • Father, thank you for the church
  • thank you for bringing us to this place as a church
  • thank you for the optimism that comes as we reflect on God's clear calling to the church, to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • we pray that today you would begin to fill in the blanks on how we're going to do this
  • speak with clarity and power, we pray
  • in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen

  • this summer, I took two weeks away from the church
  • I spent a few days in prayer and fasting
  • I spent a lot of time in prayer, and in writing down on paper where I sensed God leading me in my ministry, and where I sensed him leading the church
  • I came to the conclusion that I had two options
  • one is that I could come and tinker with things here and there - fix a ministry here and a problem there
  • I would stay incredibly busy, there would be no shortage of problems to tinker with, and it would even look like things were getting done
  • that's option number one

  • but then I thought of the second option
  • I could be part of launching a revolution in the way we think as a church
  • I couldn't do it all myself, but imagine if instead of tinkering with a thing here and there, the entire culture of the church changed
  • the way we do things changed, yes, but it changed because we thought differently
  • everyone understood our mission and our purposes, and they came up in our conversation every time we began to talk about the church

  • tinkering or a revolution - a change in our culture
  • which one do you think I'm going to pick?

  • this morning I'd like to do nothing less than to change your thinking in an important area of our church life: service
  • and the way you think will determine the way that you act in the future
  • this morning, my goal is to get you to believe that God has given us four things
  • ONE: BELIEVE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU A PURPOSE
  • (Acts 17:26) From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

  • look around you this morning
  • isn't it true that you could have been born living in the 10th century?
  • isn't it true that if God wanted, you could have been born in the 14th century?
  • but for some reason, God chose you to be born and living today
  • not only could you have been born at a different time, you could have been born in a different country - Siberia, or around the world
  • but for some reason God chose you to be living at this time and in this place
  • not only that, God chose you from all the ages of time, put you in this time, but together with these people in this congregation
  • to me, just think about it
  • that's a miracle!

  • now, God doesn't make any mistakes
  • you are not here by accident
  • from all the ages of time and from all the nations in the world, God put you in Toronto
  • and in all the churches in Toronto, God has placed you at Richview with this group of people
  • and there's a reason for that, don't you think?

  • well, what's the divine reasoning behind this?
  • it wasn't just to save you
  • if God's only goal was to get you to heaven, then as soon as you stepped over the line of faith and gave your life to Christ, God would have killed you
  • because the goal is getting you to heaven - no use you taking up room here!
  • but instead he had a different plan
  • he saved you and he breathed an assignment into your soul
  • he said, "Now go back, because I've paid for people for eternity, and they don't even know it"
  • that's the first thing we need to believe this morning
  • you are not at Richview Baptist Church in 1999 with these people by accident; God has put you here for a purpose

  • now, we only go around once
  • we only have one life to live on this earth, and it will soon be over
  • James 4:14 says that our life is just a vapor
  • right now, as still as it may seem, you are traveling at over 66,000 miles an hour
  • that's how fast our earth is spinning around space in its orbital rotation
  • and just a few more spins, and we'll all be gone
  • look around
  • in forty years, this auditorium will basically be empty - except for me and a few others who are younger
  • but we just don't have that much time

  • God has given you a purpose for being here
  • out of all the ages of the time, you were born at this time
  • and out of all the cities in the world, you're in Toronto
  • and out of al the churches in Toronto, you're at Richview, with these other people around you
  • God has a purpose in that - do you believe that?

  • TWO: GOD HAS GIVEN YOU A GIFT
  • (1 Peter 4:10 NLT) God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you.

  • question: how in the world are we going to reach the 50,000 people who live within two kilometers of the church?
  • we don't have enough ministers!
  • we need more - we just don't have enough ministers?
  • how many full-time ministers do we have in this room - raise your hand?
  • okay, not that many
  • now everyone raise your hand and keep it up
  • now let me ask the question again, how many full-time ministers do we have in this room?
  • that's your answer

  • you say, "Wait a minute, I don't work from the church. I get my salary from a company, or from a department of education"
  • well, don't mix up the source of your income with the channel through which your income arrives
  • let's trace back your income, like we would stereo wires
  • if you're a teacher, you'll see that your salary comes from the school board, but it's not sourced there
  • keep going
  • lo and behold, guess where your income comes from ? right, the throne of God
  • the same with a policeman, a businessman, a pastor - every single one of us has our income sourced from the throne of God

  • now why in the world would God take that income and run it through different places - the school board, the police department, your business
  • good question!

  • does God love teachers? does God love police officers? does God loves lawyers?
  • what's the best way to reach teachers? through a pastor coming in and doing a Bible study?
  • no, through another teacher
  • so how does God reach teachers he loves?
  • he takes a full-time minister, and disguises him or her as a teacher
  • and he sends that teacher with gifts and passions to be the best teacher they know how and sends them in the school system

  • we're all full-time ministers for Jesus Christ!
  • anybody here love Jesus part-time?
  • anyone want to be in heaven part-time?
  • before you're a businesswoman, you're an minister - full-time!
  • before you're a teacher, you're a minister - full-time
  • and he's placed you here with different gifts and passions to be the salt of the earth
  • but we need to awaken this in our minds!
  • don't forget who you are!

  • a rabbi in a Russian area was discouraged, and one day he went out for a night stroll
  • he was so disheartened that he inadvertently walked into a Russian compound that was off-limits to any civilian
  • and he heard the brash yell of a Russian soldier yelling, "Hey! Who are you and what are you doing here?"
  • the rabbi said, "Excuse me, how much do they pay you every day?"
  • the soldier said, "What does that have to do with anything?"
  • the rabbi replied, "I will be willing to pay you the same amount if you will ask me those two questions every morning: who are you and what are you doing here?"
  • I want to be that Russian soldier to you today, and ask you, "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
  • God so loved people, that he's given every believer a special gift in order to fill his or her assignment
  • and we need everyone
  • one person uninvolved is one person too many
  • we need everyone to be involved - don't you agree?
  • we have people in this church with gifts of leadership and mercy and evangelism and teaching and service
  • and the church is incomplete in its assignment until everyone is involved
  • God has given you gifts and passions
  • do you believe that?

  • God has given you a purpose, he's given you a gift
  • THREE: GOD HAS GIVEN US A STRATEGY
  • do you think that God would put us here at Richview for a purpose, give each believer here some spiritual gifts and passions to use in the work, and then leave us without a strategy?
  • God has given us a strategy to release these gifts into ministry here and now
  • (Ephesians 4:11 NLT) He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
  • (Ephesians 4:12 NLT) Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
  • the job of the pastors and teachers isn't to do the work of ministry; it's to equip you to do the work of the ministry

  • a pastor is a thief every time that he denies his people the opportunity to minister
  • a pastor is literally stealing from his congregation every time he makes a decision to do instead of to equip

  • a man visited Japan
  • he saw a man selling birds for thirty-six cents
  • well, at that price, who wouldn't want a pet?
  • so the man bought the bird, and as he walked away he heard the merchant say, "Don't forget to bring back the cage!"
  • he said, "The cage? What do you think I'm going to do, eat the bird?"
  • well, the merchant explained that the entire purpose of buying the bird was to release it
  • and while he didn't want to do it, the merchant was glaring at him pretty hard, so he walked to the edge of the ravine, opened his hand, and let the bird go free
  • and surprisingly, as he returned the cage, he felt a joy within his heart that came from letting that bird go free

  • you have gifts and passions that God has placed in your heart
  • do you know what my job is? that of a dream-releaser
  • that's God's strategy
  • God has put you here for a purpose
  • he's given you gifts and passions
  • my job is to go around releasing your dreams - dreams that you didn't even know you had - so that you could do the work of the ministry

  • if you hired a pastor to do all the work, you hired the wrong man
  • in fact, by now you should be noticing that I'm not doing some of the things that you might be expecting
  • I'm calling it planful neglect
  • one of my pastor friends said, "You're going to fail in some areas, so plan in advance where you're fail"
  • and I would choose time after time to fail doing the ministry if I could succeed in being a dream releaser
  • are you with me?

  • so God has given us a purpose
  • he's given you a gift and a passion
  • he's given us a strategy
  • FOURTH: GOD HAS GIVEN US EVERYTHING WE NEED
  • do you believe that?
  • I don't know how many times I've sat in a church and heard people say, "If only we had more workers"
  • well, let me tell you this: God would never be so cruel as to call us to do something and not give us the resources and the power to do it
  • God would never give us a purpose, and then refuse to give us enough workers to meet that challenge
  • so if you think there's a scarcity, one of two things is true
  • either you're doing something God didn't tell you to do, or else you're not looking around hard enough
  • God has given us enough teachers, enough leaders, enough evangelists, enough merciful people, enough givers - God has given us everything we need at Richview

  • D.L Moody once said, "If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents."
  • God is looking for people of average talents this morning to be filled with his power, and to use their gifts and their passions to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • and if we're going to move ahead as a church, we need every single person involved
  • if it's your intention to just come and be a spectator, then I have to tell you that it's not enough
  • I don't care how old or how young you are - you wouldn't be here if God didn't have a purpose for you, if God didn't give you gifts, if you didn't have something to offer the body of Christ

  • and so what I propose this morning is that we begin to change our culture at this church
  • that we begin to change our thinking
  • and let me conclude by asking you this question
  • would you like to be a congregation of spectators led by a pastor?
  • or would you rather be a congregation of ministers led by a pastor who is equipping you and releasing your dreams?
  • let's pray

  • Lord, you're the giver of the gifts
  • every single believer here has received at least one
  • you've put us here for a purpose
  • you've given us a passion
  • you've given us the strategy and everything we need
  • now release us
  • change our mindset, we pray
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.

Godly Confrontation (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

  • (1 Timothy 5:1) Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,
  • (1 Timothy 5:2) older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

  • the church is described in the New Testament using quite a few metaphors
  • it's called a holy nation, a kingdom, a priesthood
  • Jesus called it a vine
  • Paul called the church a temple, built upon the solid foundation of the apostles' doctrine, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone
  • it's called a body, an assembly, and a flock

  • but for many people, one of the favorite images of the church is that of a family
  • (Ephesians 2:19) Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
  • (Galatians 6:10) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
  • what's implied in calling the church a family?
  • [discussion]

  • one of the most neglected areas of church family life is this very necessary thing called confrontation
  • I've never yet seen a family in which confrontation did not exist, and yet I've seen many churches where no confrontation took place
  • in the church, as in the family, disobedience must be dealt with
  • that's a mark not of harshness, but of true love
  • it's loving someone enough that you want God's best for them
  • and a healthy church is one in which godly confrontation takes place

  • since I've been at Richview, I've mentioned this subject of confrontation a few times
  • and I've had feedback as well - not all of it very positive!
  • there are a couple of reasons for this
  • the first is that nobody likes confrontation
  • if you like confrontation, you've got something wrong with you
  • there's not a person in this room who likes to go to another person to confront them
  • and the reality, as well, is that nobody likes to be confronted

  • whenever I go into a Christian bookstore, I'm amazed by the number of new Bibles
  • have you heard of the Confronter's Bible?
  • Take heart, timid Christian. Next time you're persuaded to confront a backslider but don't know where to begin, help is available. Thanks to the new Confronter's Bible you need no longer hem and haw with cryptic references, subtle hints, or suggestive innuendoes about the error of his ways.
  • Like the Eschatology Bible, with all the rapture verses shaded in premillennial purple, and the Social Justice Bible, with all references that produce guilt accented in oppressive orange, the Confronter's Bible contains a color-coordinated system highlighting verses on relevant themes: rebuking (passion pink), sins to be avoided (stop-sign red), straying from the straight and narrow (off-white).
  • In the event that the rebukee does not respond to your "speaking the truth in love," try any of these suggested alternatives: pull his hair (Nehemiah 13:25), set his fields on fire (Judges 15:5), call out the she-bears (2 Kings 2:24).
  • What more can be said about the Confronter's Bible, except: Backsliders beware!

  • tonight we're going to talk about confrontation
  • AND THE FIRST POINT I'D LIKE TO MAKE IS THIS: CONFRONTATION IS DIFFICULT
  • and the more insecure you are, the more difficult it can be
  • I've known people who find confrontation so difficult that they'd much rather let a situation drag on and on than confront

  • why is it so difficult to confront?
  • six reasons:
  • a) a fear of being disliked
  • b) a fear of making things worse
  • c) a fear of rejection
  • d) Pharisaism - a fear of being legalistic, or of thinking you can't confront because you don't have your act together
  • e) the fact that we're not used to sharing problems, and
  • f) we don't know how to confront

  • I've known of situations in churches in which I've almost pulled out my hair and asked, "Doesn't anyone have the nerve to confront that situation?"

  • SECOND POINT: CONFRONTATION IS SOMETIMES NECESSARY
  • not always, and maybe not even often, but confrontation is sometimes necessary
  • when Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was facing the following problems:
  • some in the church had abandoned truth and godliness (1:5-6; 2:8)
  • others had shipwrecked their faith (1:19)
  • there was conflict in the church over the role of gender (2:9-15)
  • some of the members aspiring to leadership were not qualified (3:1-13; 5:19-22)
  • others were teaching false doctrines (4:1-5; 6:3-5)
  • some older widows were living impure lives (5:6-7), as were some of the younger ones (5:1-13)
  • question: was confrontation necessary in the church at Ephesus?

  • [questions for discussion]
  • when is confrontation necessary in the church?
  • why doesn't confrontation take place?

  • part of a leader's role in the church is to confront sin
  • Matthew 18:15-18 spells out in detail how to confront sin
  • in this passage, Paul gives an overarching guideline in confrontation, and then he applies it to four groups within the church

  • but first let's look at the overarching guideline
  • (1 Timothy 5:1) Do not rebuke...but exhort...
  • and here we have two words with a very strong difference
  • the first word, rebuke, literally means "to strike at"
  • it's a harsh term
  • it's closest parallel in the New Testament is in 1 Timothy 3:3, which says that elders are not to be given to physical violence
  • here I think Paul is using the word to describe verbal violence
  • when confronting, don't hammer with harsh words

  • instead, appeal or exhort
  • the word is much gentler
  • it can mean "to encourage, admonish, entreat, or appeal"
  • the idea is appealing with the goal of strengthening the other person
  • it comes from the same word that's used to describe the Holy Spirit as parkaklete - one who comes alongside
  • (Galatians 6:1) Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
  • (Galatians 6:2) Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

  • confrontation within the church is not to be done, therefore, by violently attacking each other
  • rather, sin must be lovingly confronted, and people strengthened and encouraged toward holy living
  • the goal is, as one person says, "restorative, redemptive, remedial confrontation...done with an attitude of gentleness"
  • (2 Timothy 2:24) And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
  • (2 Timothy 2:25) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
  • (2 Timothy 2:26) and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

  • Eugene Habecker writes, "As Christians, we confront not to embarrass, belittle, tear down, or humiliate. We confront because of our commitment to help others reach their potential, including full-fledged stature in Christ. Paul had to say some difficult things to the readers of his letters, but it was because of his unwavering bottom-line commitment to people."

  • let's apply this to four groups of people
  • isn't it likely that the church is sometimes going to experience tension that is age and gender related?
  • how is one person ever going to cross the age and gender barriers from time to time to minister effectively?
  • let's lo ok at each of the four groups quickly

  • FIRST, OLDER MEN
  • (1 Timothy 5:1) Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.
  • as Timothy deals with sinning older men, he is to treat them with the same respect and deference that he would show his own father

  • our society has lost something, and that is respect for those who are older
  • (Leviticus 19:32) "'Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.
  • (Proverbs 20:29) The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.
  • that doesn't mean that confrontation of those who are older will never be necessary, but it does mean that such confrontation must take place with the greatest of respect

  • how do you show them this respect?
  • a few things - you can help me think of some as well
  • don't save up an entire list and dump it on them one day
  • don't ambush them
  • check your attitude - make sure that you're not approaching them with anger, but rather love
  • spend time thinking about how to talk to them
  • Abraham Lincoln said, "When I'm getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say - and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say"
  • be honest - describe the problem openly
  • tell them the effect of the situation - the damage that it is causing
  • tell them why it is important to you, and if at all possible, affirm the person
  • let them communicate back to you
  • anyone else?

  • SECOND, YOUNGER MEN
  • (1 Timothy 5:1) Treat younger men as brothers,
  • the key words here are "as brothers"
  • this means that there is to be no air of superiority
  • there is no hierarchy between brothers
  • show humility and love to a younger person when you rebuke them; don't look down on them at all

  • can you see how following Paul's instructions confers tremendous respect on the person being confronted?
  • about fifteen years ago, a man I know confronted a younger person with these words, "I've brought the Sword of the Lord [holding up his Bible] and tonight I'm going to slay you with it"
  • how much better to treat those who are younger as our peers - not to lean on our authority, but to stress our common bond in Christ

  • then we reach the gender line
  • THIRD, OLDER WOMEN
  • (1 Timothy 5:2) older women as mothers...
  • two women were harming the cause of Christ in Philippi
  • Paul, the apostle, had the authority to sternly rebuke them
  • what did he do?
  • with all the grace and gentleness he could muster, he wrote:
  • (Philippians 4:1) Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
  • (Philippians 4:2) I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
  • (Philippians 4:3) Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
  • yes, he rebuked them, but at the same time he included them beside the list of people he loved
  • he noted their service to him
  • and when a younger man has to rebuke an older women, treat her with the respect you would offer your own mother

  • THE LAST GROUP, AND POTENTIALLY THE MOST DANGEROUS FOR TIMOTHY, IS THE YOUNGER WOMEN
  • (1 Timothy 5:2) ...and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
  • "Nothing so easily makes or breaks a young pastor as his conduct with women. Thoughtlessness or indiscretion, as well as outright immorality, violate his calling to lead the flock with purity." (John MacArthur)
  • when Paul says that younger women are to be treated as sisters, with absolute purity, he is stressing that Timothy is to be indifferent to them in terms of lust
  • sexual sin within the church is nothing less than spiritual incest
  • great care must be taken in meeting with younger women

  • let's summarize
  • godly leaders will have to confront sin in the church - there's no doubt about that
  • in fact, if you're not up to confronting sin, you shouldn't be a leader of the church - it's as easy as that
  • but confrontation is never easy
  • done properly, it involves prayer, introspection, a dependence upon God, as well as humility, love, and gentleness
  • if you confront someone older, you owe them the same respect you would give a parent
  • if you confront someone younger, it's wrong to look down on them - treat them as a peer
  • if you confront someone of the opposite sex, protect yourself against impurity in your mind and in reality
  • don't lean on your authority, but treat the other person as a fellow member of God's family - as a brother or a sister, a father and a mother
  • and pray that the confrontation, done in a God-honoring way, will lead to restoration

Church - What's the Point?

  • let's pray
  • Father, we're kicking off a new year of ministry
  • today I want to share my heart with these people
  • I want to spell out where I sense you're leading me
  • I know that I'm incredibly excited about the future direction of Richview Baptist Church
  • but I pray today that it would not be me speaking
  • I pray that your Spirit's voice would be heard by every person in this auditorium
  • I pray this in the name of the Head of the Church - the one who died to make us holy
  • I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • I want to begin this morning by asking you a question
  • if I were to ask you the purpose of Richview Baptist Church, what would it be?
  • I'm sure that if we held a survey this morning of every single person here, we would come up with a wide variety of answers
  • in fact, I'd like you to watch what happened when some people were asked this very question while leaving another church
  • [show video clip of people being interviewed as they leave church; everyone has a different answer on the purpose of the church]
  • I think that you could safely say that there is a lack of clarity surrounding purpose in most churches today

  • I need to begin by apologizing to you
  • over the summer and during my study break, I became convicted about this, and while I believe there are some mitigating factors, I still believe I need to apologize
  • I need to apologize for not sounding a clear trumpet for the church
  • I need to apologize for not clearly communicating our vision and purpose as a church
  • for not casting vision as courageously and as clearly as I should have
  • I know that I was new at the church; I know that I had to get a sense of where things were at; I know that there are others in leadership besides me
  • but as the point man of this church, I need to stand up and say that I have not put our vision as a church in front of you as clearly as I should have

  • but that's going to change
  • and it's going to begin this morning as we ask ourselves the question, "Church - what's the point?"

  • a pastor was flying out of an airport one day
  • as he did, he saw two children playing - or at least he thought they were playing
  • one chased the other, until he finally caught the other one
  • and as they began to wrestle, the boy on top began to pound the other boy's head into the hard airport floor
  • I forget how the story ended, but the pastor left shaken
  • what is going to help two kids like that?
  • is government the hope of the world? can government pass laws that will change the heart of a kid pounding somebody else into the pavement?
  • is school the answer? as important as education is, is education the answer?
  • are social agencies going to make the difference?
  • the pastor walked away from that scene realizing that the church is the hope of the world
  • only a church functioning at a high level and courageously living out its mission to reach lost people for Jesus Christ, operating in the power of the Holy Spirit - only a church like that can make a difference in the lives of men and women and boys and girls
  • the church is the hope of the world

  • over the summer I've been convicted about our calling
  • I've been convicted that we need to take steps to be the kind of church that's going to reach lost people for Jesus Christ

  • let me make three promises to you this morning:
  • MY FIRST PROMISE: WE WILL BE CRYSTAL CLEAR IN COMMUNICATING OUR VISION
  • up until now, we have not been clear in communicating why we exist as a church
  • we have not championed why we even exist as a church
  • for some time, we've been wrestling with how best to express why we exist
  • we have S.W.O.R.D. - the five purposes of our church, that we're going to cover over the next five weeks
  • but those our methods
  • why do we even exist as a church?

  • and we've come up with this summary statement
  • it's not fully original, but it best expresses why we're even here as a church
  • it's based on the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28
  • (Matthew 28:18 NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.
  • (Matthew 28:19 NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • (Matthew 28:20 NLT) Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

  • based on this, "Our mission is to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ"
  • let me break this down
  • our mission is to lead who? all people
  • it means unbelievers and it means believers
  • the Bible tells us that God wants all people to be saved
  • and so we are going to target those who don't know Christ
  • we're going to be very aggressive evangelistically in this church

  • but we're also going to target the believer
  • God's desire is that you would be discipled - that you would grow up to be fully committed and fully obedient to Jesus Christ
  • we're going to target all people

  • and what's our goal? to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • Christ's goal for each of us is that we would be fully obedient to all the commands he's given us
  • the church's job is to take all people - saved and unsaved - to bring them to Christ, and then to lead them to spiritual maturity and full devotion to Jesus Christ

  • that's our reasons for existing as a church
  • and we're going to be crystal-clear in communicating it
  • we're going to say it over and over again in different ways
  • but it's a non-negotiable
  • it's a stake in the ground
  • it's our reason for existing

  • MY SECOND PROMISE: WE WILL BE WISE IN TRANSITIONING
  • this past Tuesday night at the concert of prayer, I was incredibly moved by the prayers of one person who prayed
  • she has been affected by a recent tough decision that was made by the board - a decision that I wasn't directly involved with, and yet a decision that has affected and even hurt her and others
  • and as she prayed, she broke down as she prayed for the leadership of the church
  • she prayed for me, for Pastor Ed, for Peter, and for Sandy
  • she prayed that God would give us wisdom as we make decisions
  • she prayed that nothing would be done outside of God's will
  • and she prayed that the church would follow the leadership of those God has brought to the church

  • as I listened to her tearful prayer, I was reminded again of the level of wisdom and sensitivity we will need in the coming year as we begin to communicate and live our vision
  • John Kotter, author of Harvard Business School's Leading Change, writes, "Major change [in an organization] will not happen easily for a long list of reasons"
  • a pastor of a church in Florida (Dan Southerland) writes in his book Transitioning
  • "You must go slow if you want to stay long...If you are not willing to go slow, don't change"
  • Doug Murren, who pastored a church in Seattle for many years, said, "The reason 99 out of 100 churches that try to make major transitions fail is that they go too fast"
  • in his parable of the house that was built on the sand and the house that was built on a rock, found in Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus taught us the wisdom of building a solid foundation
  • "If you rush the preparation process for vision, you will end up with a shaky foundation. Chances are that your vision will not stand when the storms come against it" (Dan Sout herland)

  • I hope that you know me by now
  • I hope that you realize I'm not going to come in with guns blazing and an agenda to change everything in a week
  • I'm not saying that we'll never make mistakes as leaders - or that we haven't already made mistakes
  • but I'm telling you this: we're going to go slow, and we're going to do our best to get it right
  • in fact, this fall my primary task will be communicating - communicating our current situation; communicating why we need to change; inviting your feedback
  • I will not be setting the future direction of the church in an authoritarian manner
  • I know that at times decisions will be made that are not popular
  • I know that it is my responsibility to lead
  • but we will involve you in helping us set a strategy for the future of the ministry here at Richview

  • friends, my desire is not to alienate any particular age group or any particular person
  • for the seniors who might be a little nervous, we will never set out to disenfranchise those who have spent forty years building this church
  • you mean too much to us

  • but I'll tell you something else
  • we're not a healthy church in every area
  • 50,000 people live within two kilometers of this church - 50,000!
  • to use even the most optimistic outlook, there are over 45,000 people within two kilometers of where you're sitting who don't know Jesus Christ as Savior
  • they do not have eternal life
  • how many of these people are we currently reaching
  • do we have the option of not living out our vision?
  • one day we are going to stand before God and give account for what we did as a church to reach the lost in our area

  • I'll tell you: you can argue about preferences, you can argue about how to do things
  • but you can't argue with the fact that we need to become a healthier church and that we need to reach the lost around the world, but also in this area
  • Amen?
  • but at the same time we will be wise in transitioning
  • we will aim to be strong-minded and yet tender-hearted

  • let me give you a roadmap
  • this past month, I have met with key leaders in the church to spell out where I see our church going
  • as I have met with each of the leaders, I have told them, "I don't have a word from God from Mount Sinai. What I'm telling you is open to change. But what isn't negotiable is the fact that our church needs to move to become a healthier church"

  • within a month, I will expand the circle of leadership and meet with about thirty or forty leaders in a variety of ministries
  • once again I will share with them about our current situation, and about what our future is

  • within about three months, we will have a dessert night as a church
  • someone will give their testimony on "Why I love my church"
  • I will begin to share with the entire church about our current situation, and our need for change
  • I will unfold to you how I want you to be a part of deciding Richview's future
  • I will not be dictating decisions; instead, I will be asking you to become part of Richview's future
  • my primary task this fall will be summarized in one word: communication
  • and we will do so with all the wisdom and sensitivity that God will give us
  • and we ask for your prayers

  • MY THIRD PROMISE: WE WILL BE COURAGEOUS IN LIVING OUR VISION
  • there will be a cost involved
  • but I'm ready to pay the cost
  • it will stretch me out of my comfort zone; it's going to stretch you out of your comfort zone
  • but nothing great was ever accomplished without courage
  • (2 Timothy 2:3) Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
  • (2 Timothy 2:4) No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer.
  • this year my challenge is that all of us will endure the hardship required to be a good soldier, a good servant, of Jesus Christ
  • my primary goal is going to be how to please my commanding officer, Jesus Christ

  • you see, I could easily be a chaplain here
  • I could easily spend my days just preaching nice messages and maintaining the status quo
  • or I could lead the church to courageously live out its vision
  • which one would you rather have me be - a chaplain, or an agent of godly change?

  • at the beginning of this message, I began with an apology
  • but I'd like to end this message with a challenge for you - especially some of you who might consider yourselves the loyal opposition
  • I'm not talking about those who will disagree with me on issues - I expect that
  • but you can disagree without being disagreeable
  • you can walk hand-in-hand without seeing eye to eye
  • no, this morning I'm not talking to those who might not agree with me on everything
  • I'm talking to those who make a habit of being opposed

  • a man by the name of John Maxwell was a young pastor - only 25 years old
  • and he was called to a church where there was a man named Jim who was elected to a key position - sort of the lay-leader of the church
  • he was the most negative person in the church
  • whenever there was a problem, you could just bet that he was in the middle of it

  • about two weeks before he became the official pastor of the church, they had a congregational meeting
  • and at that meeting, they were discussing whether or not to build an activity center
  • and because he knew he was about to pastor that church, he slipped up into the balcony to watch what would take place that night
  • well, what Maxwell witnessed was a four-hour fight in which they did everything but duked it out in the aisles
  • and Jim, the negative guy, was leading the charge
  • at the end of the night, they church pretty much ended up in a split

  • for the next few weeks, John Maxwell spent a lot of time in prayer and asking God how to deal with the situation
  • on the very first day on the job, he called Jim up on the phone and said, "Jim, I'd like to see you"
  • and to give you the picture, Jim was 65, and the new pastor was 25
  • and Maxwell said to him, "I've been thinking about my relationship, and about our relationship. I want to share something with you."
  • "It's not anything I've learned firsthand, because it's my first day on the job. But what I've learned from the congregation is that you're very difficult to get along with. I've heard that you're negative. I've heard that if there's a battle you're going to be leading the charge. And I've been thinking of how we'll get along"
  • "I've come to a couple of conclusions and getting your feedback"
  • "I've first committed to do everything within my power to work with you. I am committed to walking with you, and to sharing things with you. I'd like to meet you every Tuesday for lunch at the Holiday Inn. My commitment is that I'll give this a good shot and I want to work with you"

  • "But obviously, it's got to be a two-way street"
  • "So what I want to ask you is if you'll give a shot at working with a young kid who just became pastor of this church"
  • "But before you answer, let me paint a scenario for you."
  • "Imagine that ten years from now, you suddenly die and you're with the Lord. The Lord asks you, ‘What were the last ten years of your life like?'"
  • "You could say one of two things"
  • "You could say, ‘This young kid came to our church. For the last ten years I've tried to help this kid preacher. I decided to put my arm around that kid and love him and help him.' You could say, ‘For the past ten years I've done everything I can to make him succeed"
  • "Or, ‘Another preacher came to town. There was a lot of fighting. We did battle. T he church didn't grow much'"
  • "Here's what's amazing about this meeting today. I'm going to give it my best shot to work with you. But what's also amazing is that you can today write out the story of what you'll say to God one day. I need a lot of help in this church. But today you can write the story of what you'll say to God one day"
  • "I'm just a kid, but what do you say, Jim? Will you be my partner in ministry"

  • Jim got out of his seat
  • he hadn't said a word the whole time
  • he was a big man - 6 foot 5, 245 pounds
  • he got up and walked out into the hallway and without saying a word, leaned over the drinking fountain
  • and when he finally got up his face was filled with tears
  • he extended his hand, and then stepped forward and gave John Maxwell a huge hug
  • he said to his new pastor John Maxwell, "You can count on me from this day forward to be in your corner"
  • that decision changed the church from that point on
  • for the next three years, the number one question in the church was, "What happened to Jim"
  • within a few days his wife called and said, "What have you done with Jim?"

  • there may be some Jims here
  • and today I make a commitment to you: I will do everything in my power to work with you
  • I will be open with you
  • I am committed to walking with you and to working with you
  • I will give it my best shot to be the best pastor I could possibly be

  • but you have a choice
  • you can walk out of here complaining and making threats, and ten years from now you can say to God that you've spent the last ten years of your life complaining and making life difficult for him and others
  • or you can stand before God some time in the future and say, "I've spent the last ten years of my life helping out our new pastor. The church has grown. I did everything I could to pray for him and support him"
  • and the amazing thing about this morning's service is that you can write what you'll say before God one day
  • what will it be? will you be my partner in ministry?

  • [after prayer]
  • over the next five weeks, we're going to talk about the five purposes of the church - service, worship, outreach, relationships, and discipleship
  • if you have any questions or feedback after this message, I'd invite you to talk to me

The Rewards of Forgiveness

  • well, this morning I have good news and bad news for you
  • the bad news is that people have let you down - terribly and hurtfully
  • over the past few weeks, as we've talked about forgiveness, I've been humbled by the stories you have told me of the ways that you've been hurt
  • truth be told, many of us are carrying around scars, and some of us even have fresh wounds from other people who have let us down
  • that's the bad news

  • the good news is that God has provided a way to deal with our hurt, and it's forgiveness
  • there is nothing more basic and more central to our lives than forgiveness
  • as we've discussed these past two weeks, forgiveness is not optional for the Christian
  • Jesus said, "If you don't forgive others, my Father in heaven won't forgive you"
  • when Jesus taught the Lord's prayer, he taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us"
  • but as we learned last week, forgiveness is not easy
  • there is a cost to forgiving, because forgiving essentially means that that you're canceling a debt, letting the wrong you've suffered go
  • it means that you're putting away the desire for revenge, and you're releasing the entire situation to God

  • this morning we're going to conclude by doing two things
  • we're going to look at the rewards of forgiveness
  • and secondly, we're going to answer some questions you've asked about forgiveness
  • before we launch in, let's ask God to speak to us this morning

  • Father:
  • thank you that you are the one who invented forgiveness
  • thank you as well that you are not only the inventor of forgiveness, you yourself are an expert in forgiving
  • when we were dead in our sins, you made us alive with Christ
  • you forgave all of our sins
  • I pray that today you would deal with our hearts
  • tenderize them
  • take away the hardness of our hearts
  • help us to leave today not only understanding but also experiencing the rewards of forgiveness
  • in the name of the one who died that we could be forgiven - our savior Jesus Christ
  • Amen.

  • during World War II, a woman by the name of Corrie Ten Boom was confined at a concentration camp at Ravensbruck for her part in sheltering Jews from their Nazi oppressors
  • her father died in another concentration camp
  • and Corrie was humiliated and degraded herself, and heartbroken as she watched the life of her sister, Betsy, ebb away and eventually die
  • after the war ended, however, she went over to Germany as a Christian to preach God's forgiveness
  • and one day, speaking in Munich, Germany, she spotted a face that she would never forget
  • she saw the face of a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center of Ravensbruck
  • one of the worst experiences in prison was the delousing shower, where women where ogled and taunted by leering guards
  • and here was one of the guards, bringing back all the memories - the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, and her sister's pain-blanched face

  • as the church emptied, the man approached Corrie smiling, and said, "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!"
  • the man stuck out his hand to shake Corrie's
  • and Corrie, who had preached so often on the need to forgive, kept her hand at her side
  • angry, vengeful thoughts arose within her
  • and at the same time, she thought, "Jesus died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, forgive me and help me to forgive him"

  • she tried to smile
  • she tried to raise her hand
  • but she couldn't
  • she didn't feel the slightest spark of warmth or charity
  • and so again she breathed a silent prayer: "Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness"

  • as she took his hand, the most incredible thing happened
  • from her shoulder along her arm and through her hand, a current seemed to pass from her to him
  • and into her heart sprang a love for that stranger that almost overwhelmed her
  • and at that moment Corrie Ten Boom began to experience the rewards of forgiveness

  • forgiveness is Christianity at its highest level
  • when we forgive another person, we discover that we are participating in a supernatural event in which God not only gives the command to forgive, but the power to forgive
  • and we discover after talking about why to forgive and how to forgive - we discover the incredible rewards of forgiveness
  • that's what I want to talk about this morning
  • I'd like to give you the three rewards of forgiveness
  • REWARD NUMBER ONE: FORGIVENESS MAKES YOU MORE LIKE GOD
  • you are never more like God than when you forgive
  • when God saves us, what he does is he wipes out our past
  • the moment you believe, you're forgiven - permanently and completely
  • but God never leaves us the way we started
  • he begins a lifelong process of making us more like Jesus Christ every day
  • (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT) As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.

  • and when you begin the pilgrimage of forgiving, you begin a trek that leads you closer and closer to resembling Jesus Christ
  • (Ephesians 4:32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

  • the first reward of forgiving is that you begin to look like Jesus Christ to other people
  • when you forgive, you're extending the same forgiveness you've received to the individual who needs to be forgiven
  • and you begin to resemble Jesus Christ
  • you become more like God

  • you see, Satan's whole agenda is destroyed by forgiving
  • when we refuse to forgive, we're right where he wants us - proud, unmerciful, joyless, and disobedient
  • but when we begin to forgive, we begin to look more and more like our great forgiver, Jesus Christ

  • REWARD NUMBER TWO: FORGIVENESS BRINGS YOU CLOSER TO GOD
  • not only does forgiveness make you more like God, it also brings you closer in your relationship with God
  • I doubt that there's a person here who doesn't want to be close to God
  • but I've learned very quickly that it's impossible to have a good relationship with God if there are problems going on in my relationships with other people
  • we like to think that we can have a breakdown in a human relationship and go on and relate to God like nothing happened
  • the Bible says you can't do that
  • (1 John 4:20) If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
  • our relationship with each other and our relationship with God have this linkage
  • it's a little like a family system
  • picture a dad who's going to go fishing with his two sons
  • but the sons have had a fight, they're really angry with each other, but they want to go fishing with dad
  • so they're out in the boat, but you can smell a little something in the boat
  • even though they think they can relate to their father okay, every conversation is measured
  • every action in the boat is carefully calculated
  • the father tries to engage the two boys, but he has a hard time
  • the odor of hostility in the boat is worse than the smell of the worms and the fish
  • by 9 a.m. they pack it in and head to shore
  • the family system is breaking down

  • imagine another boat, where the dad's in the middle seat and the boys are getting along with each other
  • the atmosphere in that boat is free and happy, there is energy and humor, the conversations flow unedited, there is no egg shelling going on, actions are spontaneous, the fishing is enjoyable
  • what keeps the boat on the lake until sunset is the quality of the family system
  • the richness of the community in all of its various dynamics
  • the aroma is very sweet
  • that's what happens when we forgive

  • a lack of forgiveness will lead to a lack of a quality of relationship with God
  • Jesus said a number of times that if we refuse to forgive, we won't be forgiven by God
  • but the minute we forgive, it improves our relationship with God

  • so forgiveness makes you more like God; it brings you closer to God
  • REWARD NUMBER THREE: FORGIVENESS RECAPTURES THE FREEDOM OF MY SOUL
  • this is closely related to the first reward, but expands upon it
  • Dr. S. I. McMillan, in his book None of These Diseases, says this:
  • "The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. He even controls my thoughts. I can't escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me steak, it might as well be stale bread and water. The man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it"
  • you see, forgiveness is like a toxin, and an unforgiving heart always leads to a tormented spirit

  • when you refuse to forgive, the pain becomes a part of you
  • there is somebody very close to me, and he has chosen in his life not to forgive somebody who hurt him many years ago
  • the hurt began as something normal almost thirty years ago, but instead of processing the hurt and choosing to forgive the other person, he instead nursed the bitterness and hatred within his soul until it became part of him
  • and over time the bitterness and hatred has become part of him
  • you can't spend five minutes with him today without it spilling out of his heart
  • the pain has become part of him
  • it's like getting a spoonful of ink out of a glass of water
  • unforgiveness is a toxin
  • (Ephesians 4:26) "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
  • (Ephesians 4:27) and do not give the devil a foothold.
  • when we nurse our anger, we give Satan an opportunity to divide us
  • and the longer you nurse that anger, the more you're allowing Satan to establish a foothold in your life

  • when you refuse to forgive is that you take your own happiness and freedom of soul, and you give it to another person
  • you give them the privilege of deciding when you'll be free again
  • this man I know has spent half of his life giving up the freedom of his own soul to others
  • but when you begin to forgive, you recapture your happiness and freedom again

  • Lewis Smedes says:
  • "In this world in which people do hurt each other - sometimes hurt us a lot - when you begin to forgive, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the prisoner you set free was you"
  • do you want to be set free this morning?
  • when you forgive, you ride the crest of God's great love
  • when you forgive, you walk hand-in-hand with God
  • when you forgive, you begin to heal the wounds
  • that's what happens when you forgive
  • now will you?

  • I'm going to ask you to spend some time alone with the Lord Jesus
  • I'm going to ask you to bring to the Lord that which needs to be forgiven, but also those you need the power to forgive
  • it could be a spouse, an ex-spouse, a parent who abused you, a child who has shamed and hurt you
  • it could be an ex-friend
  • but the forgiveness you will offer is not something done in your own strength
  • it's done supernaturally
  • it's an impossible thing
  • and it can only be done as we cling to the one who's forgiven us

  • let's pray
  • spend a minute thinking about those you need to forgive
  • ask God's power to help you to forgive
  • you can even use the prayer that Corrie Ten Boom used: "Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness"
  • ask for the supernatural power to forgive, and that you may experience the rewards of forgiveness
  • Amen.

  • [QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS]
  • let's conclude this morning by answering some questions I've received about the last three weeks
  • one: when should I confront someone who has wronged me, and when should I forgive someone without confronting them?
  • well, the simple reality is that if we confronted other people every time they wronged us, that's all that we would ever do
  • there are times when it is wise to forgive the other person without confronting them, especially when the issue is a relatively minor one, or when the confrontation would do more damage to the relationship than simply forgiving them

  • I've heard of a woman who was shot by her husband for excessive forgiveness
  • the reason why is that every time you go to someone and tell them you're forgiving them, you're also blaming them
  • there are two questions I'd ask:
  • first, is this issue important enough?
  • second, is my relationship with the individual important enough?
  • if the gas station attendant interrupts you at the cash register, it's probably not worth getting upset
  • but if your spouse continually interrupts you, it's probably worth talking about at some point

  • you need sensitivity here
  • don't go rushing in to confront
  • there will be a time when they're ready to hear you, and you'll be ready to speak to them
  • and if you're sensitive to the Spirit, you'll know when and how to confront in a positive way

  • two: a related question is this: when should I apologize to someone? what if the other person isn't aware of how I've wronged them?
  • well, it's probably not smart for a man to go to a woman and confess that she was the object of his lust
  • similarly, it's not always wise to go to another person and confess that you've been harboring bitter thoughts against them if they aren't aware of it
  • in this case, the offense involves just one person: yourself
  • no one else is aware of it

  • but maybe your offense involves other people
  • maybe you've slandered an individual in front of other people
  • I believe in these cases you need to make it right not only with those who received the original slander, but also with the person you've slandered, even if they aren't aware of the offense

  • third question: can I wait until they've repented before I forgive them?
  • some Christians teach that forgiveness can only happen once the other person has repented
  • I'll tell you the problem with that: if you wait for the other person to repent, you're taking your happiness and freedom of soul and giving it to them
  • you're giving them the privilege of deciding when you'll be free again

  • have you ever been awake at night stewing about how angry you are at someone else, only to realize that the person you're mad at is probably sleeping like a baby?
  • don't confuse forgiveness with reconciliation - they're two different things
  • forgiveness is within your control - you can forgive someone unilaterally and unconditionally
  • reconciliation depends on both of you
  • but you can forgive no matter how the other individual react
  • and if you never become their friend or spouse again, it won't be because of the hate in your heart

  • fourth question: doesn't forgiveness make me into a doormat?
  • I believe that true forgiveness does not turn us into doormats
  • one person says it this way: we're to forgive intolerably
  • forgive the person without putting up with what they did
  • when you forgive someone, don't put up with the behavior that caused the offense
  • be like God
  • God is not a doormat, but he's a forgiver
  • God says , "I forgive you, now cut it out"
  • and that's what we're to do as well
  • it may be appropriate at times to say to someone, "I forgive you, but never do that again"
  • and to set some very realistic boundaries around that person in the future

  • fifth: how should I handle repeat offenders? what if I think their repentance is a sham?
  • well, Jesus is clear about repeat offenses
  • even if someone comes to you seven times in the same day for the same offense, forgive them!
  • after all, we are repeat offenders against God
  • forgive enthusiastically and lavishly just as you have been forgiven

  • but there is a role for discernment
  • we are to give others the benefit of the doubt when they apologize and repent
  • but if there is compelling evidence to suggest that the repentance is not sincere, forgive them anyway - but then put some boundaries around you to protect yourself from being abused

  • last question: what if I don't feel like forgiving them? I'm scared I'll start to like them
  • that's honesty, and I like it
  • I would say two things
  • if you don't feel like forgiving someone else, start with pretending
  • someone has called this "creative hypocrisy"
  • it's amazing that when we begin to act and think as if we've forgiven someone else, pretty soon the feelings of forgiveness follow

  • secondly, be patient
  • forgiveness is a process
  • C.S. Lewis, about three months before he died, wrote a letter saying, "I think I have at long last forgiven that cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my youth. I thought I had done it many times before, but this time I think I really did it"
  • you might think you've forgiven someone, but be patient
  • you might have to forgive them a few times before the issue is finally put to rest

  • if you have more questions, I'd love to answer them
  • you can talk to me after the service, or phone during the week
  • right now we'll sing that song we've been learning about forgiveness, I Know a Place