Thursday, March 15, 2012

Decision Making 101

A Christian’s Guide to Walking
Whether it’s drinking (for those over 21 obviously), entertainment (music, movies, video games), choices, career, or other things, we all make decisions, both big and small, every day. There are some practical questions we can ask ourselves to make sure that we’re making wise decisions that will honor and glorify Christ.

Questions to Ask:
1. What does this look like in the Bible?
Does this Bible speak to this? Do we see it in the Bible somewhere?
How does it compare to our culture?
The Bible means now what the author meant when he wrote it. The question is: “how does that translate to our culture now?”
We can sometimes find a parallel in the Bible. Sometimes, however, what we find in the Bible is different from what we have today.
Examples: Wine today is different than wine in the Bible. It is significantly more alcoholic, so it’s not quite the same. In Leviticius, tatoos are mentioned, but they are mentioned in reference to pagan worship. These two issues, while we see them in the Bible, are different today so you can’t use the example as a parallel. Use of “foul language,” however, is pretty much the same as what we see in Ephesians and is still condemned.
Essentially, we start with what the BIble says and what it means.

2. Is it Necessary?
Is this something I need to do, or is it an “extra curricular activity” that I have chosen to do? For example, while going to work for 40 or more hours each week means you’re spending less time with your family, it’s necessary so that you can support your family. Being part of a softball team, however, isn’t necessary. It’s something you’ve chosen to do.
In Biblical times, water was often unsafe to drink so they drank wine because the alcohol killed bacteria. We obviously don’t have that problem today.
So as you look at any particular situation or issue. Ask yourself the same thing - is there a “requirement” for me to do this? Or is it actually something I’ve chosen to do?

3. Is it the Best?
(This question is connected with #2)
God has always held His people to a higher standard. The reality is when you set high standards for yourself, many people resent it because it makes them aware of their own low standards. Instead of encouraging you, they want you to lower your standards so they’re not reminded of their lack of high standards. I believe this is why talking about Jesus gets people si riled up. It points out their sin.
The question - is it the best? Is this the best choice here?
Is this the best use of my time? My talents? My money? My resources?
Or is there a better choice? I’m not sure who said it, but the “good” is the enemy of the best. While it’s good to enjoy a softball game and healthy to get exercise, spending time with your family is probably a better choice.

4. Could it be Addictive?
An addictive activity will challenge your self-control. Does this activity have potential to become addictive? Will it possibly occupy your time and thoughts more than it should?
Alcohol is again the easy example here. We all know that many people are addicted to alcohol. It has a great potential for addiction. But other things can be addictive as well. Everything from exercise to video games to Facebook (ouch!) can be addictive.
These questions all build on each other, so out of question two and three, we add this.

5. Could it Cause Harm?
Could your participation in this activity cause physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational harm? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably not the best choice (see #2). This would seem to be a no-brainer, but in making wise choices, this should always be a consideration.
Is it wise to do something that has the potential lead me to sin or do harm to me? No it is not wise. You might can figure out how to do it so that it’s not technically sin (which is addressed a couple of paragraphs down), but we want to be wise in everything, not just “technically not a sin.”

6. Will it Offend other Christians?
Philippians 2:3-5 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves,
We should want always to build up and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now obviously we never want to be offensive to anyone if possible. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between offending a brother/sister in Christ or an unbeliever, you defer to your brother/sister and offend the unbeliever. We are clearly commanded to honor others in the body of Christ. Our love for them shows that we are Christians. It shows that we are radically committed to each other.
The stronger Christian has an obligation to defer to the weaker one.
If what you’re about to do might offend another Christian, you should really think through whether or not you should do it.

7. Will it hurt my Testimony? (the walk that others see)
We are called to be above reproach in everything. The idea in this term is “not even a handle.” We should live our lives in such a way that, if someone wanted to make an accusation against us, there wouldn’t be anything they could hold on to to. There shouldn’t be even a hint of sin in our lives.
Remember #6 - If you’re doing something that offends or bothers or causes your brother/sister in Christ to stumble, it cannot possibly make your testimony better. We want everything we do to point to Christ.

8. Is it Right?
Do you like the “I’m not so sure about this...” feeling?
Romans 14:23 – But whoever has doubts is condemned.... For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
If you feel the need to justify something or feel like you have to convince someone, even yourself, that this is okay, it’s probably not.
Here’s the bottom line question:
Can you do this before others and before God in total faith and confidence that it is right?

And don't forget the summary of where all these questions lead: Does it glorify Christ? Will Christ be made to look more glorious and more magnificent by this decision?

That’s really the bottom line.
If the answer isn’t yes - then it’s no.

(These questions are from John MacArthur’s Commentary on Ephesians. I’ve tweaked them a little)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

So what do I do?

Here’s a brief summary of my message from this past Wednesday night. We have, for the past few weeks, been emphasizing Bible Input and how necessary it is (see the blog post below this one). One of your main goals in the Christian life is your own sanctification (a theological way of talking about your spiritual growth). One of the primary elements of your Sanctification Strategy must be Scripture. (click here for the 2012 Scripture Stuff)
Hearing God’s Word (being at church)
Reading God’s Word (have a Bible reading plan)
Studying God’s Word (click here)
Memorizing God’s Word (so many reasons to do this)

Now, we’re looking at part 2 of this Sanctification Strategy.

Serving the Church.

This past week, we looked at Ephesians 4:12-16 and what it teaches us about all this.

There is a Plan/Sequence in the Bible for all of this.
1. Pastors & Teachers Teach
• God has equipped certain people in the church to teach His Word.
• They should teach it.

2. Everyone does Ministry (Serving)
Pastor’s & Teachers teach (“to equip the saints”) God’s Word so that you can learn, apply, and do it. We should all be serving the church together. Pastors also teach by example. We don’t just sit back and watch you go do the work. We should all be striving together to put God’s Word into action, serve, and be out there sharing the Gospel with others.

3. The Church is Built Up
So what does this look like? It’s a really cool picture!
• Unity of the Faith – we all learn, we’re on the same page. We are drawn together in unity. Read Philippians 2:2)
• Knowledge of the Son of God – This is the deep, experiential knowledge of Christ. It’s the head knowledge and heart knowledge working together. Becoming His hands and feet through serving really makes a difference in your spiritual growth (it’s vital)
• GrowING – the emphasis is on the “ING” It’s active. You’re being intentional about your spritual growth (planning how to grow. Having a Bible reading plan. Planning to serve. Making church a priority)
• Un-fool-able – you have good, solid theology. You aren’t easily led astray by someone with something that might sound like Christianity, but isn’t. The more you grow, the more you know, the harder you will be to be led astray.
• Love – the foundation of love grows. The more we are growing spiritually, the more we have a love for others and the more passionately we’ll be sharing the Gospel (God’s love for us, right?) with them.

We all need to be committed to Christ and His Word. We need the Bible’s input and message in our lives. We have no shortage of secular input (TV, movies, magazines, internet.... the list goes on). What we need is more Bible.
We all need to be committed to the Body of Christ and be serving.
Click here to see how you can serve through the HSM at Immanuel.

These are two very important, vital elements to your Christian life. Remember - the goal is your sanctification. Become more like Jesus. Follow Him. Seek Him. Serve Him. Then, we’ll see SIX33 and Immanuel built up and growing!

Ephesians 4:15b-16we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, December 26, 2011

So what's the plan??

The Year 2012
An intentional focus on Scripture

Now that Christmas is over, we should start looking toward the new year. I’m sure you did some planning for Christmas. Maybe you made a list of who to buy Christmas presents for. Maybe you planned some things to do. Maybe it was as simple as a packing list. We all did at least some planning for Christmas.

With all the planning and preparation we do for things, we shouldn’t neglect our spiritual lives. I want to encourage you to do some planning for your spiritual life in 2012. (click here for Rob’s sermon on “Getting Ready for 2012”)

There are many passages about holiness and sanctification. Here are a few to get things started:

1 Thessalonians 4:3a – For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
Hebrews 10:14 – For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Romans 6:22 – But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

What we all need for 2012 is a “Sanctification Strategy”
Scripture Input is 100% necessary to your life
(you should write this down somewhere)

Sanctification means: Holy - consecrated - dedicated to the service of God. The word indicates the process of sanctification. It’s something you are actively doing – something you are striving toward.

Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord

We were saved for holiness, not just so that we have “fire insurance,” show up at church a couple of times a week, then do whatever the rest of the week.

Ephesians 1:4 & 2:10 – he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Colossians 1:22 – says that God saved us, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

You can’t expect to be holy and growing spiritually just because you show up at church. Just stopping in to the gym a few times a week won’t make you healthy and buff. You need to work at it. You need a plan.

Here’s my suggestion for a plan. This is the plan that I’m encouraging all of the high school students at Immanuel to put into place so that together we can grow in Christlikeness and encourage each other and “stir up one another to love and good works.”

My encouragement is to be intentional about these four things this year:

1. Hear the Bible
You need to regularly show up where you’ll hear the Bible read and taught. For high school students at Immanuel, this means SIX33, and Sunday mornings (both Bible Study and “Big Church”)
Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13 – Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
Paul instructed Pastors to read and teach God’s Word. If it’s important for Pastors to read and teach, then it’s important for Christians to hear and be taught God’s Word.

Practical steps to Hearing God’s Word:
- Show up ready to listen - Remove distractions
Think through and Remove distractions - is someone going to talk to
me? (sit somewhere else), turn off your cell phone, anything else?
- Engage your mind.
Come prepared - bring your Bible, a notebook, and a pen
Take notes. Ask “where is this going?” Follow the flow.
- Apply
Ask: What are you going to do with this? How are you going to apply
this? Don’t just sit, listen, then move on. Do something with what you

2. Read the Bible
Practical suggestions for consistent Bible Reading
- Make it an appointment
Schedule a time, and keep it. Consider it a vital appointment (because
it is) I’m convinced that in the morning is the best time.
- Find a plan
There are many good plans available.
--> Click here for our reading plan this year.

- Think deeply about one word, phrase, or verse
Really think it through. Think deeper.
A journal helps here - write your thoughts down.

Scripture is: Sharp. Penetrating. Dividing. Discerning
Allow it to be that in your life.

3. Study the Bible
Reading gives you the big picture. Studying gives you the details and the real depth of Scripture.

Acts 17:11 – they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
This is studying Scripture. These guys listened to the teaching, went home, and studied the Bible themselves.
The next verse says - Many of them therefore believed
People are studying Scripture - people are getting saved.
What a great pattern, right?

R.C. Sproul says that the reason we neglect studying God’s Word isn’t because it’s hard to understand or because it’s boring, but because we’re lazy & it takes work. It’s not that we’re not smart enough or not passionate about it - we’re just lazy.

The difference between reading and studying is a journal. Pen and paper.

--> Click here for a guide to studying Scripture.

4. Memorize the Bible
There are so many benefits to Scripture memory.
Proverbs 22:17-19 – Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you.
If you were to memorize just one verse each week, by the end of the year, you’d have 52 verses memorized.
There are so many benefits to Scripture memory.

--> For our Scripture memory plan, click here
To hear what John Piper says about Scripture memory, click here.

A Final Question: If your spiritual growth were measured by the quality and quantity of your Bible intake, what would your “score” be?

If you’re thinking, or have ever thought, “Honestly, I’m really not growing spiritually like I know I should be and want to be...”
It’s very likely that it’s due to lack of Bible Input into your life. You have no shortage of worldly input into your life. TV, Movies, Magazines, internet, school, radio, iPod, spending time with people, shopping, billboards, etc.

Remember - our goal is sanctification holiness. How does that happen? In John 17:17, Jesus prayed: Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

John MacArthur says: True believers who make up the true church hunger for the Word of God
Pray and ask the Lord to place in you a hunger for His Word.
Then - put a plan into place.

Click here for Rob’s full sermon on “Getting Ready for 2012.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Spiritual Grenade?

Like a grenade, it doesn’t matter who pulls the pin and lobs it into a conversation—whether a Marine or a 14 year old girl—when the gospel is explained in a clear, compelling way, its inherent power has impact.

That’s why it’s so important that we know how to explain the full message of the gospel. A clear presentation of the gospel will penetrate into the soul, mind, and conscience of the listener by revealing who God is and what He has done. As believers, we must be ready to engage in honest, authentic conversations about the gospel with our friends who need to know Jesus.

Asking Searching Questions

Most teens are really good at asking questions. Have you ever considered that part of the gospel’s power is that it answers some of the key questions about the meaning and purpose of life?
• Why are we here?
• Why is the world so messed up?
• What is the meaning of life?
• What happens in the end?

In the HSM at Immanuel we use what we call “The GOSPEL Journey”
God created everything for His glory
Our sin separates us from Him
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died on the cross
Everyone who believes in Him alone will be saved
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus in Heaven forever!

Is it scary to think about talking about the gospel with others? Here are a few ideas that might help you in your efforts to share the gospel with others in your daily life:
• Start by praying!
• Get others talking. Ask them questions, like:
~ What are your spiritual beliefs?
~ Is there a God?
~ Why are we here?
~ Have you ever heard Christianity presented as a relationship
instead of a religion?
~ How can I pray for you?
~ Where do you turn when you’re hurting?
~ What do you think happens when we die?
~ What do you think it takes for someone to get to heaven?
~ Do you think you’re a good person (check back for “Candy Bar” next week)

Explain the full message of the gospel in a clear way, using Scripture.

Follow up with questions like:
• Does that make sense?
• Are you willing to repent and put your faith and trust in Christ right now?

Don’t be consumed by worrying about what other people think about you. How foolish in the eyes of the world did Jesus look when He was dying on the cross?
Don’t think that discussions about the gospel are just a debate among many equally valid belief systems. The gospel is not just another idea. It is the greatest story ever told. The power of its message is not philosophical speculation or another religion. It is far from either. It is the truth.

So always be ready to share this message in humble confidence knowing that it is the truth. In Romans 1:16 Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

Let’s help our friends understand that truth. Just pull the pin on your spiritual grenade. Then get ready to see some spiritual impact as you share that truth with others!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Rob Signs

P.S. Check back in a week for the “Candy Bar Intro” that some of our eTeams used in San Francisco.

Adapted from “The Gospel as Spiritual Grenade” by Greg Stier.
Dare 2 Share has a free weekly Soul Fuel articles designed to help you relate the gospel to current events in our world.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Should You Go?

(This is adapted from what Charles Spurgeon says about missions...)

We get to hear the Gospel preached pretty much all the time. But there are many who won’t hear the Gospel, who will go?
Do we really think about the lost? There are so many who have never heard the Name of Jesus or heard the Good News about Him. We need people who will go and share the Gospel. There are so many out there who may have seen a missionary once or twice, but know nothing of the Gospel. Should we just sit around when we could go do something about it?

(I’m writing specifically today about our upcoming trip to San Francisco. Our plan is to head up on Friday, then go out into the city in teams to share the Gospel with those we meet. We’ll certainly do some fun “touristy” things, but our main purpose is to share the Gospel with those who might otherwise not hear it. I’ll go on with what Spurgeon said, tweaked a little for our context)

Can we really just lay down and sleep while they go on, not hearing the Gospel, and heading for hell? Does their need to hear the Gospel mean nothing to us?
Here’s how you should be thinking about it:
NOT - “should I go?” (this is the wrong question to ask)
ASK THIS - “why should I not go?”

If you can honestly prove that you should NOT go, then you shouldn’t go, but if not, then you must go. This is a great opportunity to be equipped to share the Gospel, spend time sharing it with people who desperately need to hear the message of Christ, and minister to others. Unless you can prove that there’s a reason NOT to go, then you should be signing up and going with us. It’s that simple.

I close with a direct quote from our friend Spurgeon: “I shall never feel, brethren, that we, as a band of men, have done our duty until we see our comrades fighting for Jesus in every land in the van of the conflict.  I believe that, if God moves you to go, you will be among the best of missionaries, because you will make the preaching of the gospel the great feature of your work, and that is God’s sure way of power.”

Click here for more info on the trip.