Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 23, 2007 LIVING AND LEAVING A LEGACY- The Example of John Wesley

Zechariah 3:2

One of the talents that always amazes me is the talent for landscaping. I have enjoyed seeing what some of you have done with your yards and property. Without extravagance, you tidy your yard, place trees or bushes into certain places and have rocks or other objects to dress things up.

One day I went to my foster mom’s house to study. Instead, I was thrown in with my brother, Tim, and foster dad as we planted bushes and a small tree. What was incredible to me was Tim’s knack for putting a certain bush into a certain spot. And then laying out the bark and such. Wow! It was beautiful when we were finished. I could not have done that in a million years.

Some people have the knack and the rest of us just copy. We look through Architectural Magazine for ideas; or we see someone else’s yard in another town; or we just make something up as we go. Some of us have the landscape knack and some of us don’t.

In a similar sense, God used John Wesley to change the landscape of Christianity. Sure, up to that point we had some great leaders who contributed much to the Christian setting:

Tertullian in the 2nd century was a great defender of Christianity and was the first to write the word “Trinity” and put our faith in Latin.

Augustine in the 300’s who was stirred deeply by the preaching of Bishop Ambrose that he left his life of sin, was baptized and moved to the coastal African city of Hippo. There he lived as a pastor, preacher and administrator. He was a key to the foundational doctrinal statements of Christianity along with Athanasius.

Thomas Aquinas- the overweight Italian who was often called the “dumb ox” because of his size- lived and ministered in the 1200’s as a Dominican preacher and scholar. He wrote the “Summa Theologica”- a systematic summary of theology, philosophy and ethics. He also penned commentaries on the Old Testament and New Testament. He believed that God planted into the heart of every person this thing called “reason.”

Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the Middle Ages. He believed that true understanding came by walking in humility and communing with a loving God. He wrote a book called Grace and Free Will that argues for a salvation that only comes from God. He died as a lowly abbot in 1153.

Martin Luther hammered his “95 Thesis” on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church on October 31, 1517. His protests against the Roman Catholic Church were the result of seeing the abuses of power and lack of accountability in the organization of Christianity. He was calling the Church back to living and ministering by the Scriptures and living the Christian life by faith alone.

John Calvin was best known as the greatest systematic theologian and disciplinarian of the Reformers. At only the age of 27, he released the first of his many editions of Institutes of the Christian Religion. Even to this day, this theology book remains what some have called the “Mount Everest” of systematic theology.

 Who else could I speak of? How about Iraneaus- the first century theologian, Perpetua, the martyr of whose death marked the beginning of the fall of Rome; the mystic- John of the Cross and Teresa Avila; Thomas A’Kempis and his book The Imitation of Christ that Biblical students and Christian seekers still read; John Knox who took a simple and pure gospel message to the Scots; and on and on I could go.

[God and His People by Dr. James L. Garlow]

I mention these because they all left their mark on the landscape of Christianity. They spoke of the importance of living a life of piety. They spoke of understanding the logical-ness of Christianity. They taught about living and breathing a life of faith and trust in God; they pursued truth through Jesus Christ at the very point of death.

And then along came one man who embodied the various influences of Christianity and rearranged not only the front-yard of Christianity, but its backyard, its porches and the rooms inside.

John Wesley shows up at a time when the Anglican Church in England could not and would not reach the common man like you and me. The clergy was corrupt, parishes were without priests and the church did little to meet the spiritual needs of an ever-increasing urban population.

Without question, John Wesley presents to not only the Wesleyan Church but all of Christianity a model of a fulfilled Christian life through selfless ministry. And God used this man of emotion, organization and methodology to merge together the thought processes of our faith.

In many ways John Wesley’s thought represents the mainstream of Christian tradition. In a time when we seem to be so divided by denominationalism, consider what God brought together within the life of one man:

 He was raised and spent all his life in the Anglican Church, which gave him an understanding and appreciation for the catholic faith.

 Wesley’s mother was the daughter of a noted Puritan divine who instilled in her children the Puritan concern for righteousness based on principles from God’s Word.

 As an 18th Century Oxford student and later an instructor, Wesley developed a thorough understanding and commitment to rationality.

 Wesley also possessed a lifelong interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

 His experiences as a missionary to Georgia filled him with fascination of the Moravians and their calm Christian faith. So much so, he traveled later to Moravia to learn more about them.

[The Wesley Bible, “The Wesleyan Perspective” pp. xxvii-xxviii]

What Wesley was able to bring out of all these experiences was a genuine blend (or synthesis) of Christian faith in which he seemingly took irreconcilable concepts and then developed a consistent system of Christian beliefs.

I will save the theology lesson for later, but let me say this much: Wesley did far more for the Christian faith that he does not get credit for. However, in recent years, Christians from all sorts of backgrounds are beginning to see and credit him with his contributions to our faith.

Now, how does this fit with you and me? How do we take his influences on the world and apply them to our puny little lives here in Small-town, USA?

I have four aspects of his life that I believe will help us better appreciate ourselves as Wesleyans and encourage each of us in our quest to serve our Lord.

1. Salvation on Horseback.

Wesley rose at 4 am every day and then efficiently used the next 18 hours of his life to minister to people all over England. He had a customized a table built for read and writing while riding horseback between towns and churches. Until he was a seventy year old man, he continued to travel by horse. Then he converted to carriage for his elder years.

a. Example.

I can think of no better example of putting the Christian disciplines into action like Wesley. His early to rise so that he could preach to the men and boys coming to the factories at daylight is incredible to think about. His organizational skills and willingness to delegate tasks to others is a model for all those in leadership. And yet he took his responsibilities serious enough to fight through snow-drifts and rain-storms to preach the gospel personally all over England, Scotland and Ireland.

b. Energy.

There are very few people who could out-do Wesley and the energy that sprung from his spry 5’5” and 125 pound body. He ate sparingly and properly. He lived a long life and I will bet a good reason for that is his willingness to do without excesses in living.

How much more effective would any of us be for God’s service if we would eat healthier and exercise more? Perhaps some of our ailments and short-comings could be changed if we changed some of our habits. [But I love the Chinese the buffet!]

c. Efficiency.

Money is an example of his efficiency in life. John Wesley was one of the richest preachers ever but had very little money in the end. He sold penny tracks and made a fortune. But he lived as he preached: “Earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can” were hallmarks of an efficient life.

His trilateral was all about giving. You earn all you can so you can give more. You save all you can- not so you can have more- but so you can give more. Everything about money was viewed through lenses of giving to God’s kingdom.

John Telford, in his biography of John Wesley, tells of Wesley’s meticulous adherence to being punctual for all appointments. Wesley’s frame of mind was that he never had a moment to lose. Once, when he was kept waiting for his carriage he was heard to say, “I have lost ten minutes for ever.” He always expected his coachman to be ready at the precise moment fixed. “Have the carriage at the door at four,” he said to him at Hull in 1788. “I do not mean a quarter or five minutes past, but four.”

2. A Brand from the Burning.

At the age of five the home of Samuel and Susannah Wesley caught on fire in the night. All the children (some 19 in all) were removed safely from the house, but when they were counted, John was missing. You can only imagine the frantic search for him. A farmer from nearby spotted little John- looking out of an upstairs window in the midst of the leaping flames. Several neighbors climbed on each other’s shoulders, until the man on top was able to put his arms around the boy and pull him out of the flames to safety. Only moments after he was rescued, the entire house exploded in flames. Ever after, for the rest of his life, John Wesley referred to himself “as a brand plucked from the burning,” quoting Zechariah 3:2.

a. Your Value and Identity in Jesus Christ.

What about you? Have you considered the value of your life and the identity that you have in Christ Jesus?

b. A Special Purpose for One Moment in Time.

For me, pastoring and preaching are the calling of a lifetime. I cannot begin to image myself as anything else. And for Wesley, his life of preaching, teaching, pastoring and organizing was his call of a lifetime. He simply could not do anything else. He knew that God had called him to a special purpose for this one moment in time.

What is your call of lifetime? What is it that God has called you to do as a Christian? Is it to be a spiritual leader to your grandchildren? Is it to turn your work environment into a mission field instead of a place to earn a living?

Wesley understood his calling. He knew what God was calling him to. And so he did it- to the very nth degree of his being.

Wesley was like the Apostle Paul who wrote in Colossians 1:29- “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which works so powerfully in me.”

Do we understand our special purpose? Do we realize that when this moment passes there will be no other opportunity and no more time to make a difference?

He understood the ramifications of what it meant to follow after God.

This resulted in seeing what even other churches saw:

3. The Resources are in the Harvest.

John Wesley saw potential that the Church was somehow not seeing. He soon realized the kind of people he was reaching were untrained and even illiterate people who longed for something life-changing. He recognized that in order for these new Christians to truly grow, they didn’t need theologians in the pulpits, they needed pastors.

Where would he get them?

There is a phrase that has been kicked around church plant circles for awhile: The resources are in the harvest. When a church begins to plot its way in ministry and that ministry begins to make traction and start growing, God somehow plants within that growing ministry the resources necessary to keep growing and moving forward.

Wesley saw the human resources right away: the very ones who were getting saved would be the very ones he would train to be leaders. By the time Wesley died he had over 120,000 lay preachers.

Two things are important for us to understand about this:

a. First, we need our younger people here to rise up and be willing to be led into leadership.

If you are young and name Jesus as Lord, then you need to be willing to be used of God in any capacity God calls you to. This is where pastoral leadership comes into play. Furthermore, you are called- not to run rough-shod over the old people and their old ways- but to learn to love and lead with a heart of love. Together, young and old can blend their perspectives and differences about certain things.

We need your energy and your ideas.

Let’s face it: every local church is always in danger of being a dying church. However, God sends people our way for them to be used in the ministry to keep the ministry alive and growing.

b. This means that the rest of us need to do those things that develop others into new leaders.

I realize that some here have passed their more productive days. But God can still use you as a spiritual guide and prayer warrior for someone else.

Some of you know that we have a new puppy in our home. Yes, we are finally grand-parents. This Shi-tzu pup loves to run, and jump and play- all over our old dog, Sky. Sky can’t run like she used to. Sky has arthritis, her liver is shot and she gets out of breath easily. But this pup insists on playing and so Sky plays with her. It’s a hoot to watch!

The other day, Donna and I were speaking on the telephone. Donna understands animal behaviors because The Farm uses animals as a means of counseling with some people. I mentioned this to her and she told me that a young puppy will actually help breath new life into the old dog.

Hmmm. What does that mean for us? As new people come into our church, as babies are born, and new things happen, perhaps we who have been in the church awhile might learn some new tricks.

So let’s band together in prayer as we seek to raise up new leadership for this ministry.

And then watch as God works through you and me in a powerful way.

4. An Un-Bottled Message.

John Wesley was so full of knowledge that he was almost like a two-liter bottle of Coca-cola. And when the Holy Spirit got a hold of his life, that bottle got shook up big-time and God’s Spirit was poured out all over England and it spread to America.

Wesley’s message was very simple: “Rest from the guilt of sin by justification and from the power of sin by sanctification.”

a. A life-time of experiences.

You and I have within our Christian lives, certain experiences and knowledge, that if we would let the Holy Spirit shake up our life, we would see God work in amazing ways.

Consider the hardships we face. These things shake us up but do we allow it to be used by the Holy Spirit?

b. A Christ-life to share.

We face good times and bad times but do we let either one be used by the Holy Spirit to pour out the message of Christ throughout Oceana County?

Wesley’s life was used to change England. Most historians say that England would certainly have experienced a bloody revolution like France did in those days had it not been for the holiness preaching of Wesley and Whitefield among others.

What kind of influence could your life bring to your family that may be torn apart of disagreements and trouble? What kind of influence can we as a church have on a community that is divided politically in this very time?

We are not called to keep this treasure we have to ourselves but to share ourselves with those all around us and with those God has called us to.


John Wesley’s life was not perfect. He dealt with a bad marriage that I am sure created some gossip baggage and he fought emotional issues like others do. But his life of holy living demonstrated the Christ-life in such a way that even those who hated him couldn’t help but respect him.

You don’t have to be a jerk to change the world. You just simply have to be a person willing to let God use you with the set of talents, abilities and gifts that he has given to you by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if you tune in closely to the Lord, you just may hear that still small voice calling you to something specific he has just for you.

We can sum up what it means to be a Christian by what those early Methodists lived by so that their lives would be all that God called them to be:
o Devotions: Begin and end every day with God.
o Ministry: Be diligent in your calling.
o Christian Service: Employ all spare hours in religion.
o Holiness: Examine your heart every night
o Work Ethic: Avoid idleness
o Temptation: Resist the very beginnings of lust
o Good Deeds: In every act reflect on the end.
John Wesley was instrumental in the abolition of slavery, which he condemned often and wrote against. He also worked diligently for civil rights, and popular education.
At the age of 86 he was still preaching to huge gatherings of people two and three times a day, seven days a week.

On October 7, 1790 he preached his last outdoor sermon in a churchyard in Kent. His last sermon was given in a house in the country village of Leatherhead on February 23, 1791. His last sermon text was, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

A few days later, at 10:00 in the morning, on March 2, 1791 John Wesley spoke his final words, “Farewell.” Thousands of people walked by his open coffin in the City Road Chapel in London. John Whitehead preached from II Samuel 3:38 at his funeral,
“Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 9, 2007 Why Every Kid Needs a Grand-Parent

Genesis 48:8-10

The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap into the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. (www.grandparents-day.com)

Here are some anecdotes that Glenda sent to me that I thought might give us a good chuckle when we think about Grandparents Day.

A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own childhood was like: "We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods." The little
girl was wide-eyed, taking this all in. At last she said, "I sure wish I'd gotten to know you sooner!"

My grandson was visiting one day when he asked, "Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?" I mentally polished my halo while I asked, "No, how are we alike?" "You're both old," he replied.

Grandparents are a powerful influence in the lives of their grandchildren. Parents can fail at parenting but a good grandparent can make up for lost ground. Parents can be the best at what they do, but a good grandparent will outshine them every time. Father can know best but Grandpa can do it better.

So what is it that makes you as a grandparent so special?

My Grandma Henderson filled a void in our home with her love, stories from the depression days (scary ones too) and supper composed of pinto beans and cornbread. During those long dog-days of summer she would take all of us grandchildren to the Hackley Library- on foot, of course. She hand stitched quilts and taught me how to sew- a talent I use with pride from time to time. She’d buy small gifts; give us special treats at her apartment in the Hartford Terrace. She lived to old age after a lifetime of eating chicken fried in lard, mashed potatoes with gravy and bacon and eggs. There was no one like her- before or since.

Today we are reminded that every person is a grandchild and every grandchild needs a grandparent. I am convinced that grandparents have so much more to offer than they realize.

Our scripture text suggests that there are three nurturing aspects of grand-parenting that every grandchild needs.

1. Grandparents as a Blessing.

One of the saddest situations I have to deal with from time to time is the grandparent who rejects a needy grandchild. This should never be!

Without getting too specific, my children had a classmate here in Shelby who became pregnant while still in high school. She carried the child to full term and gave birth to a strapping son. Occasionally I have seen the boy with her and her parents. Each time it seems that the grandfather has a hold of the kid with such love and affection.

One day I had the opportunity to speak to this grand-dad. I told him how proud I was of him and how good it made me feel that he was being a father figure to his grandson. He thanked me and also added: “Hey, he’s my buddy.”

I just pray that God somehow works continually in that family circle.

Every grandchild needs to be a loved and wanted grandchild. With the advent of blended families in our country and the out-of-wedlock births we have seen the explosion of shared grandchildren. What I mean is that there are a high number of grandparents whose children have stepchildren from other relationships. It’s not uncommon for a child to have several potential sets of grandparents.

Consider my circumstance. I have Grandma and Grandpa Higgins who died before I was born. I had Grandma and Grandpa Barnes of whom I never met. After my mother remarried my step-dad, I had Grandma and Grandpa Henderson who were divorced (I never met Grandpa Henderson). As a teen-ager I had Grandma and Grandpa Black and Grandma and Grandpa Moulton. I ended up with ten grandparents! Some of you may have had more. Of all my grandparents I never knew a single one of my “blood grandparents.” My interactions with grandparents were confined to Grandma Henderson, the Blacks and the Moultons.

Some of you have the opportunity to be like my grandparents and to be loving and caring grandparents to children that are not your blood. If so, take full advantage of that opportunity. Don’t worry about what others may think. And I realize that in saying this you have to use wisdom in each individual situation.

Every grandchild needs to be wanted by their grandparents. Unfortunately there are too many grandparents who fail in this. What does the Bible say Jacob did?

“Are these your sons?” (v. 8) He inquires of them- perhaps in a grandfatherly, joking matter. But don’t forget, these boys had an Egyptian mother. She was not one of Abraham’s people. And yet he accepted these boys as one of his own.

a. Jacob gave them God’s future.

He says in verse 16- "Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” "And he blessed them that day, saying, in you shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh; and he set Ephraim before Manasseh" (v. 20). They need you to give them God’s future.

b. Jacob gave them his heritage.

Jacob adopted the two boys. "They are mine." (v.5). "Let my name be upon them, and the name of my father Abraham and Isaac" (v.16). He treated them with the same blessings that the son was supposed to receive. True, later Joseph received a blessing by Jacob, but yet Joseph was not to be named as a tribe of Israel. Instead, Ephraim and Manessah would receive that blessing.

By claiming them he opened up his heritage to them. It allowed them to claim not only a family heritage but also a spiritual heritage.

c. Jacob showed them God’s riches.

Our grandchildren need to experience something about God’s grace in their lives. Too often they have witnessed a world filled with un-grace. You can be that person of grace in their lives no matter how far away they may live.

You as a grandparent- Be a blessing to your grandchildren and any others that come your way.

2. Grandparents as Nurturers.

There’s something about grandparents and their life experiences that helps them help the rest of us. It’s kind of like the old Texan proverb: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Somehow I believe that this is what makes so many grandparents good nurturers. They have a lifetime of wisdom to share with us younger ones.

I like the example of nurturing that Grandpa Jacob gives to us this morning.

a. Jacob showed them affection.

b. Jacob hugged them.

c. Jacob gave them his love.

Every grandchild needs to be loved. Just as Jacob gave them his love, I propose to you that you love your grandchild or grandchildren.

d. Jacob treated them with respect.

He recognized them as important and respected them appropriately. He didn’t talk down to them nor above them but laid out a future for them.

Jacob nurtured his grandchildren before he died and gave them something else far more important.

He shared with them his spiritual heritage.

3. Grandparents as Spiritual Guides.
There is something very important about grandparenting that must never change in your life as a grandparent: your spiritual guidance.

Our world is starving for spiritual leadership. They need grandmas and grandpas to set an example of everything that is right.

I thank God for what he has done in my life and were it not for the love and acceptance I received from godly grandparents, I am not so sure some of the Biblical values would have stuck to me like they have.

a. Jacob gave them an example of humility.

He recognized that without God his life was emptied. And so one still night Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. It changed his life.

Your grandchildren need to hear of that life-changing moment for you. They need to hear how God brought to the place of total surrender.

I am convinced that a lot of times our younger people become frustrated with their grandparents and the older generation because they don’t know why you do things a certain way or why you go to church or why your lifestyle is so different.

Tell them why and in telling them you will be offering to them God’s hope for their lives.

b. Jacob gave them God’s hope.

Many of us see the sorrow in the eyes of children in our community. They need to have hope somehow instill in their hearts or else they will grow up with no hope and no God.

c. Jacob gave them an example of worship.

The position of worship. "He (Jacob) bowed himself with his face to the earth" (v.12).

The attitude of worship. "Jacob . . . worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff" (Heb. 11:21).

d. Jacob gave them an example of godliness.

How you live your life will be the greatest testimony you can leave. To say nothing about Christ to your grandchildren is a crime. To say something about Christ but then don’t back it up with right actions is a sin.

May all your grandchildren who come behind you find you faithful.

So what do we say in conclusion of all of this?

I came across an article by Dr. Elmer Towns entitled “How To Bless Children.” Here are some closing tips for you as a grandparent to apply to your grandparenting skills.

Dr. Elmer Towns suggest five steps to blessing children that I think are very appropriate especially for our grandparents this morning. (God Bless You by Elmer Towns)

Step 1: A meaningful touch.

Step 2: Blessing with a spoken word.

Step 3: Attach high value to the one being blessed.

Step 4: Picture a special future for the one being blessed.

Step 5: An active commitment to fulfilling the blessing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Galatians 4:19

Some commonly asked questions about pregnancy and childbirth (courtesy of “Basic Jokes- Clean Jokes for a Dirty World”):

Q. My childbirth instructor says it's not pain I'll feel during labor, but pressure. Is she right?
A. Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current.

Q. When is the best time to get an epidural?
A. Right after you find out you're pregnant.

Q. Is there any reason I have to be in the delivery
room while my wife is in labor?
A. Not unless the word "alimony" means anything to you.

Q. What happens to disposable diapers after
they're thrown away?
A. They are stored in a silo in the Midwest,
in the event of global chemical warfare.

Q: I'm two months pregnant now. When will my baby move?
A: With any luck, right after he finishes college.

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of childbirth as a means of getting the attention of the Christians in Galatia who have somehow exchanged the freedom they have in Christ for the slavery of rules and regulations. Paul’s desire is that Christians live a life of freedom.

Jesus uses the same metaphor when speaking to Nicodemus about being born again. He said that flesh begets flesh but Spirit begets spirit. Just as a human person can only give birth to a human person, so to only the Holy Spirit can birth a new spiritual life in a person.

The reality is that God the Holy Spirit formed God the Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior then what is this supposed to look like in your life?

1. When and What are You Expecting?

There is something about pregnancy and childbirth that give us hope. You and I have heard the phrase asked of a pregnant woman: “When are you expecting?” This phrase carries within it the connotation of hope.

There is a certain hope that the Apostle Paul holds out for those who have claimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

He has an expectant hope that they will grasp the truth and freedom of being a Christian. Adam Clark suggests that as their conversion to Christ had been the fruit of much labor, prayers and tears, so he felt them as dear children.

Consider the implications of spiritual expectancy for your life:

a) Can you handle the truth?

Jesus shows us what it means to live a life of truth. And truth is the perhaps the most difficult battle that a Christian faces. To come to salvation we have to admit the truth of our sinfulness. To grow in this salvation we have to admit the truth of our weaknesses and shortcomings- and yes, even sins we have committed. To reach the place of being sanctified wholly we have to admit the truth our utter reliance on the Holy Spirit’s power for cleansing.

To live the Christian life means that we come face to face with the truth. Jesus speaks to Pilate on the day of his execution about the establishment of the kingdom of truth. Pilate then responds by asking, “What is truth?”

For Christ to form within you calls for you to handle the truth with care.

Another implication that has to be considered is this:

b) Are you truly saved?

Jesus shows us not only what it means to be truly human and to reveal to Christians our Heavenly Father and his love for us, but Jesus more importantly came to “…take away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Remember, the angel told Joseph: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

What the Bible teaches is that “Jesus died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15) and that through identification with His death you can be freed from sin, and have His very righteousness given as a gift to you. The teaching is not Christ for me unless I allow to have Christ formed in me (see Galatians 4:19).

c) Is your faith increasing?

The result of Christ in you is an ever-increasing faith. Now the kind of faith I am talking about is not a fate-faith: what will be will be. Nor is it a false-faith: I say one thing but believe another. But a faith that is grounded in the hope that Jesus Christ has given to us of not only eternal life but a hope of life of power in and through the Holy Spirit.

An expectant Christian knows that what God is forming in their life will bear fruit into a needy world. Just as Mary bore the fruit of Christ into a dark world and just as Alisha bore to us a second son, so to the Christian is to bearing fruits of righteousness into a world that needs righteousness.

Are you expecting?

Something else we need to consider is…

2. Your Life Under Construction.

A pregnant woman has within her life a new life developing and growing within. She carries in her body not only this new life but also bears the marks and weariness of this tiny new life that is ever-present.

For the Christian, the very life of Christ within is growing. And the more this life grows, the more aware they are of changes happening in their own life.

In our scripture text, the Apostle Paul speaks to the Galatians of his concern that they have turned their hearts away from the previous work in their hearts. Now I am not going to get into whether the Galatians have lost their salvation and now need to start their Christian faith all over. Commentators have drawn some lines in the sand that I’m not willing to draw. However, know this: how can any person, who believes in Jesus Christ for salvation, continue to follow him if they have rejected the very essence of his life in theirs?

There are some important comparisons about a normal pregnancy and the new life you now carry in your heart:

a) The importance of a good nutrition.

The Galatian church allowed the wrong things to influence them. They did not practice good nutrition in order to grow in their faith. They allowed the wrong kinds of things into their life- namely, the former spiritual life they once lived. They traded their trust in Jesus Christ for trust in another belief system.

b) The importance of your responsibility.

The fact of your life under construction is realizing consistently and daily that Jesus was your substitute for your new birth. And if Jesus was your substitute for your new birth, then he is going to also be your power for new life.

Paul’s point to the Galatian Christians is their life is supposed to be different from their previous life. You as a Christian is not about you have a buffed up new you, but drastically changed you.

“[God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Today’s view of the death of Jesus is that He died for our sins out of sympathy for us. But what Paul tells us is that Jesus was “made … to be sin for us… ” Our sins are removed because of the death of Jesus, and the only explanation for His death is His obedience to His Father, not His sympathy for us. We then become acceptable to God not because we have obeyed, nor because we have promised to give up things, but because of the death of Christ, and for no other reason. (Chambers)

In a similar sense, as Kevon was growing within Alisha he grew- not because of all the specific things she has given up- but because of a particular death that she experienced to give him a growing life. She gave of her total self in order to see him grow and be born the healthiest that

c) The importance of good influences.

Studies have shown that children are affected during pregnancy through the stresses the mother deals with and even the kinds of music she listens to. Some believe that a pregnant woman should read to her unborn child and talk to him.

This brings up the issue of influences in your life. What is it that is influencing you for God’s glory? Having the right kind of advice as you walk with God and as Christ is being formed in you is crucial to your spiritual growth. So often we can be influenced by the liberal news media and those who oppose anything remotely Godly.

Last week as Naomi and I were at Butterworth Hospital for those four days, we had the opportunity to share our faith with a few nurses. A couple of them talked of their frustrations as moms, in-laws and so forth. One in particular was a single mom of two beautiful boys. She affirmed her faith with us but admitted how difficult it was to get to church.

We urged her to go. We told her that her children needed the church, they needed positive role models for their lives. I then told her that the times she really needed to be at church were the times when she felt least like it.

And I hold that same challenge to you. When you wake up and don't feel like coming to church- don't let the devil defeat you. You come to church. You need the family of God and the family of God needs you.

We need church. We need spiritual leadership. We need each other. As Keith Drury titled his book: There’s No I in Church.

What is influencing your spiritual growth?

Paul is share’s his frustration with the Galatian Christians so that they can realize the liberty that they have in Christ. This is the destiny that God calls every believer to.

3. Your Destiny of Liberty.

An unborn child cannot live in the womb forever. As nice and cozy things are, there is a point of freedom that they go through. And from birth they begin to exercise their freedom.

Parenting is really all about letting go at the right times. If a parent let’s go too soon, then the child falls into the danger of low self-esteem and rebellion. If a parent doesn’t let go soon enough the child falls into the danger of low self-esteem and rebellion. So what’s a parent to do?

The Galatian church was wallowing in slavery. This is not the kind of life God calls any Christian to. Galatians 5:1 sums up best the destiny for the believer: “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of bondage.”

Paul is stating very clearly that end goal for your life is freedom from sin and over sin.

a) This was the mission of Christ.

Isaiah 61:1 prophecies Jesus mission as well as Jesus taking ahold of that prophecy as being fulfilled through him. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners.”

b) The truth is the instrument of liberty.

John 8:32- “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

c) The Spirit of life gives you freedom.

You see, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

Furthermore, “…where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17)

Conclusion: Your Life in Christ.

Oswald Chamber said it best:
Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

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