Sermon Recap — December 10, 2017

The Pronouncement of the Savior

Jeremy Bell
Isaiah 9:2-7
December 10, 2017
Sermon Audio

Main Theme:  The humble Christ child has come as the redeeming King who will set all things right.

I.The Good News of the Coming King

  • This king will bring an end to all wars, “For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire (v.5).”
  • This King isn’t coming with military might. The power of His might is establishing a different kind of kingdom.
  • “For to us a child is born, a son is given (v.6)” – v.6
  • You may want a roaring king, but you’re receiving a child,
    • “…God was powerful enough to destroy His enemies in an instant, yet again and again, when [Isaiah] comes to the heart of the means of deliverance, a childlike face peers out at us. God is strong enough to overcome His enemies by becoming vulnerable, transparent, and humble.”  — John D. Watts
  • This message of Isaiah, this proclamation of hope, carried with it great news! God would send a coming King who would carry the government and rule with justice and righteousness, such that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He would put an end to war.
  • We needed a God-Man. God entered the human story and has become our Redeemer, Savior and King.

II. The Description of the King

  • Wonderful Counselor
    • The first name associated here with the coming Christ is literally “wonder of a Counselor.”
    • Jesus is a counselor whose wisdom is beyond human capabilities.
    • He is wonderful in all His ways and perfect in all His works. 
  • Mighty God
    • His might has no limits. He can do and accomplish everything
    • He is eternal, infinite and unchangeable in His power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice and truth. Nothing happens except through Him and by His will (See New City Catechism Q.2)
    • This King will be so mighty that He can absorb all of the evil which can be leveraged against Him, and beat that evil through the power of His might.
    • This King is the Mighty God!
  • Everlasting Father
    • Isaiah is not referencing the Son of God’s role in the Trinity – he’s emphasizing the Son of God’s character. He treats us like a father treats his children.
    • Under the care, protection and provision of the Son of God, we are secure and satisfied for all eternity.
    • Jesus said to Philip, one of His disciples…
      • “Have I been with you so long and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John 14:9-10a)?  If we want to know what the Father is like, we only need to look at Christ.
    • Jesus acted and moved at the will of the Father, so when we see Jesus, we see the characteristics of the Father.
    • The Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son.
  • Prince of Peace
    • He is the ruler whose reign will bring about peace for His people.
    • The nature of His rule as prince will be to make a way for peace with God, through the cross.

III.   Application – Why is this significant?

This birth announcement reminds us:

  1. God loves us.
    • We have a Savior who gave His life for us.
  2. Jesus identifies with us.
    • For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).” 
  3. If you know Jesus, you follow and unconquerable King.
    • Wonderful Counselor – who wouldn’t want to follow Him – never leads us astray. He always leads us to  true joy.
    • Mighty God – He can do anything.
    • Everlasting Father – His care and provision never ends.
    • Prince of Peace – He leads us beside still waters.
  1. His kingdom is advancing, He is accomplishing His purposes, even right now!
  • God will absolutely accomplish His purposes and His Promises — “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (v.7)”
  • God’s kingdom, and God’s purposes, are unshakable. All of His plans for our good, and His glory (which are intertwined) will absolutely come to pass — therefore we can trust Him!

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • Re-read the notes under point #1, “The Good News of a Coming King.” What do you find most encouraging about the truth that Jesus is our King.
  • What does it mean that Jesus is a “Wonderful Counselor” ?
  • In describing what it means that Jesus is a “Wonderful Counselor” Jeremy said – “Jesus is a counselor whose wisdom is beyond human capabilities.” How does the truth that God is our sovereign King who is infinite in wisdom impact the way that we think about both the blessings and trials that come our way?
  • In what particular situations in your own life do you most need to keep in mind God’s sovereignty and His wisdom?
  • As our King, God will absolutely accomplish His purposes and His promises (v.7). For believers, what are the implications for how we think about the future?
  • “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this (Isaiah 9:7).” How does this promise give you hope today?

Sermon Recap — December 3, 2017

Priorities of a Healthy Church

Series Recap
Jeremy Bell
December 3, 2017
Sermon Audio

  • You can find audio recordings of sermons in this series, Priorities of a Healthy Church,  here.
  • You can find the Sermon Recaps for this series, here.

Main Theme: When Christ is our delight and satisfaction, we treasure His Word and obey it. Part of that involves prioritizing, in the church, what He prioritizes.

What are the priorities that scripture describes the local church is to be about?

I. The Centrality of the Word

II. A Commitment to Expository Preaching

III. Embracing the Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit

IV. Gospel-Centered Theology

V. Genuine Conversion

VI. A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

VII. Church Membership

VIII. Church Discipline

IX.  The Necessity of Discipleship and Spiritual Growth

X. Church Leadership

* Note: This series draws from Mark Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. 

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • What does it mean for a local church to keep the Word of God central? Why is that so important? What are the dangers of failing to keep it central?
  • What does it mean to keep the gospel central in our lives?
  • Why is it so important for believers to keep the gospel central in their lives? What is it so important for local churches to keep the gospel central?
  • What does it mean that true conversion is “the fruit of regeneration”? How does Eph. 2 point to this?
  • Do you think we often grasp the biblical urgency of evangelism? If we did, how would that change our attitude and approach to reaching out to unbelievers?
  • In 30 seconds summarize why you believe church membership matters and is important.
  • What are the benefits of joining a local church? How have you benefited personally from being a member of the local church you are part of?
  • In what ways is church discipline a means of God’s grace to His people?
  • What does it look like to rest in our justification while simultaneously “make every effort” to pursue growth? How do we go about doing that?

Sermon Recap — November 26, 2017

Church Leadership

Jeremy Bell
November 26, 2017
Sermon Audio

Main Theme: God’s intention is for churches to experience the maturity, stability and fruitfulness that result when leadership and care is extended by leaders who follow Christ’s example. That’s why Paul gives this injunction to pastors – “pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock” – because the way God’s church is cared for and led matters!

I. The Biblical Basis For Pastoral Ministry

A. Clarifying the terms

The New Testament uses three main terms interchangeably to speak of what we typically call a “pastor”: elder (presbyteros-Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:17), overseer/bishop (episkopos Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7), and pastor (poimen-Eph. 4:11).

B. The importance of a biblical perspective

  • It is increasingly popular for pastoral ministry to be pragmatically defined or culturally conditioned, rather than scripturally determined.We must pay attention to what the scripture says pastors are to do. They are to lovingly, patiently and sometimes firmly bring the Word of God to bear in each situation – preaching, counseling, etc.
  • When we lose the biblical description for pastor, the role of the pastor is distorted, the effectiveness of the pastor is diminished, and the health of the church is weakened.

II. The Characteristics of a Pastor/Elder

A. Serve the Church-  Eph. 4:7-8, 11-14

B. Be an Example for the church – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

C. Consistent with God’s design

  • Regarding pastoral leadership, we seek to affirm and apply all that Scripture teaches about manhood and womanhood.
  • Men and women are created in God’s image (Gen.1:27) and therefore equal in value and dignity.
  • All members of the body of Christ are gifted by God and are essential to the health of the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-26).

Women play a vital role in the life of the church, but in keeping with God’s created design they are not permitted “to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12 ESV). Leadership in the church is male. In the context of the local church, God’s people receive pastoral care and leadership and the opportunity to employ their God-given gifts in his service in relation to one another and to the world. – Sovereign Grace Statement of Faith

  • Pastoral leadership is about service. In the spirit of Philippians 2, it must not be domineering, demanding or given to selfishness.
  • Because we desire Scripture to govern our practice at Grace Community, the pastors of this church are men.

III. The Role of a Pastor/Elder

A. Lead the church — 1 Tim 5:17, 1 Peter 5:2, Romans 12:6, 8

B. Teach the Word to the church — 2 Tim 4:1-2

C. Equip the church — Eph. 4:11-12

D. Protect the church

  • As shepherds of God’s people, pastors are called to protect the church from the dangers it faces, such as false teaching, the allurements of the world, and the ravaging effects of sin.
  • Pastors protect the church in a variety of ways:
  1. Teaching sound doctrine to strengthen the church in its faith and life. — 1 Tim. 4:6
  2. Discerning errors and temptations offered by the culture, to protect the church from erroneous doctrine or practice. — Acts 20:28-31
  3. Modeling, encouraging, and protecting biblical standards of godliness. This includes, when necessary, the administering of church discipline in cases of unrepentant believers in a biblical and redemptive manner. — Matt. 18:15-17

 “A shepherd’s oversight of the flock expresses itself broadly in two ways. First, the shepherds provide truthful, positive direction and leadership to the flock. Second, they watch for spiritual dangers such as sin, false teaching, and false teachers, including Satan’s assaults against the church.”  —John MacArthur, Jr.

E. Serve the church

  • Although pastors are responsible to lead the church, they are to do so as servants.
  • Following the example of Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45), leaders are to posture themselves as servants and expend themselves for the glory of God and the good of others. — Mark 10:43-45, 1 Peter 5:2-3

IV. The Biblical Response to Leadership in the Church

A. Supporting Your Leaders in their Labors — 1 Thess. 5:12-13, Heb.13:17

B. Exercise the responsibilities of membership.

  1. Support of the church’s Statement of Faith
  2. Consistent participation in the Sunday morning meeting
  3. Consistent participation in a Care Group
  4. Regular involvement in serving
  5. Regular financial support of the church
  6. Willingness to support and follow the leadership of the church
  7. A commitment to living by God’s word and to growing in godliness

C. Maintain a biblical attitude toward your leaders.

  • A faith-filled submission (Heb. 13:17) and a  God-honoring appreciation (1 Thess. 5:12-13)

* Note: This sermon draws from from Mark Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Some of these points are reflective of his thoughts in his book.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • Why is it important for both pastors and congregation members to have a biblical understanding of church leadership?
  • Early in the sermon, it was said – “When we lose the biblical description for pastor, the role of the pastor is distorted, the effectiveness of the pastor is diminished, and the health of the church is weakened. ” If the role of pastor is distorted, how is the effectiveness of the pastor diminished? And how is the health of the church weakened?
  •  “A shepherd’s oversight of the flock expresses itself broadly in two ways. First, the shepherds provide truthful, positive direction and leadership to the flock. Second, they watch for spiritual dangers such as sin, false teaching, and false teachers, including Satan’s assaults against the church.”  —John MacArthur, Jr.
    • Why is it important for pastors to “watch for spiritual dangers” ? What can happen to a local church if pastors are not watching and protecting the flock from spiritual dangers?
  • In the seven responsibilities of church membership in the outline above “regular involvement” and “consistent participation” are mentioned. What does “regular involvement” and “consistent participation”  look like?

Sermon Recap — November 19, 2017

The Priority of Spiritual Growth

Chris Patton
November 19, 2017
2 Peter 1:3-11
Sermon Audio

Main Theme:  A healthy local church, a vibrant local church, a Christ-exalting local church is one that maintains a robust commitment to promote growth in Christ-likeness in it’s church members.

Introduction

  • Progressive sanctification, the theological term for spiritual growth, is a priority here at GCC. It connects to our mission statement: “Our aim is to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ.”
  • Our sanctification does not contribute anything at all to our justification, to our right standing before God.
  • As a church, we delight to rejoice in and celebrate justification by grace alone through faith alone.
    • We aren’t justified on the basis of any spiritual exertion or effort on our part, but on the basis of Christ’s work alone.
  • While we delight in the truth of our justification, at the same time, as a church we also believe and affirm that a healthy Christian is not someone who says or thinks, “That’s great, I am justified by grace!  Don’t talk to me about repentance or obedience. I can just continue living however I very well please.”
  • The Apostle Paul Himself says…”What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer, “by no means (Romans 6:1).”
  • The NT clearly rejects all forms of “cheap grace.”
  • “Cheap grace” is a term the German World War II martyr Deitrich Bonhoeffer coined which describes the all too common view of grace that emphasizes God’s acceptance in such a way that renders repentance and spiritual growth as unimportant and unnecessary.
  • That idea is unbiblical.  The New Testament everywhere affirms that a healthy Christian is a growing Christian–even if at times growth is slow.  It then logically follows that a healthy church is made up of growing Christians.

Three insights from 2 Peter 1:3-11 in connection to this priority of pursuing growth.

I. The Basis of the Believer’s Pursuit (1:3-4)

  • In verses 3 & 4, the Apostle Peter provides the basis, the foundation for his exhortation in vs.5 to pursue godliness. That foundation is the power of God.
  • God Himself has exercised His divine power in order to grant us absolutely everything that we need to live godly lives that are pleasing to Him.
  • Divine power and divine calling go together.
    • When God calls, His call carries with it, divine power, that is entirely effective.
    • The Spirit of God regenerates a person’s heart, gives them new life, enabling that individual to perceive the glory, beauty and excellency of Jesus Christ in the gospel and respond with saving faith.
  • In light of God’s many precious saving promises we can escape, we don’t have to yield to the sin nature. We can become “partakers of the divine nature.” We can become more like Jesus Christ.
  • In the heart and life of every believer, God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has done an amazing work. He’s done a miracle!
  • It’s this miracle that gives us the “all things necessary for life and godliness.”
  • This awesome miracle that makes growth possible. This same divine power that saves us empowers us to grow.
  • Peter’s pastoral approach: He reminds his readers that His divine power, His divine grace, has wrought a mighty miracle in their lives; they now have new life! In the words of Paul, they are “new creations in Christ” Now on that basis, in the verses that follow – he exhorts them to pursue growth.
  • As a church we want Peter’s approach  and the New Testament pattern to characterize our approach to sanctification. The indicative (What God in Christ has done) is the basis of the imperative (What we now do in response).  This leads to healthy Christians and churches.
  • Just as “cheap grace theology” is unbiblical, so are legalistic, Christless approaches to sanctification as well. Both extremes produce unhealthy Christians and churches.

II. The Necessity of the Believer’s Pursuit (1:5-7)

“For this very reason , make every effort (v.5)”

  • Peter says, because you have experienced God’s power and grace, because in Christ you have everything you need to pursue godliness–now on that basis “make every effort. In other words, pursue it. Run hard after it.
  • Pastoral comments related to ways of teaching grace that aren’t in line with Peter’s teaching or the teaching in the New Testament regarding sanctification.
  • A biblical approach to sanctification simultaneously compels us to rest and to work at the same time.
    • We rest in our justification. We rest in Jesus’ atoning work. We rest in His perfect righteousness.
    • At the same time, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s power, we make every effort to put off the old self which is corrupt with it’s deceitful desires and to put on the new self “Created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24).
    • We seek to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).”
  • That’s the kind of gospel-culture we want to foster here at GCC:  resting in our justification, we make every effort to grow.

III. The Blessings of the Believer’s Pursuit (1:8-11)

  • God expects us to keep growing and progressing throughout our lives in Christian virtue. This is the norm.
  • Peter doesn’t want his readers to be “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” so he exhorts them to cultivate the virtues in v.5-7.
  • While the presence of these virtues doesn’t justify them,  the growing presence of those virtues in their lives will and should encourage them.
  • One of the great blessings of continuing, throughout of lives, to pursue growth is increased assurance of faith.
  • Another feature of the gospel-culture we want to continue to cultivate at GCC is encouraging one other where we see evidences of God’s grace and activity.
  • Those who pursue godliness and bear the fruit of repentance build well (Matt. 5:11).
  • Those who are far from perfect, still struggle with sin–yet actively pursue holiness, confirm their calling and election.
    • They give evidence by the way they live that they are justified sinners, that they possess genuine saving faith, that they are authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.
    • This encourages them that they are headed to heaven where “they will be richly provided for.”

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • What is justification (seek to define)? What does it mean/look like to rest in our justification?
  • What is “cheap grace”? Why is it so dangerous?
  • What is sanctification (seek to define)? What is the place of effort in the Christian life?
  • What does it look like to rest in our justification while simultaneously “make every effort” to pursue growth? How do we go about doing that?
  • If someone said to you, “I’m justified by grace. Don’t talk to me about obedience. Don’t talk to me about spiritual growth. It’s legalistic to talk about that stuff.” — what would you say to that person? How could 2 Peter 1:3-11 help them?
  • If someone came to you and said, “I’m so tired and weary. I am not making progress as much as I’d like. I still struggle with certain sins that I’ve struggled with for years” — how would you seek to care for that person? What would you say to them? How could 2 Peter 1:3-11 help them?
  • What steps can we take to rest in our justification?
  • What is one area of your life, in dependence on the Holy Spirit’s power, you want to make every effort to grow in?

Sermon Recap — November 12, 2017

Church Discipline

Jeremy Bell
November 12, 2017
Hebrews 12:3-14 and other passages
Sermon Audio

Main Theme: One of the expressions of God’s love for His children is to discipline them, as is best for them. Church discipline is a means by which God cares for His children in the context of the local church.

Lessons on the discipline of the Lord from Hebrews 12:3-14

  • Our Disposition to Discipline: Don’t take it lightly (v.5)
  • The Scope of Discipline: His children, the beloved (v.6)
  • God’s Intention in Discipline: For our good, that we might be holy (v.10)
  • The Result of Discipline: It bears fruit and trains us (v.11)
  • If you’re a parent, as you discipline your young children, you desire that they learn from it, grow through it, benefit from it. God’s intention in disciplining us is the same!

Church Discipline is Like Medicine

  • Think of church discipline like medicine that needs to be taken from time to time to keep the body healthy. Church discipline is no more the focal point of the local church than medicine is the focal point of your life.
  • There are occasions when you need medicine, but you take it so that you can get back to your main mission. So it is with discipline in the church.
  • We must exercise church discipline from time to time, but its certainly not our focus. However, if we ignore it, just like if we don’t take our medicine, a worse illness can come over us.

Two Key Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 5:1-8, Matthew 18:15-17

1 Corinthians 5:1-8

  • The man that we read about here in the Corinthian church was deeply deceived. He was under the impression that he could claim his Christian faith while acting in ways repulsive even to those outside of the church. Paul’s remarks to put this man out of the church are not due to anger at this man – but rather, he wanted the man to somehow come to his senses and return to the Lord.
  • If the Corinthian church believed God’s Word and if they truly wanted to love this man, the best thing for them to do after having already appealed to him to repent, was to put him out of the church
  • Is that done in anger? No, rather with weeping — “Ought you not rather to mourn (vs.2)?”
  • A local church that loves people will on occasion need to take difficult action in order to express true, biblical care for an unrepentant member.

Matthew 18:15-17

  • Church discipline is not a quick or capricious act, but a deliberate, sober, prayerful act
  • The sermon walks through the steps of church discipline.

Church Discipline is hard, but flows out of our membership.

Church Discipline takes commitment.

How do we do church discipline?

  • We seek to mirror God’s desire in Heb. 12
    • For the good of the other person
    • Because we love them and care about them
    • With humility, gentleness and truth/clarity
  • Out of a loving spirit – out of a care and concern for other, springing forth from a humble love for them (Rom. 12:19, Gal. 6:1, James 5:19-20))

Why Practice Church Discipline?

  1. For the good of the one being disciplined
  2. For the spiritual health of the whole church
  3. For the witness of the church
  4. For the Glory of God
    • “Our lives are the storefront display of God’s character in the world.” — Mark Dever, p. 191
    • God’s glory is at stake. He is glorified as people who bear His name reflect His image, His character in their lives
    • We are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).” — Ephesians 4:3
    • If we’re eager to maintain unity, yet there’s someone in deep spiritual trouble, and we don’t extend loving care to that person, we’re not maintaining the unity of the Spirit
    • Biblical church discipline, when carried out the way God intends, is for His glory.

* Note: This sermon draws from from Mark Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Some of these points are reflective of his thoughts in his book.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • Re-read Hebrews 12:3-14. Considering God’s discipline in general (not church discipline specifically), why does God discipline us? Why is it necessary? What is He seeking to get accomplished in our lives through  discipline?
  • What are some of the means God uses to discipline His children?
  • Have you ever experienced the discipline of the Lord in some way where you knew God was seeking, in love, to get your attention so that you would change course?
  • Re-read Matt. 18:15-17.
  • Matthew 18:15 says — “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” How does vs. 15 apply to our relationships in the church?
  • If a local church fails to practice the steps Jesus lays out for us in Matt 18:10-14, over time what would be the effect on the purity and holiness of the local church?
  • In what ways is church discipline a means of God’s grace to His people?

Sermon Recap — November 5, 2017

Church Membership

Jeremy Bell
November 5, 2017
1 Cor. 12:12-26 and other passages
Sermon Audio

Main Theme: We want to remind ourselves why its important to be join the church, to be members of the Body by committing ourselves to it. Church membership is an important topic for understanding what Christ is calling us to as His followers, His disciples.

Why join a local church?

I. To Assure Our Faith

  • When we join a local church, it provides confirmation outside of ourselves that our faith is real/authentic.
  • Our own faith must be tested and tried so that we’re not deluding ourselves in thinking we have faith when in fact we do not.
  • History is full of stories of men and women who have gone off the rails because they did their own thing – they were not accountable in a local church.
  • As we join a church, we affirm that church’s Statement of Faith. Our Statement of Faith can be found here.
  • There is great comfort in the doctrinal and biblical unity that comes from publicly affirming your commitment to upholding the doctrine of the Body to which you are joining.
  • Becoming a member of the church is saying “this is what I believe to be true, and these doctrines are what I believe is important.” Our faith is affirmed and upheld as we walk the spiritual journey of this life with others who affirm the same biblical doctrines and truths and also help us to live out our biblical convictions.

II. To Encourage and Serve Fellow Believers

  • In our tendency to focus on ourselves, we often think about the reasons for joining the church as related to ourselves: How will this benefit me? What is the impact on me? What are the expectations of me?
  • While those are good questions to ask, they aren’t the only or even primary questions to consider. Other’s include:  How might God be calling me to use my gifts to serve in this church? If I join, what message does that send to my fellow brothers and sisters about my commitment to them? Will that encourage them? Conversely, will my unwillingness to become a member communicate something of a lack of commitment to them?

Encourage One Another

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we 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.” — Ephesians 4:15-16

  • Without being joined together with other believers, we will lack the strength, nourishment and encouragement that each member, including ourselves, is to supply.

Using our Gifts to Serve One Another

  • God’s gifts are given to individuals to build up the church! Gifts are given for the equipping of Christ’s Body that it might mature and grow in faith.
  • Specific gifts are given to be exercised corporately that all may receive the benefit and blessing God intends through the various parts of His Body.

Loving One Another, Promote Unity

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  — John 13:35

  • When His disciples function together, as one, loving one another, we demonstrate the reality of our faith.

III. To Persevere In Your Faith

  • The grace we need to persevere to the end comes to us in part, through the Body — through fellow church members as well as pastors who care for our souls.
    “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” — Acts 20:28
  • We do affirm that God is the One who holds us fast, and in this truth we greatly rejoice! We need a good, strong, faithful God to hold us fast!
  • Yet one of the very clear ways God intends to hold us fast is through the fellowship and friendship we have with other people in the church who are committed to walking with us.  A significant part of His plan in holding us fast is to use imperfect people to walk with us, encourage us, occasionally asking us tough questions that make us squirm, because they love us.
  • So in being a committed member of the church, we are covenanting together to accountability with one another.

IV. To Spread The Gospel

  • We reach out better as a community than as lone individuals.We can together accomplish so much more than we can individually!
  • A whole community more accurately reflects the Body of Christ than one individual can.
  • True community happens not by some loose association of believers, who are coming and going, with no accountability and no commitment to each other, but in deep, committed relationships together.
  • This is God’s design for the church. Christ Jesus Himself promises to uphold and build His church.

What does membership at GCC entail?

  • A clear testimony of personal faith in Christ Jesus
  • Baptism as the witness to your faith in Christ
  • Attending Exploring Grace Classes
  • Signing the Membership Agreement
  • Attend services regularly
  • Participate in communion
  • Support the work of the gospel by your regular prayers
  • Support the work of the gospel by your regular giving

V.  To Glorify God

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen”  – 1 Peter 4:10-11-

  • We glorify God when we come together in membership in the local church.
  • There is no such thing biblically as a lone ranger Christian.
  • In our day, we must recover a high view of the local church and of membership in it. God’s ordained intention is that Christians grow in the context of the local body where they are committed, where they are members.
  • You can find scores of titles about spiritual Christian growth that never say a thing about the value and primacy of God’s intention that the church be a primary means of growth – it can all be about “Jesus and me.” God never intended that our Christian faith be merely “Jesus and me”
  • “Lone Ranger Christian” – that should truly be a contradiction in terms
    • Becoming a Christian fundamentally means being united to someone – namely Christ.
    • Union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers.
  • This brings honor to God. Imagine the glory that God will receive in that future day, when gathered around His throne are people from every tribe and tongue and people group in the world, and we are there, together, united in praise to our King! And He deserves great glory, because redeeming us cost Him so much!
  • Until that day comes, we can gather in our local bodies, and commit ourselves to being part of that Body, by covenanting together in the local church. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”  — Revelation 7:9-12

* Note: This sermon draws from from Mark Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Some of these points are reflective of his thoughts in his book.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • Having heard this sermon, in 30 seconds summarize why you believe church membership matters and is important.
  • What would you say to someone who said, “I don’t need to join a local church. I am part of the universal church”? How would you counsel them?
  • What are the benefits of joining a local church? How have you benefited personally from being a member of the local church you are part of?
  • What are some practical ways church members can build one another up and encourage one another?
  • What are the drawbacks/consequences of not joining a local church?
  • Jeremy said, “We do affirm that God is the One who holds us fast, and in this truth we greatly rejoice! We need a good, strong, faithful God to hold us fast! Yet one of the very clear ways God intends to hold us fast is through the fellowship and friendship we have with other people in the church who are committed to walking with us.” How does God “hold us fast” through fellowship and friendship? How practically does that get worked out in the life of the church? How have you’ve experienced God’s care, encouragement and strengthening through the church?
  • Why is “Lone Ranger Christian” a contradiction in terms?
  • How does church membership help us as believers in terms of our witness? How does it help when it comes to reaching out to the lost around us?

Sermon Recap — October 29, 2017

A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

Jeremy Bell
October 29, 2017
Matt.9:35-38, 28:18-20 and other passages
Sermon Audio

Main Theme: A biblically healthy church will follow the example of Christ and glorify God through evangelism.*

I.Who Is To Evangelize?

Every disciple is to evangelize. Christians cannot avoid the mandate in scripture to go and make disciples. This mandate involves everyone who identifies themselves as a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20, 1 Peter 3:15).

II. How Do We Evangelize?

We evangelize by sharing the clear truths of the gospel with urgency, prayer, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

A. We evangelize by sharing the clear truths of the gospel

  • The “Romans Road” is a helpful way to articulate the gospel and our right response to the gospel (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9).

B. With urgency

C. With prayer and dependence upon the Holy Spirit

III. What Is Evangelism?

  • Evangelism is telling the truth of the gospel
  • “To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord He now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.” — Lausanne Conference, 1974 – gathering of 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries, called by Billy Graham
  • What evangelism is not:
    • Not an imposition of yourself
    • Not apologetics
    • Not the church’s idea or program
    • Not your testimony
    • Not social action or even mercy ministry
    • Not defined by the results
      “To evangelize…does not mean to win converts…but simply to announce the good news, irrespective of the results”  — John Stott

IV. Why Do We Share the Gospel?

  1. We obey the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).
  2. We love lost people (John 3:16).
  3. We love God and have been changed by Him – freely you have received; freely give (Matt. 10:8, John 14:12).
    “Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem insurmountable.  Only a deep love for God will keep us following His way, declaring His gospel, when human resources fail.  Only our love for God – and, more importantly, His love for us – will keep us from the dangers which beset us.  When the desire for popularity or for success tempts us to water down the gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand fast by His truth and His ways.”  — John Cheesman

What happens when we don’t evangelize? As we focus on other things, even good things — we lose our focus on the mission Jesus has called us to.

Conclusion

  • Let us determine, by the grace of God, not to water down, tamper with, soften or deteriorate the gospel in ways that we think will make it more palatable to others. Let not the message of the cross be emptied of its power!
  • Through the weakness of human voices, God still speaks to people through the gospel. It delights Him, in fact brings Him worship, when we deliver the message He’s entrusted to us
  • Let’s be faithful to this one message. It doesn’t need fixing, it doesn’t need changing, it doesn’t need to be modernized. We simply need to be faithful to hold fast to it and proclaim it. The rest is up to God. He will use His gospel, just as He has for 2,000 years, to save people from their sins.

*Note: This sermon draws heavily from Mark Dever’s chapter “Evangelism” in Nine Marks of A Healthy Church.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • Re-read the “Great Commission” in Matt. 28:18-20. What claim does this passage make on our lives as it pertains to evangelism?
  • Jeremy mentioned that sharing one’s personal testimony is not evangelism. He also mentioned that social action and doing kind acts of mercy is not evangelism either. Why are those things not evangelism?
  • What is evangelism?
  • What are the biblical motivations for evangelism? In other words, what motives should drive our sharing?
  • Do you think we often grasp the biblical urgency of evangelism? If we did, how would that change our attitude and approach to reaching out to unbelievers?
  • What keeps you from sharing the gospel with those in your life who don’t yet know Christ?
  • Who is someone in your network of relationships that God is calling you to share the gospel with ?
  • If a local church doesn’t grasp it’s mission rightly – to proclaim the gospel, what are some of the negative fruits that can result?
  • If a local church does grasp it’s mission rightly – and seeks actively to fulfill that mission, what are some of the positive fruits that ordinarily result?

Sermon Recap — October 22, 2017

True Conversion

Chris Patton
October 22, 2017
Ephesians 2:1-10
Sermon Audio

Introduction

When God’s people, when God’s church, when leaders in God’s church fail to faithfully uphold the Bible’s teaching regarding true conversion, spiritual decay is the inevitable result. However, if we do uphold the biblical teaching on conversion there is life, there is vitality, there is powerful witness to the world around us.

Main Theme: True conversion is the fruit of regeneration and requires repentance and faith.

I. True conversion is the fruit of regeneration

  • Verses 1-3: We were spiritually dead. This means prior to our conversion, we had no spiritual life. We were “spiritually flatlined.” We were inclined towards evil with no positive inclination towards God–incapable of any spiritual good.
  • Verses 4-6, 8: God made us spiritually alive. He regenerated our hearts. He caused us to be born again thereby enabling us to respond to the proclamation of the gospel with faith and repentance.
  • What mercy God has shown us!

II. True Conversion requires repentance and faith

  • The progression of Ephesians 2: Dead in sin, then made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. The result is faith (verse 8) – plus a radical change away from the rebellious, sinful way of life Paul describes in verses 1-3 to a life characterized by good works (verse 10). That in short, is conversion. It’s the Spirit-enabled response of faith and repentance.
  • Faith, is putting one’s trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins. Repentance, is turning away from rebellion and sin, and turning towards love for God and obedience to God.
  • Paul recalls his own faithfulness to testify “both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).”
    • “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed… (Acts 17:30-31)”
  • Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).”
  • We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We are not saved by our repentance or by anything we do. However, we must remember that repentance always, in every instance accompanies genuine saving faith.

APPLICATION

How do we seek to uphold the Bible’s teaching on conversion here at GCC?

  • We seek to faithfully teach on the importance of true conversion.
  • We require those who join the church to give a credible profession of faith.
  • We only baptize those who give a credible profession of faith.
  • In keeping with Matt.18 and other passages, we seek to faithfully practice church discipline.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • What does it mean that true conversion is “the fruit of regeneration”? How does Eph. 2 point to this?
  • “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We are not saved by our repentance or by anything we do. However, we must remember that repentance always, in every instance accompanies genuine saving faith.” Explain what that means?
  • What is faith? What is repentance?
  • What does true repentance look like?
  • How would you challenge someone who professed to be a Christian, yet was living in active sin and rebellion against God? What would you say to them?
  • Share the story of your conversion. What would your life be like, apart from your conversion?

Sermon Recap — October 15, 2017

Gospel Centered Theology

Jeremy Bell
October 15, 2017
Sermon Audio

Introduction

We’re in a series entitled, The Priorities of a Healthy Church. We want to seek, with lazer-like focus, to highlight the things that are critical to us as a local church. We spent our first two weeks considering the necessity of keeping God’s Word, the Bible, at the center of the church. We considered why it’s important to keep the Word at the center, and what happens when we don’t keep it at the center. Today, we take the same approach as we talk about keeping the gospel at the center. When you consider the story-line of scripture, what’s at the center? It’s the message of God’s rescue of lost sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That’s the very centerpiece of God’s revelation in His Word. Therefore it’s absolutely imperative that we keep the central message of the Word of God at the center of all we teach and  do.

Main Theme: The centrality of the Gospel in the life of the local church.

I. What Is the Gospel?

  • The Gospel – The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins and rose again, triumphing over every enemy, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only eternal joy.

Key Scriptures:

” Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” — 1 Corinthians 15:1-3

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” — Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16

“… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” — Romans 10:9

  • “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history.”  — Jerry Bridges

II. What the Gospel Is Not

The Gospel is not: 

  • Jesus is an upgrade to your life.
  • You need to live better.
  • God is fuzzy warm love.

III. What Happens When the Gospel is Kept at the Center?  

  • The Gospel Produces Joy
  • The Gospel Produces Humility
  • The Gospel Produces Peace

IV. What Happens When the Gospel is Not Central?

When the Gospel Is Not Central:

  • It robs our joy in God
  • Matters of lesser importance become central
    • When we lose our grip on the gospel, and no longer keep it central, other things will quickly take that center place

” All around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grip on the gospel, fumbling it, and in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether.” — John Stott

Illustration – the Church in Corinth. Paul’s words to them – “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  — 1 Corinthians 1:17

“I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”  — DA Carson

  • Preferences can become supreme
  • Temptation to Legalism, Self-Righteousness, or Subjectivism

V. So What Does This Mean for GCC?

  • By grace, we’re going to be a gospel-centered people.
    • A happy people who remember that once we were captives.
    • A humble people who know that apart from God’s activity in sending Christ, we would be lost.
    • An eager people – we want to share the story of our liberation with others that we meet.
  • We’ll keep the gospel central in our lives, in our church.
    • We’ll teach the gospel.
    • We’ll sing the gospel.
    • We’ll rejoice in the gospel.
  • We’ll maintain the gospel as the matter of first importance.
    • That means every ministry flows out of, is a derivative of, the gospel.
    • Other good things, other good ministries are secondary to the work of the gospel.
  • God’s got great things in store for His people!
    • “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” — Romans 8:32

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • What is the gospel? In 30 seconds or less, explain the gospel.
  • What does it mean to keep the gospel central in our lives?
  • Why is it so important for believers to keep the gospel central in their lives? What is it so important for local churches to keep the gospel central?
  • What are the positive effects of keeping the gospel at the center of our own lives? What does it look like practically in daily living to keep the gospel central?
  • How do you seek to keep the gospel central in your own life?
  • What the the positive effects of an entire local church keeping the gospel at the center?
  • What are some of the negative effects a person might experience from not keeping the gospel central?
  • What can you do personally to focus more intentionally on the gospel?

 

Sermon Recap — October 8, 2017

Life Is Always About What Christ Is Doing

Kyle Huber
October 8, 2017
Philippians 1:12-18
Sermon Audio

Main Theme: If life is always about Christ and serving His kingdom, then every situation will be fruitful.

Paul is in chains. He realizes this imprisonment could end in death. However, Paul is not creating a vivid picture of his suffering. The only details he is interested in giving is about the ministry and mission of the gospel. The central issue for Paul is — “what is Christ doing in my circumstances?” Following Paul’s example, what is good for us should be measured by what is good for the kingdom of Christ, not our circumstances.

The gospel is advancing in two clear ways:

  • To unbelievers
  • To believers

Paul’s body was in chains but the Holy Spirit and the gospel are never in chains. If our lives are about serving Christ, then we ought not categorize our lives as “bad” regardless of what circumstances may say to us. God uses our trials to exalt and glorify Himself and to advance the gospel and that is good.

Paul rejoices in the work of the gospel going forward. Paul’s joy is rooted in the progress of the gospel, not in his circumstances. The kingdom of Christ is always progressing in the world.

Application:

  1. Be a worshiper
  2. Interact with God’s Word
  3. Be vocal about kingdom activity – about how you see God at work in your life and in the lives of others.

Questions for Discussion / Application:

  • The gospel’s advance was central to Paul’s joy. If the gospel was being proclaimed, he rejoiced even if he was suffering. How can we cultivate a mindset and heart attitude where the gospel’s advance is central to our own goals and dreams?
  • When Jesus Christ, His purposes and mission aren’t central to our joy, other things are.
    • What dreams/ambitions in our own hearts can at times compete with Jesus Christ and His mission?
    • A helpful heart diagnostic — “I can only be happy if <fill in the blank>”
  • How can “becoming a worshiper” as Kyle recommended at the end of his sermon help Jesus Christ and His gospel and His mission to take an increasingly central place in our hearts?
  • What does it look like practically to “be a worshiper?”
  • What does it mean to “interact with” God’s Word? How can that help Jesus Christ and His gospel and His mission to take an increasingly central place in our hearts?
  • How can we become more vocal about kingdom activity –about how we see God at work both in our own lives and in the lives of others? What difference would it make if we all become more vocal about kingdom activity?