Well, I have new callouses and new blisters to prove I have been diligent to continue preparing for the crazy four-day 63 mile walk-a-thon across Putnam County beginning Monday, October 7th. God has me walking physically. He has our congregation walking spiritually as we are on a mission, a mission He is making possible. (Reference Saturday night)
Today we are continuing a series on following after Christ, walking in His steps. Just one Scripture from 1 Peter 2:21 will take us where we need to go again. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Last week I shared that we are to walk obediently, to walk with anticipation and to walk with determination. Unless you are visiting for the first time today, I hope each of you knows we are in the middle of a capital campaign where we are attempting to raise 1.3 million dollars in pledges over the next three years, and our pledge Sunday is October 6th. We are seeking to sell this property, borrow a million, raise 1.3 and build a new facility that will meet both our church and community needs seven days a week just one mile from here at Teays Valley Acres, the 74 acres of property we own.
While parts of last week’s message and parts of the messages over the next three weeks will deal with giving and money that is not all I want you to hear. In the six and a half years as your pastor, rarely have you heard me speak about money and giving. Perhaps it ought to be built in to my regular preaching cycle as what we are obedient to do with our money is super important, and it indicates where our commitment to the Lord is. Don’t shoot the messenger. That’s not my conclusion, but God’s. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be” Matthew 6:21. So if your toes get stepped on a bit as I bring up the subject perhaps it isn’t just because you don’t like to hear about money or talk about money, but it is because you need to adjust your giving and spending to be in line with God’s design for your resources. Don’t bristle and recoil and be defensive. Let God challenge you and open your heart to re-prioritizing your finances so that He can bless your life in a multitude of ways and bless you with more resources! So, hear what God wants to say beyond just the topic of money and giving, but don’t dismiss the money and giving parts if He is challenging you in that area of your life.
First for today, if we are going to follow in Christ’s steps, we not only need to walk obediently with anticipation and determination, but we also need to keep in step with the Spirit of God.
Galatians 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Perhaps the reason life is such a struggle besides the fact that we live in a fallen world where we have to deal with trouble and hardships is that we are trying to walk through life without a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Remember, this message is about following in the footsteps of Jesus. We know that He emptied Himself of His divinity when He came to earth as an infant according to Philippians 2 and other passages of Scripture. We know He was tempted in every way just as we are, but was without sin. We know He lived life perfectly, performed miracles, and showed incredible restraint in the face of persecution, abandonment, and torture, yet He never even got mouthy with the people who did Him wrong. If He was human just like you and me, how did He accomplish all of that while in the flesh? Listen, He was emptied SO THAT He could be filled with the Spirit of God. Even in the incarnation, the coming of Jesus to earth, where He emptied Himself of His Divinity so that He could live by the power of the Spirit, was an example of how you and I are to live.
Turn quickly to Isaiah 11:1-5. Let me show you what I am talking about. Follow along beginning with verse one: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
Why could Jesus get it all right? Because the Spirit of the Lord was filling Him with wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord to do all that pleased God! Jesus lived by the Spirit of God! It wasn’t because He was the God who became man that made Him supernatural and different. It was because He was anointed by and filled with the Spirit of God! God the Father had the plan. Jesus executed the plan, but He did so in the power of the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism in Luke 3 and in Luke 4, we read that He was full of the Holy Spirit when He was led into the desert where He was tempted by Satan and passed the test. Jesus was physically weak in the desert. He had nothing to eat or drink for 40 days. He started His ministry physically weak. He ended His ministry on the cross physically weak. Why? To show that what was accomplished wasn’t accomplished in the flesh, but in the power of the Spirit! And also to show you and me that it doesn’t matter how we feel or if we are physically up to the challenge, God will supply the Holy Spirit power we need to trample Satan, perform miracles, live without sin and to glorify the Father by doing His will!
You would think that after Jesus battled Satan in the desert He would need a break. He would want a sabbatical or at least a mini vacation. It would be reasonable that He would need a minute to catch His breath, but that story is followed by Luke 4:14 that says, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”
Listen, you can only go from being tested to teaching from synagogue to synagogue if you are full of Holy Spirit power! If Jesus relied on the power of the Spirit and lived by the power of the Spirit, how much more do we need the Spirit’s empowering?
Paul assumed something when he told us to keep in step with the Spirit. He assumed that we are already living by the Spirit of God. That’s a big assumption. I became a Christian when I was five years old. I was happy to receive salvation. I loved hearing about Jesus. I was over the moon that God loved me! I was thrilled to know a mansion was waiting for me in heaven. I wanted to please God with my life. When right and wrong were clear to me, I wanted to choose right. I really did. It wasn’t difficult for me to make godly decisions. However, when I got to be about 16, when the stress of life became real to me, when peer pressure set in, when I felt burdened down and weighted down by the tough parts of life and the responsibilities of life, it became clear to me that I needed more going on in my spiritual life if I was going to stand up under the pressures and still be someone others could live and desire to be friends with. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
I got easily tweaked when things didn’t go my way or when things weren’t fair. I got easily annoyed when people let me down or when they chose to ignore the things of God. I got huffy in a hurry, and I wasn’t loving and kind and patient and generous and grace-giving with people. Probably most people didn’t even know it, but I knew it. I knew how stirred up I was on the inside. For me it wasn’t any longer about being able to make godly choices on the outside, but it was about being able to enjoy life, enjoy others, and about being able to like myself. I didn’t like it when the things that others did caused me to get out of whack emotionally. I had a critical spirit. Anxiety and tension started becoming part of the way I lived. I didn’t want to live like that. What good is it if I could do the things outwardly that pleased God if inwardly I was frustrated, uptight and upset?
You can’t walk in the Spirit if you don’t live by the Spirit. For some reason I had the willpower to outwardly please God. I could make choices that lined up with biblical principles, but I couldn’t will myself on the inside to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, which are the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-24. You see, the verses about Holy Spirit fruit precede the verses about keeping in step with the Spirit.
When you are all tangled up on the inside you are weighed down and you can’t keep up with the demands of life OR the Spirit. I could juggle a lot on the outside, but I couldn’t manage myself on the inside. That is when the Holy Spirit came to me and said, “Why don’t you let Me be the Manager of Internal Affairs for your life?” So, at 16, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was a second definite work of grace in my life. My salvation changed my want to. I wanted to do what Jesus did. I wanted to please God. But my sanctification changed the way I did those things! I became unconcerned with being recognized or being given credit. I became compassionate towards those around me. I was freer in my worship because I was at peace not only with God, but with myself. I lived with joy because I knew I didn’t have to be sick to my stomach if things didn’t go the way I expected. People didn’t have to live like me in order for me to love them. I started a Bible study in my high school that year and 16 of my friends came to faith in Jesus Christ! Talk about the ride of my life! Until I lived by the Spirit people saw me! When I submitted to Holy Spirit control, people saw Jesus! Isn’t that awesome?
Listen, when all of the internal stuff gets settled, you are able to focus on chasing the Spirit of God, keeping in step with what God wants to say and do in and through your life. You see, living by the Spirit will completely uncomplicated your life and help it to be productive which takes me to point number two.
Colossians 1:10 tells us we are to “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
If I asked you to write down what spiritual fruit is growing from your life could you list some things? In what ways could you say that Lord has used you and is currently using you? Who is closer to Christ because of your encouragement? Who has been won to Christ because of your witness? Who has been helped because of your reach? Who has seen God at work because of your prayers? In what ways have you used your gifts and talents for God’s glory that have caused other people to reap a spiritual benefit? How has your increasing knowledge in the things of God been used to help someone else see their need to live life God’s way?
If we are bearing fruit, we show that we are attached to Jesus, the Vine (John 15). Bearing fruit isn’t optional for Christians. It is not ok to be a fruitless Christian. That might sound harsh, but it is absolutely Bible for me to make that statement. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.
Fruit that will last is SPIRITUAL FRUIT. Other people will be born into the Kingdom. That is spiritual fruit. People will come back to faith in the Lord because of your witness. That is spiritual fruit. People will grow stronger in their faith and commitment to Christ during difficult times because of your counsel, prayer, and encouragement. That is spiritual fruit. People will start incorporating the disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, fasting, tithing, and worship into their lives because of your influence. That is spiritual fruit. Is any of it growing in your life? There is no excuse for a fruitless Christian. God tells us as we abide in Him we have everything we need to bear lasting fruit (John 15).
Danny Simpson lived in Ottawa Canada. The year was 1990, and Danny was desperate. He didn’t have the resources he needed to survive. He was short on cash, and shorter on skills. He had run out of time and options, so Danny took the gun that had been handed down through his family’s line, went to a bank, and robbed it of $6,000 in a hold-up.
Danny wasn’t very good at robbing banks, and he was promptly arrested. At the trial, two significant things happened. First, Danny was sentenced to six years in prison. His opportunities to succeed in life dropped to minute proportions. But second, as the courtroom looked closely at the evidence, folks really looked at the weapon he’d used. It was a .45 Colt semi-automatic, the kind gun collectors look at with salivating stares. it was an antique, this gun, made by the Ross Rifle Company in 1918. And it’s value? About $100,000.
Did you catch that? Danny robbed a bank for $6,000, all the time holding $100,000 in his hands! In other words, Danny already had what he needed, without even knowing it.
God will not ask you to bear a certain kind of fruit without equipping you to bear that fruit. God won’t call you to grow any fruit that He won’t give you seed and water for. How much do you trust Him? How close are you to Him? Are you abiding in Him this morning?
The fruit from Jesus’ life was beyond ridiculous. Everywhere He walked He left a trail of fruit behind Him. It was like breadcrumbs left for Hansel and Gretal! Fruit was falling off Jesus as He walked from town to town, and it was lasting fruit because you and I are still talking about it today. Walk like Jesus. Bear fruit.
Finally for today, we are to walk by faith.
Alright, here is the money/giving piece for today. Corrie Ten Boom once said about faith that it is a:
Faith doesn’t look at what you have and determine what you can give, but it looks to God and asks, “What do You want to supply me with in order that I might give it?”
As you consider what you will pledge to the capital campaign over the next three years, don’t get too focused on your bank account or your bills. This isn’t to be a pledge of what you know you can give. This is to be a pledge of what you believe God wants you to give. If He gives you an amount to give then it is up to Him to supply it.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Giving what you already have to give won’t require any faith. This is the third capital campaign Thom and I will have participated in as a married couple. The first one took place when we lived in Cincinnati and were newly married. When I say newly married, I mean we were newly married! Our wedding was on Saturday and the campaign pledges were taken on Sunday! We were so committed to being involved that, yes, we went to church and turned in our pledge card the day after we were married! We pledged $8,000.00 knowing we didn’t have it. Within a short amount of time, God supplied the money in ways that we hadn’t anticipated.
Shortly after we moved here the church started growing, and we knew the facility, as lovely as it was, was going to hinder growth if we didn’t create more space, so we made plans to add on and did a capital campaign for that purpose. We added the east and west lobbies and the yellow room which is the nursery and the green room which is used for a variety of things. Thom and I pledged $10,000.00, again, knowing we didn’t have it, but it was the amount God told us to pledge. We had never even had $10,000.00 in a savings or checking account. Not only did we pay that pledge off in like 18 months, but at the end of the 18 months we had over $10,000.00 in the bank! I can’t explain that except to say that we walked by faith and God blessed it.
Now here we are in our third campaign and we have just purchased a new home that took every penny we had saved for the down payment. So when we look at our bank account we don’t see how we can make a campaign commitment, but God is speaking to us about a potential pledge that is several times the amount of any previous pledge we have made in the other two campaigns. That is crazy in the world’s way of thinking, but it is faith-filled in God’s economy.
I don’t tell you any of that to lift us up, but to make sure you know your leadership is trying to walk by faith. I dare not preach what I am not willing to practice. It has to be God’s way or it will fail.
I encourage everyone here to make sure that there is an element of faith to your pledge on October 6th. Just because a person makes a large contribution doesn’t mean they are giving in faith. If you are giving based on what you currently possess, it isn’t a faith commitment. Some of you are old enough to remember in the Church of God or perhaps in this church in particular when you made a “Faith Promise” to missions. It was an annual campaign where you were asked to give to missions over and above your regular giving and it wasn’t supposed to be an amount you could already count on, but it was a pledge that was beyond your reach. That’s why it was called “Faith Promise.”
Many of the ministries and resources we have at this church we didn’t have six and a half years ago. How did they come to be? We started acting in faith. We started inviting the community in. We started sharing our building. Be beautified our facility and added on. We invested money in developing what we could on the Acres. We started giving away our time. We started equipping leaders. We started new ministries. We started advertising our ministries in the paper. We started to build a staff. We increased our budget every year. We went to two services. We went on the internet with our services. We didn’t know if any of that would work when we did it. We just took a step of faith. If you weren’t here six and a half years ago when Thom and I came to TVCOG, please stand for just a minute. (I think it worked!) Faith will always work when you work your faith!
Do you know there is a difference between being faithful and exercising faith? Many churches today are dying, but inside of them are faithful people. They will be there every time the doors are open, all 10 of them. And they will pray for the doors to stay open as long as possible. They might even give to buy WD40 so make sure the door will stay open and give to purchase locks to make sure the door stays secure when they don’t need to be there. Their sincere prayer is simply, “Lord, help me be faithful long enough to have my funeral here.” They are faithful, but they don’t want anything new, anything different or anything creative or unexpected to happen.
You can be faithful to attend this church and never exercise true faith. I know many people in many churches who instead of expressing faith, instead of trying to do something new, instead of risking to reach hurting people, they want to maintain the status quo and be as faithful to the past and the way things have always been as possible. God can’t and won’t bless that. Oh He’ll bless faithfulness, but it had better be a faithfulness to exercise faith.
One of the characteristics of God is that He is always up to something new. We actually had a pastor friend tell us recently that one of his members said to him, “I’m good with the 80 people that are here.” What is up with that? Last time I checked our mandate was to go and grow and increase by making disciples. Forget the “just us four and no more” motto. God desires to see His church grow! There are more ministries to start, new approaches to learn, upgrades to technology and communication to embrace, enhancements on the horizon to our worship services, and there is a new community and ministry center to build. Go with me, as I attempt to go with God and let’s faith our way forward.
How should we walk? We must live by the Spirit in order that we can keep in step with the Spirit. We are to walk in such a way that lasting fruit follows us wherever we go, and we are to walk by faith.