Opposition – Why and What to do with it.

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A crisis hits us.  Someone treats us unfairly.  Sickness abounds.  We face troubles with our finances, our jobs, our relationships.  Opposition is no stranger to anyone, including Christians.  In my 9/15/2013 message, we look at Acts 4 and learn about the 3 major types of opposition that we face and how, with God’s help, we can persevere through the trials.

Note:  these are my sermon notes.  You can listen to the message on the Adventure website.

“Come as you are and become who God wants you to be.” — That’s our vision for Adventure Church.  It’s who God has called us to be.  When we read it / say it, it seems like it should be so easy — just come and let God help you become who He wants you to be.  But the reality is that it isn’t very easy at all at times.  Opposition abounds in becoming who God wants you to be.

It shouldn’t surprise us.  In 1 Peter 4:2, the apostle Peter reminded the church of such by writing: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”  Trials happen.  They happen to everyone.  So when they do, we shouldn’t be surprised.  Being a Christian isn’t a ticket to Easy Street.  It was never meant to be that.

But remember:  “Opposition is really a growth opportunity!”  God uses tough times in our lives to grow us spiritually.  It’s like running a marathon; at some point you will hit a wall.  It’s then that you have 2 choices:  you can give up and go home OR you can persevere and get through the tough time.  When we choose the latter, we learn from it.  Our faith grows.  Our belief grows.  Our experience grows.  That’s the way to spiritual maturity:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Peter & John Face Opposition

At the beginning of Acts 4, we see Peter and John, fresh off of the healing of a crippled beggar, speaking to the crowd.  Hundreds of people, if not more, had rushed to see what was happening.  We see that the religious leaders and the temple guards also came and were disturbed by what Peter and John were teaching – in particular, that they were teaching about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  This was the beginning of the opposition they would face in 3 ways.

Opposition from Circumstances

Acts 4:3 – “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”  This had to be a little unnerving to say the least.  Just a couple of months ago, Peter and John had witnessed Jesus arrested in the evening.  The next day he was crucified.  Now Peter and John were in a tough circumstance.  It could easily have challenged their faith and particularly their “becoming who God wanted them to be” which was to “be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, ….”

At times, your circumstances can be an opposition to becoming who God wants you to be.  Maybe it’s a problem with your job.  Maybe it’s an illness.  Maybe there’s been a death.  Maybe you have a relationship problem, even a divorce pending.  There are all sorts of circumstances that can make us feel alone, forgotten by God, ignored by Him, or, worse, even that He is punishing us or that He hates us.  None of that is true.  Those are lies.  But circumstances can work in such a way as to make us believe lies.

Opposition from Others

Acts 4:7 – “They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’”

People will question your faith at times.  They will doubt whether you’ve really changed.  They may even diminish or ridicule what you believe.  Relationships may change.  Some won’t want to be around you any longer.  It’s not easy to become who God wants you to be when you feel like so many are against you.  It can cause you to doubt or cause you to want to give up.

Opposition from You

Maybe the greatest opposition we face in becoming who God wants us to be is ourselves.  We have issues with pride and anger.  We harbor grudges and refuse to forgive.  We have secret sins that we hold on to.  We fail to accept the forgiveness and grace God offers for our past and continue to be weighed down by guilt and shame.  We are lazy.  We make unwise choices.  All of those things interfere with our spiritual growth.

What should you do when opposition comes?

Rely on God’s Power

Acts 4:8 – “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!”

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He knew that to be true.  If you are a Christian, you also are filled with the Holy Spirit.  God can help us overcome opposition.  He is stronger and bigger than any trial we are facing.  The first step to persevering is asking Him for help.  Rely on His power.

Remember What Is True

In the next part of Acts, we see Peter stand up for what he knew to be true — “Salvation is found in no one else” but Jesus, Peter says.  When we wish to overcome opposition, we need to remember what is true about God and His promises to us.  The devil wants us to believe lies like God has abandoned us and is mad at us.  The truth in the Word tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love, that He is always present, that He desires us to have life to the full, that He gives us a peace that is beyond understanding (and not like the world gives), that He desires for us to have understanding, that He chooses to forget our sins, and so much more.  We need to hold on to those truths in times of trial and suffering.

Resist the Temptation to Compromise

Next the religious leaders admonish Peter and John and tell them to “speak no longer to anyone in” the name of Jesus.  Note that they were going to allow them to continue to teach, not just in the name of Jesus.  They could heal, but not in the name of Jesus.  They didn’t kick them out of town, they just didn’t want them to mention Jesus any longer.

But Peter refused to compromise.  In Acts 4:19-20, he responds with: “‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”

It’s much easier to compromise than to stand firm in what we know to be true.  It’s easier to just do good, but not mention the name of Jesus.  It’s easier to just attribute the change in our hearts and our lives to “living right” and “making good choices.”  That’s what our society wants us to say.  That’s what Oprah and Dr. Phil want us to believe as well — that we somehow can engineer these great personal changes in our lives.  But that’s compromising.  If you really want to persevere through opposition that will stall your spiritual growth, you can’t compromise the truth.

Refuel

Finally, to get through trials.  To overcome opposition.  You have to refuel.  That’s what Peter and John did.  After they were released, “Peter and John went back to their own people …” (Acts 4:23).  How awesome is that!  They went back to their people.  Together they praised God for protecting them and prayed.  The Bible says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.  (Acts 4:24).

Opposition is tough.  Trials, even small ones over time, take a toll on you.  You have to get back to your people — and that means your Christian fellowship!  That’s a big part of what church is for — we are each other’s people.  We are support for each other.  We can pray for each other.  We can refuel!

Conclusion

Opposition is really a growth opportunity!  At the time it’s happening it’s not much fun.  But overcoming the trials and the suffering lead us to spiritual maturity.

Time to Grow Up?

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I just finished an article in the Christian Research Journal by Thomas E. Bergler who asserts that churches need to put spiritual maturity high on their agenda, pointing what we say, what we model and how we lead toward helping Christians attain spiritual maturity.  This post’s content is inspired by Dr. Bergler’s article with much of the content coming from there.  This post contains some tough teaching.  Hang on and hang in there!  There is hope at the end so read it all!

So, So True

The observation by Dr. Bergler that many people in our churches are “juvenilized Christians” (i.e, self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually shallow) hit home for me.  I’ve experienced first hand this kind of thinking and feeling from many, many people.  And, I’m not talking about “young” or “new” Christians who just are beginning their spiritual journeys and are expected to be immature in their faith and walk with God; I’m talking about people who have had ample opportunity, ample time and ample experience at least to be maturing, if not yet mature, in their faith.  Maybe that’s you; maybe not.  It’s probably more of you than would care to admit it.  I suspect after you read the rest of this post, you’ll have a better idea of whether you are maturing or not.

Spiritual Maturity is Desirable and Expected

Hebrews 5:11-6:1 – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity ….”

Spiritual maturity is expected because it means becoming more and more like Christ.  That’s what being a Christian means: “little Christ.”  Over time, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we should be increasing our knowledge of the Lord as well as our “likeness” of Him.  We should be developing more fully the fruits of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-26.  We should become like our teacher, Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40).

Here are some of the areas/ways in which we should be attaining spiritual maturity:

Intellectually — A MATURE Christian knows the basics of the faith and is able to communicate them to another.  A MATURE Christian recognizes false teaching and is not swayed by such.  A MATURE Christian is routinely and regularly expanding their knowledge of who God is, what His Word says and what the Word means for all of us. An IMMATURE Christian doesn’t think it really matters what you believe as long as you earnestly believe it.  They don’t seek to dig deeper into the Word and are satisfied with what they think they already know.  They often say things like: “I don’t like to read” or “I don’t have time to study the Bible” or “I’m not comfortable in groups.”

Church commitment — A MATURE Christian recognizes the importance of the corporate church body as a place to connect with one another, and, more importantly, care for each other.  (Ephesians 4:7-16).  An IMMATURE Christian feels that a church home, and in particular regular corporate worship attendance, is an option if you need it or like it.  There is little value placed on commitment to a local church body beyond the individual feeling of whether it “does anything for me and my life.”  Their attitude is often “What has the church done for me lately” rather than “What have I done for the church lately.”

Serving and Kingdom growth — A MATURE Christian lives for others, serves others and joins others in serving others, all for the benefit of showing God’s love and introducing Him to other people.  They are “on mission” for God before themselves.  (Matthew 28:16-20).   They are sacrificial with their time and money.  However, IMMATURE Christians tend to see service as something that can be done to help the community at large, if and only if, they have the time, energy, money or interest to help a particular person or group of people.  They are happy to help someone as long as it fits in their schedule and makes them feel good.  They often point to one “community service project” event in the last year or a once-every-few-weeks service in the church as being “more than enough” to help the Kingdom.

Emotionally — A MATURE Christian is in control of their feelings rather than allowing their feelings to control them.  They do not feel sorry for themselves and they reject feelings of jealousy and anger towards others who are in different places economically, socially or physically.  They recognize that both suffering and comfort are regular parts of the Christian life.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:7-18).  An IMMATURE Christian believes that negative emotions, experiences and circumstances are unfair, unique to them, and that they have a “right” not to have them.  They often believe that one of the benefits of being “on God’s side” should be that life should be care-free, struggle-free and happy-me.  They often “get mad at God” because He’s not doing what they think He should be doing in their life, or, at least He’s not doing it quickly enough.

This is just an exemplary list, but it should get us all thinking.  Even while writing this, I had to stop and really, really think about myself and my own spiritual journey.  It was scary.  I have a long way to go.  Too many of the “immature” descriptions described me.  I didn’t like that and I don’t want that for me, for my family or for my church!  So, I had to ask myself these questions:

Am I allowing God to mature me?

Am I satisfied with spiritual milk rather than seeking deeper things of God?

Will I do anything about where I am and where I need to be?

I hope that you ask yourselves these questions too.  And, that you answer them!

Tough Teaching: Be a Slave?

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My sermon notes from the June 30, 2013 sermon “Be a Slave?” from the series “Tough Teachings of Jesus”.  You can hear the podcast on the Adventure website.

Be a Slave?

Intro:  Pastors, church staff and church leaders revealed in a recent survey that some of the most difficult challenges they face each week are church member’s apathy, inward focus and the inability to motivate and keep volunteers in ministries.  If “we” (meaning Christians) just understood and took to heart this one “Tough Teaching” from Jesus, it would go a long way toward eliminating those challenges.

Mark 10: 43-45 — “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that to be “great”, we must first become a slave — a slave to Jesus Christ and His purposes!

The Christian Paradox

This scripture, and teaching, reveals another aspect of the “Christian Paradox”.  A paradox is what seems backwards, inside-out, upside-down.  A paradox is not the natural way we think of things.  The Bible is full of them.  Examples:  to live you must die, to be rich you must be generous, to lead you must follow, and, to be first you must be a slave.

What Are the Characteristics of the Christian Paradox:  Be a Slave?

It’s Voluntary

No one is going to make you do it.  The word “slave” means “bondslave”, which is a voluntary position of servitude.

It’s a Choice

You can say “yes” or “no”, but not both, and not neither. — note:  saying “no” is obviously a rejection of doing what the master wants.  But, we need to also realize that failure to say “yes” (i.e., sitting on the fence, or trying to remain neutral) is also saying “no.”

Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other….” — note: while Jesus was teaching on the love of money in this scripture, the principle remains the same: we cannot not be both devoted to the things of God and the things of “something else”.

It Means Submitting to the Master’s Will

Submission to God’s will and not your own will is the characteristic of a slave.  God is our master.  Submission to His will is going to require us to sacrifice.  We will have to sacrifice our comfort, our desire, our time, our energy, our money, and our priorities to what He wants.  We will be asked to do things that we may not want to do.  We will be asked to do things that we would rather not do sometimes.  But “slavery” to the will of God is doing what He wants, not what we want.  — This will become real in our lives as we serve in ministries in the church, as we allow our lives to molded in His holiness, and as we live a life as directed by the Bible.

Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” — As Jesus prayed this on the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave a perfect example of what it means to submit to the will of God first, and to be willing to sacrifice everything.

It Requires Action Toward Others

Saying yes.  Declaring your intention to do something.  Wanting to submit to God’s will. — All of those things are great.  But they are all meaningless without action.  There is a big difference between saying you are going to do something and actually doing it.  We only reveal ourselves as “slaves of Jesus” when we actually act on what we say and what is in our heart.

Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, …. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Remember that when you serve that you are not just serving another person, you are actually serving Jesus Christ, your master.  You are connecting to Him by way of the Holy Spirit as you submit yourself to Him and you are connecting another to Him as you represent the hands and feet of Christ to that person.

Conclusion

If all of our church would allow our hearts to be transformed by this one truth, we would make an impact for the Kingdom that would be beyond our imagination!

Church Matters: Commitment – Buddy’s sermon notes

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Here are my sermon notes for “Church Matters: Commitment” for the message dated February 3, 2013.  The audio isn’t up yet but will be soon by going to the Adventure Church website.

Church Matters: Commitment

What a church should commit to you:

  1. To teach the whole  Bible – Acts 20:27 “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
  2. Leaders who set an example – Philippians 3:17 “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
  3. To care for you and watch out for you – Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
  4. When necessary, to Biblically exercise church discipline – Matthew 18:15-17
  5. To seek to fulfill God’s will in our community and beyond. – Matthew 28:19-20 “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

What you should commit to the church:

  1. To protect the unity of the church – Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
    1. acting in love toward one another
    2. refusing to gossip
    3. following the leaders
  2. To share the responsibility of the church by:
    1. praying for its growth and influence
    2. inviting unchurched people to attend
    3. welcoming those who attend – Romans 15:7 “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
    4. giving financially – regularly and sacrificially
  3. To support the testimony of the church by – Philippians 1:27 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
    1. attending faithfully
    2. learning God’s Word
    3. living a godly life
  4. To serve the ministry of the church by:
    1. using my gifts and talents – 1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
    2. developing a servant’s heart
  5. To support others in the church and myself by:
    1. connecting with others for fellowship, encouragement, support and accountability
    2. allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me