Ten Questions to Ask for a Hopeful, Joyful 2017


As we close 2016 and jump into 2017, here are ten questions we each need to ask ourselves to become more hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus.

  1. What area of your life do you need to renounce in order for you to be more committed to Jesus? (Luke 14:25-33)
  2. What area is God calling you to obey Him that is a struggle for you? Read 2 Peter 1:3-11. Make every effort!
  3. What are some things that keep you from attending worship together on Sunday mornings? May Psalm 122:1 apply.
  4. What’s keeping you from being a part of a small group and developing gospel-centered relationships? 
  5. In what ways to you need to reach out to your siblings in Christ to help you through a tough time?
  6. What do I need to do on Saturday nights to be ready to hear the Word on Sunday morning?
  7. Who do you need to forgive? From whom do you need to accept forgiveness? (Matthew 5:21-26) 
  8. Who has God put in your Four Areas of Influence (friends, relatives, associate, neighbors) who need Jesus?
  9. In what areas do you need to grow deeper in your walk with Jesus? Write them down and make them daily reminders.
  10. In what way will you help all of Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough? Learn, live, love, speak!
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Understanding (Not Stereotyping) Millennials in the Workplace (Simon Sinek)

Millennials are often thrust into an environments that, yes, parents haven’t prepared them for, that social media has hardwired them in adverse ways, and a generation of participation medals.  They’ve been dealt a bad hand.  What can be done? What are the solutions?

This is one of the best fifteen minutes I’ve spent. Let’s work to understand–not stereotype–millennials!  Stereotyping is lazy. Understanding is worth the effort!

How the Law of God and the Love of God Work Together

Too often, we’ve been told that the law of God is contrary to the love of God and vice versa. But Sinclair Ferguson in his wonderful book, “The Whole Christ,” brings to our attention how both love and commands found in Scripture are “mutually interdependent.”

Commandments are the railroad tracks on which the life empowered by the love of God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit runs. Love empowers the engine; law guides the direction. They are mutually interdependent. The notion that love can operate apart from law is a figment of the imagination. It is not only bad theology; it is poor psychology (Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, p. 168-169).

Pastoral Minutemen

This past weekend was a mixture of outright disappointment and outright thankfulness.  But overall, it made me aware of how pastors need to be modern-day ecclesiastical Minutemen in our churches.

The disappointment came from a stomach virus that hit me Friday night. That’s Friday night, December 23rd. With a fever that got up to almost 102. That meant missing out on my favorite night and favorite service of the year: Christmas Eve, and likely (and ultimately) Christmas morning. 

My thankfulness came from my associate pastor, Scott Morter II, who received a text from me the morning of 24 December to tell him that I was out and he was on: Christmas Eve, Christmas morning (complete with leading the Lord’s Supper).

This is what I mean by being pastoral Minutemen. We Americans learned about the Minutemen of colonial times who had to be ready to fight the British at a minute’s notice. Pastors must function the same way when it comes to occasions like funerals on sicknesses. Lead pastors must be ready to step in if a Sunday School teacher is out at the last minute. And associate pastors need to be ready if their lead pastor is confined to the bed. 

One of our members articulated my thankfulness so well.  She said (and, no, this is not verbatim), “It puts my mind at ease that, if either one of our pastors are out, the other will fill in well. We are blessed with both of our pastors here at ARBC.” 

I am thankful for an associate who, at a minute’s notice, took time away from his Christmas Eve to joyfully feed our people the Word of God. 

A Church Can’t Be Great Without the ‘Greats’

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Jesus gave every church all it needed to secure its mission: the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Whether you are an established church, a church plant, or a church replant, these “Greats” translated into every possible realms of ecclesiastical polity and passion.

The mission at our church is to help all of Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough. We do this by being and making hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus.

Love God: “Jesus is enough,” and He’s the only way to the Father, who gave Jesus all authority on heaven and earth.
Love neighbor: “Helping all of Denver and the nations believe…” The best way to love your neighbor is to tell them about the greatness of Jesus.
Make disciples: “Being and making hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus….”

Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40); Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Church can’t be great without those ‘greats.’

How Knowing Your Position in Christ Helps Overcome Sin

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 

One other understanding we need regarding the nature of sin is that it’s not simply an act (“Oh, I committed a sin.”) but it’s a condition (“I am in sin!”). The acts come from the condition.  Again I say, we must never agree with the statement, “It only take sin to become a sinner.”  One of the great influencers of our founding fathers was a philosopher named John Locke.  Locke said that we were born with a blank slate, and that our experiences and actions put blackness and marks on that slate.  You know, many believers believe that as well–but it’s not true.  

Our only hope is that, through the person and work of Christ, we are united with him.  That’s the most neglected doctrine in Christianity is the doctrine of our union in Christ.  We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. Michael Horton rightly says,

“All of our righteousness, holiness, redemption, and blessing is found outside of us–in the person and work of Christ. This was the declaration of the Scriptures and, following the sacred text, of the reformers, in the face of a subjective righteousness located in the believer. And yet, as Calvin points out, this “alien righteousness” belonging to someone outside of us would mean nothing if this righteous one remained forever outside of us.”

Horton then uses an illustration from his life:  “In my junior year of college, I went to Europe with some friends and ran out of money. Happily, my parents agreed to deposit enough money in my account to cover my expenses. Was that now my money? I had not earned it. I had not worked for it. It was not my money in the sense that I had done something to obtain it. But it was in my account now and I could consider it my own property.”

All that Christ has an accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection are His, but He has put those things to our account.  As a result, Christ has killed sin and it no longer has dominion over us.

Now, you say, “Pastor Matt!  I’m a Christian, and it sure seems like my sin is in charge of me.  I just can’t get past it.  I really believe I’m stuck.”  I know. I’ve been there.  You really do not believe there’s a way out.  But I tell you, there is. If we are truly surrendered to Christ, we must remember our position.  Our old self was ‘crucified’–our ‘body of sin might be brought to nothing.’ You have the freedom in Christ to escape and obey Him.  

In James 1:12-15, we see what the primary struggle is:

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

How does it start? It starts the way it did with Adam and Eve–being lured and enticed by his own desire. Enticement brings desire, desire is conceived and gives birth to sin, sin brings death. But go back to James 1:2:  “Testing of faith in trials produces steadfastness; steadfastness produces maturity, maturity produces a lack of nothing.   1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says:

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Our position as Christians means we are unified with Christ.  He has dominion over you, not your sin. You are His. He paid the price of your sin for you.  You are in Him, and He is in you!  And you will bear fruit.  If you came to Christ just to get to heaven, without a desire to surrender to His Lordship now, you may need to search your soul and see if you are saved.  If you are one who is thinking about coming to Christ for all the blessings, but really do not want him to tell you what to do, I will pray that he scrapes those barnacles off.

What Sin Is and Why  Jesus is Enough to Overcome It

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Our first parents played a part in the circumstances and situations of the world today. Sin entered into the world through a person, and was defeated by a Person.  You see, every person in the world is in two camps:  the camp of Adam, or the camp of Christ. There’s a 1,001 different religions, cults, studies, and fields that one can pursue. But at the end of the day, we are in one camp: under the one who brought sin in, or the One who rescued us!

Let’s talk about what sin is: going against anything God has commanded. Call them sins of commission (committing something God told you not to do) or omission (not doing something He commanded you to do).  Sins happen in our actions, yes, and with our words, to be sure.  But Jesus tells us we will be held captive by our thoughts. For centuries, monks came into that lifestyle because they thought getting away from the ‘world’ would fix their sin issues.  Ask Martin Luther (1483-1546):  It was there that he became even more aware of his sin.  He’d try to work it off.  He’d try to discipline his body by harming himself so it’d run away.  He found out that it was only through Christ.

How does sin show itself?  Every so often it’s good for us to revisit this:

  • Sin:  miss the mark, like an archer missing the target.  Paul says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 
  • Transgression:  This is where we cross a line.
  • Iniquity:  Premeditated choice; continuing with repentance, deeply rooted.  In Mark 9, there’s an account of when the disciples could not heal a man with demons.  It was a particularly terrible case.  Jesus came and healed the man.  When asked why the disciples couldn’t, Jesus said, “And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).  What does this mean?  It means that there are some sins that are so deeply rooted in a man’s soul and body that prayer and fasting must accompany. 

Adam missed the mark, crossed the line, and made a premeditated choice–but Jesus came and reversed Adam’s (and our) mess. In Genesis 3:15, right after God laid down that curse on them, he promised that a seed would come in a woman and would crush Satan and his temptation racket. And that women, Mary, was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to Jesus who, as a man, reversed all that the first Adam did.  Jesus is enough to reverse Adam’s mess.  Only Jesus.

Kill or Be Killed: How Killing Sin Increases Hope and Joy

One of the consummate verses that we hear around Christmas serves as our Fighter Verse for the week:  “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  The word/name “Jesus” means Savior–and his name foundationally reminds us that both we are sinners in need of a Savior, but also that there is a Savior who saves from sin.  And after we become Christians, what then?  Should sin never affect us, never tempt us, never bother us?

I have never been hunting.  Fishing?  Yes. Hunting for deer or elk?  No.  Dad would always enjoying, but I never picked it up and he never pressured.  The closest I ever came was a scenario that involved a BB gun, a squirrel, and a bird feeder. Out my back window, I would shoot with my BB gun to knock that squirrel off the birdfeeder. After about a week of shooting (and missing, mind you), my mom asked a question, and just one question:  How would you feel if you hit it and killed it?  After she asked that, I set that gun aside.  I’m pro-2nd Amendment. I have no qualms about anyone else hunting–but it’s not for me.

But when it comes to killing, every single Christian must be willing to do whatever it takes to kill sin. Reinhold Niebuhr rightly said, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”  He’s right. It is apparent that our world is a mess, and that we cannot live up to their individual standards, much less God’s standard as outlined in Scripture.  Peggy DuCharme spoke last week about ‘postmodernism’–a belief that individuals answer to their own truth, and that no authoritative, absolute truth exists outside of an individual.  When that took place and dug in to our society, then no one could tell someone else that something was ‘wrong.’ The only ‘wrong’ was saying something someone else did was wrong.  It was intolerant.  

Therefore, adultery is an affair.  Homosexuality and sodomy is gay. Drunkenness and gluttony are defined as ‘diseases’ or ‘illnesses’ rather than vices. With this transition in thinking, there’s no killing of sin, because there’s really no sin to kill except saying that there is ‘sin.’ No acknowledgment of sin, then there’s no need for a Savior from sin. There’s no need for a cross as an instrument to absorb the punishment of sin.  Christ only came to serve as an example. He came to provide a better life, your best life now.  He came to make every day a Friday. Shots over the bow aside, Satan and the culture have been fairly successful redefining Christianity as simply a self-help method to make life better.

I’m not interesting in what the culture says about this, primarily, but what God tells us. Clearly by saying there’s no sin does not mean there’s no sin.  That’s not reality–it’s a wish. Let’s read Romans 6:5-14.  Would you stand?

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self  was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

After reading this, we know that John Owen is right: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  

(More next time.)

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