There They Crucified Him

 

Insignificant days before the group had thronged into the tight boulevards of Jerusalem to get a look at Him and yell his gestures of recognition. However, overnight the happy cries of “Favored is the King” had transformed into shouts of “Kill Him.” He was captured, relinquished by his devotees and companions, erroneously denounced and censured, beaten, scourged, taunted and mortified. The boulevards were fixed with sobbing ladies as He, in depletion from a restless night, frail with loss of blood, attempted to convey the extremely cross whereupon He would be executed. “There were additionally two others, offenders, driven with him to be killed. Furthermore, when they had gone to the place called Calvary, there they executed him, and the crooks, one on the correct hand and the other on the left” (Luke 23:32-33).

Maybe it is recognition that tends to jade us to the horrendous enduring persevered by Jesus at the cross to end up plainly the give up for our wrongdoings. Many view the cross as a bit of sparkling adornments to dangle from one’s neck or show as a trimming, enrichment or show-stopper. The cross was a coldblooded, horrible and ridiculous instrument of torment and execution for just the more regrettable lawbreakers. The Romans considered torturous killing so frightful that Roman natives were excluded from death by execution if indicted a capital offense (aside from treachery).

What sufferings did Jesus experience in passing on upon the cross? What was an execution? Why was Christ executed? We have to comprehend the profundity and reality of Christ’s sufferings and passing.

Christ’s Sufferings Before The Cross

Christ came to give His life and kick the bucket upon the cross. “He lowered Himself and ended up noticeably devoted to death, even the passing of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Jesus talked regularly to his devotees of his looming demise by torturous killing (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 26:2). The weight of this premonition weighed vigorously upon Jesus as He entered the garden of Gethsemane with His pupils to ask late Thursday evening after their Passover supper.

“He started to be tragic and profoundly troubled. At that point He said to them, ‘My spirit is exceedingly miserable, even to death…” (Matt. 26:37-38). Luke, the doctor, portrays Jesus’ serious mental anguish as He implored, “Father, on the off chance that it is Your will, remove this glass from Me; in any case not My will, but rather Yours, be done … Also, being in misery, He asked all the more sincerely. At that point His sweat ended up noticeably like extraordinary drops of blood tumbling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42, 44). Therapeutic specialists have analyzed Jesus’ ridiculous sweat as “hemohidrosis.” This originates from a profoundly enthusiastic state causing hemorrhagin into the sweat organs and the skin winds up plainly delicate and delicate (William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 21, 1986, Vol. 255, No. 11).

An outfitted horde coming to capture Jesus broke the garden peace. Jesus’ distress was duplicated and His misery developed as He persevered through Judas’ treachery and His devotees’ surrender and refusal (Matt. 26:47-56, 69-75; Psa. 22:11). As Peter denied Him, the profundity of Jesus’ throbbing pity is felt as “the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:61).

The capturing band of Jews seized and bound Jesus. As Jesus was driven from place to place to be erroneously denounced and attempted by adversaries who tried to execute Him, those Jewish officers going with Him loaded manhandle upon Him. They ridiculed and criticized Jesus, spit in His face, at that point blindfolded Him and beat Him requesting that he forecast who had hit Him (Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-65). Sentenced to death by the Jews, Jesus was taken to Pilate. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod where his warriors “treated Him with disdain and derided Him, exhibited Him in a dazzling robe, and sent Him back to Pilate” (Luke 23:11).

Pilate brought Jesus out before the large number trying to discharge Jesus. Yet, the group sobbed for a revolt, criminal a killer, Barabbas, to be discharged and for Jesus to be executed (Matt. 27:15-26). Pilate looking to assuage the lethal swarm scourged Jesus and after that tried to discharge him. Be that as it may, he yielded to the horde to execute him (Luke 23:22-25; John 19:1-16). Scourging was an outrageous and extreme discipline and a lawful preparatory to Roman execution exempting ladies, legislators and warriors (with the exception of cowards). The detainee would be stripped and his situation is anything but hopeful over His make a beeline for a post. Maybe a couple fighters would whip or beat the detainee’s back, rear end and legs. The short whip normally utilized comprised of calfskin thongs on which were tied little iron balls or sharp bits of bone. The constrain of the iron balls would leave profound wounds and the cowhide and bones would attack the skin and muscles leaving bleeding strips or segments of fragile living creature and uncovered muscle (1 Pet. 2:24). Blood misfortune could leave casualties in stun and demise could happen under a scourging.

Despite the fact that debilitated, wounded and His back a draining mash and conceivably in pre-stun, Christ’s manhandle by the Roman officers was not at an end. Jesus was taken before the whole Roman unit, who might have had little love for any Jew. They derided Jesus attire Him in a purple robe, putting a contorted crown of thistles on His head and setting a “reed,” a wooden staff in his correct hand. “Also, they bowed the knee before him and taunted him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matt. 27:29-30; Isa. 50:6). The long sharp thistles of the crown would have punctured the delicate tissue of His temples bringing on additional draining injuries. The hits to His head were likely expected to drive these thistles more profound into his forehead and open more injuries. Jesus was beaten so extremely “His appearance was so distorted past that of any man and his shape damaged past human similarity” (Isa. 52:14).

Christ’s Crucifixion

The Persians are accepted to have first utilized torturous killing, however the Romans formed execution into an unfeeling convoluted moderate demise aim on causing the most agony and enduring. The expression “horrifying,” which means extraordinary distress or torment, originates from the Latin for “from, or out of, the cross.” Roman torturous killing was an agonizing, open, dishonorable and famous demise for slaves, insurrectionists, forsaking fighters and the most detestable lawbreakers.

Jesus started His execution mortification (Phil. 2:8) as a sentenced man compelled to convey the crossbar or patibulum, weighing from 75 to 125 pounds, from the yard where he had been beaten to the general population place of execution, outside the city of Jerusalem, on a rough slope named Golgotha, “the skull.” The Romans tore the robe from Jesus’ shoulders reviving the somewhat thickening injuries on His back. A harsh slashed wooden crossbar was adjusted over His neck and His ridiculous shoulders and His arms were likely attached outstretched to it. Weariness and blood-misfortune left Jesus excessively powerless, making it impossible to hold up under the weight and the Romans pulled a bypasser from the group to convey the cross (Mark 15:21).

At Golgotha, stood the overwhelming upright wooden post on which the patibulum would be secured. Jesus was offered annoy, an astringent drink of wine blended with myrrh as a mellow pain relieving which He tasted and after that can’t (Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:23; Psa. 69:21). Jesus would not enable His faculties to be dulled or His brain to be blurred. He would confront and persevere through the full sufferings of the cross.

Jesus was stripped and tossed to the ground on His back, His arms outstretched along the patibulum and His hands were nailed. The nails were likely decreased iron spikes around 5 to 7 inches long with a squared shaft of 3/8 inch thickness, as indicated by executed stays found from a similar day and age. Remains and research show the nails were presumably determined through the wrists, which the people of old considered a piece of the hands and nails in the palms don’t bolster the heaviness of the body. Spikes crashed into the wrists close to the middle nerve would stay away from broken bones (Psa. 34:20) and send transmitting stuns of torment up Jesus’ arms. Along these lines nailed, the crossbar and Jesus were lifted up onto the upright post (Num. 21:6-9; Isa. 52:13), His legs were bowed at the knees, His feet put one a top the other and after that nailed specifically to the front of the post. Burning torment shot up his unnaturally curved legs.

Over Jesus’ head was set a board or titulus which usually bore the name and wrongdoing of the denounced, however Pilate had stated, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” in Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19:19-22). Underneath Jesus Roman fighters stood watch to ensure those killed passed on and that companions did not expel them before death. These warriors separated Jesus’ pieces of clothing and bet for His jacket (John 19:23-25; Psa. 22:18). A group assembled to gaze, expand, taunt and embarrass Jesus as He hung enduring, the fighters participate thus did the two executed hoodlums on either side of Him (Luke 23:35-37; Matt. 27:38-44; Psa. 22:12-17). Adding to Jesus’ disgrace were the nearness of His mom, two or three ladies devotees and no less than one pupil, (John 19:25-27).

Demise would come gradually as each twisted created burning anguish. The heaviness of His hanging body on the nails sent shooting torment up His arms. The expanded position of and weight on Jesus’ arms made the utilization of His trunk and thorax muscles to inhale troublesome. To calmly inhale, Jesus needed to drive his body up with His legs putting his weight on the nail in His feet making torment shoot up His legs. The Romans could hurry demise by breaking the legs underneath knees, as they did to the two hoodlums adjacent to Jesus (John 19:31-33), putting the weight of exhalation on shoulder and arm muscles alone and bringing about weariness asphyxia. With each breath Jesus’ crude bleeding back was torn against the harsh wood of the shafts, torment would shoot up His arms and legs from the spikes, weariness would spasm and bunch His muscles with determined, throbbing agony.

The Offices Of Christ

 

When we consider the workplaces of Jesus, we for the most part don’t consider them as far as their connections to paradise or earth, or their pre-incarnate, incarnate or post-revival stages. In any case, perceiving these qualifications benefits us extraordinarily.

The Offices Of The Pre-Incarnate Christ

The primary verse of the good news of John acquaints us with “the Word.” This Divine Being was as God (Phil. 2:6) and meet with God in nature (Col. 1:15-16). John reveals to us that He was a dynamic member in the creation to the degree nothing entered presence without Him. This “Word” was made fragile living creature and we know Him as Jesus (John 1:14).

This same “Word” before His being made substance is discovered dynamic all through mankind’s history. He is known as the “Heavenly attendant of Jehovah.” That this “Dispatcher” was not a standard being of the class called “holy messenger” is obvious from the treatment He gets as He executes His different obligations.

In Exodus part three He summons Moses to expel His shoes and love (Exo. 3:2-6). He alludes to Himself as the “I AM.” Even the journalists of the Old Testament content credit to Him the assignments of ruler and Jehovah God. Common other-worldly creatures never make such a demand (Rev. 22:8-9).

The Offices Of The Glorified Christ

Jesus expected three workplaces after His climb into Heaven: King of Kings, High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, and our Advocate with the Father.

Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed, that is, God’s assigned successor to the Throne of David (Isa. 9:6; Luke 1:69). Nonetheless, Jesus did not execute that office until He climbed and sat down at God’s correct submit paradise (Heb. 1:3, 8). While Jesus rules over the earth He has never actually ruled on the earth, and the Scriptures don’t demonstrate that He will. Jesus got all expert at His climb (Matt. 28:18) and will restore that expert to the Father after the Judgment (1 Cor. 15:27-28).

Jesus fills a double office regarding the penance for transgression. He is without a moment’s delay the yield for transgression and the High Priest who offers it to God (Heb. 7:26-27). Jesus’ part as High Priest was guaranteed to Him through the prophets and particularly rested upon the exceptional capability that He was a righteous man constantly dutiful to God (Heb. 5:1-10). His organization is a persisting one and, in this manner, better than that of Aaron by temperance of His interminable life (Heb. 7:15-25).

However, Jesus serves not just as High Priest offering a yield for our transgressions, additionally as our Advocate, a Mediator or Pleader before God for leniency (1 John 2:1). He is ever before God making intervention for His brethren (Rom. 8:31-34). Having been accommodated to God by the absolution of our past sins we proceed in association with the Father through the service of Jesus in paradise (Rom. 5:10; 4:25).

This is the thing that Jesus accomplishes for us now in paradise before the Father. How superb for every one of us!

The Offices Of Christ On The Earth

Jesus filled a few workplaces while He served here upon the earth. We in some cases disregard these and in doing as such have an off base perspective of Jesus amid the times of His tissue.

Jesus Christ was the Prophet of Jehovah (Heb. 1:1-2). Moses said that God would send another prophet in the similarity of himself (Deut. 18:15-22). Jehovah would put His words into the mouth of that prophet and affirm what He said by marvels, signs and ponders.

Jesus is that prophet (Acts 3:22-23; John 6:14; 7:40; Matt. 13:57). He came lecturing the words that God provided for Him (John 5:30-37; 7:16-18). He as a prophet did not come in His own particular name (John 5:43), did not hold up under observer of Himself (John 8:17-18) and did not speak His own precept (John 7:16-17).

Jesus’ office as “the prophet” was steady with His appearing as worker and being made in the resemblance of a man (Phil. 2:7). God sends a prophet; a prophet gets and uncovers a message; a prophet has expert designated to Him from God and adequate power given to him to execute his bonus. This was positively valid for Jesus while here in the substance (Luke 4:18; Isa. 11:1-4; John 5:19, 30; 8:28-29).

Jesus Christ was the Apostle (Heb. 3:1). A witness is one that is sent forward under a commission (Matt. 10:5). He is one sent with a message to lecture (Matt. 10:7) and the ability to affirm the specialist of what He lectures (Luke 9:1; Mark 6:12-13).

Jesus was a witness in His relationship to the Father (John 17:3). The Father sent Jesus with a commission (Matt. 15:24). He gave Him a message to uncover (John 8:28-29) and the power important to uncover and affirm it (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).

Like the workplace of prophet, that of a witness is steady with Jesus appearing as a worker to be in the resemblance of a man. Jesus went forward for the sake of the person who sent Him (John 5:43; cf. Luke 10:17). He worked the works that the Father gave Him (John 5:36; 10:25, 32; cf. Luke 9:1). Jesus never escaped His part of a worker. Jesus never appeared to men to be something besides a man (Phil. 2:5-8; John 10:33).

Jesus Christ was the Son of God (John 1:14). John proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God. There is a sense in which this title is one of a kind to Jesus, as in the above content – the main generated Son (cf. John 20:17; Matt. 11:27). Be that as it may, the expression ” Son of God” applies to an assortment of people. Analyzing its utilization will uncover the character of the title, what office it assigns in the Scriptures.

Blessed messengers are “children of God” (Job 2:1; cf. Heb. 1:14) by ethicalness of their creation. Adam is “the child of God” since he was the primary man God made and, subsequently, the leader of the human family (Acts 17:25-29). The equitable of Adam’s seed who wed the little girls of Cain are “children of God” (Gen. 6:2). The country Israel is the “child of God” (Exo. 4:22) in light of the fact that they are the protest of God’s uncommon love and administer to His administration (Hosea 11:1). The rulers of Israel are “children of God” as agents of the picked country and as sorts of the Messiah (Psa. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14). The individuals who accept and comply with the gospel are “children of God” (John 1:12) prepared to serve Christ (1 John 3:1-10). In this assignment there is an uncommon relationship of administration, dedication and submission toward God and His kin showed.

We take in the way of otherworldly “sonship” from sections that arrangement with strict sonship. A child is under the expert of his dad (Gal. 4:1, 2). Compliance is anticipated from a child (Heb. 12:5-8; Matt. 21:28-32). A child comes in his dad’s name and acts for sake of his interests (Matt. 20:37). A child is cherished of his dad (Luke 9:38; 11:11-13) and loves his dad (Gen. 46:29). He is the beneficiary of his dad and serves reliably in his dad’s home (Luke 15:12, 29-32; Matt. 21:38).

Jesus was the ideal Son (Heb. 5:8-9). The Father on no less than two events reported His endorsement of Jesus (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) and exhibited it in the restoration (Rom. 1:4). The Father compensated His ideal acquiescence (Phil. 2:9-11). Into His hands He has lauded all things (Matt. 28:18) and given Him the manage of His kingdom (1 Cor. 15:25-28) until every one of His adversaries are vanquished.

The Role Of Christ Was That Of A Servant

Jesus executed just those workplaces good with His part. He made Himself of no notoriety, and appeared as a worker made in the similarity of men. Jesus did not come in the workplaces of His earlier or last wonderfulness. He lowered Himself and was faithful to His Father.

Days of Vengeance

by David Padfield

On the Tuesday before His crucifixion, our Lord went into the temple for the last time and denounced its inhabitants as being the “sons of those who murdered the prophets,” a “brood of vipers,” and those destined for the “condemnation of hell” (Matt 23:31–33). They would fill up the measure of their father’s guilt. By crucifying of the Son of God and by their continual rejection of the gospel message and it’s messengers they would prove whose sons they were. Satan was truly their father and “like father, like son.”

In the seventh and final woe that Jesus pronounces on Jerusalem, He gives the death sentence for the city and said that generation of people would feel the wrath of God for their rejection and murder of the Son of God (Matt 23:34–39). The destruction of the temple would symbolize God’s repudiation of it. After this scathing rebuke, Jesus leaves the temple never to return to it again.

As Jesus and His disciples were walking away from Herod’s Temple, He told them that the day was coming when “not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt 24:2). Apparently the disciples were stunned into silence by our Lord’s statement.

His disciples privately ask, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3). The destruction of the temple was such a remarkable event that the disciples could only think of it being accompanied by the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Jesus clears up their misunderstandings and answers their questions in order. First, He tells them about the various signs which would be seen prior to the destruction of the temple. Second, Jesus explains there will be no signs given prior to His return and the end of the world.

Jesus called the destruction of Jerusalem the “the days of vengeance” (Luke 21:22). The destruction of Jerusalem was an act of God’s vengeance and judgment, not Rome’s; these would be the days when people were punished for their sins. The destruction of the holy city was not an accidental or arbitrary act, but the just recompense of reward for those who rejected God’s Son.

We are pleased to offer a new book, Days of Vengeance. This book is a very detailed examination of the destruction of Jerusalem and a look at the events which followed. This book is only available as a PDF file from our website. Sorry, but we do not have any copies to mail out.

Download the Days Of Vengeance now. You will need Acrobat Reader, available free from Adobe Systems, in order to view and print this book (32 pages; PDF file size: 737k).

Five Great Bible Covenants

by David Padfield

In form, a covenant is an agreement between two people and involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of a covenant between God and His people is one of the central themes of the Bible. In the Biblical sense, a covenant implies much more than a contract or a simple agreement between two parties.

The word for “covenant” in the Old Testament also provides additional insight into the meaning of this important idea. It comes from a Hebrew root word that means “to cut.” This explains the strange custom of two people passing through the cut bodies of slain animals after making an agreement (cf. Jer. 34:18). A ceremony such as this always accompanied the making of a covenant in the Old Testament. Sometimes those entering into a covenant shared a meal, such as when Laban and Jacob made their covenant (Gen. 31:54).

Abraham and his children were commanded to be circumcised as a “sign of covenant” between them and God (Gen. 17:10-11).

At Sinai, Moses sprinkled the blood of animals on the altar and upon the people who entered into covenant with God (Exo. 24:3-8).

The Old Testament contains many examples of covenants between people who related to each other as equals. For example, David and Jonathan entered into a covenant because of their love for each other — this agreement bound each of them to certain responsibilities (1 Sam. 18:3).

The remarkable thing is that God is holy, omniscient, and omnipotent; but He consents to enter into covenant with man, who is feeble, sinful, and flawed.

In this article, we want to examine five great covenants of the Bible.

God’s Covenant With Noah

Centuries before the time of Abraham, God made a covenant with Noah, assuring Noah that He would never again destroy the world by flood (Gen. 9).

Noah lived at a time when the whole earth was filled with violence and corruption — yet Noah did not allow the evil standards of his day to rob him of fellowship with God. He stood out as the only one who “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9), as was also true of his great-grandfather Enoch (Gen. 5:22). “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9). The Lord singled out Noah from among all his contemporaries and chose him as the man to accomplish a great work.

When God saw the wickedness that prevailed in the world (Gen. 6:5), He told Noah of His intention to destroy the ancient world by a universal flood. God instructed Noah to build an ark (a large barge) in which he and his family would survive the universal deluge. Noah believed God and “according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).

Noah is listed among the heroes of faith. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7).

With steadfast confidence in God, Noah started building the ark. During this time, Noah continued to preach God’s judgment and mercy, warning the ungodly of their approaching doom. Peter reminds us of how God “did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:5).

Noah preached for 120 years, apparently without any converts. At the end of that time, “when … the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah … eight souls were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20).

People continued in their evil ways and ignored his pleadings and warnings until the flood overtook them. When the ark was ready, Noah entered in with all kinds of animals “and the Lord shut him in” (Gen. 7:16), cut off completely from the rest of mankind.

Noah was grateful to the Lord who had delivered him from the flood. After the flood, he built an altar to God (Gen. 8:20) and made a sacrifice, which was accepted graciously, for in it “the Lord smelled a soothing aroma” (Gen. 8:21).

The Lord promised Noah and his descendants that He would never destroy the world again with a universal flood (Gen. 9:15). The Lord made an everlasting covenant with Noah and his descendants, establishing the rainbow as the sign of His promise (Gen. 9:1-17).

Another part of the covenant involved the sanctity of human life, i.e., that “whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). Every time we see a rainbow today we are reminded of that agreement — this covenant has not been done away with. As long as God still sends rainbows after a storm, capital punishment will still be a part of God’s law for the human race.

God’s Covenant With Abraham

In making a covenant with Abraham, God promised to bless his descendants and make them His own special people — in return, Abraham was to remain faithful to God and to serve as a channel through which God’s blessings could flow to the rest of the world (Gen. 12:1-3).

Abraham’s story begins with his passage with the rest of his family from Ur of the Chaldeans in ancient southern Babylonia (Gen. 11:31). He and his family moved north along the trade routes of the ancient world and settled in the prosperous trade center of Haran, several hundred miles to the northwest.

While living in Haran, at the age of 75, Abraham received a call from God to go to a strange, unknown land that God would show him. The Lord promised Abraham that He would make him and his descendants a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3). The promise must have seemed unbelievable to Abraham because his wife Sarah was childless (Gen. 11:30-31; 17:15). Abraham obeyed God with no hint of doubt or disbelief.

Abraham took his wife and his nephew, Lot, and went toward the land that God would show him. Abraham moved south along the trade routes from Haran, through Shechem and Bethel, to the land of Canaan. Canaan was a populated area at the time, inhabited by the war-like Canaanites; so, Abraham’s belief that God would ultimately give this land to him and his descendants was an act of faith.

The circumstances seemed quite difficult, but Abraham’s faith in God’s promises allowed him to trust in the Lord. In Genesis 15, the Lord reaffirmed His promise to Abraham. The relationship between God and Abraham should be understood as a covenant relationship — the most common form of arrangement between individuals in the ancient world. In this case, Abraham agreed to go to the land that God would show him (an act of faith on his part), and God agreed to make Abraham a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3).

In Genesis 15 Abraham became anxious about the promise of a nation being found in his descendants because of his advanced age — and the Lord then reaffirmed the earlier covenant. A common practice of that time among heirless families was to adopt a slave who would inherit the master’s goods. Therefore, because Abraham was childless, he proposed to make a slave, Eliezer of Damascus, his heir (Gen. 15:2). But God rejected this action and challenged Abraham’s faith: “‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be'” (Gen. 15:5).

Abraham’s response is the model of believing faith: “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). The rest of Genesis 15 consists of a ceremony between Abraham and God that was commonly used in the ancient world to formalize a covenant (Gen. 15:7-21). God repeated this covenant to Abraham’ son, Isaac (Gen. 17:19). Stephen summarized the story in the book of Acts 7:1-8.

The Mosaic Covenant

The Israelites moved to Egypt during the time of Joseph. A new Pharaoh came upon the scene and turned the Israelites into common slaves. The people cried out to the God of their forefathers. “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exo. 2:24). After a series of ten plagues upon the land of Egypt, God brought the Israelites out “of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand” (Exo. 32:11).

Three months after leaving the land of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at the base of Mount Sinai (Exo. 19:1). God promised to make a covenant with the Israelites (Exo. 19:3-6). Before they even knew the conditions of the contract, the people agreed to abide by whatever God said (Exo. 19:8).

This covenant was between God and the people of Israel — you and I are not a party in this contract (and never have been). The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the covenant, but they are not the entirety of it.

After giving the first ten commands, the people asked the Lord to speak no more (Exo. 20:18-20). Moses then drew near to the presence of God to hear the rest of the covenant (Exo. 20:21). After receiving the Law, Moses spoke the words of the covenant to all of the people, and the people agreed to obey (Exo. 24:4).

Moses then wrote the conditions of the covenant down, offered sacrifices to God, and then sprinkled both the book and the people with blood to seal the covenant (Exo. 24:8). This covenant between God and the people of Israel was temporary — God promised a day when He would make a new covenant, not only with Israel but also with all mankind. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:31-34).

God’s Covenant With David

Another covenant was between God and King David, in which David and his descendants were established as the royal heirs to the throne of the nation of Israel (2 Sam. 7:12-13).

This covenant agreement reached its fulfillment when Jesus, a descendant of the line of David, was born in Bethlehem. The gospel of Matthew starts off by showing Christ was “the Son of David” (Matt. 1:1), and thus He had the right to rule over God’s people. Peter preached that Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of God’s promise to David (Acts 2:29-36).

The Covenant Of Christ

The New Testament makes a clear distinction between the covenants of the Mosaic Law and the covenant of Promise. The apostle Paul spoke of these “two covenants,” one originating “from Mount Sinai,” the other from “the Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:24-26). Paul also argued that the covenant established at Mount Sinai was a “ministry of death” and “condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9).

The death of Christ ushered in the new covenant under which we are justified by God’s grace and mercy — it is now possible to have the true forgiveness of sins. Jesus Himself is the Mediator of this better covenant between God and man (Heb. 9:15). Jesus’ sacrificial death served as the oath, or pledge, which God made to us to seal this new covenant.

The “new covenant” is the new agreement God has made with mankind, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The concept of a new covenant originated with the promise of Jeremiah that God would accomplish for His people what the old covenant had failed to do (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 11:7-13). Under this new covenant, God would write His Law on human hearts.

When Jesus ate the Passover meal at the Last Supper with His disciples, He spoke of the cup and said, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Luke’s account refers to this cup as symbolizing “the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

When Paul recited the account he had received concerning the Last Supper, he quoted these words of Jesus about the cup as “the new covenant in My blood” (1 Cor. 11:25).

The Epistle to the Hebrews gives the new covenant more attention than any other book in the New Testament. It quotes the entire passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Heb. 8:8-12). Jesus is referred to by the writer of Hebrews as “the Mediator of the new covenant” (Heb. 9:15; 12:24). The new covenant, a “better covenant … established on better promises” (Heb. 8:6), rests directly on the sacrificial work of Christ.

The new covenant accomplished what the old could not, i.e., the removal of sin and cleansing of the conscience (Heb. 10:2, 22). The work of Jesus Christ on the cross thus makes the old covenant “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13) and fulfills the promise of the prophet Jeremiah.

Conclusion

Unlike the Mosaic covenant, the new covenant of Jesus Christ is intended for all mankind — regardless of race. In the Great Commission Jesus sent His apostles into the entire world so they could tell the story of the cross (Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 28:18-20). The gospel call extends to every man and woman today!

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Trophy For Sale

by David Padfield

One day last summer I was on my way to lunch when I drove by a house that was having a rummage sale. Even though I did not stop for the sale, I could not help but notice the display closest to the street — what caught my eye was a table filled with old trophies that were now for sale on someone’s driveway.

I had to wonder why anyone would be interested in purchasing a used trophy. What could they possibly do with it? The trophies for sale probably had the name of the recipient engraved on it, along with a brief description of their meritorious actions. Who would want to put someone else’s trophy on their mantle?

Later, I began to wonder why the seller wanted to get rid of their old trophies in the first place. I am sure that at one time those trophies held a lot of value, or at least some emotional attachment. Trophies usually signify some accomplishment — they serve to remind us of some success in our business or personal life. Maybe a bowling trophy loses its luster when one stops bowling. That trophy from a winning high school football season might not seem as important thirty years later when your own children are in college. What we value today might wind up in the trash or on a table at a rummage sale tomorrow.

The truth of the matter is that there is nothing in this life we can carry with us into the next. The trinkets and knick-knacks we treasure here on earth will be of no value in eternity. This being so, it makes one wonder why we spend so much time acquiring earthly possessions, but so little time preparing for the life which is to come.

Suppose you gained all that this world has to offer — what would you really have? A handful of tinsel? Jesus told His disciples: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26).

“Houston, we have a problem.”

“Houston, we have a problem.” Tom Hanks may have made the words famous, but we’re not too far off when it comes to our families in churches across the country. Perhaps unlike any other time in other time in recent history, our families are being attacked spiritually. This should really come as no surprise as 1 Peter 5:8 contends that “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” The greatest evidence of this may be seen in the faith of our children, specifically our teenagers. For example, a recent study of “churched” teens who are actively involved in a strong youth ministry program indicated that:

  • Between forty and fifty percent will significantly struggle with their faith when they leave home.
  • Eighty-six percent of these students thought that their faith was not strong enough to stand up on its own.
  • Eighty percent of the students who leave their faith intended to stick with the Church.

Statistics are a dime a dozen and can usually be made to indicate whichever bias the author prefers. These statistics are no different. That being said, the true value in these statistics lie not in the numbers themselves but in the warning shot they extend across our family ships.

Though our attitudes and actions may not always indicate such, our children are not raised in a spiritual vacuum where the Church provides all of their necessary spiritual formation (which often creates an attitude that as long as they consistently attend worship and activities, they will be fine. On the contrary, the spiritual health of our children (and families) is tied directly to the importance that we choose to place in faith in the home. The following results of a survey support such a conclusion.

  • Twelve percent of teens have a regular dialogue with their mother on faith/life issues.
  • Five percent of teens have a regular dialogue with their father on faith/life issues.
  • Nine percent of teens have experienced regular reading of the Bible and devotions in the home.
  • Twelve percent of teens have experienced (participated in) a service-oriented event with a parent as an action of faith.
  • Five percent of families have participated in any type of worship experience outside of corporate worship.

If we truly do have a problem in our families and with the spiritual formation of our children, these statistics help to offer clarity as to the source of the problem—faith and spiritual formation is simply not a priority in the home. Instead, parents are abdicating their God-given responsibilities in favor of drive through religion that is served by Youth Ministers and other church leaders. This is in direct opposition to God’s direction to the Israelites that was given by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

Moses told the Israelites that if they would heed his direction, “then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you” (Deut 6:3). This direction applies just as well to Christians today. We have the opportunity and obligation to create a legacy of faithful, Christ-like living for generations to come.

 

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You Might Be a Pharisee If . . .

You Might Be a Pharisee If . . .

Luke 18: 9-17

 

Might be a Redneck if . . .

  • Funny because we often recognize just a little of ourselves or someone we know
  • This is the genius of Jesus – greatest story teller ever
    • Even if it makes us a little uncomfortable, we recognize a little of ourselves in the story.

 

Title of Sermon – You Might be a Pharisee If . . .

 

We don’t start off with the intention of being a Pharisee

  • Pharisee started off well – “God, I thank you”
  • Good thing to thank God for our progress and growth
  • Background on Pharisees
  • They didn’t start off with the intention of being the punch-line or “how-not-to examples”
  • Somewhere something went wrong:

 

Used the Wrong Measuring Stick

  • Two men used two different measuring sticks
  1. Pharisee compared himself to another man
  2. Tax collector compared himself to God
  • Canon – measuring stick
  • This is the first place where the Pharisee went wrong
  • What happens when we compare ourselves to others?
    • We can pick out faults or things we think are faults. We can find ways to make ourselves feel/look better.
    • We are able to look better. It leads to lack of humility.
  • What happens when we compare ourselves to God?
    • We are quickly humbled.
  • The tax collector compared himself to God – his prayer
    • He knew that he was not a product of his own achievement, but of God’s love.
    • This way of approaching God radically alters the way we view God, ourselves and others!
      • Understanding ourselves as the object of mercy breeds compassion for others.
      • When we view ourselves too favorably we think, “why can’t tey figure it out like me?”
  • Illustration with Sheep and Snow
    • We find the wrong background to compare ourselves to
    • Romans 3:23
  • Golf illustration

 

He Thought His Sanctification was the Grounds for his Justification

  • We think our sanctification causes our justification
  • Sanctification is what you become and is a process – sometimes we equate the process with our own actions.
  • Story ends with a picture of Jesus and the children

 

Jesus was talking to them, not about them. I wonder how they left – convicted or angry

How you will leave today depends on your willingness to address the Pharisee living inside each of us.

 

You Might Be a Pharisee if . . .

 

If you like it when other people view you as deeply religious

 

If you go to church to feel good about yourself

 

If you need to get noticed and thanked for your service and ministry

 

If you are regularly comparing yourself to other people, or if you are quick to dismiss others for not measuring up

 

If you have never prayed the tax collector’s prayer.

 

Beware of reverse self-righteousness.

 

We will be humbled, the only question is by who and when

  • Philippians 2:9-10
  • 1 Peter 5:5-6 – ‘opposed’ means to line up your armies against

 

Who will humble you this week?

 

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Small Group Sermon #1

We are in the middle of lessons on 7 Realities, specifically about God Revealing Himself, His Purposes and His Ways.

I want to share an idea that I think God has been revealing. I’ve had trouble putting my finger on it and nailing it down, but there just seemed like there is something more that God is leading us to.

Direct our attention back to our Vision Statement:

Our vision is to be Jesus’ family that is united by God’s love and is passionately and prayerfully seeking to Know, Serve and Share Him.

It’s the Family part that I think God is calling to our attention. What do each of these passages tell us about the Church has a family?

Ephesians 2:19

1 Timothy 3:15

Galatians 4:6-7

Philippians 4:1

Hebrews 3:5-6

John 3:3-9 and Romans 8:15

Why would God have set up the Church the way He did and capitalize on this imagery of a Family?

  • Because it was by far the most important group in the New Testament times. So when Jesus and later on Paul started referring to Jesus’ disciples as family, people would begin to understand the impact that Christ should have on their lives.
  • Their understanding of the Household or Family existed on two fronts:
    • Family led by the paterfamilias
    • Household that included the family, slaves, employees and other patron/client relationships.
  • Our understanding of Family is a little different:
    • Family reunions
    • Thanksgiving dinner
    • Kitchen table

What’s an easy way to KNOW that we’re living out our call to be God’s Family? We’re sharing the “One Another’s” of the New Testament.

We do Family Reunion very well. We do Thanksgiving dinner very well. But it’s the kitchen table that I think God is calling us to do more effectively. I think this is where God has been at work this past year.

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Small group Apologetic

Theological

The first century church worshipped in homes. They existed as small and medium sized groups. In their context there were no large sized groups. Galatians 4:4 is an important text to reference; here’s a paraphrase: God sent Jesus at just the right time. In other words, God specifically picked that time period for which to send for His Sin

  • Spiritual formation and growth – Through our large and medium sized groups we are currently organized to teach people the content of the Bible. However, because we lack small sized groups, there is not substantial opportunity to process the content and apply it within the context of our own situations. This is due to the fact that people are reticent to “open up” in medium and large sized groups. People are more than willing to talk about an issue
  • Live out the “one another” passages.
  • We should not have to work around our structure (the way we practice our faith) in order to implement the directives of the Bible. The structure should support those.

 

Sociological

Baby-Boom Generation (1946-1964) – This generation is 66 to 48 years old and is beginning to enter into retirement years. Their lives (including their religion) have roots and as such they are unlikely to make any significant changes—including coming to or changing churches. They are characterized as a materialistic generation that enjoyed the prosperity created by those who came before them. They did not experience (not can they understand) the struggles that they preceding generations endured. They have expected to be served and catered to. In the religious context this is demonstrated through the development of the entertainment-focused worship services. This was the first generation that was widely educated; with approximately 30% hold college degrees. This is by far the highest percent of any generation coming before them. This led them to highly value education for their children.

 

Generation X (1965-1980) – This generation is 47-32 years old. They have established careers and are greatly in debt. While they have worked hard to develop their careers, they have been slow to have children and develop their faith. Referring to their faith, this generation is widely guilty of abandoning any religious heritage their parents passed on to them when they left home. Now, as they are raising children, the priority to reestablish the practice of their religion is becoming more important.

 

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Kingdom Growth pt 2

The problem is that as a church we are not encouraging or fostering that to happen—simply because we don’t have a structure in place for it to happen. Our structure currently consists of one large group that meets on Sunday morning for worship and then four middle sized groups that meet on Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and then two on Sunday morning. Do you see the issue with this? I hope you see a little more why we tried to have the four small groups that each of you led last year; and why I am going to continue pushing so hard for us to create and live within the context of a small group ministry for the church. People need the benefits that a small group dynamic offers. Otherwise we are living the Christian life without all of the benefits of the Christian community.

Before I list out the ten fundamental reasons for small groups I want to touch on one more paradigm that will be helpful—it has to do with the generational peculiarities. Here is a list of the existing generations, their dates of birth and the approximate number of births for that generation.

G.I. Generation 1904-1924 59.6 million

Silent Generation 1925-1945 55.4 million

Boomer Generation 1946-1964 75.9 million

Generation X 1965-1979 51.5 million

Millennial Generation 1980-2000 77.9 million

As with any list of dates, there is some fluidity involved. For instance, I was born in 1978, but in terms of characteristics I would probably fit in more to the Millennials. Notice which generation you fit into. As we walk through a brief description of each of them, see if that fits your characteristics and experience. As we go through these I will use myself and my parents as illustrations.

The G.I. Generation was greatly affected by two major events: the Great Depression and World War II; with the latter event giving this generation their name. For most of their lives, the GI Generation benefitted from an expanding economy, rising real estate values, and generous government programs. Interestingly though, their wealth did not depend on the government programs or even their education—it was because of their rigid work ethic and conservative nature. They had either seen or heard first-hand of the devastating effects of the Great Depression. They were greatly influenced by this. A high school diploma was sufficient to find a well paying, secure job with good benefits in their early years. Because they typically had a lower level education than successor generations, their perspectives on life tended to be shaped differently from the younger population.

The Silent Generation was born from 1925 to 1945. They have been called the Silent Generation because so few of its members held high-profile business or political positions at the time of its naming. For example, no U.S. President has ever come from this generation. Eventually many researchers began changing their name to the Swing Generation because they were caught between two potent and influential generations. Some in this generation swing towards the more casual lifestyle of the Boomers; while the majority swung towards the more conservative perspectives of their G.I. Generation elders. For the majority who swung towards, and were influenced by, their elder G.I.’s, they are extremely conservative—religiously, socially, fiscally and usually politically as well. They greatly value consistency and generally dislike change.

The Baby Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964. Until the Millennials, this was the largest generation in America’s history. In many ways, the Boomers are the most discussed, most marketed and most debated generation ever. Their sheer size caught the attention of businesses, schools, the media, churches, and other organizations for decades. The majority of the Boomers were raised by stay-at-home mothers who were younger than mothers with children at home today. They are the Woodstock and Vietnam generation that believed their way was the way. In the 1960s the Boomers were countercultural and antiauthoritarian. That self-centered independent spirit became a self-centered, materialistic spirit in the 1980s; and it carried over to churches. Many of the mega-churches that were begun in the 1970s and 80s (i.e. Saddleback in Los Angeles and Willow Creek in Chicago) were founded by Boomers and marketed to Boomers. Take for example the largest church in the U.S., Lakewood Church in Houston that is led by Joel Osteen (a Generation X’er) and founded by his father (a member of the Silent Generation). As much as any other church, Lakewood markets itself to the Boomer generation. Next time you happen upon him preaching on television, take a moment and notice the crowd. They are all older Gen Xers and Boomers. It’s no coincidence that Osteen has grown his fathers’ church to over 40,000 members by preaching a “prosperity gospel.” He has successfully appealed to the materialistic and selfish nature of the Boomer generation.

Next is Generation X. They were originally called the Buster Generation because of the dramatic decline in live births from their predecessor generation. The label, Generation X or Gen X, came from a novel by Douglas Coupland. Generation Xers have cultural perspectives and political experiences that were shaped by a series of events. These include the election of Ronald Reagan, the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the election of George H.W. Bush, the launch of the Hubble Telescope, the savings and loan crisis, the election of Bill Clinton and the 1990s economic boom. Generation X experienced the introduction of the personal computer, the start of the video game era, cable television and the Internet. Other events include the AIDS epidemic, the War on Drugs, the Iran hostage crisis, the Persian Gulf War, the Dot-com bubble. They are often called the MTV Generation.

In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Professor Christine Henseler summarized it as “a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all.” When compared with previous generations, Gen X represents a more heterogeneous generation, exhibiting great variety of diversity in such aspects as race, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Change is more the rule for the people of Generation X than the exception. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with intent to replace them, Gen Xers tend to ignore leaders and work for more long term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions. The U.S. Census Bureau cites Generation X as highly educated, statistically holding the highest education levels when looking at current generations. Finally, this generation is waiting to have children longer than any previous generation. When there are two parents at home, they generally both pursue careers at the expense of family; which is one of the reasons that divorce is so high among this generation. Simply put, this generation is extremely lonely and searching for community and a place to belong.

The most recent generation to be “closed off” is the Millennial Generation (also known as Generation Y). The Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000. They have grown up in a society that is very different than any group before them. They have been plugged into technology since they were babies, are the most scheduled generation ever, are true multi-taskers, expect to have 6-8 careers in their lifetime and are attracted to diverse environments. They are starting out as the most politically progressive age group in modern history. In the 2008 election, Millennials voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by 66%-32%, while adults ages 30 and over split their votes 50%-49%. In the four decades since the development of Election Day exit polling, this is the largest gap ever seen in a presidential election between the votes of those under and over age 30. They are the first generation in human history who regards things like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding. They are the least religious group since survey research began charting religious behavior. They are on track to becoming the most educated generation in history. Finally, they are similar to their predecessor generation in that they value community and are highly relational.

Well, that’s a lot of information for just talking about small groups at church. Here’s why it’s important . . . the G.I. generation members have for the most part died. The Silent Generation is well into their retirement. They have slowed down considerably. Many of them are still active as the leaders in churches. Since they are a religious group and are likely entrenched in their faith, this also means that they are not likely to be converted. The Boomers have been catered to by churches for the past twenty to thirty years. They have high expectations from their churches. They expect to be served and catered to. This is one of the reasons that entertainment-driven worship has become so popular. Similar to the Silent Generation, the Boomers are beginning to grow older and, from a big-picture perspective are poor prospects to convert. They are not terribly religious and those that are religiously inclined have likely already put down roots in a church. For the purposes of this discussion we are now at the most important generations – Gen Xers and Millenials. These are well educated; which means that we have been taught in college and graduate school to be highly critical. We are highly relational and distrustful or institutions and large organizations. Because so many of our families are dysfunctional and broken, we have a high value for community and long for strong relationships. The Gen Xers are in the middle of raising children and many of those who left their faith when they were in college and begun coming back to church now that they have kids.

The millennials are just a few years behind in this regard; and they are also highly relational. Moreso than the Gen Xers, they are highly skeptical of organized religion, though they are quite spiritual. This is a strange phenomenon to be sure, but it has been well documented. Because of their age (and lack of entrenched faith) these two generations are the most likely to be converted. But, because they are skeptical and critical, and have distrust for organized religion, our current structure is ill-suited to attract them. Think about it this way, the symbol of organized religion is the church building and our entire structure is built around the church building. It’s no wonder that we have a hard time attracting this age group (In fact, unless I am mistaken, the only people in this age group at our church have grown up in the church. We haven’t attracted and converted any . . . yet). Add to this the fact that both groups are highly relational and long for deep and lasting friendships—this leads to logical conclusion that small groups must be part of the structure for any church that is going to consistently reach these generations (at this point we have to think back to the information about group dynamics). This is why all of the growing churches have small groups. They are growing by attracting these two groups; and for the most part they are using small groups ministries to do it.

Well, we’re at 11 pages now. I’m sorry that I have been so long winded. But since I am asking you to make such a big change and adjustment, it’s only reasonable to give you the full picture. Now that we have covered group dynamics and generational peculiarities, we are now ready to look at the specific reasons for small groups that I have discovered through my year-long study. As you read through these, read them through the lens of group dynamics and generational peculiarities. These are in no particular order.

  1. Small groups will help assimilate new members into the community and help them to develop relationships.
  • God brings us guests all of the time; and some of them are sincere seekers. Having a small group ministry will help us to get them plugged into the life of the body. It’s difficult for us to really grasp just how hard it is to try to get plugged in to a new church and develop meaningful relationships. You have been here for a while, some of you a long while. But put yourselves in the place of a new person who is seeking God and looking for a church home. They are probably intimidated and scared. Having a few people put their arms around them and take them in helps to assimilate them into the body. There is substantiated research that states that a person must develop seven friendships within one year or they won’t stay at the church. There is a long list of people who have come and gone in the two years since I have been here. I can’t help but think how many we could have held on to if we could have gotten them plugged into a small group of Christians who could have loved on them, encouraged them and helped them feel plugged into the Church.
  • There is a lot of different statistics on the impact of friendships and church growth. But the bottom line is that if visitors or new members don’t develop at least five friendships, the research indicates that they will not last more than two years.
  1. Develop and mentor future leaders.
  • Any group, especially a church, is only as strong as its leaders. I have seen a lot of churches get a lot of things right, but have poor leadership. They all failed miserably. We have to be intentional about developing leaders for today and tomorrow. We have a lot of potential out there; we have to be good stewards with it. In a small group setting each of us to going to have more opportunities to develop deeper friendships with people, which will give us greater opportunities to mentor and raise up more leaders. Not in mention in a small group there are greater opportunities for leadership roles. Just think about this . . .  how long can you reasonably expect to serve as an Elder? Three years? Five years? Ten years? Longer? That’s how long you have to train your replacements. How long do you think it will take to have a pipeline of talent that is ready to lead?
  1. Provide opportunities for accountability to take place.
  • James 5:16 says that we are to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another. This is the essence of accountability. During my two years here there have been many issues that have come to my attention. I can only imagine all that I don’t know about. Here’s a few actual examples (all are with people in our church):
    • a middle-aged couple is struggling with their grown daughter being in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. She won’t leave the man and she won’t let her parents help her. So they are left to worry and fret about her. They have only one person in their lives who they feel comfortable asking for help, encouragement and prayers from. If they were in a small group, they would have a greater chance to develop deeper friendships and would have more people they could take their struggles to and receive encouragement from.
    • A married man and a woman had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. There was no physical intimacy. But marriage vows were definitely violated and two families were nearly ruined because of it. The wounds will take years to heal and the scars will remain for much longer. Had each of these people been engaged in a small group, there is a greater likelihood that the red flags (and there were plenty) could have been noticed by people who had earned the right to hold them accountable. At that point, tough conversations and accountability could have taken place before the damage was done. The red flags of a struggling marriage are easy to notice by the people who are active in your life. As it stands, there were only two people in the entire church who noticed the red flags and intervened to keep the marriage intact and from a bad situation becoming a lot worse. And this situation still isn’t completely healed.
    • There is a man who has gone through a difficult situation and as a result is struggling with alcohol abuse. He is not an alcoholic. But he is not far from it. I am literally the only person who knows about it. Since there is not an appropriate group available for him to talk about his struggles and his emotional pain (that are leading to the alcohol abuse), he is left to struggle in private where Satan can have a field day with him. I am working with him as much as I can. But I just can’t help but wonder how much better off he would be if he were involved in a small group and surrounded by close friends who could minister to him.
    • The last example I will share is one of a “younger” married man who has children. He is addicted to pornography and masturbation. He is greatly ashamed of his sin and is trying to defeat it. He needs and longs for relationships with Christians. But other than me, he really has none. Even though he wishes for mature Christian men to surround himself with and be ministered by, he has trouble finding them because there is no structure built into our church for him to make these friends and develop the relationships.
    • As a side note, these are just four of several issues that I have had to deal with since I have been here. There are more that I have not shared. And like I said before, I am scared to think of all the ones that I don’t know about. Since we are not doing a good job of developing spiritual leaders, or giving the spiritually mature people we do have an opportunity to mentor and shepherd the struggling and hurting, I am left to do much of this on my own. Needless to say, my shoulders are only so wide.
  1. Create environments for discipleship to take place.
  • Discipleship is simply the act of teaching people to look, think, act and live more like Jesus Christ. It is essentially the fulfillment of Romans 12:2 where Paul says that we are to be transformed by God into a new person. Having small groups built into our structure would expand our ability as a church to help disciple our members. Consider our current structure that includes one large group and four medium sized groups. Now think back to the discussion on group dynamics. We do not have a place to ask really difficult questions, discuss topics that might be uncomfortable in bigger groups. We lack the place for people to ask for personal prayers and intervention. This is one of the reasons that we have so many surface-level Christians who lack depth and spiritually maturity. In our worship group the members can hear a thirty minute lesson that might stick with them for a few days. In our medium-sized bible classes they can discuss topics and pull apart difficult scriptures. But where can they go to ask for prayers and intervention because they are struggling with envy and anger with a person at work? The answer is a small group where they have strong relationships and have developed trust and intimacy.
  1. Reach out and bring non-Christians into community with the church so that conversions can take place.
  • This is directly related to the information on the generations. The Silent generations would be glad to come to our church. The only problem is that they are busy leading in theirs. And the few Baby Boomers that don’t already have a church home would be glad to come, if it were engaging and entertaining enough. The problem there is that we don’t have instruments, much less anything in worship that would be confused as entertaining. This leaves the two groups that, for the most part, don’t already have built-in, or strong, ties to another church. But it’s difficult to get the Gen Xers and Millennials to come to a church building unless they already have strong relationships with a member (remember that they are skeptical of organized religion). And it’s even harder to get them to stay unless they develop several relationships with members. That’s tough to do when our structure doesn’t really have any built-in fellowship or relational time (10 minutes in the foyer after worship just doesn’t cut it). The entry point to the Christ and His church for these two generations is small groups. The large and medium groups are just not built for the fellowship and deep relationships that these generations desire.
  1. Establish and foster an atmosphere where the “one another” passages of the Bible to be lived out.
  • Here’s a list of the “one another” passages in the Bible. You’ll notice that most all of these are difficult, if not impossible, to do in the context of our large group worship service where we have almost no interaction with each other. Still yet, the lack of intimacy in the middle groups makes it difficult for most of these to happen. The small groups is the most likely place for the majority of these to happen—both because of the dynamics of the small group and because that is a setting where people can share life together.
  • Can these happen outside of our group meetings? Yes, of course. But because we lack the built-in structure, most people are not going to take the necessary time to develop the relationships for these to take place. Is that there fault? I suppose they have some culpability because they lack spiritual maturity. But isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing in the first place . . . helping to develop people’s spiritual maturity. Our structure should make this as easy as possible; not put up road blocks for it. It just doesn’t make sense to me that for us to fulfill biblical mandates we must do it outside of the time that we plan to meet together as Church. Should our time together (no matter when it is be structured in such as a way so that we can live out our Christian lives together? This is where small groups come in. If this were part of our structure then we would have a more effective built-in avenue to fulfill these biblical commands.
Love one another:

John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 3:22; 4:8; 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 John 1: 5

Encourage one another:

Rom. 14:19; 15:14; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:24-25

Accept one another:

Rom. 15:7, 14

Strengthen one another:

Rom. 14:19

Help one another:

Heb. 3:13; 10:24

Serve one another:

Gal. 5:13; 21; Phil. 2:3; 1 Pet. 4:9; 5:5

Care for one another:

Gal. 6:2

Forgive one another:

Eph. 4:32; Col 3:13

Submit to one another:

Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5

Commit to one another:

1 John 3:16

Build trust with one another:

1 John 1:7

Be devoted to one another:

Rom. 12:10

Be patient with one another:

Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13

Be interested in one another:

Phil. 2:4

Be accountable to one another:

Eph. 5:21

Confess to one another:

Jas. 5:16

Live in harmony with one another:

Rom. 12:16

Do not be conceited to one another:

Rom. 13:8

Do not pass judgment to one another:

Rom. 14:13; 15:7

Do not slander one another:

Jas. 4:11

Instruct one another:

Rom. 16:16

Greet one another:

Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:12

Admonish one another:

Rom. 5:14; Col. 3:16

Spur one another on:  

Heb. 10:24

Meet with one another:

Heb. 10:25

Agree with one another:

1 Cor. 16:20

Be concerned for one another:

Heb. 10:24

Be humble to one another in love:

Eph. 4:2

Be compassionate to one another:

Eph. 4:32

Do not be consumed by one another:

Gal. 5:14-15

Do not anger one another:

Gal. 5:26

Do not lie to one another:

Col. 3:9

Do not grumble to one another:

Jas. 5:9

Give preference to one another:

Rom. 12:10

Be at peace with one another:

Rom. 12:18

Sing to one another:

Eph. 5:19

Be of the same mind to one another:

Rom. 12:16; 15:5

Comfort one another:

1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11

Be kind to one another:

Eph. 4:32

Live in peace with one another:

1 Thess. 5:13

Carry one another’s burdens:

Gal. 6:2

  1. There is a biblical precedent for large and small groups within a church.
  • As you probably know already, the early church met in the context of the home. There were no church buildings until Constantine began his aggressive building projects (i.e. basilicas) in the early to mid 300s. Until then there are some archeological examples of personal homes being renovated to accommodate the church meetings. But it is unlikely that they increased the size much, only the convenience of the meeting.
  • The book of Acts presents the first century church as having both large and small group meetings. What is noticeably absent are medium sized groups.
  • Consider these scriptures and notice the group sizes that are mentioned.
    • Acts 2:42-47: 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place (large group) and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day (large group), met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity (small groups)— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
    • 5:42: 42 And every day, in the Temple (large group) and from house to house (small groups), they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”
    • 19:9: But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus (large group).
    • 20:20-21: 20 I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly (large groups probably in the agora) or in your homes (small groups).
    • Romans 16:3-15:Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. 10 Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.[c] Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. 14 Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters[d] who meet with them. 15 Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers[e] who meet with them. 
      • These scriptures indicate that the church in Rome was made up of at least 5 small groups that met in people’s homes.
    • 16:23: 23 Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church (large group). Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus.
      • We can’t be sure of the setting, but this scripture indicates that there were some instances when the entire church in Corinth met together; and when they did, they met at Gaius’ home. (Romans was written while Paul was working in Corinth).
    • 1 Corinthians 16:19: 19 The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings (small group).
      • In addition to the large group meeting at Gaius’ home (Romans 16:23), it is clear that there were small groups that met in people’s homes in Corinth as well. Paul probably mentioned  Aquila and Priscilla because, as fellow tent makers or leather workers, he may have stayed with them as they worked together.
  • One of our mottos (in the Churches of Christ) has always been to “Restore New Testament Christianity.” We have four middle-sized groups and middle sized groups don’t seem to have existed in the New Testament church. And we have no formal small groups; which were the fundamental structure of the New Testament church.
  1. Give people more opportunities to use their spiritual gifts in service to one another.
  • I have underlined all the spiritual gifts mentioned by Paul in these texts. Think about each one and whether or not they can be easily utilized in our current large and medium group structure.
    • Romans 12:4-8: Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy (large, medium and small groups), speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others (small group), serve them well. If you are a teacher (large and small), teach well. If your gift is to encourage others (small group), be encouraging. If it is giving (large, medium and small), give generously. If God has given you leadership (small group) ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness (small group) to others, do it gladly.
    • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11: A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice (medium and small group); to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge (any size). The same Spirit gives great faith (best shared in medium and small group) to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy (any size group). He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
  1. Develop, build and strengthen relationships that are not feasible in large groups.
  • In our large group there is no interaction to speak of, as a result it is nearly impossible to create foster and deepen relationships. Medium sized groups are a little better, but they still lack the necessary intimacy. Small groups are ideal for developing relationships. This is where we can sit across the kitchen table with one another, share a cup of coffee and really get to know one another.
  1. Enable the church to reach the demographics that is most ripe for the harvest.
  • We have covered this extensively. “Older” people are generally not looking for a new church. “Younger” people who are looking do not generally like organized (building-based) church; even though they are interesting in a relationship with God. By taking the church to our homes we are more likely to be able to bring them in long enough to create the relationships and convert them to Christ.

Well, I think an 18 page letter is long enough. In fact, it’s definitely the longest letter I have ever written. It is just really important to me that I lay it all out there for you. I am sorry for taking up so much of your time, but I do thank you for making it this far. If I have been able to convince you that we need small groups, great! I’ll get the ball rolling and keep you up to date each step of the way. If you are not there yet, still have questions, or think it’s the wrong thing for us, I am going to ask you to do one thing . . . let me cash in some of the trust that I have tried to earn from you these past couple of years; and give us two years to try small groups. If after two years it still isn’t working or you still aren’t convinced that it’s good for the church, then we will take it apart and go back to how we have it now. I am asking for two years because it will take that long to work out the kinks, get people used to it and give it a chance to get some traction. Let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them. Thanks again for your time.

 

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