Rethinking Your Life | Week 1: Think Again

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The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. Proverbs 20:5 NIV

Imagine digging a well – the one who is willing to dig, draws out the good purposes. There is so much stuff on the surface. You can find anyone to tell you what you want to hear. There’s so much that’s just one click away, one channel away, one thought away. There are plenty of people who have no idea what they are talking about but will be more than happy to give you a “piece of their mind.”

But God’s purposes and good thinking and wise counsel are not on the surface. They are like water in a deep well. It takes some intentionality and digging to find it. We are starting a new series called rethinking your life, during which we will let God renew our minds and learn to think like Jesus. Our thinking is so valuable to who we are and who we want to become.

The greatest gift God gave you as a human being is the ability to know God through that brain, through your mind because you’re made in his image. In fact, you may not know this, but you are always on God’s mind.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18 (NIV)


Why I Need To Think About What I Think About

You’re not always thinking about God, but God is always thinking about you and He has given you the thought capacity to know Him and to have a relationship with Him. What a wonderful word, that tomorrow when you wake up, you are still with the Lord.

This week we are going to start with some baseline truths to build on. These are reasons why we need to think about what we think about. We need to bring our thoughts under control. We need to get them in the right direction.

1. Any change I want to make in my life must start in my mind

Your life is determined by what you think and you choose what you think about. One of the reasons we’re doing this series is because we need to exercise that choice more often. Many problems in life come because you’re allowing other people to put thoughts in your mind instead of choosing them yourself. You let other people, media, radio, television, books, magazines, Netflix documentaries, enemies, and Satan suggest thoughts.

When you don’t choose your thoughts, you’re going to end up with a lot of wrong, hurtful, self-defeating thoughts.

We need to be intentional about what gets our attention.

Nobody’s forcing you to think thoughts that cause you to be afraid or insecure. You can take control of your thoughts. Why are you letting untrustworthy or ungodly people determine what you think? Change the channel, do something different. Think again.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2 NIV

In life you’re going to either be conformed or you’re going to be transformed. You’re going to be conformed, meaning you’re like everybody else because you listened to everyone else – cookie cutter thinking. Or are you going to be transformed? You’re going to be different because God renewed your mind, by letting God change you by rethinking your life. Since your thoughts control your life, any change that you want to make for good or bad, starts in your mind. Change starts in your brain, not in your behavior. Change starts inside you, not outside you. The way you think determines so much about you.

Did you know your thinking determines the way you feel? A lot of times we try to change our feelings, but that doesn’t work. Have you noticed your feelings are quite resistant to your will? You don’t want to feel a certain way and you try to force yourself to not feel that way, but you still do. For example, you can’t command a kid who’s crying to stop crying, but you can get him to think about something else. Feelings many, many times are uncontrollable, but you can control your thoughts and your thoughts determine your feelings.

When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. Jonah 2:7 TLB

God’s spirit can bring it to mind when you’ve lost all hope. We’ve got to get back upstream to make changes downstream. Changing your actions or feelings doesn’t work. You can still be hurt, mad, upset, or envious. You’ve got to rethink.

2. Every behavior is based on a belief

All behavior is based on a belief. Anytime you see anybody doing anything good or bad, right or wrong, it’s because they have a belief beneath that. If you’re acting scared, it is because you’re believing scary thoughts at that moment. If you’re acting resentful, it’s because you’re believing that you’ve been devalued and so you’re going to defend yourself. If you’re acting prideful, it may be because you’re secretly believing you’re not good enough, so you’re trying to compensate by being boastful, by being proud.

For example, let’s say you’re disagreeing with your spouse about something and you’re actually having an okay disagreement. You’re being logical and you’re being an adult and you’re kind of listening to both sides. Then all of a sudden something in the disagreement triggers and emotions are engaged, walls are being build up, and the emotional intensity went to ten in like two seconds. You’re upset or you’re nervous or you’re fearful or you’re sweating or your voice goes up or tears come down your cheeks. What in the world’s going on here?

If you’ve ever been in a situation like that, you need to ask this question, what am I believing right now?

Because something just triggered an unspoken belief. You may believe they’re going to leave you. You may believe you haven’t been heard. Losing control. You may believe that your idea isn’t being given validation and that you’re not being treated with respect. You’re believing something that all of the sudden triggered an emotional response. Do you even know what that is? 

A lot of times in conflict, you don’t even know why you’re upset. But you grow by examining what’s going on in your mind. The truth is when you actually do that, you discover the real reason why you did not tell your spouse something, or did not communicate with your boss.

Or that you may be making assumptions about what they meant by what they said. But what you believed affected your behavior. That’s why the Bible says this:

The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps. Proverbs 14:15 NIV)

You have to think about what you’re thinking about because that’s what’s affecting your emotions and your actions. 

3. Anytime I sin, at that moment I’m believing a lie

Satan is the tempter and the father of lies. The only way your nature is going to let you sin is to not believe the truth. When you are sinning or being tempted to sin, you are being told a lie and you need to stop and ask, what’s the lie going on here? When Satan tempts you, he always uses the exact same process. One of the steps is deception, when he gets you to doubt what God has said is the truth and to start believing that what you feel is the truth.

If you want to stop a habitual sin in your life, you’ve got to get to the root of it, to the lie that you’re believing that you’ll be happier if you do what God says don’t do. If you understand this, it’s going to stop giving sin  and bad habits such control in your life. 

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12 NIV

Have you ever seen someone continue to keep on doing a self-defeating behavior even though it’s killing them? Why? Because at that moment they’re believing a lie.

Some people think they are doing what’s right. But what they are doing will really kill them. Proverbs 14:12 ICB

One of the common lies that we often believe is this, that you are tempted because something out there has tempted you. We tend to think that temptation is something external, that if something wasn’t there you wouldn’t be tempted.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15 NIV

Just like a magnet need something to pull to, you wouldn’t sin if there wasn’t pull in your heart. Don’t blame the fact that there’s metal right there.You address the magnet in your mind.

4. An unseen war is going on in and for my mind

Sometimes we forget that the devil is a devil. He’s trying to devour you. He’s trying to devour your relationships, your marriage, your influence, and your witness. Don’t invite him in.

God has given you everything you need to overcome the enemy in this war. You can use the weapons of The Holy Spirit and the word of God to win this war in your mind.

Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6 NLT

This is why you need Jesus in your life because without the Holy Spirit inside you, without God’s spirit of love inside you, you’re powerless. There’s no way you can control the rogue mind that you have. Your sinful nature controls your mind, it’s going to lead to all the wrong places.

Jesus: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NIV)

There is no freedom without truth, but there is no truth without God’s word. God is the source of all truth and so you can’t separate freedom from truth. If you do, you lose the war in and for your mind.

5. My goal is to learn to think like Jesus

Jesus is the model for healthy thinking, for happy thinking, for holy thinking, for wholistic thinking. The good news is that Christ understands all the mental problems that you have. He understands all of the fears, all of the deceptions, all of the difficulties, all of the barriers, all the blind spots that we have, because He’s been there. He came to earth and lived here.

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. 1 Peter 4:1-2 MSG

It’s not like he’s saying think like Jesus who never had a problem, never was stressed, never was discouraged, never had conflict, never had people against Him, and never had enemies. No, he said since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.

6. Rethinking my life to match how Jesus thinks is called repentance

The word repent means to change your mind. Repent doesn’t mean to stop doing bad stuff, which is the fruit of repentance. It’s the most positive change in the world turning from darkness to light, turning from hopeless to hopeful. To change your mind about death. To change your mind about the purpose of life. To change your mind about love 

Repentance is a lifestyle where I more and more begin to think like God thinks and less and less think like the world thinks. Repentance is when all of a sudden I used to think God didn’t love me, but I realized he does.

So repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day]. Acts 3:19 AMP


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Makes a Comeback.” Did you take any action steps to resharpen your spiritual edge?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

To kickoff “Rethinking Your Life” we looked at six reasons we need to think about what we think about.

1) Any change I want to make in my life must start in my mind.

2) Every behavior is based on a belief.

3) Anytime I sin, at that moment I’m believing a lie.

4) An unseen war is going on in and for my mind. 

5) My goal is to learn to think like Jesus.

6) Rethinking my life to match how Jesus thinks is called repentance.

Read Romans 12:1-2 and Acts 3:15-20

Discussion & Application

  • Start with a little fun. Describe a time when you built up something in your mind to be difficult – that turned out to be easy!
  • Which of the six truths stood out to you the most?
  • What does Romans 12:2 say about how we come to know the will of God? What are the effects of God’s word on your mind?
  • According to James 1:13-15 and Proverbs 14:12 what is all too often the typical progression of events leading to death when we’re believing a lie? 
  • How can we escape that progression?
  • Rethinking our lives to match how Jesus thinks is called repentance, which comes from the Greek word Metanoia meaning “to change your mind.” What are some of the results and benefits of repenting? (If you can’t think of any, look through the verses on your outline to see all the benefits.)

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Pray for one another in your group and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you in ways that need to change your mind.

Father, we want to rethink our lives in order to be closer to you. Help us to win the battle for our minds – to come to know the truth, to repent, and to allow the truth to set us free. We ask that you renew, refresh, and revive our relationship with you. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Next Steps

Be thinking about what your SERVE Day project could be.

Serve Day July 18th – learn more at RockBrook.org/Serve

 

When Faith Is Hard | Week 4: Faith That Makes a Comeback

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We’re looking at the life and faith of Elisha today to learn how to find something when you’ve lost it. How often are you looking for you things you have misplaced? Or better yet, how much time have you spent searching for things that are already in your possession? Maybe you’ve lost your glasses while wearing them or frantically looked for your phone while you were talking on it…

However today we are going to talk about losing something else. There’s a good chance that for many of you who are followers of Jesus Christ at some point in that faith journey you may feel like you’ve lost some of the passion for God or the things of God that you had at one time.

Maybe you used to have a deep settled spiritual contentment and joy that somehow along the way you’ve lost, but you’re not quite sure how you’ve lost it. Maybe at one time you had great faith and you prayed and prayed and believed God for things, but now you’re not praying for much of anything. Maybe you’re not even sure what you believe about God right now.

As we look at the prophet Elisha,  we read about one of the oddest miracles in all the Bible. If you look through and survey the different miracles that Elisha performed, there were some really big and important miracles.

He healed a poisoned body of water which saved a community.

He raised a boy from the dead.

He provided for a widow who would have lost her two sons after losing her husband.

He healed a commander from leprosy.

He blinded an entire army to move forward the things of God in a battle.

He did all these significant things.

And in this miracle there was a young prophet who borrowed an axe and was chopping on a treewhen the axehead flew off of the stick into the water. Elisha, the man of God, takes a stick, and throws it in the water. Then the axehead floats to the top so the prophet can grab it…. and we go, “Wow! What does this mean?”

To get some context before we dive into the passage, one thing you need to know is that iron was very valuable at this time and it was hard to come by. This younger prophet who lost the axehead, was likely very poor. He was kind of like a college student eating Ramen noodles. He had borrowed this axehead and he couldn’t pay it back.

Another thing to remember… Elisha was mentored by Elijah, but they were different from one another.

Elijah was spectacular, fire and rain. He dealt with princes. He did not die. 

Elisha was more silent. Dealt with common people. He did die.

They represent both aspects of the rapture. The living will be caught up with the Lord, the dead will rise again. And now, we see Elisha mentoring the next generation of young prophets who wanted to learn from him. This reveals the popularity of Elisha. He was a great teacher. That’s where we pick up the story.

“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.’ And he said, ‘Go.’

Then one of them said, ‘Won’t you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’ 2 Kings 6:1-5 NIV

Let’s pause there. Have you ever experienced borrowing something and it getting broken or lost? That is a sinking feeling. Watch what happens.

“The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” 2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV

Here we see God working in the small details of someone’s life. The Bible encourages us to pray about everything. Sometimes we don’t do that because we think there are things too small for God. We may just pray about big stuff. But then, God reminds us… It’s all small to Him.

There is one major point we need to embrace that we will keep coming back to:

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.

Those of you who lost something in your faith, be reminded that we serve a God who is totally into restoration. God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.


How Have You Lost Your Spiritual Edge?

Now, as we talk about losing the axehead, losing the edge, what we’ll do is see how this could symbolically apply to our life. The big question to ask is this: How have you lost your spiritual edge?

And some of you may say, “Well, really, I haven’t.” And if that’s you, we celebrate that with you, and encourage you to continue doing what you’re doing.

But there are times in the Christian life that are more faith filled than others. You might recognize there was a time when you had committed Christians around you that helped build you up and pray for you, and encourage you in the things that matter most. But when you look around now, that’s not the case and you’ve lost your edge because of that.

Maybe there was a time when you served in the church and you had the thrill of making a difference with your gifts. And sometimes it was hard, but all the time it was fulfilling. Then you got busier and you stopped.

There was a time when you had a passion for prayer. But now, you may pray over a meal and when someone is watching but you haven’t prayed in a significant way in a very long time.

You really loved to share your faith with other people, But something happened along the way, and now you can’t remember the last time you had a spiritual conversation with someone that is not a follower of Jesus.

Or at another time in your life, your trust in Christ freed you from a lot of worry. But now you find worry creeping back into your life. You’re no longer trusting God to work things together.

Some of you have noticed that your standards have eroded. Years ago, you had strong Christian values. Then through some influences changing in your life, you wake up today and wonder, “How did I get way over here?”

How have you lost your spiritual edge?

These are hard days. These days are going to be hard on your faith.

This is not to make you feel bad or say you are less for going through a drought in your faith. You didn’t mean to lose your edge. And you’d like to have it back. 

What do you do when you’re swinging away and the edge flies off? Can faith make a comeback? We can find the answers by looking at Elisha and the young prophet and apply, symbolically, two lessons about how we get our edge back.


How Do You Get Your Edge Back?

1. We need to be honest about where we lost it.

Verse 6, Elisha asks, “where did it fall?” Why did he ask him that? Because he didn’t know where it was. Couldn’t Elisha see where the axehead was? No. The Jordan is very muddy.

Did Elisha get lucky? No. He made and axehead float like a cork on water. But first, he asked, where did it fall? In other words, the axehead isn’t gone; it’s just where you left it.

Where did it fall?  Where did you lose it? Where did you start to lose your spiritual edge?

You can look back and see when you stopped or started doing something. Perhaps, you have a secret that you thought wouldn’t hurt anyone, but you didn’t realize it wasn’t really a secret because God knew. And it’s hurting you because it’s hurting your relationship with God.

Maybe someone offended you or hurt you by something they said or did. It deeply disappointed you. And you’ve allowed part of your heart to grow hard. Maybe even blaming God for what someone else did.

Those are a couple of places to check, but be honest about where you lost it.

2. With God’s help, take back what you lost.

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose. But, finding it and taking it back are two different steps.

“…When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” 2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV

Only God can make the axehead float, but he wants you to lift it out.

This theme is found many, many times in scripture. In the book of Philippians Paul talks about working out your salvation. Some take that to mean that you work for your salvation. No no no, he’s saying God is working salvation in you, so work to show the fruit of it. God works it in, we work it out.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 NIV

He wants you to take what He saved you for. And He’s bringing life with Him back into reach. The moment you start to think, “Maybe I can have a passionate faith again,” There will be a voice in the back of your head that says,“No, it’s been too long and you’ve gone too far.” 

But don’t believe this! It’s not too late to have what you used to have and have even more of it with the power of our good God. You haven’t gone too far and you haven’t done too much because our God specializes in resurrections.

Do what you can do and trust God to do what you cannot do.

Can you make an axehead float? You can’t do that. But can you lift it out when he brings it within reach? Yes, you can.

Can you create, in your own spirit, spiritual passion and faith? You cannot do that. Only God can revive a spirit. But we do know that faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of God, so you can put yourself in a place where you hear God’s word so God can build your faith. You can choose to pray even when you don’t feel like it.

My commitment has to be stronger than my feelings.

“You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelations 2:4 NIV

How do we get the love back? He says to do three things.

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…” Revelations 2:5 NIV

You consider, or remember where it was you were. You repent. Meaning, you change directions. If you’re moving away from God, repent and move closer. How? By doing what you did at first.

That’s good marriage advice too. How do you get close and get the spark back like you had before? You remember what it was like, you stop doing the things that take you away from that and start doing what you did before.


What we have gone through in the last few months has a lot of people on edge. Maybe you’ve lost your spiritual edge and found a new edge. You’re on edge. Maybe not you, but you feel it, you see it.

There’s so much offense, and miscommunication, and divisiveness right now. That’s the enemy’s goal, to divide us. When we allow it to happen, it’s a victory for the wrong side. But there’s a verse in Proverbs 6 that says when the enemy steals something, he’s got to pay it back seven times.

Some of you feel like you have been robbed by your enemy. But if you’ll reach out to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of for you…

You see, this whole encounter with Elisha, is symbolic. Dormant on the bottom of the muddy Jordan is our life. At the fall we became totally depraved. We went down to the waters of death and defeat. Lost to God. No longer enjoying life. Far from God.

We try to find something to do to make life useful and purposeful. We try to find something to do and occupy our time. We try to drown out the futility of life, nothing satisfies.

God cut down a stick and cast it into the waters of death. That stick is the cross of Christ. And Christ bore our sins on that tree. And came out of the waters of death We can rise from the waters of death and judgement through Christ, placed back on the handle of God’s purpose and plan.

The greatest miracle is to be lifted out of the mire of sin and given meaning in life through Christ Raised. Resurrected. Redeemed by the owner. Taken back. Redeemed. If you thought you were hot before, you’re coming back seven times hotter.

And what the enemy meant for evil, our God will use for good. God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.

“God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 30:3-5 MSG


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Seeing People as God Does” “We begin to root out racial prejudice with the eyes, the ears and the heart. Seeing people as God does, listening to everyone with respect, and loving everybody the way Jesus does.” Without taking up too much group time, is there anything from that conversation that needs some closure or more observations?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose. Be honest about where you lost it.

With God’s help, take back what you lost.

Read 2 Kings 6:1-7

Discussion & Application

  • What stood out to you in this message?
  • What things in your life most often cause you to lose your spiritual edge?
  • How have you lost your spiritual edge?
  • What are some things that keep your faith sharp?
  • If you’ve lost your spiritual edge, what are some steps you will you take to get it back?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Pray specifically for one another’s faith.

Next Steps

What one thing will you do this week that will help you get your spiritual edge back or prevent you from losing it? Write that thing down and make a commitment that will outweigh your feelings.

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

Day 1: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Day 2: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 

Day 3: Philippians 4:10-20

Day 4: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Day 5: Matthew 6:25-34

Day 6: Proverbs 3:1-12

Day 7: Matthew 15:29-39

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Seeing People As God Does

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When you’re under stress, your natural biases tend to rise. When we are under tension, we are more prejudiced toward other people. And we’ve all been under tension lately. Now, the Bible calls this self-centered and even sinful bias, the sin of partiality.

“Fear the Lord and judge with integrity, for the Lord our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.” 2 Chronicles 19:7 NLT

God is a just God. The word righteousness and justice are the same. God hates injustice. He hates perverted forms of revenge and justice. God does not tolerate partiality. Partiality is just an old English word for what today we would call prejudice or discrimination or bigotry. There are different kinds of prejudice. We can be prejudice based on someone’s appearance, age, achievement, and wealth. The area of partiality, we’re addressing today is racism.

Any time we talk about race, there are no easy answers and it’s easy to get it wrong. There are all kinds of attitudes as we approach the sin of racism. There is the attitude of being actively involved in bigotry. There is the attitude of being uncomfortable and actively avoiding this topic. There is the attitude of being insensitive to what hurts others. There’s the attitude of apathy. Those who would say, “I’m not a racist, I’m not an avoider, I try not to be insensitive, but I just don’t care.”

But if we’re a follower of Christ, we’re commanded to care. God wants us to care. Today many are saying it’s not enough just to not be a racist, we must be an anti-racist. Christ followers already have a word for this. What God wants all of us to be is a reconciler. A reconciler is somebody who is building bridges. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation in a society that we see being more pulled apart, more polarized, more demonized, more distracted, and more divided.

If anybody needs to have a peacemaker it ought to be God’s people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called the children of God.”  God wants us to be reconcilers. Why is this such a big deal to God? Why does God hate racial prejudice so much? Let’s look at four reasons.

Racial prejudice questions God’s creation. It was God’s design that we would be different. A prejudice person is essentially saying, “God, you made a mistake in creating that person. You should have made them like me.” It is a blatant expression of pride, arrogance and narcissism.

“From one man (Adam) He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.” Acts 17:26 NLT

We all came from the same source, anyway, Adam and Eve. We did not choose when we were born, the color of our skin, who our parents are, our background, the culture, the nationality. It doesn’t say anything about our character. What a foolish thing to look down at someone else about.

Racial prejudice is a sign of ignorance. When we celebrate division or look down on others because of their race, we reveal our darkness, our foolishness and that we don’t understand God’s plan and purpose.

“But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:11 NIV

Anytime we show favoritism or any shame, we are walking around in blindness and in darkness. On the other hand, the opposite is also true. The wiser we become in life the more wisdom we have, the more unprejudiced we’re going to be.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV

Knowledge shows up on tests, but wisdom shows up in relationships. All of those are relational words, not intellectual words. Wisdom shows up in relationships.

Racial prejudice disobeys the Great Commandment. What is the Great Commandment? Jesus summarized all of God’s law in one sentence and Paul repeated it in Galatians 5:14-15.

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14-15 NIV

He is saying if instead of showing love we attack and tear each other apart we’re only destroying ourselves. The division, the angry words, the sarcasm is just tearing us apart. The Pharisees came to Jesus and they asked, “Okay, you say, love your neighbor as yourself, the most important command next to loving God with all your heart.” They asked, “Does that just mean literally my neighbor or does it mean everybody who exists?”

Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an answer to who is our neighbor and the good Samaritan if we remember is about racial reconciliation. The hero in that story, the good Samaritan, is a hated minority. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The church, which is the family of God, is to be the answer to racism and every other kind of prejudice.

Racial prejudice is a series sin. God hates racism. It’s a sin that angers Him.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” James 2:8-9 NIV

Racial prejudice is one of the world’s most prevalent sins. No matter where we go in the world, groups of people hate other groups of people for sinful reasons. The racial reconciliation and getting this out of our hearts is not some minor issue to God. It’s at the heart of the gospel. The gospel means good news, so here’s the Good News. We Christians know that’s possible. We know that people can change by the power of God. When Christ’s love comes into our lives it changes us.

About 250 years ago, John Newton was a vile and vulgar man. He was a slave trader. He was English and he would go to Africa, steal Africans and then transport them to America and sell them as slaves. But God got a hold of this man and Jesus Christ entered his heart. His heart was so softened, he became a pastor. John Newton wrote the words of the hymn Amazing Grace.

That song, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”  was written by a slave trader. “I once was lost but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.”  This is a man who had a total transformation. This song that is sung all over America, was sung three days ago at the funeral of George Floyd. That’s the power of the Gospel.


How can the power of the gospel go to work in our life? How do we root out this racial prejudice in our lives?

We must learn to see people as God does. We must learn to look at people like God does. This doesn’t happen naturally, it has to be learned. We’re going to need to ask God for help. How do we learn to see everybody who comes into our lives the way God does?

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

We’ve got to look at the heart. Not only are books judged by their covers, and houses are judged by their curb appeal but people are judged for ignorant, sinful reasons.

Jesus: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:24 NIV

How do we judge correctly? By seeing people the way God sees them. The Bible is full of examples of cultural prejudice and racial prejudice. The whole book of Jonah and everything that happens to Jonah is because Jonah hated the people God was sending him to preach to. Jonah knew if he went that God would forgive them and Jonah did not want to forgive or see God forgive the race that Jonah hated.

Even Peter, one of the greatest disciples had to overcome his prejudice against non-Jews. He had been raised as a strict Jew and a strict Jew couldn’t even touch a non-Jew, which were called Gentiles. In order to spread the gospel, God had to give Peter a dream to break through his prejudice against people that weren’t like him. God gave him a dream to prepare him, to reach non-Jews around the world. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, who was a non-Jew, he was a Roman. Peter goes to his house, which is really illegal for a Jew to do in those days.

He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:28, 34-35 NIV   

We need to start asking God to help us see people differently.

We need to listen to everyone with respect. We must listen to everyone regardless of their views with respect. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but we listen to them with respect. Prejudice is a failure to listen. The less we listen to people, the more prejudiced we’ll be. The word “prejudice” actually comes from the word to “prejudge.” When we prejudge somebody without listening to them we are prejudiced.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV

Do we want God’s righteous purposes in our nation? Yes. Do we achieve it through anger? No. Does that mean we should never be angry? No. Of course not. There are a lot of things we should be angry about. There’s a difference between godly anger, anger for somebody else which is selfless, and human anger which is centered on self. When we get angry, anger blocks listening.

As a reconciler in the world, a representative of God, we need to learn a couple of skills on how to diffuse somebody when they’re angry. We need to listen to their hurt not their words. When people are angry they say all kinds of mean words they don’t believe, they will later regret and wished they hadn’t said. We’re more sympathetic to people who are hurt than we are to people who are angry. When you reinterpret their anger as hurt it makes us more willing to listen. If we do this we will become wise.

We also need to learn to use the phrase, “we agree.” Phrases like, “we agree” and “tell us more” will make us a peacemakers. We’re not suggesting we just agree with whoever is talking and whatever is being said, just encouraging us to find common ground. We’ll never find solutions if we can’t even mutually express there is a problem. We don’t have to agree with everything to find something to agree on and build from there.

If someone says, “Black Lives Matter,” can we not say, “we agree?” Can we not agree on the fact that black lives matter? We’re not talking about an organization, we’re not talking about every solution that’s being proposed. But that statement and that fact.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1 NIV

As peacemakers, we can find agreement in the pain. There is something powerful when we start with, we love you. We agree with you. We want to stand with you. When we speak, when we post, when we respond, we represent the body of Christ. We represent the truth of God, we don’t want to say anything that harms the body of Christ.

We must love everybody the way Jesus does. There’s nobody we’re allowed to not love. Even if we could not find any agreement. We’re still to show them love.

Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12 NIV   

How does Jesus love us? Unconditionally, freely completely and continually. How are we to love other people and other races? Unconditionally, freely, completely, and continually. This is hard, but we need to spend our lives trying learn, and asking God to empower us. Love is very practical. How in the world are we ever going to build a society like that with all of the differences, all of the violence, all of the hatred and all of the prejudice on many different sides? God’s plan to change society, to bring people together is the church.

God’s plan to bring people together is the church.

The church is to model harmony and unity and fellowship and reconciliation. Paul explained the church this way.

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 NLT

We are all needed in the family of God. We’re all needed in a church home. We need each other because none of us are complete in ourselves. We all have weaknesses. None of us can have all of the gifts. We can’t model reconciliation by ourselves. It’s easy to love people who are like us. But if God’s going to teach us real love, He’s going to put us around people who are different.

We need the church because we find our identity in relationships. Our world is fracturing more and more into many different divisions. There is a crisis of identity in the world. It is probably the most common crisis in modern culture. People are saying, “I don’t know who I am. What gender am I? What culture am I? What race am I?”

We see this struggle everywhere in race and sexuality in our place in the world. Why? Because when relationships are broken, people don’t know who they are. God wants to tell us that we’re His.

A sincere recognition of Christ’s sacrifice realigns our values in such a way that makes prejudiced views impossible.

For the person who believes in the gospel, any individual they encounter falls into one of two categories: either brothers or sisters in Christ or those who are separated from God and to whom they are called to minister. Only the injustice of what was done to Jesus on the cross is powerful enough to stop injustice in our world.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Provides” “Offer God what you have and trust him to give you what you need.”  Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God hates racial prejudice because it: (1) questions God’s creation, (2) is a sign of ignorance, (3) it disobeys the Great Commandment, and (4) is a serious sin.

If we are to root out racial prejudice in our lives, three steps that we can take are to: (1) see people as God does, (2) listen to everyone with respect, and (3) love everybody the way Jesus does. God’s plan to bring people together is by understanding that we’re one church and that our primary identity is that we all belong to God’s family.

Read the story of The Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37

Discussion & Application

  • Romans 14:10 (ICB) “So why do you judge your brother? And why do you think that you are better than he is? We will all stand before God one day, and he will judge us all.” Take a moment to ponder the questions asked in that verse. Why do some people think they are better than others because of their race?
  • Growing up, what was your family’s view of racial prejudice? Was it ever discussed?
  • Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Think about disagreements you’ve had with your spouse or with a friend, or even the disagreements about race today… How might interpreting someone’s anger as hurt, and finding common ground of agreement help us be more constructive?

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 (NLT)

  • Think of a time that you struggled to find your own identity in the wrong area (race, nationality, language, economic status, etc.) Discuss in your group how this struggle would have been avoided if you had started from your identity in Christ. What specific steps can you take to see your primary identity as a Christ follower?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Finish your group by praying for unity. Thank God for making the people in your group the way he did. Pray some of the scriptures from your outline.

Next Steps

1 Corinthians 12:13 mentioned baptism. Have you been baptized? Prayfully consider it and take that next step.

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 3: Faith That Provides

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Let’s dive right into our text. We are going to start with two verses just to set the context and then we’ll go further into the accounts. Here’s how it begins:

“The wife of a man from the company of prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘your servant, my husband, is dead. And you know that he revered the Lord but now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.'”

“Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil.’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all except a small jar of olive oil.'” 2 Kings 4:1-2

Now, let’s talk about these two verses as there’s actually quite a bit in them. The first thing you’ll notice is we don’t know this poor widow’s name. According to Jewish tradition, many believe that she was the wife of the prophet Obadiah. If this was the case, it would be no wonder she was in financial need because Obadiah was known for protecting and providing for 50 other prophets.

So if indeed she was Obadiah’s wife, he would have taken all the resources he had to meet the needs of other prophets. It would not be uncommon for a prophet’s family to be financially struggling because they would spend the majority of their lives on the run, trying to survive. It was very difficult to make ends meet.

If you can picture this, we now have a widow whom we are going to guess may be somewhere in her 30s and has just lost her husband. She has no chance at meaningful employment because in this culture women were unemployable unless they would take the job that no woman would wants to take. Now, the creditor is coming after her two sons because of a law stating sons can be taken as slaves if debts weren’t paid.

It doesn’t get any worse than this. Humanly speaking, she has no hope whatsoever. Sometimes we face smaller obstacles and get worked up about what we could consider “entry level problems.” We have to wait in a line, or wait for a product or news. We lose things or don’t get our way. There are all kinds of entry level problems. But, the reality is many of us today aren’t just dealing with those, we have some graduate level problems going on right at this moment.

Maybe a marriage is barely hanging on and you don’t know if you’re going to make it. Someone that you love just betrayed you and what you thought you had, you don’t know even know what it is anymore. You’ve got a child that may be going the wrong way and you’re in agony because you’re watching someone you love make decisions that are going to hurt them. Some of you, you may be in a financial situation where you don’t know how you’re going to get out of it. Others of you, it may be a health issue. You went to the doctor or someone you love did, and if there’s not a miracle from God, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You’ve got a graduate level problem. If you’re in significant need today, this message is for you. God will use this build our faith.

When you don’t have what you really want, you will discover that God is what you really need.

Let’s unpack this story and let this point come to life for us. This woman expresses her need to the prophet, and what does the prophet do? He makes himself available to help…

“Elisha replied to her ‘How can I help you?'”

If you want to make a difference in this world and be filled with joy, make yourself available for God to help. Then he says to her something that is very profound.

“Tell me what do you have in your house?”

In other words, he doesn’t say, “I’m here with all the answers,” but he respects her dignity and says, “Let’s start with what you have and let God meet your needs through what you have.”

She replies, “Your servant has nothing there at all.”

Isn’t it interesting that when you’re hurting and lacking, all you can see is what you don’t have and you miss all the blessings you do have? When we get down and we’re depressed and hurting, we’re just consumed with what we don’t have.

“I don’t have enough money so I can never be happy.”

“I don’t have a spouse so I can’t really have a meaningful life just now.”

“My house isn’t nice enough so we can’t host a small group.” (Because everybody knows the Spirit of God cannot move unless it moves on top of granite kitchen countertops… right?)

We start to think that if we don’t have what we want life doesn’t matter. This is the classic, “I have nothing to wear” as you stare at a closet full of clothes. It’s funny how when you’re in need, all you focus on is what you don’t have. And this is exactly where this poor woman was. She lost everything and all she could see was her lack.


What do you do when you don’t have much?

Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have.

You have something to work with. It may not be what you want, but you have something.

Verse 2 again – He says, “What do you have in your house?” She says,

“Your servant has nothing there at all except a small jar of olive oil.”

She only has “this one little thing.” What good is a jar of oil? Olive oil was actually incredibly valuable because it was very rare and had tons of important uses. Oil was used in cooking, burning for lamps, moisturizer… which was a good thing because you couldn’t just go to Bath and Body Works and get some stuff to squirt on your face.

It was also used to help keep leather pliable, keep iron from rusting, given as an offering to God, and anointing people in religious services. It was very valuable but she didn’t have a lot; she only had a little.

We can be so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little.

Jesus fed thousands with a little. God conquered a giant with a little shepherd boy. Jesus preached that with a little bit of faith, God can do much. Notice God did not say, “What do you want?” or “What do you need?” but “What do you have?” Let’s stop waiting for what we want and start working with what he’s already given us.

Some of us may look at what we have and want something else so we could do something more significant. But, we need to stop waiting for what we think we want and start making the most of the places He’s already put you.

The second thought that we learn from this awesome story is this:

We’re going to offer God what we have and trust him to give us what we need.

“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.”

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’ 2 Kings 4:3-7

This seems like ridiculous request, to ask her to empty out everything she has and to trust God to provide what she really needed. But that is how our God works. When we show him our faith, we get to see his faithfulness.

Offer what you have, God will do something special.

God blesses the person who does not wait to make an offering. An offering of time. An offering of a gifting. An offering of money. Notice he didn’t say what size, he didn’t say what color, he didn’t say what shape. The only requirement is that the jars must be what? Empty. It could have been any kind of jar. He just needs it to be empty.

“But we have this treasure which is Christ in jars of clay.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

What is it that referring to? That refers to our bodies. We’re clay pots. We are dirt houses. That’s what we are. God is looking for a few empty jars. God blesses those who let go of the most.

When we empty ourselves of self, pride, greed, and our own agendas and come to God totally empty, He fills us with oil. Oil has always been a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And suddenly you realize when you don’t have outwardly what you wanted, it is God that you truly needed.

He is enough; He is sufficient in every single way. When you are weak, He is your strength. When you’re hurting, He is your comforter. When you’re lost, He is your guide. When you’re hungry, He is the Bread of Life which nourishes you. When you are thirsty, He is Living Water. When your life is unstable, He is the Rock that does not move.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Works.” Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God is looking to fill some empty vessels. Offer to God what you have and trust him to give you what you need.

Read 2 Kings 4:1-7

Discussion & Application

  • Where in life do you feel most overwhelmed right now?
  • Why do you think our focus is often on what we don’t have instead of what we do have?
  • Share a time when God did a lot with just a little in your life. What did you learn from your experience?
  • What do you have that God can use? How will you allow Him to use it?
  • “When you don’t have what you really want, God is what you really need.” How have you experienced the truth of this statement?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

Day 1: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Day 2: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Day 3: Philippians 4:10-20

Day 4: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Day 5: Matthew 6:25-34

Day 6: Proverbs 3:1-12

Day 7: Matthew 15:29-39

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 2: Faith That Works

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How many of you have ever played the “if only” game. “If only” we had “a better job” life would be better. “If only” we had more money. We all tend to think “If only” we had whatever it is, our life would be so much better. You need to read this through the lens of your “If only”, through the lens of your greatest need. Let’s set the background for our study. The King of Israel, the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the King of Edom joined forces to destroy the King of Moab. Three against one, so they thought, “We’ll get an easy victory here.” But often in life, things don’t go as planned.

Anyone know what we’re talking about? Think you’ve got it all figured out and, “whoops,” your plans go awry. We had everything all lined out and BOOM…COVID-19. That’s what happens with these three kings. Instead of winning easily they find their troops stranded in the desert completely out of water. They have a very significant need. This story teaches us this principle…

Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. 

Your greatest need, your “If only” becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Our story begins in 2 Kings, chapter 3, verses 9-12.

“So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for their animals with them. “What,” exclaimed the king of Israel, has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”

We thought we’d win easily but now God has screwed it up. We don’t see them asking God if they should do this in the first place. Now that it turns out to be a bad plan, they blame God and expect Him to bail them out.

“But Jehoshaphat, asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha, son of Shaphat, is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”

He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah. There it is right there in the Bible, “Wash your hands!” Elijah was a great prophet who did great and miraculous things. Elisha is his apprentice, so Jehoshaphat thinks maybe Elisha can help us. When the nation of Israel was in a great drought, Elijah called on God for help and God sent rain from a cloud that started out the size of a man’s hand and grew into a big storm that watered the whole land. So these three kings think, “If Elijah could make it rain then maybe Elisha can make it rain.”

“Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with Elisha.” So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”

The three kings go to battle against the Moabites and think they’re going to win easily. Instead, they find themselves out of water and in dire need. The problem is they did not seek God’s guidance regarding this war, and now that they’re in trouble they want God’s help. “Oh no, we’re in trouble. Is there anybody who’s really in good with God? Maybe Elisha the prophet can help us out.”

Elisha had done some miracles of his own. He had parted the waters of the Jordan River. He spoke to a polluted spring of poisonous water and healed the water so you could drink from it. When a gang of hooligans were threatening him and making fun of his bald head, Elijah summoned two bears out of the woods to eat his attackers. This is not made up, you should read your bible. And you should never make fun of a guy with a bald head…just saying.

So the kings ask Elisha, “Can you help us out?” How does Elisha respond? He responds with a bit of an attitude. Elisha says, “Okay kings, you ignored God and went out on your own and now you’re in trouble and you want God’s help.” Elisha learned this from his mentor, Elijah, who was the king of attitude. One time Elijah went up against 450 false prophets of the false god, Baal. Elijah said, “Let’s have a little contest to see who the real God is. We’ll build a couple of altars. We’ll get two bulls. You sacrifice a bull to Baal, I’ll sacrifice a bull to God. You call on your god to send down fire from heaven to consume your sacrifice. I’ll call on my God to send down fire from heaven to consume my sacrifice. We’ll see whose God answers.”

The false prophets started praying to Baal to “Send fire. Send fire.” But nothing happens. They work themselves up into a frenzy crying out to Baal. They start cutting themselves drawing blood to get Baal to act. Nothing happens. Elijah starts laughing and mocking these false prophets. “Maybe you should shout louder. Maybe your god’s deaf. Maybe your god’s on vacation. Maybe your god’s in the bathroom and can’t hear you.” Again, this is not made up, you need to read your bible it’s in there.

Elisha does what Elijah did, he cops an attitude in verse 13.

“Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” 

You hear his attitude?

“No,” the King of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord All Mighty lives, whom I serve, if I didn’t have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”

The King of Israel and Edom were not good and godly kings. But Jehoshaphat had been a pretty good and faithful king, a godly king. So Elisha says to the King of Judah and Edom… “If weren’t for Jehoshaphat…I wouldn’t even pay attention to you two. But because Jehoshaphat’s here… I’ll help you out. You need a prophet… I’m your prophet.”

Then in verse 15, Elisha makes a demand. He says, “But now bring me a harpist.”  If you want me to prophesy, I need some worship music. This was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do. God inhabits the praises of His people.

Worship helps your faith grow and connects you to God.

Now the three kings think this is great because, “Elisha’s going to tell God to send rain. The harp music is playing this is going to be good.” But does Elisha give them a word of encouragement? No, he gives them a ridiculous command in verse 15 and 16.

“Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’”

The kings go, “Wait, we thought God was going to make it rain. Our troops are about to die of thirst, and you want them to do manual labor under the hot desert sun? Elisha says, “Yeah, I want them to dig ditches, irrigation ditches to trap water.” Because your greatest need becomes your greatest blessing when it drives you to depend on God.

“For this is what the Lord says. “You will see neither wind nor rain yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle, and your other animals will drink.”

God says, “I’m not going to make it rain here. I’m going to make it rain somewhere else and then bring the water here through irrigation ditches, so dig Me some ditches!” God’s ways aren’t your ways. God doesn’t always meet the need the way we think He will or should. “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.”  You have no idea how powerful, how strong, how mighty God is. At the snap of a finger God can do this. And by the way, that other thing you wanted that whole defeating Moab thing, “He will also deliver Moab into your hands”  but first, I want you to dig some ditches.


We’re talking about faith that works, faith that does something. Faith that believes that God is going to act, so we act and take a step toward God believing that God is going to take a step toward us. Let’s look at two principles of faith that works. The first principle is..

Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.

Just as the body is dead without breath so also is faith dead without good works.” James 2:26

Only God can send the water but He wants to see your faith. Did the God of the universe really need these guys to dig a ditch? No, but He’s saying “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” God loves to see our faith. You see faith in our actions. In the Gospels, you see it again and again. When Peter was on the boat and saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, he said “Jesus, tell me to come and I’ll come.” And Jesus said, “Come.” What did Peter do? He got out of boat! The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat… you didn’t see any faith. God wants us to participate in His miracles.

There’s a man with a withered hand. What does Jesus say to him? He says, “Stretch out your hand.” Jesus could have just healed his hand but He said, “I want to see your faith so stretch out your hand.”

There was a lame man who couldn’t walk for 38 years. Jesus tells the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk. I’m going to heal you but I’m not going to pick you up. I want to see that you have the faith, so get up.”

There was a guy who was blind from birth, Jesus picks up some dirt and spits in it to make mud. He smears the mud on the guys eyes and says, “Go wash your eyes in the pool of Siloam.” God says show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.

Too many people want God to show them His faithfulness but they’re not willing to show God any faith. Show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness. You want to quit smoking? Throw your cigarettes in the garbage and say “I’m showing some faith. I’m getting rid of these things. I’M DIGGING A DITCH BY FAITH.” You want to heal a damaged relationship? Forgive someone before they even ask for forgiveness. Treat someone with love when they are being ugly to you. What are you doing? You’re digging a ditch.

You want your kids to serve Jesus and be strong Christians? Read the Bible and pray with your kids. You want some spiritual water in your kid’s life? Dig a ditch, be a godly parent. You want God to bless your finances? Then tithe, give God the first 10% of whatever you make. Tithing demonstrates our faith and our dependence on God. You’re digging a ditch. And then He demonstrates His faithfulness.

The second principal of faith that works…

Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.

Too many Christians are not thinking big enough. “We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine.”  It’s time to think big because we serve a big God. But when you think big you’ve got to be willing to start small. How do you dig a ditch? One shovel full of dirt at a time, you start small.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

You start with what is in front of you. Only God can send the water, but He wants you to dig the ditches. You say, “God, we believe you can.” And then you start where you are with what you have. God loves it when we participate in His miracles because then He can see our faith.

The next morning about the time for the offering of the sacrifice, there it was – water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.” 2 Kings 3:20

You have a significant need in your life, and you think…”If only”. Your greatest need becomes your biggest blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Only God can send the water but He wants you to dig the ditch. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.


Ask yourself these three questions.

Question 1.  What is your “If only…” – What is your greatest need that can become a great blessing if you depend on God? Identify the need and make a conscious decision to turn it over to God. Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Answer that question.

Question 2.  What “ditch” do you need to start digging? What action is God asking you to take to demonstrate your faith? Jesus told the lame man, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat. Elisha told the Kings to start digging ditches.

Question 3.  What small step can you take today? Don’t be afraid to start small. Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” What’s the groundbreaking step you need to take?

It’s time to dig a ditch!


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Moves” “You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.” Did you obey God in area this week? Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

  • Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
  • Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
  • Real faith believes big, but is willing to start small.

Discussion & Application

  • During this message, did a time of need come to your mind? How did that time drive you to depend on God?
  • Work through the three questions with your group and help one another with the answers.
  • Question 1: What is your “If only”? Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mark 10:36 (NIV)
  • Question 2: What “ditch” do you need to start digging? Jesus said, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.”  John 5:8 (NIV)
  • Question 3: What small step can you take today? Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

  • Day 1: 2 Kings 3:1-20
  • Day 2: 2 Kings 3:21-27
  • Day 3: James 2:14-26
  • Day 4: Zechariah 4:1-14
  • Day 5: Luke 11:1-11
  • Day 6: Colossians 3:18-25
  • Day 7: Hebrews 11:1-40

 

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 1: Faith That Moves

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Today, we are beginning a series on the life and faith of the Old Testament prophet named Elisha. If you have found that you’ve been hitting a plateau in your faith, allow this series and teaching of God’s word to build your faith.

The story starts with a prophet named Elijah. Elijah was one of the great prophets of the old testament, bold, daring, full of faith. He defeated the prophets of Baal, called down fire from heaven, turned on and off the water supply controlling a drought and raised a child from the dead. God asked Elijah to call Elisha to be his replacement,

Elisha actually performed more recorded miracles in scripture than anyone, with the exception of Jesus Christ. What’s interesting is that he wasn’t the son of a priest, or some sort of outward spiritual giant. He was an ordinary guy who was living at home with his parents, working on a farm when God called him.

He lived during the 9th century B.C. in a time when Israel was divided, there was great tension. Many people were worshiping the false god of Baal and God raised up this ordinary guy, and did something extraordinary through his life.

Our scripture focus is 1 Kings 19: 19-21:
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Imagine the monotony of what it would be like to plow behind a yolk of oxen every single day. You may feel a little bit like Elisha, doing the same thing day in, day out. Maybe you are going to the same job, working with the same people, and it feels very monotonous. Maybe you’re at home a lot right now, staring at the same laundry and dishes and you feel drained. It is so easy to lose your passion.

This is where Elisha was, but notice he was being faithful with the task at hand. God loves to reward those who are faithful, with the little, mundane things. When you are faithful with a little, He can trust you with much. So, even though it might not have been Elisha’s favorite thing to do, even though it could have been incredibly draining physically and emotionally, he was faithful. Then, in the middle of his faithful daily routine, God sent something new to take him from where he was into a moving place of faith and impact.

What did it mean when Elijah threw his cloak around Elisha? This cloak would have been like a coat made of animal skin or fur and was considered a covering. When Elijah put his covering on Elisha, he was symbolically saying, “that which covered me will now cover you. The mantle on me, will now be the mantle on you. As God has been working through me, now God is going to work through you.”

Now, apply this story to your life. There are two two principals of a faith that is moving and growing. You can be an ordinary man and respond to an extraordinary call.


Two Principles of Faith

  1. You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately.

When God calls you to do something, you don’t have to understand all the details to obey immediately. When Elijah put his cloak around Elisha, what did Elisha do?

Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” 1 Kings 19:20

Notice he didn’t pray about it. He didn’t have to do a list of pros and cons. He didn’t have to consult his counselor. All he did was say, “God, I don’t know the details, but since I believe you’re in on this, I will obey immediately.”

Now, you know one of our mottos at Rock Brook is ‘Pray First’, but sometimes, you don’t need to pray about it. Sometimes you don’t pray, you just obey. You don’t have to pray about it and question God, until He’s given his full answer.

We have a desire to understand fully before we’ll make a move. But God is often strategically vague in his directions about your future. You want details, and God would look at you often and say, “You can’t handle the details. If I showed you everything, you wouldn’t show up. I’m just showing you the next step.”

God often will guide even with just one word. Just one powerful word, and that needs to be enough to go on. In the Old Testament, whenever God was giving Moses direction, you could summarize the directions in one word. “Moses, go.”

Go.

“Abraham, go. Go to the land I will show you.”

In the New Testament, Jesus was walking on water. Peter said, “Jesus, if that’s you, tell me to come.” And Jesus gave him one word. What was the word? He said “come.”

You may hear one word from God. Your marriage may be struggling right now and you’re thinking about cashing it in, and you hear one word and that one word is “stay.” You don’t have to understand completely to obey immediately. You stay.

You or someone you love might have a health situation and it doesn’t look good, and God gives you one word and it’s “trust” and you hang on that word and you obey.

You may have a business or ministry idea and you’re trying to figure out all the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ and you’re trying to understand it all while God is saying, “just start.” You don’t have to understand it all first.

Maybe you’ve been around the church or watching for a while and you’re kind of starting to grow with God but you’re still observing. And God may give you one word, “commit.”

You may be praying about the future of your family and you hear the word “adopt” or “foster.” You’re like, “wait, wait, what age and from where, domestic or international? Boy, girl? I don’t understand.” You don’t have to understand everything to take the next step.

You may be dating someone and God has not given you peace about the relationship. Your one word may be “break-up.” You don’t have to understand everything to do what God tells you to do.

2. Those God uses the most are the ones that hold on to the least.

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. 1 Kings 19:21

These were the animals that brought Elisha his livelihood. The bible says he slaughtered them and made a bonfire out of the plowing equipment. Then he set out to follow Elijah and he became his servant.That is a faith that moves and grows. It’s almost like he’s saying, “I’m burning plan B. There is no plan B. There’s only obey God.”

Often times in scripture, when people are so moved by God they make big moves of commitment to follow him. Whenever Jesus encountered Peter for the first time Peter was having a bad fishing day. Jesus told him to throw his nets down on the other side of the boat. Peter said, “Master we’ve been working hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I don’t understand, but I’ll do it.”

And he caught so many fish, the nets started breaking. Peter falls down, “Whoa, who are you? This is amazing; I am a sinful man. You’re the Lord,”

And Jesus looked at him and said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people.” And scripture says something that is just as crazy as the “burn the plows and kill the cows.”

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11

Contextualize that to your life. Leave you job, your comfort, you neighborhood, and everything to follow Him. At some point God is going to speak to you and give you a plow burning faith. God is going to call you to leave where you are and go where He wants you to go. There are some times when you’re so convinced that you just burn the bridge back, because you’re not turning back because something has happened in you and you’re never going to be the same. You can’t go back because God is calling you forward.

Here are a few examples of people in our church that have been called by God:

  • A couple lived in another town and had very successful jobs and loved where they lived but God was leading them to move so they could serve their parents in their old age.
  • A strong Christian family loved to go to their lake house in the summer. One day their nine year old daughter asked, “Why don’t we love God in the summer?” At that moment they realized they didn’t serve anybody, make a difference, or worship in the summer. The summer became about their enjoyment. They sold the boat and the lake house.
  • A man was struggling with pornography and while he was able to overcome for awhile, his devices because a stumbling block. He eventually got rid of all of his devices except for a flip phone and an open desktop computer.
  • A man used to drop his kids off at Rock Brook for Kids but knew he was being called to serve there as well. He put it off for long enough, but eventually decided to sacrifice his time and scheduling conflicts and now he is a part of kids salvations, teaching them, and instilling in them the things of God. He is making a mighty, eternal impact.

Maybe today the Holy Spirit is reminding you to be faithful and consistent with the mundane things, or the little things in your life, so you can be ready for God to give you more. Maybe for you there is a sin holding you back, and the Holy Spirit is leading you to burn that plow. Maybe for you God has set something on your heart and called you to it, but you have yet to make a move.

You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately and those that God uses the most are those who hold on to the least.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “The Blessing of Honor.” Did you prioritize, praise or protect anyone to honor them this week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Elijah’s call on Elisha teaches us two principles of faith. 1) You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. 2) Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.

Discussion & Application

  • Pastor Ryland ended the message with some examples of those who made changes in their life to move forward in what God was calling them to do. What examples of commitment to God have you witnessed in your life?
  • How do you know when God is leading you?
  • Describe a time when you obeyed God even though you did not fully understand His direction. What resulted from your obedience?
  • What is God asking you to do that you need to obey immediately?
  • What else stood out to you about this message and encounter between Elijah and Elisha.

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

What is one step of obedience you can take this week to respond to what God is asking you to do?

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The Blessing of Honor

blog.001This weekend’s all about honoring mothers. Our church has a culture of honor. It is certainly biblical. Have you ever noticed the first proverb and last proverb are about honor? Of the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs, the first nine of them are making a case for wisdom. Making a case why it’s so important and showing different scenarios where it’s needed. Then in chapter ten the proverbs really begin.

“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”  Proverbs 10:1

If you read the verses on relationships in the proverbs it says the fool does this one thing…the fool despises. The fool has relationships they despise. Despise means to be in contempt of, to scorn, to disdain, to consider worthless and unworthy of honor. If you want one relational principle that can change your life; it’s the principle of honor.

Proverbs 31 honors the wife of noble character. Honor her. We want to honor every mom and woman of character who invests in others.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:31

In other words, brag on her in public. We really are a culture of honor in our church and in the mid-west we have a culture of honor, but it’s a quality that’s leaving our country and people’s lives. In the name of Jesus we need to keep this quality of honor. What does honor mean?

Honor means to have value, worth, and weight. You add weight to that thing. You put value on that thing. It would make sense then when dishonor means to take lightly. It’s the opposite of weight. You didn’t put the value on it that it deserved. We need to learn, out of God’s word, this principle of honor. This is difficult because you have people in your life who you feel like they don’t deserve honor because of how they’ve treated you. But that’s not where honor begins.

Honoring begins with God’s claim on them. Not with how you see them, but how God sees them. God can see every person in their complete depravity, and in their perfect dignity at the same time. He can see everything you’ve done and at the same time see who you are in Christ. He sees all the mistakes and all the potential. Thank God, He sees us that way. Friend, if you knew how much God really loves you, it would transform everything about your life. He has made us in His image and has a claim on our lives.  Honoring begins with seeing other people the way God sees them. Why does this matter? Because God created everyone, He loves everyone, Christ died for everyone.

“From one man (Adam) he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” Acts 17:26 NLT

So God has made all the nations and determined who they are and where they live. One area we can lose sight of honor in our culture is in how we see diversity. Diversity matters to God. God loves diversity. Where there is despising of diversity, where there is racial prejudice, it’s wrong because it dishonors God. Racial prejudice questions God’s creation. It was His idea to create the differences. When we have racial prejudice, we are saying, “God, you made a mistake. You should have made everyone to look and be just like us.”  You can hear the arrogance in that viewpoint.

We all came from the same source, anyway Adam and Eve. You did not choose when you were born, the color of your skin, who your parents are, your background, the culture, the nationality. It’s difficult to understand why people get prideful about where they’re from, what nationality, the color of their skin, or really anything else about them. You didn’t have any choice in it. It doesn’t say anything about your character. You just happened to be born to a certain family at a certain time. What a foolish thing to be prideful about. What a foolish thing to look down at someone else about.

Any time we think less of God’s creation, we’re forgetting who made us.

“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?”  1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT 

You may secretly think you’re better than others. You’re not. It’s all a gift from God and we honor people because of who God made them to be. Here’s another principle about honor that you’ll learn in scripture…

Honoring benefits me too. Honor isn’t just for the person on the receiving end, but also for the people on the giving end. It has more of an affect on us than it does on them. The way you treat your mom, dad, boss, government leaders, spouse and family to the degree that you honor them determines how much you can receive from them.

It was said of Jesus in Mark 6 that when He went back to His hometown that He couldn’t do many miracles there because people saw Him as average and normal. Not as the Son of God all powerful. The way they saw Jesus determined how much they could receive from Him. How you honor God determines what you receive from Him. How you honor people determines what you can receive from them.

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3

If you honor them it will go well with you. Wow. God takes this seriously. There’s no contingency of their parenting. You don’t have to say what they did was good. When you’re in a courtroom with a judge, you say, “Your honor” to them, regardless of how well you know them or who they are. You honor the seat they sit in. Here’s a third thing about honor….

Honor is decided not deserved. Meaning, we are not going to wait for you to deserve it.

Honor is given.

We’ll give it anyway. If you buy into this, coming your way is coming the honor test. If you buy into this, you’re going to have a chance to honor someone who you don’t feel deserves it. Try something…give it to them anyway. They don’t have to have received it. You can make the choice without them receiving it.

“Submit yourselves [because they deserved it? No.] for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. [How?] Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”  1 Peter 2:13-17

During this time, the religious and government leaders were not good people. They didn’t have a good king at that point. They didn’t have to like the king, they didn’t even have to obey him. In fact, God says not to obey an authority when it goes against the gospel. But they could do that in a respectful way.

You’re going to have to do that in all your relationships by the way. You’re not going to agree with someone all the time about everything. We don’t agree with ourselves all of the time, let alone everyone else. While you’re going one way to follow God there’s going to be times your friends, your family, your sister, your brother, or your parents are going to go a different way. There’s a place where Jesus says that His presence will divide family.

You’ll have someone in your life choose a lifestyle that you and your faith don’t agree with. If it doesn’t agree with your God, don’t align with them. Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise your convictions to be compassionate. You don’t have to agree with someone to honor them. This is a biblical principle for you.


On Mother’s day, what a great day to renew this principle of honor.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”   Romans 12:10 

Honor everyone. Put the weight and worth above yourself. How do you do that? You honor someone anytime you…

1. Prioritize them

When you put God first, you honor Him. When you put others before yourself, you honor them. When you put your family above your own interests, you honor them. When you make time for someone, you honor them. When you’re in line at the grocery store and there’s only so much of the product you’re looking for, but you don’t cut in line, you let those before you go first. When you don’t fight and argue, but you let others ahead. That’s honor. Proverbs 3 tells us how to honor God.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” Proverbs 3:9

This is not a only a money principle, but this is a first principle. You are doing this right now. You said, before I do anything else this week, I’m going to put God first, put church first, and worship. The message translation puts it this way.

Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best.” Proverbs 3:9 MSG

Whenever you put God first in something, you honor him. Today, you put your mom before others, it honors her. That’s what these special days are about. Mothers Day, Memorial Day, Fathers Day, it’s a day we set aside that we all put that person before others. Yes, we are to honor them often in our lives, but it’s special when everyone takes a day to prioritize them. Another way to honor someone has to do with how we speak to them and about them.

2. Praise them

Honor has a language. You lift people up. Not only when they’re around you, but even when they walk away.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  James 3:9-10

God puts value on them and you devalue them, He takes it personally just like we would if someone talked about someone close to us.

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

This should not be…Does that sound like your mom? This should not be. Honor has language. How you speak of others matters.

We need to honor people with our mouths.

We need to stop the gossip. As a husband and a son today, I want to challenge you to have the things you say about your wife and your mother be encouraging, even when they’re not there. Don’t fall for some trap to put them down at work, put them down in small group, don’t speak death over your relationships and then be surprised when they die. Speak life and know that it will make a difference.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  Ephesians 4:29-30

We can’t afford for the Holy Spirit to be grieved in our life. We need Him more that we’ve ever needed Him before. Honor has a priority and a language. Prioritize them. Praise them.

3. Protect them

Anything of real value, you protect it. This is an action step. You don’t just speak it, you do it. After the flood receded, the Bible says that Noah planted a vineyard, made some wine, got naked and drunk. One of his three sons walked in and saw him. He, then, went out to his brothers and said, you’ve got to see dad. He was mocking his dad. Noah was a good man who did a bad thing. The other two bothers got a blanket over their shoulders and walked in backwards so they couldn’t see him and covered him up.

They protected his weakness. They didn’t cover up his sin. We don’t need to cover up sin, but we do need to protect weakness. We know what you did and we’re not hiding it, but we’re not going to let you get hurt anymore. We’ll stand with you and see you through this. You’ll overcome and be better. The devil’s not going to finish what he started here, we’ll protect you. That’s how you protect somebody.

Let’s take it one step further. You should also protect the honor of the name of Jesus. In a culture that is laughing and picking on Christianity we will not be disrespectful, but we will stand up for the honor of the one we serve. We will take a stand for Jesus Christ.

“He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” John 7:18

The motivation for this message today is you.  It’s not even the person on the receiving end. Maybe this week you could say something to your parents or your boss, to express your honor. Even if you don’t like the way they’re doing things, that you’d honor them. Test it…see how much better it will make your life.

The more I value something the more I value from it. You get what you give. The more I value my job, the more I value from it. The more I value my church, the more I value from it. The more I value God, the more I value from God. You get what you put into it.


 

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “TAKE YOUR STAND.”

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Honor is important to God because when we show honor to someone, we recognize God’s claim on them—they are made in His image and are eternally important to Him. By showing honor, we add value, worth or weight to someone. We show honor by prioritizing, praising and protecting others. Honoring someone not only agrees with God’s claim on them, but it also blesses us.

When we dishonor someone, we take God’s claim on them lightly. It’s important to remember that, while respect is earned, honor is given. It’s a choice to see someone from God’s perspective and treat them accordingly.

Discussion & Application

  • Prior to this message, what was your view of honor? How has this message helped you understand why we honor one another?
  • What are some examples of how we can prioritize people as an expression of honor?
  • Read aloud James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10 What are ways that we can embrace the language of honor and praise one another?
  • How can we protect the people in our lives just as two of Noah’s sons did when they found him naked and drunk in his tent?

Prayer Focus

Pray that God would help us to put other people first and honor the people in our life. Ask God to help you see others from His perspective—how to show them honor based on who they are in Him and not what they deserve.

Next Steps

Speak words of life and take hold of Ephesians 4:29-30 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  Ephesians 4:29-30

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Eternal Realities | Week 4: Take Your Stand (Spiritual Warfare)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV

You have a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan, he hates God, he hates that you give Him glory. His motivation is get glory away from God so he is plotting and scheming to hurt you.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 NIV

There is another realm. Another reality. Your battle is not against other people. Your battle is against the powers and the principalities of this dark world.

We live in a physical world; and yet, there is a spiritual world that is just as real. You’ve felt it. Deep down, you know this. Embrace this truth.

We have to learn this important principle, that what we see with our physical eyes in the physical world is not all that there is.  There is a spiritual world that is just as real, and even more powerful than what takes place in the physical world.  Where forces of good faces the forces of evil, where the Kingdom of Light wages war against the kingdom of darkness.

We call it spiritual warfare. For the Christian, spiritual warfare simply means this:

Spiritual warfare is the leveraging of everything that God promises against everything that opposes God’s purposes.

You take your stand with the promises of God, to leverage them against what the enemy is trying to do to oppose God’s work in your life and those around you.


What You See Is Not All There Is

We learn a few important principles about these battles from scripture. In fact, if you’re going through a battle right now. You need to remember this:

You are not alone in your battles

In fact, there’s an interesting account recorded in scripture. In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 6, starting in verse 15 there is a story of when Israel was at war against the king of Aram. There was a servant, who was in a dialogue with a man of God.

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15 NLT

The man was afraid. He looked out and he saw the enemy forces everywhere. There were horses and warriors. There were all sorts of troops, and he felt they were way out numbered.

“’Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” 2 Kings 6:16-17 NLT

God gave him a glimpse into the spiritual world and he realized there were God’s angels and warriors everywhere. He was not in the battle alone. And we have to remember, there’s more than the eyes can see.

The reality of the spiritual world teaches us another important principle, and this one’s about prayer.

Your prayers are far more powerful than you know. 

There may be times when you pray and you feel like nothing’s happening. But recognize that your prayers are far more powerful than you know.

There’s a great example of this from the Old Testament. One time, Daniel was praying and apparently nothing had happened. Then one day an angel came to deliver this message to him. The account is recorded in Daniel, chapter 10, verse 12. 

“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.'” Daniel 10:12 NIV

From the first day Daniel prayed, God heard the prayer and God was working even though Daniel didn’t even know it.

“‘But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.’” Daniel 10:13-14 NIV

Can you imagine this? Daniel prayed, and as soon as he prayed God heard his prayer. He released His angels, and for twenty-one days they did battle against an evil spirit.  Then Michael, the archangel, appeared and was able to hold off the evil spirits so the other angel could go to Daniel and say, “God has answered your prayer.” 

There’s a very real battle going on right now.


What Are the Devil’s Schemes?

Let’s briefly look at five specific things from scripture that the devil does to scheme against you…

  • He blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Without God we easily succumb to the devil’s schemes. We can become so mired in the affairs of this world that we completely lose sight of God. He tries to blind your minds, so you do not hear the truth.

  • He steals God’s word from you (Matthew 13:19)

There may have been different times in your life where you would have heard something about God, or you would have heard His word, and it did something inside of you. Then, you got up the next day, or were distracted by something and all of those spiritual thoughts were gone. Life goes back to normal and you’re wondering, “What was that? I can’t even remember what it was.” Where did it go? Why did it vanish?  Jesus tells us why it vanished – Satan steals away the word of God.

  • He sets traps to ensnare you (2 Timothy 2:26)

The devil will use any point of vulnerability in your life to try to tempt you. If you’re trying to purify your mind, next thing you know there’s some image that creates a lustful thought. You want a healthy marriage, but some other guy or woman starts talking to you. If you’re trying to get out of debt, there’s more opportunities for debt. Wherever you’re weak, that’s where he attacks.

  • He fights to stop the work of God in your life (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

For example, if you get a vision from God to do something, watch how Satan will try to block you. You’ve got spiritual opposition, the forces of darkness trying to stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Why is it that 2000 years later and we still don’t have the gospel preached to every people group on the earth? Because it’s not easy and our enemy is trying to stop us.

Look how plainly this is spelled out in scripture:

“For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.” 1 Thessalonians 2:18

  • He plans to destroy you (1 Peter 5:8)

We’ve got to get serious about fighting this battle spiritual battle. You can defeat temptation. You can be saved. You can have the truth and it can set you free. You can be freed from the traps. Why? Because…

The devil is subject to our God.

He trembles at our God. He already had one fight that lasted a second once God got in. When you align yourself with God, you become just as victorious as God is with the devil.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4


Take Your Stand

We’re going to fight this. The Bible says you’re in a fight. We need to learn how to fight.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV

Strongholds comes from a greek word that refers to any lie of the devil that keeps you trapped in slavery. The word demolish means to violently cast down.

There’s nothing really passive about it. You gotta buckle up and strap on, dress for battle, and realize there’s a part of your Christianity that is communion with God but there’s another part that’s in confrontation with an enemy who wants to destroy you.

Your life. Your marriage. Your parenting. Your identity. Your confidence.

Take your stand… fight your fight.

So we have to fight with these weapons. What are those weapons and how do we use them?

1. The Name of Jesus

Many of our songs just boast on the name of Jesus. Why? Because names have power.

Cancer is a powerful name. Debt is a powerful name. Addiction is a powerful name. Virus is a powerful name. Depression is a powerful name. 

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 NIV

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 NIV

Call on the name. Use the name. Sing the name. Worship the name of God.

The demons have to line up at the name of Jesus. This is why we pray in Jesus name. It’s powerful because some people are praying in the name of another God. When we pray in Jesus name, we’re saying this prayer is powerful now, and we’re saying Jesus is the only way to God.

Declare His name is higher!

2. The Word of God

The word of God has power. All throughout the scriptures it talks about the word of God as a metaphor of a sword. A sword is an offensive weapon. It’s the only offensive weapon listed in the armor of God.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV

That’s what Jesus did when the devil came for Him. In all three occasions he responds to the devil with scripture. The Bible isn’t there just to be your lucky charm or to give warm fuzzies. It’s a weapon. Treat it like one. Quote it. Change the verses into the first person and use them as a weapon that you need to use against your enemy.

3. The Power of the Cross

The cross was to save you from your sins. But that wasn’t all of it. After Jesus died on the cross, He went to the depths. He stood the devil face to face and tells him He just paid for everything so hand over the keys!

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18 NIV

The cross of Jesus didn’t just pay for sins, it conquered death. Whatever the devil can throw at you, Jesus has already won.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11 NIV

Share your testimony. You are saved. You are delivered from every attack of the devil. God has forgiven your sins. God stepped in and saved you. Healed you. Redeemed your life from the pit. Crowns you with love and compassion. He satisfies your desires with good things. Placed your feet upon a rock. Transformed you. Renewed your strength.

It’s time to take your stand – Jesus has already won the battle!


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Rise Above It (The Realities of Heaven)”

Any more thoughts on the discussion from that message and not being discouraged by trouble, distracted by temptations and focusing energies on what will last?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

What if you were fighting the wrong fight and focusing on the wrong thing? This week we wrap up Eternal Realities by discovering how to use our energy on the right fights and take our stand for things that will last.

Get started with scripture. Read Ephesians chapter 6.

Discussion & Application

  • Focusing on Ephesians 6:14-17… Discuss practical ways to use the weapons we have to fight against the schemes of the devil.
  • Describe a time when you realized God was doing something spiritually that you couldn’t see with your natural eyes. (Maybe God was warning you, or speaking to you, or prompting you to do something.)
  • We studied several of the devil’s goals: blinding minds, stealing God’s word, trapping you, fighting against God’s work and destroying you. What has your enemy done to hinder God’s work in you recently?
  • The Bible is one of our greatest weapons in spiritual warfare. Talk about times you have used the Word of God in an attack from the enemy. Share with the group any verses that are your “go-to” verses when you are facing struggles in your life.
  • What is an area of your life right now where you need to claim and speak God’s Word so that you can gain victory?

Prayer Focus

God has blessed you with spiritual armor and weapons that are not of this world. Your armor doesn’t cover your backside. Other believers help cover you. Spend some time covering each other in prayer.

Next Steps

As you pray this week, remember that prayer is not just communion with God, but also confrontation with the devil. Pray about the areas in your life where the devil may be attacking you that have become strongholds you are battling. Pray in the name of Jesus to fight against the devil in these areas.


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Eternal Realities | Week 3: Rise Above It (The Realities of Heaven)

We have many sources of stress in our lives. Jesus promised it would come. Some think God promised things would go well for you in life on earth and nothing would go wrong. Actually, He says…

Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God’s solution is that you would have peace in the midst of the storm. God gives you the capacity to have an experience that actually does not reflect the circumstance you are in. One of the passages that is just beautiful is Psalm 62.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Selah  Psalm 62:5-8

In these days, there’s a place you can go where there is rest for your soul. This passage highlights two main culprits of stress. Maybe you’re feeling them.

“Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,and the powerful are not what they appear to be. If you weigh them on the scales, together they are lighter than a breath of air.” Psalm 62:9

The people we would call successful, that success is a lie. The people you think are happy because their earthly success made them happy…it didn’t. They’re probably as miserable as you. Bottom line though is if you weighed the average person and the successful person on a balance, they have the same condition. Their time is short. They are a mist.

The first culprit of stress is TIME.

A lot of our stress comes from trying to manage our time and how we try to control our time. Our time management is getting rocked right now. People are burning out, busier than they’ve ever been. Others are going crazy with time on their hands.

The second culprit of stress is MONEY.

We’re nervous about money. We’re scared, we’re stressed. It’s consuming our thinking. It’s the number one fight in a family. People actually leave God over this issue.

“Don’t make your living by extortion or put your hope in stealing. And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.” Psalm 62:10

Don’t think wealth will make you happy. Godliness with contentment is good gain. Money will not make you happy. Money will not make you secure. There is no such thing as financial security. So, how you how to rise above those stresses and actually find peace, and find what the psalmist calls the rock in the midst of the storms and stresses?

Colossians 3:1-2 says it this way…

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at Gods right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

We get our eyes fixed, as much as possible, on the unseen. Keep our hearts set on heaven. Lower your expectations of earth. Earth is not heaven. If you raise that expectation of earth to where everything has to work out here, you’ll stay stressed. When someone dies it’ll drive you crazy. “Well, I wanted them here.” But if you understand eternity, you say, “Well, I’m going there.” This perspective changes everything. Don’t put your hope in the wrong place. Lower your expectation of earth. Raise your expectation of heaven.

The reason we don’t get excited about heaven is we have a faulty image of it. We don’t realize how cool, how exciting, how incredible, how so much better than earth it’s going to be. Nothing is perfect on this planet because sin has broken the planet. What is heaven? Heaven is a real place. It’s not a state of being. It’s an actual place. It’s not some disembodied condition where you’re going to float around without a body. It’s not nirvana. It’s not nothingness. It’s not a dream-like state. It’s not something intangible and ethereal. It’s not a feeling. It is a real place.

The Bible doesn’t speak of heaven as a metaphor. The Bible actually measures it. Jesus took everything He said about heaven and hell literally. He showed us that on the cross. So, heaven is a real place.

“For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:19-20                                      

What does this passage teach us about heaven?

Heaven is your real home. Jesus said to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths or rust can’t destroy it, and where thieves can’t break in and steal it.” If heaven were just a state of mind, of being, consciousness, you couldn’t store anything up there. But He says you can store up treasure in a place designed for you – heaven. There’s more to life than just this life. You’re going to spend a century here at the very most, but that’s it. And really that’s a good thing. Because you don’t want to live in an imperfect place forever. You want to live in a perfect place forever. You’re going to spend to infinity and beyond in heaven. This passage says your citizenship is in heaven. What a great reminder it would be if believers carried a green card with them, because this is not your ultimate citizenship. You’re only here for a limited time. God says your ultimate home is in heaven. 

Heaven is where God lives and rules. Jesus Christ lives there. Things are under His control. It says when Jesus ascended, He went to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. Throughout the Bible heaven is called “the dwelling place of God…the house of God.”  It’s called, “the city of God.”  Thirty-one times Jesus calls it “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven.” It’s where God not only lives but He rules. You’re not going to have to deal with dictators, or people making heaven something it’s not supposed to be. God will rule there and He will keep evil things out.

Heaven is a place where we will have renewed bodies. In heaven, you will be you. You don’t become another creation when you go to heaven. You won’t be a god. You don’t become an angel. You’re going to be a human being. You. Adopted into the family of God. God wants you to be part of His family. You will have a perfected body. In heaven there are streets, trees, water and homes. It is a physical place. And you will have a physical body.

“No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. 12 Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Revelations 22:3-5, 12-13

What will we do in heaven? 

We will honor Christ. We will worship in heaven. Whenever scripture peels back the curtain on heaven, there’s always a song. We will sing every day. But that’s not the only way we honor God.

We will be assigned work we enjoy doing. This is a difficult area of our life. Work is hard. On top of that we lose jobs. We get overwhelmed in our jobs. We work with bad people and gossip. Some spend their whole life looking for a perfectly satisfying job. Lower your expectation of earth. Can we find fulfilling work on earth? Yes. But it will always be tainted. However, in heaven, we will reign with God. We will be assigned work that we will enjoy doing, because God understands your shape better than you do. You will be given assignments in the kingdom of God. Now, the difference is, this isn’t going to be frustrating work, it’s going to be fulfilling work.

Jesus once tells a parable and he ends with saying “Well done, good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful with a few things; I will now put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” God says, when you get to heaven, I’m going to put you in charge of something, but it’s going to be based on how well you managed what you were given here on earth. If you’re faithful in the little that I gave you on earth, I’ll give you more fulfilling work in heaven. It’s a reason to be faithful with what we’re given here.

We will be rewarded for our faith, hope and love. When you read the Bible, it’s a little confusing until you understand that there are going to be two judgments for eternity. There’s one judgment for eternal destination. There’s one judgment for rewards. One’s a bad judgment and one’s a good one. If you have trusted Christ with your life you get to skip the sin judgment automatically.  That’s good news. Jesus already faced that judgement for you. Trust in him.

Salvation in heaven and rewards in heaven are two different things. Salvation is by grace. You can’t earn your salvation; you can’t work your way into heaven.  The only way you’ll ever get into heaven is through the grace of God. Put your faith in God’s forgiveness, His goodness, His grace. But the rewards are the things that God’s going to give back to you for making your life count for eternity.

You can waste your life, and there a lot of ways to waste it, you can spend your life, there are a lot of ways to spend it, or you can invest your life.

The greatest use of life is to invest it in that which will outlast it. That’s called living in light of eternity.

So, it’s valuable when you press in to know Christ more. You fast, pray, stay consistent in your pursuit and desire of Him and you love and respect the word of God. You help other people know Him. You’re leading small groups, connecting with people deeply and helping them find freedom in the name of Jesus. You’re sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There’s a reward for enduring trials and hard times yet, you hang on to Jesus.

You’re going to be rewarded in heaven for the times you wanted to give up but didn’t. The Bible says, you will be rewarded in heaven for your endurance, for your resilience. What you believe about eternity will impact how you live your life today. So, how should we live if we’re going to Heaven?

If you know you’re going to heaven, you need to understand that it completely changes your value system. All of a sudden, we’re no longer living for here and now. We want to store up those rewards by our actions, generosity, thoughts, decisions, words, kindness, putting up with criticism and by responding to evil with good.  We’re not living for now. We’re living in light of eternity.

God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I dont mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” Philippians 3:9-13

Don’t be discouraged by trouble. When you live in light of eternity, when you live in light of heaven, trouble just doesn’t bother you as much anymore. The guy who wrote this he’d been beaten, shipwrecked, put in prison, gone without food and clothing. He’d been persecuted. He’d been left for dead. He says, “These small troubles…” It’s all a matter of perspective. The trouble you’re going through right now, it’s not going to last. Even if it lasted your entire lifetime, it’s not going to last. Don’t be discouraged by trouble.

Don’t be distracted by temptations. Remember you’re just passing through so don’t let the sins of this world catch you off guard. Right now, people are falling for temptations and traps left and right. Drinking is way up. Churches are closed and liquor stores are open. New dating apps and hookup apps are going wild. Friends, the mark of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Have you noticed that little kids don’t know the difference between “no” and “not yet”?  They don’t know that “not yet” does not mean “no.” Often times we act like a three-year old. We go into debt because we just can’t wait until we have the money. We take things on we shouldn’t and do things with the wrong timing. We dishonor the marriage bed because we just can’t wait until a wedding. Anybody who’s going to make anything of themselves has to learn delayed gratification. Don’t be distracted by temptation.

Focus my energy on what will last. What’s going to last? People. God’s purposes. His ways. The Church. Heaven. Focus your eyes and your energy on what will last.

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14

We need to start living in light of eternity and start thinking more on banking in heaven instead of banking here on earth. Because this is not all there is. Praise God. Jesus offers more than a better now He offers a better place.


 

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “The Realities of Life” — Did anyone read the book of Romans? Any more thoughts on the discussion from that message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Life is full of stresses. But God doesn’t offer us only a better now, he offers us a better place. Heaven is the absence of everything bad, painful and evil and the presence of everything good, pleasing and glorious. What you believe about heaven impacts how you live now.

Read Philippians chapter 3

Discussion & Application

  • What are some misconceptions you’ve had about heaven?
  • Did any of this message reframe how you think about heaven? What are you looking forward to most?
  • What do you think it looks like to live believing your citizenship is in heaven?
  • How does your specific view of heaven change the way you live on earth? Which of the three points on how to live if you’re going to heaven do you need to be reminded of most?
  1. Don’t be discouraged by trouble
  2. Don’t be distracted by temptations
  3. Focus my energy on what will last

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Maybe this prayer could guide you or spark your prayer time. Be bold and pray with power: God, we love You. Thank You for preparing a place in heaven for us. Thank You for sending Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Teach us to seek You and Your will on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to share the hope we have with others. Amen!!

Next Steps

What actions will you take in response to this message series?

Who can you talk to about your eternal hope?

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Eternal Realities | Week 2: The Realities of Life

Eternal Realities -what does that mean? The Bible tells us that everything you see is temporary and that eternal realities are things you don’t see.  The material or physical is not the only reality. We can’t see God, we can’t see the angels, we can’t see our souls, we can’t see God’s Holy Spirit, and we can’t see heaven.  Yet, the Bible says those things are going to last forever.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

“1For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 NLT

The point that the Apostle Paul is making here is that spiritual realities are more real than physical realities and we need to focus on what is real. The realities of life and the universe are all found in God’s word. So, let’s just take a moment and look at five spiritual realities.

Five Spiritual Realities

  1. God created you and loves you.

You were made by God and you were made for God. Until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. Because life is all about God and it’s all for His Glory. Even more, not only does He love you, He has given you the capacity to learn to love Him back, to get to know Him back.

2. You were made to last forever.

One day your heart’s going to stop and that is going to be the end of your body, but it certainly won’t be the end of you. The bible says that you and I, as human beings, were created in the image of God, which means God put us in eternity.

He has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

That’s why regardless of how good things are for you on this planet or how bad things are, there’s still a longing in you and at some point in your life you think, there’s got to be more than this. The truth is there is more, much more. In fact, life is preparation for eternity.

3. God has prepared two eternal places: Heaven and Hell.

Heaven and hell are both real, literal places. Heaven is not an accident. It is a prepared place. Jesus said, “I’m going to prepare a place for you.” Where Jesus is, you get to be too. You don’t have to stay on a planet that is broken with sin. Instead, you get to spend eternity in a place of freedom and perfection with Jesus. But, hell is also a real place.

“…Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41

Satan rebelled against God and hell was prepared for him and his angels. Hell wasn’t originally intended for human beings. If you choose to rebel against God – just like Satan did – and you choose to reject God and instead say, “I’m going to be my own god, I’m going to do what I want to do, be what I want to be, say what I want to say,” then you choose to go where Satan goes.  

4. You get to choose where you will spend eternity.

It’s your choice. This is the same kind of choice that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. Back in the book of Deuteronomy, God says this to the people of Israel, “Today, I’m giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse. You’ll be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God. Or you’ll receive a curse if you reject Me and be your own God. In heaven, God has the right to say, “If you want to come to heaven here’s how you get here. Through Jesus Christ.”

If I reject His condition for entering heaven, He’s not being unloving, I’m being foolish.

5. There’s no second chance after you die.

You get to choose where you’re going to spend eternity. But you have to choose now while you’re alive, not after you’re dead. There’s no purgatory. Purgatory is not in the Bible. The Bible says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  The Bible also says, “They will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous will go into eternal life.”The reality is there are two places.

What we’re talking about today is your eternal destiny.  If there’s anything that the cross teaches us, it’s that Jesus wasn’t inconclusive on the subject of heaven and hell. The human mind wants to default to a universalistic point of view and hope that at the end of the day we all make it. That this amazing God that we love and serve will somehow work it all out for everybody at the end of the day. To that point-of-view is a cross that stands in history. That cross tells us some important things that Jesus believed about eternity.

What the Cross Tells Us

  1. There is something to be saved from.

The cross teaches us that Jesus is a savior but if there is a savior then there must be something from which to be saved. So the question then is, what did Jesus save you from? When we talk about God we normally lean towards His grace, mercy, kindness, patience, forgiveness, greatness, and perfection. But there is also His wrath, and without the wrath of God there is nothing to look forward to, because the earth would not be cleansed of evil.

Jesus saw this title wave of God’s holiness coming to cleanse the earth of it’s sin, and He gave us a way to be spared. So that in Jesus we can be hidden and covered by His righteousness, so that when the wrath of God comes we are in the shelter of His wings. We are under the covering of the blood of Jesus, of a savior who gave His life in our place, who took on our sin and absorbed the wrath of God. 

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! So we get saved from something and the something we get saved from is the wrath of God. 10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:6-10 NIV

There will be no holding God to any questions the day of righteousness. Here comes the righteousness of God unbridled and everything in its wake is going to get covered. Even before the cross, John the Baptist said what it was all about.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36

So if Jesus didn’t believe the day of the righteous wrath was coming, and all evil and sinfulness would be cast out of God’s presence, why would he put his life in our place?  His belief in heaven and hell compelled Him to put Himself in peril at the highest degree. On the flip side of that, Christ has come, and out of the tomb erupted life, hope, and all kinds of opportunity for us to come and receive Christ’s covering for our sin. So in the same moment, when the holiness of God is fully released on the earth we will be covered by what Christ has issued for us when His blood was shed for us on the cross. 

2. Unchecked sin leads to a gruesome death.

Hell is a place where people go to pay the penalty for sin, it’s where they go to pay the wage, death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV

If the wages of sin were simply being a bad person, Jesus could have just come to earth and been a good teacher and then ascended into heaven. But we no that’s not the whole story. There was an incarnation, a crucifixion, a resurrection and an ascension. The cross represents the death Jesus died in our place

3. No on can make it to God on their own merit.

Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, to save us from the wrath of God. If there is a way to get to heaven apart from that, is Jesus not the most foolish person who’s ever walked the face of the earth? Jesus did not believe in another way or a back door when he said it is finished on the cross. 

4. Hell is avoidable.

In scripture, everywhere hell is mentioned, you see God’s grace overwhelming the conversation. You see God saying, I’ve made a way, His name is Jesus. Receive Him. Accept him. Believe in Him. Cling to Him and avoid death. This is God’s heart for us. God doesn’t send people to hell, He saves them from hell. You have to step over the cross and step over a savior to go to hell.

5. Heaven is worth it.

Jesus thought the cross was worth it. It’s what made Him full of joy, endurance, patience, forgiveness and everything else!

For the joy set before him he endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2

Jesus saw the joy of being seated at the right hand of God the father. The joy of making a way so that you could be where He is, and so He endured the cross.

“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. 13I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 NLT

God is clear that he doesn’t want anyone to perish. But you either agree with God or you don’t. Put your hope in Jesus, and choose life in Christ and trust in Him.

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Resurrection = Hope” — Has any part of being totally forgiven, not fearing death and having an eternal home stayed with you?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

After a looking at 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10, we looked at five realities of life:

  • God created you and loves you
  • You were made to last forever
  • God has prepared 2 eternal places
  • You choose where you’ll spend eternity
  • There is no second chance after you die

Jesus was not inconclusive about the subject of these eternal realities, especially heaven and hell. Next week we’ll talk more about heaven, but take a moment to read a couple of these passages in scripture on the subject of hell: Matthew 10:28-33; Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:22-26; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:9-11.

Discussion & Application

  • Growing up, what was your view of heaven and hell? What was your family’s view?
  • What stood out to you in this message? Any observations or questions regarding the five realities of life?
  • The most conclusive message Jesus ever gave us on the eternal realities of heaven and hell is the cross. Jesus is a savior. What are some of the things he saved people from? (The book of Romans was written to help answer this question. Romans 5:6-10 is a helpful passage on this.)
  • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Are you leaning whole heartedly on Jesus, or do you still believe that some kind of good work or lack of bad works will please God and get you into heaven?
  • God made a way, doing everything possible to save people from hell including immense suffering. Why do some believe God is loving and others believe he is unloving?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. If you haven’t believed in Jesus work on the cross to give you eternal life, why not now? Share with your group or family that you want to make that decision.

Next Steps

If you’ve never done so, read the book of Romans in the New Testament. You could read the whole book in a week by reading two or three chapters a day. The Bible Project’s overview video of Romans is helpful for the context, purpose and time period.

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