Getting To Know God | Week 3: Where Is God When I Need Him?

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Each week in this series of posts we’re looking at a different attribute of the nature of God. 

His omniscience, God is all knowing.

His omnipotence, God is almighty.

Today we’re going to ask, “Where is God?” How would you answer that question? Some would say that God is in heaven or He is in their heart. Some people believe that God dwells in church buildings. God is much more than a weekend service. That’s why we are much more than a weekend service.

The Bible says that God is all over the place. David says in Psalm 139 that we cannot escape from God’s presence.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

It’s mind boggling to think that God never has to go anywhere, because He’s already there.

“‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 22:23-24 NIV

There is no place in the universe where God is not. Theologians call this God’s omnipresence.

Omnipresence: God is everywhere

God is not limited by space and place. He is not confined to any one location. That’s a hard concept for us to imagine because we are finite creatures with a body. It is impossible for us to be in two places at once. But it’s no problem with God, because God is Spirit.

God is not limited by the physical realm. So He can be in many places all at the same time. In fact, He’s everywhere.

It does NOT mean: God is everything

That’s pantheism. Pantheism claims that a tree is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God. Pantheism is behind many cults and false religions like Hinduism and Buddhism to an extent. Don’t confuse the Creator with His creation. God is not everything but He certainly is everywhere.

“He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”  Acts 17:27b-28a NIV

Fact: God is always with me, I just need to recognize it

The air around you is filled with radio waves, television waves, wifi… We’re constantly surrounded by this stuff. But we don’t benefit from them until we connect to them.

In much the same way, God’s presence is constantly available, and if you can learn to tune in to the presence of God, it will benefit your life. 

There are lots of ways to recognize and sense His presence. Reading scripture, stepping out in faith, praying, sharing your faith, singing out to Him.

Worship music doesn’t increase the presence of God, it increases our awareness of the presence of God.

Before we practice the presence of God, we are going to take a Selah moment. Selah just simply means, “pause and calmly think about that”. Weigh the meaning of what you have just read or heard.


Before we make it about us, let’s rest in the fact that God is always with us. We’re going to stop and take just a moment to pause.

Here’s an instrumental playlist you can have playing while you sit in wonder and awe of a God who is completely and eternally omnipresent.


The Benefits of God’s Presence

God is with you. God is everywhere. That is a basic theological truth, but the natural reaction to a doctrinal statement like that is… so what? 

What difference does it make in my life? Especially in times like these? If God is truly everywhere, what does that mean for me when I’m lonely, worried, tempted or discouraged? God’s presence will make a difference in those four areas if you’ll let Him.

1. When I am lonely, God is my companion

“Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.”  Psalm 25:16 NLT

We already lived in an era where there are more people in the world than ever before, yet there are more lonely people. Now we’re expected to social distance and quarantine. So many of us are feeling lonely right now.

We were working in an office full of people, now we’re working remotely. The reality is, there are many different kinds of loneliness. There’s the loneliness of the death of a spouse or friend. There’s the loneliness of a new school, of growing old, of child who won’t listen to you, the loneliness of not being understood or the loneliness of success. 

So what do you do when you face uncontrollable loneliness and you can’t do anything about it? You recognize God’s presence and remember that God is your companion.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you!'”  Hebrews 13:5 NIV

God is always with you. When we face a challenge, we like to have somebody with us. Remember your first day of school and you wanted your mom to go with you? We like to have reinforcements. 

When you are lonely remember that God is my companion, because He says “I’m always with you.” What’s the benefit of this?

David got lonely sometimes. In Psalms David said:

“You will fill me with joy in your presence…”  Psalm 16:11 NIV

There is still joy to be had in God’s presence today. There are benefits to God’s presence. The first one is:

BENEFIT: God’s presence lifts me up

In the midst of these rapid changes and fears about tomorrow, and in the midst of our loneliness, God can, indeed, lift us up. He can lift the despair and spirit of heaviness. God lifts us up.

2. When I am worried, God is my confidence

God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Moses started making excuses, and God gave one answer to his excuses. “I will be with you.”

God’s presence will be your confidence.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  Isaiah 42:2-3 NLT

Some of you are going through a fire right now. Some of you are going to go through a difficulty this week, but one thing you can be certain of, God is going through it with you. 

“I am always aware of the Lord’s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me.”  Psalm 16:8 GNT

Are you always aware of the Lord’s presence?

BENEFIT: God’s presence calms me down 

God’s presence is a stabilizer, a stress reliever.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4 ESV

Why fear no evil? Because God is with you. God is your confidence. God’s presence calms you down.

3.  When I am tempted, God is my counselor

God is ready to help. He is ready to help you make it through the temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

When God is with you, He provides a way out. Notice that this verse says that temptations are common. We all have the same problems and temptations. If there are common problems, it means there must be common solutions in God’s Word.

BENEFIT: God’s presence helps me out

He knows exactly the struggle going on in your mind. He sees it coming before I see it coming. He knows I’m walking right into it and He’s already preparing an escape route for you to get out of it.

It’s not just by will power but His power and He’s promised to help you. No matter what temptation we face this week, temptations of fear, of purity, temptations of injustice, God is there with us to help in that time of temptation.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 NIV

This is a time of need, but God already knows that. He knows it all. We’ve talked about the omniscience of God. God knows everything, God sees everything, because He’s there. 

He is omniscient because He’s omnipresent. He’s all-knowing because He’s everywhere and sees everything.

God is an eyewitness to every single thing we do. Maybe in this time of distance, you feel a little lost without a weekly gathering, or accountability or your sponsor or friend or whatever it may be. Lean on those relationships as much as possible still, but also learn to lean on God like never before.

4. When I am discouraged, God is my comforter

If you’re discouraged, God is with you. Is your heart breaking today? The Lord is close to you. Where is God when it hurts? The answer to that question is He’s with you. He feels your hurt, your discouragement and when you’re frustrated.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18 NIV

We’re going through rough times right now and some of you are ready to give in or give up and throw in the towel. Whatever you are going through, God is going through it with you. You are not alone.

His presence is there because He wants to be your comforter. God is not some impersonal force. God is not some far off power. He’s very personal and He’s right there with you.

Jesus Christ experienced these things and more. He experienced loneliness, temptation and frustration, yet he conquered those things. He did not give in and did not give up. We can look to him and he has sent us a comforter. Jesus said in John 14,

“The Father will send you a Comforter who will never leave you.”

That comforter is the Holy Spirit. Some of you are listening to this and thinking of this as intellectual truth, information to fill your mind.

Others of you know from experience what I’m talking about. You’ve been through some deep waters in life and you have felt God’s presence in your life. He has comforted you and encouraged you. He has given you the strength to keep on going.

People can have all kinds of reactions in the hard parts of life. Reactions at funerals, hosptials, or job loss. How do people make it through these kinds of things without the Lord? The reality is, many don’t.

“The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat. 9 And so I walk in the presence of the Lord in the world of the living. 10 I kept on believing, even when I said, ‘I am completely crushed,’ 11 even when I was afraid and said, ‘No one can be trusted.’”  Psalm 116:8-11 GNT

BENEFIT: God’s presence sees me through

God’s presence gives you the motivation to keep on going. It renews your strength, lifts up your heavy heart and gives you a new vision. 

That’s what God’s presence can do to your life, but you have to connect to it. The key to overcoming discouragement is the phrase, “I walk in the presence of the Lord.” 

How do you do that?  God is present all around us but most people are totally unaware of it. How do you walk in the presence of the Lord?

Let’s finish with four ways to practice the presence of God.


How To Practice God’s Presence

1. Invite Jesus into your life

God is around you, God is by you and He wants to be in you. He wants to put His Spirit inside of you, so you can handle the stress. 

When you feel all the pressure of life pressing in on you, you must have an equal pressure from the inside enabling you to cope. 

Whenever people get under pressure they always begin to fill themselves with something to equalize the stress: food, work, alcohol, drugs…

They put something on the inside to equalize the pressure on the outside. Yet the Bible says clearly…

“Don’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” 

As you are filled with God’s presence in your life it equalizes the pressure on the outside so you can cope. You can handle this stuff, it doesn’t have to cave you in. 

The starting point is to invite Jesus Christ into your life. What Jesus has done for us on the cross has made possible for us to come in the presence of God with freedom and confidence.

“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”  Ephesians 3:12 NLT

2. Be quiet 

Just be quiet and don’t talk. Many people are not experiencing the presence of God in this time because they’re too distracted. They always have their radio, TV or news or some feed going.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10 NIV

Several times a day, “Tune in and drop out”. 

Tune in to God’s presence and drop out of the environment around you. Just say, “God, I realize that You are present with me right now. You are by me, with me, and in me”…

Take these little breaks during the day to be quiet and recognize that no matter where you are, God is with you. As you tune in to Him, you’ll begin to be aware that He’s always there but you have to be aware of it.

3. Talk to God about everything

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing.” How do you do that? 

How do you get on with life and be continually in prayer? It’s talking about maintaining a continual conversation with God. Talk to Him about anything and everything. Your needs, your concerns, your thanksgiving.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:8 NIV

Pour out your heart, out loud. Pray, out loud. Read scripture, out loud. Sing, out loud. You maintain an ongoing conversation with Him at all times because you recognize that He is omnipresent.

4. Develop the habit of praise

Praise means to thank God for who He is and what He’s done for you.

“Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”  Psalm 96:2 NIV

We move into an awareness of God’s presence. Nothing will help you become aware of God’s presence in your life faster than developing the habit of praise. Nothing helps you tune in to Him than beginning to praise God. God is always around us, He’s always present, but sometimes we sense His presence more than at other times. 

He’s equally present no matter where you are, but sometimes we sense His presence more. We talk about entering His presence through praise. That simply means to tune in or connect.

Since God is everywhere, you can praise Him everywhere. 

You can do the same things you do in a physical church building on Saturday night and Sunday morning, at home. You will have the same experience of feeling close to God during the week that you do when we’re here together on Sunday morning. 

A whole new life is about to open up to you if you will become aware that God is always with you. It will lift you up, calm you down, help you out and see you through when you become aware of that.

To those of you who are tired, discouraged, frustrated, hurting, afraid, worried, sick, or depressed…God is with you. 


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “What God Knows About You.” How has knowing that God knows all about your failures, feelings, future, fear and faithfulness made a difference in your life? Any more thoughts or conclusions about that message?

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

Big Idea

The Bible says that God is all over the place. There is no place in the universe where God is not. Theologians call this God’s omnipresence. The omnipresence of God simply means that God is everywhere. God is spirit so he is not limited by space or place. He is not confined to any one location.

Now, this does NOT mean that God is everything. That’s pantheism. Pantheism says, “A tree is god, an animal is god, the sky is god, the sun is god, you are god…” Pantheism is behind many cults and false religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. God is not everything but He certainly is everywhere. God wants us to recognize his omnipresence because when we do, we are empowered knowing God is with us.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

Discussion & Application

  1. Describe a moment or two when you felt more aware of the presence of God more than others. What were the circumstances? Worship? Change? Fear?
  2. Of the four benefits of God’s presence, which one do you feel you need most? Do you need God most to, lift you up, calm you down, help you out, or see you through?
  3. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that when we are tempted God will provide a way out. What might this look like? How has God empowered you to flee from or resist temptation before?
  4. Whenever people get under pressure, they always begin to fill themselves with something to equalize the stress. It may be food, work, alcohol, drugs or something else. They put something on the inside to equalize the pressure on the outside. What might this be for you, and why is it so great to be filled with the Spirit of God?
  5. Of the four ways to practice God’s presence, which one comes most naturally to you? Which one do you need to work on?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Also, pray for nations, states and community’s leaders. Pray for first responders and medical personnel.

Next Steps

During these times, the church can be a light for Jesus Christ. We are a church on mission. How can you simply serve or check in on your neighbors and friends at this time?

 

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Celebration Weekend

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We put Celebration Weekend on our calendar every year around Thanksgiving to give thanks to God, turn the corner into the the holidays, give to Him and celebrate what God has done in our lives this fall.

With Celebration Weekend, we open up a giving opportunity called the Celebration Offering. Our first priority for you is to give out of your relationship with God and give through the church, that’s called the tithe. If you choose to give beyond your tithe, that is called an offering. The Celebration Offering we bring at the end of the year, to celebrate what God has done in our lives.

The Bible says the way you give to God is through the church because the church is the body of Christ. Here’s how we plan on using the money given during this year’s Celebration Offering.

In previous years, we’ve used part of the offering to give an extra month of support to the missionaries and amazing organizations we support as a church. Through your giving this year we’ve been already able to cover that.

This year, we want to give half of what comes in to church planters. The other half we’ll use for some improvements around here.

In the past, we’ve been able to renovate a room or space or add technology to help us get the gospel out to more people through the Celebration Offering.

If you want to give to that, you can designate your gift, Celebration Offering. You can give online at RockBrook.org/Giving to give online.


“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples…”  Mark 8:34a NIV

Jesus understood all of the people who were following Him. There were people in different stages of their spiritual journey, they weren’t all disciples. He had a crowd of people who were kicking the tires and trying to figure out if Jesus was real. He was talking to both of them at the same time.

“and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34b NIV

In other words, “Let’s go!” Come from where you are to the full potential God has for your life. By the way, all of us need to do that. We’re still growing and learning and becoming more like him.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,”  Mark 8:35a NIV

It says here you have to give an exchange for the things you’re currently doing that aren’t what God wants.

“but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  Mark 8:35-36 NIV

What good is it to have a great marriage, great job, the house, cars or vacations if you don’t deal with your soul issues? The real you and the part of you that’s going to live forever?


One of the things we’re passionate about is making a growth process clear to everyone. Basically, there are four different groups of people that attend our church on any given weekend.

  • Crowd: Come and see

Someone gave them an invitation in some way. The message we say is come and see. Take your time. We’re not expecting anything from you. You don’t need to give or serve or worship the way the rest of the room worships. 

We want a church that’s not full of church people.

  • Congregation: Come and join us

These are the members of the church. First, join Jesus then you join a church.

Christianity is being part of the family of God.

We belong to each other as the body of Christ. This is a local expression of that family. There are so many verses, chapters and whole books of the New Testament that you can’t fulfill if you’re not connected to a local church. So, come and join us.

  • Committed: Come and grow

Christianity doesn’t end a process, it begins a process. We’re becoming more like Jesus. Believing happens in a moment, you get saved in a moment of belief. But there’s a long process where we’re becoming more like Jesus. That’s why this entire Fall Spiritual Growth Campaign was built on Small Groups.

Life change happens in the context of relationships.

  • Core: Come and serve

Don’t just attend church, participate in your church. 

Worship one, serve one. Come be a part of the Dream Team that has over 400 volunteers of people on it serving together. You might say, “With that many people you probably have everything covered.” We’re doing okay, but it’d be a lot better with you on the team. We want to make a big impact this Christmas season and in 2020! There’s a place for you! You’re not only welcome, you’re wanted!

If you’re wonder where to start, we’ve designed a process that ushers you through this journey called Growth Track. Four steps, four Sundays. We cycle through it every month.

The first step is next Sunday, December 1st, the membership class. StepONE just explains our vision and what being a member here looks like. This would be a great time to jump in.


Baptism

We have many people on our Dream Team that have a unique story about their journey to Christ, to Rock Brook and to serving and making a difference. Many people you see serving around our church would tell you they got serious about their faith when they took a step of obedience and got baptized. Let’s look at what baptism means and the power of obedience.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”  Acts 2:41 NIV

Notice that baptism is a post-decision to believe, not pre-decision. So we don’t baptize infants here. Some churches do, but honestly it’s more of a dedication service. We dedicate babies and young children, but we baptize believers.

There are 27 accounts of baptism in the New Testament all of them were after the decision to believe.

Baptism is a vibrant part of the church. Baptism doesn’t save you, but it’s where your faith goes public. Just in the last 10 weeks of our Fall Spiritual Growth Campaign, 44 people indicated on their communication card that they either began trusting or renewed their trust in Jesus Christ.

Those people can now take their next step and be baptized. They can follow God right away. We make baptisms available every month. If you would like to be baptized at Rock Brook, sign-up HERE.

When you get baptized, what does that express?

1. You are a follower of Jesus Christ

When we get baptized we’re saying Jesus doesn’t live only on the pages of history but Jesus lives today! Even more than that, He lives in the lives of people who put their faith in Him.

We’re not talking about history, we’re talking about a living real person. We’re not talking about subscribing to a set of principles, entering into a list of rules we’re talking about entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Look at this passage after Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead,

“When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.” John 12:9-11 NLT

You’d think everyone would have believed in Jesus. That everyone who came to see Jesus would have believed in him. But there are still some on the edges who weren’t 100% sure.

Many people did put their faith in Jesus. They came hearing about him, but they left having put their faith in him. Their life changed from knowing about someone to believing Jesus could save them.

2. You are beginning a new life in Christ

No one getting baptized, is doing it because they were a bad person and want to try to be a better person. That’s not the picture of baptism.

Why did God give us a picture of water baptism?

It’s important that we actually immerse people, dunk people under the water, because Jesus got baptized under the water. He didn’t get in the river and stand around and splash around. He got in the river and was immersed in the water.

That’s actually what the word baptism means. It means to dip under the water.

Why was Jesus baptized? It was a picture of what was coming. Jesus was dedicated by his parents at a young age. That was their decision. He wasn’t dishonoring their decision. Now He’s saying this is a choice I am making and it’s pointing to the ultimate choice I will be making.

For us it’s a picture of what happens when we trust in Christ to be our Savior. So we put someone under the water and quickly bring them back up. When Christ died we died. When Christ was raised, we can be raised too. When He went down in the depths for my sin, I went down, but when He was raised it’s as though I was raised up too.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 NIV

Though we had a sentence of death on our lives because of sin, we now have life and life to the full because of the work of Jesus.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV

When you get in the water, you are saying that when you got in Christ you became a new creation. It doesn’t mean we won’t stumble. It means our desires have changed and our defense for life changed because now Jesus is in us.

No one getting baptized says they used to be a mess but now are perfect. No, the message is we could never be perfect, but Jesus is perfect and we got into Jesus by putting my faith in Him. Our lives are joined up with the perfect one and He is going to work in us to make us like him. Our lives are now changing!

What is changing? What is the life change that we’re saying happens when we get baptized?

3. You are part of a new family

It used to be all about me, but I’m coming forward in my baptism to say it’s all about us now. I used to be an individual rolling through life and now I am walking with him and his body, the church.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27 NIV

It’s not just me that this happened to, it happened to a “we” and now I’m part of that “we.” I’m a sister or a brother in that “we” and there’s no changing that.

Baptism is the door to the church. It’s the doorway to being a part of the family of God. People say faith is a private thing and a private decision, not according to Jesus…

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 NIV


Frequently Asked Questions About Baptism

  • I have already been baptized. Should I be baptized again?

Your baptism should have signified you becoming a follower of Jesus, beginning a new life, and uniting with a new family. If your baptism did not reflect this change of life, then you should be baptized again.

  • May my child be baptized?

We encourage parents to partner with Rock Brook for Kids and take their child through our Kids Baptism Class. This class is offered for third through sixth grade. You can find out more information at http://www.rbfk.net/kids-baptism-class

  • May my infant be baptized?

Throughout the New Testament, the Bible teaches that baptism is a public expression of worship symbolizing the new life we have when we follow Jesus. In the Bible we see that Jesus’ parents dedicated him to the Lord (Luke 2:22–40), and he was later baptized as an adult (Matthew 3:16–17).

We understand that some churches practice “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a commitment between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his or her own personal confession of Christ. This custom is different from the biblical examples of new believers being baptized to publicly profess their faith in Jesus. At Rock Brook we provide opportunities for child dedication. Let us know on the communication card if you would like to dedicate your child.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion about love, or your discussions from the spiritual growth campaign. Any loose ends you need to tie up? What was your favorite week of the campaign?

 

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

Hear the Word

Pausing to celebrate and look back at how far we’ve come is biblical. God commands it. He doesn’t want us to just fly through life without recognizing what He has done for us.

This weekend we paused to reflect on where we’ve been and look at what our next step of spiritual growth may be. We were reminded of what happens, specifically when we take the step of baptism. It shows we are a follower of Jesus, we are beginning a new life in Christ, and you are part of a new family.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message? What did you hear?
  2. Describe your baptism. When was it? What did your life look like then?
  3. What did you need to be reminded of most in this message? What do you need to pause and celebrate in your life?
  4. Baptism is the first step in following Jesus. If you have been baptized, what do you think your next step in following him is?

Tell Someone Else

Faith in Christ is not a private thing. Baptism is a public expression of our faith in Christ. Have you been baptized? If not, you can sign up HERE. If you have been baptized, who can you share your faith with now?

Christmas is a great time to share your faith with your friends. Who could you bring with you to a service in December? Who could you invite to one of our Christmas services December 21-22 or Christmas Eve at 1:30, 3:00 or 4:30?

 

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #10: Love

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What is your number one goal in life? Would you say, your number one goal in life is to be happy? Or to be loved? Or succeed in your career?  However you answer that question is your dominate life value.

Every time you make a decision, every time you have a choice,  you decide what you’re going to do based on your dominant life value, the dominant principle of  your life.

For instance, if your dominant life value is to have fun, then you’re going to tend to choose the thing that’s the most fun to do. If your most important value is comfort, then you are going to tend to choose the easiest, most convenient thing to do. 

God has a lot to say about this and says that LOVE should be your goal.

“Let love be your greatest aim.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 (TLB)

Why? Because God created everything in the universe out of love.

“Do everything with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

What does everything include? This includes writing an email, posting on social media, writing a Yelp review, ordering fast food when you can’t understand the speaker, and even finding a parking spot. Everything includes responding to people who attack you for your faith. 

Do everything with love. One day Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment and He answered: 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”Mathew 22:37-39 (NIV)

That’s pretty clear. That’s why you are alive. Make love your highest aim. It doesn’t matter how much you acquire, how much you achieve, how many accomplishments you make or how many rewards you earn, or how famous you become.  

Love encompasses everything we have discussed during this campaign. If you love God, you’ve taken the responsibility to love him. You’ll trust him. Out of love you’ll have self-control.

If you have love you’ll live a balanced life. It’s out of love you will show respect, offer forgiveness, stay pure, treat people fairly and honestly. This is why Rock Brook Church is built on the Great Commandment and Great Commission, because we please God through those things.

The Fundamentals of Love

  1. We love because God loves us

If you go to a typical seminar on relationships you will hear that you need to “try to be more loving,” or “try to be more patient,” or “try to be more kind.” But trying on your own doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of trying; it’s a matter if trusting

The key to love is not you trying harder to be more loving. The key to love is letting Jesus Christ love through you.

It is experiencing the love of God in your life and letting Jesus Christ love through you. So it starts with receiving his love. You can’t love like he did by just trying.

“Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

If God wasn’t loving there would be no love in the universe. All love comes from God. God is love.

“We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

God is always first in everything. He takes the initiative. The only reason you can love God or love anybody else is because God first loved you. He showed that love by creating you. God created you to love you. And he showed that love by sending Jesus Christ to Earth to die for you.  He showed that love by everything you have in life; it’s a gift of God’s love.

If you’re struggling to love it’s not that you don’t love God enough. Your problem is you don’t realize how much He loves you. If you realized how much God loves you extravagant, irresistible, unconditional love – you would have to love him back.  

You could not, not love God if you understood how much he loves you. If we’re going to talk about learning to love God and others you’ve got to first understand and feel how much God loves you. The day you finally, fully understand how God loves you completely,  unconditionally, you can’t make God stop loving you.  You can try but you will fail.  

When you feel that unconditional love you’re going to start cutting people a lot of slack.   You’re not going to be as angry as you’ve been.  You’re going to be more patient.  You’re going to be more forgiving. More merciful.

The reason why you see people who are judgmental, sarcastic, mean spirited, angry, self righteous, always putting other people down is because they’re putting themselves down.  They don’t feel good about themselves.  They don’t feel loved.  They don’t feel forgiven.  They don’t feel grace. They feel guilty.  They feel bad about themselves.  And if they feel bad about themselves they certainly don’t want you feeling good about yourself.  

You’re going to have to do some healing in your heart because you have been hurt in life.  You’ve been hurt by parents or peers in school or by professionals or by partners.  Maybe some of you have been abused or misused or rejected or abandoned or betrayed.  

You have to let God do some gentle surgery on your heart because you can’t love others until you feel loved. 

“We know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

Do you know the love of God? Do you rely on the love of God for you?

  1. Love is a choice and a commitment.

There is a myth that love is uncontrollable. That you really can’t control it. That love just kind of happens to you. You can’t force somebody to fall in love with you.  And you can’t force them to stay in love with you.  Why?  Because love is a choice.  

“You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying, and committing yourself firmly to him.”Deuteronomy 30:20 (NLT)

You must choose to love God. God isn’t going to force you to love him. Because love can’t be forced. Love is a choice.

You can choose to love anybody and you can choose not to love anybody.  So when you say, “I don’t love him or her anymore,”  don’t blame it on the circumstances.  You are choosing not to love. It’s in the moments when the loving feeling is gone that you find out what you’re made of.

  1. Love is an action, not just emotion

Love can produce emotion, but love is not an emotion.  

In the Bible, over and over, we are commanded by God to love each other. If love were just an emotion then God couldn’t command it. But love is something you do.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6 (NIV) 

Acting in love when you don’t feel it is the highest form of love. When you get up in the middle of the night with a child, or when you take care of an aging parent, or you’ve held a sick pan for a loved one who was nauseated, you didn’t feel like doing that. You did it out of love. That is the ultimate form of love.

When you are patient with somebody who’s irritable. When you do the loving thing and you come home at night and you’re as tired as everybody else is but you do the loving thing not because you feel like doing it but you do it out of love.  

You can learn about the concept of love in a sermon, in a book, in a small group, or in a video, but you actually learn to love by practicing it. By doing it.  

  1. The best expression of love is time

We’re all different, but we all have the exact same amount of time: 24 Hours a day; 168 hours a week. What are you going to do with that time?

“We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.” 1 John 3:18 (GWT)

Our families need more time together. Time working hard together. Playing together. Enjoying each other. Showing love.

Love means giving up. Giving up your agenda for someone else’s agenda. Giving up your time for someone else’s time. Giving up your preferences for someone else’s preferences.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)

Jesus is the model of perfection in relationships.  He was the Son of God. He was perfect.  He was the only one who knew how to handle relationships perfectly.

  1. Love is a skill

Did you know that love could be learned? You can get good at it and you can get better at it. We want our church to be most known for being a loving church.

Not just the church with small groups or great music or great coffee or a great children’s ministry. We want people to say, “That’s the church where they love. They love God. They love God’s word. They don’t care who you are or what you look like or where you’ve been or what you’ve done or where you’re from, they love you there. And not only do they love you there, they teach you how to love.”

“Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all.”1 Timothy 4:15 (GNT)

This is where love can get difficult. Because love doesn’t mean I just let people do whatever they want. God wants us to help each other grow. Love can mean discipline. Love can mean hard conversations. 

Just because someone doesn’t let you get their way,  doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  It may mean they’re the only one who really loves you. They are doing what’s best for you. They don’t want to see that area of your life destroyed.So they’ll tell you the truth in love.

  1. Love is a habit

You can’t claim to be a loving person unless you are attempting to love everyone. You may think you are a loving person, but love happens when you love the unlovely.

“If you only love those who love you what credit is that to you?”Luke 6:32

Being a loving person is when you love the unlovely. Love has to become a lifestyle.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.”Hebrews 13:1 (NLT)

“Keep on” means make a habit of it.  Do it all the time. In some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples right before he went to the cross, he’s giving them the last minute instructions before he dies and resurrects and goes back to heaven.  

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)

The mark of a true believer is love. The symbol of a follower of Jesus is not a cross,  it’s not a fish, it’s not a dove, it’s not a crown.  The symbol of a genuine follower of Jesus is love. 

Do people know you’re a follower of Jesus because you’re the most loving person they know?


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about honesty. How has that message and discussion impacted the way you have communicated this week?

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

Hear the Word

Life is all about learning how to love. It’s the most important value we can build into our lives. Why? God created everything in the universe because of his love. He made you because he wants to love you and he wants us to learn to love like he loves. 

“Let love be your greatest aim.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 (TLB) 

The fundamentals of love: We love because God loves us. Love is a choice and commitment. Love is an action, not just an emotion. The best expression of love is time. Love is a skill. Love is a habit.

Application

  1. We love Because God loves us. What would make someone doubt God’s love? 
  2. Love is an action not an emotion. Think of a time you chose to love someone when you didn’t “feel” like it, but you knew it was the right thing to do. What did you learn?
  1. The best expression of love is time. Which of your relationships need more of your time? How would time spent together improve those relationships?
  1. Love is a skill. What aspects of love (e.g., patience, kindness, humility, hope, grace) do you have the hardest time extending to others?

Tell Someone Else

Is there someone God is bringing to your mind that you could text or call and tell them you love them right now? Who could you invite to come with you for Celebration Weekend? 

Have you taken the step of baptism in following Jesus Christ? We’ll be doing baptisms this weekend at Rock Brook. For more information visit rockbrook.org/connect/baptism

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #9: Honesty

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Today the value we’re talking about is honesty. The irony of honesty is that all of us make a big deal about it and we want it but really, in practicality, we give it very little value. 

It is amazing how many opportunities there are in our day to be dishonest. Every conversation, every phone call, every interaction we have dozens and dozens of opportunities to be dishonest.

“Would you like to enjoy life? Do you want long life and happiness?  Then keep from speaking evil and from telling lies.” Psalm 34:12-13 GNT

When you tell a lie, you’ve got to commit to the lie. Then every time the phone rings, every time someone wants to talk you wonder, is this it? Is this when I get caught?

Dr. Leonard Keeler, inventor of the lie detector machine, determined after testing 25,000 individuals that human beings are basically deceptive. At the core of humanity there is dishonesty.

To those of us who have read the Bible, this is no surprise. We know that in the book of Genesis we’re told that dishonesty has plunged this world into the mess that it’s in. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful. We have wickedness that lives within us because of the fall of man, we have a resistance to truth. 

Lying is not only in our culture and nature, dishonesty is part of our spiritual structure. It’s much bigger than ourselves. There’s a struggle going on in the cosmos. Call it what you will, it’s light versus darkness, good versus evil, Satan versus God.

We are the object of this spiritual battle. It’s an eternal combat that is bigger than most of us are capable of understanding. Basically it comes down to this: truth versus falsehood. The Bible tells us that God is the father of truth. The Bible also tells us that Satan is the father of falsehood.

“He (Satan) has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NLT

The Bible doesn’t sugar coat it, God is on one side and Satan is on the other and we have a choice, do we follow the culture or do we follow the creator? When it comes to the Creator, God says He hates dishonesty. That is not  a word used very often in the Bible.

The word “hate” means it’s disgusting, detestable, utterly and thoroughly repulsive. Dishonesty is repulsive to God because He is the Truth and dishonesty is a perversion of His character.


Steps Towards an Honest Life

1. TELL THE TRUTH CONSISTENTLY

Being honest 80% of the time is not integrity. The little boy who cried wolf is a classic story. Eventually you don’t know whether the guy’s telling the truth or not so you don’t believe him at all. 

So you must tell the truth consistently, honesty is a lifestyle. Nobody has a good enough memory to be a good liar. If you lie you have to remember what you said to each person. If you tell the truth at all times you don’t have to remember anything because you’ve always told the truth.

“People who can’t be trusted are destroyed by their own dishonesty.” Proverbs 11:3 GNT

Every relationship is built on one word — trust. Truth telling produces trust building. Deception destroys trust. If you are a dishonest person pretty soon you have no relationships because nobody can trust you.

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Proverbs 12:19 NIV

2. TELL THE TRUTH COMPLETELY

God says lying is an intention to mislead and when you’re just telling a half a truth you’re telling a whole lie. You can lie by falsifying or you can lie by concealing. When we deliberately hold back half the truth, we’re being deceptive.

You can lie without even saying a word. God says, in the end people appreciate honesty. God says tell the truth completely.

“In the end people appreciate frankness more than flattery.” Proverbs 28:23 TLB

It may be unpleasant at first. You have an employee that’s not fulfilling their job and you have to correct them. They may not appreciate it then, but if it helps them build their character it will help in the long run.

“Someone who holds back the truth causes trouble.” Proverbs 10:10 GNT

What kind of trouble can come from concealing the truth? You cause resentment, mistrust, and superficiality. You get into trouble by not saying what you mean and not meaning what you say. 

Marriages often get in trouble because during the engagement period, they lie to each other. Not overtly, but lie by not facing the issues. There may be major differences in the relationship that they just ignoring.

Once you understand the motivation behind your lying, then you can deal with the real issue.

Lying is not your real problem. It’s the symptom of a deeper problem.

“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Jesus 

Jesus is saying the real problem is not our mouths but our hearts. What’s coming out of our mouths, these lies, are really an indication of what’s inside of us. If we are going to become people of integrity, we have to deal with what motivates us to lie. 

Why Do We Lie?

TYPE OF LIE MOTIVE
The Cruel Lie Resentment
The Cowardly Lie Fear
The Conceited Lie Insecurity
The Calculated Lie Greed
The Convenient Lie Laziness
  • The cruel lie – This is the kind of lie that is intentionally destructive and malicious. You tell it to get revenge. They’ve hurt you so you’re going to get even. You misrepresent them, this is called slander. Slander means when you make up something about somebody that’s not true with the intentional purpose of damaging their reputation. The Sadducees did this to Jesus. They brought false charges so they could hang Him on the cross. The cruel lie is an intentional mischievous lie.  The motive behind that kind of lie – resentment.
  •  The cowardly lie – This is the kind of lie you tell to escape consequences. You’re trying to protect yourself, prevent pain and avoid punishment. Adam told this kind of lie in the Garden of Eden, when he sinned and blamed his wife. The motive behind that kind of lie – fear.
  • The conceited lie – This is when you lie to impress. You’re trying to create an image or cover for a mistake. What may come off as pride and ego is actually a frightened, insecure person. The motive behind that kind of lie – insecurity.
  • The calculated lie – This is the kind of lie used to manipulate other people. It is a calculated lie to get what we want or think we need. The motive behind that kind of lie – greed.
  • The convenient lie – The convenient lie we tell because it takes effort to tell the truth. To not have to explain yourself or talk more, you shrug off the truth. Sometimes you don’t want to get involved with something or you’re too busy to check the facts so you tell something you haven’t really checked up on. This is often called diplomacy. This is the kind of lie you tell when you don’t want to offend anybody. The motive behind that kind of lie – laziness.

3. TELL THE TRUTH LOVINGLY

Don’t use the truth as a club. Don’t beat people over the head with the truth. People change easier and faster when you speak the truth in a spirit of love. People always perceive truth without love as an attack.

Truth without grace is mean.

It doesn’t matter if it is the truth. People don’t receive it if it is yelled and beaten over them. They resist it, become defensive against it, don’t want to hear it, because they perceive it as an attack.

“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Ephesians 4:15 NLT

How do we know if we’re speaking the truth in love? Ask yourself the question, Who am I trying to benefit from this? Think through the motivation. Is it to change them so things are easier on you? Or is it because you care about them and want them to be the best they can be.

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 NLT

4. TELL THE TRUTH TACTFULLY

Being honest does not mean being brutal. Whenever you have a need to share a tough truth the solution is never deception. The truth sets you free. But, when you speak the truth you must speak it completely, consistently, lovingly, and tactfully. 

“Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” Proverbs 12:18 GNT

You have an option with your words: you can either hurt people or you can heal them. Develop people or you can destroy them. Build them up or you can tear them down. Delight or you can devastate. He’s saying your words have tremendous power.

If you think about it, emotional wounds last longer than physical wounds. When you speak the truth in love and with tact you can learn how to make a point without making an enemy.

  • Plan your presentation

“The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is.” Proverbs 16:21 GNT

Planning your presentation doesn’t mean you come up with come backs to all the potential ways they might respond. Instead, write down the issue and a few points to that issue. That way when things get off track, you can keep the problem on the issue rather than the person or some other thing.

  • Choose the right time

“Intelligent people think before they speak.” Proverbs 16:23 GNT

Put your mind in gear before you put your mouth in gear. Timing is everything. Don’t try to start a tough conversation with your spouse late at night when you’re both tired, overwhelmed and frustrated. Plan a time to allow for constructive conversation. 


If you’ll do these four things, the Bible says you will begin to be an honest person.Speak the truth completely, consistently, lovingly and tactfully. The beginning of honesty is the confession of dishonesty. If you want to be a person of integrity, first admit to God that you don’t always tell the truth and ask Christ to forgive you.

He will give you the power to change and put a new heart in you. He will begin to replace the deception with truth as you begin to let Christ more and more control your heart. You do that by making a choice and saying, God help me to be more interested in character than in reputation. 

If you’re more interested in reputation you’ll lie to build your reputation. Reputation is what other people think you are. Character is what you really are. Character is what lasts for eternity. 


God Blesses Honesty

  • By guarding me – “He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.” Proverbs 2:7 NLT

That word means to be a bodyguard whose soul purpose is to protect you. If we’re honest, He’ll shield us. It’s not going to be easy but He will be our shield. 

  • By directing me – “The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.” Proverbs 11:5 NLT

When we’re honest we see God’s way.  The direction becomes very clear.  That’s a reward.

  • By sustaining me – “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.” Proverbs 12:19 NLT

Honesty will outlast dishonesty. There was a story some years ago about a newlywed couple from Chicago. They had opened their presents before they went on their honeymoon, gathered all their cash, put it in a suitcase, loaded up the car, then left the cash on the top of the car and drove away — $12,000. It fell to the street and was found by an honest man. This man was unemployed.  But he returned the money. 

The city of Chicago went hysterical about this guy. When the story broke, this guy got job offers from Sony, Hilton, Hyundai, Motorola and more. He was rewarded for his honesty. 

In a kind of physical way this is an example of what God does in a spiritual way. God is in the business of rewarding honesty. Some people will receive a reward for their honesty in this life, and sometimes we have to wait for the next life for our reward. But, that reward will be more than we can imagine. Honesty will last for eternity. 


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about fairness and injustice. How has that message and discussion impacted the way you see the world and process injustice in the world?

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

Hear the Word

We would all probably agree that honesty is the best policy and a value worth building our lives on. But in practice, it’s often a different story. It’s easy to find an excuse not to tell the whole truth. Other times, it can be tempting to intentionally deceive people. But honesty is essential for the success of any relationship.

Dishonesty has many different faces in our life but it has one common result. Dishonesty strangles life out of us. One of the main reasons it runs so fast through our culture is because dishonesty is present in our nature. It’s deeper than just our culture; it’s in our nature. There’s something about you and I that is so warped and flawed that we are drawn to untruth. There is a wickedness about our nature because of the fall and because of sin, but there is also a wonder about our nature. We’re created in the image of God and something deep down within us really wants truth.

“Would you like to enjoy life? Do you want long life and happiness? Then keep from speaking evil and from telling lies.” Psalm 34:12-13 GNT

Application

  1. Why do you think people tell “white lies” and then expect there to be no consequences?
  2. When we understand the motivation behind any lie, then we can deal with the real issue. Lying is just a symptom of something else. Here are five types of lies and the motivation for each one:
  • The cruel lie is motivated by resentment.
  • The cowardly lie is motivated by fear.
  • The conceited lie is motivated by insecurity.
  • The calculated lie is motivated by greed.
  • The convenient lie is motivated by laziness.

What motivation might be most tempting for you? Why?

  1. What kind of reaction would someone have if you spoke the truth without love?    What might the response be from someone if you spoke the truth with love?
  2. Proverbs 12:18 says, Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. Can you think of a time when someone spoke healing words to you? How did that person’s wisdom impact you?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to be honest with? Plan your presentation and choose the right time. How will you ask God to help you?

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #8: Fairness

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The Bible is very specific: this is not heaven, it is not a perfect world. There are things that are unfair. There is injustice. This is not the way God designed it or wanted it. It was created perfect. But, because of sin, the world is now an imperfect, broken place until Christ returns and redeems it.

If you ever want to do any in depth study on this subject, you need to go study the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon had achieved wisdom and riches and many of the things we spend our life trying to achieve. He takes a step back and looks at everything in life. And he’s left wanting, He even calls it meaningless. Throughout that journey he gives five little snapshots of life that show typical, common occurrences of unfairness in the world. 


Life Is Unfair

First, he’s noticed that criminals go unpunished.

“Throughout the earth, justice is giving way to crime and even the courts are corrupt.”  Ecclesiastes 3:16 TLB

“When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.” Ecclesiastes 8:11 NLT

This could not be any more relevant than it is today. Given enough money, you can beat any inditement today,  all you have to do is hire the right attorney and they’ll find some technicality to get you off the charge. Solomon sees that criminals go unpunished while victims and their families suffer.

He also notices the oppressed are unhelped in the world.

“Then I looked again at all the injustice that goes on in this world. The oppressed were crying, and no one would help them. No one would help them, because their oppressors had power on their side.” Ecclesiastes 4:1 GNT

History is a record of the fact that it is human nature for human beings to try to dominate each other. You can see it throughout the history of the world. The powerful try to dominate the weak.

Even today, the wars we see in our society are basically wars of oppression. Many of these oppressed martyrs in the world are Christians. In certain places you can be killed for claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Solomon observes that nobody seems to be helping these people.

Then he says, exhibit number three: politicians are unethicalIllegal fund raising, cover ups, scandals, lying about your opponent… it’s nothing new.

If you see… miscarriage of justice anywhere throughout the land, don’t be surprised! For every official is under orders from higher up, and the higher officials look up to their superiors. And so the matter is lost in red tape and bureaucracy. Ecclesiastes 5:8 TLB

“There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth.” Ecclesiastes 10:5-6 NLT

To be clear, there are some godly, political leaders. However, often times we look at the elections we have at the local, state and federal level and think, surely there’s got to be more choices than this…

We’re giving great authority to foolish people. The Bible says when ungodly people hold positions of authority they are going to abuse it and Solomon says that’s unfair.

Exhibit number four, good people go unrewarded while evil people often prosper.

“There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 8:14 NIV

Does it ever bother you that dishonest people get promoted while honest people are overlooked?  Have you ever been to a funeral of a good person, a young person and think, “Why did they die?” 

“Some of the good die young and some of the wicked live on and on.” Ecclesiastes 7:15

Another thing he notices is that capable people are often unsuccessfulJust because you’ve got talent doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. The good guys don’t always win in this world. 

“The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives.” Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT

We all know bright, educated, hard working people who barely get by financially. Yet we know about these bums who inherit millions and then aren’t even grateful for it. In our society, the biggest salaries don’t go to the smartest people. In our culture we pay unnecessary professions more than we pay teachers who train our kids.

Solomon says, the bottom line is life isn’t fair. Capable men and women don’t always rise to high positions. People sometimes don’t get promoted because of the color of their skin or their gender or their belief in Jesus Christ and that’s unfair and it’s wrong.

We all ask, why God doesn’t do something about the injustice in this world? The Bible says that there is injustice in the world, for a time, for some reasons.


Why Doesn’t God Do Something About Injustice?

1. Because God gives us the freedom to choose

In the very first chapters of the Bible we have the story of creation. God creates man in His own image. That means you, as a human being, are different from the animals. God gave you a spirit which gives you the ability to have a relationship with God.

Another way you’re made in God’s image is you have the freedom to make moral choices. You can choose between right and wrong. Animals cannot do that. Animals can choose only by instinct, between survival and death. They cannot choose morally between what’s right and what’s wrong.

“’I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!’” Deuteronomy 11:26 NLT

That’s the good news. The bad news is there are consequences to our choices, and we often make selfish choices. When we do that, innocent people get hurt and that’s unfair. 

There is an assumption with God. We think that in order for God to be good, he must never allow evil. But there’s fallout from that way of thinking:

  1. God would create nothing.
  2. God would create beings with no possibility for moral free will.

In order for God to create beings capable of love, He must also create a world where evil and suffering can exist. He could create a universe with no pain. But you know what else it would be without – mercy, love, compassion, true peace, significance, forgiveness, happiness.

God is putting a group of people together who choose to love Him, not are forced to love Him. You can’t say you love somebody unless you have the choice to not love him or her. You can’t say you are honest until you’ve had the opportunity to be dishonest.

There is injustice when we choose to not do the godly thing. It’s not on God. If we get drunk and get in my car and take the life of another driver, is that God’s fault? No. It’s our fault. God didn’t plan that. It’s the result of an evil choice that we made. 

2. Because God will settle accounts one day

God will do something about injustice. People may not get their justice here on earth, but they will one day. The Bible tells us in the book of Isaiah that God is a God of justice. If we didn’t believe that we would be in absolute despair.

The truth is today, evil people get away with evil things all the time. It would be a travesty if evil dictators who have killed millions just get away with it with no punishment. That is unthinkable. God tells us He is going to be a God of justice. 

“In due season God will judge everything man does, both good and bad.” Ecclesiastes 3:17 TLB

“In due season…” Today is not the end of the story. The final chapter has not been written. The scales of justice have not been weighed. One day there is going to be a judgment day where one day we personally stand before God and give an account of our lives including the good, the bad, and whether we trusted His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior or not. Are we covered by the judgement poured out on Christ, or do we take that on ourselves?

3. Because injustice shows why we need a savior

Injustice shows what we’re really like on the inside. There is a very popular idea going around today that makes us think human beings are basically good its just environment that makes us do bad things.

Anybody who’s had children knows that we are born with a selfish nature. But we want to all think we’re basically good. We’ll admit we have some weaknesses, faults, areas we need to work on, rough edges, and personality quirks. But, we don’t want to call it what it is — sin. 

“God is letting the world go on its sinful way so that he can test mankind, and so that men themselves will see that they are no better than beasts.” Ecclesiastes 3:18 TLB

Human beings without God tend to start acting like animals. We hear the shocking stories of gang rape, abuse, senseless acts of violence in society against innocent people who have no reason to be hurt. There is no way to explain the horrific acts of violence and terror that have happened in our world if we believe human beings are inherently good.

One day when we stand before God and He’s looking at your life, you’re not going to want justice. You’re going to want mercy. Thank God He gives us an opportunity to be saved. None of us have a chance of getting into heaven on our own. Heaven is perfect and alive. We are imperfect and dead. Without the work of the cross, we don’t get into that perfect place.

4. Because how we handle injustice can build character

Not everything bad in life is ultimately bad for you. 

Pain is not without purpose.

It can build character. The Bible tells us many times, suffering produces character. However, suffering does not automatically produce character. It only produces character when you choose to respond to it in the right way. 

A lot of people who’ve suffered a tremendous amount have no Christlike character at all.  Rather, they’re bitter and cynical. Maybe you’ve gone through some things and wondered why God let it happen to you. You feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand and it just isn’t fair. Everybody has their own story of unfairness, how does God say we can grow our character through those things?


Responding to Unfairness & Injustice

1. Accept it gracefully

Accept injustice with God’s grace in mind. Don’t be surprised when people treat you unfairly. Jesus told us it would happen. 

“‘My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory.'” 1 Peter 4:12-13 NCV

You can’t choose whether or not you’ll be hurt in this life. But you can choose your response.

We try to accept it gracefully, rather than becoming bitter. You can’t become like Christ if you don’t have anything in common with him. Use it as an opportunity to have more in common with Christ.

2. Respond lovingly

Respond to the offender lovingly. When somebody hurts you, they expect you to retaliate and fight back. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 5:44 NCV,

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.”

Why do you do that? Because it keeps them from controlling you. Great American scientist Booker T. Washington has an amazing quote. As a black man years ago, he went through many injustices and unfairnesses of life. 

“I will never allow another man to control my life by allowing him to make me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington

We don’t have to hate.  That’s a choice. We can’t control the unfairness that happens to us, but we can choose to be a better person, not a bitter person. We don’t let others control our emotions, so we choose to respond in a loving way. 

When you respond to an offender lovingly, that does not mean you continue to allow injustice.  On the contrary, we are to lovingly seek justice. We are to work for justice in the world without retaliating, without getting revenge, without seeking to get even and without seeking to hurt the people that have hurt us.

We will return love to the very people who have done evil to us. That’s what it means to be like Jesus Christ. As Christians we have to fight for justice. We are to be more concerned about justice for others than for ourselves.

“Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right!  Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors.” Jeremiah 22:3 NLT

3. Wait for God’s help expectantly

When you are going through an unjust period, God is on your side. All through scripture, God has a special heart for people who are treated unfairly. He is a God of justice.

“A person might have to suffer even when it is unfair, but if he thinks of God and stands the pain, God is pleased.” 1 Peter 2:19 NCV

God hears your cry and He sees your pain and He knows you didn’t get what you thought you deserved. But He has a plan. You can develop a beautiful picture with the light of God’s love in your life.

So what does God want me to do while I’m waiting for him?

“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19 NLT

You’re never going to get an explanation for a lot of things that have happened in your life that you feel are unfair — at least not in this life. When we get to Heaven and everything is made right, we will understand better. 

But even then, God does not owe us an explanation. The good news is, we don’t need an explanation to get on with life. All we need to know is God loves us. God is faithful. He will reward you if you have a right response to the unfairness of life and you continue to be fair no matter what anybody else does.

“These little troubles… are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 PH


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about moral purity. How is your path back to purity going? Have you made any adjustments to your life to have a pure mind and life?

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

Hear the Word

When everybody else is living for themselves, why should we live any differently? Practicing fairness is foundational to building values into our lives that last. But as we try to be fair, we notice all the injustice in the world. Criminals go unpunished. The oppressed are unhelped. Politicians are unethical. Good people go unrewarded. Capable people are unsuccessful.

We all ask this question at some point in our lives… Why doesn’t God do something about the unfairness and injustice in the world? Is He helpless? Does He not care? Is He unconcerned? No. The Bible says that God allows injustice in the world, for now, for a reason. One, Because God gives us the freedom to choose. Two, because God will settle accounts one day. Three, because injustice shows why we need a savior. Four, because how we handle injustice can build character.

How can we respond to unfairness and injustice? One, accept it gracefully. Two, respond lovingly. Three, wait for God’s help expectantly.

A person might have to suffer even when it is unfair, but if he thinks of God and stands the pain, God is pleased. 1 Peter 2:19 NCV

If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. 1 Peter 4:19 NLT

Application

  1. In what ways has God grown your character through an injustice you experienced?
  2. How can God use the pain from your past to help other people?
  3. When have you seen someone respond lovingly in the face of injustice?                                              What impression did it make on you?
  4. What injustices do you wish you had an explanation for?                                                                      How do you feel an explanation would help you?

Tell Someone Else

Prayerfully consider who you could share this message with. You could have a conversation with them around the topic using some questions from these Talk It Over Notes, or you could send them a link to message through rockbrook.org/sermons, the podcast or Rock Brook App.

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #7: Moral Purity

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Today we’re studying a value that as Americans we care a lot about in some areas of our life and in others we could not care less: the value of purity. For instance, we want pure air to breathe, pure water to drink and we want pure food to eat. But, we’re not as concerned about having pure minds. 

We will allow almost anything in our minds and we get desensitized to it. It used to be that you had to go to an “Adult Book Store” to get pornography. Today it’s all piped into our home and life every day. The temptations haven’t changed. Human nature hasn’t changed. But, how we view it and how we access it has changed.

“God wants you to be holy and pure and to keep clear of all sexual sin… For God has not called us to be dirty-minded and full of lust but to be holy and clean.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3,7 TLB

As we read that verse, we may ask, is that possible in today’s world? Here’s a reason we believe that it is. A fish in the ocean has lived its entire life in salt water.  It grows up in a culture where every moment of its life it’s surrounded by brine, water that’s so salty you can’t drink it yourself or you’ll get sick.  Yet, when you catch that fish and bring it home and prepare it for a meal you have to put salt on it. 

The same God that can take a fish and keep it in an environment of salt its entire life and yet not be affected by it, can keep you in a polluted world and keep your mind pure.

We normally fall into one of two extremes when dealing with purity: imitation or isolation. The answer is not imitation which says encourages us to be like the world and adapt to every perversion that’s out there.

On the other hand, isolation pushes us to completely stay away from the world. Let’s build a bunker or become nuns and monks to isolate ourselves.

The answer is not isolation or imitation. It is insulation. Just like God can insulate that fish and keep it in a briny environment and yet not let it get salty, God can keep you in a polluted world and keep your life, your mind, your heart pure.


How to Stay Pure in a Polluted World

1. Make a commitment to God’s standard

God says several things in His word that aren’t very popular. God says a number of things, particularly about sex, in His word that you may make you wonder why. The answer –  because He knows a lot more about sex than you do and He understands the implications far better. 

When it comes to sex, God invented it. And yet God has also put some parameters around it. His standard has never changed and is very clear regardless of opinion polls. Sex is far more than physical. It is a spiritual act and it has spiritual consequences. Not only that, sex has emotional consequences, social consequences, even has legal consequences.

The problem with sex education is not that they teach too much, it’s that they don’t teach enough. When we reduce sex to simply a biological function, we forget sex is so much more.

The Bible also says that sex is exclusively reserved for a man and a woman who are committed to each other in a marriage. Anything outside of that — sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, anything else — will have profound consequences in your emotions, in your spiritual life, and physical life.

God puts these parameters in place not to restrict your freedom, but for your protection.

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” Psalm 119:9 NIV

Sex is not bad or dirty. It is holy and spiritual. That’s why it is to be used according to God’s standard. Making a commitment to God’s standard takes courage. It takes character to have conviction and do what God says is right. Once you’ve done that, regardless of mistakes you’ve made in the past, then you’re ready to move to step two.

2. Manage my mind

Anytime you see somebody really messing up their life, it didn’t start with the actions, it started with thoughts. They were thinking dumb thoughts before they started making dumb decisions. The way you think determines how you feel. You feel a certain way because you’re thinking a certain way and feelings are what motivate you to action.

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NCV

If you want to change your action, break a bad habit, or change your life you don’t work on the habit, you work on what caused it —the thoughts that caused the feelings that caused the action. God says your thoughts control your life. 

This is how you fall into temptation. This is how affairs happen. Long before the actual physical act takes place, little decisions have been made that lowered the barrier. It happens like this:

  • First, it starts with accepting sinful thoughts in my mind. “What would it be like to go to bed with that person? I wonder if it’s so wrong?  Did God really say…” You start having doubts and you start fantasizing in your mind. You think it is harmless, but thoughts inevitably produce feelings. That’s why while you’re thinking it, it produces feelings of excitement.
  • Second, there is emotional non physical involvement. That’s where you start flirting. You start making gestures and comments — that say, “I’m available.”
  • Third, comes the physical involvement.
  • Fourth, comes rationalizing my actions. “Everybody’s doing it.  It’s no big deal.  We’re both adults.” 

The Bible shows us how to break these steps.

“Turn your back on the turbulent desires of youth and give your positive attention to goodness, faith, love and peace…” 2 Timothy 2:22 PH

The way you stop is by turning your back on what you’re thinking about. You have a choice. You don’t have to give in to temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted.  But it’s a sin to give in to temptation. 

How do you break any temptation? Turn your back on it and replace it with something else. If my mind isn’t on it, I can’t be tempted by it. Change the situation.

One of the practical ways you can do if you want a pure mind in a polluted world is …

3. Monitor my media intake

What you feed your mind is just as important as what you feed your body. Could you live healthy on a diet of Dr. Pepper and Twinkies? No, you couldn’t. Yet the moral equivalent of a Twinkie is most things on Netflix and Prime. On television and streaming you’re taught, through exposure, that the only good sex is outside of God’s plan for sex.

Therefore, you have to monitor your media intake or your cornea is going to develop your character. The problem with television and media is it lowers your resistance to understanding what’s right and wrong. On television, sin is glamorized. Television doesn’t show the results of the sin.

“Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless.” Psalm 119:37 GNT

A way we often do this as adults is through the news. The news is often just a more sophisticated version of all the other junk. It’s worthless. Before you click on that headline or watch that news story, ask yourself if that is really what God has called you to think about that day.

“I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” Psalm 101:3 NLT

4. Minimize the opportunity for temptation

That means don’t place yourself in a situation where you know you’re going to be tempted. If you don’t want to get burned, stay away from the fire. Here are three verses that can help you with minimizing temptation in your life.

“So be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that’—let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin.” 1 Corinthians 10:12 TLB

People tend to think the longer they have been a believer, the less they will be tempted. That is not true. The time you’re a believer has nothing to do with it. It really has more to do with how hard you’ve worked to develop conquering temptation.

Even Jesus was tempted. If you’re thinking, “I would never be tempted!  I would never give in to that temptation! I’m too old for that. I’m over that.” The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful.” Given the right circumstances each of us are capable of any sin. If you don’t think so, you’re already in trouble, because it’s going to get you in a way you don’t see coming.

“Bad companions ruin good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 GNT

Choose your friends carefully. It’s a well known fact that most affairs occur between couples who already know each other. That means you’d better make sure that your closest friends are as committed to their marriage as you are committed to yours or you may be setting yourself up for some unnecessary temptation. 

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…” Ephesians 5:3 NIV

You need some guidelines and guardrails in your life. Guardrails such as making a commitment that you won’t talk about your marriage problems, won’t be alone, won’t go out to eat, won’t travel alone, or won’t have late night phone calls with people of the opposite sex. Situations like these is where all that stuff begins.

5. Maintain my marriage

A growing relationship with your spouse will reduce the pull and attraction of adultery. Many people get tempted after they’re married because we stop dating in our marriage. We stop doing those things that keep the spark and romance going.

What happens is men tend to get married and think, “Mission Accomplished.” Now he, as a natural goal oriented guy, starts thinking, “What’s next?” He focuses on providing and turns to work and projects. The woman wonders what happened to all the dates and hours spent talking. She’s thinking, “Bait and Switch.”

“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.” Ecclesiastes 9:9 NIV

“The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs… Do not deprive each other of sexual relations… so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:3,5 NLT

For many of you, if you took the time you spent complaining about your marriage or fantasizing about something else and used that time to work on your marriage, it would be a whole lot better. You already have the time and the means.

6. Magnify the consequences of sin

The enemy tries to minimize the consequences of sin. Then after you sin, he condemns you.

“But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself.” Proverbs 6:32 NLT

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 NLT

Nothing damages your emotions more than sexual sin. God made you to be a sexual being. And since your sexuality invades every single part of your life, it’s not just a physical act. 

Many people wish they could roll back the clock and undo mistakes they have made due to temptations they have fallen into. God wants to spare you this pain. That’s why God’s standard has never changed. 

Premarital sex. Living together without getting married. Adultery. Homosexuality. Pornography. All of these are unacceptable to God. They always have been and always will be.

If you have been guilty of one or all of these things, God says He wants to give you a chance to come clean and start over. He is the only one with the power to do it. He offers healing, forgiveness and restoration.


The Path Back to Purity

1. Repent

Repent means we change our minds and admit God was right and we were wrong, we have sinned. David did this in Psalm 51. He prays a prayer after he committed adultery.  The important thing is you do it nowIf you’re in the middle of an affair right now, this is it. It’s over. It’s dead. It’s done today. Quit cold turkey, right now! 

2. Receive forgiveness

God says He wants to release us from the shame, regrets and hidden hurts. God wants to forgive you and wipe the slate clean. The good news is once He’s forgiven you, you can forgive yourself which you’re having a hard time doing.

3. Refocus and replace

You make a commitment to live morally pure by God’s standard from this day forward for the rest of your life. That means having sex only with the person you’re married to. 

4. Request help daily

Commit your life to Christ and ask Him to help you manage what He has given you. Galatians 5:16 tells us to walk by the Spirit and we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about forgiveness. Were there any action steps you needed to take? Anyone you needed to forgive? If you can’t forgive in person, did you use one of the other techniques?

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

Hear the Word

We want pure air to breathe and pure water to drink, but some of us may be less aware of our mental or moral purity. Is it even possible to maintain purity in a world where we’re continually bombarded by media trying to rob us of our purity? The answer is yes!

How do you stay pure in a polluted world? Make a commitment to God’s standard; Manage your mind; Monitor your media intake; Minimize the opportunity for temptation; Maintain your marriage; Magnify the consequences of sin.

Application

  1. Of the six steps to stay pure in a polluted world, which one do you need to focus on right now?
  2. What is one temptation you have struggled with? What thoughts, emotions, or maybe even family history led you into the struggle?
  3. What are some voices you need to turn off in your life to live a pure life? This may be another person, or something from the sex-saturated media.
  4. A growing, thriving relationship with your spouse will reduce the pull and attraction of sexual immorality. What are some things you and your spouse did when you were dating that you both enjoyed? How can you start doing some fun things together again? (If you’re single, maintaining your marriage starts now. Commit to saving your sexual purity for marriage. Trust that God knows best and he has your best interest at heart. You can start honoring your spouse before you’ve even met them.)
  5. Regardless of what’s happened in your past, God offers you a new start today. Follow these steps…The path back to purity: Repent, receive forgiveness, refocus and request help daily.
  6. Using the “Personalize It” method of Bible meditation, put your name in place of the pronouns or nouns used in scripture. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

Tell Someone Else

Prayerfully consider who you could share this message with. You could have a conversation with them around the topic using some questions from these Talk It Over Notes, or you could send them a link to message through rockbrook.org/sermons, the podcast or Rock Brook App.

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Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #6: Forgiveness

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It’s a fact of life that you’re going to get hurt. Many times intentionally by things people say about you or do to you. When we talk about forgiveness some of you instantly call to mind past hurts and heartaches that are still fresh because you have been hurt very deeply. You still wince at those memories.


Why You Should Forgive

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story called the parable of the unforgiving servant. In that story, Jesus gives three illustrations, three reasons why we ought to forgive.

He says you need to learn to forgive other people when they hurt you:

1. BECAUSE GOD HAS FORGIVEN YOU

I have been forgiven so I need to learn how to forgive others.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

When you remember how much God has forgiven you, it causes you to want to be more forgiving to other people. On the other hand, if you don’t feel forgiven, you’re going to have a tough time forgiving others.

If you don’t feel forgiven, you don’t want others to feel forgiven. If you don’t feel grace, you’re not going to be very gracious to others. If you don’t feel set free from the things you’ve done wrong, you don’t want others feeling good about the wrongs they have done to you.

Have you ever asked God to forgive you of your sins? Have you ever received Christ’s forgiveness? If you have a hard time forgiving others, maybe it’s because you have never received Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe you need to do that today, right now.

If you receive Christ’s forgiveness and every moment of you’re day you’re living in God’s love and grace and remember your slate is wiped clean because of Jesus Christ, you will be more forgiving.

You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. He will always forgive you more than you forgive anybody else.

2. BECAUSE RESENTMENT DOESN’T WORK

Resentment is self-destructive and counterproductive. It always hurts you more than anybody else.

If anybody had the right to be resentful, it was a guy in the Bible named Job.  Job was a famous, wealthy, godly man who had everything he ever wanted. But one day he lost it all. Enemy nations came in and killed all his livestock. All of his children were killed. He lost everything he had. He got a terrible disease. He was living in poverty with incurable pain.

Things had gotten so bad that Job’s wife told him he should just “Curse God and die.”
Then Job’s friends came along and said, “Job, it’s your fault.”

If anybody had the right to be resentful it was Job. But three times in the book of Job we’re told that resentment doesn’t work.

To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do. Job 5:2

Would you agree that sometimes hate or resentment or bitterness make us do really foolish things ? We do dumb things to try to get even with people. We do stuff that makes us look stupid.

It’s foolish to hold a grudge. Ecclesiastes 7:9

It’s not only unreasonable, but you are only hurting yourself with your anger! Resentment always hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Resentment makes you miserable. No matter how resentful you are, no matter how bitter you are toward that person who hurt you, all the resentment in the world is not going to change the past.

Resentment doesn’t change anything. It’s just stewing without doing. All the resentment in the world will never solve the problem. In fact, all the resentment in the world never hurts that person, it just hurts you.

Maybe they hurt you years ago and now every time you think about it, it still causes pain in your life. They’ve forgotten the issue, but your resentment keeps the hurt alive in you.

When you hold onto a hurt it’s like holding fire in your chest. It’s like swallowing a self-inflicting poison. It’s like having a cancer that eats you alive. Resentment does not hurt the other person. It hurts you.

3. BECAUSE I WILL NEED FORGIVENESS IN THE FUTURE.

Forgiveness is a two way street. You can’t expect everybody to forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive other people.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14

We cannot receive what we’re unwilling to give. If you are forgiving you will be forgiven.
But if you are unforgiving, don’t expect forgiveness from anybody else. But God says for your own sake you need to let it go. You’re not helping the situation by holding on to the hurt. When you hold on to a hurt you’re allowing somebody in the past to continue to hurt you.

If you can’t forgive a certain person, perhaps you don’t understand what forgiveness is. If you understood it, you would be more able to do it.

What you think forgiveness is and what forgiveness really is may be two different things.
There are a lot of faulty concepts, myths, and misconceptions about forgiveness out there.

Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When you minimize a wrong, you cheapen forgiveness. Forgiveness is not saying, “It was no big deal,” because it was a big deal. There’s a difference between forgiveness and acceptance.

Forgiveness is not the instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant, but trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness means you’re going to let go of the hurt but the person who hurt you has some things to do in order to rebuild the trust.

You may have been hurt so bad by a loved one that the thought of forgiving that person is almost unthinkable. However, here are four things you do in order to experience the freedom of forgiveness.

How to Experience the Freedom of Forgiveness

1. RECOGNIZE EVERYONE IS IMPERFECT

When you get hurt by somebody, you tend to lose your perspective about that person and dehumanize and demonize the offender. You forget that he or she is a human being too.

The fact is that everyone is a sinner and capable of hurting others. Every one of us have intentionally wronged other people in our lives.

There is not a single person in all the earth who is always good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

2. RELINQUISH MY RIGHT TO GET EVEN

Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Romans 12:19

This is the heart of forgiveness, what forgiveness is all about. You know the offender deserves to be hurt back, retaliated against, and punished, but say you aren’t going to do it.

This might seem unfair, but who said life is fair? God never said life is fair. This is not heaven. This is not a place of perfection. This is a place where people make mistakes. Life is not fair.

There is not always justice in the world. In fact, there’s a lot of injustice. But, God says one day He’s going to settle the score. One day God is going to balance the books, call us to account, and make things right. Until then, the Bible says, don’t avenge yourself. Don’t try to get even. Leave it to God to repay those who deserve it.

One day God’s going to have the last word. In the meantime, you let go of your right to get the last word because it’s making you miserable. Your resentment doesn’t work. Your resentment keeps you from being forgiven. Your resentment keeps you unhealthy. It’s unreasonable. It’s unhelpful. Release your right to get even and ask God to give you His peace.

How often do you have to do that? As often as the hurt memory comes back. Every time you start to get resentful, you have to forgive again. You do it over and over. Forgiveness is not a one shot deal. It’s a repeated act of giving up your right to get even.

Jesus taught this. Peter asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Peter thinks he’s being real generous here! “No,” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”

In other words, an infinite number. Don’t even try to count it. Every time you remember that hurt you must forgive them again and again until you know that you’ve released it.

3. RESPOND TO EVIL WITH GOOD

How do you know when you’ve fully released someone? When you can understand their hurt and when you can pray for them. In that process of yielding your right to get even
God changes your heart so you began to pray for good rather than evil.

Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for
those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

There is no way you can do that verse on your own power. Humanly speaking, you can’t do that 1000 times a day. You don’t have enough love, forgiveness, and joy in your life to continually forgive everyone who has hurt you.

It takes God’s power.

The only way you can do that is if you get Jesus Christ in your life and He fills you with His love and His peace and His forgiveness because human love runs out.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. When you’re filled with love you’re not keeping a record of wrongs. That means if you’re keeping a record of wrongs, you’re not filled with love at that moment. Instead, you’re filled with bitterness and resentment.

4. REFOCUS ON GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE

Instead of focusing on the offense, the hurt, and the person who has offended you, refocus on God’s purpose for your life. God’s purpose is greater than any problem or any pain that you are experiencing.

Job had every reason to be offended and every reason to have resentment but he gives us the three steps for refocusing your life:

Put your heart right, reach out to God then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more. Job 11: 13-16

Notice he says three things to do:

1. Put your heart right. Release and forgive the person who’s hurt you because you’re only making yourself miserable holding onto the hurt.

2. Reach out to God. Ask Christ into your life because you don’t have enough forgiveness on your own.

3. Face the world again. You don’t withdraw into a shell and build up walls. Instead  resume living know you are not a victim and with Jesus Christ’s power you are going to start living again.

When you do those three steps, notice what it says: “Then all your troubles will fade from your memory like floods that are past and remembered no more. The memory will fade.”

Wouldn’t you like that memory, that hurt, to stop hurting you? It will, if you do what God says.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about respect. Do you remember the memory verse? 1 Peter 1:18-19 TLB Have you had any opportunities to apply respect by being tactful, understanding, not judging, sharing your faith or responding politely?

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

Hear the Word

No one gets through this life without being hurt—that’s a guarantee. We live in a broken world, and none of us is perfect. That’s why the value of forgiveness is so important to build our lives upon. Without forgiveness, we’ll have a difficult time with conflict and unsettled issues in our relationships. 

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18 about a gracious king who forgave a servant’s debt only to see that servant go out and demand repayment by those who owed him a debt. Have someone in your group read Matthew 18:21-35 out loud.

Application

  1. God has forgiven you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have been forgiven. So, the first question this week is, have you accepted God’s forgiveness through Christ for your sins? If not, what’s holding you back? Do you still believe lies like, “I’m an exception to forgiveness because I’m too bad,” or “You don’t know what I’ve done,” or “I need to prove I’m worthy?” In what ways have you found yourself living as though you have to earn your way into God’s good graces?
  2. Job 18:4 says, “You are only hurting yourself with your anger.” What hurts or wrongs have you had a hard time letting go of? What effect has it had on your heart and mind?
  3. It’s important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is not minimizing the offense, instant restoration of trust or resuming the relationship without any changes. Your forgiveness is not based on that person’s response or even on acknowledgement of wrongdoing. When you think of what forgiveness requires, what first comes to mind?
  4. The four attitudes of forgiveness are: 1) Recognize we’re all imperfect. 2) Relinquish your right to get even. 3) Respond to evil with Good. 4) Refocus on God’s plan for your life. Which of the four attitudes of forgiveness seems easiest for you to do? Which one is the hardest? What thoughts or emotions come up in the process?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to forgive? This week, tell them you forgive them. In some situations, it may not always be advisable or even possible for you to go to people who have hurt you. They may have moved, passed away or a conversation with them would make matters worse. When you can’t forgive in person, consider the empty chair technique or writing a letter you never send. These techniques can make forgiveness feel more tangible. (See page 136 of the personal study guide for more details.)

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