December 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for January 17: Carrying His Values

December 31 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 5:17-22, 43-45
 
Can Jesus transform a serial killer? Is the gospel powerful enough to redeem someone like Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler? According to Jesus, you and I better hope so!
 
Jesus sat on the mountain delivering the greatest sermon ever preached and proclaimed that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He followed those breathtaking words with what must have felt like a backbreaking standard saying, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
 
Exceed the Scribes and Pharisees? How is that possible?
 
What did Jesus mean? What kind of righteousness exceeded that of these spiritual leaders, moral purists and biblical experts? As Christ exposits the correct interpretation of the law throughout the rest of the sermon it becomes obvious that His demand was not for more of the same kind of righteousness that the Scribes and Pharisees had, but instead was a categorically different kind of righteousness. The meaning becomes clear when His exposition of the sixth commandment moves from the external act of murder to the internal emotion of anger in our hearts (Matthew 5:22).
 
The righteousness required to enter the kingdom of heaven was not an external righteousness, but an internal righteousness. To enter His kingdom, you must have a righteous heart; you must be more than a rule-keeper; you need a righteousness that is fundamentally different from human morality.
 
Enter the good news of the gospel!
 
Christ didn’t come to abolish the sixth commandment, but to fulfill it. For while we were enemies of God, He died for us (Romans 5:8, 10)! He valued our life so much that He gave His.
 
As those who have been given a new heart and new identity, we don’t just avoid murder we value all human life. Through the gospel of Christ we are those whose angry (murderous) hearts have been transformed such that now we love and pray even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

12/31/2015 9:08:51 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 17: Cherished in God’s Eyes

December 31 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Psalm 8:1-8
 
Genesis 1:26-31 informs us that God intimately created humans in His likeness. According to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor John Hammett, creation in the image of God is the basis for human dignity and that killing a human or to even curse one is an affront to and an attack upon the living God.
 
This is certainly true of babies, the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Indeed, all human beings are lovingly knitted together in their mother’s womb by God (Psalm 139). According to Psalm 8:5-8, humanity is set apart and crowned with authority over the earth and its creatures. What causes us to think we can use our God-given authority to usurp God and slaughter the helpless babies made in His image?
 
We should be thankful and tremble over the fact that God is mindful of all humans. The sovereign God of the universe has His loving eyes on every single one of us and always has even when we were “unformed substance.” God values and deeply cares for even the weakest among us.
 
As our culture sacrifices infants on the altar of personal convenience we must stand and declare, as Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission reminds us, “The image of God cannot be bartered away, at the abortion clinic counter or anywhere else.”
 
Let’s pray and work for an end to the injustice of abortion. Let’s pray and work for better solutions for women in crisis. But let’s pray for doctors like this as well. Even more, let’s move beyond standing outside abortion clinics with hateful picket signs, let us lovingly plead, “We will adopt these children, or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.”
 
We must remember Roe v. Wade does not hold eternal jurisprudence in the Kingdom of God. With convictional kindness, we need to speak clearly of the judgment to come. But we also need to proclaim that the blood of Christ can provide mercy for those who repent.

12/31/2015 9:00:02 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 10: Approaching the King

December 29 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 6:5-18
 
In my household the Christmas season is a joy for many reasons, one of which is our daughter’s annual Nutcracker ballet recital.
 
Last year Eden, wearing her prized tutu, played the part of a butterfly in the classic Christmas ballet.
 
I, along with all the other dads, acted like it was all cute and fun, as I fought to hide the golf-ball sized lump in my throat.
 
Then at the end of the show we all erupted with applause because we were so proud of all the work the little ones had put in for this performance.
 
When I saw Eden after the show I gave her flowers and told her how proud I was of her performance. I told her she made a beautiful butterfly and that her act was spot-on.
 
I affirmed her because the whole point of the recital was to communicate a story through acting and performing for the audience.
 
This type of acting is not deceptive acting, but artistic acting. And as an audience we showed our appreciation by giving approval through applause. When it comes to ballet, movies or screenplays, acting is an artistic expression.
 
However, in contrast, when it comes to approaching God in prayer, Jesus warns us against acting and performing. Though a real temptation, the goal of praying is not the applause of an audience or even of God.
 
Instead Jesus calls us to pray in honest, humble dependence on Him. Therefore we must be careful when praying in public that we are not praying with our hearts focused on what others think of our prayers. We must not pray to impress others (Matthew 6:5-6).
 
We also are not praying to impress God (Matthew 6:7-8). Therefore, we do not need pray in King James English as if He’s going to give applause for the type or amount of words we use.
 
Instead, we speak honestly and humbly to God our Father who loves us and knows what we need even before we ask (6:8). We go to Him not to impress Him, but because our hearts need to be with Him.

12/29/2015 11:16:33 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 10: Used in God’s Service

December 29 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: 1 Corinthians 12:12-16, 21-22; 1 Peter 4:9-11
 
We have all heard of the economic law labeled the Pareto Principle. According to Vilfredo Pareto, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. This principle has been applied to the fields of business, science, software and even criminology. In church life, it is usually said that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.
 
In other words, 80 percent of the congregation remains passive when it comes to living on mission for God.
 
While it may not be true of all congregations, I think it is safe to say that large portions of the body of Christ do treat church like consumers. For the 80 percent, as theologian David Wells has reminded us, the church is a place to come and receive religious services and goods. If their needs are not met, they begin church shopping.
 
However, in 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul is clear, the body does not consist of one member but of many. And the apostle Peter is even more explicit, “… As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). This is how God designed the church. And God calls each and every individual to serve the body with the gifts they have been granted.
 
The simple truth of the matter is that Christ came to seek and save the lost so that the saved would serve one another and seek the lost. In fact, it is very clear from the New Testament that by the fruit of ones life, others can observe the genuineness of their salvation. Church consumers attend church to have their needs met.
 
True members of the church have been served to deeply by Christ, that their needs are abundantly met, and that flows over into their desire to meet others needs. The church body is just that, a body. And a body needs all of its parts functioning in order to be healthy. The question is, if you have been saved, are you being a good steward of God’s gracious gifts?

12/29/2015 11:11:50 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 3: The King’s Expectations

December 17 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 5:1-16
 
I remember walking through a small suburban church in Greensboro when I heard music begin. I was shocked because I felt certain the person singing was the pop star John Legend. The vocals were, like Legend’s, unbelievably unique and powerful.
 
So I rushed into the sanctuary half expecting to see the mega-star only to discover that the breathtaking vocals were coming from an unassuming young man that was quite contrary to my expectations. After picking my jaw up off the sanctuary floor, I was able to take in the amazing experience and enjoy it.
 
I feel a little bit like this every time I come to the Beatitudes.
 
I get all amped up, “OK, Jesus is about to show us what Kingdom life looks like. He is going to show us how followers of the King are to live. Lets go!” And then I read what the blessed life looks like and my jaw hits the floor.
 
The blessed are those who are poor in spirit, not rich in spirit? They are those who mourn, not those who celebrate?
 
The blessed are the meek, not the impressive? They hunger and thirst for righteousness? They are not those who are already the most righteous? They are merciful, not powerful? Blessed are those who are pure in heart, not the strong in heart?
 
Can they really be the peacemakers, not the leaders? The blessed are persecuted, not successful?
 
And then – much like I did that Sunday morning, after processing the shock – I am able to take in the beauty of it all.
 
I see that Kingdom life is founded on the grace of God, hence Jesus beginning with those who are “poor in Spirit,” (3) and ends with the gladness of God’s people as they receive their great reward in heaven (12).
 
This is the Kingdom life Jesus has called us to.
 
This is what it means to be salt and light in the world. Followers of Jesus live out Kingdom life and transform the world by displaying God’s grace for God’s glory – causing passers-by to look at us and be shocked by the song that bursts forth from our community of faith.

12/17/2015 10:32:26 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for January 3: Equipped with God’s Gifts

December 17 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
 
There is a strange idea in the American church, namely, that the church is a body of believers with a gifted pastor or pastors equipped to do the ministry. At first glance, one might not see the error in this ministry philosophy. Certainly, the pastors are gifted. However, according to Ephesians 4:12, the pastors are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Therefore, it is more biblical to conclude that the church is not just a body with gifted pastors, but also a body of supernaturally gifted believers.
 
God has uniquely gifted each person in the church to serve Him. No one pastor has all the gifts necessary to fulfill the ministry of the church. In fact, Jesus Christ is the only individual who ever walked the earth that embodied all of the spiritual gifts. This is why the church is referred to as the body of Christ.
 
A body is made up of different parts, each one fulfilling its specific purpose for the health of the whole.
 
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul reminds us that there are a variety of gifts and services. The common thread that holds the entire body together is the same God who empowers each one. And each one is empowered to work together in order to bring God the glory. In fact, if only one person were gifted in the church for ministry, it would be hard for that individual to not receive the glory for their service. This is the root cause of the error that Paul is addressing in this passage.
 
The Corinthians church had begun elevating certain gifts over others, and thus, the body was not functioning properly. We are all called to use the gifts God has given us for the common good. Valuing the various gifts God has granted the church helps guard against the natural envy, rivalry and superiority that comes with elevating certain gifts over others.

Let us remember, the church is a body of supernaturally gifted individuals to bring God glory through collected ministry. It is God who has gifted each one according to His sovereign will.

12/17/2015 10:27:45 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 27: The King Tempted

December 15 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 4:1-10
 
I sat in a massive ballroom surrounded by 4,000 college students as a speaker commented on the warfare language often used in sports. He said, “I hear people say, ‘It’s a battle out there. It’s a war.’ No it’s not! It’s a game! Meanwhile there is a real spiritual war being fought every day, but you don’t have time to fight the real war because you are too busy with your pretend ‘war.’”
 
John Piper spoke those words 15 years ago. They rocked me to the core then and still rock me today.
 
Do you think about the Christian life as war? The scriptures paint two battlegrounds on which this war takes place.
 
First, there is the external war against Satan and his fallen angels in this broken world (Ephesians 2:1-3).
 
Second, there is the internal war that takes place in our hearts.
 
James captures the bloody battlefield of the heart asking, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).
 
We often lose the external battles with temptation from without because we first lost the internal battles of idolatry from within.
 
Not so with Jesus of Nazareth.
 
Jesus didn’t need to feed on bread because He was feasting on His Father’s will.
 
He didn’t need to test the Father’s protection because He was fulfilling His Father’s plan. He didn’t need Satan to give him a wicked crown because His crown was on the other side of His cross.
 
Jesus won the external battle because He won the internal battle. He was the truer and better Adam who recognized the Serpent’s lies and defeated them with His Father’s truth.

He was the truer and better Israel, the faithful Son of God who trusted and obeyed His Fathers word.
 
He ate the feast of the Father’s will and washed it down with the cup of the Father’s wrath so that He might be the tempted as we are, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

We win our war by trusting in the victory of Christ in our place.

12/15/2015 9:55:16 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for December 27: Strengthened by God’s Power

December 15 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Ephesians 3:14-21
 
When we read the theologically rich letter to the church in Ephesus, we get the sense that these early Christians needed gospel encouragement. Like us, this church found herself in a world of hostility toward the Christian faith. One of the great themes of Ephesians is that Christ has given powerful gifts to His church to, among other things, stand against the onslaughts of the defeated one and his allies.
 
The Christian life is war. In Ephesians 6:12 we are reminded that we wrestle with the cosmic powers of the present darkness. If we are honest, this is a tiring thought. But the Good News is, we will not be overdone.
 
God does not leave us on our own but empowers us through His Spirit. We war with the power of God’s strength. And on the cross, Christ defeated the powers of evil. In the resurrection, their defeat was sealed. In the gospel, we have an announcement that it is finished, Christ has won!
 
So, while we may be weak in body, we are strong in spirit. When we are brought to our knees in fatigue from the war, we find that we are in the appropriate position for prayer. For this reason, we pray “… according to the riches of his glory,” that God would grant us “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit” in the depths of our souls (Ephesians 3:16).
 
The Good News is that God is able to “… do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Though we are weak, He is strong. This juxtaposition of power and weakness, shows that victory is a gift of grace. When we realize this truth, we can triumphantly proclaim, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
 
What gives us the power to fight when there is no fight left within us? We are empowered by the spirit of God. We are also encouraged to endure, when the Spirit reminds us that Jesus’ victory is our victory.

12/15/2015 9:47:39 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 20: The King Worshiped

December 3 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 2:1-12
 
At the close of 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary selected “selfie” as their word of the year. They defined “selfie” as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
 
Geoffrey Nunberg of National Public Radio responded by observing, “When we look back on 2013, we’ll recall this not just as the year when everybody was posting pictures of themselves on social media, but as the year when nobody could stop talking about it.”

What does it say about a culture that its members are obsessed with pictures of themselves?
 
The biblical answer is clear: it displays that we are hardwired to worship, and because of the Fall we direct that worship towards those made in the image of God rather than toward the One who is the image of God (Colossians 1:15).
 
Matthew highlights precisely this contrast in His account of the wise men’s visit of Christ. Jesus is worthy of the worship of all nations, and so the magi come asking, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (2:2).
 
However, Matthew continues, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled” (2:3). The foreigners from the east came to worship Jesus while Herod plotted to murder Him. Driven by narcissistic self-obsession to maintain his little kingdom, Herod felt threatened – even by a child.
 
This is the root of sin. Like our first parents in the garden, we too believe that being made in the image of God is not enough; we want to be God.

Like Herod, we want to be in charge. Yet this sets up the great glory of the gospel.
 
The toddler in the manger is the One who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead humbled Himself even unto the point of death on a cross so that we might turn from our little “selfie” kingdoms and worship the One True King (Philippians 2:6-9).

12/3/2015 11:58:15 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 20: Saved By God’s Son

December 3 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: John 1:1-5, 9-14
 
We live in a spiritually dark world. There is a lurking darkness not only in the world around us, but also deep within our souls.
 
The bad news is, there is no escape. No political or moral agenda can rescue us from this darkness.
 
Even worse, there is no way for us to rescue ourselves from the darkness of sin in our own lives.
 
When G.K. Chesterton was once asked, “what is wrong with the world?” His response was personal and profound. He simply said, “I am.”
 
The Good News is, Jesus came to earth to rescue us. He came to rescue us from the sin that plagues the world we live in. Jesus also came to rescue us from us.

Jesus entered into the darkness of our world, and there was light.
 
The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus, the light of the world, “… shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
 
Jesus is our only hope. And just like in Genesis, when God spoke into the darkness and there was light, the light of the spoken gospel shines in our hearts and saves us from the darkness of sin. This light of God’s love gives us warming comfort in the cold darkness of the world we live in.
 
As God’s people, we are called to be a light to the nations, a city on a hill. In this sense, God calls us out of the darkness into the light, and then commissions us to go back into the darkness with the light.
 
The Good News of the gospel is a light to everyone groping around in the darkness of sin. Jesus, the light, is our salvation. And the Good News gets even better.
 
Those who come to the light will one day forever dwell in the radiant glory of God.
 
The New Jerusalem is described as having “… no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk” (Revelation 21:23-24)

12/3/2015 11:54:38 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



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