September 2014

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 12: Don’t Walk Away

September 25 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 6:1-8
“Hey, I’m a Christian. In fact, I am a baptized member of your church!” I was shocked, to say the least. The man I was speaking to had finished his third beer and let out a string of profanities that would have made a sailor blush. When I asked him if it bothered him to use such language around a pastor, he made the statement above.
As Southern Baptists we have rightly held to a view of salvation that is eternal in nature. Sometimes coined “once saved, always saved,” we rightly emphasize the divine side of salvation. We emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith and not of works. We emphasize that if you can do nothing to earn your salvation, you can do nothing to lose it. But, in so doing, I wonder if we have raised a generation of lazy Christians?
The writer of Hebrews seems to be addressing just such an issue (Hebrews 6). Southern Baptists tend to shy away from the first six verses because we are not sure how to handle them. Or worse, we offer the notion that the writer is only speaking hypothetically and, you have nothing to be concerned about. After all, you’ve prayed “the prayer.”
The first three verses emphasize the fact that God expects Christ-followers to be growing and maturing in their faith. This section actually begins back in Hebrews 5:11 where the writer makes the point that “by now you ought to be teachers.” The idea is that there should be a trajectory toward Christlikeness present in every believer. The writer is urging the believers to move forward, not backward. He issues them a warning in verses 4-6: Do not leave Christ. These Jewish Christians were being tempted to return to Judaism. The writer’s point is simple: if you abandon Christ, there is no hope for your salvation. There is no salvation apart from a life-changing encounter with Christ. Frankly, for the writer of Hebrews – and, indeed, the rest of the Bible – there is less concern over whether you have “prayed the prayer” than whether you are faithfully following Christ today.

9/25/2014 11:12:57 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 12: Connected Through Prayer

September 25 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 6:18-22
Do you value prayer? Do you make time for prayer? Jesus, the Son of God, did. He valued communion with the Father – so much so that He carved out time to go to solitary places to pray. This week marks the end of the “connected” series as well as the end of the book of Ephesians. Paul, in his closing, emphasizes the importance of prayer. Not only is prayer interwoven in his final remarks to the believers in Ephesus; it is also listed as the last piece of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. For all of these reasons and more, we can deduce that prayer is not only valued but necessary and vital to the life of every Christ follower.
Prayer, as a crucial part of the armor of God, helps us to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy. John Piper defines it in this way: “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.” The church on mission is a threat to Satan. As believers, we must support the church with prayer. Prayer keeps us grounded in the strength of the Lord and in His mighty power.

Paul teaches us three principles in this week’s verses: we are to pray for each other, for the leaders of the church, and to stay abreast of how we can pray for others. Paul commands the believers to pray at all times in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests (v. 18).
He then charges them to remain alert so they can continue to pray for the saints. The Greek renders this “as watching with all perseverance.” Just like Piper reiterates, we are at war (Ephesians 6:12). With the same kind of watchfulness as a soldier on the battlefield, we too must be attentive to the prayer needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only should we pray for each other, we must also pray for the leaders of the church. The apostle Paul coveted prayer. He recognized his need for others to intercede on his behalf so that he could proclaim the mystery of the gospel with boldness (v. 19-20).
Make a commitment to pray regularly for other believers, including your church leadership, beginning this week. Be intentional. Ask for specific ways you can intercede on their behalf.

9/25/2014 11:03:54 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 5: Secured With Confidence

September 23 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 4:14-5:6
“You just don’t understand me!” As the parent of a teenager, I heard this phrase on more than one occasion. I uttered it to my own parents a time or two. Even today, I want to be understood. We all do. We all want, dare I say need, someone in our lives who understands us. Yet, there is something frightening about that, too. Do we really want someone who understands everything about us? Someone who knows us deeply and intimately? Someone from whom there are no secrets?
The writer of Hebrews tells us that nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight, but that everything is laid bare before the One to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13). If that is the case – and it is – how can any of us every bear up under the divine scrutiny of a holy God? The writer anticipates our anxiety and so reminds us in Hebrews 4:14-16 that we have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, yet without sin. He reminds us that Jesus  knows us deeply and intimately. He knows our weakness and our struggle. But, thank God, He is not powerless to help us!
Jesus provides grace and mercy to us in our time of need. Just as other high priests deal gently with those under their care (Hebrews 6:2), Jesus does as well. While other high priests offer sacrifices on their own behalf and those under their care, Jesus offers something better – a one time sacrifice that – by faith – makes us right with God.
Sadly, too many Christians want to receive such an awesome gift of forgiveness and then, inexplicably, not extend the same grace to others. Yet, the best way to demonstrate Jesus to others is to demonstrate his grace and mercy. If Jesus knows all about us and sympathizes with us, let us make it our ambition to sympathize rather than criticize. And, the next time you hear someone say “you just don’t understand me,” point them graciously to the One who does.

9/23/2014 12:36:19 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 5: Connected in Service

September 23 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:15-21
In our culture today, staying connected is pretty easy. We can instantly check our emails, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with just one touch on our phone. We can FaceTime or Skype with family and friends around the world. So if it’s that simple, then why does it seem like work to remain connected in the church?
Take a moment and gauge your level of connectivity in serving the body of Christ. Are you serving regularly? Are you serving at all? Very often, our connections on social media are one-sided. We are broadcasting our thoughts to the world or our photographs with the most flattering angle of who? You guessed it: ourselves. When we feel like “disconnecting,” we just close the app or turn off our computer.
Service in the body of Christ is not something that we can choose to be “disconnected” from. Scripture calls us to serve one another.
In Ephesians 5, Paul calls us to serve each other with wisdom. He counsels the believers to live wisely, not foolishly, and to make the most of every opportunity. In other words, redeem the time for the days are evil. How much time are you spending – unwisely – in superficial, surface-level (possibly me-centered) connections on social media? How can you better make use of your time by sacrificially serving others?
In light of this week’s theme of service, Paul also instructs the church in Ephesus to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are emptied of ourselves.
Paul uses a conditional statement in Philippians 2:1-4 to describe this: “… If [you have] any fellowship with the Spirit … then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves ….” We are to humbly serve in submission to the Spirit.
Lastly, Paul makes the point that our union with the Spirit should affect how we live as believers. Read the remaining verses and jot down the ways Paul describes how we should live as children of light.

9/23/2014 12:27:50 PM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 28: Watch Out!

September 11 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 3:7-15
It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It is an axiom that is all too accurate today. Indeed, we see it in our world on a regular basis. And, the older I get the more I find myself shaking my head at decisions that have already proven to be disastrous. Sometimes those decisions are made by folks in the church, with terrifying consequences.
The writer of Hebrews was sending a letter to a group of Christians who were about to make a terrible decision. As unbelievable as it may seem, they were actually considering turning their backs on the salvation found in Christ, in favor of returning to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews saw this for exactly what it was: hardening their hearts, just as their forefathers had done. In Hebrews 3:7-11, he uses Psalm 95 as a reminder to them of the tragic consequences of doing such a thing.
If they followed the example of their forefathers they would reveal that they have not known God’s ways and they would not be allowed to enter His rest.
The writer of Hebrews is unafraid of warning them clearly. He minces no words as he tells them (v. 12) that it is possible to be in the assembly of the saints, but have an unbelieving heart that would lead you to “fall away” from the living God.
Dare I say that we need more of that in our midst. We need more warning that if you depart from the saints by turning your back on the salvation offered in Christ, you are falling away from the living God. Such warnings are not incompatible with God’s grace, but demanded by it. 
But, the writer of Hebrews also knows that there is a powerful aid available to help us stay faithful to Christ. That aid is the encouragement and exhortation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He calls us to an urgency about the message of salvation that is too often lacking. An urgency to respond “today” as long as it is called “today.”

9/11/2014 10:24:31 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 28: Connected Through Words

September 11 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:25-32
Our words matter. Do you believe this? I’m sure you do because you can think of an instance where poorly chosen words, either spoken by you or someone else, have caused hurt and or even damaged a relationship. On the flip side, you can also probably still hear the words of those that have spoken blessing over you, or as we read last week, have spoken “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Over the past couple weeks, the apostle Paul has focused on the corporate implications of what it means to be the Church, i.e. the need for unity and maturity. This week, Paul hones in on the individual and the responsibility that each church member has with one another. He clues us in on this by addressing “each one” or “each of you” (v. 25) to speak with integrity. Each person within the body must put off falsehood and speak truthfully.
He also gives instructions in verse 29 to speak with the purpose of building up others. The old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” actually parallels Biblical truth. Only speak what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, so it may benefit those who listen. Have you viewed what you’re about to say through that perspective before?
Not only do “reckless words pierce like a sword (Proverbs 12:18),” they also grieve the Holy Spirit. Remember in the beginning of Ephesians 4 that we, as the Church, are called to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (v. 3). A rash word is not only divisive in the body, it also grieves God. Therefore, in order to fully edify others with our speech, we must speak kindly, compassionately, and with grace. We must rid ourselves of the unwholesome talk that comes out in the form of bitterness, anger, slander and instead demonstrate grace by forgiving others, just as we have been forgiven (v. 31-32). Remember, our words do matter. We can choose to speak life over someone or death. James, the brother of Jesus, said, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness… This should not be” (James 3:9-10). How can you use your words to demonstrate both love for God and others this week?

9/11/2014 10:10:03 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 21: Why One of Us?

September 9 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 2:14-18
Back in November 1995 a song called “One of Us” made its way into the Billboard Top 40. The song was by a relatively unknown artist named Joan Osborne. It was her first top 10 hit and the only one of her career. What is interesting is the content of the song. The title is the end of a question that is asked throughout the song. That question is “what if God was one of us?” The song wonders what it would be like if God were one of us. How would we respond to him? What kinds of things might he do?
The Bible has answered that question definitively. In Hebrews 2:14-16, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was, in fact, God in the flesh. He became “one of us” so that He might destroy the one who holds the power of death. It was necessary for Jesus to “share” in our humanity in order to reverse the effects of the Fall. Adam had failed and plunged all humanity into corruption. Only one who was “like us” could rescue us and defeat the enemy that had defeated Adam.
In Hebrews 2:17-18 we learn that Jesus also had to become like one of us so that he could become our high priest. Because He took on human flesh, He is a high priest who is merciful. While we are often tempted to think of Jesus’ divinity, it is His humanity that allows Him to empathize with us.

He understands what it means to face weakness, doubt, difficulty, hunger and temptation. Fortunately for us, He faced those things and overcame them. Because He is our perfect high priest, He is able to make atonement for us. But, as our high priest, Jesus did not offer an animal, but Himself as the perfect Lamb of God.
What if God was one of us? He was. God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, the God-man. And because He did, the one who became like us was able to deliver us. And, because He became like us, He is able to help us when we are tempted.
9/9/2014 10:23:35 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 21: Connected in Growth

September 9 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:11-16
Church members need one another in order to grow in Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Together stresses the importance of community: “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray.”
Our passage this week begins in verse 11, where we learn that the “He” is Christ (v. 7), who has gifted those in His body with specific callings – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – for a specific purpose. They are to use their gifts to equip the saints for the work of ministry (v. 12). It’s important to note that the Greek word for “ministry” in this verse is diakonias. (Other translations may render it “service” because of the root word, diakoneo, which means to serve or to minister). It may be tempting, at first glance, to take the view of “leave it to the professionals; to those in vocational ministry.” Especially for someone who reads the specific callings and thinks, “Okay, that doesn’t include me [sigh of relief].” Well, actually it does.
The original language shows us Christ has gifted what we would deem as “leaders” [or even “professionals”] in the church to equip us to do ministry. That’s also the purpose Paul has given for the specific giftings.
Not only does he give a purpose for the various callings, Paul also lists reasons for our works of service – so the body of Christ may build up to maturity, to complete unity and into the fullness of Christ (v. 12-13). We are to strive and support each other as we grow toward spiritual maturity.
The last portion of our passage emphasizes the need for teamwork with the use of the first person plural, “we are to grow up” (v. 15). We are supporting ligaments, dependent on one another to grow and build up the body into Him who is the Head, Christ. Are you in community with other believers? Are you viewing your ministry with the purpose Paul outlines in this passage? Name three people in your life who God has used to equip you. Then list three people who you can minister to and support in their journey toward spiritual maturity.

9/9/2014 10:18:16 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments