Discipleship: What, Why and Who

Discipleship: What, Why and Who

What I Learned Last Sunday

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:10-17

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

Pastor Mike shared ten “Whats” of discipleship (What is discipleship) along with why discipleship is necessary and who should lead in discipleship.
Let’s meditate on these as we seek to disciple one another this summer.

As you review these points ask yourself these four questions.
Question 1: Which of these areas do I desire to mature in personally as a Christian?

Question 2: Which of these areas will I, in this life, no longer need growth?

Question 3: Am I failing to grow in any of these areas by failing to help another grow?

Question 4: Is God more honored by my private unshared holiness or by the mutual worship of Him with other Christians?

WHAT is Discipleship?

Teaching: Hold to and pass on the truths that God’s Word teaches you. You are always teaching something to others. You cannot call discipleship biblical if you don’t teach the Bible in your discipleship.

Conduct: Practice what you teach from God’s Word, and help another do the same.

Aim in Life: Direct your life goals to glorify God. In doing so, help others see what is really worth living for.

Faith: Put your hope in Christ alone, and help another see that you trust Jesus alone for salvation.

Patience: Embrace the patience that God showed you, and help another by patiently stepping alongside them for their

Love: This is the foundation of all a Christian does. We help others do the same.

Steadfastness: Do not give up, and help others persevere despite terrible circumstances.

Suffering & Persecution: Suffer well, and help others suffer with hope in God.

God’s Faithfulness in Your Life: Ponder and point out how faithful God is, and help another see God’s abounding faithfulness in his/her life.

God’s Word: Found your life on the Word, and help another see God’s Word as their equipping wellspring.

In summary, “Discipleship is life together, saturated in the Word of God” -Pastor Mike

WHY disciple and be discipled?
Simply put, it is not easy to follow Jesus, so we need to remain close to the source and close to one another in order to endure.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… – 2 Timothy 3:12

WHO should be involved in discipleship?
Christians.

Words & Truth

Words & Truth

What I Learned Last Sunday

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. – Matthew 5:37

There is a wrong, or incomplete, conclusion that can be made from Sunday’s sermon (Check out the sermon here).

The wrong, or incomplete, conclusion goes something like this:
IF Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37).
THEN I just need to use fewer words when I make promises. Or, I should simply say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when I make promises.

Question: How is that conclusion incomplete?
Answer: The above conclusion does not address the very heart of the problem. Our words must actually be true.

Question: How do I verify if my words are true?
Answer: When my actions are following the path of God, who is the definition of truth, reality.

It is true that Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37). However, as Pastor Mike shared, “Our speech and the integrity behind our words must be true.”

Therefore, if I ONLY conclude that I need to use less words when I make promises, I have forgotten to consider whether or not the fewer words I use are true! A simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ can still be full of blatant falsehood.

The problem with words is that we have come to realize the great power they have. James rightly understands the tongue is small but powerful (James 3:5). It can be used for great good and terrible evil (James 3:9). Solomon would agree with James as well. If you read Proverbs chapter 9, you will find that both wisdom and folly use their words to call out to the passerby. One offers words for life (Proverbs 9:1-12), the other promises life with her words which in fact are death (Proverbs 9:13-18).

The problem with words is that we often desire them to be believed on their own, for our benefit, rather than for them to be true. We want to be well thought of, so we say words that will give a good impression. They impress the boss. They brighten the child’s face. They give hope to the struggling sinner. In the moments when words are used, we want to be liked, we don’t want to be true. So, we make promises with our words that will sell ourselves to others.

The sad reality is that time always reveals our methods to fall short of truth. Our time in the sun will be gone. Bridges will be burned down. Our integrity will be destroyed when our words do not align with reality, truth.

How much better off we would be if we fought to be true, true to our Lord, than to use our dishonesty to impress others.

Question: Will I consider that God is true when I use my words?

Question: When I am tempted to lie for the impression of others, will I stop and ponder that God sees my heart?

Question: Will I be reminded that God is ultimately the One whom I should consider when I use my words?

Texts that Prove the Text

Texts that Prove the Text

What I Learned Last Sunday

…rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15b

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here. In that sermon, Pastor Mike said “beware of bad proof-texting”. With this longer-than-usual post, instead of commenting on the sermon, I am offering some thoughts about reading passages within their contexts. I pray it will be helpful to you as you read and study God’s Word.

Proof-texting.

We often like to reference passages that make a point, driving home an argument. These passages are little weapons in our arsenal to be unsheathed when needed to instruct, convict, correct, and train others (2 Timothy 3:16).

Or do they? If we want to be thoroughly God’s people and not people living for a God of our own making, we need to seek to understand the Bible on its own terms, not on the terms that we would like to impose upon it.

Of course, I am not saying that we never bring biases to the Good Book. We all read through a cultural/experiential lens that must be beaten back via healthy study techniques. However, I am saying that there is one universal principle to Scripture reading that by in large will help us understand God’s Word as written to His people.

Context.
Have you heard a preacher or Bible teacher overuse this word before? Does it sound a bit lame? Possibly. However, I believe that developing a desire to read Scripture in context will bring us closer to understanding what God is saying to us in His Word.

Do we need to be convinced that context is important in Bible reading? If you are one of the few, imagine yourself having to explain to your teenager why Proverbs 5:19 is NOT a license for him to engage in a promiscuous life.

Verses like Proverbs 5:19 seem to me to be clear evidence that context does matter. That verse is, of course, absurd if read alone. It needs context to make proper sense. If Proverbs 5:19 should be read in context, what about every other verse in the Bible? It seems many of the verses we like to read without context are the ones we can shape and mold into a positive message, communicating what seems to be a universal truth anyone would want to hear (“cough” Jeremiah 29:11)…

What do I mean by context?
The original biblical texts are histories, songs, poems, narratives, and letters composed of literary units, all communicating ideas. Originally they had no chapter and verse numbering systems. Therefore, a statement (verse) in the Bible was then never to be read alone (most of the time) as one of many disconnected thoughts. Rather, a verse should be read in connection (context) with all the other statements written around it. These texts that surround the text help give meaning to the text we want to understand! So, to understand the context of a verse, we should start small (smallest literary unit) and move outward to get the best understanding of the passage.

Contextual factors to consider include:

  1. Verse
  2. Paragraph (literary unit)
  3. Chapter (helpful but remember that the original authors didn’t include those chapters).
  4. Entire book/letter
  5. Other writings from the author
  6. The entire Bible

It’s important to start small and work your way gradually to the context of the entire Bible. For example, if you run into a passage from Colossians that seems to contradict what you think Jesus says in the Gospel of John, you should first try to understand the passage in context with Colossians before jumping to John to find cohesion. In doing so you will likely find that your perceived contradiction is made clear later on by the author of Colossians.

Before you go, let’s consider one example of trying to understand a passage in its context.

One Practical Example: 2 Timothy 2:13

The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11–13

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful

For a good portion of my life, this statement about God’s faithfulness was a great comfort to the terrifying thought of denying Jesus and therefore being denied by Him (v. 12b).
God’s faithfulness despite our failures is a comforting thought and a biblical truth! Jesus, himself prophesied to the disciples that He would remain faithful to them despite their future abandonment of Him after His arrest and murder (Mark 14:27-28).

However, I don’t believe the statement, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful,” is meant by Paul to be a comfort. Rather, it is a warning that God will be faithful to Himself to deny any who deny Him.

Why do I think that?

Paragraph Context
In the immediate context of verse 13, we have a quoted saying with four lines, possibly an ancient Christian hymn. The first two lines are positive.
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;”

Considering that the first two lines carry synonymous ideas, it would then logically follow that the next two lines would also be connected, communicating synonymous ideas.

“if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—”

The first statement about denying Christ is clearly negative. There is no way to positively understand being denied by Christ. It seems to follow then that the statement of God’s faithfulness is likely more a warning (a synonymous parallel with denial) that God is a faithful, fair, and consistent judge of deniers than a positive statement about God’s faithfulness to forgive sins. This four-line structure would be considerably hampered if God’s faithfulness were intended to be seen as a comfort rather than a warning?

Chapter Context
It is interesting that prior to 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul seems consumed that Timothy (and Paul) remain faithful to Christ, despite suffering.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect…” – 2 Timothy 2:10
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 2:3

Additionally, Paul provides three examples of determined perseverance (the commander-pleasing soldier, the rule-following athlete, and the hard-working farmer) (2 Timothy 2:4-6). These seem to be intended by Paul as motivators for Timothy to keep pressing on in his Gospel work. The question is then, would the following hymn in vv 11-13 be more likely to include a line that disregards the Christian call to be faithful? Or, would the line be a warning (in line with Paul’s prior encouragement) to remain faithful! I think the latter.

Book Context
How does Paul speak about faithfulness throughout the remainder of the letter?

There are nine additional explicit references to faith in the letter. Timothy has faith (1:5, 3:10). Timothy should continue pursuing faith in Christ (1:13, 2:22). Timothy should pass on what he has been taught to faithful men (2:2). False teaching upsets the faith of people (2:18). Opposing the truth disqualifies one regarding the faith (3:8). Faith in Christ is connected to salvation (3:15). Finally, the keeping of the faith is evidence for Paul that Paul is bound for glory (4:7).

Rather than Paul easing up and considering faithlessness as a Christian quality, he actually treats it as a mark of an unbeliever (3:8). On the other hand persistent faithfulness is, to Paul, a mark of being a Christian (4:7).

Therefore, considering the immediate, near, and whole context of 2 Timothy, 2:13 seems more likely to be a warning to remain faithful than intended as a comfort that faithlessness is a Christian quality.

Conclusion
So, let’s love the Word by reading the words in context. This is a great first step to understanding more of God’s Word in order to live it out.

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

What I Learned Last Sunday

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

“Oh no! Daddy, where did Jesus go?”

My daughter asks with concern. She is perplexed, staring at the pages in her story Bible which depict Christ’s ascension to heaven. Looking back at her from the page is a group of cartoon disciples, standing, gaping, looking upward. My daughter is sharing their expression.

“He went up to heaven, honey,” I reply.

“Why?” My daughter is not satisfied.

She is not aware of the great, glorious, hope-filled implications of the answer to her question.

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike returned to Hebrews 1:1-4 to share two implications of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross which resulted in His return to Heaven and His sitting down in glory.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… – Hebrews 1:3b

These implications below explain Christ’s ascension.

Question: Why did Jesus return to Heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on high?

Answer #1: Because Jesus Finished the Work.

The work Jesus did on the cross was the completion of God’s ultimate plan to reunite Himself with man. The author of Hebrews calls this the act of Jesus making purification for sins. It is sin that singularly separates me from God, and it is Jesus who singularly provides payment for my sin. Jesus has done what no human in the history of the world could accomplish. He both paid for my sin and defeated the consequence of my sin with His body (1 Peter 2:24).

There is no other work now to be done. How do we know this? Because Jesus returned from whence He came, and He sat down. He finished the work!

Right now anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Ponder this: Will I rest in the work of Christ, that He has done what I cannot?

Answer #2: Because Jesus is Exalted, Reigning Over All.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. – Matthew 28:18

Jesus sat down in glory to show His authority. This is the great confirmation for all the world that the One who took our sin is the glory of God Himself, reigning and ruling over all things and every person. “The greatest rebel and the most ardent worshiper of Jesus are equally under the authority of Christ.”*

So, I should worship Him. He is the glorious and exalted God whom all will bow before. I can also trust Him. What He has said is good as gold and rock-solid reliable. He made purification for my sins. His exalted state ensures my future hope.

Right now God is seeking worshippers who will see Christ for who He truly is and respond in worship (John 4:23).

Ponder this: Will I worship Jesus today, as He is worthy of all praise?

*Quote shared from Pastor Mike in a sermon preached on April 17, 2022.

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

Holy Week 2022 What I Learned Last Sunday

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Sunday is coming.

And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha] came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9

Just days before His death, Jesus was the recipient of a gift. Mark 14:3-9 records that Mary anointed His head with costly* ointment. However, Mary soon became an object of scorn. Her act was seen by some disciples as wasteful.

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering, while others scoffed at her “wastefulness”?

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared (check out the sermon here) the infinite value of Christ as described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Who is this Jesus whom Mary anointed?

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. -Hebrews 1:1–4

Jesus is…

Jesus is the Heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
The One Mary anointed is the Heir of all. The future points to Jesus, who will one day be acknowledged across space and time, and among every people and language, as Lord of all (Philippians 2:10-11). How then could Mary’s offering be a waste? If anything, first century A.D. Pure nard ointment seems to be an inadequate offering for the Heir who deserves all things.

Yet, the Heir came to Mary in sympathetic flesh (Hebrews 4:15). The Heir became accessible to humanity, so Mary could offer what she could to the person of Christ. She approached Jesus, falling at His smelly feet. She stood and raised the flask over her Lord’s head, drenching His figure in an offering of worship. How wonderful! The truly human Christ actually received her gift, calling it, “beautiful”? What grace and kindness!

Jesus is the Agent of the world’s creation. (Hebrews 1:2)
Mary, and all humanity, are the very handiwork and possession of God through Christ. Therefore, our identity and purpose are intimately tied to the triune Creator God’s purposes.

Yet, Jesus became a creature to create (through torn body and shed blood) a reunion between His creation and the Creator. So, Mary’s offering was, to Jesus, a pre-burial ritual, pointing to His sacrificial payment for sin (1 John 2:2). The Agent of creation became flesh, dwelt with His creation, and would suffer a horrific death under a wrath destined for His creation. Mary’s offering worshiped Christ’s worth as the infinitely worthy sin payer.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
Mary’s forefather, Moses, could only look at God’s back to avoid instant death when enraptured with God’s presence. Even so, Moses’ face was changed to brightness by the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).

Yet, God in Christ stepped into flesh. He became utterly approachable, fully dressed in humanity. Mary could enter Jesus’ presence and honor His person. Her gift ran through Christ’s hair and beard, a fragrant act of worship. As Christ’s physical body made it possible for Mary to offer her gift (He was not a spirit), so also our offerings to God are possible through Christ’s sacrificed body (Romans 12:1-2).

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering?

Answer: Mary saw that Jesus is worthy! He is the Heir of all, the Agent of creation, and the shining splendor of God. No gift is too costly for this Christ.

Yet, Jesus is more worthy. He embodies God’s unfailing love. He came in flesh and received Mary’s offering as His burial preparation, the burial of His body which would endure the weight of God’s punishment against our sin.

Challenge: Today prayerfully consider both the infinite value of Christ and the humility of Christ, and ask God to lift up your heart in worship to Him.

*There are estimates that a flask of pure nard would cost up to one year’s salary in the first century A.D.

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. -Matthew 5:27–30

Check out last week’s message here.

Awakened to My Sin
Ok, I am convinced and cut to the heart about my sin. Jesus is not playing games in Matthew 5:27-30. I no longer believe that a particular sinful act (like cheating on my spouse) is all that I should avoid. I now see sin as that pervasive menace, foiling everything good and true. Whether the covetous lust of my heart or my physical actions, both are sinful. The simple difference between these is not of content but of location, for, “…one is [SIN] carried out in the heart and one is [SIN] expressed in the body*.”
…And, sin leads to hell (Matthew 5:30).

Awakened to Sin-Fighting
Ok, so I must fight. Where do I begin?
Pastor Mike shared* that we uphold two truths in our sin-fighting:

  1. Sin leads to hell.
  2. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.

In terms of practical steps to fight sin, we have many grace-powered tools God grants, two of which Pastor Mike shared.

First, remember the heart of the Gospel when the weight of sin bears down on your soul.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1–2

Second, A.P.T.A.T. (an acronym shared from Pastor John Piper).

ADMIT: your needs to God.
PRAY: for help and strength from God.
TRUST: that God will answer your prayer.
ACT: in dead-serious obedience to fight your sin.
THANK: God for every victory AND thank Him as a means of replacing temptations with Gospel truths.

Each point in that acronym is helpful, but consider THANK for a moment. Is thankfulness really a sin-fighter?
Paul would say, “Yes!” In Colossians 3, Paul mentions thankfulness three times as an attitude we “put on,” in contrast to the sinful flesh which we remove.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:15–17

The more you consider the eternal peace Christ has won, the more you will be thankful (Colossians 3:15). The more you ponder Christ in your heart, the more your heart will abound with thankfulness (Colossians 3:16). And, the more you are thankful, the more you will return thanksgiving to God in obedience (Colossians 3:17). “Your heart cannot, in the same moment, be full of gratitude towards God in Christ and be tempted to sin…your heart simply does not have the capacity*.”

So, fight sin today, fully aware of its pervasive effects, and more fully aware of what Christ has accomplished in you.

And be Thankful
When tempted to flee God’s face;
To think that I should cheapen grace,
I remember my sin leads to death,
God’s judgment in the form of wrath,

“I never knew you!” were His decree,
Directed toward none other, only me;
Torn from all things bright and true,
Eternal anguish and regret, no hope for something new.

But if that wrath, placed on His Son,
Eternal joy, my blessing won,
Could I stand thankful in that purchased peace?
Saying to temptation, “No thanks!”

*Quotes from Pastor Mike shared in the sermon preached on April 4, 2022.

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:21–26

Check out last week’s message here.

“It’s worse than I thought!”

A variation of that phrase has been conveyed in past sermons at Ridgeview, as we have walked through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It seems to have recurring applications for us. For example, Matthew 5:21-26 shows, first, that my sin is worse than I often think it is. Second, my sin is also more costly than I think it is.

Sin: More Sinful Than I Thought

When my toddler spills my “precious” coffee, and I feel anger and frustration swell in my heart, I cannot stand before God in innocence. “But, I haven’t murdered anyone!” is not a good defense before a holy God. My sin of anger is worthy of judgment.

Jesus himself says to me;

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… -Matthew 5:22

I can attempt to explain away or soften Christ’s words, yet they still attack the condition of my heart. Jesus has exposed me as a sinner.

Sin: More Costly Than I Thought

However, Pastor Mike highlighted that Jesus is not simply identifying our inability to follow God’s law. Christ is also showing us that our sin (here in particular He speaks of our anger and evil words) comes with great cost.

When my toddler spills my delicious coffee (possible minutes before Sunday worship is about to start), and I respond in anger, my sin has an effect on my relationship with God. “Anger hinders our worship,” as Pastor Mike shared. Therefore, we must deal with sin seriously.

…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24

We must deal with sin seriously. The little things we do alone, the attitudes we share and the words we believe to be hidden are truly exposed before God. I cannot separate my actions on the Lord’s day from my actions Monday through Saturday. All of my life is God’s, even the “boxes” of costly little unaddressed sins. I can pretend they do exist with an outward smile, yet I can never fool God about such rebellion.

These sins are those which I will give an account to God for one day. Deadly serious.

The Gospel: Better News Than I Could Imagine

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4

The Good News that Jesus bled and died for me means HOPE that God’s law (more perfect than I thought) will not condemn me in the end. His holy standard, which brings me to my knees in humility, is fully and forever accomplished in Christ. No condemnation can come upon one who is in Christ Jesus!

The Gospel also means Holy Spirit POWER for the Christian. I can and will truly move forward in obedience by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work. My sin will not overcome me in the end, for I will produce the Spirit-filled fruits of love and joy and peace instead of anger and retaliation.

So, when I go to worship, and am reminded of my sin against a brother or sister, I can stand in Christ’s forgiveness, repent for reconciliation, and walk forward in resolve to not go after that sin again. Christ produces in us serious sin-fighting that is guaranteed by the sweetness of grace.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. When was the last time I thought about the Gospel and its implications for my life?
  2. Is there a sphere of my life where I minimize my sin?
  3. What barriers are keeping me from repentance and reconciliation?
SwissMiss Reflection: God is at Work, and Working In Me

SwissMiss Reflection: God is at Work, and Working In Me

Missions Word in Season

March 4-14th, a group of 12 volunteers, mostly from Ridgeview, visited the Movida campus in Walzenhausen Switzerland to help with the work being completed by Scott & Mani Langemeier and the team of PRISMA students (all from the Spanish speaking world), missionaries, and volunteers from around the world.

We affectionately named them the SwissMiss team.

The team engaged in four days of practical work on the campus along with four days of travel and ministry to regional churches in Germany and Switzerland. We are so grateful to God for the work He did. He provided safe travels, health, energy, joy, and wisdom throughout each day. Each volunteer joined in the fruitful work as God worked in them by His grace.

The following are short reflections on the trip and God’s work from each of the volunteers.

Soli Deo gloria!

“The mission trip to Switzerland was so awesome! God humbled me this week. I expected that the language barriers wouldn’t be an issue. I thought that everyone would be able to speak English. God humbled me. He showed me that English isn’t superior. I am not exceptional. But God is! No matter the language barrier, we have a commonality of Jesus. It was eye-opening to see that the same God we worship is the same God they worship. God also humbled me through work. I thought that the way I did things was better. I was shown this week that everybody works differently, and that is okay. It is more about the intercultural experience of working with others than getting the job done.
One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with the Latinos singing, “I Saw the Light.”
Praise the Lord. I saw the Light!”
Emily Hansen

“I grew a lot during our trip to Switzerland. I learned what it means to serve, what it is like communicating and working with people across cultural and language barriers, and what Movida is doing with their PRISMA program in Switzerland. Trying to work with people whose language I don’t speak was humbling and made me rely on God’s strength and patience and flexibility. I was moved by seeing Ukrainian refugees in the flesh. I experienced the beautiful thing that is Christian hospitality towards traveling missionaries. Praise be to God for his wondrous grace.”
David Johnson

“The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much. I was surprised that most of the time we were there we did physical work, like shoveling dirt, planting trees, and picking up sticks. There were a lot of lessons learned. I never would’ve considered moving truckloads of dirt with a shovel as missionary work. But whatever the leaders at the campus told me what to do, I did it because that was my mission. Scrubbing potatoes and planting trees was my mission. I learned that being a missionary doesn’t just mean going to different churches, it’s also laying yourself down and serving God with whatever mission He puts before you.”
Hannah Johnson

“It was such an amazing trip – seeing God at work in such a multicultural context. There was amazing unity in the team and such joy in serving together on the campus and other places.
I saw Him at work at Walzenhausen among the students from Latin America whose hearts are on fire for the Lord. I saw him at work in the hearts of Movida leaders who responded with such compassion and determination to the refugee crisis.
I saw Him at work through the hands of Polish and German people that greeted refugees with soup, free sim-card and transportation options every step of the way once they crossed the border.
In the prayer of a young mama, who was grateful for quietness and the roof.
In the wide and cheerful smile of a 19 year old student who volunteers at the shelter till midnight every day.
In the quiet conversation of an older couple who decided to take in a refugee in their home.”
Maya Johnson

“Passion. Patience. Flexibility. These are recurring words that only our group will truly understand… or anyone who has shoveled a mountain of dirt in one day! The days were filled with hard work, relationship building, exposure to various cultures, and being pushed out of my comfort zone; this trip has given me more than I could have imagined. Seeing a true passion for the Lord and the spread of the gospel by people from around the world was encouraging. Patience was displayed by all involved with language barriers and games of charades. Most importantly, this trip taught me that flexibility is where your faith shines brightest. Did we have no idea what was going on some days? Did we question the methods of how to complete tasks? Was I scared to spend the night in a German woman’s home alone? With flexibility, prayer, and the grace of God and others, none of these questions mattered. The opportunity to serve and be a witness towers over these questions. And for that I will be forever grateful.”
JoAnn Neel

“God was so kind to us throughout this trip. He provided our every need, even staying off jet lag so we could work effectively. It was a blessing to see our team of volunteers work without complaint. When some of the Latino students were questioned regarding what unique qualities they see in our group of Americans, their response was shock a how willing we all were to help and to serve. I was greatly encouraged to hear that Christ was working in us to encourage those around us.”
Sam Parker

“This trip showed me there are whole cultures I haven’t even learned enough to communicate with, let alone understand. This terrifies me, because I really value knowing what’s going on and understanding the why and how of everything. So, going on a trip planned by others, on a continent I’ve never been to, with people speaking languages I don’t know challenged me to trust God both in the big and in the small decisions. More than that, I saw that God is the same God in Switzerland, Germany, and America. I may not have known the details of the next day or the eccentricities of a second language, but I could still have spiritual conversations with the Latino students, the volunteers at Movida, or the Germans we met. Our God is the ultimate common ground in a world of infinite diversity and the ultimate rock in uncertainty.”
Abigail Swanson

“During this trip, God taught me that you can encourage others in Christ without speaking their language perfectly. I was encouraged often by non-native English speakers:
Oso’s (a Movida volunteer) exhortation to trust God even when we don’t have all the information we might want.
Debbie’s (a Prisma student from Chile) smile, chocolate, and good questions asked through Google Translate.
Miqueas (a volunteer from Argentina) sharing his testimony in Spanish of how God touched his life.
Jessica (our German host during a visit to the churches) welcoming us into her home
Spending time with others who have different languages and cultures while knowing that we share Christ. Examples: Praying and devotions together, jamming out in the car to Christian music, taking a walk outside and conversing in mixed Spanish and English, playing Spicy UNO.
I loved being part of this trip. Please pray for me to keep growing in Christ and to find more opportunities for evangelism and discipleship in my daily life.”
Hannah Swanson (Hannah is sister to Abigail and currently lives in Omaha)

“For me (Jayde), our mission trip was a sweet time of fellowship with the body of Christ as We worked, worshiped, and served with brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the globe. Despite the fact that we often struggled to speak each other’s language, the simple fact that we shared Christ turned strangers into family, even in the short period of time we got to know each other.
In addition, My eyes were opened to the reality of what being a “missionary” truly means. A missionary is not just someone who goes to Foreign Country to tell people about Jesus. Rather , a missionary is a person wholeheartedly on mission to do the Lord’s work, wherever they are, and whose passion that ALL may know Christ is evident in their everyday life, words, and relationships.”
Cody & Jayde Trump

“This trip has impacted me in many ways. It has shown me how difficult it is to go into a different country where you don’t know the language or the culture. You have to find ways to get your meaning across to others. But what was cool is that even through all of the trip, our group and the people there could connect because we were all from the same family; the family of Jesus. We worked for the Lord. We fellowshipped for the Lord. And, as we got to know each other more, we saw the love of Christ. We were able to help out with many things there. We scooped dirt, planted trees, plowed fields, and pulled out tree roots. Everyone had an amazing work ethic and we got it done so fast it was amazing. You could see God’s hand in all of it; keeping everyone safe and keeping us going day after day. God worked in this trip to impact our hearts and theirs all for the glory of his name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11”
Lily Varpness (Lily is daughter of Zach and Kendra Varpness (former members of Ridgeview) and currently lives in Orange City, Iowa)

“While on this trip, I learned to not underestimate what God has given us to do. Too often I get caught up in what I have to give or contribute is too small. Yet, God is asking us to follow and obey Him. Each part of what is happening is contributing to bringing God glory. Those behind the scenes actions are helping make what seems like something so much more important get done. I’m so thankful that as a team we were able to come together and serve our missionaries in Switzerland. Knowing that no matter the personalities, language barriers and cultural differences we all are like minded with a heart that wants to honor God. My prayer request going forward is that I continue to be open to ways God is asking me to help and serve. Getting out of my comfort zone is a good thing.”
Heather Wing

What I Learned in Sunday School: Regret

What I Learned in Sunday School: Regret

What I Learned Last Sunday

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  –John 12:3–8

(See also Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-8 for parallel accounts) 

Note: All are welcome to join our Sunday School trek through Mark’s Gospel. We meet Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM.

Every unpaid sin committed will one day be regretted.

The Gospels tell of a woman’s (Mary) worshipful act, anointing Jesus with costly perfume on the eve of His death. Jesus declared it “beautiful,” an act of worship from the heart of one who saw Jesus as precious. Yet, to Judas (and other disciples) it was an egregious waste.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” –John 12:4

According to John’s Gospel Judas’ heart was indignant with Mary, for Judas, “…was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6). Judas loved money, and he acted accordingly right after this event, leaving to sell out the Savior for 30 silver pieces (Mark 14:10-11).

However, Judas was eventually terrorized with regret for the injustice he committed. He realized he was terribly wrong all along. The burden of Judas’ regret meant death for him. Indeed, all unaddressed regret will end in death.

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.” -Matthew 27:3–5

No unpaid sin ever committed will be returned without a payment of regret.

All people will one day kneel before Jesus and declare, “You were always right!” All will one day recognize Jesus as King and Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Everyone who unwillingly bows will weep, tears streaming with terror and regret at how wrong they always were and how right God has always been. They will continually cycle through the realization that their wasted time pursuing sin has now run out. There will then be no more time to return from their regret.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. –Revelation 20:12, 15

Regret is terrible, yet it is the all-gracious reminder from God that sin never pays. Its flavors never satisfy. It promises much but delivers death (Proverbs 9:18). Sin’s bitterness is felt in the sorrow of regret, but that is just sin’s first personal effect.

Every UNPAID sin committed…

Regret holds power if my sin still burdens me with condemnation—a charge against me before the Holy God.

But, when I think about the cross, Jesus reminds me that something happened in his death. My sin, “…that held Him there,” as the song* goes, “…until it was accomplished.” I then remember, “His dying breath has brought me life—I know that it is finished.” 

What was accomplished?

The full payment of my sin in the body of my Savior. Jesus has eternally ensured that I have no more unpaid sin (Romans 8:1).

What is finished?

My striving, for I am saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8). 

My fear, for I am secured by Him alone (Philippians 1:6).

My regret, for my sins are to Him (and me!) as far away as the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Praise God! 

*Lyrics from, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Stewart Townsend, 1995.

Peacemaking for that Day

Peacemaking for that Day

What I Learned Last Sunday

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. -Matthew 5:9

Check out last week’s sermon here.

I asked a question in Home Group last Sunday, “Would there be progress in a world with no conflict?” Someone brilliantly replied that if there were no conflict, the human race would be standing before God in sinless perfection. No progress would be needed! We would be complete. But, the world is without peace, for the world is full of sin.

Yet, a day is not far off when that will no longer be true. Every New Testament author sees and desires a coming day of complete perfection, the return of Jesus to make all things right. Just imagine that Day, standing in perfection, no sense of conflict or tension or struggle. No sin, no Satan, no more striving.

Peace. Jesus will enact peace, for all who remain will have peace with God and unity around Him.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:3–5

Until That Day…

I am called to make peace, for the benefit of God and the hope of peace for others on that future Day. I make peace now, so others may also hope for that Day to be peaceful–resting in the peace made between God and them.

Peacemaking, then, is not so much a desire for ease. Peacemaking is a desire for peace between God and man and for the mutual, unified benefits of the recipients of peace. Those who have peace with God, long for mutual fellowship with other peace-receivers (now made peacemakers). We just can’t get over talking about, sharing in, and worshiping the One who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He is a very big deal to us.

Peacemaking is the Gospel coming out of us. -Pastor Mike

What will guarantee peace between my neighbor, my boss, my friend, my family, my mailman, my grocer? The peace that God makes with us through Christ is my only hope for true peace between my fellow woman/man. If I think I can find peace with them through any means outside of Christ, I will rob them of the peace they only can find in God.