Three Questions to Ask Before Listening to Any Sermon

***I found this article written by Tony Reinke rooted in much wisdom I’m compelled to share it.

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It’s easy to become a passive sermon consumer. As a young Christian, I started to sense this tendency in my own sermon listening, so one Sunday I brought a notebook to church and devised a simple little practice to get my discernment juices flowing before listening to sermons. It was as simple as asking three little questions, and it stuck with me. Over time, I began to use this same technique when listening to sermon podcasts, when reading Christian blogs and books, and eventually while listening to Christian music.

The process points to an important fact we all know: all of us need to be saved by someone or something. But, as an active listener will quickly see, the world is full of variant gospels, and every preacher, writer, and artist has a message of salvation. We must examine the veracity of the gospel they share, and these three questions have simplified the process for me.

—Three Questions—
So before I listen to a sermon, turn on a Christian album, or open a Christian book, I ask myself these three questions:

How am I saved?
What am I saved from?
What am I saved for?
The questions are short, easy to remember, and could not be bigger. At first I wrote them on paper and filled in the answers by hand, and later it just became an intuitive mental exercise.

It also became apparent over time that these same questions are useful in many other contexts. They are gospel questions, helpful inside the church. But they also help shakedown any worldview to its core essence. They work on advertisements and the messaging of presidential hopefuls (yes, even Donald Trump — try it).

—Four Common Answers—
For the sake of this article, I will focus on sermons. Ask the three questions above, and the answers you hear will commonly fall into these four categories:

1. You will hear a therapeutic gospel:
We are saved by becoming self-authenticated and affirmed.
We are saved from self-destructive negativity.
We are saved for self-confidence.

2. You will hear a prosperity gospel:
We are saved by faith that produces health and wealth.
We are saved from poverty and financial heartache.
We are saved to enjoy financial abundance.

3. You will hear a brokenness gospel:
We are saved by releasing ourselves from the memory of old sins.
We are saved from feeling bad about ourselves.
We are saved to live whole again.

4. You will hear an attention gospel:
We are saved by remembering God more mindfully.
We are saved from ignoring that God exists.
We are saved to live more conscious of God.
Whether these messages contain hints of the gospel, or fragments of ultimate truth, or complete fabrications of a non-gospel, all of these messages will implicitly or explicitly find their way into Christian books, music, and sermons as ultimate messages and often pass as sufficient presentations of the gospel. They aren’t. In fact, they are far from it. And each of them, in their own way, render Christ secondary or optional.

—The Biblical Answers—
The true work of ministry is allowing Scripture to answer each of these three questions over and over again until the truth of the gospel works down into our bloodstream.

If we sketch out some of the contours of the biblical gospel, the answers to our questions become quite clear:
We are saved by grace through faith in the wrath-absorbing death of Christ on the cross, and justified in his resurrection as a substitute for us, the rebel law-breakers.
We are saved from a holy God, from his righteous wrath poured out eternally on every sinner who has disgraced his glory.
We are saved to have peace with God, to be holy, to be gathered among God’s people who live and love, and who magnify God by treasuring Christ and enjoying him above everything in this world and the next.
The gospel is profoundly beautiful and worthy of eternal study and celebration — but it’s also not complicated. The challenge we always face is gospel drift, a gospel that imperceptibly glides into language that makes the answer to these three vital questions clouded and obscure. It requires attentiveness so that we do not float into a “hunch gospel” that uses a bunch of Christian jargon, all aiming at self-actualizing goals and satisfying felt needs, but at the same time failing to explain the core themes of God’s wrath or the essential purpose of Christ’s substitutionary blood. In other words, the natural drift of our thoughts is always being “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

—Pick Up the Pattern—
Any preacher, artist, or writer needs to return often to these three simple litmus tests for ministry in order to self-evaluate our message and the hope we are offering. But equally important, every Christian needs to return to these questions over and over, until we ask them instinctively.

How am I saved?
What am I saved from?
What am I saved for?
I am not suggesting that every song, every sermon, and every book is going to answer each question in equal measure. But pay attention. As you listen and read, you will pick up what the apostle Paul called “the pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13). Every cohesive worldview has a pattern to it, a pattern you will see in the big picture and small details. For Christians, there’s a consistency and a pattern of sound gospel words that we should tune our ears to hear.

—Discern to Cherish—
What I am advocating is discernment. The skill of discernment is learning to reject what is false or flimsy, but more importantly, to eagerly embrace what is precious (Acts 17:11; Romans 12:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Gospel discernment helps us know the difference, in order to keep the truth pure so that we can earnestly embrace and celebrate it.

“The skill of discernment is learning to reject what is false or flimsy, but more importantly, to eagerly embrace what is precious.” Tweet
Which means, by implication, we treasure the men and women who make the answers clear on the primary questions, because they are likely to be the very best way to help us make sense of all the other questions.

If you ask these three questions long enough, a pattern will emerge. This discernment will serve you well when life forces you to whittle down your podcast sermon subscriptions, your blogs, your music library, or your reading list.

I am convinced that the church will be healthier and happier as she becomes more and more skilled in discernment, more tuned into the gospel, and more skilled in knowing what to cherish. Discernment is a calling for us all. By asking these three questions, we are reasserting the importance of the answers. But we are not just listening for the right answers; we want the right answers so that we can again find our affections fed on the beauty of Christ.

And this is how it happens. Three big questions, the three biggest questions that we can ever ask in this life, remind us of the precious truth of the gospel of Christ. Give them a try. The next time you listen to a sermon, ask these three simple questions, and listen — with eagerness — for the familiar precious answers we need.

~Article by Tony Reinke
Senior writer, desiringGod.org

No Greater Blessing

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Comparing our blessings is moot in my option. Good blesses us for the need of our mission. I’m not called to every battle and my equipment will not be the same as every other warrior. Remember when they put Saul’s grand armor on David? It was useless to him, he almost fell on his face trying to maneuver in it. Oh but look what happened when that boy picked up some stones and pulled out his slingshot.

Money & Church

money-church1Should we give offerings to support the Church and Pastors?
Yes we should… preaching the Gospel is their work and calling, but financial gain and making a comfortable living from the work should never be any workers objective. The work of ministry should not be a windfall financial boon and blessings of the minister… but the blessing to those they are entrusted to serve.

Many Pastors do the work of advancing the Kingdom in the capacity of their calling beyond Sunday Mornings and periodic weekday services. Many are in their offices working 60 hour PLUS work weeks, availing themselves to the Church. (I’m not talking about being on call).
So yes we should support them according to what God has put on our hearts to do, but not according to what they have decided that we should be charged. It is God’s work and He will provide for it. If we are having constant fundraisers, selling tickets, holding raffles etc… and guilt-tripping the Body of Christ into monetary support of our life-style… we should find another career.

It is God who will lay on each one’s heart how to give. Yet none the less He will provide without ministers having to coax, threaten or guilt trip a believer. If we are giving what God has apportioned us to give to His people …He will supply the need. 

“give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, MEN will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”) Luke 6:38

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. ~2 Corinthians 2:14-17

*My thoughts on the subject*

SPIRIT OF UNITY …Yes?

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Galatians 5:22-26 …But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Okay; let me come down off of my little church-lady soapbox.
Certainly we all are God’s work in progress, but not because we lack anything. The FULLNESS of Christ is in us, if we are TRULY Christians. It is practicing and learning to use this GREAT Treasure in these earthen jars, so when we do come together for services we are in one place on ONE accord. Great and MIRACULOUS things will take place then, When we get busy loving we will have no time to judge or continue with divisive behaviors.

The DNA Results

2d05b490d26c25027865d576437c1ca0Hebrews 4:2: For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

All of us I am sure are familiar with the science of Human DNA, it is in our blood… when a sample is taken of our blood DNA it reveals so much about a person and believe it or not most humans share close to 99.2% of the same genetics… AMAZING.  DNA can expose hidden revelations concerning our level of health or even potential health risk, it can stand up as evidence in court cases to prove guilt and innocence and it reveals our heritage, lineage and ancestry.

As Christians we should be curious as well as aware of our Spiritual DNA… Who are we in Christ? What does the Word of God report as our Spiritual DNA? First of all as with human DNA we must realize that our Spiritual DNA is a matter ALSO of BLOOD. The Blood of Christ. Our Spiritual nature MUST supersede our natural character. When we become one with Christ we are the Spiritual children of God our Father.

We MUST know who we are in Christ if we will ever walk in the benefits of His Great sacrifice for us. So many of us find it difficult to obtain the fruition of what is ours in Him. We feel that we do all that is required without seeing the fruit of our efforts. Many spend hours quoting and learning Scripture BUT this is only of benefit if we get to know Him INTIMATELY. Jesus Himself said:
Take My yoke upon you and LEARN OF ME, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt 11:29

I often talk about the promises of Christ being in the here and now and not in the great by and by, because I want you to know what is available to us NOW. The Cross opened doors HERE AND NOW. To keep us until the day of the Lord’s coming, equip us for Kingdom employment and Kingdom living… HERE AND NOW.

Jesus said: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Then why are we not doing greater things what are we lacking… I believe the great keys to moving into that deeper more intimate space with God starts with these 3 things FAITH/HOPE, OBEDIENCE AND LOVE.

According to the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 4:2: For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

To live an effective Christian life it is imperative to KNOW and BELIEVE who we are in Christ. Understanding our identity in Christ is crucial to living life as God intended. The best way to renew our mind and experience inner transformation is by knowing, living, thinking and speaking out loud who we are in Christ and spending quiet moments in prayer and meditation  with God our Father in Heaven. Then we must GET OUT INTO THIS WORLD AND LIVE CHRIST.

God’s promises are not just some future reward that we receive….
My Grandmother sang:
By and by, when the morning comes, 
when the saints of God are all gathered home,
we’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.

I SING… All of God’s Promises to us is HERE & NOW!
2 Corinthians 1:20-21 says: For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed among you by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in Him it has always been “Yes.” For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God ~

Your day of Salvation is HERE & NOW!
2 Corinthians 2:6 says: For He says, “In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of Salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of Salvation.

Your healing is Today HERE & NOW!
1 Peter 2:24 says: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

This is our Spiritual DNA report in PART:
Hebrews 4:2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

1 John 1:7 – “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Ephesians 1:7 – “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Revelation 12:11 – “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Our lineage has been established in and by the Blood of Jesus who is the Anointed Christ of God. This is the outcome of our Spiritual DNA report: As a believer you have God’s DNA in your spirit!

 

Saved by Works or Saved by Grace?

Hebrews 11:5-7

(5) By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (6) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (7) By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
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The objection people have regarding Hebrews 11:5-7 is that the mention of works and reward in the same breath suggests legalism and working for salvation. Is that so, or is it a misconception on their part? The latter. They misunderstand the salvation process because they do not allow the Bible to interpret itself.

God says in Genesis 15:1, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” His encouragement applies to us as well as to him. God Himself is the reward of those who seek Him. “Those who seek Him” is limited to those God invites to approach Him and who believe enough to take advantage of the opportunity and thus stir themselves up to draw near. The invitation itself is an aspect of God’s grace.

Romans 4:4 makes it clear that earning access to God is impossible because it would put God in man’s debt. No, access to Him is the result of freely given grace. The pairing of grace and reward is no more inconsistent than God’s almighty sovereignty and man’s responsibility being linked, or Jesus being both our Lord and our Servant. There would be no reward if God did not first give grace.

Another pairing we need to consider is found in Colossians 3:23-24: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Is not salvation a free gift? Yes, but as servants of Christ, we work, and our reward is eternal entrance into God’s Kingdom. Add to this the idea found in Isaiah 55:1, that we are to “buy . . . without money.” Salvation, then, is both a gift and a reward.

It should be clear that, in terms of salvation, gifts and works are nothing more than opposite sides of the same coin. Both are involved in the same process—salvation—but they are seen from different perspectives.

One thing is certain: There will be no lazy, neglectful people in the  (Matthew 25:26-30). Why? Because God is preparing us for living with Him eternally, so we must be created in the character image of Him and His Son, or we absolutely will not fit in. We would live in absolute, eternal misery. Jesus stresses that diligent work is part of His character when He says in John 5:17, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Creators work!

Luke 13:24 adds strength to this point: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The Greek word translated “strive” is actually the source of the English word “agonize.” In addition, Jesus urges us in John 6:27 to labor “for the food which endures to everlasting life.” God chooses to reward such strenuous efforts, not because they earn us a place in His presence, but because He deems it fitting to recognize and bless them. The Bible shows salvation as a reward, not because people earn it, but because God wants to emphasize the character of those who will be in His Kingdom and encourage others to be like them. The citizens of that Kingdom are workers like the Father and Son.

A second reason why reward and salvation are linked is because salvation, like payment for a person’s labor, comes after the job is finished. Among the apostles, nobody worked harder for God than Paul did. At the end of his life, he writes:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Just as wages for work performed are paid after a job is done, God’s major blessings are not given completely until our course is finished.

— John W. Ritenbaugh

Post from the Berean

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Romans 10:1-3

(1) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (2) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Paul accurately records that the Israelites had a zeal, “but not according to knowledge.” They were confused. The apostle Paul before his conversion is probably the prime example of such misdirected zeal. What did his zeal do to him? It so preoccupied his mind that it forced him to perceive Christ and Christians as enemies of the faith of his fathers. He was responsible for throwing many of them into prison, and some were even put to death as a result of his zeal. His mind could not tolerate anybody who thought a little bit differently from the way he did. God had to strike him down on the road to Damascus.

Even today, the Israelitish nations are dotted with church buildings, and the vast majority of the people are truly sincere, even zealous. However, true knowledge is still lacking. However, there is a difference between the Israelitish zeal of today and the zeal of Paul’s time. The zeal in Paul’s time reflects the Jewish belief that a person is capable of justifying himself before God on the basis of merit. In other words, as long as a person did what was considered “good works,” he was earning “points,” and God was obligated to mark this to his account and, therefore, owed him something.

Today’s Israelites have gone all the way to the other end of the pendulum’s swing, largely having thrown out responsibility to law and substituted a specious faith. Justification is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but that faith includes obedience to law, as Paul clearly shows (Romans 2:13; 7:7-12). If the law has been done away, then there is no such thing as sin—but sin certainly exists! James explains that the faith that is “living” obeys the royal law (James 2:8-12, 18-26). Thus, the faith that justifies—or is the basis by which God will justify—is an obedient faith. Most of Protestantism does not believe that way, holding to a “just-as-I-am” faith.

— John W. Ritenbaugh