Your Reputation Matters

We had Vacation Bible School with our church family this week, and dozens of parents and grandparents dropped off their children or grandchildren for three hours each evening, trusting that the children would be cared for and loved. Why such trust? In most cases, the trust was a result of relationships with one, if not many, of our volunteers working with the children. In other cases, there was a general trust in the church and the proven VBS program.

Simply put, reputation matters. This is true for us as individuals, and this is true for the church. This is true for everyone.

If our church or individuals in our church had a bad reputation in our community, who would trust us to teach and serve their children? Rightly so, most would not.

On Sunday morning during our VBS family celebration and worship service, Lord willing, I will be preaching through the short letter of 3 John and talking about the “Proof from Reputation” for genuine Christian faith. I hope to challenge people to ask themselves three questions for self-examination regarding personal character and reputation. The message, along with others in the series, will be available Sunday afternoon HERE.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider three requirements of a godly reputation.

1. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES TRUTH

Truth is essential when it comes to reputation. By this, I do not mean that everyone knows the truth about you, although that certainly affects your reputation. What I mean, and what John made clear in his letter, is that your understanding and commitment to the Truth are critical.

We must be “faithful to the truth” and “walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4) in order to be people of godly character, resulting in godly reputations. How? Well, only by God’s help “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). That “truth that remains in us” is the Spirit of Truth when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in faithfulness to the Word of Truth.

Have you ever met someone who is faithful to God’s Word but does not have a godly reputation? No such person exists because someone who faithfully obeys the Word of Truth will be proven to be a person of character and integrity. A godly reputation requires Truth.

2. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES LOVE

John wrote a lot about love in his three letters. He was certainly an expert, or as close to an expert as a human can be, for he was, after all, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John experienced God’s love in and through Jesus Christ, and he embraced Jesus’ command that we love God and love others. John knew love was essential for genuine Christian faith and likewise essential for a godly reputation.

Specifically in 3 John, there is an emphasis on the commitment to the mission of the church that demonstrates sincere love for God and others. If you truly love God, you will be committed to His mission. And, if you are committed to His mission, you will love and serve others; you will love and serve His church; you will long for others to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Gaius and Demetrius are great examples of this in 3 John. Gaius, for example, was showing his faith by supporting Christian missionaries, including those he did not even know (verse 5). In other words, Gaius’s love for God was proven in his commitment to God’s mission, and his commitment to God’s mission was proven in his love for others in God’s church.

What was the result? A godly reputation. Have you ever heard of someone known to not be loving and yet known for a godly reputation? Of course not. A godly reputation requires love.

3. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES GOODNESS

Are you known for your kindness and goodness toward others? This goes along with the love John mentioned earlier in the letter but is more about the visibility of love. Whereas the love is ultimately an issue of the heart, the goodness is about your actions, particularly those actions seen by others.

John shared a few contrasting examples in the letter, and in all three examples, it was each individual’s reputation that was proof of his goodness. Furthermore, goodness is proof of faith.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

While people can “fake it” for a while and sadly deceive others, the truth eventually comes to light. And, most importantly, God knows the truth. He knows our real reputations because He knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing what is good or doing what is evil. Others will know and see this, too, though, which is why there is ultimately proof from reputation of genuine Christian faith.

If you were to sincerely examine your own heart and life right now, can you see faithfulness to the Truth of God’s Word, a love for God’s mission, and a desire for good, not evil? If not (if any of those three proofs are missing, would you humbly ask God for His help? Would you willingly surrender everything to Him? Only a new life can bring about such radical change.

The amazing volunteers of Richland Baptist Church exemplified godly character and sacrificial service this week, and I praise God for them! They are the reason so many parents and grandparents gladly dropped off so many kids each night and why those kids wanted to keep coming back. Thank you, Richland Baptist Family!

These are most of the kindergartners Marsha and my mom had the pleasure of teaching and leading this week in VBS.
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Faith Requires Truth

Despite what some might claim, “blind faith” is not what Christianity requires. Sure, no one can see God on this side of eternity. We did not see the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. So, in regards to seeing, there is indeed a blind aspect to our faith because there are some things we just will not see in this life. Still, Christian faith is not blind.

THERE ARE THINGS TO SEE

Namely, we can see and experience Truth – biblical Truth. In fact, if an understanding and belief in this Truth are missing, real Christian faith is impossible. While you can claim to have faith apart from eternal Truth, that kind of faith will not last. Rather, it will crumble when your temporary security crumbles.

Faith that endures requires Truth, the Truth of God’s Word. After all, what is your faith actually in, if not in eternal Truth? And, how can you see and experience eternal Truth apart from the perfect Word of God?

JESUS IS THE TRUTH

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The way we see and experience Truth is by seeing and experiencing Jesus. The way we see and experience Jesus is through the Word of God.

For this reason, I am shocked and saddened to hear of so many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ and yet do not seek Him through His Word each day. If you want to see Jesus, learn about Jesus and know Jesus, seek Him through His Word and call on His name in faith and humility. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it” (Acts 4:12).

TRUTH HAS PROOF

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 John and talking about the proof of Christian faith that comes from the Truth of Christian faith. Going through this short letter, I will talk about three things Christian Truth promotes “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2).

That message will be available Sunday afternoon, along with previous messages from this series, HERE. Do you know and follow Jesus? If so, there will be ongoing proof in your life from the Truth ruling your life. If not, will you seek Him and surrender to Him today?

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Knowing the Most Important Thing in Your Life

What is the most important thing you must know? Perhaps some would argue that you must know how to do your job, or you will lose your job and source of income. Others might say you must know those you care most about (and those who care about you) because we need one another. Maybe some would argue that you must know what makes you happy because everyone wants to be happy. There are certainly those who would declare you must know your god and/or your religion, or you will have no lasting purpose.

There is probably a long list of claims we could put together about the most important thing you must know in your life. Most likely, though, most of those answers probably have something to do primarily with this life.

THE ANSWER IS IN THE LIFE TO COME

The most important thing you must know in your life, though, is how you can live forever. How can you know God and spend eternity with Him? He created you, and only He can fulfill your greatest needs and longings. You must know Him.

Consider – if you were on your deathbed, but there was a cure, what would be the most important thing you could know? The cure!

Well, this life is about to end for all of us. Whether the end is today, tomorrow or fifty years from now, the end is coming. What then?

In his first letter, John has incredible wisdom and insight regarding this topic. “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

THE LIFE TO COME IS IN THE ANSWER

Jesus is the Answer. Eternal life is only found in and through knowing Him. In fact, John emphasizes throughout his letter three things you must do to know the most important thing in your life – to know that you have eternal life.

  1. Trust in Jesus.

    It is those “who believe in the name of the Son of God” who can know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). You must believe Jesus is who He said He was – that He is the eternal Son of God who came to this earth to live a perfect life, die on the cross for your sins, and rise again to win the eternal victory over sin and death for everyone who trusts in Him.

    You must trust in Jesus to have eternal life and to know that you have eternal life.
  2. Obey like Jesus.

    This truth is all over John’s letter. Those who know the Son of God, obey the Word of God. Period.

    Obedience is proof that you are a child of God and are being changed each day by His Spirit living in you. Does this mean you never sin? No, John made clear that perfection in this life is not what he was talking about (see 1 John 1:8 – 2:2).

    What it does mean is that we will never find contentment and satisfaction in sin. We will not continue in sin. We will repent of sin and grow in obedience.

    But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in God: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:5-6).

    You must increasingly obey the Word of God like the Son of God if you have eternal life and want to know that you have eternal life.
  3. Love like Jesus.

    If you trust in Jesus Christ for your eternal salvation and, as a result, obey His Word, then you will also love God and love others. Jesus Himself said that it is that love that sums up His Word (Matthew 22:37-40) and proves we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).

    To “walk just as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6) requires love. “The one who loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21).

    Like Jesus, loving God and loving others are the obvious fruit in your life if you have eternal life and know that you have eternal life. Love is the natural overflow of someone who has experienced God’s love.

DO YOU KNOW?

Do you know the most important thing you must know – how to live forever with God? How sure are you?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 John 5:13-21 on the “Proof of Assurance.” I want to discuss two requirements for lasting Christian assurance.

John wrote his letter to help you know. God desires that you know. Do you know?

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Useless Faith

Faith by itself is not enough. Specifically, faith in general – faith in something – will not do. Having faith in faith, faith in yourself, or faith in “religion” will fail you. In this case, faith is useless.

FAITH + TRUTH = ENOUGH

Right faith – faith in the only One who is worthy of all of your trust and devotion – is enough. Do you have right faith?

If you are not trusting in the One who never fails, your faith is not enough. I have had a lot of faith in my favorite NFL team – the Minnesota Vikings, for example, more times than I can remember in my 40 years of life. There have been numerous times that I really believed they were the best team in the league and thought they were serious contenders to win the Super Bowl. Yet, they are 0-40 in even getting to the Super Bowl since I have been alive, and they were 0-4 in the Super Bowl before that.

Needless to say, my faith in the Vikings is a useless faith. Please do not get me wrong – I will continue to be a fan and cheer for the Vikings. I will continue to be optimistic because this “just might be the year.” But, no matter how much faith I have, only the object of my faith will prove whether or not my faith is rightly placed.

Football might be a silly example, so let us think about something much more serious and important: life… Life now and life eternal. Where do you place your faith?

OBJECT > AMOUNT

In 1 John 5:1-12, John keeps reminding His readers that it is the object of our faith that matters. He does not try to persuade us to have more faith but rather to focus on the object of Christian faith: Jesus Christ our Lord.

You might be tempted to take part of one Bible verse and apply it to your life because it can make you feel good. For example, “This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:4b). But, to understand the meaning of that statement and apply it correctly, you must understand the context of such faith. “And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).

The object of your faith is more important than the amount of your faith because it is the one in whom you place your faith that will determine how useful or useless your faith truly is.

JESUS = THE ANSWER

Faith in and of itself is fleeting. It is temporary. It is useless. It is not victorious. But, faith in Jesus Christ is the answer we all need.

This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Proof of Faith” (1 John 5:1-12). I hope to communicate three results of genuine Christian faith, and that message will be available Sunday afternoon HERE, along with other messages in the series.

In the meantime, though, I pray you will sincerely seek God for truth. Trust in Him and in what He has done for you in and through the Lord Jesus. Do not settle for faith in anything or anyone else. The resulting disappointment will be devastating, not just in this life but more importantly for eternity.

Guatemala Highlights

Noah and Levi had the great privilege of going on a mission trip to Guatemala earlier this month with Marsha’s parents and eleven other members of our church family. Below are some of their highlights.

NOAH’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

You can also listen to Noah’s quick testimony about the trip that he shared with our church family by clicking HERE.

LEVI’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

PICTURE MEMORIES

NOTE: Some of the pictures are cropped below but can be seen fully by clicking on the image.

THANK YOU

A huge thank you to our church family and others who supported Noah and Levi through prayer, encouragement and financial assistance! This mission trip was obviously a life-changing experience of which they are beyond grateful to have been a part. Thanks be to God!

Change Required

It is that time of year when we are trying to keep up with all the flowers around our house – watering them, pruning, deadheading, keeping the weeds away, yelling at the rabbits who keep eating the flowers, etc. Zoe (above), for example, is pretty proud of her potted flower on our back deck and has been very diligent about making sure it is well-watered and growing.

If a plant has life, the plant will grow. Yes, flowers need pruning and deadheading at times, but they prove they have ongoing life by their petals and their color and their beauty. A dying plant, on the other hand, withers and wastes away.

CHRISTIANS ARE CHANGED

The Christian life is relatable to plant life, as Jesus explained very clearly in John 15:1-8. Plants are dependent on good soil, sunshine and water to survive. Christians are dependent on God and one another.

And, when someone comes to know Jesus Christ, God gives that person new life. That life is never the same again but rather is in a constant state of change. The ongoing change is what proves God has saved that person from sin and death.

When a flower blooms, it proves it has life. When a tree grows beautiful green leaves, it proves it is getting the nutrients it needs. When a bush grows and needs to be trimmed, it proves it is healthy.

When a Christian continues to change – drawing closer to God with an increasing desire to live for Him and serve others, the Christian proves He belongs to God. Rather, God proves through the changing life of that individual the legitimacy of that person’s faith.

GOD AND CHURCH

When a plant is thirsty, it begins to wither, but when it gets the water and sunshine it needs, it begins to flourish again. Similarly, when a Christian is failing to walk in complete dependence on God and failing to remain in fellowship with God’s church, he begins to wither. He needs God. He needs the church.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I plan to preach through 1 John 4:7-21 on the “Proof of God” in the life of a Christian. What are the life-evident proofs that someone “has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). “This is how we know…” is a phrase that is all over 1 John, and so there are constant reminders of the proof seen in and through the life of those who know Jesus.

You can listen to that message (Sunday afternoon) and previous messages from this sermon series HERE. More importantly, though, I want to encourage you to consider and examine your life. Is there ongoing spiritual fruit growing and proving your faith in God to be legitimate? If not, what needs to change?

Genuine followers of Jesus love God and love others, longing to walk closely with the Lord, serve the church and make disciples.

EVIDENCE OF CHANGE

With Richland Baptist Church, we say, “Our passion is the gospel. Our church is our family. Our world is our mission.” And, we try to remind one another often that all three of those go together. They are not mutually exclusive. Either all three are evident in the life of a Christ-follower, or none is evident.

When God changes a life for eternity, evidence of that change is a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, a longing to be actively involved with a church family, and a growing commitment to live a life on mission. Someone who knows and embraces the gospel loves the church and wants others to know and embrace the gospel, too. Period.

Gospel. Family. Mission. Are any of those evidences of change missing in your life? If so, very likely all three are missing, and if that is the case, God can change your life forever and give you the evidence of change if you will simply surrender everything to Him.

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Love doesn’t always feel good.

If you love someone, showing that love is easy, right? Not necessarily. If you love someone, showing that love feels good, right? Not necessarily. Love is all about how you feel, right? Not really.

As the One who created us and as the One who is the ultimate example of love, God defines love. His Word has a lot to say about love, and He does not say much about love being easy or feeling good.

When you come to know and follow God, you automatically learn more about love. When you experience His love, you are clearly changed and then desire to show that love to others.

Thankfully, we are seeing this at work in our two oldest sons, Noah and Levi. Recently, Noah had an opportunity to help with disaster relief cleanup in Jefferson City, Missouri. Then, he and Levi were blessed to head to Guatemala with a team from our church to minister to orphans and others in a needy community.

Do these mission tasks feel good? Perhaps at times they do, as there is obviously a great sense of encouragement and satisfaction when we get to serve others. But, there are certainly plenty of times when we just do not feel those things. Love – the love of God – still compels us, though.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching about the “Proof of Love” in the life of a Christian, looking specifically at 1 John 3:10-24. Later that day, you should be able to listen to the message HERE. In the meantime, though, I want to challenge you to consider three reasons love does not always feel good.

1) Love is unconditional.

If you read 1 John 3:10-15, you will not see any conditions on the love we are commanded and expected to have for one another. We are not told to love others if they deserve our love. We are not told to love others if they love us in return. We are not told to love others for what they can do for us. The Bible tells us to love one another. Period.

In fact, this love proves something very important: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

You either have eternal life, or you are headed for eternal death. Unconditional love for others is a defining characteristic for those who have experienced this new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Is your life marked by unconditional love for others?

2) Love is costly.

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Did it “feel good” when Jesus was brutally beaten and crucified? Of course not. Love compelled Him, though. It was His love for sinners like you and me that led Him to the cross, and there was nothing more costly than the cross.

No, this does not imply that in order for you to truly love others, you must die for them, but it certainly does mean you are willing to die. And, it clearly means love is not confined to that which is easy and feels good. Love is costly.

Is your love for others costing you anything?

3) Love is exhausting.

To say, “I love you,” is really not very difficult. To show “I love you” is often exhausting. If love is unconditional and costly, then it is certainly exhausting.

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence” (1 John 3:18-19).

Loving a person who has frustrated you is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who are hurting and unable to do anything for you in return is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who do not reciprocate that love is not easy. It is exhausting.

Yes, I do believe that when our hearts are set on the Lord, we can still experience a great sense of joy and contentment in the midst of this unconditional care, cost and exhaustion. Does that mean it will always feel good and be easy, though? No. Otherwise, the Bible would not have so much to say about the command to love one another and our need to love one another. Doing so takes intentional effort, regardless of how we feel at the time. Love is exhausting.

Do you ever find yourself exhausted because of your unconditional, costly love for others?

Love is transformational.

If you experience God’s love by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, then you will not only experience this kind of transformational love; you will be transformed by this love and show this love to others. This love, after all, is an essential proof for those who have a genuine relationship with God.

Have you been transformed?

Noah and Levi are currently on a mission trip with our church to serve the children of Casa De Mi Padre orphanage in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, as well as others in the community. To God be the glory!