Where Do You Stand?

December 30, 2006

Introduction:
1. This is our last service of the year.
- It’s time to push the pause button & evaluate, to look back, and consider what God has done in areas where we need to grow.
- Evaluation is always a mixed bag – some good, some bad
- Opportunities to praise God, opportunities to petition God for His help to avoid making the same mistakes or wrong choices, etc.
2. Our theme for this year has been “2006: Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness” – I’ve enjoyed this theme for a number of reasons:
1) It communicates a degree of planning/preparation (i.e. gearing up . . . getting ready, deciding what needs to be done – the anticipation of what’s coming
v Proverbs 30:25 The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer.
v 1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
-with what we are anticipating God doing in the life of our church next year, we have to plan ahead
Illustration:  Failing to plan can have serious consequences – the 3 men who died recently climbing Mt. Hood; a documentary report on that event, they were telling of a device that is highly recommended for climbers; it’s a signal device from which you can know a persons location; it’s battery life is around 2-3 wks; recommended for professionals; the climbers didn’t have one; cost:  $5
- the Word of God tells us that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare and we need to make sure we have on the ‘WHOLE’ armor of God
- and that we are ready for the battle: “Gearing Up” is part of that preparation
2) It communicate progressive sanctification – the doctrine of spiritual growth
- this theme is similar to many passages in the NT:
v Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
- on a couple of occasions, Peter refers to this concept:
v 1 Peter 2:2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
v 2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
3) It communicates a focus on the product (the results of what we are trying to do – ‘effectiveness’)
- we’re not just playing church or being busy for the sake of being busy
- it’s not about ‘activity’ in and of itself
- there is a purpose behind what we’ve been doing and what we want to do in the future: ‘greater effectiveness’
- this is similar to what Jesus said in John 15 [ we looked at this passage in our recent Staff Planning Day to evaluate our effectiveness this year, and get us focused on next year:
v John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
- There are a couple of Key Verses/phrases in this passage:  v. 4, v. 5, and v. 8
v John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
v John 15:5 ". . . for apart from Me you can do nothing.
v John 15:8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
- in all of our serving, outreach, discipleship ministry, we’ re trying to do our part by ‘abiding in Him’ so that we can produce ‘much fruit’ and God the Father is glorified in the end and we ‘prove’ to be the disciples of Christ!
3.  With those thoughts in mind, please open your bible to Hebrews 4 [page 170 of the bible under the chair in front of you, or page 1491 of Chinese English Bible
- it’s uncertain as to who is the author of this book
“ Emphases on the Levitical priesthood and on sacrifices, as well as the absence of any reference to the Gentiles, support the conclusion that a community of Hebrews was the recipient of the epistle. Although these Hebrews were primarily converts to Christ, there were probably a number of unbelievers in their midst, who were attracted by the message of salvation, but who had not yet made a full commitment of faith in Christ.”  
- MacArthur went on to write:
“ The epistle to the Hebrews is a study in contrast, between the imperfect and incomplete provisions of the Old Covenant, given under Moses, and the infinitely better provisions of the New Covenant offered by the perfect High-Priest, God’s only Son and the Messiah, Jesus Christ.” .
[READ Hebrews 4:11-16]
* 3 areas mentioned in this text with which we can evaluate ourselves by asking the question: Where Do You Stand?
  I.  In Relationship to God’s Word
II.  In Relationship to God’s Son
III.  In Relationship to God’ Throne
- let’s consider first of all our . . .

I.  Relationship to the Word – 4:11-13


- our relationship to the Word is a very important area for all of us to consider!
“ God uses the Word to enable us to see the sin and unbelief in our own hearts. The Word exposes our hearts; and then, if we trust God, the Word enables our hearts to obey God and claim His promises. This is why each believer should be diligent to apply himself to hear and heed God’s Word. In the Word we see God, and we also see how God sees us. We see ourselves as we really are. This experience enables us to be honest with God, to trust His will, and to obey Him.” 
- let’s think about the following ways in which we can/should evaluate our relationship to the Word:
A.  Reading the Word
- in reference to the king on the throne of Israel, Moses wrote:
v Deuteronomy 17:19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes,
Q: Why is it so important for us to read the Word of God?
- that’s God’s revelation of Himself to us – we cannot know God apart from the Word of God!
- yes, the heaven’s declare His glory, but they do not give us the specifics about God
- the Word reveals that God is holy, just, righteous, full of grace AND truth, He’s a God of mercy, and patience, yet a God to be feared for He is a God of wrath and He is sovereign over all the events in life!
- how did I know that?  I read it in the Word!
B. Studying the Word
- I’ve always been challenged by the KJV of this verse:
v 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
- the verb ‘study’ is in the imperative mode and is a command = literally means to do one's best, spare no effort, work hard; some versions translate the verb ‘be diligent’
- that can and should be done on your own time – personal study of the Word
[recommend some resources in the MRC – MacArthurs Study Bible, Wiersbe The Bible Exposition Commentary]
- mention our NEW ABF series next year – a way to ‘connect’ and grow in the Word!
- mention new FBI classes (some in the bulletin – how up catalog)
C. Memorizing the Word
- the psalms have some of the most powerful verses/statements about God’s Word:
v Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Q: When is the last time you tried to memorize a verse of Scripture?
- it allows you to think about God’s Word in times where you can’t/don’t have your Bible
- it also allows you to . . . meditate on the Word

D. Meditating on the Word
- no passage says it better than:
v Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.  3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
- the idea is one of concentrating intently on the Word – to dwell on it in your thoughts/mind
- allowing the Word to be your final Judge on your thoughts, motives, and actions!
- that’s the power of the word of God that author of Hebrews wrote about in v. 12-13
“In comparing the Word of God to a sword, the writer is not suggesting that God uses His Word to slaughter the saints! It is true that the Word cuts the heart of sinners with conviction (Acts 5:33; 7:54), and that the Word defeats Satan (Eph. 6:17). The Greek word translated “sword” means “a short sword or dagger.” The emphasis is on the power of the Word to penetrate and expose the inner heart of man. The Word is a “discerner” or “critic.” The Israelites criticized God’s Word instead of allowing the Word to judge them. Consequently, they lost their inheritance.”
Q: Have you been allowing the Word to have that kind of impact on your life?
Q: Are you really thinking about what God says about your areas of struggle or trial?
- if these are the case, then you should be doing well in . . .
E.  Obeying the Word
v Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
- all year long, we’ve talked about ‘Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness’
- the goal of that theme has been to bring glory to God through increased effectiveness in our obedience to His SUFFICIENT Word that gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness”
* Apply that truth: Have you grown in your obedience to the Word in the following areas:
Anger
v James 1:20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
- so you’ve tried to control your anger – and get angry at the right things!
Worry
v Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
Fear
v Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
v Isaiah 41:10 'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Temptation (to sin)
v Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Q: How are you handling temptation to sin . . . sexually? Telling lies?  Pride?
v 1 Peter 5:5 . . . clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
[Apply this to getting along with others, bragging when you’re right, etc.]
Trials (prove your faith)
v 1 Peter 1:7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Q: Is your faith stronger because of what you’ve faced?
Q: Are you more ready to get out of the boat and ‘walk on the water’?
v James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Communication
v Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love . . .
v Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
Q: How are you doing at solving problems?  [Mention PeaceMakers series in ABF!!]
- the effectiveness has to do with our obedience to the
- we could go on all day with this list – but let me mention a couple of more important areas:
Marriage /  Parenting /  Finances (stewardship)
Local Church
v Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
- our relationship to His Word will either help or hinder our . . .


II.  Relationship to Christ – 4:14-15


- that’s what verses 14 and 15 are all about:  Jesus the Son of God!
- the great high priest (that’s significant if you understand the OT sacrificial system – briefly explain the sacrifice of animals on the alter . . . looking FORWARD to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”
- the High Priest was a position of honor and representative of the office of the Messiah, the One Who would come and be the ultimate sacrifice AND the GREAT HIGH PRIEST!
- has this been a year where you better at . . .

A. Knowing Him
1. As you Savior – has there been a time in your life where we confessed your sinfulness to God and by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, you trusted Him as your Savior
2. As you Lord
- not just by virtue of position, but also by personal experience
v Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
- we just celebrated His birth, but we also need to be reminded Who that Babe was—the Son of God, clothed in human flesh
- He’s faced all the temptations we’ve faced, and here’s His response:
v John 8:29 "And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."
- because you know Him, do you . . .
B. Worshipping Him
- do you spend time daily in worship of your God – giving Him the honor due to Him
- acknowledging His presence with you and allowing THAT PRESENCE to keep you from sinning
- do you enjoy His fellowship with you day by day?
- speaking of the OT sacrificial system, only the High Priest got to go into the presence of God in the ‘holy of holies’ in the temple/tabernacle
- but not any more – we have direct access to Him
C. Loving Him
- the greatest commandment:
v Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
- and how do we show that love for Him? 
> Jesus said by ‘keeping My commandments’
Q: Will the people in our church body, your co-workers, family, friends say that you love God more now than you did earlier in the year?
> - many times our love for God is demonstrated by the way we love people!
D. Serving Him
- this where you can really begin to measure your ‘fruit’ we talked about from John 15
- this Great High Priest knew what it was like to be a SERVANT
Example: John 13:13-17
v John 13:13 "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
[Apply this is ALL areas of service in the church: Children’s Ministry / Nursery / Greeters / Youth / Community Ministries / Living Nativity / CFE / Single Moms . . . !
E. Growing to be like Him!
- ultimately, that’s our goal: To please God by being like Jesus Christ!
Cf. Phil. 2 [summary]
Q: Are you thinking more like Christ?  Are you acting more like Christ?
[Can I ask the people around you if they ‘see Jesus in you’?]


III.  Relationship to the Throne

A.  Throne of Grace
- Christ’s high priestly work made it possible for us to come directly into His presence
Q: How is your prayer life?  Are you more effective at that spiritual discipline?
B.  Judgment Seat of Christ
v 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
- we’re going to give an account, not for our sins (they were paid for at the cross)
- but we are going to give an account for the stewardship of our lives . . .or works for Him
[that explains why we are a little worked up about SERVING the Lord, winning others to Christ and discipling them . . . one day Christ will return and we will stand before Him as He evaluates our lives]
C.  Great White Throne
v Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
[explain the final judgment – no more opportunities to share the Gospel or to reject Christ – it’s final]
- that also explains a bit of the urgency in our hearts!]
Conclusion:  Where Do You Stand?
1) Have you gone backwards in these areas?
· Not grown / Poor steward of your opportunities
- some allow their strengths to become a weakness:
[Pictures of the U.S.S. Intrepid]
[Picture 1] // [Picture 2] // [Picture 3]
- thank the Lord for His forgiveness and restoration power because of the blood of Christ
v 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2) Have you gone into ‘maintenance mode’ or become ‘lukewarm’ 
-  as did the church in Revelation 3:16 Rev. ref – middle ground . . . you’ve not gone backwards, but Laodicea type
· Examples:  don’t communicate with others – did OK, but ½ hearted effort
· Grew some but only where convenient ,etc.
· No real measurable progress – marriage/family
· Relationships stagnant
· Giving / Serving Word – only when convenient
· Almost no outreach

Q: When is the last time you told somebody about Jesus?

v 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
3)  Have you allowed progressive sanctification (doctrine of spiritual growth) to impact your life?
· put off put on
· Unbiblical habits of thinking/action . . . replaced with …
· Volunteered for key leadership positions, etc.
· Joined a Point man, Ladies Bible study etc.
v Philippians 3:13 . . . but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Q: where you do you stand?
- Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians [context of the Greek games]:
v 1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
- it’s kind of like the Olympic Games:

Olympics:  Bronze, Silver, God – platforms (use for Powerpoint)