This past week, I have had to give my son a bit more attention than usual. He’s a teenager so he doesn’t usually need so much hands on time for his care. Our time spent together is more talking and chilling. I enjoy those moments, though I occasionally miss the baby days. I cherish these days, watching him grow into a young man, excited to see what God will do next in his life. When he got his wisdom teeth out, I knew following the surgery would be a regression that meant mom would have to step up more.
While I was working from home and checking on him every few hours, making sure he was following the doctor’s orders, etc., I was doing more than I am accustomed to at this stage of my life. I must have run up the stairs a hundred times the first few days. A few days ago, I found myself starting to have sinus issues. My allergies got out of control and I was so busy taking care of my son, that I neglected to address what was happening to me. We do that often as parents. Then we end up with a persistent cough, a lack of energy, and eyes that keep trying to close through the day. Yes, when the oxygen masks fall on the airplane, we are supposed to put our own on first. That’s the only way we can help others on the plane. The jest of the lesson is to care for ourselves first so we can care for others. Now, don’t get all proud and be all you, you, you.
The Bible wants us to care for others. The greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. The Bible also tells us to look out for the best interests of others. I could go on and on. But the Bible also tells us to share our hope, to share what we have learned, to teach our children, to feed the needy, to clothe the naked, to tell the nations, etc. This means we need to take the steps, to be intentional with our spiritual well-being and our spiritual growth. We must always be aware of where we are at spiritually, and always be taking care of those spiritual needs. This includes things like prayer, Bible reading and study, time of rest, mentorship, church participation, service, etc. If we don’t address ourselves and our own needs, we cannot do what God has called us to do in reaching others, influencing others, caring for others, teaching others, etc. Look at your spiritual well-being today. How are you doing?
“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” – Proverbs 4:20-22 [NLT]
A few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some Cross Country spikes as recommended by her coach. As she’s now on the varsity team, I wanted to be sure she was equipped with the equipment that would help her get to the next level. Like her mom, she likes to keep her shoes loose. During her latest run, another runner stepped on the back of her shoe. As a result, her spike flew off. My daughter ended up with only one shoe. I couldn’t imagine running with only one shoe. Even more so, I couldn’t imagine running a few miles without a shoe. Despite the pain, my daughter continued to press forward. She didn’t let another runner disrupt her race. She actually ran faster and more focused. She finished with a personal record. Yes, her foot was a bit sore, but she finished the race and she finished it well.
We are each running a race. The Apostle Paul talks about this race. Remember, we are to run so that we win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). There are people out there who will step on our shoes. We often think it’s the people who don’t believe that step on our shoes. We make non-believers out to be the enemy. Stop doing that! They are lost people, just like you and I were once lost.
Oftentimes, the reason our race is slowed down is because of the other runners—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible speaks again and again about unity, about harmony with the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head and we all are the body. Yet, we have a terrible time at getting along. We argue over doctrine. We tear each other down, instead of building each other up. We promote our own agenda, even if it means sacrificing what God is doing through the ministry of others. We are divisive. We are judgmental. We live by our opinions and emotions rather than God’s truth. Our human nature leads us off course. We get in the way of what God is doing through others because we want to be control happy.
Today, look at your feet. Are you running the race? Are you running to win? Are you encouraging the other runners, or are you stepping on their shoes? Are you running alongside your brothers and sisters in love, or are you slowing them down as a stumbling block? Live in harmony. “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]
All you do is STRANGE and WONDERFUL (Psalm 139:14)
We are clay. You are the Potter. We are all the work of Your hand (Isaiah 64:8)
God is Rich in Mercy
- By Grace saved through faith
- Gift of God – not works – not fulfillment of Law’s demands least man boast
Because of Great Love for Us
Even Loved us when Dead in Sin – He made us Alive with Christ
- In fellowship with Christ – sit down together with Him in heaven
- In union with Christ – raised together with Him
- He gave us the very life of Christ Himself
We are His Workmanship
- In Jesus Christ – recreated in Christ / born anew
- For good works – fruit of faith / done for God’s glory
- Prepared beforehand/ predestined / prearranged / made ready
GOD DOES THE MAKING AND THE SAVING – It is FINISHED!
|I am accepted||I am secure||I am significant|
|I am God’s child (John 1:12)||I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)||I am salt & light of earth (Matthew 5:13-14)|
|I have been justified through Christ (Romans 5:1)||I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor. 1:21-22)||I am chosen & appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)|
|I am united with the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17)||I am citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)||I am a personal witness of Christ (Act 1:8)|
|I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27)||I can find grace & mercy in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)||I am God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16)|
|I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1)||I am born of God; evil one cannot touch me (1 Jn. 5:18)||I am God’s co-worker (1 Corinthians 3:9)|
|I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14)||I can’t be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39)||I am seated with Christ in heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6)|
|I have access to God thru the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18)||I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love & a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7)||I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)|
Bible Study Questions:
- What was our condition before Christ?
- What motivated God to save us? What does it mean to be saved?
- What did God do even though we were dead in trespasses? How?
- In verse 2:9, Paul speaks about salvation not being a reward for good things we have done. Why was this necessary? What is our part of the salvation process?
- The passage speaks about good works that were prepared in advance. What does this mean? What does this mean for you? How is this different from what the world thinks of good works?
- In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that we are “God’s workmanship.” What does this mean to you? Why is it sometimes difficult to see yourself as such?
This is one part of a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on Ephesians. The 12 weeks include:
[The Unproductive Fig Tree: Luke 13:6-9, Withered Fig Tree: Matthew 21:18-22]
Colossians 1:9-10 – “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” [NIV]
*BEARING FRUIT IN EVERY GOOD WORK*
- Filled with the knowledge of His will
- Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
- Bearing fruit in every good work
INTERNAL FRUIT + EXTERNAL FRUIT
Internal Fruit – Deeper walk with God which produces: Fruits of the Spirit
External Fruit – Abiding in Christ impacts relationships and increases effectiveness of your ministry
Galatians 5:22-23a – “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [NLT]
John 15:5 – “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.” [NASB]
John 15:8, 11 – “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples… I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” [HCSB]
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21 [NIV]
Bible Study Questions:
1) Looking at the Parable of the Unproductive Fig Tree, who is:
The Vineyard Owner –
The Vineyard Keeper –
2) The Keeper of the Vineyard pleas with the Owner to give another chance. What does this say to us?
3) In Matthew 21:18-22, we read of the Withered Fig Tree. The fig tree bears a false resemblance of one that would have fruit. How can we appear to be fruitful but not yet not bear any fruit?
4) What does the Withered Fig Tree represent to us? What can we take from this message?
5) Read Colossians 1:9-10. The passages mentions being filled with the knowledge of His will, to walk in the manner worthy of the Lord, and about bearing fruit in every good work. How can we:
Be filled with the knowledge of His will?
Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord?
Bear fruit in every good work?
More Than A Story is a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on the parables of Jesus.
Recently my son had a problem with his gaming system. I decided to reveal my tech geek side and began to look deeper into the issue. I realized that the disc drive was malfunctioning and had another drive ordered. When it arrived, the sticker on the box said, “new.” I quickly learned that it was anything but new. It had a padded wrapper over it but inside told another story. I found things broken and a stripped screw.
The people who sold me the disc drive can easily slap a sticker on a box and say the merchandise is new even though it is anything but new. With us, we can pretend to be a particular way; however, if we have the Spirit, if we accepted Jesus into our lives and were baptized, then there should be a sign of fruit—fruit from our lives.
You cannot fake a relationship with Christ. You cannot slap on a label (ex: “Christian”) and think it makes the reality change. There’s a song that says, “You’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Today, are you a box with a deceptive sticker or are you the real deal? If people look around will they see the fruits of your labor or will they get lost and confused from the image you try to uphold?
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:16-18 [ESV]
Everyone seeks pleasure. We all desire pleasure. There is an addiction to thrills that I am sure we each have dealt with at one time or another. We want to have fun. We want to have a good time. We love the rush. It makes us feel good; however, that pleasure goes away. It never lasts.
As much as we try to be satisfied by pleasure, it is a short time of happiness. It goes away quickly and we feel empty. Think of the great vacation plans and the joy felt in a beautiful environment, the peace felt relaxing on the beach or in a cabin. It is fun while it lasts but eventually you go back to work. Consider the thrill of a roller coaster ride, and then how quick the ride is over. The thrill never lasts.
We cannot get our fill of thrills because they so quickly pass. The void is then there. The only way to truly have pleasure in life, the only way to find satisfaction, is to have a relationship with Christ. With Christ, your life is never empty. With Christ, you are fully satisfied. With Christ, the void is filled. You can spend your entire life trying to achieve a lasting pleasure, trying to fill the void in your life and to be happy, but you will never truly be satisfied in life if Christ is not part of it.
“You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life!
The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.”
-Proverbs 21:17 [MSG]
We all have different images that come to mind when we hear the phrase “tragedy.” In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that “a great tragedy” was that people who would “work wisely with knowledge and skill” would end up leaving the fruits of their labor to someone else, “someone who hasn’t worked for it.” Imagine your job. You invest your whole life excelling and doing great things for your area of business. Then one day, all the reward for that hard work goes to someone else who was not around for all those late nights you put in at the office. Imagine working hard since you were of age to work, but then having it all taken from you to get a bed at the county nursing home. To many people, these examples are to them “a great tragedy.”
What we need to always remember is that we are only here temporarily. We are not here building a huge dynasty for ourselves, but rather, we are here to fulfill the purpose our Lord has planned for our lives. We each have a purpose—we each are significant and have a great contribution to make to the world. It is a great tragedy to work so hard and for it to seem meaningless. But it’s a greater tragedy when we do not know our true purpose in life—when we do not have a relationship with Christ.
We have a choice. We can work hard to have this “great tragedy” or we can work hard serving the Lord with joy. We can work hard to build up something here on earth or we can work hard so that God gets the glory He alone deserves. We will all face this great tragedy and it is a great tragedy—but we will receive something so much better than anything we could have here on earth. Let us continue to serve the Lord with joy, awaiting this beautiful, “great tragedy.”
“Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.” – Ecclesiastes 2:21 [NLT]
There is one word in this verse that sticks out to me. Paul wrote, “Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know WHOM I have believed.” Whom I have believed. Whom. Jesus Christ.
I have a degree in Christian Ministry. I have quite a collection of commentaries, dictionaries, and other books for biblical studies. But there is a difference between reading and collecting information than knowing Christ. There are books and then there is a personal relationship with Christ. There are books on hermeneutics and Psalms and then there is the Book – the Word of God.
It is not wrong to read commentaries and to dig deeper to better understand. The problem is when we aim to know about Jesus and about the Bible from a historical perspective and we fail to know Him—to truly know Him. Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” and it was this faith that caused him to sing praises while in jail and to continue to endure suffering. Today evaluate where you are at in life—do you know this whom—Lord Jesus Christ..
“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” – 2 Timothy 1:12 [NIV]