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Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

Responsibility to Church Leaders

We seem to have a love/hate relationship with leadership. We want to be led, but we don’t want to follow. We want leaders to provide clear direction and vision, but we want the freedom to pursue our own agendas. One of the prevailing values of our culture is individualism. And nothing and no one better get in the way of me pursuing ME!

Our emphasis on individualism means that we chafe against the command in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” And yet, the passage explains that there are benefits for the leader and the individual when we follow this command. As the author explains in Hebrews 13:17-19, Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and we enjoy the benefits as well.

It would be easy for me to skip over this passage out of fear of being perceived as an autocratic dictator or the criticism that might come my way. Whether you shoot the messenger or not, please understand that God speaks clearly about this issue of obedience and submission to church leaders.

Obey your church leaders (17). Since the context of Hebrews 13 is corporate ministry and religious issues, it is evident that the leaders he has in mind as pastors and elders in the church. The author indicates that the aim of church leaders is the benefit or profit of the congregation, especially the good of their souls.

We need to recognize that “Obey your leaders and submit to them” is a command rather than a suggestion. It involves a voluntary subordination, followed by a desire to do what the leader suggests. Rather than focus on the possible exceptions, focus on the clear teaching of Scripture. Keep in mind that submission is only an issue when you don’t agree with what the leader is asking for. Then, you have to make the choice whether or not you will submit.

The author gives several reasons why we should obey and submit. One reason is that pastors and elders maintain a constant watchfulness over the spiritual health of the congregation. A second reason is that God will hold the leaders accountable for how they carried out this task. A third reason is that ministry can either be a joyful exercise or a draining burden depending on how the congregation responds. We can either make the leaders’ task easier or more difficult.

Obey

Resist

Submit

Demand a voice

Support vision

Personal agendas

Make task easier

Make task harder
Joyful leaders

Groaning leaders

Personal growth

No benefit

Pray for your church leaders (18-19). While the author of the book has a clear conscience about his life and ministry, he also recognizes he is just as susceptible to temptation as those he is warning. So he asks his readers to pray for him.

How will you respond to these instructions? Let me encourage you to obey your church leaders and pray for your church leaders. Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and you will enjoy the benefits as well.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 26, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

How should we respond to our church leaders?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, we will unpack Hebrews 13:17-19 as we consider our “Responsibilities to Church Leaders.” Here’s a video preview of the topic. Hope to see you this weekend.

 

Life in the Church

Who are the individuals that impacted you spiritually? What did they do? What did they say? How did they encourage you in your spiritual journey?

One of the people that touched my life was John Miller, my youth pastor while I was in high school. John challenged me as to who was the Lord of my life. He taught me about the Holy Spirit, and allowing him to fill and empower my life. John had a huge impact on me as a teenager.

Remembering godly leaders is one of the principles mentioned by the author of Hebrews in 13:7-16. In 13:1-6, he addressed moral issues—loving one another, welcoming strangers, ministering to those who suffer for the gospel, honoring marriage, and having a right perspective about money. In 13:7-16, he turns his attention to religious practices. He speaks about following godly leaders (7-9) and worshipping and serving Jesus Christ (10-16). He explains that devoting yourself to worshipping and serving Christ will strengthen your heart and please God.

Follow godly leaders (7-9). The author gives three characteristics of godly leaders (7) and three characteristics of false teachers (9). Godly leaders proclaim biblical truth, demonstrate faith, and live a lifestyle of endurance and victory. We are to remember their impact, consider how they lived, and imitate their faith. In contrast, false leaders promote false doctrine, emphasize externals, and have no effective spiritual results.

On the surface, verse 8 seems out of place. However, it appears that the author is painting a contrast between earthly leaders and Jesus. Earthly leaders come and go, but Jesus lives forever. In the past, Jesus suffered and died for our sins. In the present, he intercedes for us as our high priest. In the future, Jesus will return to conclude God’s work.

Godly Leaders

J

E

S

U

S

False Leaders
Biblical truth

False doctrine

Faith

Rituals
Life worth imitating

No lasting results

Worship and serve Jesus Christ (10-16). Using the phrases, “inside the camp” and “outside the camp,” the author paints a contrast between religion and a relationship with Jesus. His point is that we should not return to religion when Jesus provides a better way.

Inside the camp (10-11)

Outside the camp (12-14)
An altar you can’t participate in

A better altar, Jesus, that we have full participation in

Animals were sacrificed that covered sin temporarily

A better sacrifice, Jesus’ death once for all, that makes people holy

False sense of safety and security in religion

True identity and security in a relationship with Christ

 

We can endure suffering because we have a lasting reward

The author concludes this section by stressing the importance of worship and praise. Our lips are to echo what we believe in our hearts (15). Worship through sacrifice and service is what pleases God (16).

Devote yourself to Jesus—Follow him, Worship him, Serve him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 19, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons the on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Life in the Church – a preview of Hebrews 13:7-16

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, we will be unpacking Hebrews 13:7-16. Here’s video preview of the message.

 

Marriage & Money

When our enemy wants to defeat a church, he generally attacks in the area of doctrine or practice. Within the area of practice, he often zeros in on marriage and/or money. The author of the book of Hebrews prescribes a preventative defense in Hebrews 13. He addresses a number of specific issues of practice and lifestyle that are often the target of the enemy. In verses 4-6, he encourages us to have a high view of marriage and a right perspective of money. He encourages us to hold marriage in honor and to hold money loosely.

Hold marriage in honor (4). In the first century, marriage was dishonored through one of two ways. One approach was from those who believed it was more spiritual to stay single. The other position was held by those who saw marriage as irrelevant and pursued unbridled sexual fulfillment. In our culture, we have dishonored marriage by redefining it, making it easy to get out of, and rejecting it altogether.

We need to get back to having a high view of marriage. Marriage was established by God (Genesis 2:24-25). It is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman that should not be broken. Scripture indicates that there are two circumstances in which divorce is permissible after all attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted. First, an innocent person may divorce his/her partner if the latter has been guilty of sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32). Second, if an unbeliever refuses to remain in the marriage with a believer and chooses to desert the marriage, the believer is therefore free (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Only in these cases or after the death of a spouse (1 Corinthians 7:39) is remarriage allowed.

All Christians are called to maintain a radical moral purity. Any form and/or practice of sex outside the marriage covenant is sin and deserving of God’s judgment. God will bring judgment on those who violate this command. It might be in this life—physical, mental, relational, societal—or it might be in the final judgment. God’s judgment should not be taken lightly.

Commit yourself to a high view of marriage. If you are engaged or married, commit yourself to building and maintaining a strong marriage. Whether married or single, commit yourself to sexual purity. Commit yourself to living a holy life.

Hold Money Loosely (5-6). Since some of these believers had lost possessions due to persecution (10:32-34), they may have sought greater material security.

We need to have a right perspective about money. Money itself is not the problem. It is the love of money that is the problem. The lure of money has led many people astray.

We must cultivate a spirit of contentment. Contentment has nothing to do with amount. It has everything to do with attitude. Contentment is the ability to be satisfied with what God provides. Contentment comes from knowing that we have God and that he will never leave or abandon us. Knowing God’s promises, we can face the future with confidence, regardless of how much or how little we have.

Commit yourself to trusting in God’s presence and his provision. Commit yourself to being content with what God provides.

Hold marriage with honor. Hold money with an open palm.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 12, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What do the Scriptures say about Marriage & Money?

This Sunday, January 12, we will be unpacking Hebrews 13:4-6 at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, to discover what the author of Hebrews says about marriage and money. Here’s video preview of the message.

 

A guide for corporate prayer

Periodically, our church will gather together for a corporate Concert of Prayer. Rather than talk about prayer or share prayer requests, we pray. My friend, Tim Jack, once developed a tool that uses the Scriptures to guide our prayer requests. I adapted it to use in our gatherings. Here is the guide we used for last night’s Concert of Prayer. Click on the link if you’d like to download a pdf copy.

A Concert of Prayer

January 5, 2019

Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT)

 

Adoration & Thanksgiving

 

Psalm 138:1–8

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.         On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

  • Personal praise (1-3) leads to corporate worship (4-6). Worship leads to increased faith in God (7-8).
  • We have freedom in worship—thanks, praise, sing, bow down
  • We praise God’s name (character). We give thanks for his love, faithfulness, answered prayer, strength, deliverance

 

Confession

 

Confess personal sin – Psalm 51:4

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 

Confess national sin – Ezra 9:6

“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.

 

Confess corporate sin – Nehemiah 1:7

We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.

 

Supplication

 

Spiritual insight and power – Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

  • Pray for greater vision, faith and confidence in God

 

Government leaders – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  • Pray for our city, state, and national leaders
  • Pray for the upcoming elections in the fall

 

Knowledge of God’s direction – Colossians 1:9

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

  • Pray that God will guide our elders as they lead our church
  • Pray for the finance board as they manage our finances
  • Pray that we would discern where God is at work and what he wants us to do for his kingdom
  • Pray for the annual meeting

 

Provide financially – Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

  • Pray that God will grant us a spirit of generosity and we will know the joy of giving
  • Pray that God will meet our needs and cause our budget to increase

 

Passion for the lost – Romans 10:1

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

  • Pray that we become more outward focused
  • Pray for the ministries that reach into our community—Awana, Trunk ‘R Treat, Women’s Dinner
  • Pray for unbelievers by name
  • Pray that God will add new believers to our church

 

Preachers, evangelists – Ephesians 6:19

and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

  • Pray for our missionaries
  • Pray for the leaders of our ministries
  • Pray for open doors and increased boldness

 

Every attender engaged – Ephesians 4:15-16

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

  • Pray for the membership class in March
  • Pray that all find a place to serve

 

Willing to change & adapt – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

  • Pray that we would be less rigid; more flexible
  • Willing to do whatever it takes to become fruitful and effective

 

Multiply our effectiveness – John 15:8

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

  • Pray that we will be fruitful & effective, not just busy
  • Pray that we see growth in depth—children, youth, adults
  • Pray that we see growth in numbers

 

Revival & renewal

  • Pray that God will breathe new life into our church