Message From Matt | August 17, 2018

Consumer Based Religion! 

I think that there is a problem in many religious circles that goes undiagnosed and untreated!  It is the problem of doing spiritual duties (i.e. going to church, giving your money, and even reading the Bible) to be served (“get blessed”) as opposed to doing those things as a reflection of our love and obedience to God.  The rationale of those that think this way is that if they go to church, give their tithe, and read their Bible, then God will bless them with more money, more health, and more blessings.  Although there is truth in the fact that God does command us to go to church (Hebrews 10:25), give our money cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and follow the Bible (Psalm 119, Hebrews 4:12), we should NEVER do those things with the primary purpose of getting things (i.e. “Blessings”) in return.  This mindset is what many refer to as “consumer based religion” or in my vernacular, this person is a “taker”!  Doing spiritual things to “get” rather than to “give”!

What’s the problem with consumer based religion? There are many but I will only focus on a few:

  • Motives are important! Sure, God can see past motives and still work good in people’s lives but every time that happens, that is an act of God’s mercy and grace that shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Our motives should be based around obedience to God’s Word and His leading, as well as love towards Him for His saving grace! Motives are the picture of your heart…what is your motive for serving the Lord?
  • Checking the box! So many think that if they check off the box of their spiritual activities like they are checking off chores on their “to do list “ that they will be blessed by God.  The problem with this is that legalism sets in rather than a vibrant relationship with Christ!  Again, spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading should be done, but doing these in robotic fashion just so you can check it off your to do list for the day is not God’s intention.  God doesn’t want a robot – He wants a person whose heart is intone with His!  

You will have problems in this life!  The big problem with doing things just so that God will bless you is that when hard times do come, the person with this mindset is left bewildered as to why these things took place.  The questions to God begin to form in our mind, such as, “God, I am doing everything that you want me to, why is this hard thing happening?  Why aren’t you blessing me?”  Although I completely understand why we would ask such  questions, I believe that many times we get to that mindset because we think just because we are doing certain spiritual acts that everything should be rosy…however, that is not the case!  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33 that we would have tribulation in this world, so we should expect problems to take place!  

Abiding in Christ is the opposite of consumer based religion!

To abide in Christ is far different than checking off your spiritual to do list.  It is constantly being present with the Lord.  Meaning…He will never leave us, so we should also stay close to him as well.  Abiding is drawing close to God!  Abiding is trusting in God no matter what situation is going on in your life!  Abiding is persevering even in troubling seasons.  The only reason that we can have hope through troubles is because of Christ!  His resurrection!  His interceding on our behalf!  His promise of returning for us!  All of these things give us hope!   Abide!  Trust!  

Abiding in Christ leads to producing fruit!  Jesus is the source of this fruit!  

The natural byproduct of abiding with Christ is fruit, not a completed checklist!  The fruit of the Spirit grows in us!  The fruit of obedience grows in us!  The fruit of trusting in God grows in us!  The fruit of justice grows in us.  In fact, it is impossible not to grow fruit in our life as we abide with Christ but don’t ever forget where that fruit comes from!  It comes from Jesus.  Look at what Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” The question that has to be asked is, “Are you bearing fruit in your life?”  

If you are bearing fruit, remember that anything good in your life doesn’t come from you!  It comes from Jesus!  Since it comes from Him, then we should abide in Him!  We should love and obey Him because of what He has done for us!  We should serve Him not to just check off a box, but because He has done everything for us!  As we abide in Him, He changes everything for us!  

Message From Matt | August 10, 2018

Flickering or Flourishing?
We have had some new lights installed in our house recently that look great but have had us a little worried lately.  The reason that we were concerned is because as soon as the air conditioning would turn on, the lights would flicker for a brief moment making us think that we might have some electrical issues.  After checking with an electrician about the issue and finding out that we didn’t have anything to worry about the thought came to me about spiritually flickering that can happen in many believers lives.  Sure, anyone can have a spiritual power surge from time to time, but often times these are short lived events like the lights in my house and we can find ourselves flickering instead of flourishing!  I am positive that God doesn’t intend for us to just “flicker” for Him but since that can easily can happen in my life if I allow it to I think that it is good to talk about what can change this…it’s abiding in Christ!  
Stating the obvious, the closer that we get to God, the brighter our lights shine for Him!  The closer that we get to God, the more that we want that experience to continue!  The more that we abide in Him, the more addictive He is to us…we can’t get enough!
What is abiding?
From the Greek, it means “to continue, to remain, to tarry, to be present” and the part about being present is a big deal that we should focus on!  Being present is more than just being “around”!  Being present is more than checking off a box noting your attendance!  So, what does it mean?  In my mind, being present means that I am taking an active role in my relationship with God.  I am deliberately choosing to follow His Word, His Spirit, and His ways!  I am choosing not to sit on the sidelines but choosing to be in the daily fight to submit to God and resist the devil!  I am abiding!  I am choosing to be actively connected to God!  
Being “around” is not “abiding”!  
Why is it different?  Because presence alone does not mean that there is involvement!  Ask any wife if they want their husband to turn off the TV and listen to them and they will give an emphatic…YES!  Ask them if they want their husbands to engage them in conversation rather than just plopping in the easy chair after work…again, YES!  The wives will tell you that having their husbands around the house is wonderful but if there isn’t much communication then they are left unfulfilled!  I think this is how it can be spiritually speaking as well!  We can go to church every Sunday, but if we are not actively applying God’s Word to our lives and serving Him and others with the gifts that He has given us, then we aren’t really abiding…we are just around!  Just being around is not what God intends for our lives to be!  He wants us to abide (be present) so that we will grow closer to Him each day.  He wants us to actively be involved with Him so He can help us bear fruit for Him!  
What about you?  Are you abiding with Christ or are you just around?  
If you are just showing up on Sunday’s and not much else, then make the decision today to get more active in your walk with the Lord!  Make the decision to get close to God (James 4:8) and see how He will get close to you!  Serve God by serving others!  Read, study, meditate and apply God’s Word to your life and see how His presence will radically change your walk with Him!

Message From Matt | August 3, 2018

Power and Peace! 

Over my time in ministry there are many things that I have learned about people and especially about myself that I would love to share with you.  Actually the list could be very long and not all of it would be positive, yet I think it would be a very real look at us!  Since I don’t have that much room to write the complete list, there are two things that stick out to me about myself and “us” in general that I have observed.  Those two things are: 

  1. Many believers don’t understand and use the power of God in their lives
  2. Many believers don’t completely live with the peace of God in their lives 

I don’t know how those two statements hit you, but as I have been thinking about these thoughts for several weeks, the louder its truth rings in my ears…even if it only applies to me!  But I don’t think I am alone in this.  

Same old struggles!

These problems aren’t new!  Looking in the Scriptures reveals that believers from every generation have struggled with these issues, or if not struggled with them, they were at least ignorant of what God has given to His children!  

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would know the “exceeding greatness” of God’s power given to those that believe on God (Ephesians 1:16-23)!  I assume because he was praying for them “to know….what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe…” that  they were new believers that needed to be taught about God’s power.   Maybe this is why God inspired Paul to write this to the church because they needed to hear that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is given to us who are His children!  Maybe they were struggling with the truth that the Holy Spirit lived in them and they needed to be reminded. 
This is the same truth about the peace of God!  In his instructions to the Philippians, Paul told the church how they could have peace in their lives!  I think that the church at Philippi, who was a loving church, still needed to be taught how they could have peace in a world that was filled with insecurity and tension (Philippians 4). Paul was “locked up” when he wrote this but seemed to understand how to have peace!  He seemed to understand the power and peace of God but maybe the church was struggling in these areas.  Since the church was still learning what God’s salvation offered, they needed to be taught that God has given us His Spirit to live inside of us to: 
  • Sanctify us – Romans 8:13, 1 Peter 1:12
  • Teach us – John 14:26
  • Comfort us – John 14:26
  • Guide us in truth – John 16:13
  • Bear witness of God – John15:26, Romans 8:16
  • Intercede for us – Romans 8:26-27
  • Purify us – 1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5
  • Reveal things to us – Ephesians 3:5
  • Forbid us to do wrong – Acts 16:6-7
  • Give life – Psalm 104:30
  • Empower us – Acts 1:8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
  • Indwell us – 1 Corinthians 3:16
  • Unify us  – 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

How do we understand God’s power and peace?

On paper it’s simple!  Abide in Christ!  Somehow in reality we make it harder than it should be.  Abide in Him!  Be close to God!  Choose Him and choose to follow His ways and you will begin to know God’s power and peace.  Focus your mind on God and you will know His peace (Philippians 4:8-9).  Believe what God’s Word says about His power and use that to defeat the enemies in your life (i.e. Satan).  Let’s choose not to struggle with a defeated or depressed attitude!  Let’s choose to use God’s power and peace to direct our lives!  Let’s use it this weekend to make it the best weekend that we have had in a long time!  Let’s use it to experience the presence of God in a greater way!  Let’s use it to see God do great things in our lives at IBT!  God’s power and peace are not things that are unattainable – they are yours already!  Let’s use them!