Life Track 3: Serve People

Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We were saved to serve! Fulfillment in life only comes when we are doing what God put us on this earth to do using the gifts He gave us to do it. That is what we are talking about this week – serving people!

We read in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is something every believer has in common. At salvation, we receive the person of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, and are baptized into the body of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without this gift. I could no more be a husband without the gift of my wife, than I can be a Christian without the gift of the Holy Spirit. When I married my wife, Tammy, I got the whole person! I did not get her on the installment plan. All believers are baptized, but not all are filled, with the Spirit. We leak! We are commanded to “be filled” in Ephesians 5, a continuous action. We must be filled daily!

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers. There are four key passages that talk about these gifts: 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” If someone gave you a gift wouldn’t you take time to find out what was? How must the Heavenly Father feel when He has given us the gifts of the Spirit and we as His children never thank Him, never put them into use, or acknowledge them? Don’t ignore, neglect, abuse, or misuse your gift.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4-5). Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit give every believer every gift? God, in His providence, has orchestrated it so that no one sufficiently has all that they need to accomplish the mission all by himself. We need each other. Body parts are needed to complete and not compete. Cancer in the body is when one cell starts attacking the other cells. Spiritual gifts should unite us not divide us. In the body of Christ, it does not matter who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory! We never have to be envious or jealous of another person’s gift. We are not to seek a specific gift, but rather trust the Holy Spirit to manifest in us the gift that is needed when it is needed.

Love the Church
When Jesus was on this earth, He ministered in a physical body. Today, Jesus is still ministering through His spiritual body called the church. Every child of God has at least one of the seven gifts in Romans 12. God has built these gifts in us to be of benefit to others and bring glory to Him. These gifts first are used in the local church. Then they bleed over into the world, in our job, etc. Imagine and dream with me if all the members at Liberty knew and used their spiritual gift… wow! If you need help figuring out your gift, we have a questionnaire available at Gifts change and mature, discover and develop. Make sure you know your gift and are using it in the body of Christ!

Love the Community
In each of the of the four passages that talk about spiritual gifts, love is always the context. We live in a loveless world, but God has put you where you are to live out your design. Psalm 139 says that God knit you together in the womb and ordained all of your days. He has placed you in your neighborhood, school, company, or business to be salt and light. He will not lead you to do something that He does not equip you to do. God has packaged you. That is why we are doing Life Track. To get you to live on purpose. Discover your gifting, develop it, and use it to make a difference by serving those around you!

Life Track 2: Find Community

Last week, we started a four-week journey called Life Track. Life Track is about YOUR life. We want to help you get your life on track and help you stay on track. The devil wants you to waste your life, but God wants you to live life to the fullest. These four weeks, we will be giving you measurable things you can do to grow in your walk with God. Last week, we talked about knowing God. Did you spend time in the word and spend time in prayer this week? Today, we are going to talk about finding community.

Gather Together

I grew up in church and grew up going to a small group. My small group was called Sunday School. Can I get a witness? Tammy and I met in church, but got to know each other in a small group. It’s so important that we attend both. Acts 2:46-47 says, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” The early church met regularly in worship in the temple (big group!). They also met in houses (small group!). We see this throughout Scripture (Acts 5:42, Rom. 16:5, and 1 Cor. 16:19 are a few examples.)

Our vision at Liberty involves both big group and small group. In 10 years, we pray that God will enable us to launch campuses within a 30-minute drive of every home in Hampton Roads. We don’t want bridges and tunnels and distance hindering people! In 3 years, we pray that God will enable us to launch Connect Groups within a 10-minute drive of every home in Hampton Roads. We want to disciple new believers on a pathway to take their next step in their spiritual journey through knowing God, finding community, serving others and leaving a legacy. This happens in both large and small settings!

Grow Together

Deuteronomy 31:12 says, Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law.” Notice how this verse says we are to gather so that we may hear and learn. We help each other grow! The church dropout rate is five times higher for those in worship only. You may drop out of church, but it is harder to drop out of community and relationships.

Why is community so important to your spiritual life? God designed us that way. We are made in the image of God. We see relationships in the Trinity. God wants to use other people to grow us and He wants to use us to grow other people. The first commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, but the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. We need each other. The New Testament is all about the local church. It is a collection of relationships of people who know Jesus personally. There is no such thing as a solo Christian life. That is why God gave us the church. The church is not a building, it’s people.  You were never meant to live life alone. In groups we find encouragement (Heb. 10:25), people who will sharpen us (Prov. 27:17), people who will help bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2), etc.

There are a lot of excuses people have for not attending church and a small group. The bottom line though is that infrequent church attendance is not God’s will for your life. Why would we minimize what Jesus maximized? Jesus loved the church. Jesus died for the church.  The centrality of biblical worship is exalting Jesus through the preaching of God’s word. We need the church! I encourage you to commit to regularly attending a weekly worship service in 2018. Make God priority by making the church priority. Also, get together with others in a small group. If you need a group, this Wednesday, January 24, at all of our campuses, you can go to an event called GroupLink, and find a group that works for you. If you can’t make it Wednesday, call the church at 757-826-2110 and we will help.

Life Track 1: Know God

This week we started a new series called Life Track. It is about YOUR life. We want to help you get your life on track and stay on track. At Liberty, you will hear us say often, “It’s not just church…It’s life!” Jesus came to give us life. He said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” The devil wants you to waste your life. God wants you to live life to the fullest. Life Track is not just another sermon series or church program. It is a pathway to discipleship, helping you to answer the question, “What is my next step?”

As a church, if we do not make disciples, we have failed.  The Great Commission was given to the church. We are to reach– “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). We are also to teach and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). This is about your personal growth, not about church growth.  Jesus builds His church.

The first step we want you to understand is that you can know God. Knowing God has a public and private aspect to it.  Publicly you can attend worship, commit your life to Christ, renew that commitment, be baptized, join the church, etc. When it comes to privately knowing God, I’m talking about your own personal time in worship, prayer, Bible reading, etc. Worship is not something you do one hour on Sunday or one day of the week. It is a way of life. To start knowing God, start spending time in the Word and spending time in prayer. There are other spiritual disciplines, but if you don’t do these two, you will never do the others. Have a plan! You can lose weight on just about any diet, or get fit on just about any workout, the key is having a plan and doing it. It is the same way spiritually.

Spend Time in the Word

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mt. 4:4). In every temptation, Jesus responded with “It is written….” There is a difference in knowing about God and knowing God. I know about President Trump and President Obama, but I don’t know them. In Exodus 33:11, we read that “the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Prayer is more than seeking God’s hand, it is seeking God’s face. God wants to have a relationship with you. You can be the friend of God. If you read the context of this verse, you see that Moses got away. You have to get alone with God.  Have a place some distance from the TV and the distractions. You don’t know a person until you know their ways. You can’t know the ways of God apart from the Word of God. Spend time in the word every day. Have a plan. Use a devotional book, one-year Bible, or free app on your phone. Just do it!

Spend Time in Prayer

There are so many verses on prayer and examples in Scripture of people who prayed. If the apostle Paul needed to pray, and Jesus the son of God needed to pray, how much more do you and I need to pray? You say, “I don’t know what to pray.” Pray the Word. For example, in January, I started again reading through the Bible. In Genesis it talked about how Adam would work by the sweat of his brow. I just started praying, thanking God for those who taught me a work ethic. I thanked God for the part-time jobs I had growing up, and for the first church who gave me an opportunity.  I thanked God for the churches I served and for the work God did and the miracles He let me be a part of. You can also use the acronym SPECK. Pray about Sin to avoid, a Promise to claim, an Example to follow, a Command to obey, and to Know God more. Or, ACTS. Pray with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

We don’t want you to just go through the motions this year. The message, worship, and videos on Sundays are all good, but they are not good enough to change your life. You need more! You need God’s power! We want you to know the great savior Jesus Christ. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:18-20).


Things You Need to Know

Last week, Zachary preached from John 21 on how we need to love Jesus more, love what He loves, and follow Him. My original plan for this week was to preach a new series on getting your life on track. But, the Lord knows what we need and He had other plans! When preparing for Sunday’s message, the Lord led me to 1 John 2. The word “know” is used 13 times in this chapter. I believe there are three things we need to know going into a new year, so that we can know God and love Him more.

A Word of Encouragement

In verses 12-14 we read of three groups of people – little children, fathers, and young men. We also read some encouraging things about them – their sins are forgiven, they know the Lord, and they have overcome the wicked one! God’s family is made up of people of all ages and stages. The three groups named in this passage have physical and spiritual meaning. They represent physical ages, yes, but these are also stages of the Christian life. We read, “Children… your sins are forgiven.” That is the starting place, but we need forgiveness daily. Fathers are those who have known God for a long time. Paul is an example. Even Paul said he wanted to know Him more!

Our strength comes from the work of Christ and the Word of God. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).  Whatever you are going through, it is only going to make you stronger. For many of you, God will give you the victory to be overcomers in the new year! Regardless of where you are in your walk with God, none of us have arrived. Let’s grow and go forward in our walk with the Lord this year. Let’s take our next step spiritually so that we are continually growing closer to Him.

A World of Entanglement

Verse 15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world….” God is love and we are to love one another, but there is a love that God hates. “Love not the world….” We are not to love the gift more than the giver! Instead of giving you a list of things to avoid, I want you to understand that worldliness is anything that excludes God, or any activity or attitude that keeps you from loving God. It is not a place you go or a particular thing you do. It is a perspective on life. It is a secular attitude about living. What do you spend your time on?  What do you spend your money on? God is not against hobbies, fun, enjoyment, vacations, sports, etc., as long as HE is first in your life. The world cannot deliver what it promises and it cannot give you what you really need. What you really need is God, forgiveness, and salvation. Verse 17 says, “…the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Don’t be like Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…” Don’t forsake Christ and His church, entangled with a love of this world.

A Weapon of Empowerment

In verse 18, John warns that it is the last hour, that the Antichrist is coming, and that many antichrists have come. Our time on this earth is limited. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And, we know without a doubt that the spirit of the antichrist is alive and well on earth now. The goal of the devil is to keep you from growing spiritually. Satan attacks the church from without and within.  He plants people to cause confusion. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (v. 20). The anointing is like a red flag in your spirit alerting you when things aren’t right.  False teaching and false teachers are everywhere. There is nothing more exciting than seeing people saved, and nothing more disturbing than to see those who have a heart for God get messed up in false religions. Believers are anointed to accomplish our assignment. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us! The Holy Spirit is our teacher.  He leads us and guides us into all truth. We must abide in Him so that we will grow stronger spiritually and not be deceived.

John 21 (Jesus Peter)

Guest Blogger: Zachary Ethridge

As we come to the end of a year, it’s a good time to reflect. How did I live? Am I closer to Jesus now than I was last year? Did I kill that pet sin? What new sins and temptations arose? What idols were torn down or constructed? Although it is uncomfortable, it is important to truly come face to face with where we are with God. Maybe at the end of 2017 you look back with regret or disappointment. This time last year, maybe you made all these grand resolutions about how you were going to live for Christ, things were going to be different, and as you reflect you feel as though you have failed.

There was a disciple in the Bible named Peter. He made some bold statements about what he definitely would and would not do, only to fall flat on his face! In, John 13 he tells Jesus, “…I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” Sure enough, in John 18 Peter denies Jesus three times. Peter had resolved to die for Jesus and while Jesus is dying for him, Peter is denying his friend and Lord. But the resurrected Christ comes to him in John 21:15-22, and gives him another opportunity, a chance at a new beginning, a reminder that He’s not done with Peter just yet. And I believe His word to Peter is His word to you this year.

Love Jesus More 

Peter has denied Jesus 3 times, and now his gracious Savior asks him 3 times if he loves Him. If you’ve messed up big last year, if like Peter you said at the beginning of last year, “I’d never do that” and then you did or “I am definitely going to do this” only to fall short, here’s what the risen Jesus wants you to know as you go into 2018: Do you love Him? Not because he doesn’t care about what you do! Rather, He knows that if you love Him, you’ll live for Him. My hope is at the end of each year I can honestly say “I love Jesus more than I did last year.”

Love what Jesus loves

Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep. The Shepherd has a special love for the sheep. Of all the things Jesus loves, He loves the church, His sheep, His bride, in a most special way. He says, “feed,” “tend,” and “feed.” What are those? Verbs! The problem at the beginning of a new year is not that we make resolutions; it’s that our resolutions remain intentions! We don’t follow through with action! May your love for Jesus overflow in love for His people this year in action.

Follow Jesus Wherever He leads

Jesus tells Peter that one day he will die for following Him. At first, Peter loved himself and denied Jesus, but later, Peter loved Jesus and denied himself. None of us know which year will be our last. I want to live the remainder of my years investing into a mission that will far outlive me, and into a kingdom that is eternal. Now, when Peter finds out that it will cost him his life, he immediately wonders what will become of John’s life. And Jesus offers a response that is simple and clear – that is none of your business; don’t focus on my plan for him, focus on my will for you. He says, “You follow me!” In 2018, don’t compare God’s plan for you with His plan for others. Love Him. Love the things He loves. And follow Him wherever He leads.