This is a picture of the first pumpkin to come out of my garden this year; actually, it's the first pumpkin I've ever grown, period. I'm sorta proud of it... but I could've been happier with my results. Why?
Because I'm a rookie at the whole gardening thing, and so I ran into a problem that most amateurs will encounter at some point: ignorance.
Basically, that pumpkin is as big'n'orange as it's ever going to get - and while it's not bad, it's not going to meet the standard for a full-grown pumpkin. See, what I didn't know (until my neighbor pointed it out) is that there is a moth that loves to lay its eggs in the vine of the pumpkin. Once they hatch, the larvae continue to live in the vine, eating away at it and boring holes in the vine walls until, inevitably, the vine collapses and any growing fruit fall off. But watching the pumpkin alone, the results would be telling me that everything is a-ok when in reality, it's a dying vine and nothing more will ever grow on it.In 1 John 4, the Apostle gives us a similar scenario when it comes to our faith. He reminds us that fear is the enemy of faith; fear will eat away at the walls of our faith, boring holes until our faith collapses and the works of our faith die away.LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE ONLINE
Let's be clear: fear is a natural reaction to what we perceive as a threat against our well-being, and in the right context, fear can be healthy - it could be the correct response for protecting oneself or someone else from danger. But groundless fear produces needless worry - that is harmful, not healthy - and more often than not, our energy gets put into living in fear. It might be a fear of sin. Maybe of failure. Maybe we're just afraid to live life itself (don't worry, if that's you join us next week - we’ll be dealing with these areas!)[Prov. 24:16] “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up again.”
What does that mean? It means that fear can't keep us down! If we are part of God's kingdom, then we have the ability to overcome fear. This is important to remember: Faith is the spiritual force that drives God’s Kingdom; fear is the spiritual force of Satan’s kingdom. We are saved, healed, changed, equipped, fulfilled -- all by faith. Which means that for our faith to be strong, we have to deal with the fears that would attempt to bore in and undermine that faith. That's why John makes this powerful statement:"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." [1 John 4:18]So how do we find this "perfect love" in our lives?
The Apostle John reminds us of three important factors when it comes to matters of God's love at work in our faith:1. PERFECT LOVE IS SUPPLIED BY GOD AND GOSPEL FOCUSED
[I John 4:7-11]
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
2. PERFECT LOVE IS EMPOWERED BY GOD AND MISSION PURPOSED
[1 John 4:12-16]
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
3. PERFECT LOVE IS PROMISED BY GOD AND KINGDOM MINDED
[1 John 4:17-18]
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
Last Sunday we welcomed Mark and Deb Schory to NewSong. The Schory's will be spending the next few weeks at NewSong as they reacquaint themselves with the greater Boston area and seek God's leading for ministry and church-planting opportunities in New England.Mark joined me in teaching this week from 1 Thessalonians 4 -- if you have missed a Sunday or want to listen to a previous message, you can find the message podcast here. Last Sunday, we walked through chapter 4 and discussed some of Paul's teaching in light of our big idea: that we begin to live for God fully when we are captivated by the story of what He has done for us.This means that many of us find ourselves in an awkward situation - we realize that the Gospel has not really captured our heart and life, and we discover that we are not really living for God, we are merely imitating a life of faith. And we're not alone in this; one of the early churches faced this same situation:
"[The Lord says], 'I know all the things you do,
and that you have a reputation for being alive -
but you are dead." [Revelations 3:1]
1 Thessalonians 4 gives us first, some pulse checks - ways to verify that we are alive - and second, some growth points to ensure that we continue to live and develop. We can evaluate our pulse and our growth as we:
++ Manage our relationship with GOD ++
"We urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you
to do so even more." [1 Thess. 4:1]
++ Manage our relationship with OTHERS ++
"God himself has taught you to love one another... indeed, you already
show your love for all the believers... we urge you to love them even more."
[1 Thess. 4:9-10]
++ Manage our SELVES & our LIFESTYLE ++
"Make it your goal to live a quiet life..." [1 Thess. 4:11]
++ Manage our DIRECTION ++
"For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." [1 Thess. 4:14, 17]
Jesus continually challenged his disciples and his audience not to let their lives and their faith become imitations - he wanted us to be full and overflowing with life! As he said, "I have come so that you can have life, and have it abundantly!"To go deeper into 1 Thessalonians 4, listen to the message.
What a week it was! Following the previous week's snowstorm, I spent a lot of time reaching out to friends and neighbors without power, without heat... some even had to go without coffee! ;) It was a week of need, which means that it was a week of ministry; I was reminded yet again that even the most comfortable of us have moments of difficulty, challenge and need.
And that's a great opportunity to live like Jesus.
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." [1 Corinthians 15:58]
In Paul's letter to the young church of Thessalonica encourages them to continue ministering and meeting needs - living the Gospel - in their community, regardless of whether their situations are comfortable or challenging. In fact, Paul emphasizes that their work will not go without result, and he uses his own ministry experience to them as an example.
Paul connects the Gospel and ministry to faith -- he encourages the church to take on the challenge of faith in order to see the victory of faith.
But now Timothy has returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.” [1 Thessalonians 3:6-8]
Our takeaways from Sunday:
>> Nothing that we do out of love for Jesus is in vain
>> With that realization comes incredible hope and joy – and a desire for more of God, to be with him, to worship him
Music from Sunday was led by Chris Donahue and Travis Jarrett.
Songs were: "Eastern Hymn" (David Crowder), "Our God" (Chris Tomlin), "The Stand" (Hillsong), "Hallelujah" (Steve Deal), "Forever God You Reign" (Steve Deal)