The Need for Accountability

As a church, Redeemer’s Grace is committed to disciple-making. And we follow Jesus’ words very closely when he calls us to disciple the nations, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to proclaim the Word of God. Implicit in this mission statement is a responsibility to one another in our spiritual growth, in our sanctification. Last year I wrote about sanctification as defined in the Scriptures and our role in helping one another along in it. You can see that here.

I want to expand on that idea of helping one another along in our sanctification a little more. The manner in which I am calling us to do this is through accountability. A phrase I heard early on in college and one I use often is that “a lone Christian is a dead Christian.” Not a physical death mind you nor even a spiritual one. But the idea is that we run this race together. We share in our struggles and in our triumphs, our temptations and our resisting temptations. And we respond together in prayers of supplication and praises of overwhelming joy, to God’s faithfulness and our brothers’ and sisters’ willingness to stick together. Even in Ephesians 6 when we learn of the whole armor of God, of the weapons we have to fight against the schemes of the devil we can tell this fight is not meant to be fought alone.

In order to fight together, some of the men of RGC have even banded together in what we call “iron man groups” after the popular “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the writer of Hebrews calls us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near…”

Accountability is vital in the battle against sin. Whatever you may call it, it is necessary. Whether it’s small groups, discipleship, accountability groups, “iron man groups”, or even the occasional meet up. Where there is accountability there are fellow believers struggling alongside one another on the battlefield. Keeping each other accountable is more than confessing failure to a brother or sister; it is going to them in the midst of the battle and asking them for help, to come alongside you and fight.

Practically this may look like some of those groups I named above. But the bottom line is this. We need to encourage each another; we need to challenge each another; we need to ask each other the tough questions; and we need to know how to pray for each other. So grab one or two fellow believers and commit to keeping each other accountable. If you’re young in the faith find someone older to help you along. If you’re a little older in the faith find someone younger to mentor or disciple. Let us be a church that is committed to accountability; committed to each other.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

(Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Like I said earlier, at RGC we strongly believe in disciple making. We see it as the mission of the local church and we get that from the great commission. And we need accountability to do it. Try raising a child without discipline or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.

Thoughts from WorshipGod 2014

So it’s been a few weeks since I went to the WorshipGod Conference in Santa Ana. But everything I learned and experienced there still feels so fresh, constantly opening my eyes in amazement as if I was hearing these things for the first time again.

The theme for this year was Triune. I know, random, right? Throughout the course of my one-and-a-half year of being a Christian, the only time I’ve heard this topic ever mentioned is that Father, Son, and Spirit make up the Holy Trinity… and that’s about the extent of it. So by the time I was leaving back to San Diego, heck, by the time I was leaving Cavalry Church after the first message, I felt smarter. It was mind-blowing, filled with those moments where I’m asking myself how I didn’t know this before because it made so much sense.

I think the biggest thing that I took away is to remember the importance of how God is the Father. This is what stuck out the most to me: the fact that our God is a trinitarian God, who is inherently a Father, makes Him an eternally life giving and loving God. And that is what makes Him God instead of god. Other gods who are not trinitarian rely on their creations, making them weak. God the Father does not rely on His creations in order to demonstrate love; He does not need us. We need Him.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NASB)

With that being said, there is no Gospel without the Trinity. Triune offers free salvation, while other gods require success. There is salvation by grace because God the Father provides a perfect sacrifice. If it were up to us to execute God’s plan, it would never succeed because our sacrifices would never meet His perfect standards. And even if we were somehow able to do so, we would not be God’s children then. Performance does not play a role in adoption. Effort makes us slaves, not children; sonship is free. (Clarification: I’m not saying we can now feel better about being lazy and doing nothing all day, but it’s the effort in trying to save ourselves that makes us slaves). Now here’s something I jotted down in my notes that’s a neat segue to my next point of elaboration:

The Father plans, the Son provides, and the Spirit fulfills.

It’s no secret that God the Father has this sovereign plan all laid out, complete and perfect. We may not know the nitty gritty details of its future, but the past occurrences have been conveniently put together in this nifty book we call the Bible. And of course, I am referring to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ AKA God the Son. The Son provides the sacrifice necessary to carry out the plan of the Father. It’s important to mention that Christ’s aim is to make the children of men the children of God because it highlights the fact that if God was not a Father, then we could not be His children. Through the execution of this plan, the Holy Spirit, who is fully God (equal in divinity, essence, and character), dwells within the believers. And all who have the Spirit share the status of the Son. And that is what justification is: clothing ourselves with Christ’s perfection before God.

Okay, that paragraph was probably full of information you’ve heard a million times, but I promise you there’s more to it. Continuing on, I don’t think the Holy Spirit gets much credit in the Trinity. Christians don’t really talk about the Spirit all that much, not in my experience, anyway. And we should give credit where credit is due, yes? Being Christian is humanly impossible. Now before you run away with your hopes crushed, let me just say that that is exactly what the Spirit’s purpose is. Because being Christian is humanly impossible, the transformation of the Spirit is needed to fulfill God’s promise of salvation. The Holy Spirit is fully necessary for salvation because it demonstrates the glory of the Father and the Son by opening our eyes, our minds, and our hearts, and then drawing them to God.

I realize this post, just like every single post I type up, has resulted in me rambling on and on and on. Oops. I’m just really bad at being short and concise, so just bear with me a little while longer. So let’s get to the point of all this, shall we?

Remember who we are and whose we are to stand firm in the grace of God.

In a message referring to 1 Peter 1:1-2:

1) We are elect exiles. “Exile” is our relation to the world, meaning it is not our home/we don’t belong here. “Elect” is our relation to God, making us God’s chosen people. Put them together: We are selected by God, and, therefore, rejected by the world.

2) We are God’s (God referring to Father, Son, Spirit). This point refers heavily to verse two regarding the Trinity. “Foreknowledge of God the Father” reveals our origin of this election, emphasizing the fact that we are chosen because we are loved by God. “Sanctification of the Spirit” reveals our new position/power of being set apart by God and for God. “Obedience to Jesus Christ” reveals our purpose of election. All this to say, God is our inheritance and our true home.

And this is only what I learned from the messages. My brain is still racking from unshared information from the workshops. As fun as the workshops with Ryan Foglesong and David Zimmer were, to keep this short, I’ll briefly talk about the two more interesting ones, which were the songwriting sessions with Steve and Vikki Cook. In the second songwriting workshop, we were asked to send in a recording of up to 2 original songs to be reviewed in class. And, let me just say, that was such a blessing to sit through. It was pretty cool to get the chance to listen to other songwriters, some who actually write songs for their church’s musical worship team to lead the congregation to sing. There are like million things to worry about when writing a song and a million more things when writing a potential worship song. Everything from lyrics to melody to meter to rhymes to rhythm can drastically change a song. For me personally, I’ve always been a lover of lyrics. When writing songs, lyrics always come before melody, and when listening to songs, a line of amazing lyrics will always win me over rather than a line of amazing music. But, after a session, I realize that I need to find more of a balance between the two. The song I submitted had celebratory lyrics (for my baptism) but the music did not match it at all dragging along at a very chill pace that communicated “life is fine” rather than “my life calls for a celebration!”

And here is where I’ll end my post with a final conclusion that’ll wrap up both topics nicely. The Trinity is what some people have deemed the “logic” for music. The Heavenly harmony of the Father, Son, and Spirit explains how everything is held together by unity. I’ve heard people say many, many times how when we’re all in Heaven singing, it’ll be this perfect harmony of a bajillion voices all layered together to create a beautiful, joyous sound. But until then, I hope you will remember that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Supreme Harmony and celebrate how awesome and perfect that is that we have a triune God.

Hello to Fall at the Park (8/31 @ 9am)

Greetings RGC Family,

This Sunday, we’ll be having a special service at Gershwin Neighborhood Park. As September rolls around, we can expect to be a little more busy than usual! It’s our way of kicking off the summer relaxation and saying hello to the new fall!

We’ll be having a short time of musical praise and a short devotional to prepare our hearts for the new season ahead. We’re excited for the new year as well as the new opportunities the LORD has in store for us.

Afterwards, we’ll be spending some time together in prayer to humbly ask the LORD to prepare our way and to make evident Christ’s servant like attitude in our lives.

We start at 9:00AM! Look for the RGC Signs! We won’t be at the church facilities.

Meet at Gershwin Neighborhood Park on Conrad Ave at 9am

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gershwin+Neighborhood+Park/@32.835019,-117.2119266,18z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xad6c216567fb848

See you there!

Equipping Ourselves for the Field

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

 (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 ESV)

When we first heard the Great Commission we heard Christ commanding us to evangelize to the unsaved. There is no doubt that we have received this charge to go out into the mission field and preach the Gospel and reclaim the lost for Christ. Yet, our zeal for this one aspect of God’s good work for us may eclipse the other aspects of our charge. Indeed, the fields we are called to work are not just the hearts of the lost, but of every brother and sister, and, of course, our very own, laboring to conform ourselves to the image of Christ until we are called home to be with the Lord.

Looking at the first two verses of our opening passage, we can see that Paul’s exhortation is for us to be invested in the lives of our fellow believers with the intent of being in close fellowship with one another. In our pursuit of being united in spirit, we will come across one another’s shortcomings as we are all continuing to put to death our old selves. Paul says that when we face such adversity of character, we are to be single minded in our effort to remind our fellow believer of their calling with love and patience. We need to remember that they have been given the same mission from God. Our Lord did not give us isolated fields to tend alone, but has placed us together in His infinite wisdom so that we may come to one another’s aid in our times of weakness.

In John 13:34, 35, Christ tells us that everyone will know we are His disciples by our love for our brothers and sisters. This Christ-like love should have us willing to lay down our lives for one another should we be called to, just as Christ did by dying for our sins on the cross. Blessed by God, we live in a place of peace and plenty, making the prospect of dramatic displays of love and sacrifice rare which is perfect since this post is about living the Great Commission in the seemingly mundane of our everyday. Our demonstrations of Christ-like love are not reserved for single moments of great visible sacrifice, but this love should be pervading every action we make. On the surface we may find ourselves and others at peace, unaware of the spiritual undertow that is carrying us away from glorifying God. Remember that within each of us are skirmishes made by the forces of evil attempting to hinder us from doing God’s work. At times we are besieged by our own sinfulness, and it is then when a refreshing word from a fellow heir in Christ can steel our resolve to rally against sin. These moments are quiet, and require wisdom to discern and faithfulness to see that God is glorified through our resisting of sin.

We have to be ready, vigilant as we watch over our own hearts so we are prepared to reinforce our fellow believers in their time of need. How this happens is through the work of the Holy Spirit giving us the strength to work on our own hearts. Who we are when we are alone correlates with our ability to execute God’s will when we are with company. As we go further into the opening passage Paul exhorts us to have the proper attitude and practices that prepare us for adversity. God is glorified when we have an attitude of joy and thanksgiving regardless of circumstances. It shows a maturity of faith in and understanding of God’s provision that He works all towards His glory and for our good. We need to be in prayer, not ineffectual and repetitious prayer that is measured in frequency and volume, but earnest communion with God that is an expression of fellowship with our Father. An attitude of joy and thanksgiving should see its expression through prayer, coming to the Father and honoring Him by acknowledging His generous provision. To abide in the Lord in these ways defends our hearts against the weeds of sin taking hold as we find satisfaction in Him.

We glorify God in victory when we resist sin. It also keeps us from becoming impotent in times of need. Paul tells us to never quench the Spirit, which is to never put out our fervor for what is good with sinfulness, loving God’s Word and studying it for ourselves. The Bible is God’s divine revelation to man of His character. Having a fuller understanding of the Father is critical in fighting temptation. By studying Scripture, we can attain deeper knowledge of our Father and His will for us that equip us for the mission we have here today. Will we remember that we can go to our Father in prayer and that he will comfort us instead of grumbling about our plight? If we know He will comfort us, will we then share this comfort with a fellow believer when they need to be comforted? Whatever we study in Scripture will profit us, equipping us with words to continue laboring on the heart.

 

What is lawful and what is beneficial?

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.”

(1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)

What is helpful (beneficial in other translations)? And what is lawful? As Christians are we permitted to do whatever is not outlawed in Scripture? Certainly. But are those doings the most beneficial or helpful? Maybe. Maybe not. In specific situations Paul challenges Christians to be discerning about not just what is right or wrong to do, but what is profitable or unprofitable regarding others’ consciences. In context that is what Paul is clearly saying. Further applied, believers should be contemplating the effects upon their own conscience and worship.

First, we need to be considering others’ consciences. If we read the surrounding verses we find that there were cases where Christians might eat what had been offered to idols, without sin. But we must not merely consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, what is most edifying to others. We are by no means forbidden from the common offices of kindness. Nor are we allowed rude behavior to any, however they may differ from us in religious sentiments or practices. According to Paul’s advice, Christians should take care not to use their liberty to the others’ harm, or to their own reproach. Further down the page we find the principle for all such decisions or practices in life. In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honoring him. This is the great end of our religion and directs us where we find no specific commands for our situation. A holy, peaceable, and benevolent spirit will disarm the greatest of enemies.

Concerning our own conscience and worship we have what many would call Christian liberties. And while it is true that through Christ’s victory over sin and death through his resurrection we have been made free, shouldn’t we try to stay away from what could potentially be vices as much as possible? So often proclaimed Christians will walk that fine line of those Christian liberties just because they can, teetering on the brink of sin. Imagine a circle, where everything inside represents what is lawful while everything outside represents what is not. As one gets closer and closer to the boundaries of the circle, one gets closer and closer to being outside of the law. But by staying near the center, we stay “safe”. Let me be clear. My point is not that we should confine ourselves only to activities that would be in the center of the circle and fearfully avoid all else. This can quickly turn into legalism and self righteousness, much like the Pharisees during the life of our Lord. But what I am advocating for is a purity of mind and discernment to go along with it. Why be tempted at all if it can be avoided? Why have to fight sin if we can quickly flee from it in the first place? The body is for the Lord; is to be an instrument of righteousness to holiness. Let us make it our business, to the latest day and hour of our lives, to glorify God with our bodies, and with our spirits which are his.

Certainly we have freedom in Christ and we are to stand on this freedom. In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul rebukes even the apostle Peter for backsliding on this freedom.

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’”

(Galatians 2:11-14 ESV)

Peter had apparently been in Antioch for some time, long enough for others to observe that his custom amongst Gentile Christians was to live like them (freedom in the Gospel), rather than that of a Jew (bondage under the law). In time, a party of Jews set of a sequence of events that led to Paul’s confrontation and rebuke of Peter for going back to living as if under bondage to the law. What follows in the book, is a description of the freedom we have in Christ as well as an entire allegory given over to define this freedom.

The understanding that many Christians have about the freedom Christ purchased for us through his death is all about doing whatever you want (with those stipulations mentioned earlier of course). But between the book of Galatians and the book of James where he talks about the law of liberty, we get a clearer picture of the Biblical definition of Christian freedom. This freedom we have seems to have no relation to the morals or the spiritual standards of God. Our freedom has nothing to do with God’s standards and everything to do with our motive. A Jew who lived his whole life under the code of Moses could be the same externally after he is saved. The law in the Old Testament did not change. The difference would be that at some point when he came to Christ his motive for keeping the law would change.

Under the fear of consequence, Old Testament Jews tried to keep the law but never could. As Christians who have the indwelling Christ we will. Our freedom is not to disobey, but freedom to do what’s right not through obligation but through genuine desire. Freedom is defined as the ability to be able to do what you want. People are free to steal, kill, get drunk, etc. But a mature Christian finds himself lacking any desire to do that.

So Christian, rejoice in your freedom. Know that Christ defeated sin and death and purchased our freedom. But let’s be discerning and wise about that freedom. For while the Bible says nothing about our styles of wit, our partaking of alcoholic beverages, or our association with worldly entertainment, it does commend sober-minded self control and maturity. Shouldn’t we want to have more in common with Jesus who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26 ESV) and not Lot who we cannot even mention without thinking also of Sodom and Gomorrah?

One need not be a Bible scholar to recognize that Scripture consistently celebrates virtues such as self-control, sober-mindedness, and restraint of that bodily appetite. These are what we ought to regard with the utmost, modeling them in our lives rather than trying our hardest to justify doing the the very things that hold so many unbelievers in bondage.

© Copyright Redeemer's Grace Church 2014