Pursue God Through a Desire for Growth

Pursuing God Through a Desire for Growth
2 Peter 3:17-18

Peter references the Day of the Lord, knowing that he will return, so be ready. It is a certainty. To counter false teachers who assume the permanence of all things as they are. Focusing on the temporal. It promoted a false freedom from moral restraint. They had Jesus to promote their own agenda. Guard and grow! Healthy progression of who you are in Christ. Evil in the world necessitates that we grow in our faith.

First, there are false beliefs all around us that can challenge our spiritual growth.  

You have known this beforehand, forewarned. Warning of 2 Peter 3:15. This is not a new heresy, but it was watered down truth. Isaiah 57:14, remove the stumbling block from my people. Barna and opposing worldviews that have been enticing the church today. Secularism (this material world is all that there is), postmodernism (truth is relative to each person, no universal objective truth), new spirituality (being a spiritual person but not necessarily believing in God), … Christians have embraced these false doctrines. Let no one deceive you.

Second, there exist within every follower of Jesus the need for spiritual growth.

Growth is vital to our survival. Good people are being carried away by deception. They are falling from their secure place. Steadfastness, referring to their foundation, losing their footing on the foundation of Christ. They doubt or ignore the truth. Skepticism and questions arise. Warning – don’t take his grace for granted. Why is every believer so vulnerable? God’s Word is foundational, when we are not in it, we can easily be deceived. The enemy will distract us from, “thus says the Lord.” He will attack my mind and my emotions. This is how he shakes your foundation. Adam and Eve listened to the enemy and stopped believing God. Colossians 2:8, don’t be taken captive by empty philosophies, human tradition, and the oppression of the powers of darkness. John 8:44 tells us the enemy is the father of all lies. We believe something and our emotions get all stirred up. 2 Corinthians 10:5, take every thought captive. The attacks can be personal, (we doubt who we are in Christ). They can be theological (bringing lies to us, the Bible is outdated teaching, there are many ways to God, there are some sins that cannot be forgiven, your lifestyle is ok, and perhaps the worst, that Satan is not real). They can be subtle, (with enough effort you can keep the law, with enough sin you can undo the gospel).

Third, the grace and knowledge of Jesus represents the true measure of one’s spiritual growth.

Meaning, we must know what he did and have deep appreciation for what he did for us. Transformation through the love of Jesus. Grace is infinite. We can’t add or subtract from his grace, yet we are to desire more of his grace. He uses his truth, which is the pure milk of his Word, (1 Peter 2:2). We must increase our knowledge of Jesus, keep growing, exercise due diligence.

You should be where right now? What is holding you back? Paul’s desire was to know more of Christ, forget what is behind, and what does it mean to gain Christ? Desire him like never before. There is no magical neutral. Is it time to return to our spiritual mooring?

Life Group Questions:

  1. When you were a kid, what was something that you wanted more than anything?
  2. When you first came to faith in Jesus, what was the desire of your heart that convinced you to start following Christ?
  3. Ken talked about the Day of the Lord. What is it about this teaching that would motivate Christians to become more Christlike?
  4. In our telecommunications society, sometimes we encounter a watered-down gospel. When was the last time you realized that someone was promoting an inaccurate gospel and what did you do about it?
  5. In what ways have you encountered secularism (this material world is all that there is), postmodernism (there is no objective truth, and all expressions of truth are relative), or the new spirituality (people can be “spiritual people” without embracing the one living God)? How did you recognize the false teaching? How have you kept others from falling into this trap?
  6. When the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on your door with their false teaching, why are so many Christians persuaded to leave what they have been taught in church for the false beliefs that claim “another testament of Jesus Christ” or that Jesus was only “a” god rather than the one and only living God, second person of the trinity?
  7. How do we combat teaching that says, “There is no such thing as sin, and therefore no need for a savior”?
  8. When was a time in your life when you lost your footing on the secure foundation of Christ? What caused you to question or doubt your beliefs?
  9. In what ways have you ever taken the grace of God for granted?
  10. What are some lies of the enemy that you have heard or tend to toss around in your mind?
  11. The point of Ken’s message was to pursue God through a DESIRE for growth. Do you have this desire? Has there been a time in your life where the desire for growth was greater than it is now?
  12. What do you think about Ken’s 18th century Dutch theologian and his reasons that we don’t grow in faith? … We presume on the grace of God, (he’ll forgive me), we doubt our conversion, we focused on the past rather than the future, we are discouraged at our lack of progress, we are conformed to our culture rather than Christ, we are lazy (influenced by our western culture). Which speaks the loudest to you?

Pursuing God Through Open Doors

Pursuing God through Open Doors
Ephesians 5:15-17
6 Steps to Engaging the “God Moments”
(the Opportunities He Sends You)

He reveals his plan when we see and take advantage of opportunities.

Reed Hastings, with Netflix, offered to partner with Blockbuster and they laughed him out of the office. It was a missed opportunity.

God moments can be missed because we are not looking in the right place, the Scriptures.

Ephesians 5:15
Be very careful, then, how you live (walk)—not as unwise but as wise.

How to walk… first according to the law, then the according to the light of Christ. Walk in love, as in the beginning of this chapter. “Walk” indicates a pattern of life. Don’t be influenced by the dangers of evil. Did Paul have something unique in mind? Yes. See Ephesians 5:14, SLEEP, a spiritual slothfulness, or indifference to matters that are serious, to sin in our lives. They were no longer morally vigilant.

1. Avoid an attitude of indifference about spiritual matters. We can get indifferent to the work of salvation in our lives. Spiritual matters represent who we truly are. Elie Wiesel speech, the perils of indifference, which is a state were the lines blur between light and dark, right and wrong, good and evil. God desires us to will and do his good pleasure. Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Greek stoicism has been challenged by Christianity. There is no difference between theology and ethics.

2. Recognize your daily decisions as directly related to your relationship with Jesus. Live in wisdom. Sometimes we don’t feel God is using us. Ask, “How many decisions are you making that reflect God’s desire.” God will use you when you make wise choices. What is in it for God? Not what’s in it for me. What you wear matters. What you write on Facebook matters. How you treat others matters. Gordon MacDonald traveled regularly, intimidated but the schools of academia he passed each day. Overwhelmed, and minimized the efforts of his congregation and his life.

Ephesians 5:16
Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

“Redeem the time.” It’s like buying something, a transaction. The moment is in front of you, be wise with your time.

3. Value the present moment with an eternal perspective. Look at the example in Acts 3, Peter and John taking time for prayer, saw the lame man at the gate, who was carried there each day. Why did this man capture the attention of Peter and John? God empowered them to seek, address, and heal this man. What is God doing right in front of us? Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that eternity is in the hearts of men. We face moments every day. We must ask ourselves, “Did God send this moment right now, for me?” C.S. Lewis said, “Those who do the most in this present world think most about the next world.”

4. Look for any opportunity to love in deed and truth. There is urgency in this passage. We know this world will not improve. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; the opportunities are in front of us. This world is evil and needs the light of the gospel. In soccer, children hover over the ball like organized chaos. But the effective goalie has a super responsibility, that 18×18 meter box is my area, I protect it no matter what. What about in life, where is my circle of influence. Am I taking responsibility for those around me?

Ephesians 5:17
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

5. Value your time through God’s perspective. We often value time by our own schedule, and not on God’s timing.

6. Keep your spiritual fervor. Walking well will not happen by accident. It will not happen in the flesh. Give God every moment. How easily do we give up, like a New Years resolution, how about exercise or eating better? Fatigue comes due to lack of internal conditioning. We give up when it becomes hard. Fervor of the Spirit to obey him.

These are six ways to prepare you for God’s service. An opportunist takes immediate action. Let these principles guide you. Give God glory in this moment.

Pursuing God When Tempted

Pursuing God When Tempted
2 Timothy 2:19-22

Flee your wrong desires and pursue the righteousness of Christ.

N.T. Wright illustration, “Think of a dangerous, angry animal, and when faced with that animal, what would you do? Then think how you would feel when you saw a loved one you had not seen in years. How would you behave?” Run to the heart of God.

Paul was concerned for Timothy in a wicked culture and gives him some incredible advice. How to pursue God when facing temptation.

1. Remember your identity in Christ (2 Timothy 2:19).

 He knows those who are his… two facts, your life with God and your life in the world.

With God, this demonstrates he is the one who authors our salvation. Some were defecting from the gospel, many were tripped up and led away from Jesus. Like Korah’s rebellion. 1 Corinthians 12:3, reminds us that we can call out to the Lord by the Holy Spirit.

In the world, 2 Corinthians 5:15-17, a new creation, stand firm, we cannot be shaken. Ken told a story about Fritz, a violinist, in a shop, accused of stealing the violin he was holding. He was arrested, and to prove his identity he said, “Just let me play it for you to prove who I am.”

2. Do not settle for less than God’s best (2 Timothy 2:20).

The dilemma, the first word appears to counter the verse before this one. Paul goes from the big picture, the world, to something more local, the large house.

The distinction, vessels are for different purposes. This is a reference from 2 Timothy 2:17-19, not all professed believers really know Christ. There are those who have lasting value and those who do not. If you are an earthen vessel, then repent! There are people in the church who do not know Christ! Ken told a story about going through a home, there were labels telling people, “do not touch.” You can tell that which items were valuable.

3. Set yourself apart unto God (2 Timothy 2:21).

What things are we to set apart? Those items that personify earthenware. Accountability is built upon responsibility. We are told to cleanse yourself. The idea is separation of evil, not that we would hold onto our own self-righteousness.

Results are threefold…

  1. Becomes a vessel of honor showing the value of the church or house.
  2. Being sanctified, demonstrating our sanctification. The value of the master’s work.
  3. Being prepared for every good work, the proclamation of gospel.

4. Remain watchful and resistant against sin (2 Timothy 2:22)

Flee youthful lusts, this applies to all ages, the meaning here is a flaming lust, an untamable flame, running is not always an indication of cowardice,

5. Pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22).

Pursue righteousness and faith, God’s nature is love, shalom peace, with God and with others, where God’s presence is known well.

We grieve over flagrant sins, but often not over our private ones. What prevents us from loving others. To unlove is to hate.

Why is all this so important? A George Barna survey about a dangerous and new moral code in America. You find yourself by looking within yourself, we should not criticize the lifestyles of others, pursuing that which you desire the most is the highest goal people can achieve, believe whatever you want as long as it does not affect society, behavior between consenting adults is acceptable.

Christians cannot give in to the influence of the world.

Life Group Questions:

An Unashamed Workman

14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

  1. About what sorts of things do we get into senseless arguments with other Christians? (see 2 Timothy 2:14)
  2. What does it mean to be approved by God? (see 2 Timothy 2:15)
  3. How can we please God with our work or deeds? How is it possible to do God’s work with the wrong motivation?
  4. What circumstances make you feel ashamed or embarrassed?
  5. When are you tempted to engage in godless chatter or stupid arguments?
  6. What false doctrines have destroyed the faith of someone you know? (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18)
  7. What evil desires of youth continually tempt us?
  8. In what way have people in our society (or in the church) been taken captive by the devil?
  9. when do you feel the world tug on you? What steps do you take to keep your focus on God?
  10. What are ways to limit the effect of worldly things in your life.
  11. Where are examples in your life where you felt the need to run away from something? (Because of character, not cowardice).
  12. When you hear the statistic that up to 80% of people who attend church may have never made a true decision for salvation, what is your emotional response to this information?
  13. Do you feel that work in the kingdom is shared evenly throughout the congregation, or is there a smaller percentage of people who do most of the ministry in the church? Why is this true?
  14. How can our Christian community help keep worldly things at bay? What is the advantage of safety in numbers? How does this apply to the church?
  15. Where do you feel God uses you for his glory? How are you gifted for the work of ministry? In what areas are your stronger? In what areas are you not as effective?
  16. What areas of your life do you rely upon God the most?
  17. How has mass media changed throughout the years? Is media as a whole going in the wrong direction? How are we influenced by mass media (magazines, movies, television)? What positive Christian messages have you seen in the media?
  18. Do you think Christians today have a healthy fear of sin? How do you think popular culture has changed in terms of viewing sin and immorality?
  19. What are ways we can strengthen our children against worldly influences?
  20. What does it mean to you to pursue righteousness? Is there a time in your life when you felt you were pursuing God more than you are right now?
  21. How is tolerance a dangerous word sometimes? How has the use of this word changed over the years?
  22. In our society today, is it easier or harder to be seen as set apart (for God’s purposes)?
  23. Why are we content to remain as an earthen vessel? What do you think about Ken’s point that the only solution is to repent and pursue righteousness?
  24. What can you do to flee temptation that is all around us?
  25. In what ways do we settle for less than God’s best?

Pursuing God When it Hurts

Pursuing God When Life Hurts – Psalm 42:1-11

Corrie ten Boom wrote, “You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.”

Ken talked about resistance, swimming eight minutes is tougher than running a half day. When the resistance is hard, God doesn’t quit. My soul pants for you, oh God. This Psalm is what it looks like when we pursue God through our hurt. Psalm 42 and 43 are together, one flowing prayer, and an obvious cry for help.

Three movements declare one conclusion, “Yet God, I will praise you.” No matter what, I will praise you. What to do when life is hard and disappointing. We don’t grow cold, we press on. It’s easy to be pleased with God when all is going right.

Movement One (Psalm 42:1-5) we see lament and then praise.

When Life Hurts (Psalm 42:1-3) the psalmist faced emptiness, helplessness, and hopelessness. We often run past these words to the happier verses. What was happening?

Emptiness, the deer longs for streams of water, things are just not right, the fellowship is missing, I am empty and thirsty, God is the LIVING God for my living soul, when can I come before you? I miss communion with God. I thirst for the living God.

Helplessness, tears have been my food all day long night and day, he is not able to help himself.

Hopelessness, our culture has the plague of melancholy and see a dark future, truly feeling despair. Where is your God? Antagonistic friends. At times people see no way out. There is no hope.

The Pursuit (Psalm 42:4-5)

The Response:  a soul issue. When life hurts, the souls of mankind cringes, the soul needs nourishment, the soul is expected to NOT to be bothered by external circumstance.

The Process:

The pain (cut off) remembers the past festivals and pilgrimages and sees the separation.

The principle (God is not limited, He is my present help) Soul, what are you doing? God is not bound by walls. Why is my soul so depressed? Wake up soul, God is here.

The pursuit (I will praise Him as if I were with Him in His temple) I will worship anyway, God is greater than my troubles.

Movement Two (Psalm 42:6-11)

When Life Hurts (Psalm 42:6-10) the psalmist felt mistreated, overwhelmed, and forsaken. At verse five, it seems that the issues are resolved, but then we get to verse six. What caused this turn or shift?

Mistreated, geography and topography. I’ll remember you from the surrounding areas, not the temple. But I am way out here, when I want to be there, near you. I’m on this nothing hill, it is definitely not the mountain of Zion. This is unfair.

Overwhelmed, waters and breakers swept over him, a torrent over him. Life is overwhelming, pounding me, my family, my job, all overwhelming.

Forsaken, intellectually and emotionally. God, you are my rock, so why have you left me? Right theology gives way to emotions.

The Pursuit (Psalm 42:11)

The Response: a soul issue. The sound cringes, thirsts… the soul needs nourishment, done wonderfully in community.

The Process:

The pain (bent low) internally overwhelmed, in pain. Put down and not settled inside.

The principle (I can trust God’s nature) I will hope in God, my Savior, he is the Savior of my countenance. He is a life saver, it is his nature. Saving is what he does. God’s nature affects my nature and countenance. Why is my soul so down? There is no reason for it, God is greater than my situation.

The pursuit (I look for the one who will deliver). I will still praise him, meaning I will diligently look for my deliverer. God’s timing will perfectly deliver you. I’m waiting for your response, that which you will do. Kids wait at the door for the parent to come pick them up, to deliver them from the school. We need to praise God in the trenches.  I will anxiously await to see how he will deliver me. Waiting is not passion, but we actively await his deliverance. Serving over sitting.

Life Group Questions

  1. What do you enjoy most about going to church?
    1. What are some of the sacrifices you make in order to be with other believers?
    2. Why is it easy to get into the habit of neglecting our gathering at church?
    3. What are the benefits of worshiping with other Christians (over worshiping by yourself or at home)?
  2. Describe a time when you felt deserted by God or friends?
    1. Corrie ten Boom famously said, “You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.” When was a time where this was true for you?
    2. When was a time that you questioned God?
  3. Casting Crowns had a hit song a few years ago called, “I will Praise You in this Storm.” How does Psalm 42 have the same spirit or attitude?
    1. What is the right attitude to have when venting your doubts and frustrations to the Lord in prayer?
    2. How can we guard against a rebellious spirit?
    3. How can we follow the psalm writer’s example in dealing with our doubts and depression?
    4. What advice does this psalm give to us about dealing with negative feelings?
  4. Where do you usually turn for comfort?
    1. How can you respond to those who are hurting?
    2. In what ways do we focus on the hurting body while neglecting the soul?
  5. What does this psalm teach us about prayer?
    1. What are some of the distractions of life that prevent us from hearing God’s voice?
    2. How do you think you could improve your prayer habits?
    3. What does it look like to live as if God were unlimited?
  6. We all feel empty, helpless, and hopeless at times.
    1. How can we draw on God’s strength to help us in times of need?
    2. Paul saw his weaknesses as a time to rely upon God’s strength. Why are people afraid to show or even admit their weaknesses?
  7. What are the benefits of remembering the past? What has God done for you in the past, and how do those memories encourage you in the present and future?
  8. Ken mentioned our culture living in an age of melancholy. What reasons support this observation? Are times getting better or worse? Why?
  9. When was the last time you felt mistreated, overwhelmed, or forsaken?
    1. What are some solutions to overcome your feelings?
    2. How will this knowledge change the way you respond to others?
  10. Have you found it easier to pursue God in good times or in tough times?
  11. Name some ways that you can better and more effectively pursue God.
  12. What steps could you take the next time you feel doubt or disappointment in God?
  13. How can you remind yourself to turn to the Lord with your problems instead of allowing them to anger or frustrate you?

Chase the Promise

Part Two: Chase the Promise (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

60% of Americans make resolutions… wanting to be better. 1 diet, 2 exercise. Both require a plan. Listen to the director or coach. The thing we chase after require a plan. That which we long for, we need plans to pursue. All of God’s plans may be discovered in his promises. He will fulfill his Word. The date: 605-537 BC with the Jews in exile, and God raised up Jeremiah to remind them of his promise. How?

Live like His promises are true (chase the promise) by,

1. PRIORITIZING what God says Over POPULAR THOUGHTS of Man (Jeremiah 29:10) Consider this…

1) There are false voices that come against his Word. The negative voice had already arisen, Hananiah. The question became, “Who spoke for God?” Who will you believe? See Jeremiah 28:15-17, the damage was done, so Jeremiah wanted to remind the people of what God said. False voices can sound authoritative, influential, even rational, it made sense to the people. According to Jeremiah 29:2, Hanaiah seemed to speak for the LORD. People don’t really change, because we always like to hear the popular news, not the hard stuff.

2) Only God’s Word can defeat or correct those false voices or narratives. Universalism, how can a God of love say there is only one way to heaven? There are good people of other faiths. I’ve done too much to be forgiven. Some things are just impossible in my life. “Our future is as bright as God’s promises.” Adonia Judson.

2. TRUSTING in God’s PERSONAL PLANS for You DESPITE PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES (Jeremiah 29:11).

1) Don’t give up on God. (Jeremiah 29:1-7) Thousands of God’s people were taken captive, but he is still with you, not limited by the walls of the Jerusalem. Move forward in faith and trust.

2) Don’t stop listening to God. (Jeremiah 29:8-9) Take all others thoughts captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

3) Don’t stop waiting for God’s plan to be fulfilled. (Jeremiah 29:15) When you are busy, the waiting does not seem like waiting. The report about time delays at baggage claim, down to 1 minute walk and an 8 minute wait. They still had complaints so they moved baggage claim about 8 minutes away, and the complaints stopped.

3. APPROACHING worship as the PRIVILEGE OF A DIVINE relationship and not as an OBLIGATION OF RELIGION (Jeremiah 29:12).

Call to me, come to me, pray to me – worship in the temple. The profile of worship in the temple. For us, it is a profile of a worshiper.

Do you hunger for God’s presence? Fellowship with a holy God. Do you see worship as a privilege? Are we dependent on what God says?

4. Seeking God FROM SINCERITY and not OUT OF A SPIRITUAL IDEAL (Jeremiah 29:13).

This is in covenant language. We have something to do. Seek him with our whole heart, not casually or with our mouth only. But how?

  1. We have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  2. We yearn for fellowship.
  3. We seek in all the promises given. Living as they are confirmed.
  4. We follow Jesus. Our first love, Savior, and Lord.

In 2014, there were treasure seekers, in the Rockies, and many died in search of it. The wealthy man claims to have hidden it well, but people still risk their lives to find it. Wives and children have lost their loved ones for a treasure that many don’t believe exists. One widow said that it was vanity to give your life for a “greater good,” is a greater good hidden treasure?

Tozer said it was the greatest paradox of the soul, pursing the One who loves and pursues you.

Questions for further study:

  1. Why was it important for the exiles to know that God planned to prosper them and not to harm them?
  2. What kind of prophet (false or true) told the people what they wanted to hear while requiring nothing of them in return?
  3. What emotional reaction would most people have if asked to pray for the prosperity of their captors?
  4. How do you think God would have us pray for our country?
  5. Why does God want us to seek Him with our whole heart?
  6. What does it mean to you to seek God with your whole heart?

From Apathy to Intensity, Part 1

Jonathan Sax, a former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, “When it was hard to be a Jew, people remained Jewish, when it was easy to be a Jew, people stopped being Jewish.” Same for Christianity. We get comfortable, complacent, apathetic.

The church in the Revelation was commendable, but regarding what mattered most, they were lacking.

To whom was this written, the congregation? The angel, is it a messenger? A pastor of the church? Who is the one who holds the seven stars and walks among them. Jesus gives us a very clear message to the church and this message impacts our journey.

Good people doing good things (Revelation 2:2-3) Jesus acknowledged their behavior locked in a specific lifestyle. I KNOW YOUR LABOR, I KNOW YOUR PERSEVERANCE, which speaks to their unction and then their character.

Labor – you work to the point of exhaustion, the church was very busy.

Perseverance and endurance – your character, setting the evil straight, Acts 19 and the story at Ephesus, unbelieving Jews and the sons of Sceva, no brought in by their false testimony. Demetrius and his silver idol business, and they worked hard through it all. They do not grow weary. Good people doing good things.

George Zulu from Zambia interned with Ken, held a church calendar in his hands and said, “You people are busy. With all this activity, how do your people go out into the world and just be themselves?”

Good things making empty routines (Revelation 2:4) I have something against you. Always beware the “but” or “however,” which will nullify all that you have just heard or done.

Downward spiral toward apathy:

1) First is being settled. Active people get settled, and comfortable, on the couch. They became settled in their activity. Their busyness was affirmation they were righteous enough.

2) Losing sight of the main thing, their purpose, their mission. Apathy reflects a coolness and a loss of passion.

3) Sacrificing the best on the altar of good things. They thought they were a loving congregation but they lost their first love. Hard work and good doctrine is never enough to satisfy our sacrificing Savior (Matthew 22:36-40, John 13:35 – love God and loving others, then the world will know that we belong to Jesus).

1 John 4:2 – to say that I love God and not others makes God a liar. Hate is when we withhold love from someone.

Calvin and Hobbs illustration, good is not defined as just the absence of bad.

Empty routines challenged by intense commitment (Revelation 2:5) Remember, Repent, and Return. This is easy to preach yet hard to apply.

Remember: how they travelled with Paul and went house to house and how the church was founded. Have I forgotten from where I started, and how far I have fallen?

Repent: turn away from mere activity and turn to your first love. Grief over our short comings is often not present. The deeper the sorrow, the deeper the repentance. A preschooler saying “I’m sorry” is not repentance. Am I going through the motions? It there no real emotion or feelings for God and for others?

Return: go back to when we first met. The intensity, love, passion, purpose. Jesus needs to be our motivation for good deeds.

Conclusion (Revelation 2:6) Nicholatians, evil people, promiscuous leaders, false teachers. “Don’t just hate what Jesus hates, love what Jesus loves!”

Mother Teresa quote: Gods love for you is infinite, your disregard for the church is finite, “focus on the infinite and allow it to overcome the finite.”


Questions for Further Study:

  • Why does love—even the most fervent and committed love—sometimes grow cold over time?
  • What are some mementos or heirlooms you are especially attached to?
  • What is something you remember loving dearly as a child that you eventually outgrew?
  • If Jesus were to write a letter to our church, what do you think He’d say?
  • If Jesus were to write you a personal letter, for what would He commend you, and in what ways would He correct you?
  • What do your actions say about who or what is most important in your life?
  • What do you think Christ meant when He said, “You have forsaken your first love”?
  • What does it mean to repent?
  • What about our faith are we prone to “outgrow”?
  • At what time in your life did you feel closest to God or the most dedicated to God?
  • How would you assess the health of your relationship with Christ right now?
  • What can cause us to lose our love for God?
  • How can we keep our commitment to Christ from waning over time?
  • Besides knowing all the right answers and doing all the right activities, what do we need for spiritual vitality?
  • In what concrete ways can you show today that Jesus Christ is your first love?
  • What is one step you can take this week to build the quality of perseverance in your faith?
  • What can you do or say to encourage a Christian friend to remain loyal to Christ?