Joy to the World

This past week I was down in South Carolina visiting Rebecca’s family for thanksgiving. What you need to understand about my wife’s family is that her parents had 6 girls (who are all married now), and then over time they adopted 3 more boys and another girl. But Rebecca’s mom’s mom had 12 kids who are now married with kids. So when we get together for holidays, it is a big deal.

And within that huge family seems to be a common thread of athleticism. There are a lot of high school athletes, competition body-builders, a guy that competed in the Cross-fit games that makes the rest of the guys feel wimpy when he takes his shirt off at the beach, and Rebecca’s cousin who plays receiver for the Clemson Tigers (who had his longest career reception yesterday).

So as you can imagine, when all these guys get together, some kind of sport will inevitably break out, and on Wednesday night this past week that’s what happened. The sport was basketball. It was one of those rare times that I was feeling good on the court. I was making shots, I was blocking shots, I had good energy, and starting to sweat out the cold that I had been dealing with. Because sometimes the best thing for you is to just go sweat it out.

I stepped over to double team one of my brother-in-laws and jumped up to attack the

Continue reading Joy to the World

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What is LOVE (really)?

Today is the final week in our series called “Gifted.” Our last few messages have been on some intense topics, but today we are going to look at 1 Corinthians 13 and talk about a topic that seems a little lighter: love.

Let’s begin by setting the context with the last verses of chapter 12. Paul said in:

1 Corinthians 12 [27] Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

As we said last week, the point here is that everyone of us are important in the body of Christ (the Church). This means that God created you uniquely with certain gifts and talents that if you do not use, the body misses out and we cannot do all that God wants us to do. All of us have a place.

As you might remember, Paul was dealing with folks that were arguing over who was more important in the church, and they were elevating some of the more obvious, attractive, or miraculous gifts above other more behind the scenes gifts.

That is why Paul then seems to say not to worry about the gifts that seem more exciting, instead…

[31] “…earnestly desire [go after] the higher [more useful and helpful] gifts…” 

And what are the “higher” or more useful gifts? They are the the gifts that build up the body instead of just serving the individual. But then in the latter part of verse 31, Paul takes an abrupt turn when he says:

[31] …And I will show you a still more excellent [superior] way.”

Then Paul continues in chapter 13 to give us one of the most well-loved passages in the Bible alongside ones like Psalm 23 or “the Lords prayer.

John MacArthur said that he imagined that Paul‘s secretary must have stopped for a moment, set down his pen, and looked up at Paul because of the contrast of pace and style in the next thirteen verses. It is as if in the middle of chapters 12 and 14 that are all about systems, structures, and details for the church, he just lets loose with a heartfelt, poetic, and passionate speech on the vast importance of the foundation of love in our Christian lives.

But love is not just important in the church, it is a key element to life. Psychology even agrees that it is one of the most basic human needs. And just think about it:

  • Countless poems and songs have been written and sung about it. 
  • Thousands of stories and movies have been played about it.
  • Hundreds of websites are devoted to helping you find it.
  • Innumerable dreams have been dreamt about it.
  • And no genie ever seems to be able to grant it.

Ask anyone that experiences love and they will tell you that it is what makes life worth living.

But before we jump into our passage, we need to know that there are different “kinds” of love. We all know that we “love” pizza differently than we “love” our spouse, which is different than how we “love” our family. But in the Greek language that some of the Bible was written in, there are actually four different words for different kinds of love:

  • phileo (the love of a friend or brother),
  • eros (romantic love),
  • storgē or “stor-jay” (devotion or empathy)
  • and agape (sacrificial and unconditional love).

The love we see in this passage is “agape” (the noblest kind of love).

Let’s look now at our text in:

1 Corinthians 13 [1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

We dealt with this “tongues of angels” topic in-depth a few weeks ago. But for today, just know that Paul is exaggerating to make a point because the gift of “tongues” was getting the Corinthian believers hung up. In this verse, he is saying that even if we speak in any language of men (which would be incredible) or even a hypothetical language of angels (which is improbable) yet we do it without love, then it is just unhelpful noise.

I love this picture – because I sure have heard a lot of noisy, clanging people in my life, haven’t you? It seems that sometimes most of what we hear all around us is just a lot of noise. All you have to do is go find a few social spots (even churches) or just get on social media and read comments and you’ll hear and read a lot of “clanging.” Or as someone once said, “Nothing comes out when they move their lips, just a bunch of gibberish…”

But if we were all honest, if we were to hang around each other long enough, we will eventually hear some unloving, unsympathetic talk coming out of our mouths. The Spirit often convicts me about something I said that was just not helpful or not loving. The Bible actually says a while later that our “tongue”:

James 3 [5] …boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! [8] …the tongue… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. [9] With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. [10] …these things ought not to be so. 

So Paul is saying here in 13:1 that this ingredient of love makes a world of difference in our language. But then he goes on in:

[2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 

Now he is going back through all those great gifts that get people pumped up and saying, “look – it does not matter if we have all the best gifts in the world; if we do not serve out of a heart of love, then we are nothing.” So love makes a difference in our language as well as our service.

Then he goes even deeper and says in:

[3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This might seem far-fetched to us, but for these 1st Century believers, this would have been so relevant because the first Christian, New Testament Church began in the face of some of the worst persecution that we have ever gone through.

The Christians in the church of Corinth would have known people that had lost everything because of their Christian faith. They would have known that the government was persecuting Christians and killing them by means of crucifixion or even burning them alive.

Paul is saying that EVEN if you pay the ultimate price yet do it without love, you have gained nothing. Love makes a difference in life and death.

I think if Paul were writing this in our day, he might say something like:

  • “If I get the corner office, have influence and leadership, and have enough money to make a difference but have not love – I am nothing.”
  • Or “If I end up with the most acerage, the most fruitful crops, the healthiest livestock, and give it all away to others but have not love – I am nothing.”
  • Or even “If my friends do not like me because I am a Christian, if I spend hours every week serving in my church, and if I do everything right but have not love – I gain nothing.”

That is how important love is in the equation of our life.

I do not publicly claim to hear God speaking too often. It is a phrase that probably get’s thrown around a little too much. However, I believe that God is speaking all the time, primarily through his Word. If you want to hear God speak audibly, just read the Bible out loud.

But there are times in the life of believers (and that I have experienced) that God answers us or instructs in a way that can only be described as “God speaking.”  Inaudibly, of course, and typically in a “still small voice” as he spoke to Elijah.

I remember one of the times in my life that God spoke clearly to me. As a young adult I became concerned about the lack of love (or at least the lack of affection) in my family. As I was praying one day that God would increase the expressions of love in my home, God said to me: you start it then.”

So then I began to argue. “No, no God, I think you heard my prayer wrongly – I want my parents and my brothers to be more loving. I’m okay – change THEM.” And God’s response was the same: “if you want your family to be more loving, then you start it.”

At that time, this passage in 1 Corinthians became so real to me in my quest to be more like Jesus. I began to discover that I can show all the affection I want, I can hug, I can call, I can talk, and whatever else, but while those things are good actions, they are not love.

When we talk about it in our culture, we mix up our types of love and often focus more on the “feeling” than the action. But while there are different types of love, what does this long-lasting, essential kind of “agape” love look like? Well, Paul goes on to explain what it is in the next few verses:

[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Love never ends.

So what is love? Love is displayed in my patience when I am annoyed, my kindness when I am wronged, and my attitude when I feel insecure. My love is displayed in selflessness instead of egotism and in forgiveness instead of bitterness. My love is seen in what I rejoice in, in what I put-up with, in how much I choose to believe in someone, and in how long it takes before I give up on them.

Love is a choice. It is a verb that becomes a noun. Love is commitment. This most noble, unconditional kind of love, will never “pass away” – even if everything else does. Paul continues in:

[8] …As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

Through life we grow and learn and mature in all areas – including our love. But one day all the deeds that we did in this life will fall to the earth and the only thing that will last when we are standing before our Creator – is love. His love for us, our love for him, and the love with which we served others.

How scary is it that we can spend our whole life and our strength, energy, talents, resources, and time doing something that in the end just ends up empty and pointless. But at the same time, we can have the most significant impact on others with our life in a way that is not based on talent or privileges or opportunity. It is all about love – and anyone can love.  

And before we get too focused on thinking about who we have in our life that is loving or not loving to us (because that is where I naturally go), let me ask us this question. Look at Paul’s love list:

who in our life are WE really loving? 

Consider this. During Jesus’s ministry on Earth, a lawyer came to him and tried to find fault with him and “loopholes” in his teaching. In the conversation, we are reminded of the two imperatives that Jesus said are more crucial than anything else we do:

Luke 10 [27] “love the Lord your God with all of your heart… soul… strength and… mind, and [love] your neighbor as yourself.” 

He said that if we get this, we will truly live. I like to say it is the “secret to life.”

But the lawyer, trying to justify himself, then asks Jesus, [29] “And who is my neighbor?” So as he often did, Jesus tells a story. Let’s read it together in:

Luke 10 [30] …“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

[33] But a Samaritan [an outcast as far as the Jews were concerned], as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. [34] He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. [35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” [37] He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

One lesson I have learned about life is that when things get really bad (and I have been there – we all have), it does not matter how many friends you have on Facebook, how many people know your name, how cool you were in school, what you have accomplished, or even whether a pastor knows who you are or not. No – when the bottom falls out and when life comes to a screeching halt, what matters most to us is knowing that someone loves us.  

I have been in the hospital room, wondering if “this is it,” yet feeling like it would be okay because I had family and friends with me that loved me. I have been the pastor that walked into a hospital room as a stranger and tried to visit with a couple that I did not know that just lost their newborn baby. I have walked on to the scene of tragedies of people that I did not know. And while I hope that something that was said or done was helpful, you know what mattered the most to those families in those moments? Not that a pastor was there, but that they had a few friends with them that loved them and that were ready to walk with them through their mourning.

Because the hardest part of a tragedy isn’t necessarily in the middle of it – it is when you have to come back home to a quiet house. And just like in Jesus’s story in Luke 10, we need to find people that are going to love us through the hard times, and (like the Samaritan) we need to be the kind of love-driven follower of Christ that walks with others through their hard times. That is why we encourage everyone to be in a LIFE Group – because we want you to build those kinds of friendships with others. People that will “go through life with you.”

See, I know what it is like for to have a whole lot of people around you, and yet feel alone. I know what it is like to have others’ hands stretched out to you from every direction not with something to give, but trying to take what they can get.

I know what it is like to feel that life has passed you by and wondering if anyone is ever going to stop. We are a culture today that spends hours and hours with others (virtually and in real life) supposedly making friends while building up walls all around our hearts.

But since every human being has a desire to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be thought of, and to be ultimately LOVED, we are stuck behind our self-built walls screaming for love – because God, the author of love, created us to love and to be loved. That’s why, as Paul finished this chapter with:

[13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I want to challenge us to consider these words by the Apostle Paul about love. Because if love is so important, why is it that we seem to be lacking in it so much in our culture and – yes – even in our churches. What is it that holds us back from having this kind of unconditional, patient, kind, selfless, believing, unrelenting, enduring, hopeful type of love? I think it is one thing: FEAR.

Fear keeps us from accepting opportunities, from having good conversations, and from trying new things. Fear keeps us from living a life filled with the fullness of God. Fear keeps us from confronting and dealing with our problems. Fear keeps us from so much.

But you know what drives away fear? Love.

1 John 4 [18] There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear… 

That means that:

We have a choice to live our life in one of two ways: in love or in fear.

How are you living your life? What is fear keeping you from? Consider these:

Fear keeps some of us from receiving God’s love because we do not know if it can forgive us for what we have done. Maybe today you need to give in to God’s love that he demonstrated on the cross for you.

1 John 4 [16] So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Fear leaves us distant in our worship of God because we operate in a religion instead of a relationship. The beauty of the gospel is that we can have a connection with a God who sticks closer than a brother. Begin reading His Word even if you are are afraid you might not understand. Begin praying even if you do not know what to say. Begin listening to his voice even if you are afraid of what he tells you.

Fear fights back honest, helpful friendships with others because of what they might find out about us. Even in the beginning before sin entered in, God created us not JUST for a relationship with him, but to NEED community and friendship with others. We will never even experience the greatness of being a Christian by ourselves.  

1 John 4 [21] And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Fear holds us back in service because we do not want to fail or let others (or ourselves) down. But we need to ask ourselves whether we consider what others think more important than obedience to God. Jesus actually set the model for us in this by becoming obedient to the cross. He used what he could do in the ultimate way to reach others.

And fear silences us from giving the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others because we do not want to be rejected. As Christians, our cause is one thing: giving out the love of God. It is the only thing that will make a difference. And if we are drive by love instead of fear, we will do whatever it takes to reach others.

Church, we have a mission. But if we are going to reach the lost, hurting, and hopeless world around us, we are going to have to start tearing down our walls of isolation and insecurities, we are going to have to let go of our fears, to give in to the love agape love that God has loved us with even while we were still sinners, and love others as we have been loved.

How will you choose to live today and this week: in love or in fear? Let God’s love fill us and send us and let us not hold back.

 

 


This sermon was originally preached on November 12, 2017 at Village Church in Churchville, VA. For more information or to watch the sermon video, go to villagechurchva.com.

BEING the Church (the Body of Christ)

Since I was a kid, I have liked playing sports – especially team sports. But when I play, there is nothing I despise more on a court or field than someone who is NOT a team player. I have no interest playing with a ball-hog.

One of my favorite sports is volleyball because there is no way you can win a competitive game of volleyball if you do not work as a team. Inevitably, though, there is someone on the team that feels like they are God’s gift to the sport and they try to spike it every play no matter where they are on the court. But it does not work. Playing as a team is essential.

Today we are going to talk about the importance of teamwork and unity in something else: the Church.

Continue reading BEING the Church (the Body of Christ)

Pray with them

According to recent research, 90,000 Christians last year were killed because of their faith. Millions more are being intimidated, beaten, or worse and many have their houses and church buildings burned: especially in places like North Korea and Somalia.

Think about it: what would we do if we were being persecuted like that? Would we continue in our faith? What if we lost our house? What if we lost our family? What if our church could no longer meet in our school anymore?

What if we could no longer meet publicly as a church?

Would we stay committed to being the church wherever and however we could or would we slip away?

You may not realize it, but those are real life questions. See, the time is coming that it will get harder to gather no matter if you meet in a sanctuary with a steeple, a school, a theater, or in homes. So many believers across our world are already meeting with fear of persecution, and we are beginning to see it in some places in our own country.

Just yesterday morning, there was a tragic mass-shooting at a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. While it may not have been specific persecution of believers, it certainly causes us to wonder how safe we are in a worship service or any public gathering for that matter.

But while this is not the first time the church has been persecuted and the devil has tried to silence the Gospel, only for it to spread even more because (as Jesus said), “gates of hell will not prevail against it,” it is still good to be reminded of the reality in which we live and to prepare our hearts and minds for it.

It is also good to take time to pray for believers across the globe that are being persecuted. This weekend being the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I encourage you to pray with me now…

Father, we pray…

for your mercy and grace to reign in places of persecution, 

for your grace to enable those being persecuted to be strong and faithful just as Jesus and the Apostles were that their lives might preach the Gospel,

that those doing the persecuting will see Christ in a powerful way through the witness of believers and come out of the darkness as Saul did on the Damascus road,

and that you would show us if there is more that we can do to help or encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, the cornerstone of the foundation upon which the Church itself – and our church – has been built, Amen.”

Speaking in Tongues (A Biblical View)

 

Let me preface today’s message by saying that this passage and topic has been one of the most difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating sermons I have ever studied for. I hope you know, though, that while I am by far the most knowledg-able person you could listen to about the Bible, I promise to do two things every time I study: seek the truth and seek the truth-giver. I will get things wrong because I am a messed up person, but you can be confident that I have spent time with God in prayer and desperately search for truth (not how I feel or think).

Here is our passage for this morning:

1 Corinthians 12 [7] To each [believer] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [8] For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, [9] to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, [10] to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. [11] All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

As we said last week, God gifts each of us “as he wills,” to build up the Church and carry out her mission. Sometimes those gifts are miraculous “signs” that confirm and accompany the truth of the Gospel for unbelievers. This was especially prevalent during the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.

That being said, the first question I want us to think about today is simply:

1. What is the gift of speaking in tongues?

You may know that THIS is a highly debated and even divisive topic among Christians. That is why Paul was dealing with it with the Corinthian church. But the sad thing is, this is NOT even close to one of the most important doctrines in Scripture. Considering how little Scripture says about, it is more of a minor issue.

Nevertheless, it is a good question. So what IS the Biblical gift of tongues?

There are 3 times in the Bible that believers spoke in tongues, but only one of those gives any kind of details. So let’s look at…

Acts 2 [1] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. [5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 

Jesus had ascended back to Heaven and many of his followers were gathered together in the “upper room.” Just as he said it would, the Holy Spirit came down and filled the believers in a way that had never happened before. The Spirit’s arrival made such a sound that it drew a crowd of people from every nation under heaven who had gathered together in Jerusalem for a celebration.

So since this was just a few years before Rosetta Stone and Google Translate, there was only one way for a message to be broadcasted to all of those people that spoke many different languages at the same time: the Holy Spirit had to miraculously gave them the ability to speak in a language that they did not know. And that is what happened!

Acts 2 [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” [14] But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. [15] For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. [16] But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel…

So while the unbelievers heard the Gospel in their own language, the rest of the locals heard what sounded like nonsense (because they could not understand it) so they assumed that these uneducated Galileans were drunk.

Then Peter, addressing them as an interpreter, explained what was being said and called them to repent of their sins and be baptized. As a result of all the preaching of the Gospel and the sign of tongues that accompanied it, we read:

Acts 2 [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

As we consider that Biblical account, I think we have five options for what speaking in tongues means:

1. Just another way of saying “making out?” 

While I’m sure some sneaky Christian teen has used the phrase to refer to kissing, that is obviously not how the Bible uses it.

2. Nonsensical words MADE UP by the speaker (with nothing to do with the Holy Spirit). 

But we just read that speaking in tongues WAS a real thing, so that’s not right.

3. Nonsensical words spoken by the speaker and ANOINTED by the Holy Spirit giving them meaning. 

While this sounds fun, that is obviously NOT what happened in Acts 2 because although the local crowd could not understand them, the rest of the people could hear in their own language. Scripture even goes on to give a list in verse 9 what those languages were!

Also, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 14 (which deals directly and in detail with speaking in tongues) that…

1 Corinthians 14 [7] If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? [8] And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? [9] So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. [10] There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning

As a matter of fact, the word for “tongues” in the Greek (glōssa – the root of the English word, “glossary”) is exactly the same word as “languages.” The word occurs 50 times in Scripture talking about either the actual, physical tongue in your mouth or an actual language.

So saying that true tongues is nonsense contradicts Scripture.

4. A real, HEAVENLY language unknown to the speaker spoken by or through the Holy Spirit.

This view is probably the most common among the Pentecostal and Charismatic world today and over the past century. This is also the view held by several other religions under the “Christian” umbrella (including the Mormon church). But while this view view sounds spiritual and mystical, there are at least 4 problems with it:

  1. It can easily distract the listener from the extremely clear Gospel message because everyone’s attention will be on the strange language.
  2. It can divide believers into classes of the common people verses the elite heavenly tongue-speaking apostles that receive revelation from God that could not be communicated in their own language (for some reason).
  3. Even worse, this view can elevate the tongue-speaker above God’s written Word in a way that no one else that doesn’t hear it can argue.
  4. Scripture never uses the phrase “heavenly language.” And while Paul uses the phrase “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13, he is using it as an exaggeration to make a point. Also, whenever an angel speaks in Scripture, their message is always clear and no one has a problem understanding it.

So if it is so clear in Scripture, where then did this idea of an angelic language come from? Well as you might know, everything that God does authentically, the devil has a way of doing inauthentically.

As we mentioned, Paul was dealing with Pagan beliefs that were mixing with Christian doctrine and believers were trying to synthesize emotions and copy the miraculous manifestations of the Apostles – including speaking in another language they did not know. And since no one was around that could understand or interpret, they were getting away with speaking a fake language!

Now fast-forward to the early 1900s. After a few centuries of huge reformations and revivals where thousands of people were being saved out of cold, dead religion, believers wanted to keep those feelings going, so they began to fake it till they made it. They began to talk about a “second work” of the Spirit, claim that miracles were happening, and speak in other languages. It was an exciting time!

But the only problem was… other people began to find out that those “tongues” weren’t really other languages at all – they turned out to be false tongues! Soon, they said, “just kidding” and the notion of an actual language being spoken was reinterpreted to be a “heavenly language.”

Which reminds me of when I was a child, I thought I could speak Chinese just by saying a bunch of Chinese sounding noises. But come to find out, that was not at all how the language went!

So if the Apostles and other believers did not speak a “heavenly” or “angelic” language, then what are we talking about? Well I believe that, according to Scripture, the “gift of tongues” is… 

5. A real, human language, but unknown to the speaker – spoken by or through the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles were speaking in languages actually spoken by humans somewhere in the world.

I have been in a couple meetings where someone was asked to pray in their own language, but no one followed their prayer with an interpretation. And everything that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14 came true! The body was not edified and built up, no one understood what they were saying, and if I did not happen to know that they were speaking an actual language, I would think they were a little crazy!

And here is the deal. If a sign gift is a miraculous demonstration of God’s power, then me standing up here and saying nonsensical, non-patterned, words does not demonstrate that. However, if I began to speak fluent French, Ukranian, or Mandarin even though I had never learned it – that WOULD be miraculous.

So the Biblical gift of speaking in tongues is a real, human language not known to the speaker spoken by or through the Holy Spirit.

Which leads us to our next question that is similar, but a little different:

2. Does the Holy Spirit give some believers a heavenly “prayer language” to talk to God?

My short answer is this: probably not. Now let me explain. Everything that I said in the previous question is true for this… and a few more things.

Each of the times that people spoke in other “tongues” in the Bible was in a public setting, not private. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is giving instructions on the way a public gathering of believers should be run – not how to guide your own private prayer time. Speaking in a language unknown to you in private (especially without an interpretation) does not match up to what the Bible is saying [Platt].

So while there are men and women of God (some that I know or others that are well-known pastors) that believe that a private prayer language exists, there are really no examples of it in Scripture.

Then where does the idea come from? The only place that I could find is in 1 Corinthians 14 when Paul says (again referring to public prayer)…

1 Corinthians 14 [13] Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. [14] For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. [15] What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. [16] Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?

I really think that Paul’s point here is that if your “spirit” spoke, prayed, or sung a song in an unknown language without an interpretation, no one would benefit or agree with you and say, “amen.” So instead, Paul says to pray in a language that you DO understand!

Thankfully, Jesus actually gave us some wonderful instructions on our private prayer “language” that is so simple, concise, and… normal. It is actually one of the most well-known passages of Scripture. Say it with me:

Matthew 6 [9] …“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. [10] Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread, [12] and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”

And to clarify, Jesus said right before that:

Matthew 6 [7] “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases [stammering, empty repeating, babbling, foolish talking] as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

If you want to connect to God deeply, you can just pray in your own language: whether that is regular English, King James English, redneck English, Swahili, Spanish, or whatever. Actually, you don’t even have say words because God hears our minds and hearts! There are even times that, we do not know what to say in our prayers, and the Holy Spirit in us helps us out by:

Romans 8 [26] “…[interceding] for us with groanings too deep for words.

So moving on from tongues and thinking about sign gifts in general, here is our next question:

3. Should I expect a sign gift? 

This one is a little tougher, because it depends on what you mean.

If you are asking, When I get saved and receive the Holy Spirit should I expect to speak in tongues?” – then the answer is NO. And if someone says that, they are running the risk of adding to God’s grace because salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus’s incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection – plus nothing, minus nothing.

If you are asking, “When I get really full of the Holy Spirit, should I expect to speak in tongues?” – then the answer is NO. We should be careful saying that anything is evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit that did not characterize Jesus’s life! Also, Paul (in Galatians 5) gives us a pretty clear list of what we can expect to find in our lives the more we are full of the Spirit. And I can promise you that it does not include falling on the floor, rolling around, laughing uncontrollably, speaking gibberish, and acting wild.

Believing that really getting the Spirit will result in crazy things happening causes Christians to deal with what I dealt with as a child. People were screaming, shouting, crying, running around wildly, and doing silly stuff that I never felt the Spirit moving me to do so it made me feel less of a Christian.

The Spirit will absolutely at times move us to be expressive and emotional, but probably not (as my brother recalled this past week) “running around [screaming] with a flower pot on your head.” I wish we could have gotten that one on video.

BUT if you are asking, “If God wants to use me to advance the kingdom of God in a humanly-impossible way, will he step in and work a miracle?” – then YES! 

God has been telling his people that since the beginning and Jesus said that to his Apostles in Mark 16 not because they were given MORE of the Spirit than us, but because they were completely sold out to the mission with no backup plan, they were obedient to the calling to go preach the Gospel and plant churches in the face of persecution and death, and God had a plan to use them that (he said) the gates of hell would not prevail against. And because of that, God worked miracle after miracle as he used the Apostles in amazing ways.

And for centuries since then, history is full of stories of similar things God has done in the lives of believers that were sold out, obedient, and on-mission. Go read stories of men like Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell.

Read about George Mueller who ran an orphanage that cared for thousands of orphans solely relying on faith. According to Mueller’s own journal, he had over 50,000 specific, recorded answers to prayers. That was five hundred answers to prayer each year – more than one a day – every single day for 60 years! Why? Because instead of just doing what he could do in his own strength he set out to obey God and attempt GREAT things for God.

And those things are nothing for God because what is supernatural to us is just natural to God. He is the God of the impossible. And heaven only knows what God WOULD do and WANTS to do today in our lives, your life, and in my life if we really got to the place where everything was on the line, all we had was reliance on God, we have no plan B, and we obediently attempt great things for him with prayer and fasting. God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants with whomever he wants.

Because here is the thing: our salvation is a miracle (the greatest miracle) that God could take us who were hopelessly dead in our trespasses and sins and make us alive in Christ. When we get the opportunity to lead someone else to Christ, we are witnessing a miracle of God.

And we may have never thought of it, but I believe there are miraculous interventions, healings, prophecies, visions, and other signs that happen right in front of our eyes that we never acknowledge or recognize as such. All you have to do is read Scripture to see how God is always at work behind the scenes doing things that would blow our mind if we knew what was going on. Think about the conservation of the Scriptures themselves – that we are reading (in some cases) thousands of years-old documents that God has preserved.

This week I talked to several people in person and online and heard about some amazing miracles that God has worked. I heard how God brought people together, blessed a family with the birth of a child after the doctors said, “it would take an act of God” for them to get pregnant, how God healed a grandmother of breast cancer, how God brought a a man back to life, and much more.

Even this week, God protected some musical equipment in Sam and Amy’s house when a pipe burst and poured water everywhere else. Why? Because that equipment is used at times daily for God’s glory and his church!

So should we expect miracles in our life as we follow God? Yes – and if you haven’t noticed any, you’re not looking in the right places!

Now I recognize that you may have a different view on some of these things. So our last question today is:

4. What if I disagree?

First, let us not hold a closed-fisted, unrelenting opinion on anything that we have never studied for ourselves. We have access today to SO much information – more than ever before. We must never just follow our feelings or experience. There are times that we all feel strongly about ideas or beliefs that are really just from an immature view of Scripture – and that is me included. Always be learning and rooting your beliefs in truth.

Second, let’s talk! The beauty of being a church is that we are made up of all kinds of people with the Spirit of God as our bond. We must never allow topics that Scripture does not give a lot of clarity about to divide us. So pretty much: let’s be unified by the Gospel, and let’s talk about the rest!

We all have to fight against the temptation to let our beliefs give us an “elitist” attitude over top others that believe differently.

Instead, (thirdly) pursue UNITY, not division. I love what T.D. Jakes (a Pentecostal pastor that I do not agree with everything he says) said a couple years ago: “…it is easy to throw rocks at people that you don’t know, but the more you really get to know them and see Christ work in their lives, regardless of their belief system, you begin to try to be a bridge-builder.Don’t construct walls up against people you disagree with. Be bridge-builders for the sake of the Gospel.

I also love what John MacArthur (who is very theologically conservative said) “you would be better off to go into a corner and speak gibberish than to come out of the corner and gossip” Wow.  

If your Gospel makes you an ecstatic, emotional worshiper in church services but a crappy, abusive husband or mean, nagging wife, I have a heard time believing that you have the right Gospel! The true Gospel calls us not to speak in tongues, but to repent of our sins, die daily to ourselves, take up our crosses, live holy lives, preach the Gospel to others, love God, and love others.

And fourthly (and in closing), do not seek the miracle over the Miracle-Maker. Do not get so caught up in wanting to experience some kind of manifestation of the Spirit that you forget to seek the Giver of the manifestation. Seek Jesus. Pursue Jesus. He is the “perfect” that has come. The spiritual healing he provides lasts forever.

On the other side, do not be so extremely doctrine and knowledge-chasing that you forget to chase after a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus actually told the Pharisees and Sadducees in John 5 that it is possible to look so hard at the Scriptures for eternal life that you miss the Jesus that the Scriptures are about. Then Jesus said, [40] “…you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Oh Church – may that not be us. Yes – may we desire spiritual gifts that God can use us to build up his church for the glory of God. Yes – may we seek truth and knowledge and wisdom. But as John MacArthur also said, Dead orthodoxy can never replace a warm and vital relationship with God.

There is a whole lot more in 1 Corinthians 14 I wish we had time to talk about. I encourage you to study it on your own – especially in context with chapters 12-13.

But let’s end with this thought. It is amazing what God will do through ONE person who is sold out and open to the Spirit leading and working. Just imagine what God can do through a whole church full of people willing to do that.

But it is not going to come through seeking an experience or knowledge. It is going to come through seeking Jesus. Church: Let’s be Jesus-seekers, and allow him to do amazing things around us and even with us!


This message was preached on October 23, 2017 at Village Church in Churchville, VA as part of a series called “GIFTED: Made For a Purpose” based on 1 Corinthians 12-14. Visit our website at villagechurchva.com or watch this sermon here.

The Sign Gifts

When I was in 11th grade, I dated this girl for two months. In that two months time I felt love like I had never felt before. I’m talking about stomach in knots, sappy love on Delilah at night, singing, “You got it bad” by Usher as loud as I could, letting her wear my letterman coat – the whole thing. But there was only one problem: we never talked. I mean we would pass a few notes in the hallway, but we never really talked about anything. After those two dreamy months, I really knew very little about it her. But I had the feeling: I was in love. 

Then she said, “let’s just be friends” and my life was over for a few weeks.

But isn’t it funny that we can feel SO strongly about something that is not really based on reality? I mean whatever love is, I didn’t have it – but I thought I did.

Well here’s the truth: just because we FEEL something, does not make it is true. 

Interestingly, 50 years ago, that statement would have never been challenged, but today in our culture, you know as well as I do that there are times that our FEELINGS are more important than fact or truth. We may have emotions like love or lust, fear, excitement, anger, and sadness (even strongly) at times based on… well… nothing but shifting, often-wrong occurrences like the weather, how someone looks at us, what emoticon someone used in a text, or what we thought we heard. Ever been there?

Because of that, much of life is just a quest for truth – isn’t it? Not just big, overall truth, but even just data in the workplace, facts in school, and truth in relationships.


We are a little more than half-way through this series called GIFTED looking at how each and every one of us are gifted in various ways for a purpose. And what is that purpose? It is to glorify God!

But more specifically, we have stated each week that The Holy Spirit has gifted every believer for the building up of the Church to carry out her mission.

Last week we finally got into Paul’s list of Spiritual Gifts and explained the WHAT and WHY of those gifts. The big point of last week’s message (really the last two weeks) is that EVERY gift we have (whether natural from birth or supernatural from re-birth), is from God and can and should be used for God. That means that whoever you are and whatever you can do, there is a place for you on the team.

However, Paul goes on in our passage in 1 Corinthians 12 to then place a specific emphasis on super-natural or spiritual gifts. Now before we get any farther, let me give you a thick definition of spiritual gifts that we took some time to unpack last week:

Spiritual gifts are grace-based, super-natural abilities or capacities given by the Holy Spirit after salvation for us to minister to the body and glorify God. 

And today we are going to focus on a specific group of those spiritual gifts that we will call “sign gifts.” Let’s jump into our text for today…

1 Corinthians 12 [7] To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [8] For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, [9] to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, [10] to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. [11] All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Maybe you remember that Paul is taking a big part of this letter to the Corinthian believers to deal with this because of how the gifts were being misunderstood, misrepresented, and misused. And the reality is that people today still mis-understand, misrepresent, and misuse these gifts in the church. As a matter of fact, for the past 200 years or less, this topic has divided the Church and believers in unhealthy ways.

So what really is a “sign gift”? What is the “gift of tongues”? 

Well today and next week we are going to deal with those questions and a few more. These two messages will be a little different than normal. We are going to structure it more like a Q&A session where I want to deal with some of the common questions asked about this topic. And if in the end you end up with more questions, send me an email and I’d love to chat.

I wish we could handle all of the questions today, but after hours of study and research, I realized that I should probably not preach for two hours without warning.

As a matter of fact, this topic is so highly debated that the internet, the library, and the christian world in general is full of sermons, books, and seminars about it. Even after talking with several pastor friends I realized that there are different views within different views!

So my goal after these two weeks is not that you would know my stance on these issues, but that we would all together have a more full, Biblical, and practical understanding on these sign gifts that is helpful on our journey as a follower of Christ.

That was Paul’s desire for the Corinthian Church as he said in…

1 Corinthians 14 [20] Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

And that is my prayer, too, not just for you – but for me as some of these questions I have dealt with for many years. And hopefully we would agree that what matters most in any topic like this is not what any of us think, what our grandpa preached, or what the church down the road teaches – it is what does the Bible teach because God’s Word is holy, perfect, and the final authority.

So here we go:

1. What are sign gifts?

If all spiritual gifts are in general super-natural capacities for us to minister to the body and glorify God, a sign gift is a specific type of gift that stands out as miraculous or outside of the normal realm of nature as a demonstration of the power of God that confirms the message of the Gospel as proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles. The writer of Hebrews affirms this in…

Hebrews 2 [4] …God also bore witness [or testified] by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

In our text, Paul lists several sign gifts, but there are a few other passages in Scripture that might lead us to include more. But as for all the spiritual gifts, I do not believe these lists are exhaustive or complete – meaning that there are more and different gifts in different eras and cultures. But since they are in our text in verses 9-10, let’s take a minute and explain the three sign gifts that Paul mentioned, which are:

1. healing: supernatural capacity to (with prayer and at times fasting) restore others to wholeness in emotional, relational, spiritual, physical, and other ways.

For example, during Jesus’s ministry, many lame people were made to walk, blind were made to see, and sick were given good health. In Acts 9, Peter raised a little girl up from the dead, Paul healed a man that fell out of a window while he was preaching, and many more.

Healings were some of the most common sign gifts for Jesus and during the start of the First Church. Luke even writes that after the Holy Spirit came…

Acts 5 [12] Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles… [14] And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, [15] so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. [16] The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

2. miracles: the supernatural capacity to alter the natural outcome or course of life through prayer, faith, and divine direction.

For example, Jesus walked on water (and so did Peter) and turned water into wine, Phillip transported from one place to another, and many more throughout Scripture – especially throughout the Old Testament with amazing things like the sun standing still in the sky and Elijah calling down fire from Heaven to consume a sacrifice that had been doused with water.

3. various kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues: supernatural ability to speak or interpret a language or dialect unknown to you.

To my knowledge, the only three examples of this in Scripture are when Apostles preached about Jesus in Acts 2 in a language that they did not know, several new believers in Acts 19 spoke in tongues and prophesied, and Paul said that he spoke in tongues.

As you probably know – this is the big one and we’re going to deal with it much more in-depth next week as we answer the question: “what IS speaking in tongues” and “is there such thing as a private prayer language”? So “to be continued”…

2. What was the purpose of the sign gifts in Scripture? 

As we have said, all spiritual gifts are for the “common good” or the building up of the church and sign gifts even more demonstrate God’s power in a way that acts as evidence for the truth. The signs and miracles that Jesus performed were done to testify to the truth that He preached – and he said that would be the same for the Apostles.

Look what Jesus said as part of Mark’s record of the “Great Commission”:

Mark 16 [15] And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany [go with or follow after] those who believe…

When Jesus left the earth after he was crucified, buried, and rose again, he sent the Holy Spirit to go into the lives of the Apostles in a way that had never happened to followers of God before. As a result, they began to preach and miraculous signs were performed by the Apostles that essentially backed up what they were saying to the people around them. Jesus goes on to say that…

Mark 16 [17] …in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

But if you think about it, this was always the purpose of miracles in Scripture. For example, when God told told Moses to lead the Israelites outside of slavery, he said he would give them signs and wonders to demonstrate God’s power over Pharaoh and the world.

And of course, that is why Jesus did them, too. He said in…

John 10 [37] If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; [38] but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then especially for the Apostles, the sign gifts were incredibly important for the Jewish and Gentile people to know that they could trust what the Apostles said. This is because after Jesus died, there were many people doing everything they could to distract people from the fact that Jesus rose again by blaming his disappearance on all kinds of other reasons.

So when the Apostles were performing miraculous signs, it gave weight to their words. And as we are reading here in our text in 1 Corinthians, these gifts were continuing through to other believers in the First Church.

Which leads us to the final question we want to tackle today. We read that all of these signs and gifts were in the days of Jesus as well as the Apostles, but…

3. Are these sign gifts still in use today?

Now first let me say that the Apostles WERE a specially called group of Gospel messengers to the world in a way that none of us can be. They followed close to Jesus, they heard his teaching straight from his mouth, they later saw the resurrected Christ with their own eyes, they were given promises specific for them, and they even received the Holy Spirit in a fashion that we are never told would happen to us. The Apostles were pioneers of the New Testament Church – they were the foundation with Jesus as the cornerstone.

So JUST because it happened to the Apostles a certain way, it does not mean that it HAS to happen to us like that. For example, Jesus said that the Apostles would get bitten by a snake and not die – and that is what exactly happened to Paul (but no one else that we know of).

And let me also say that just because some believers we know or churches around us teach something does not make it so. Remember that it is very possible (and we do it all the time) to believe in something based on our feelings or impressions – and still end up wrong. Whole religions believe their version of the truth with unwavering commitment – but they are still wrong.

That is why the apostle John warns us to…

1 John 4 [1] “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world”

And that is why, too, I think the spiritual gifts have built in checks and balances. Meaning that there is prophecy AND discernment. Tongues AND interpretation.

So do these sign gifts still exist today? 

Well as with most points of theology, there are a couple large camps, but then different flavors or shades of each. But basically on one side is Cessationism which means that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (such as miracles, healing, tongues, and even prophetic revelation) were only for the era of the apostles because they served a purpose that was unique to establishing the early church.

A cessationist would say then that the sign gifts passed away (or “ceased”) when the canon or standard of Scripture was set and closed. The point of cessationism is NOT that the miraculous does not still happen, but if they do happen they are much different than we read in Scripture.

On the other side is Continuationism which means that the miraculous gifts have continued and not ceased, are normative or regular in the lives of believers today. A continuationist would say that there is really no difference in the Apostles and us, and some would even say that (like the Apostles) we are still able to speak “new” revelation that is comparable to Scripture. If I had to pick a side to stand on – it certainly would not be this one!

But like I said, I have been thinking about this topic for years. I remember when I was a teen, I decided that the Benny Hinn type of faith-miracle workers that walk around at crusades healing people, slapping people on the forward, and causing people to fall over is one of three options: their power is from God, it is fake, or it is from the devil. And after more recent study (and considering that the Apostles never slapped people on the forehead, knocked people over with their breath, or took up offerings for their healings), I’m going with a mixture of the latter two options.

So let me just jump to the answer that I believe according to Scripture. Do sign and wonder gifts still exist today? Yes, but not exactly in the days of the Apostles. Let me explain.

Does God heal people today? Yes in many different ways. Sometimes through the miraculous, sometimes through doctors, sometimes through our immune systems that God gave us (that are pretty amazing).

Just this past week, Pastor Jamie and I (as well as a couple other guys in our church: Forrest, Jeff, and Ryan) as well as Dennis Taylor, the pastor of Christian Fellowship in Swoope, went to a wonderful church conference called REfuel in Lynchburg. A pastor named Jim Cymbala (Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York) told a story of how during building projects with their church, there were two times that they needed an enormous amount of money that they did not have and God came through for them when believers got together to pray – to the tune of $6 million dollars one time and $700,000 another time. Please, Lord, do it again! But that’s a lot for us, but it’s nothing – literally nothing – for God.

Another pastor told a story of how his mom’s breast cancer disappeared after an older lady sat with her in the hospital and prayed all night – 8 hours – for God to heal her. And he did.

I have heard incredible stories of God working miracles and even healing throughout the years – including my own mom when I was a child after fervent prayer by my dad and several people in the church. And they all came through prayer and the effect was God being glorified.

So yes, God still heals and as he wills, he gives people the gift of all kinds of healings. Look what James, the brother of Jesus, said in…

James 5 [13] Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. [14] Is anyone among you sick? Let him call fo the elders of the church, and let them pray for him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. [15] And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. [16] Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed do. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Does God give people dreams and visions still today? Yes – although I have never experienced one. I have heard multiple times that if a Muslim converts to Christianity without claiming to have had a visions of Jesus, they do not believe them. Whether that is true or not, evidently it is extremely common for a muslim to be led to God through a vision.

Does God work other miracles? I shared last week how although I did not have a natural gift of music, God gave me a capacity for it because he called me to a role where I needed it. In the same way, God still equips those he calls even at times with spiritual gifts that are more miraculous.

Consider the story of Akiane Kramarick [Ah-key-ah-nay Kram-air-ick] was born in 1994 in a shack on the edge of a cornfield in Illinois. She was the third of five children. At the age of 4, she began to experience something unique. At the age of 8, God gave her an amazing ability to paint images better than any trained professional.

How cool is it that God is revealing himself through His Son through paintings by a little girl that doesn’t even completely understand what is happening!

So here is the deal. We all like to to categorize God’s working or put God into a box that we understand and that agrees with science and nature. But God cannot be categorized or harnessed or predicted and certainly cannot be explained with science because he created science and nature and is far above it!

Listen to me:

God can do whatever he wants when he wants with whomever wants.

He can do that because he is God. And that is probably a good place to say, “Amen,” meaning, “I agree.”

But here there is a problem that we have today that it does not seem that the Apostles had in their day. We are living in a time that we expect things to happen for us, don’t we? If Burger King doesn’t get it our way, right away, we get a little upset, don’t we?

We have spent so long in our country talking about rights and privileges on the job, in school, in the home, in hospitals, and every where else, that we sometimes forget that there is no such thing as having certain “rights” with God.

The only right that we deserve is eternal judgement and separation from God because we were born into sin, as sinners, and have sinned and disobeyed God and turned our back on him time and time again. Me too! And is is only because of the wonderful, marvelous, long-suffering grace of God almighty that we are alive and breathing, let alone have the blessings that we have and let alone have forgiveness of sin and a home in heaven that we have!

And yet we have the audacity to shake our fist at God in anger and tell him we DESERVE for things to turn out better; that we have the right to a good, happy life; that we have the right to be healed, get that opportunity, have that relationship, have all of our needs meet, and even to see the miraculous.

And all the while we forget that all of the spiritual gifts and even the sign gifts are insignificant and unimportant in comparison to the the biggest miracle, the greatest healing, the best gift ever given – and that is salvation through Jesus Christ! The passing of someone from death to life, blindness to seeing, spiritual sickness to spiritual health!

All other signs are temporary and fleeting and exist only to point us to giving our life up to Jesus. If you are healed of your sickness, you will get sick by something else later. If God miraculously pays your bill, you’ll owe another one next month. If God even raises you from the dead like he did his friend on earth, Lazarus, you will still have to die again later. But the for the person that loses their life for the sake of Christ will gain not temporary life here but eternal life in Heaven!


There is SO much more that I want to say about these things – and much more that the Bible says. I’m looking forward to digging in a little more on this next week, but even after that if you have questions or thoughts, I’d love to talk.

But for today, let’s end with this reality: we all tend to have beliefs about not just sign gifts, but all other kinds of doctrine and ideas that may or may not be true but that are based more on feelings than truth. There are friends of mine that have different views on these things we have talked about today and that we will talk about more in depth next week (especially “tongues”).

It does not mean that they are not Christians or that I am MORE of a Christian. It just means (according to Scripture) that in those areas they are immature or have a childish view.

So let me ask us this morning (and we will end with this): what strong opinions do we have on things like Bible versions, musical style, modesty and clothing, church structure, gifts of the Spirit, and whatever else that are based on our experience or our feelings or what we have always been taught and not necessarily the Bible? 

And then let me ask you this: do those things lead you to a better relationship with Jesus? When you talk about them with others do they lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus? 

What beliefs or even lies are we clinging to we need to let go of and just seek first Jesus: his Kingdom and his righteousness?


This message was preached on October 15, 2017 at Village Church in Churchville, VA. For more information visit us at villagechurchva.com

What we have to show for our work

In life, when things are going smoothly, we rarely stop to consider what is going on under the surface.

But when difficult or stressful times occur, we are faced serious questions that say a lot about who we are and what is really going on.

Someone asked a question recently about what we have to “show” for our 2.5 years of work as a new, portable church plant. We do not own land and we do not have a facility and the reality is that some people in the church world spell “success” as B-U-I-L-D-I-N-G. But not only is that a horrible way to spell the word… it’s a scary (and wrong) way to look at the mission and success of a church.

Nevertheless – it is a great question. One that we should be regularly be asking not just about our church, but about our own lives! What do we have to show for our work?

Well for Village Church, we do not really have much to show since we started in the Spring of 2015… at least not much other than:

  • We have celebrated more than 30 Baptisms of people that have passed from death to life
  • We have affirmed 70 members who have covenanted together as a church body
  • We have contributed to many community-based efforts, such as VBS, Churchville Carnival, the Fire Dept., and the cleanliness of a good portion of Churchville Ave.
  • We have given away over $53,000 to missions such as:
    – local missions like Katie’s Snacks (that provides weekend snack bags to an average of 57 children during the regular school year), TLC (snacks for an after School program), WNLR (local Christian radio), and other benevolent needs.
    – State and National missions like disaster relief and Vision Virginia through our wonderful partnership with SBCV and support of the North American Mission Board.
    – International missions like Awassa Hope in Ethiopia and Compassion International and many other things through our support of the International Mission Board.
    – Church planting networks such as our own network with Calvary Baptist Church, Church Downtown, and Cross-Link community and the Liberty Church Network, and various other plants and projects through the IMB and SBCV.
  • Over 100 people are serving and leading in ways they never thought possible,
  • Dozens of kids (57 on an average Sunday) are not only learning more and more of what it means to be a follower of Christ and hearing stories from the Bible and how they relate to Jesus (and not just Noah’s ark and his cute kittens), but several of them are even serving with kids worship and production, in other kids ministry roles, and even serving here in our main service
  • Kids at camp making life-defining decisions
  • Students are building helpful relationships
  • Countless people have been helped through difficult seasons in their lives in a way that would not have been possible on their own.
  • Over 200 people are regularly growing in their faith as disciples of Jesus Christ under our teaching and leadership
  • Several people are developing in their calling as church leaders, 3 of them in particular as “apprentices”
  • and we could go on!

That’s what we have to show for it.

And let me be so blunt as to say that if that is not enough to motivate us… we are in the wrong “business.” If our church ever becomes about the building or even “that pastors up front” and not about reaching people and families with the hope of the Gospel – then it’s time to pack it up for good and go find a different club to belong to.

God how has called us is equipping us and is using us and will reward us for our faithfulness. He has SO much in store for us!