The Other Half of the Gospel

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member 

One of our leaders at the ministry gave a devotional a little while ago and he mentioned that he had been looking at the words of Jesus. If you have a “Red Letter” Bible, that would be a pretty good study…just read and meditate on the words in red. Lately, in my own study, I have been concentrating on what it means to be a follower, or disciple of Jesus.

If I were to take a guess on what the most memorized verse in the Bible is,  I would guess it would be John 3:16 , “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It’s a great verse of God’s grace and it is no wonder we like it so much. But in another book, the same Jesus uttered these words, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up His cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23. I wonder how many of us can quote that verse.

Why does Jesus make it so hard to follow Him. On one hand he says “believe on me,” but then He says in order to follow Him we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. What does that mean to us practically? One commentator I have read says this, “to deny self means willingly to renounce any so-called right to plan or choose, and to recognize His lordship in every area of life. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life he lived.”

To live as Jesus lived involves:

  • the opposition of loved ones
  • the reproach of the world
  • forsaking family, house, lands and the comforts of this life
  • obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit
  • a pathway of loneliness
  • suffering for righteousness’ sake
  • death to self and the world

While this all sounds pretty negative and we naturally want to avoid such things, dying to our self and taking up our cross also has a positive side. By doing so, we have the privilege of living life as it was meant to be lived and finding the reason for our existence. It also means eternal reward.

I read recently that the church in America has a problem. We basically give half of the true Gospel message. We say “believe” on Jesus and you will be saved (John 3:16). that is a true statement but it is only half of the message. There is also Luke 9:23 to consider. Jesus wants to be Lord of our lives. To believe means more than just giving credence to something or someone. It means to rely upon and to put our trust in someone. We need both parts to really live the Christian life. We need to believe in Jesus, but we also need to surrender ourselves and live for him. Now before I am accused of throwing “works” into salvation, please let me dispel that. I fully believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ, with nothing added. But we are not saved so we may go on living as we please.To do so is evidence that we are not truly saved in the first place. Jesus wants to have every part of our lives. I fear there are many people who go to church every Sunday, give money, and maybe even serve a little in church who are not truly saved, and will hear those dreadful words “depart from Me, I never knew you.” (Luke 7:21-23).

My prayer is that by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will take what Jesus says regarding being His disciple seriously. We have been given a commission by Jesus to make disciples out of all nations. How can we ever meet this commission if we are not disciples ourselves?

Thankfulness

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

So today is the day after Thanksgiving. I have had some time to pray and reflect on some things this year. The long weekend started off pretty slow and in all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But our Lord has His ways of doing things that we never expect. Allow me to elaborate.

This year has been a tough year, not only for me personally, but also for the ministry. On a personal note, my wife of 36 years died suddenly on December 23, 2012. It has been nearly three years now, I have found it actually harder to adjust this year than I have the past nearly three years. Pray as I would, I still found it a struggle. I have also been fighting osteoarthritis in both knees and struggling with the pain of that. On top, have had my job change in the ministry twice in a year and the ministry has been undergoing some struggles and what I believe is just spiritual attack. The job changes haven’t been bad and I have always tried to do whatever was needed to help out, but my state of mind with other struggles, made these changes harder to take than they should have been.

We have been hearing and talking a lot about being Thankful to God at the ministry this year. And just from reading scripture, I am convinced that a heart of thankfulness is essential for our growth in our Lord. But coming into this Thanksgiving, I found myself not being very thankful for my circumstances. It is so easy to allow circumstances to rule our hearts. But God, in his grace and mercy brought a couple of simple things into my life the last couple of days that made me confess of my attitude.

The first happened Thanksgiving morning. I have this tradition that I do my usual grocery shopping on Thanksgiving morning rather than on my usual Saturday. I go to great lengths to avoid the normal after Thanksgiving shopping spree that occurs in this country. So as normal, I got up and heading in to our local Walmart. as I was getting into the check out line I noticed this little old man, probably in his 80’s ahead of me but not moving up to the counter. I watched him for a minute and then he turned around and saw me. He signaled me to move ahead of him and started moving his cart out of the way. I noticed he had a Vietnam Vet baseball cap on. I asked him if he was a Vietnam vet (OK, pretty dumb question given his hat). He said yes and that he was a 29 year veteran of the military. I told him I was in the service during the Vietnam War but only served four years. We smiled as he walked by me and I told him, “God Bless you.” He smiled and said “thank you.” Not really a big moment, but it warmed my heart on this Thanksgiving day share this moment with a person that would generally be ignored in our country.

Then in the afternoon, I was invited over to one of our leaders’ house. I gotta tell you that I really love David and Debi. They are two of the most godly and strongest followers of Christ that I know. David was the first person I called when my wife passed away and he and Debi came over and sat with me for about three hours while the police did their thing. I really didn’t want to go over yesterday because I know how busy they both are and I didn’t want to interfere with the little time they had to spend with their family. But I had accepted their so I went. Nothing really significant happened while I was there, but it was just a wonderful time to relax with their family. I was so thankful that they had invited me.

About 6PM I received a message on my cell phone telling me that a group of students were going to start watching White Christmas and they wanted me to come. It’s hard to believe that some of the students had never seen that movie. It was fun watching them get into it, even though the movie is over 60 years old. I was thinking that some of them are going to graduate in December and will be leaving us. While that always makes me sad to see them go, I really enjoy having them here for their year of schooling. These young people are a joy to my heart and I am so thankful to God that He brings us students to spend a year with us.

So, that’s about it. While none of what has happened could be considered earth shattering, it was so evident that God orchestrated all this; I spent time today thanking Him  for His grace. It’s funny, sometimes we just look for big things from God. But oftentimes, it’s the small things He does that are really the best. We just have to have our eyes and hearts open to see Him in the small things. So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the small things that God does.

I pray you all are having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!!

The Cost of Following Christ

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I have been reading a book for a small group that I am involved with. It’s a good book that talks about the difference between just knowing about Christ and really following him. Coupled with that, I have been doing some Bible study in the Minor Prophets. That has been totally eye opening for me. In the book I’m reading, there is a quote (several, actually) that really spoke to me: “So in case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christian, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”

In my study of the Minor Prophets (Amos, Obadiah and Micah so far), I have seen that the lifestyle of the Jewish people brought severe judgment on them. They would sometime go through the rituals, but their hearts were not really worshiping God. There was rampant sin in some cases. Two in particular brought out in the Book of Micah were covetousness and listening to false prophets. The sin of covetousness caused the rich to rob from the poor because they coveted their land. The people would also listen to prophets that promised peace and safety and ignore God’s true prophets who truthfully warned them about judgment. The final result was that both the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah were eventually destroyed and carried off into captivity. But in the light of God judging His people for their sin, He always left them hope of deliverance. The Jews are God’s chosen people and He will always save a ‘remnant.’ One commentator wrote: “The ‘remnant’ is a very important doctrine in the prophetic books, and there are many references to it. Though the nation of Israel might rebel against God, there would always be a faithful remnant that would trust Him and seek to do His will, and God would work because of the faith of the remnant. (This is also true of the professing church).) The hope of the nation lies in the remnant.”

What does all this mean? For me it has made me search my heart. I ask myself, am I truly a Christ follower? Or am I just going along with the crowd. Pastor Brandon once made a point in a message that has never left me. He said something like, “What two words would people say about you. If it is anything but “Christ follower,” we are not ready to meet the Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but my heart aches to be a true “Christ follower.” God isn’t interested in crowds. He is interested in the few who will be committed to following Him. But I have learned that this must come from the inside, from the heart. I do not want to be one who goes through the motions. But there are times that is just how I feel, that I am just going through the motions. I have no plan to make myself a better Christ follower, other than to rely on the Holy Spirit who lives in me (and you, if you are a Christian) to be such a follower. Trying to do this in the flesh will only result in discouragement and frustration. May we throw off our love of self, the world and even our love of our own lives. It will require repentance, surrender, death to self and commitment. Jesus told us that those who follow Him must travel a narrow road. But for us it is the only road. May we have the faith to take this step and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to follow Christ with all our hearts. And may God strengthen us to make this choice to walk the narrow road! I believe that only by this, can we be part of the remnant that will hear those words we all long to hear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” God bless you!

A Life of Works or A Life of Grace

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Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

 
This has been on my mind for awhile, so I thought I would try to put it into words. Several things happened this week that made me think this through. First, I heard a speech by one of our students. She quoted Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Another thought came to me this morning at Stonepoint Church. Pastor Brandon began a new series that tells stories of Old Testament characters and how they point to Christ. Today, being the first in the series was about the first Adam (Adam in the garden) pointing to the second Adam (Jesus Christ).

Please bear with me while I give you a little background using some thoughts from my life (sorry for doing this, but Lord willing, it will come together). I was raised in a non-Christian family. I was the second child (I guess they are supposed to try harder). I grew up in an atmosphere of always thinking I needed to do the right things and be the right child to earn my parents love. I can’t remember the word LOVE ever being used in our family while I was growing up (although it might have been). I learned early on, that if I did things that my parents approved of, they seemed pleased and if I didn’t, they would show their disapproval. My life of guilt and shame (it seemed like it was difficult to please my parents) went on until I left home at the age of 18.

Then, just before my 24th birthday the Lord graciously saved me. It was wonderful (even I didn’t even own a Bible at that time and knew nothing) and I believed that Jesus paid for my sins and that He loved me, sin and all. But soon after, I heard the word: Sanctification, which I came to know as meaning, growing in Christ and the Christian faith. Unfortunately, I took that to mean I had to work to please God and I just continued with what I had learned growing up, and was soon back into my life of works, thinking that God could only truly love me if I pleased Him. The more I tried, the worse things got. There was no way I could ever please God apart from faith and trusting Him. I prayed often asking God how He could have anything to do with me since I was so weak in my faith and such a sinner. I lived that way for several years.

So here is the point I am trying to make. If you are one like me who is somewhat works orientated (another word for this is “legalist”); if you are living like this I urge you to stop. I can speak from firsthand knowledge on this. As we learned at church today, Adam, the first Adam had a perfect environment and had dominion over all animals and plants. There was one test, one prohibition, “do not eat from the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.” God really didn’t explain why He had this test. He just told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree.

Man failed the test and sin entered the world. Then came Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Romans 5:15 says, “but the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to many.” I won’t go into everything this means, but here is what it means to me. BECAUSE OF JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS, WHEN GOD LOOKS AT US, HE SEES US AS RIGHTEOUS IN SPITE OF OURSELVES AND OUR SIN.

God wants us to trust Him and follow Him from our hearts, not because we need to earn His favor or make God love us. All the works and do’s and don’ts we make up for ourselves, will not make God love us any more than He already does. Our works for God need to be out of a pure motive of our love for Him and not out of a way to try to make God love us. Do we really trust God in this? Do we believe He really loves us in spite of our sins and weaknesses? Satan is an accuser and a deceiver. Let’s not be deceived by Him. Let’s believe God when He says through Paul the Apostle when He says: nothing will be able separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. See Romans 8:38-39.

Notes from Gathering Point

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Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I went to church today as usual and Pastor Brian spoke on Prayer. It was a good and helpful sermon and finished up the current series on prayer.

But what I would really like to talk about today is Gathering Point, the small group I meet with on Sunday afternoon. Another pastor, Pastor Archie, covered the group today. There were only two of us there other than Archie, but we studied some really good and encouraging things. Pastor Archie ended the teaching time with the following statement: “What are we sacrificing in our lives to be a faithful servants?”

As soon as he said this my mind began to race with several thoughts. If I may, I would like to share a few of them.

I have always sought to be a servant. In fact at some point in my life I thought it might be my Spiritual Gift. But while I have always served in any church I attended, and also in the ministry I work with, I have always felt I come way short of what it means to be a true servant.

Look again at the statement above. It is only twelve words but it speaks volume with just one word: sacrificing. A true servant is one who sacrifices!! What are some of the things he or she sacrifices.

Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is time. We all have the same amount of time in a day. 24 hours. How do we use it? I know I spend time in the evenings in what is usually called down time. There is nothing wrong with that, but How do we spend it. Reading a book, watching TV, or perhaps working on a hobby? One thing I know. To serve God requires sacrifice. We have give up one thing to do another. Serving God takes time and we have to make a choice to set aside our desires for His.

Another thing that is important is serving is our attitude. It is easy to look good on the outside. “Oh, look at him/her! They do such a great job at serving here,” some might say. But in all honesty, serving just because you feel you should or just to look good on the outside does nothing to please the Lord. God wants our heart!! The Old Testament priests were experts at serving God with their sacrifices and offerings. But what did God say about them? “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8).

One more thing, and this will be my last, there are encumbrances and just becoming weary. Pastor Archie used Hebrews 12:1-3 in our session to make this point. We need to lay aside things that keep us from serving the Lord. Again it is a choice we need to make and there will always be pain. The flesh desires to give up nothing. The answer to this problem is that we fix our eyes on Jesus (verse 2), and consider what Jesus endured on our behalf. If we look at ourselves, we will become weary and lose heart. 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourages us to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord. Along with that, there is the promise that our toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, let’s keep moving forward in our service to the Lord! It will not always be fun and will sometimes be just plain discouraging. But it will be worth it in the end when we here those words of our Lord: “Well done, thy good and faithful servant. God bless you.