Home Category : Blog

Serving God by Serving Others

Ephesians 4:

1 Therefore, I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. 

7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

8 That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”

9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Introduction:  Ministry is a very misunderstood word.  Usually, when people hear the word ministry they think of people who have been called by God to serve Him in full-time vocational ministry.  Yet the word for minister in the New Testament simply means servant.  The literal translation is: table waiter.

Illustration:  Merv Griffin was one of the first talk show hosts on television.  Once he had a guest on his show who was a body builder.

Merv asked, “Why do you develop those particular muscles?”  The body builder stood up and flexed all of his well-defined muscles and the audience applauded.

Merv continued, “What do you use all those muscles for?”  Again the body builder flexed his biceps and triceps.

Merv persisted, “But what do you use those muscles for?”  The body builder was bewildered.

He didn’t have an answer except to display his well-developed frame.  He didn’t seem to know exactly why he had spent so much time and effort in exercise building up his physical strength.

Christ-followers should do a lot of spiritual exercises to build up their spiritual strength.  These exercises should include: personal Bible study, prayer, reading good Christian books, listening to sermons and Christian music, etc.

But what is the purpose of these spiritual exercises?  Why do we need to be spiritually strong?

Basically we need to be spiritually strong so that we will be equipped to serve God.

For example, in order to serve God we must overcome the temptations to sin that constantly assault us.

We have to fight off the temptations from the world, from the devil, and from our own fleshly desires to commit sin.

We must be clean and pure so God will use us.

2 Timothy 2:21 (NLT)

 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

But what do we mean when we say we are serving God?  God does not need anything.  He does not need our money.  He does not our praise, and He does not even need our presence.

Serving God means serving people; you cannot serve God without serving other people.

God saved us in order to create a community of believers to serve Him for all eternity.  The only way we can truly serve God is to represent Him to the world by meeting the needs in the lives of other people.

T/S: Today I want to look at four aspects of serving God by serving others.

The Importance of Serving God


Serving God is every Christian’s calling. (v. 1)

1 Therefore, I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Serving God is every Christian’s responsibility. (v. 12)

12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Four Reasons Why It is Important for You to Serve God

  1. It is vital to your spiritual growth. (vv. 13-15)
  2. It is vital to the well-being of fellow believers. (vv. 13-15)
  3. It is vital to the health of God’s Church. (vv. 12 & 16)
  4. It is vital to the salvation of the unbeliever. (vv. 12 & 16)

The Instructions for Serving God

We are to serve according to our calling – to represent Christ. (v.1)

We are to serve according to our spiritual gifts. (v. 7)

We are to serve according to the needs of those around us.

Paul gives seven attitudes that should mark our service.

   (vv. 2-3)

1.  Humility

2.  Gentleness

3.  Patience (Long-suffering)

4.  Tolerance

5.  Love – God’s kind of love.

6.  Unity – Preserve or Keep ; means to watch over; to guard.

7.  Peace – Bond is that which binds together.

The Inspiration for Serving God

1.  There are seven unities of the Church that should inspire us to serve. (vv. 4-6)

One Body – the church is the body of Christ both visible and invisible.

One Spirit – He regenerates us, baptizes us, inhabits us, fills us, leads us, and equips and anoints us for service.

One Hope – We are called to be a part of the eternal Kingdom of God.

One Lord – Jesus Christ is Lord

One Faith – One body of belief – The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One Baptism – The Holy Spirit baptizes every believer into the body of Christ the moment they are saved.  Water baptism is the outward symbol of the inner work of God in our lives.

One God and Father of all –

John 1:12-13

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

2.  The example of Jesus should inspire us to serve.  (vv. 8-10)  Jesus fulfilled His ministry of service to us.

3.  The gifts Christ gave to the Church should inspire us.  (vv. 11-12)

The Invitation to Serve God

It is an invitation to worthy living. (v. 1)

It is an invitation to grow in Christ. (v. 15)

15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

It is an invitation to be part of something great – the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:  In 1967, Doug Nichols was serving with Operation Mobilization in India when he contracted tuberculosis.  He had to stay in a sanatorium several months in order to be treated.  He didn’t speak the language, but he tried to give out Christian literature written in their language, but all the doctors, nurses, and patients, politely refused to take any.

During the first few nights, he woke up around 2:00 a.m. coughing.  One morning during his coughing spell, he noticed one of the older, sicker patients trying to get out of bed.  He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but in weakness he would fall back in bed.  Doug didn’t understand what he was trying to do.  Finally the man fell back in bed exhausted. Doug heard him crying softly.

The next morning he realized what the man was trying to do was to get up and go to the bathroom.  The smell was terrible.  The other patients yelled at him, and angry nurses treated him roughly, and one nurse even slapped him.  The old man curled up into a tight ball and wept.

That night Doug woke up again and saw the old man trying to get out of bed.  He went over to him and touched him on the shoulder and the man’s eyes widened with fear.  Doug smiled at him and picked his frail body up and carried him to the bathroom.  Doug stood there and held him up while he took care of himself.  When Doug put him back in bed, the man kissed him on his cheek, smiled and said something he could not understand.

The next morning another patient woke Doug up and handed Doug a steaming cup of tea and asked for one of Doug’s tracts.

Soon other patients were asking for tracts, and even the doctors and the nurses were asking for them.  As a result of Doug serving God by serving others, several people put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

These sermon notes are from a message preached by Dr. Greg Johnston at The Grove Church as part of the “Living in Community with Others” series.



Read More →

Strong Families Leave a Legacy

[vimeo 68864531]

In 1829, a British scientist by the name of James Lewis Macie Smithson left a legacy like few others in history. Smithson was childless, so his will stipulated that everything he had would go to his nephew, Henry Hungerford. However, if Hungerford died without heirs, the fortune would go to the United States to establish an institution in Washington, D.C., dedicated to “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

Hungerford died six years later in 1835 without leaving any children, and the U.S. government used the money to establish The Smithsonian Institute, arguably one of the wisest expenditures in history. Without ever knowing it, James Smithson left one of the greatest legacies of modern times.

Most of us won’t have the chance to leave a vast sum of money to the U.S. government. For one thing, any vast sums we might earn are going to be taken from us in taxes before we die! But the greatest of legacies aren’t usually monetary; they’re relational. They’re values and character molded into younger lives. I want to talk to you about that today.

I want to talk to you about your legacy. I want to stretch you beyond your own family.

Some of you will leave great legacies through the lives of your children. That’s good. That’s very good. My greatest ambition in life has been to raise children who love God with their whole hearts and make a difference for Him wherever they go.

But I don’t think that’s enough. I want my life—and I want your lives—to count for more than two to three children related to us by blood. I want to encourage you today to think about a legacy to a generation.

When He was 30 years old, Jesus intentionally approached 12 younger men and invited them to follow Him so they could become like Him. And they did.

Jesus Christ, who never raised a child of His own, did more to influence future generations than any other human being, because He purposed to leave a legacy in the generation after His own.

A few years later, the Apostle Paul said to a church full of people on an isthmus in Greece, “Imitate me” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul was in his 50s when he wrote that. He was reaching down to another generation.

Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote to his younger friend Timothy, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  2 Timothy 2:2

This was a true example of one generation influencing another, influencing another, then influencing another.

Regarding the women of Crete, Paul told another younger-generation mentee named Titus,

“Teach the older women to…urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind…” Titus 2:4:

and a whole list of other things that would enable the younger women to leave a legacy to an even younger generation.

This concept of strong family members leaving a legacy to following generations is so important to God that King David actually had one of his court musicians write a song about it 3,000 years ago.

Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 78, and I’ll show it to you.

This is a psalm of Asaph. Asaph and his sons wrote at least 12 of the psalms in the Bible, possibly more. This psalm, which is called a “maskil” or an insight-giving psalm, could be called, “The Psalm of the Next Generation.” Let me read some of it to you.

Psalm 78: 1-7

1  Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,

3  Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us.

4  We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord , And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

5  For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children,

6  That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children,

7  That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments,

Read v. 6 out loud, would you?

It’s a generational commission: Pass a baton. Pass the faith on to the next generation.

This is biblical Christianity: one generation teaching another, modeling for another, loving another. I think it’s one of the great joys in life. These young adults and many others are the future legacy of this church.

I want to talk to you about How to Influence the Next Generation.

If you are going to influence the next generation, you’ve got to…

1. Play your part in your own generation.

Serving in your generation will give you the credibility you need to be listened to by the next generation.

The Bible says in Acts 17:26:

“from one man he [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

Did you know that you are living in the exact time and the exact place God wants you to?

He wants to use you here and now. God has a plan for you among your peers.

The Bible says in Acts 13:36:

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. . .”

Our primary calling is to our own generation. Job No. 1 is to influence your peers.

But that’s not enough. I love what the writer of Psalm 71 says:

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation.”  Psalm 71:18

Do you see what he’s saying? “God, don’t let me die before I pass on the faith to the next generation.”

2. Care about the next generation.

I love the next generation. You know how you can tell if you love the next generation? You pay attention to them. You notice the things that interest them, the things they’re thinking about.

If you want to influence the next generation, you must care about the next generation. Once you care about the next generation, then you. . .

3. Teach a few (in the next generation).

Teach a few of them. Most of us won’t be able to take on hundreds like some youth pastors do, but if we care, we’ll find a way to teach a few.

Psalm 145:4 says,

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

Illustration: Charles Simeon was called to pastor Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, in 1782. Back then, each of the pews had a little door on it.

Wealthy members of the church would buy their own pews. Most of the members of the church so strongly disliked Charles Simeon that, on Sunday mornings, they would arrive at church 15 minutes early, lock the door to their pew, and leave.

But the students of Cambridge loved Simeon. They came and stood in the aisles to listen to him. For seven years he packed the aisles with college students before the older generation began to come and sit in their pews.

Simeon started inviting these students to his house every Friday night. They would have tea, and then he would teach them well into the night, answering their questions about God and ministry until midnight.

By the time of his death, approximately one-third of the ministers of England were men who had been influenced by Charles Simeon.

Most of us won’t be able to do that.  But if we are going to influence even some in the next generation, besides serving ours and caring about the next and teaching a few, we need to…

4. Invest in two or three.

Friends, I’m pretty sure this financial crisis we’re in is the biggest financial challenge of our generation. But listen to me:  It will pass.

Ten to twenty years from now, many of us will have more than we ever imagined we would. I’m confident of it. But just as the purpose of our lives is not to be lived for ourselves, the purpose of our money is not to simply take care of our own.

Psalm 49:20 says:

“Human beings who have wealth but lack understanding are like beasts that perish.”

Nobody wants to be like a beast that perishes.

During the last Olympics, the U.S. men’s 400-meter relay team looked like they could win the gold or silver medal. Our first runner had done well, and our second one had done well. But when the exchange came between the third and fourth runner, Darvis Patten and Tyson Gay, do you remember what happened? One of them dropped the baton, and we came home without a medal. The team was disqualified.

The next day, all our hopes rested on the women’s 400 relay team. Do you remember what happened to them?  Same thing.

Dropping batons happens a lot in sports. Let’s not let it happen in our church.

There’s a Chinese proverb that says,

If you want to be happy for an hour — take a nap.

If you want to be happy for a day — go fishing.

If you want to be happy for a month — get married.

If you want to be happy for a year — inherit a fortune.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime — help someone.

That’s true, isn’t it? If you want to be happy, help someone. Leave a legacy. Pass on the baton.

Let me close with a story. You can decide whether it’s true or not. It’s a story about creation.

On the first day, God created the dog and said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of 20 years.”

The dog said, “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only 10 years, and I’ll give you back the other 10?” So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, “Entertain people, do tricks and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a 20-year life span.”

The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for 20 years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back 10 like the dog,” and God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said, “You must stay the field all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of 60 years.”

The cow said, “That’s a tough life, and you want me to live for 60 years. How about 20, and I’ll give back the other 40?” And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you 20 years.”

But the human said, “Only 20 years? Could you possibly give me my 20, the cow’s 40, the monkey’s 10, and the dog’s 10?”

“OK,” said God, “you asked for it.”

So that is why for the first 20 years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.

For the next 40, we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next 10, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren, and for the last 10, we sit on the porch and bark at everyone.

I think we can do better than that, don’t you?  Let’s pass a baton.  Let’s leave a legacy. Let’s influence the next generation by serving ours, caring about theirs, teaching a few, and investing in two or three. Deal? Deal.

Dr. Greg Johnston preached this message at The Grove Church as part of the “Building Strong Families” series.

Read More →

Strong Families Have Faith

[vimeo 68428688]

Today, I want to tackle the most important trait of a great family: Strong Families Have Faith.

Look in a dictionary, and you’ll find this definition of faith: A confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of another person.

Faith is a confident belief in the trustworthiness of God, that He is with you, that He is able to hold your weight; that He exists and wants to guide your life.

At some point, everyone struggles with the decision to have faith or not.

“At some point you’ve gotta ask yourself, ‘What do you want your life to be about?’” And when you do, you’re going to find that He’s more than worth it.”

That’s the wonder of faith. Strong families have faith. They believe in God. Study the history of our culture, and one of the most profound truths emerges: Strong families have faith in Christ for all things.

Today I want to give you 15 facts about faith.

What happens when you come to faith in Christ?

Instantaneously –

1. You get forgiven.

You get your mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual slate washed clean.

Acts 10:43:

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Do you know what forgiveness is? It means getting a clean slate on the outside and a sense of peace on the inside. People with faith have forgiveness.

2. You get a new life.

 2 Corinthians 5:17:

. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

People of faith get a brand-new life. They get to walk away from all the junk they’ve stored up and live a whole new life freed from its weight.

3. You get a new way of seeing.

There’s a famous story in the NT where Jesus heals a blind man.

The blind man says in John 9:25:

“You all can think whatever you want, but… “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

In the OT, a foreign general named Naaman was healed of leprosy by the words of a prophet of Israel.

Naaman, says to everyone around him:

2 Kings 5:15:

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel”

When a person has faith, they see the world differently. They start to see the world through the lenses of a God who is there, who cares, who has plans and dreams, and who makes promises to His children.

4. You get a new set of values.

When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life at their invitation after their expression of faith, they begin to care about things that they never thought about caring about before.

When Jesus was asked how His people should live, He said:

Matthew 22:37-39:

‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So people of faith find themselves loving God and loving people, which is often a new orientation to the direction of their life.

5. You get a new sense of purpose.

Ephesians 2:10:

“. . . we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says;

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Look at your list so far, friends. Jesus offers these for free. Where can you get a deal like that? But wait! There’s more!

6. You get a supernatural guide for life.

John 16:13:

“. . . when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth”

The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit who enters a person’s life when they express their faith in Christ for the first time.

He is the third person of the Trinity & is fully God – eternal, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-caring, all-wise, and all-willing to guide you in making not just better decisions, but the best decisions you can possibly make.

7. You get set free from sin.

Romans 6:18 boldly says that, for all Christ followers;

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Since greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world, you don’t have to sin any longer.

8. You get the potential for better health.

Example:  Dr. Thomas Oxman of Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire did a study to discover what role religion might play in the health and recovery of elderly people.

He took 232 patients more than 55 years of age who had open-heart surgery.  Oxman found that those who derive at least some strength and comfort from their religious faith are three times more likely to survive than those who don’t.

9. You get the potential for longer life.

Neil MacQueen cites studies by Duke University, Indiana University, The University of Michigan, The Center for Disease Control, Barna Research Group, and the National Institute for Healthcare Research which conclude that faith will increase the average life expectancy of your children by eight years.

An analysis of 42 studies involving 125,286 patients, published in the June 2000 issue of Health Psychology, found that those with some sort of religious involvement live longer.

Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:46-47:

“Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess”

10. You get to be part of God’s extended family. (with all the benefits)

Galatians 6:10  says that:

“. . . as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

So God not only draws us into His family, but He tells all our new brothers and sisters to make doing good to us one of their top priorities.

In addition, God says we should:

Galatians 5:13:  “. . . Serve one another”

Romans 12:10:  “Be devoted to one another”

Romans 15:14:  “Instruct one another”

He even says that we should Romans 16:16:

“. . . Greet one another with a holy kiss”

11. You get God’s provision. (if you obey God’s commands)

Proverbs 3:9-10 says:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

This is not a promise to unbelievers; it’s a promise to believers.

12. You get a home in heaven.

John 14:1-3:

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you may be also”.

It’s the promise He made to all the faithful: a home in heaven.

13. You get release from the fear of death.

Death is the No. 1 fear for most Americans.

Hebrews 2:15 says:

“. . . by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

If you know Jesus, you don’t have to fear death.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your sting?”

14. You become able to please God.

Hebrews 11:6 says:

“. . . without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

15. You get the promise of never being separated from Him.

Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

How do you get faith?

1. You make a calculated decision to believe.

 Joshua 24:15:

“. . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . “

John 1:12:

To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

2. You verbalize your faith.

Romans 10:9:

“. . . if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

3. You live by faith.

2 Corinthians 5:7:  We live by faith, not by sight.

Colossians 2:6-7:

 Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

You live with Christ as the center of your life, the most important person in your life.

  • His agenda becomes your agenda.
  • His hopes become your hopes.
  • His plans and purpose and values become yours.

All this enables you to become a better person every day.

How do you pass on your faith to your children?

1. You talk about it with them.

Deuteronomy 6:7:

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

2. You serve at church with them.

The most recent research says that children whose parents talk with them about their faith and serve at church—either with them or in a place where the children can see that Dad and Mom are serving—are twice as likely to have faith themselves when they grow up.

Abraham had faith and passed it on to Isaac. Isaac had faith and passed it on to Jacob. Jacob had faith and passed it on to Joseph.

If the Lord tarries, wouldn’t you like to see faith in your family four generations from now? Strong families have faith and pass on faith.

I want to give all of you a chance to express or affirm your faith, or experience faith for the first time. I’m going to ask you to repeat three sentences.

Here’s the first one: Today, I am expressing faith in Christ.

Here’s the second:  I admit that He is the Lord and I am not.

Here’s the third: I admit that I am a sinner in need of a Savior and invite Jesus to be mine.

Many of you have prayed similar prayers for a long, long time. That’s good. I believe all of us ought to have some sort of faith conversation with God at the beginning of every day.

Some of you prayed those prayers for the first time. If you did, I want to say, “Congratulations!” and “Welcome to the family!”

The Bible says that something very significant has happened to you just now, and all heaven is rejoicing with you.

One final illustration, and then we’ll be done.

How can faith affect your family? Maybe you can pass it on to future generations, like Abraham and his descendants did.

Several years ago, Al Sanders did a study of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a Christian who lived in New England from 1703 to 1758, before America became its own nation. Edwards lived by faith.

Sanders contrasted what happened to the descendants of Jonathan Edwards to those of Max Jukes, who was a hunter and fisher and had little interest in God, but lived at about the same time.

“Max Juke…married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were:

  • 310 [children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.] who died as paupers,
  • 150 criminals,
  • seven murderers,
  • 100 drunkards, and
  • more than half of the women [of the family] were prostitutes.

His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

“But [this principle of faith and no-faith]… works both ways!

There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Juke, but he married a godly girl.

An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards, of which:

  • 13 became college presidents,
  • 65 college professors,
  • three United States senators,
  • 30 judges,
  • 100 lawyers,
  • 60 physicians,
  • 75 army and navy officers,
  • 100 preachers and missionaries,
  • 60 authors of prominence,
  • one vice-president of the United States,
  • 80 public officials in other capacities, and
  • 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries.

His descendants did not cost the state a single penny.

I’m not so concerned about the cost. I’m concerned about the faith. You can have this, friends. Strong families have faith and pass it on to their children.

Dr. Greg Johnston preached this message at The Grove Church as part of the “Building Strong Families” series.

Read More →

Loving Others

[vimeo 69179424]

Corrie Ten Boom was held in a Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbrück.  Ten years after her release, she met a former nurse at the camp who had been particularly cruel and sharp-tongued to her sister Betsy, who ended up dying in the camp.

Corrie’s hatred returned with a vengeance until finally she prayed, “Forgive me, Forgive my hatred, O Lord.  Teach me to love my enemies.”

The blood of Jesus seemed to suddenly cool her embittered heart and she felt the rage being replaced with a divine love she couldn’t explain, and she began praying for the woman.

Shortly after, she called the hospital where the woman worked and invited her to a meeting where she was speaking, and she agreed to come.

After the meeting, Corrie sat down with her and explained to her, 1 John 4:9:  9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

That night a former captive led her former captor to a decision that caused rejoicing in the presence of angels.

During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about loving others.

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Jewish scholar, C. G. Montefiore, called this passage, “… the central and most famous section of the Sermon on the Mount.”

To the ordinary person this passage describes essential Christianity in action.

And even the person who never darkens the door of the church knows that Jesus said this, and often condemns the professing Christian for falling so far short of its demands.

T/S:  Today I want to look at the meaning of this passage and the reason Jesus gave it to us.

The Meaning of the Command

First, we need to determine what Jesus means by the words,   “… love your enemies.”

In the Greek, there are four different words for “love”.

1) The noun storgẽ with its accompanying verb stergein.

These words are characteristic of “family love” or of the love of a parent for a child, or of a child for a parent.

2)  The noun erõs and its verb eran.

This describes the love of a man for a maiden which is passionate and sexual.  This word eventually became identified with sexual lust, and it is never used in the New Testament.

3)  The noun philia and its verb philein.

These are considered to be the warmest and best words for love.

They describe real love and affection.  Philein means warm tender affection, the highest kind of love

4)  The word that Jesus uses in our text is agapē with its verb agapan.

These words indicate unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodwill.

If we regard a person with agapē, it means that no matter what that person does to us, no matter how he treats us, no matter if he insults us or injures us, or grieves us, we will never allow any bitterness toward him to invade our heart.

Instead, we will treat him with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill that will seek nothing but his highest good.

Insights we can discover

First, Jesus never asked us to love our enemies in the same way we love our nearest and dearest.

To love our enemies the same way we love those nearest and dearest to us would neither be possible, nor would it be right.  That is a totally different kind of love.

Second, let’s note the difference in the two kinds of love.

In the case of our nearest and dearest, we cannot help loving them because it is born out of the emotions of the heart.

But in the case of our enemies, it is not a love born out of our heart, but a love that comes from our will.

It is not something we cannot help doing, it is something we must will ourselves into doing.

So agapē does not mean a feeling of the heart which we cannot help, it means a determination of the mind to seek the highest good for the other person, even those who hurt and injure us.

Someone said, “Agapē is the power to love those whom we do not like and who may not like us.”

We can only have this kind of love when Jesus Christ enables us to overcome our natural tendency to anger and to bitterness, and to seek the best for all people.

Third, agapē love does not mean that we allow people to do anything they want and let them go unchecked.

If we really regard a person with invincible goodwill, it will often mean that we must punish him, restrain hem, or discipline him in order to protect him from himself.

But it does mean that we will not punish him to satisfy our desire for revenge, but in order to help him become a better person.

Fourth, Jesus gave this commandment as a basis for personal relationships.  (This is not a text promoting pacifism.)

Fifth, this commandment is only possible for a Christian.

It is only when we allow Christ to live and love through us that bitterness will die and Christ’s love will flow through us.

Finally, not only are we to love our enemies, we are commanded to pray for them.

No one can pray for another person and continue to have hate in his heart toward him.

The Reason for the Command

Why does Jesus command us to have this unconquerable benevolence, this invincible goodwill, this agapē love?

1) It is because this kind of love makes us like God.

Illustration:  An old rabbinical story tells how the angels were singing joyous praises to God when the Egyptians were drown in the Red Sea.  God said, “The work of my hands are sunk in the sea and you would dare sing before me!

God can never take pleasure in the destruction of those He has made.

2) We are to be God-like men.

(V. 45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

We should be a chip off the old block!

3)  We are to be perfect.

48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The word for perfect in Greek means to achieve an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal. Thus something is perfect if it realizes the purpose for which he was created and sent into the world.

Example:  I do almost all of the mechanical work on my vehicles. Sometimes when I am working on my VW I will need a special tool to accomplish the job.  I usually create my own tool that is made specifically made for that specific task.

4)  What is the purpose for which mankind was created?

Genesis 1:26:

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; 

The simple answer is that man was created to be like God, and we are most like God when we seek the best for other people, even those we do not like, or who don’t like us.

This message was preached by Dr. Greg Johnston at The Grove Church as part of the “Living with Others in Community” series.

Read More →

Forgiving Others

This message on forgiving others was preached by Dr. Greg Johnston at The Grove Church as part of the “Living in Community with Others” series.  

Dale Carnegie once visited Yellowstone Park and went to a place where the grizzly bears were fed.  He didn’t have to wait long before a grizzly came into the clearing where garbage had been dumped to entice the bears to come.

The guide told the group that the grizzly could whip any animal in the west with the possible exception of the buffalo and the Kodiak bear.

Carnegie noticed that there was one animal that the grizzly would allow to eat with him – a skunk!  Of course the ole grizzly would have easily won any fight with the skunk, and even though he probably resented the skunk and wanted to get rid of him because of his impudence, he didn’t.

Why?  Because he knew there would be a high cost for getting even.

When we harbor an unforgiving attitude toward other people or even toward God, we are unconsciously nurturing the seed of bitterness.

Bitterness is an emotion that is characterized by an intense animosity.  It is an emotional cancer that consumes the person who harbors and nurtures such feelings in their heart.

Even that ole grizzly bear was smart enough to leave that skunk alone, much smarter than many humans who spend weary days and restless nights brooding over hurts and resentments, and trying to hatch ways to squelch the person who hurt them.

Unfortunately, they fail to realize that the one they are actually destroying is their own self.

The Word of God cautions us against harboring an attitude of unforgiveness and its self-destructive produce of bitterness.

Hebrews 12:14-15

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;


T/S: Today I want to discuss three aspects of bitterness that results from unforgiveness.

The Root of Bitterness

In v. 15 we see bitterness described as the, “…root of bitterness springing up.”  Springing up – literally means “to sprout.”

Bitterness is the result of our carnal, fleshly nature sprouting and putting down roots into our lives.

The seed of bitterness could be any one of the deeds of the flesh – jealousy, envy, self-centeredness, ambition, frustration, rage, resentment, hatred, and most of all, unforgiveness.

Every one of these attitudes are concerned with protecting and coddling our self, and could be summarized under one heading – self-centeredness.

The root of bitterness occurs when some real or perceived hurt happens in a person’s life.  Then instead of forgiving, they allow this resentment to ferment in their life until the tentacles and roots have deeply imbedded themselves and wrapped themselves around the depth of our soul.

But this need not happen.  The Apostle Paul said:

Ephesians 4:26-27

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Jesus is a prime example of being angry, but not committing sin when He drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. Explain

Why are we told not to let the sun go down on our anger?  It is because nurtured anger can become hatred which can sprout up in bitterness.

A bitter person is one who has allowed his hurt to fester and at the same time looking for faults in the one who has knowingly or unknowingly hurt them, in order to justify their bitterness.

The Fruit of Bitterness

The venom and poison of the bitter person hurts others, but guess who it hurts the most?

Bitterness is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.  It always has a boomerang effect.

Dr. S.I. McMillen wrote a book a number of years ago, entitled, None of These Diseases.  In the book, he listed over fifty diseases that may be caused by destructive, sinful emotions like – anger, anxiety, stress, bitterness, hate, unforgiveness, etc.

These destructive emotions cause psychosomatic disorders in our physical health.  Psych = mind, and soma = body.

He said, “The emotional center produces widespread changes by means of three principle mechanisms:  1) By changing the amount of blood flowing to an organ, 2) By affecting the secretions of certain glands, and 3) By changing the tension of the muscles.”

Example:  When someone is frightened their heart beats faster, adrenalin is produced, and their muscles are tensed.

Bitterness can kill you by degrees.

Dr. McMillen wrote:  “The man I hate may be many miles from my bedroom, but more cruel than any slave-driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a torture rack.  The lowliest serf can sleep, but not I.  I really must acknowledge that I am a slave to every man upon who I pour the vial of my wrath.”

Illustration:  There is an ancient story about Roman soldiers who became dissatisfied over their regimen and rations.  They became so angry at the gods that they shot arrows straight into the sky at the gods and were killed by the descending arrows.

When we allow unforgiveness and bitterness in our life, there will be physical trouble, emotional unrest, and spiritual trouble in our life, because of our ruptured fellowship with God and man.

The Pursuit of Bitterness

A root is under ground, you have to go after it, find it, and dig it up if it is undesirable.  Example: Dock weed

Three reasons we need to pursue bitterness

1) In order to recognize it. Most people will not recognize their bitterness.  They become adept at looking at the faults of others.

2) In order to remove it.

Ephesians 4:29-32

29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

We must learn to forgive.

v. 15 – . . . See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;

That means, lest we fail to give to others what God gave freely to us – grace and forgiveness.

When we have been hurt, we need to put that hurt under Calvary’s blood.

You may ask – When I forgive a person is that going to deal with those memories?  Well, not unless you have amnesia.

An unknown sage once said, “The hornet of remembering may fly again, but the sting of bitterness has been removed.”

3)  In order to replace it.

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

  • Replace hatred with harmony. (peace)
  • Replace bitterness with betterness. (holiness and sanctification)

In order to accomplish such an awesome task, we must exchange our nature for Christ’s nature.

Colossians 3:5-17

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 1 0 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

The poet Edwin Markham reached the age of retirement and discovered that his banker had defrauded him.  He was ready to retire, but penniless.

He came to the place where he could no longer write poetry because bitterness had blown the candle of joy out in his heart.

He was obsessed with the evil that had been perpetrated against him by a man he thought was a friend.

One day the Holy Spirit convicted him with this thought, “Markham, if you do not deal with this thing, it is going to ruin you.  You cannot afford the price you are paying.  You must forgive that man.”

The poet prayed, Lord, I will, and I do freely forgive.”

Once the root of bitterness was gone, the joy began to flow, and he wrote his most famous poem, “Outwitted.”

He drew a circle that shut me out –

Hectic rebel, a thing to flout,

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

If someone has wronged you or harmed you and bitterness has been you daily guide, pursue that bitterness, and with the Spirit’s help, root it out.

Draw a circle that takes in those who have wronged you.  Forgive them for your sake and for Christ’s sake!

Read More →