Less than 2% (Gideon’s Guide to Church Building) By Steve Light
Today we are going to take a look at an Old Testament story that has powerful and important lessons for us as church. We are going to examine the story of Gideon in the book of Judges and dive into how the Lord was able to use very few people, very few resources and very little faith to accomplish an amazing feat.
And why study this story? Because we live in a world where Christians define success by worldly measures – the size of church membership, the size of church programs, the size of the building and the size of the budget. In doing so, churches are at a high risk to not leave room for God’s blessings and provisions, His direction and most importantly room for the Holy Spirit.
This story also gives us a roadmap as a church on how to be faithful to the Lord and keep everything we do at the center of His will and His guidance.
It requires us to be full of faith, active in prayer, driven to obedience and embracing humility.
And if we listen and we learn from Gideon’s story, there is no doubt God will bless Gracetown. With less than 2% of what we think is needed to grow, I believe God will show us he can give us 500x more than we can imagine.
Let us pray….
Father, as we read your word, let us remember Proverbs 2:10-11…”For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you”. I ask that the Holy Spirit be present, to fill our hearts and mind that we would hear, learn and act as Your perfect will would guide us. Amen.
Midian Oppresses Israel (Judges 6:1-10)
Judges 6:1-2 (HSCB)“The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, and they oppressed Israel. Because of Midian, the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in mountains and caves”.
Why is the number seven showing up frequently through this story?
And we see this is in Judges 6:6 – “So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian and the Israelites cried out to the Lord”.
Lesson #1 – They repented. They turned away from the world and focused on God.
The Lord Calls Gideon (Judges 6:11-24)
As we read the passages between Judges 6:11-24 we are going to learn a lot about Gideon and his faith in God.
I call this Gideon seeing his relationship with God in 3-D.
We will see that when God shows in his everyday, ordinary life Gideon does two things. First he questions why the world is so upside down. He does not seek to learn from God the lesson of the situation, but instead merely wants relief. Second, and most importantly, he blames God for the tumultuous situation of Israel.
Here I am reminded of Leo Tolstoy’s spot on quote that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no thinks of changing himself”.
Gideon is called by the Angel of the Lord to lead the people against Midian and his first reaction is doubt in his ability to be successful. He goes on to argue with God, to be disobedient despite the command. He makes a veiled attempt at humility claiming he is from the weakest clan and he is the least of this clan. Finally, instead of taking a leap of faith towards God, he seeks to distance himself from God out of fear and doubt.
Scripture teaches us in these moments how to be faithful, courageous and strong to God’s call…
Proverbs 3:5-6 (HSCB)“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths”.
Ephesian 3:20 (HSCB)“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us”. The power is the Holy Spirit.
Gideon then runs to pull together a “gift” for the Angel of the Lord – which is a test. Is this real? Will he be there when I return? Gideon goes and gets a young goat, unleavened bread and broth. He brings it back to make a meal. But the Angel of the Lord gives him a sign. He takes the simple and ordinary – meager provisions from Gideon and supernaturally completes the meal – pulling fire from a rock.
The lesson here…Gideon brings basic effort and resources and God elevates it and glorifies it. This shows Gideon that God is truly in his presence and He worships God.
Let’s read Judges 6:11-23 and look for blame, the doubt, the disobedience and the distance away from God’s will and His blessing.
So Gideon is full of the Spirit of God and is ready to take on the Midianites now, right? No. It’s the first steps of the journey. He has to do hard things, say hard things. Things that will put him at odds with his family, with his community and with the world. Things that runs counter to culture. And where do we find him. Timid, afraid…but…at least taking the first steps in faith and obedience.
Gideon Tears Down the Baal Alter (Judges 6:25-32)
Later that night, Gideon hears from God with crystal clear instructions…
Judges 6:25-26“Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the alter of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well constructed alter to the Lord your God on the top of this rock. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down”.
Baal and Asherah – male and female fertility gods of Canaanites
Gideon follows God’s command, but let’s see how he does this…
Judges 6:27“But because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it all at night”.
Gideon lacked courage. He lacked integrity. He was more concerned with the opinions of the other people than God. He had a chance to be bold and he whimpered.
Galatians 1:10 teaches…“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”.
We cannot allow our fears of the world’s reaction to our call to diminish our sharing of the Gospel and engaging the world. We have to be bold. How did the men of the village react to the torn down altar? Now remember these are Israelites that are violating God’s law in being idolatrous. They are breaking the very first law – there shall be no other gods than Jehovah. These guys are outraged and want blood. They want death for Gideon. They are completely blinded by his call to repentance. His father steps in and wisely calls to let Baal defend himself. He tells everyone to wait for Baal to punish Gideon, essentially questioning if he is real and has any real power.
Joash – his father, also gives Gideon a new name – Jerubbal, which means “contender against Baal”.
The Sign of the Fleece (Judges 6:33-39)
Now we see that the Sprit of the Lord has descended upon Gideon. He starts to rally his clan and other tribes in the region. Yet we find he still doubts. He continues to move forward but has not yet full released his trust completely to God. But there is a critical lesson here…Gideon goes to God for confirmation and clarity. This principle is asking God to reveal with clarity His will. It is seeking out signs for confirmation that the direction is right. This often comes through discussions with others, circumstances around us – doors opening and doors closing. We have to be mindful and spirit filled to see and discern these things.
How does Gideon do this? He asks God to do some supernatural signs using some simple tools. And he doesn’t just ask once, but TWICE!. God is truly patient. Let’s read Judges 6:36-39 and look for how Gideon sought to get confirmation and clarity from the Lord.
God Selects Gideon’s Army
Notice here that the message is NOT Gideon selected his army, but the Lord did. Gideon, now full of faith and spirit, goes on the move. He has 135,000 Midianites camped in a valley north of him. He rallies 32,000 people. Not good odds. He has 1 Israelite for every 4 Midianites. VERY tough to complete the task with such limited resources. He needs volunteers but there are not enough.
What does God say to this? Does he bring more people, more money, and more resources? No. He tells Gideon that he has too much for the task at hand. He simplifies it. He demands faith and obedience and in that the Lord brings the necessary provisions.
Let’s look at Judges 7:2…“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: “I did this myself”.
God instructs Gideon with a test of wisdom. He tells Gideon to have each man drink from the water. Anyone who kneels to drink put in one group. Anyone who laps water with his tongue like a dog put into another group. Why this test? The men that lapped water like a dog where wise for battle – they got nourishment while being able to keep their eyes up and alert. But those that kneeled put their eyes down and were at risk of being blindsided.
What were the results? Judges 6:6 tells us “the number of those who lapped with their hands to their mouth was 300 men. In verse 7 “The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and turn the Midianites over to you”.
300 men? To wage war against 135,000 Midianites that had been terrorizing the nation of Israel for 7 long, difficult, horrible years. Was God crazy? He was sending Gideon to battle with only 1.4% (see the tie in now to the less than 2%?) of the men he started with. 300 Israelites against 135,000 Midianites. How could he succeed?
Here’s the greatest truth of this story – Gideon could not on his own. Not by his human strength or intelligence. Not without making room for God. Not without trusting God. Not without having faith completely, without reservation, that God would provide EVERYTHING they needed with 300 men. And not without the Holy Spirit.
Gideon Spies on the Midianites Camp (Judges 7:9-14)
Gideon, as you can imagine, is unsettled. He has built up his faith in the Lord only to return to fear now that he has 300 men assigned by God. God rouses Gideon from sleep and tells him to go the Midianites camp and “listen to what they say; and then you will be strengthened to go to the camp”.
God knew Gideon’s heart. He was full of doubt and fear. So God tells him in verse 10 – “if you are afraid to go to the camp, go with Purah your servant”.
God reminded Gideon to surround himself with someone he trusted. Someone that would be encouraging and knew him well. Someone that could lift him up.
Our growth as Christians and as a church requires God to take us to uncomfortable places so God has the room to show us our true selves and to help us grow into a life that is joyful, peaceful and blessed.
Gideon and Purah go to the camp at night and heard a man speak of a dream that a “loaf of barley bread came tumbling into Midinite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.” His friend replied, ”This is nothing less the sword of Gideon…God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him”. (Judges 7:13-14).
It would be preposterous to think that a simple loaf of bread could roll over a tent. Yet with God nothing is impossible. If we listen for the small voice of God in the world around us, we get the confirmation and clarity of His guidance for us.
Isaiah 30:21 teaches…“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying “This is the way; walk in it”.
Direction from God should be clear and should give us peace.
Gideon finally, with the faith in the Lord, and the fellowship of Purah had his peace. It was time to do God’s work with less than 2% of what Gideon originally thought he needed.
Gideon Attack the Midianites (Judges 7:15-23)
Following God’s instruction, Gideon and the 300 men took three things to battle. A sword, a shield and a helmet. Right? No. They took a bow, arrows and a spear. Right? No. They took a trumpet, an empty water pitcher and a torch. If they did it there way, they would have used weapons and attacked using their strength. And they would have lost. But letting God lead, they submitted to His wisdom. The split up into three groups and in the middle of the night surrounded the camp of Midianites. They began to blow the trumpets, smashed the pitchers and held up the torches shouting…”The sword of the Lord and of Gideon”. God’s Spirit created a confusion and madness that swept the camp. The Midianite warriors set their swords against each other. The result was the 120,000 warriors slaughtered one another. And the remaining 15,000 fled the camp. Gideon and his men pursued them with a larger force and routed the Midianites for good.
Gideon was living out Isaiah 12:2 – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” and Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”.
Gideon’s Legacy (Judges 8:22-28)
There are two final critical lessons for us in this story that we need understand and apply to our lives and to our church.
The battle is over and naturally the men said to Gideon in Judges 8:22 – “rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for YOU delivered us from the power of Midian”.
Wow. All that work by God and these guys do not give God credit. Gideon is wise. He says ”I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23) Gideon rightly gave glory to God.
Lesson one – our faith and our mission it is not about any human leadership. It is only about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our hearts and minds need to focus on entirely making Him the King of our homes and our church.
Scripture tells us in Judges 8:28…”so Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they were no longer a threat. The land was peaceful for 40 years during the days of Gideon”.
God answered their prayers. They repented and trusted in Him for guidance and provision using only 1.4% of what they thought they needed. He brought them salvation, peace and prosperity.
Judges 8:33-34…”When Gideon died, the Israelites turned and prostituted themselves with the Baals and made Baal –berith their god. The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God who had delivered them from the power of the enemies around them”.
Lesson two – when life is good, things are working well and there are no issues, we forget about God and tend to focus on ourselves, our desires and our wants.
The Israelites knew this lesson well, but ignored it. They knew that life came from God. That all resources came from God. That all blessings (and curses) came from God. His command was simple. Seek Him first, live holy, love and care for others and worship Him alone.
Let’s read from Deuteronomy 8 that was the law that the Israelites had in the Torah…
Deuteronomy 8:11-13…“Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command – the ordinances and statues – I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your hers and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God…”
“You may say to yourself, my power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me, but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth…”
So I stand here today asking all of us to answer a simple question as a church… Why type of Gideons do we want to be? Afraid, lacking faith, trying to do it ourselves? Or bold, trusting God and ready to build God’s kingdom on less than 2% of what the world tells us we need when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us, teaching us and caring for us?
Let’s pray together….Father, we give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good. Your faithful love endures forever. Remember us, Lord, when You show favor on Your people. Come to us with Your salvation so that we may enjoy the prosperity of Your chosen ones, rejoice in being Your people and boast about Your heritage. Amen.
“How to Become an Effective, Life Giving Team Leader”
2 Timothy 1:13-14 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Pastors, we must be keepers of the culture. If we are weak on our culture, others will come in and define it for us. Therefore we have the God given responsibility to set the culture.
Culture – Predominating attitudes and behaviors that characterizes the function of the organization.
GOAL – Life Giving Culture
John 10:10 NIV – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,and have it to the full.
Some of Our Culture Attitudes at GraceTown….
Churches have barriers to growth – 100, 200, 500, 800, 1000. Although each barrier is unique, there are 3 key factors that apply to every barrier we will face as a church.
1. Inspiring and consistently excellent worship services
•Our services are WELL PLANNED, but feel FLEXIBLE and UNRUSHED. They are upbeat but relaxed.
•We only have 52 Sunday’s a year and every single one needs to count!
2. Clear pathways to Connection and involvement
3. Effective and life giving Structure and administration
Don’t be afraid to lead – rid yourself of the thinking that you are inadequate or unqualified.
Leadership is Influence – John Maxwell
Our day today is an emotionally charged, overweight burden down society that needs LIFE, from life giving leadership!
What Life Giving Leadership Is:
A. Leadership is not a project, leadership is a spirit. People don’t need a position to be a leader.
B. Leadership must give encouragement and confidence
C. Joshua’s Leadership Training –
Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be dismayed.”
•God was focusing on Joshua’s spirit before the task.
D. For God to get us to where he would like us to be, He needs us to realize our leadership is more about a spirit than a task. Be strong, inspired, and full of courage, life and purpose. Life Giving Leadership
•Leadership is more than information, communication, and projects. Leadership is spirit
•Remember this – “Your Leadership can be something that people have to overcome, or something that helps people overcome.” – Kevin Gerald
F. It should cause people to lighten up
G. Life Giving leadership is positive and inspiring –
Proverbs 16:15 (message) says, “Good tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re life spring rain and sunshine.”
H. We will not resort to a negative, forceful, or whiney approach to motivate. This leads to immaturity.
I. To be an effective leader – STAY POSITIVE.
J. Leaders are like an elevator – you are either taking people up or taking them down. Make a decision to take people up!’
Life Giving Leaders are…
1. Life Giving leaders are always growing and reaching to improve their leadership. Take responsibility for your own failures as well as successes. If you keep learning, you will improve, and your leadership will get better.
2. Life Giving leaders are pushing the boundary lines to move beyond what is normal or usual. Leaders are pioneers. They venture into unexplored territory and guide to new and often unfamiliar destinations.
3. Life Giving leaders are risk-takers. They reject the maintenance mentality and take risks from strength, preparing thoroughly, understanding what is at stake, and marching forward with confidence. It is never too late to be what you might have become!
4. Life Giving leaders are resource finders and releasers. They have built a leadership pipeline that finds potential leaders, trains them, and releases them to greater levels of ministry.
5. Life Giving leaders are future-focused and dedicated to do whatever it takes to get there. Their faith capacity has increased to believe that God will provide all that is necessary as the need arises. Their people capacity is increased so that getting along with and caring for people is at the leader’s heart.
Our Commitment each Sunday
Remember Team – It’s a Privilege and opportunity to serve. It’s never asking too much of people to serve.
1. Each person I encounter today is loved by God & needs to feel special.
2. I need to make a personal impact through a smile, a word of kindness or an act of love.
3. I will remember what it feels like to be new.
4. My responsibility is not simply to carry out a task but to engage each person individually.
5. I am vitally important to impacting lives today.
6. I will be in a great mood on Sundays & will not let anyone or anything Hijack my great mood
7. I will be ready to meet any need that arises
8. I will have a sense of responsibility for everything that happens on Sunday
9. I will focus on People and processes
10. During service I will be alert, take notes & be an example in Worship
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10)
As a leader, your most valuable resource is the people that you work with. And now, more than ever, an excellent leader must be an effective team player. Here are some important things to remember in order to develop into a quality team member:
1. Demonstrate reliability. People should be able to count on you to do your fair share in working hard and meeting commitments. Consistency is crucial. Your team should be able to count on you to deliver good performance all the time, not just some of the time.
Proverbs 22:1 NIV – A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
”Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” – Dietrich Bonhoffer
2. Communicate constructively. To be a valuable team player, you must be able to express your thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly and with respect for others.
Proverbs 13:2-3 NIV – From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.
”The most important single ingredient in the formula of success i9s knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt
3. Function as an active participant. You must fully engage yourself in the work of your team if you are to be an effective team player. Take the initiative and help make things happen with an attitude of “What contribution can I make to help the team achieve success?”
Proverbs 20:18 NIV – Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
4. Share information. Be willing to share information, knowledge, and experience. Take the initiative to keep other team members informed both formally and on a day-to-day “touching base.”
Proverbs 12:15 NIV – The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.
“It’s not what you tell your players that counts. It’s what they hear.”- Red Auerbach
5. Pitch in to help. Teamwork involves working with others and acting together to accomplish a job. Good team players figure out ways to solve problems and get work done in spite of differences they may have with one another on an individual level.
(Proverbs 12:24 NIV – Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.
“There is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being – to help someone succeed.”Alan Loy McGinnis
6. Practice flexibility. Change is the norm when you’re working in a team environment. Good team players flow and adapt to these conditions. They don’t complain or get stressed out because something new is tried or some new direction is being set.
(Proverbs 24:10 NIV – If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!
7. Work as a problem-solver. An effective team player is willing to deal with all kinds of problems in a solutions-oriented manner. Instead of being a problem-dweller, problem-blamer, or problem-avoider, valuable team members choose the approach of a problem-solver.
(Proverbs 22:29) Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.
“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.” – Anonymous
Genesis 26:12-13 KJV – Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
One man said this…”If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always be what we’ve always been.”
If we desire to become great we must “Move Forward.”
Church’s Focus Must Always Be:
1. The Word of God.
•(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT) “All Scripture is inspired by God and is
useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is
wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches
us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people
to do every good work.”
•God’s Word is the the primary catalyst for transformation. You will never grow up as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ on a diet of spiritual twinkies.
•(Psalm 103:2-5 NIV) “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not
all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your
diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with
love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
•God is central. We celebrate the sacraments by participating in communion & water baptism
•(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT) “Never stop praying.”
•(1 John 5:14-15 NIV) “This is the confidence we have in
approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he
hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we
know that we have what we asked of him.”
•(Luke 14:23 LB) “Go out into the country…and urge anyone you find to
come in, so that My house will be full.”
•Acts 5:14 NIV – Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number
•The church is the primary place where people come to faith in Christ and begin to live as Christians. Lost people matter to God & therefore ought to matter to the church.
The apostle Paul understood the principle of Moving Forward when he said…
Phil 3:13 TLB “No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,”
Exodus 14:15 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”
In this passage, God had already given Israel deliverance from the Egyptians.
And now they are headed toward the promise land after leaving Egypt.
Suddenly, they come to the Red Sea.
The enemy is behind.
They can’t go left or right.
They can’t go back.
THERE WAS ONLY ONE DIRECTION FOR THEM TO GO…FORWARD!
Moses began to cry to the Lord.
And God said… “What are you crying to me for? Tell Israel to go forward.”
But there was no apparent way to go forward.
No boats or bridges.
They couldn’t possibly swim across
But God said “Go Forward.”
And when they did, God did something He had never done before, and Israel escaped on dry land.
The unexpected happened when they began to MOVE FORWARD!
What does it take to move forward?
#1. It takes knowing and understanding that we are heading to something better.
A. Where we are now is only temporary. This is not our final destination. Don’t get Stuck.
•Isaiah 43:19 NIV – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland
•Yesterday’s excellence is today’s mediocrity & tomorrow’s failure.
•God is into moving forward and if you want to experience God in the present you can’t linger in the past!
B.Move out of your place of comfort. They were comfortable in Egypt, they were used to living as slaves, and they were used to settling for the left over. They said; “It would have been better for us to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the dessert.”
I Dream of a Church
Where People are truly loved, valued, and accepted
Where there is safety and security for people to try
Where lives are rescued, restored, and given hope
Where God’s presence flourishes in the simple and non religious
Where fun and laughter are mixed with tears & mourning, expressed with sensitivity
Where truth, honesty, and health are honored and lived out
Where people are deeply connected to God in body, mind, soul, and spirit
Where culture is met, embraced, and transformed
Where beauty, art, and creativity are valued, used, and understood as coming from being connected to the Creator
We value innovation and are willing to take risks in order to bring glory to God
Where performance is replaced by reality and truth
Where our stance is always love, and everything else is a conversation
Where judgement is left to God, who is fair, just, and true
And our place is to build, encourage, and comfort with an attitude of Grace
Where a lost and aimless people want to be, even if they are not sure why
Worship to God is full, vibrant, real, and pleasing to God
Where other churches are valued and supported
and where people’s visions and ideas of ministry come to life;
Where people are equipped for and do ministry in accordance with their gifts
I dream of a church where Jesus truly reigns as King
and His followers are dedicated to making Him the center of their lives, hopes, and dreams
Because He is our hope and the anchor of our souls, He is our security and the firm base of our lives to be built together…That’s my dream for GraceTown Church
Proverbs 3:27-28 Msg – “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”
What Can I Do to Move MY GraceTown Forward?
(Matthew 9:37-38 NIV) “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
(Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
(Ephesians 2:10 NIV) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
(Galatians 6:4 MSG) “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”
(Luke 18:29-30 GW) “I guarantee this. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next world to come.”
(Mark 8:35 LB) “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for My sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”
In America, Bibles are everywhere. You can find them in grocery stores,
bookstores, motel rooms, everywhere. They’re available in all sizes, shapes,
translations, versions, leather bound, paperback. Every year the Bible out sells
every other major bestseller. Last year there were 500 million Bibles published in
the world in 18,000 different languages. In America we are glutted with the word
of God on the airways, radio, TV, books, magazines. It’s everywhere. Yet millions
of people still miss the blessing of the Bible.
Why? Because it’s not automatic. The Bible is a book of blessing. It promises
comfort, strength, hope, wisdom, joy, power, and purpose. But just because you
have a Bible doesn’t mean you’re going to get the benefit from it. James, being his
practical self, gives us three steps on how the Bible Blesses us:
James 1:19-25 NIV – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone
should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because
human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore,
get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the
word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and
so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does
not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after
looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But
whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—
not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they
The Bible is called the perfect law because it’s exactly what I need. It promises
freedom and it promises blessing. James gives us three steps:
1.I MUST RECEIVE GOD’S WORD IF I’M GOING TO BE BLESSED BY IT
vs. 21, “Accept the word planted in you.” Circle the word “accept”. This word in
Greek is a hospitality term which literally means “to welcome” — come on in. If
we’re going to be blessed by the word of God, first we must welcome the word into
our lives. We must be receptive.
James gives an illustration. He says it’s planted in you. He gives the illustration of a
garden and seed. The Bible, all through Scripture, compares itself to seed. Jesus
told the parable of the sower and said, “The word of God is a seed and it’s planted
in our hearts.” How is it you can take two seeds that are exactly the same and plant
them in two different locations and get two different crops in fruitfulness?
One soil is prepared and the other is not. How is it that you can take two people
and put them in the same service, with the same message, and one person gets
blessed by it and the other person says he didn’t get anything out of it. One heart
was prepared and one wasn’t. James says we must receive the word of God with
the right attitude. He gives us four attitudes you need to be blessed by God’s word.
Attitudes for a Good Reception
1.Be careful. I must have a careful attitude. v. 19 “Be quick to listen…” Give it
your full attention. Be alert. Don’t miss it. “… slow to speak …” When I’m
talking, I’m not listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth so we ought to
listen twice as much as we talk. Many of our problems are caused because we’re
quick to speak rather than being quick to listen. Be careful in your attitude. Be
ready. Be intent. Be ready to receive God’s word. Be careful.
2. Be calm. Be calm if you’re going to receive God’s word and be blessed by it. v.
19b “… and slow to become angry …” A relaxed attitude increases receptivity. If
you’re relaxed, people can communicate with you more. We work on relaxing
people in our services for that reason. We don’t hear much when we’re angry, upset,
bitter, resentful. Bitterness is a barrier, an emotional block that keeps us from
hearing God’s word. Some may ask, “How come God never speaks to me.” Maybe
you’ve got some resentment in your life you need to get rid of. An article I read
from Reader’s Digest said when you listen it actually lowers your blood pressure.
When you speak it raises your blood pressure. James says be calm, be slow to
What is your emotional state, normally, when you come to church on Sunday
morning? Do you come with a calm attitude? In many homes on Sunday morning
it’s kind of hectic. Then we come at the last minute and expect God to speak to us.
What preparation? You need to be calm. Maybe you need to get up a little bit
3. Be clean. v. 21 “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…”
Before you can plant the seed you need to do a little weeding. The word “filth” that
he says you’ve got to get rid of is actually the Greek word that means “earwax”.
When you have a sin in your life it blocks your hearing. It prevents God’s word
from getting into your heart. He says get rid of the evil, anything that we know that
isn’t right in our lives. God says, “Lay aside all of the emotional garbage, the old
habits, the junk in your life so that God’s word can get through to you.”
How can we be clean? By confession. “If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just
to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Living Bible says “Get
rid of all that’s wrong in your life, both inside and out.”
“Dusty Bibles always lead to dirty lives. In fact, you are either in the Word and the
Word is conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ, or you are in the world and
the world is squeezing you into its mold.” Howard Hendricks
4. Be compliant. Teachable, yielded, humble, willing to be changed. He says
“humbly accept the word of God planted in you…” Don’t act like you know it all. If
you know it all, God’s word can’t get through to you. Pray, “God, do what You need
to do in my life.” God says if you want to be blessed, first you have to receive it,
be receptive with these four hearing aids. Reception is not enough. James says we
not only need to receive the word of God, but…
2.REFLECT ON THE WORD OF GOD
v. 23 “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man
who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself immediately goes
away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” James uses an illustration here.
God’s word is like a mirror. The purpose of a mirror is to evaluate us. We use them
to evaluate ourselves. We look in a mirror to assess the damage from the night
before. Then we do something about it. What good is a mirror if we don’t do
anything about what we see? God says a mirror reflects what we’re like on the
outside. God’s word reflects what we’re like on the inside.
Have you ever seen yourself in the Bible? Hebrews says, “God’s word detects the
thoughts, intents, motives and desires of the heart.” Many years ago, Queen
Elizabeth, who was beautiful in her youth, ordered that all of the mirrors be
removed from Buckingham Palace because she couldn’t stand to face that she was
A lot of people don’t read the Bible because they’re afraid. They’re unwilling to
face themselves and see themselves as they really are. They don’t want to look in
the mirror of God’s word.
James gives us three practical ways to reflect on the word of God,
1. Read it. v. 25 “the man who looks intently into the perfect law”. He’s actually
talking more about research that he is reading. Investigating. The word “look”
in Greek means “to stoop down and gaze in”. It’s the word used when Peter
went to the tomb on resurrection Sunday when he stooped down and peeked in.
He investigated. Focus your attention on the word of God.
There are two ways you can look at a mirror. You can gaze at it or you can glance
at it. All of us have done both. It’s human nature that you can’t walk by a mirror
and not look at it. When you glance at it, you immediately walk away and forget
what you’ve seen. It didn’t do you any good. Many people try to have a quiet time
that way. They don’t want to gaze at it, but glance at it. Give God five minutes.
God says that He wants us to gaze at the word. Look at it intently in detail.
Nine things to look for — S.P.A.C.E.P.E.T.S
S – Is there a Sin to confess?
P – Is there a Promise to claim? Look for promises, there are over 7000 promises in
the word of God.
A – Is there an Attitude to change?
C – Is there a Command to obey?
E – Is there an Example to follow?
P – Is there a Prayer to pray? There are lots of prayers in the Bible. You can take
those prayers and pray them for yourself and for others. You can know they’ll be answered
because they’re in the Word of God.
E – Is there an Error to avoid?
T – Is there a Truth to believe? Is there something I just need to believe God for?
S – Is there Something to thank God for?
That’s how you look intently at the word of God. Look at the details. James says
we need to receive the word of God and then reflect on it, first by reading it and
second by reviewing it.
2. Review it. v. 25 “…and continues to do so…” That means over and over and
over. The Bible calls this meditation. When you think about something over and
over, it’s meditation. Meditation is not, put your mind in neutral and contemplate
lint in your navel. Meditation means to think seriously about something over and
over. If you know how to worry, you can meditate. Take a negative idea and think
about it over and over, and it’s called worry. Take God’s word and think about it
over and over, and it’s called meditation. The Bible says, “Meditate on God’s
word”. Jesus said, “…if you continue in My word, then you’re truly My disciples.”
Read it and review it. The outlines I give you each week on robyanok.com are not
so that you can keep up with me, it’s so that you can review it during the week.
God says, “You want to be blessed by the word? Review it.”
Psalm 119:97 “I meditate on your word all day long.” Every person ought to
memorize Joshua 1:8 NIV – Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips;
meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in
it. Then you will be prosperous and successful
If you’ll do one thing God promises to bless you with success. And that promise
is IF you meditate on His Word. Read it and review it continually. Stay in it and
be faithful to the book. I know some people that are more faithful to Ann Landers
or the sports page than they are to God’s word. How many of you believe
everything you read in the newspaper or watch on TV? Then why do we spend
more time reading or watching something we don’t believe than something we
We need to fill our minds with the word of God. James says, “You want to be
blessed? Reflect on the word. Think about it by reading it and reviewing it.”
3. Remembering it. v. 25 “… not forgetting what he has heard.” Nothing will do
more for your spiritual life than developing the habit of memorizing Scripture.
Nothing will benefit your personal spiritual life more than developing the habit of
memorizing Scripture. “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin
against Thee.” Memorize God’s word if you want to be blessed by it. We
remember what’s important to us.
Take notes, write things down. If you value God’s word you’re going to take notes
on it. Hebrews 2:1 “Write things down so we don’t let slip what we’ve heard.”
The United States Air Force did a study and found that we forget 95% of what we
hear within 72 hours. This statistic depresses a pastor. I spend all week preparing a
message to give on Sunday. By Wednesday you’ve forgotten 95% of what I’ve said
unless you’ve written it down. James says, “Receive God’s word with the right
attitude, reflect on God’s word by reading it, reviewing it, remembering it.” But
even that’s not enough
3.I MUST RESPOND TO THE WORD OF GOD
I must do something about it, act on it, live it, practice it. vs. 22 “Do not merely
listen to what the word says and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Practice.
What good is a mirror if you look at it and don’t do anything about it? The word
“listen” in Greek is the word for “auditor”. If you audited a class in college you
didn’t take it for credit, no tests, no responsibility, no research. You were totally
relaxed. You just listened, you didn’t have any intention of applying it. We have a
lot of auditors in the church. They come to church, walk in, hear the word of God,
walk out with no intention of ever being changed. I was one for years. I took notes,
wrote things down, but it never changed me. We must respond to God’s word, let
it change us if we’re going to be blessed by it.
That is what James is attacking. He’s saying, “If you want to be blessed, you’ve
got to live the word of God, not just hear it. Not just know it.”
I really work at making the Bible simple. There is a lot in the Bible that is difficult
to understand, complex, deep. Yet I try to present it in such a way that’s very clear
and very easy to understand and easy to put into practice. When you go out of here
I want you to be able to do the word not just hear the word of God. I work at
making it practical. I try to make it simple so we can put it into practice.
I heard about the guy who came to church late. He walked in just as the service
was completing. He said to an usher, “Is the sermon done, yet?” The usher was
wise and said, “The sermon has been preached, but it is yet to be done.” Be ye
doers of the word, don’t merely listen. Put it into practice.
My honest prayer on Sunday afternoon is that you will remember what I said and
put it into practice. I pray that GraceTown Church will develop the reputation that
people say, “They’re doers of the word. They practice what everybody else talks
about. They live it.” People have a Living Bible. You ought to be a Living Bible.
The best translation of Scripture is when you translate it into your life and let
it change you.
What pleases me even more than a comment or compliment is when somebody
says they will put it into practice and use it. They say they will do the sermon this
week. “Let’s not deceive ourselves,” James says.v. 25 (Phillips) “The man who puts the law into practice wins true happiness.”
Jesus, in Matthew 7, tells the story of the wise and the foolish builder. He says the
foolish builder builds on sand. He is like the guy who hears the word of God but
doesn’t do what it says. The wise man is the one who hears it and then goes out and
makes an honest attempt to put it into his life. Practice it.
Jesus said John 13:17, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you
do them.” I think the simplest definition of maturity is to be a doer of the word.
“If we are not interested in the Word of God, can we really be interested in God?”
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or
stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose
delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.That
person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.
Father, You have not beat around the bush this morning. We can’t ignore what Your word says.
You’ve told us to be doers of the word, to practice what we already know. Lord, I know You
have put some ideas in the minds of people and they know they’ve got to do something maybe
even before today ends. I pray that You would give them the courage to act on what they know.
Help them to do the right thing. Help them to act on what they already know is right. Lord,
maybe it’s to pay off some debt, or to ask forgiveness, or to return an object, or to be baptized, or
to join the church, or to make a phone call, or to witness to some neighbor and invite them to
church, get involved, or to receive Christ for the very first time. Lord, Help us to do what we
need to do, to not deceive ourselves, to not glance at the mirror of the word and walk away
unchanged. Help us not to miss the point, that we need to receive Your word with the right
attitude and we need to reflect on it through reading and studying and memorizing. But Lord, that
we most of all need to respond to it and allow it to live in our lives.
If you’ve never opened up your life to Jesus Christ, do it this morning. Ask Him to come into
your heart. That’s the first step. Say, “Jesus Christ, I don’t understand it all but I want You to
come into my life. I want to be a believer.” He died for you on the cross. He will forgive your
sins if you ask Him to. He will give you a new start. Just say, “Christ, come into my life. I want
to be a Christian, a real Christian.” Others of you know the Lord. The issue for you is not to
make that first step but to practice what you already know. Say, “God help me to do what I know
is right.” That takes faith and courage. He will give you that faith and courage. Say, “Help me to
live Your word this week and apply even what I’ve heard today in the next few days.” Lord, Your
word is true. It is accurate and it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and the
joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Lord, we’ve seen
areas of our lives we need to work on today. Give us the strength and courage to do what we
know we need to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Earlier this week I wrote about how big churches are continuing to get bigger. I’m in the process of highlighting some of the reasons why I believe that’s happening. Today, I’d like to talk about the leadership factor.
I’m in the camp that believes leadership is a spiritual gift. Romans 12:8 tells us, “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.” One of the distinctives of large, growing churches is that they value leadership development. That’s not the case in small, declining churches.
In small churches, leaders are controlled. This typically happens through the way churches are structured. Instead of giving pastors and other ministry leaders the freedom to make decisions and make ministry happen, churches will add layers of boards and committees, rules and processes to prevent leaders from doing just about anything on their own. The smaller the church, typically, the more complex the structure.
In growing churches, what I usually find is that leaders have been released to lead. Boundaries are established to create a framework for decisions and actions, but within those boundaries is the freedom for leaders to leverage their spiritual gifts. Unfortunately, many churches are willing to embrace shepherds, teachers and pastors, but they’re unwilling to embrace leaders.
Churches who understand the leadership factor share these characteristics:
1. They are staff-led and not committee-controlled.
2. They empower the senior pastor and the spiritual authority of that position.
3. They see leadership as critical not only at the very top of the organization but in every layer of the ministry.
4. They know that leadership is a gift, and it must be developed.
5. They understand that not everyone is a leader and they’re intentional about moving people into ministry that best fits their gifts.
6. They embrace both staff and volunteer leaders. Paid staff are not the only people with the leadership gift.
7. They recognize leadership isn’t just for men over the age of 40.
8. They are careful to prioritize the character over the skill of a leader.
The bottom line is that it’s impossible to grow a healthy church and have an environment that values control over empowerment.
If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on leadership, check out this series of posts on my theology of leadership.
The measure of how ministry is progressing in your church or fellowship, and the way to evaluate whether you are making progress, is not attendance on Sunday, signed up members, people in small groups, or the size of our budget (as important and valuable as all these things are!). The real test is how successfully you are making disciples who make other disciples. Are we seeing people converted from being dead in their transgressions to being alive in Christ? And once converted, are we seeing them followed-up and established as mature disciples of Jesus? And as they become established, are we training them in knowledge, godliness and skills so that they will in turn make disciples of others?
This is the Great Commission—the making of disciples who obey all that Christ has taught, including the command to make disciples. And this is the touchstone of our faithfulness to Christ’s mission in the world, and the sign of a healthy church: whether or not it is making genuine disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ.