What a fast and furious couple of weeks it has been since my last update. Diana and I had as wonderful time with our sons and their family the third week of June. There was laughter, love, and excitement for everybody. The grandchildren spent most of the days and nights in the pool. Even little Emma has become quite a good little swimmer, with her vest on. After the first few hours, she was jumping in the water on her own accord and wasn't afraid to put her head under water. On Wednesday we were able to go to Bush Gardens with the family, thanks in part to the generous gift of tickets to veterans from the park. Let me just say the Vorbotlen is a scary roller coaster to ride, but the ride is worth every minute of it. Yes, I screamed like a little girl and am not ashamed to admit it.
The last two weeks were spent a Pleasure Island Bible Camp near Blacksburg, VA. I look forward to this time of renewing old friendships and fellowshipping with campers. During the Junior week nine decisions were made for Christ. Five others made decisions to surrender their life to Christ to be used as He desires. One of those children was from our church. So far at Teen camp over ten young people have trusted Christ as their personal Savior. One of our own teens received assurance of their salvation and now has no doubts that she is a child of the King. Praise the Lord! Thank you for giving to make all this possible and the week is still not over.
The theme of this year's camp is The Old Path's.
Jeremiah 6:16a "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
You may be thinking, Pastor Carroll, what are the Old Paths? Quite simply, the Old Paths are the ways of God that are found in the Word of God and then lived out by faith.
The Psalmist writes in Psalms 25:4-5 "Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day."
These Old Paths contain the Old Path of conversion, of reconciliation with God, of personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The Old Path of belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, as our sufficient guide for faith and practice. The Old Paths of modesty, of purity, and separation from the world, and holy and Godly living. The Old Paths of soulwinning and evangelism as a means to reach people with the Gospel of Christ and grew the local New Testament Baptist Church.
It's my hope and prayer as your Pastor that you will desire to stay on the Old Paths that have been laid before us.
Proverbs 22:28 "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."
As a way of closing this update, let me say thank you for the great work that everybody did to make VBS a success. Souls were saved, lives were rededicated to the Lord, new friendship were made, and old ones were renewed. Diana and I anxiously await our return from Sabbatical on August 14th.
- Pastor Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
I can hardly believe that is has been two weeks since the start of my sabbatical. I do miss each and every one of and pray for you regularly. This week I've read a book entitled, Forgotten Salvation & Martyrs by Ronnie Brown, while visiting with my mother in PA. As I read about the salvation decision of men and women, I couldn’t help but be remined that God can save the vilest of sinners and the very pious steeped in their religion. God is "not willing that any should perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:26b)
Each of the stories of these testimonies followed a similar pattern but under different circumstances. That same pattern is available to any sinner who desires to be saved today. It begins with conviction. The understanding that you have sinned against a righteous and Holy God. That conviction come from the Holy Spirt of God. In John 6:44a Jesus states, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." This conviction should bring about a Godly sorrow for our sin. Our sin must become a burden, a weight, we no longer desire to carry. We must see it’s offensive, a stench in God’s nostrils. Godly sorrow leads to us viewing sin the way God does.
We then must confess our sins to God. Conviction of our sins should bring about repentance or turning from our sin to God.
Romans 10:9-10 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
That confession should push us to the point of turning from our sin and serving A Holy God in holiness. Just because we repent doesn’t mean the temptation to sin won’t happen again in our lives. We have to choose holiness and righteousness daily. When I repented of my sin, I intentionally decided to walk in holiness daily. That decision required that I change who I saw, where I went, who I invited into my home, the music to which I listened, and the movies I watched. I had to guard my heart, my eyes, my ears, and my mind every day. You may have to do the same things.
Romans 6:22 "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
Our salvation brought on by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, leading us to confess or sin to God by repentance, should bring us to a point in our lives where we desire to live a Holy life for God. Separated from the world, but drawn close to God by our regular communion with Him. Giving us the power to live a Holy life, "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16.
2 Corinthians 7:1 "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
- Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Merci, Danke, Gracias, σας ευχαριστώ (that one was for Pastor James).
Thank you for the allowing me the opportunity to take this sabbatical. I already miss the times we share in the services, and the fellowship we have in Christ.
The first week of sabbatical was a busy time. I had some last-minute details to take care of for the church before embarking full time on my sabbatical. I then turned my attention to my "honey-to-do" list that I needed to finish before our guests arrived on Tuesday. I'm writing this sabbatical update from my mother's house in Pennsylvania. It has been good to visit with her and "catch-up" on life. It's been too long since I spent time with my mom. I feel that I have really begun the "rest," which is part of my sabbatical goals.
This week I have read (outside of my Bible reading), The Unbreakable Brain by Dr. Will Mitchell. What a great book! It's subtitled Shield Your Brain From Cognitive Decline…For Life. I have learned a lot about how the brain and memory functions. I also know now that diabetes and dementia are interconnected, and a lot of other useful things. Prayerfully, I will move them from my head to my heart (like we should do with the Word of God) and make applications to my life.
As I truly began to rest it allowed me to reflect and I came to this conclusion,
Instead of allowing the position of Senior Pastor to form the basis of who I am, I need to allow my position in Christ to shape my identity.
Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
Because He loved me and gave himself for me, and now lives in me, my position in this life (the world) doesn't make up my identity. My identity is who I am in Christ. My position is not found in this world, but in heaven.
Ephesians 2:6 "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:"
I'm a child of God; God in me and for me. My position and identity in Christ is sufficient to sustain me no matter what title I may hold here on earth.
Having said that, I'm well aware of John 15:16 which states, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you" (that's my life verse).
And 1 Timothy 3:1 which states, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."
I'm thankful for the position God has called me to as the Pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, but that position no longer defines who I am in this world, Christ has already determined that for me.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that Therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” Ephesians 6:19,20
One of the great American ships that dominated the high seas in the heyday of transatlantic travel was the SS United States, better known as the “Big U." The Big U was a passenger liner that was not only built for comfort, but for speed, setting and retaining the fastest transatlantic crossing for an ocean liner at 3 days, 10hrs and 40min. She was the last of her kind in the grand age of ocean travel as the celebrated days of crossing the Atlantic by liner would come to a close. The convenience and speed of air travel would quickly usher in the end of that era.
Today the ‘’Big U” has long been out of service and is only a shadow of what it used to be. As She sits idly tied to her moors in the city of Philadelphia, time and the elements have had their way, bathing her steel with rust and corrosion.
In comparison, as you look at the current state of that grand ship, it somewhat resembles that of a once vibrant and active Christian or Church, one that was on the move, bold, committed, serving; setting records with the Lord if you will.
But now it seems we have entered into a new era as well.
Door to door evangelism and Soul-Winning efforts have been replaced with live stream services and casual Christianity. That ‘grand ship’ now finds itself moored to the docks of silence and stillness; weather beaten by the cares of life and the rudiments of the world. So many of us in the Lord seem to be aimlessly adrift in the seas of distractions, doubt and discouragement.
Yet, Praise the Lord, in both cases there is cause for hope.
As for the “Big U”, it’s encouraging to know that a conservatory group has dedicated itself to one day seeing their beloved ship restored and returned to service on the high seas; to once again fulfill her role as the world’s “flagship” in ocean travel. They envision a day when her powerful engines would again stir the waters beneath her decks and those decks would be filled with happy passengers. Nevertheless, with this vision comes the reality that it takes willing resources, unyielding determination and great sacrifice to see it come to pass.
And for the idle Christian, the still Church, you are not without hope nor without an Advocate. No matter what era or state we find ourselves in, or however far we may have drifted from the Lord and His Great Commission, we can know, with all certainty, that Jesus is still in the business of ‘restoration’. We can know again the joy of serving Christ in sharing the good news of the word of God with a lost and dying world. And Just as that great ship has it’s hope in those that love her, so do we have the sure mercies of God, with rest and hope in the one that Loves us to the uttermost, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Be assured dear Christian, your Savior is far more willing, far more determined and far more capable in the work of restoration than any human or earthly effort could ever be. Jesus promises that He will “never leave nor foresake thee”. He also says, “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. The seasons may change; the times may change, yet the Lord declares, “I change not”! “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and forever”
What a comfort to know God’s promises!
So along with those that would love to see that great ship cast off her lines and set sail again, let us pray as God’s people, that His servants, His Church and all those that labor and have labored for the cause of Christ, would likewise cast off their lines from the bounds of idleness and complacency to once again serve the Lord to the fullest, realizing again their call and purpose in the Lord; to be the “flagship” of the Gospel as the Ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Spencer Close, Bus Director, Sharon Baptist Church
As we continue to look at what the Word of God has to say about the local church, I would like us to consider Acts chapter 20 and verse 28. In this particular chapter, Paul is speaking to a specific group of people (the Ephesian elders). Paul is on his way to Jerusalem and though he does not know exactly what will take place when he arrives there, he does understand that the Holy Spirit has been warning him that he will be bound and arrested (Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11).
The Scriptures really give us a strong indication that Paul may have thought this was the end of His time here upon this earth (Acts 21:13; II Timothy 4:6). It is for this reason that this particular verse is so weighty. Oftentimes people in their last days communicate the most important subjects. Our Lord Jesus Christ for instance, before He ascended back to the Father, gave to the disciples the ‘Great Commission’ in its five facets.
Notwithstanding, Paul was very diligent not only to see people saved and local churches planted, he consistently cared for these fledgling New Testament churches as well as the individuals in these local assemblies. We read in the book of Acts and the epistles that Paul visited and wrote to these assemblies and individuals and wherever possible physically visited and met with them face to face. Paul understood the importance and need for the care of the flock. Against that background we can now proceed to look at this verse in greater detail. The Bible says:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31)
Paul in this verse makes 3 statements of specific duties for these under-shepherds along with two statements of fact that we would do well to understand.
The first specific duty for the pastor is to attend to his own spiritual wellbeing. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes clear with strong language that they are to “Take heed…” to their own spiritual welfare. Certainly, we understand that a pastor must have a vibrate fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
But notice secondly, the pastor is to attend to the spiritual wellbeing of all the flock. Who is the flock? The flock are the saved members of a local church. In this case, it was those that were in Ephesus and the areas surrounding Ephesus (Acts 20:17). This presents a problem indeed for those who will not assemble to the church house. How is a pastor to gauge and attend to the spiritual wellbeing of individuals who are not presently active with the local church? Does live stream meet this need? (Can individuals ‘bear one another’s burdens’ who are not engaged in corporate prayer? Can individuals participate in the evangelistic activities of the local church if they are not there? Can individuals interact with their local brothers and sisters in Christ if they are not there? Can individuals vote or participate in the mission's program or any number of business matters of the local church if they are not there?) Someone may be able to do some of these things by phone, by visiting others and by their own individual efforts. The likelihood of this taking place outside of the local assembly is improbable and most likely doomed to fail because it is attempted individually.
Notice that Paul presents the first of two fact statements coupled with this injunction. He states, “…over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…” Ponder the weight of that responsibility. Our Almighty God has specifically and providentially chosen these men for this task and therefore will hold them accountable.
Let us continue and see the third specific duty for the pastor. The verse goes on to state that the pastor is to “…feed the church of God…” This denotes the duty of the pastor to attend to the spiritual nourishment of all the flock. We understand from the Word of God, that “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) We also understand that Jesus Christ Himself is the Bread of life. (John 6:48 – We must never think that all we need our Savior for is the moment of Salvation… ‘the day I got saved’... but He is and always will be the Bread of life.) Because of this, the corporate worship of our God and Savior Jesus Christ has a vital role in the life of a Christian. Think about how the service of the local church is structured. We sing together about our wonderful God, praising Him for who He is and what He has said. We pray together to our wonderful God, speaking to Him enjoined together as one body of believers. We give of our tithes and offerings as an act of submission to our wonderful God and Savior corporately. We listen together to His Holy Word as we desire to here from and be instructed by Him. We humbly come to an altar in a physical and spiritual act of submission sacrificing ourselves which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1,2). All of this is led by the pastor because of the injunction to “…feed the church of God…” These are not just things we do to check off a box of attendance, but are a purposeful and integral part of the Christian’s life.
I would like to close by mentioning the second fact statement that should move us greatly. It is simply this: this local church called Sharon Baptist Church in the town of Hampton, VA has been purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ with His blood. This was mentioned by Paul because of the importance in the caretaking of this local body. The all-encompassing motivation in our lives is the love of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are of great value because of the price that He paid. The local assembling of believers for the corporate worship of Him is vital and important because He has made it important by the price that He paid for us. Praise the Lord for His graciousness to us!
- Pastor James, Associate Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Many times, when we consider church attendance one main verse comes to mine (Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."). That familiar verse has been spoken about often and because of this we may think this is the only verse in the Bible that speaks about our gathering together as a local body of believers: church.
We have come to a period of time in history where many are forsaking the house of God, and because of this they are missing out on God’s best for their lives. (And yes, when I say forsaking, I am speaking about those who choose not to personally individually physically gather with other believers at a specific time for a specific purpose. The definition for a local church necessarily calls for us to be gathered together, not in a virtual sense, but in a physical sense. The building is not necessary, but God’s people being together is necessary.)
Over the next few weeks I would like to discuss some verses from the Word of God that speak to this all-important subject. It is my desire, that you would see how God places emphasis on His people coming together to worship Him and be equipped for His work.
I would like us to first consider the following verse out of the book of Psalms.
Psalm 84:4 states, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.”
The inscription to this Psalm (Psalm 84) reads, “To the chief Musician upon Gittih, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.” Although the meaning of the word 'Gittih' is up for debate, we immediately understand that the sons of Korah were Levites. Their sacred responsibility was to minister in God’s house. In this case, this was a hymn written for them (the sons of Korah). The Levites had the great privilege of ministering not only in the Tabernacle, but the Temple as well. This was the place where God designated for His people, the nation of Israel, to meet with Him.
In verse 2 of this same Psalm, the psalmist expresses His yearning to be in the courts of the LORD. He cries out, (v2)“My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”
It is surely a sad state that we have come to when His people do not long to be gathered together and come to His house. The writer of this psalm well understood what a privilege it was in his day to be involved in the worship of God.
However, let us turn our attention back to the aforementioned verse. I want you to key in on the first word in verse 4. The Bible says, “Blessed are they dwell in thy house…” From this we discover, that there is a peculiar and special blessing attached with being in God’s house. Many will exclaim, “I am blessed,” when asked how they are doing. But I want you to notice that those who do not come to the house of God cannot claim this blessing. What is the blessing? Well notice the rest of the verse, the Bible states, “…they will be still praising thee. Selah.” (The word 'Selah' means 'to meditate', or 'stop and consider'. In this we understand that the psalmist is wanting to provide emphasis on this section.)
How many Christians today run on empty when it comes to praising God? They find themselves in a place where they have lost the joy of their Salvation. They discover that they have lost the joy of the Christian life. Why? Because they have forsaken God’s house.
Let me encourage you today, to attend to your spiritual needs with great emphasis and come dwell in His house.
- Pastor James, Associate Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
As we look back at the written Word of God, we are privileged to understand how blessed we are today. In the book of I Peter, the apostle wrote to those early Christians who forged on in perilous times (what a great example they have given us). They lived in a world that was hostile toward the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Their longing was to be once again physically in the presence of their King in whom they had placed their trust. All of this sounds familiar, does it not? Much like us today they felt as though the Lord Jesus Christ would come soon. They were in great affliction and needed great comfort.
Here in I Peter chapter 1, Peter was moved by the Holy Ghost to pen these very words that give such a great reference to the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Notice what Peter says,
v10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
v11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
v12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
Our early predecessors, the prophets, had been blessed by God to prophesy concerning “…the grace that should come…” (v10)
They searched out the coming of the Messiah (v10,11) and also “…testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ…” (v11) as well as His resurrection. Yet even with all of that revelation they did not have the blessing of seeing His birth, His life, His death, His burial and His resurrection take place on this earth. Nor did they have the blessing of looking backward to see how Christ came, He lived, He died, was buried and is alive forevermore. Further we see they were not partakers in the same manner, as New Testament Christians “…of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven…”(v12)
What a blessed Christmas you and I get to enjoy with the full knowledge of what has already taken place in that birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! What a blessed Christmas to know the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost! Never take for granted what God has blessed us with as you celebrate Christmas this year!
- Pastor James, Associate Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Matthew 28: 18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
- The Components of the Mission
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." - The Command of the Mission
Luke 24: 48-49 "And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." – The Capability to complete the Mission
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." – The Commission of the Mission
Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." – The Carrying out of the Mission
In each of the above verses God’s Word outlines for us what has been labeled by some as the Great Commission. In each of the Gospel accounts given to us, including the book of Acts, the mission is laid out. Each of these verses present the mission but vary in the details given. The first verse listed is Matthew 28:18-20 and speaks to the components of the mission.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The components spoken of here suggest a multifaceted mission. Jesus speaking to the Apostles first presents His authority in giving the mission. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Because of the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ he states that we are to “Go.” This dictates to you and I an action on our behalf. What are we to go and do? First, we are to “teach all nations.” The message we are to teach is none other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The context for this Gospel message is the individual and their need for salvation that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Next the Bible declares those who accept this Gospel message and our saved by God’s grace are to be baptized. As this verse declares, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:” The proper order according to this verse is salvation followed by believer’s baptism. The semi-colon here suggests a connection to the third part of this continuing mission which is “Teaching them to observe whatsoever things I commanded you:” This third part of the commission includes discipleship and church membership. Teaching is done through the local New Testament church. The equipping work is accomplished for this continuing mission in part by those who are spiritually gifted to teach and preach God’s Word according to Ephesians chapter 4. These are the components of the mission. Secondly, we have Mark chapter 16, the command of the mission.
Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This command is universal in audience as indicated by the personal pronoun “ye” which is plural. Not only is this command universal for every Christian but it is also universal in scope. The Gospel message is to be proclaimed by all Christians to all of the world. Thus, the Lord includes “preach the gospel to every creature.” There are no exclusive rights to the Gospel message. It is a message that applies to all men, regardless of nationality or ethnic background. It applies to all geography, wherever man lives the message is to be brought to him. We are to bring this message by going and delivering the message. Thus, it is said in Romans chapter 10 and verse 14 “…how shall they hear without a preacher?” As we move on down the list of verses we come to Luke chapter 24 were the Lord gives us the capability to complete the mission.
Luke 24: 48-49 “And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
In Matthew 19: 16-29 the Lord encounters a rich young ruler who exclaims, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Sadly, this young man in mistaken that heaven can be obtained through works. At the end of this narrative Jesus gives the assessment, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This statement shocks the disciples as they perhaps reexamine this young man’s status in life in their minds. Here was a man that was successful in the world. Here was a man that was successful in religious matters, but yet the Lord had uttered these words, “how hardly…” Jesus’ disciples exclaim the impossibility of salvation: “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” To which Jesus replies,“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” What a wonderful truth; the possible impossibility! Left to our own devices salvation is impossible, but through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace men can be saved. The same statement could be made for you and I concerning the monumental task of world evangelism, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” The possibility of completing this task does not lie in what man can do, but rather what God can do. And so, in Luke 24, our Lord and Savior gives us the indication that power to complete the mission will be sent from the Father, which is the Holy Ghost. As we continue examining these verses in the book of John we are given the commission of the mission.
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Our mission of world evangelism is not a mission to be completed alone, but rather is a co- mission. As the Father has sent the Son so the Son sends us. This mission is not ours but rather we become co-laborers with God. We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ and as stated in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” Our mission is not our mission at all but rather His mission that we by His grace get to take part in. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Lastly, in the book of Acts we are shown the pattern for the carrying out the mission. As it was demonstrated from the very beginning:
Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
According to Acts 2 the power of the Holy Spirit was given. Moving forward from Acts 2, the carrying out of the mission has been underway. It started in Jerusalem and moved into Judaea. From there the Gospel was carried to Samaria and through Paul’s labor went to the uttermost. But in every generation, there is a Jerusalem to be reached, a Judaea to reached, a Samaria that needs the Gospel. The Gospel is to continue on to the edge of the map, the uttermost. This is the carrying out of the mission. It starts from the local New Testament church and moves out to all nations; step by step and piece by piece. In totality the: who, what, when, where, why, and how is answered by these verses concerning the Great Commission.
- Pastor James, Associate Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Why Meet in Person?
Over the past few months, most churches have stopped meeting in person. A global pandemic, government regulations, and a desire to serve each other and society have kept us from gathering. Instead, we’ve held “services” online, met “virtually,” and used technology to connect.
Many churches are now resuming our meetings, or will soon. But these new services feel strange. Our sensitivities are heightened, our differences are on display, and we have to endure restrictions and protocols that are awkward, inconvenient, and frustrating. Then, no matter how safe we make it, some of our church family still can’t come.
With all this in mind, some believers may feel tempted not to come at all. If our restored gatherings are so different and restricted, our online options so available and convenient, and our physical presence a genuine vulnerability, why should we even meet in person?
This is a valid question. But before we make our decisions, we need to reflect on the importance of our gatherings so that our desire to meet grows instead of atrophying.
So unless you’re someone who needs to stay home for health reasons, here are ten reasons to come back to church.
1. We’re Embodied Creatures
God made Adam from earth’s soil, Eve from Adam’s side, and humanity from their union (Gen. 1:26–27; 2:18–25; 3:20). We’re embodied souls, male and female, in his image. We’re not ethereal beings made to float in virtual space. We’re not just pixels and screennames, headshots on Zoom and Facetime. We’re human beings. We’re designed to see and hear and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God’s made. In recent months, we’ve seen the power of our online world. But we’ve also felt its limitations. No loving couple gladly accepts a “long-distance relationship” as ideal. Neither should a loving church family.
2. The Church Is One Body
The Bible consistently teaches that the church is Christ’s body on earth (Eph. 1:22–23). Each believer is a different body part, but we’re intricately knitted together (Eph. 4:15–16). We’re not independent but interdependent. Our spiritual gifts are like eyes and ears and hands and feet that each play their part in the body’s growth and mission. Yes, even at a distance, we’re still Christ’s body. But like any healthy body, we shouldn’t want to stay dislocated.
3. The Spirit Is Drawing Us
Not only are believers one body; we also have one Spirit (Eph. 4:4). The Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—inhabits God’s church, and he’s always drawing us toward unity. God’s Spirit can’t be divided, so when believers are separated involuntarily, we feel the tension—like a rubber band stretched too far. The Spirit within us yearns for us to be together, like that same rubber band pulling us back in.
4. We’re A Spiritual Family
In the church, God is our adoptive Father, so we’re all spiritual siblings—God’s “household” (1 Tim. 3:15). With our different ages and genders, Paul even calls us fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters (1 Tim. 5:1–2). But families aren’t meant to be separated. Healthy families live together, laugh together, cry together, and help each other. Parents with grown children love when the adult kids get together—and those parents are only fully satisfied when everyone’s present. We must be faithful during this season to reach out to those who can’t safely join us. But all who are able should seek to gather for our life-giving family reunions.
5. Preaching Is A Sacred Moment
Our generation is used to John Piper sermons and Beth Moore videos and Ravi Zacharias clips. Phones and screens and apps are now our default medium. In just three months, we’ve even grown used to watching our own pastors and leaders teach God’s word through WiFi and glass. In this digital environment, we must remember that preaching is fundamentally a live, sacred moment (Acts 20:20, 27). Yes, it can be streamed and recorded and posted, benefiting both virtual attendees and future hearers. But for a local family of believers, God’s word is best communicated live as the Spirit empowers an appointed preacher and trusted shepherd to articulate God’s word personally in a moment pregnant with purpose and possibility. In these moments, pastors shepherd their own sheep, and sheep hear the voice of their shepherds. In these moments, we’re struck not only by the content of the message but also the gravity of the moment. When we hear God’s word taught in a congregation, we resonate not only with our risen Lord and his royal word, but with each other. A feast enjoyed together is better than food eaten alone.
We’re human beings. We’re designed to see and hear and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God’s made.
6. There’s Nothing Like Singing Together
There’s no experience on earth like congregational singing (Ps. 95:1–2). Singing together glorifies God by re-enthroning him in the hearts of his people. Singing together brands our minds with truth and warms our hearts with grace. Singing together symbolizes our unity as we harmonize over the gospel. Singing together expresses our emotions to God (and we have lots of emotions right now). But we don’t just sing to glorify God; we also sing to encourage each other (Col. 3:16). And we can’t sing to each other through a screen. Yes, we’re vulnerable:
Congregational singing could get an American Christian infected, just like it could get a Chinese Christian arrested. But like the underground church has always done, God’s people will figure out how to praise him together, as faithfully and safely as possible. We’ll wear masks, or clean the air, or meet outside, or recite psalms, or even whisper. But ultimately, God will hear the rising praises of the Christian church, and it will be good if we’re there to express them together.
7. We Need Baptisms And Communion
Whether your church has practiced these ordinances “virtually” or not, every believer needs to see and taste these gracious symbols so that we can sense the gospel story once again. Baptism and communion remind us that God communicates to us in sensory ways. In these two ordinances, we taste and touch and see and hear the gospel, whether the splash of water in a baptismal tank [pictures the …] new believer dies and rises with Christ, or the broken bread and crushed grapes that feed us with the remembrance of his sacrifice (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:26). The way we practice these things may look different for a season, but our hearts will need them more than we know.
8. You Have A Job To Do
If you’re a believer, you have a job to do when the church gathers. The work of ministry isn’t mainly for pastors and leaders. It’s for every Christian. Every believer has spiritual gifts meant to be used, and every church body desperately needs every body part to be active (Rom. 12:4–8; Eph 4:15–16; 1 Pet. 4:10–11). When we stay home, we can still listen and give and call and text virtually. But there are many ways we simply can’t serve or encourage or build up Christ’s body unless we’re physically present.
9. Our Worship Is A Witness
Each week our friends and neighbors and coworkers walk through the same broken world we do, but without our hope and our map. Each week they suffer challenges and tragedies that make them wonder where grace and truth can be found. Yes, there are ways we can minister to them online, and we should rejoice that God’s now reaching new people with new methods. But the unbelieving world also needs to see the gospel’s transforming power embodied in a local family of Christians who love God and serve each other in the most gracious and gritty ways.
10. Greetings Change Lives
It may seem strange to end with the act of greeting—a simple activity that’s become so restricted and complicated. But all over the New Testament, the writers not only greet the churches but ask Christians to greet each other. These greetings aren’t just an afterthought tacked onto the end of their letters. These greetings symbolize the reconciling power of the gospel and foster our family dynamic. The way we greet each other—and the fact that we greet each other—is central to the church’s life and witness. Happy greetings remind us of the gospel unity we enjoy in Christ. Awkward greetings declare that the healthy church shows no partiality. Avoided greetings remind us to resolve our conflicts and reconcile our hearts. Every greeting reflects God’s love, reunites Christ’s body, enables hospitality, cultivates selflessness, opens doors for ministry, and bears witness to the God who’s welcomed us through Christ. Even if these greetings are masked, touchless, and distanced, they’re still life-shaping micro-events in every church. Just recently, our church held an outdoor worship service in our parking lot after not meeting for ten weeks. What were the happiest, most explosive moments? Our greetings. We need to see each other.
You may not be able to return right away. You might need to exercise caution for yourself or those you love. You might need to keep watching from a distance for a while. But when the time is right, God’s people can and must gather again, and I hope you’ll join in. After all, our gatherings are ultimately a taste of heaven. The Bible’s vision of heaven doesn’t look like a quarantine, a livestream, or a Zoom call. It’s a “face to face” encounter with the risen Christ and a worshipful reunion of both saints and angels (Heb. 12:22–23; Rev. 22:4). In the life to come, we won’t be siloed and segregated in mansions of glory, but living and working and loving and serving together in a new world where righteousness dwells (2 Pet .3:13). So, once we know it’s safe, wise, and no disservice to our communities, let’s gather together again—in person—until all things are new.
One thing that is so wonderful about God’s word is the fact that, regardless of whatever the era, generation, culture or government system, the Word of God is never out of date, never out of touch and never ‘at a loss’ for an answer. The truths contained in scripture are timeless and eternal, and will always be found relevant, appropriate and valid in any age. For the Word of God tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”. James 1:17
For our Saturday Morning Bus Ministry/Sunday School prayer time, we will look at how the acts of an Old Testament king speak to our situation today. The King’s name was Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, whose legacy was pretty much wrapped up in the label that God would later give him; “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin”. The Lord makes this reference to him fourteen times. So, safe to say he was a pretty bad King.
In the book of 1Kings, after a series of events that followed the death of King Solomon, the kingdom would become split, and Jeroboam, who was a servant of Solomon would be proclaimed King of Israel in the north, taking with him ten of the 12 tribes of Israel, and Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, would become King of Judah in the south, reigning over the remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin from the capital city of Jerusalem.
All that led up to this division can be found in the books of 1Kings 12, and 2Chronicles 10, so to limit the length of our devotion I’ll not go into much of the details except to say this …Sin was the root cause of it…as always. But rather the focus will be on what would be the ultimate goal of that division.
1. The ‘new normal’
Jeroboam, as the king of Israel, new that his success as king would depend heavily upon this; that the ten tribes under his control maintain their identity as God’s people. But Jeroboam would re-establish that relationship on new terms..his and not God’s. He knew that he had to do something to keep them from going to Jerusalem to worship…as they should have. This he couldn’t allow, knowing it would cost him the kingdom; “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah” 1Kings 12-26,27
Understanding that their desire to worship would draw them back to Jerusalem and back to the truth, he had to give them some kind of an ‘alternative’. So, what does he do? He does what is the unthinkable and turns the people to idols. He sets up two images of golden calves, one in Dan and the other in Bethel. He then appoints Priests at his leisure, not from the tribe of Levi, as God had ordained in Num 1:47-53, but from among the common people. He continues the imitation game by establishing Temples (high places) as new centers of worship. All of this because he knew that if they went “up” to Jerusalem to worship, that the truth would win, they would return to the house of David (King Rehoboam) and ultimately return to serve God as God would have it. It seems that King Jeroboam may have been the first to coin the popular phrase, “new normal” And sadly we don’t have to look too far to see the same thing happening in our world today, especially in this hour.
2. Idols are never idle
Jeroboam’s idols represented much more than a just a corrupted alternative to worship, they stood, by design, as spiritual roadblocks to the children of Israel; intending to keep God’s people from true worship and the truth of God’s Word. We can see the same “imitation game” being played out today, not only to keep the lost in darkness, but to keep God’s people from dwelling and abiding in the truth. Would the Devil move to capitalize somehow on our current state of separation from the norms of congregational worship? I think yes, and his own declaration in Isaiah 14 would sustain the accusation; “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north”. To imitate God is the Devil’s nature and this is a game that He understands very well. Satan has made the imitation game to be his primary precept and practice ever since the day of his creation; “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High”, Isa 14:4. But Praise the Lord, verse 15 comes after 14, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit”.
That’s right, he is defeated!
3. Our God has a desire
There are great lessons we can learn from this passage and the acts of Jeroboam, but the greater of them is this: That the truth of God will always prevail. In 1kings 13:1 God sends a prophet to rebuke Jeroboam and remind him that his imitation game was known of God and that a King out of the house of David would later burn the bones of his prophets upon his altar. This “man of God”, sent by God, came to declare the truth of God, by the Word of God, “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel”. And there he “cried against the altar in the word of the LORD”.
Although this prophet would later err, his willingness to rebuke the evil of his day is what I would like to be our focus. Isn’t this what we need today, the man of God to declare the truth of God’s word and the boldness to do it. We know well that our God is an omniscient God, that our God is omnipresent and omnipotent, and we know that He needs nothing. God certainly has a desire and design though for the “Man of God”.
Does the Lord have a design and desire for His children?” Yes, He does…He desires that the Preacher would preach the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. He desires His people to raise up holy hands in prayer, rather than to corruptible idols. He desires for a Sunday School Teacher to share and teach Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen again. He desires for Bus Captains to go out into the highways and hedges and bring them in that they may come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yes, He desires much for you and I!
He desires a nursery worker to whisper hymns in the ears of those little ones, He desires today, more than ever, that men and women will take the time to love and teach Teens and Juniors. Beloved, have our young people ever needed God more than right now? Suicide, drug use, anxiety, godlessness, hopelessness; only look around…has it ever been this dire? God desires that His people would step up to accomplish these wonderful works.
4. The High Places of Jeroboam
The Covid Virus pandemic has taken the lives of so many, and with it has come a pandemic of fear and unrest. But it also brought out a lot of good from the citizens of this great country; health care workers, first responders and retail workers have really put it on the line for all of us. But the actions of some has not been to heal and lift us up, but to tear down and promote chaos. However, we know who and what it is that we wrestle against, Eph 6:12.
5. What will it take?
Ultimately we understand this, that the focus of the evil of this world is trained on Jesus Christ and Him alone, for the world hated Him long before it hated us; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you”, John 15:18.
What did it take to set Jeroboam back on his heels? It was God’s man crying against those works with the “Word of the Lord”. The Word of God, that is the weapon of warfare, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” Heb 4:12a.
And what will it take for us to set the evil of this day back on its heels? The same thing; Men and Women of God, crying against it with the “Word of the Lord”, for we do not depend on the arm of flesh but on God, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”, 2Corith 10:4
The sum of the matter is this: That God is in control and none of this has taken Him by surprise. Even in the days of Jeroboam and the division of the kingdom, God never once had his hand off the wheel. He raised up a voice then, and He will do it again today. And when the devil lifts up his hand and points his finger at those who declare the truth of God’s word, the Lord will cause it to dry up, just as he did with Jeroboam’s in 1Kings 13:4.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” Isaiah 6:8
Is He asking you to be that voice?
- Spencer Close, Bus Ministry Director, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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