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The Village of Watkins Glen is widely known as a destination point for visitors to the Finger Lakes region who wish to see our local state park, the beautiful southern point of Senecal Lake, our local shops and of course, catch a NASCAR race. If you happen to be in town visiting, or you live in the area and are looking for a small, Bible-based church, please stop by.

We are located at 213 5th Street, across from Lafayette Park. Our service starts at 9:30 a.m.

Weapons of our Warfare, Part 3

Jeff Miller

Weapons of our Warfare Part 4

5/13/18

Intro: If you have your Bibles, please open to Ephesians 6. You were probably expecting me to say that, weren’t you? We’re continuing on our series “Weapons of our Warfare.” 

Scripture: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Central Truth: In this series, we’ve talked about how our armor needs to be fastened together, held tightly with the belt of truth because all of these pieces need to be fitted together with truth from God, truth about God, truth about who we are in Christ, rooted in the Word of God. Then we talked about righteousness, and how that is something that is covering over us, protecting us like a breastplate. Righteousness is often misconstrued as a verb. It’s not something that we do, like fight with it or run with it on, it’s something that we are and have to put on. And therefore, it’s not something done out of our own strength.

Last time, I talked about being fitted with tightly-laced, cleated sandals for our journey readied by the Word of God and being shielded with faith that comes from our trust in God and that trust is written for us in the Word of God.

This week, I’ll be talking about the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Notice a pattern? The Word of God is all over this armor. Being ready, willing and able to fight is going to be dependent on our knowledge and use of scripture.

Point 1: So let’s start by examining the helmet of salvation. We’ve talked about how these pieces of armor were probably borrowed from Roman gear, but Paul borrowed this phrase from Isaiah 59, along with the ‘breastplate of righteousness.’ As Paul was referring to us wearing this armor, Isaiah was picturing God wearing armor. Verse 17 says:

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

    and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

    and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

He prefaces this in verse one with one of my favorite verses: 1“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.”

Isaiah was telling Israel that God can redeem them. The same principle is true today for any sinner who will turn to Him. The Helmet of Salvation is free and available and offered at any time to any one who wants it.

Paul also used this reference when writing to the Thessalonians. Chapter 5, verses 8-9, Paul said: 8 But since we belong to the day (which is a reference to light), let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m not going to get into speculating why Paul changed the breastplate in these verses to faith and love, the point is that like the breastplate, the helmet protects a very vital organ. Either the head or the heart is the main target of the enemy. If we have the breastplate of righteousness, it’s no good if we don’t have a helmet. Nothing is. No part of the armor will do us any good if we don’t have a helmet to go with it. The enemy will go straight for the head. That means Paul referred to the helmet as our salvation because it is our most vital protective covering.

Think about this, what good is it for us to even be on the battlefield to begin with, if we don’t have a helmet? Have you ever watched the Avengers movies, especially the last one? There’s this great big battle scene where everyone gathered on a battlefield and practically no one wears a helmet. But in real life, no one is going to let a soldier out on the battlefield without a helmet. 

Spiritually speaking, though, it happens. We’ve seen people who seem to have no real sense of salvation who not only go to church, but even get involved in ministry. In some instances, they actually become pastors. Now, I don’t mean to be judgmental when I say that. Because, there are—believe it or not—some pastors who either end up atheists and leave the church, or actually are practicing atheists and stay in the pulpit. ABC News did a segment on that in 2010, and CNN did a segment on that in 2015. There is even an internet atheist pastor support group called The Clergy Project.

Atheist pastors preach a mix of religious and secular humanism by twisting scripture to make it fit their own personal feelings and our current postmodern philosophical cultural beliefs, and throw out the rest. Some of them claim to be atheists because, believe it or not, their personal study of The Bible. They have had an inability to reconcile troubling passages in their own intellect.

I talked a few weeks ago about a pastor on Tik Tok who misinterpreted the story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well. He said that the woman confronted Jesus’ bigotry, stood up to his oppression, and Jesus finally repented of it. Now, I don’t know if that pastor is an atheist or not, but that’s a good example of what an atheist pastor would say.

For him and atheist pastors, Christianity isn’t about the gospel of salvation, it’s all about being better people. It might be about a form of repentance––but it is salvation that is the true premise of the entire Bible. The rise, fall and redemption of humanity through the first, and eventually, the second coming of Christ.

Psalm 103, starting with verse 8, says this:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

    slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

    nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

    or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

    he remembers that we are dust.

So where was I going with talking about atheist pastors? 

2 Corinthians 10: 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These are the kind of thoughts against salvation that Satan will come at us with. Thoughts that we need to protect with our helmet. These worldly thoughts such as being good enough, or not needing salvation at all, can be convincing if we do not have the helmet of salvation on our heads. In an earlier chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul said: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

I remember when I was a student at Elmira College, and I was in a humanities class which combined art, history, literature, philosophy, psychology and a little bit of science and religion all into one course. There was plenty of emphasis on thoughts like, “God is Dead” and “God is a myth.” Maybe you’ve seen the movie, “God’s Not Dead” or heard the song on the radio. Caleb wears the T-shirt here at church quite often.

The ideas and philosophies and arguments as to why God is a myth is not dumb and unintelligent. It’s a very persuasive argument and might have convinced me. But why didn’t it? Because I had salvation and redemption and the living presence of The Holy Spirit, and had heard the many testimonies of others.

Gotquestions.org said Any idea, opinion, or worldview that asserts that Christ is unnecessary is reflective of the devil’s pride. Such thoughts must be taken captive and made obedient to Christ. Those who know the truth must confront error with the weapon we’ve been given, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

And that leads us to our next point: The Sword of the Spirit

Point 2: When giving his armor comparisons to the spiritual realm, Paul gives us our shoes to lace up and get ready with; our protective covering like the breastplate and shield and our helmet. Now we get to the good stuff. The part we’ve been waiting for. The sword! My Bible has a picture of a sword on the front, and on the back it says, “Life is a battle, here’s your sword.” But wait a minute…It’s kind of flimsy for a sword.

(Hold up Bible. Wiggle it around. Turn to random Old Testament page and read a few paragraphs)

And it kind of puts you to sleep doesn’t it? So why does Paul refer to The Word of God—a soft, light, flimsy paper and ink with long, irrelevant historical stuff as the exciting, swashbuckling, adventurous, dangerous part of our armor? Well…

Hebrews states in Chapter 4 : 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

Like I said earlier, God is not dead. And one indication of that is His Living Word. The Word of God is not like anything else. It is alive and active. The NIV Application Commentary states that the Word of God “is not static and passive but dynamic, interactive, and transforming as it interfaces with the people of God.”

I know. It’s hard sometimes to open up the Word of God, isn’t it? Like I said, it seems so huge and cumbersome. I mean, at least in Paul’s day, they were individual scrolls, not a big heavy book. And some passages, like the one I just read—even some books entirely—put you to sleep, and you wonder, why am I reading this? What’s the point to Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy?

But even when reading through big, bulky books of the Bible like Deuteronomy, you can feel the Spirit of God flow through. That’s the book Jesus used to combat the Devil—we’ll get to that more in a minute. But there are a couple of things I’d like to say first.

Like a sword, The Bible penetrates our soul. Maybe you don’t get anything out of The Book of Numbers. I’m okay with that. It definitely has its place. It is absolutely necessary in the grand scheme of things. But I understand, the Book of Numbers is not usually what you would want to use for daily devotions. Even so, it’s still refreshing.

But not only can the Word of God be refreshing, it can also be piercing. As stated in Hebrews, “it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

And depending on our attitude towards scripture, we can accept or reject it’s piercing. And when we use scripture with others, they have the choice to accept or reject it’s piercing.

Like I said earlier, there are those who cannot reconcile troubling scriptures about judgement and wrath; or about little insignificant differences from one book to another. It drives them absolutely crazy to not have everything all figured out with their own minds. Whatever they do believe, it is very common that they believe just grace. Or maybe they reject the politically incorrect passages because they’ve bought into the lie that we’ve suddenly become more enlightened and sophisticated in the 21st century. Or they’ve learned in higher education about how all religions are a myth.

But if we let it, the Word of God will pierce us with truth and grace. If we understand its intentions, guided by The Spirit, the Word of God will convict us through judgement and love.

Paul said in an earlier chapter in Ephesians, if we do this: 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

I don’t want to dwell too much on this because it’s easy to digress, but truth and grace is a strange dynamic. And I’d like to go further with this in a sermon of its own some day. But when you read the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus was the perfect balance of truth and grace. He was harsh to his critics, but shockingly merciful to others. He was blunt about hell and judgement, yet he told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

In his gospel, John said, 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Eric Mason of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pa., said this about his experiences doing ministry in the city:

When we authentically experience the Lord Jesus, we become contagious. We become more willing to spread our experience of grace with our families, friends, workplace, and in our communities.

Sadly, we as believers aren’t often known for our grace, but more broadly for our stances on certain “issues.” There is nothing wrong with standing for truth, because Jesus was full of both grace and truth (John 1:17). Truth lets people know where you stand, but grace lets people know you love them. Grace creates an environment for truth to be heard and either accepted or rejected.

Grace and truth are the key ingredients for God to be glorified and unleashing the contagious nature of the gospel.”

The sword of the Spirit is not intended to verbally vanquish every human being who is not a Christian—or even ruthlessly win a debate with people who are Christians. Just because someone disagrees with us, we cannot take the Bible and ruthlessly brandish our sword just to prove them wrong and ourselves right. I had a passenger just the other day. Someone I had never picked up before. When he came out, my first impression was, “Oh, this guy’s a native American.”

I went to fill out the paperwork––pick up address/pick up time/drop off address––then turned around to have him sign the paper, and staring right in front of me was a star in a circle on his facemask, and I recognized it instantly as a symbol of the Occult. We started talking. I didn’t say anything about his mask, just things like the weather and so on. Then he asks me if this is what I do full time. I tell him I’m also a pastor. “Oh cool,” he said. “Nice.”

Then he asked about the congregation and so on. Turns out, just because he’s following the occult doesn’t mean he’s anti-Christian. I asked him about the star and circle on his mask and that’s when he told me he was Wiccan, which is a popular form of paganism or witchcraft, though don’t tell anyone it’s witchcraft because they’ll correct you on that. But for all intents and purposes, that’s what it is. And he was telling me that his sister was shocked that he became Wiccan and he had to reassure her that he is not a devil worshipper.

Well, we know that he is unintentionally a devil worshipper. But did I say that? No. We continued talking. I asked what made him decide on becoming Wiccan and he told me his story. Turns out, he grew up Catholic, and left Catholicism to a very strict, overly legalistic church where women had to wear hairnets, men couldn’t have long hair, single women couldn’t talk to single men, there were seating arrangements in the church. And eventually he was kicked out for smoking cigarettes.

So you could imagine what would have happened if I just wielded that sword and told him he was a sinner and was unintentionally worshipping the devil. It wouldn’t have helped matters. Instead, I made a friend and built trust. So if I ever do see him again, maybe I can slide in a little bit of truth and grace.

That’s how we use the sword. In love, in mercy, and with respect. When we feel the need to share the Gospel, to simply answer a question or stand up for our beliefs, we do as Peter said, 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Though we should, like a warrior, use our sword with honor and respect toward others; the sword is a sword. So as we speak the truth in love, let it do its job. Let it pierce if it must. Let it pierce others, and let it pierce us if needed.

Point 3: But now, how do we use the sword when fighting the Devil? We go back to what I mentioned before about how Jesus used it. Like we said last week when it came to the shoes being readied with the gospel of peace. He had the Word of God memorized well enough to have it on his mind and ready right when he needed it.

Satan’s schemes against Jesus in the wilderness were real temptations. Jesus had been fasting, he was in a hot, dry climate and was very hungry when Satan tempted him to turn the rock into bread. But isn’t it interesting what Jesus said to Satan in reply? He said, “4It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Jesus knew the scriptures, and knew that the scriptures was what he needed in that moment to truly strengthen him.

When we read through the temptation of Jesus, you’ll notice that Jesus only had to say one verse each time. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it was quite so simple. I think the gospel writers abbreviated to make a long story short. Have you ever had to fight off the Devil? It’s not so simple as preachers or The Bible make it out to be.

Have you battled anger, hatred, unforgiveness, depression, anxiety? Have you been kept up at night over something that wouldn’t let you go? Have you spent years battling something maybe for yourself, or maybe for a loved one? It isn’t easy.

After doing some research, I found out how a sword was used in the Roman Empire during Paul’s day. Think about how it applies to scripture and the way Jesus used it in the wilderness:

The gladius weighed about 1kg and was slightly longer than 2 feet. The word ‘Gladiator’ (or swordsman) is derived from ‘Gladius’.

Even though the blade was sharp on both edges, the part of the gladius that was used most often was the sharp, tapered point.

The stabbing movements could be dealt swiftly, and for prolonged time periods while fighting.

Contrast that with Rome’s enemies, like the Gauls and the Germanic tribes, who relied on long and heavy swords. Their longswords had to be lifted above the heads and then brought down with tremendous force to hack into a Roman legionary. A single blow from a longsword could maim or kill a Roman. But it was impossible to sustain this lifting and hacking movement over long hours into the battles.

As a result, Rome’s enemies tired easily.

By using a gladius in battle, the Romans demonstrated that their technique and choice of short stabbing weapons proved superior to the weapons of their enemies.

Short, stabbing points. Used over and over and over again. I’ve used the word piercing earlier, and to borrow from Frank Peretti, what we’re doing is like the title of his second novel, “Piercing the Darkness.” I remember being taught memory verses in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Well, a few days after remembering those memory verses for a prize of some kind, I ended up forgetting those memory verses. I was supposed to remember those verses for a lifetime. 

Why did I forget them? Because there wasn’t an emphasis on why I was supposed to remember them. We were just told to memorize a verse for the following Sunday and we’d be given a sticker or something. Mostly, I did it because I didn’t want to look bad in front of my friends. It was a competition and really nothing more. Same thing with sword drills. Anyone ever do “sword drills” in church when they were younger?

Now as I get older and life gets tougher, I have a reason to memorize verses again. Now I know why there was an emphasis on learning where something was in the Bible and why it was important to be able to look it up so quickly.

Maybe it takes one or two verses at a time, or maybe several verses. Maybe you have to say those verses over and over and over again. But it’s the memorization, the knowledge of knowing where to look and the use of reading, speaking and believing the truth of scripture over your thoughts, feelings and situation—and sometimes you just have to address the Devil directly and out loud when you say it. That’s what combats the enemy’s attacks of lies, fear and discouragement.

And now, it’s easier than ever to Google verses on subjects, go to a site such as biblegateway.com or find books on just Bible verses related to certain topics. Keep a pocket version with you or on your nightstand to start your day off and read before you go to bed.

Charles Spurgeon wrote in a sermon back in 1891 that, “In contending against the powers of darkness, “The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.” “It is written” is his master-stroke. Words which God has spoken by holy men of old, and has caused to be recorded on the sacred page-these are the battle-axe and weapons of war of his Spirit. This Book contains the Word of God, and is the Word of God; and this it is which the Holy Ghost judges to be so effectual a weapon against evil that he uses this, and this only, as his sword in the great conflict with the powers of darkness.

Conclusion: We can pray to avoid conflict. That would be nice. I thought I could live life avoiding conflict. I thought that was kind of the point to the Christian life. But that’s like a soldier being drafted during wartime, being sent to the battle zone and expecting to not see combat. We are born into a war zone. Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble. But, He has overcome the World. The Book of Revelation tells us that rewards await those who overcome. We can’t overcome if we don’t have a sword to fight with, or a helmet on to protect us.

No matter who you are or how old you are, we all need to sharpen our swords on a regular basis. And I want to finish today by asking you, how will you sharpen your sword? Maybe you have a bit of dust on your Bible. Maybe you don’t even have a Bible. Maybe you have a hard time reading your Bible. There are a lot of Bibles out there. Take your time and look through some if you get a chance to go to a bookstore. They have plenty of different study Bibles in easy-to-read plain English. There are books and websites of just study plans and devotionals. Maybe it’s best for you to listen to the Bible. That’s perfectly fine. Maybe you need one of those books with just the verses to help you memorize or pull out of your pocket.

Whatever type of sword you need, go ahead and get it. No pressure as to what kind is better than another. Just get whatever sword you need to combat the enemy.

Or maybe it’s salvation. Do you have the helmet of salvation? Maybe you’ve thought your salvation was earned. I was talking with someone yesterday who also grew up Catholic. He talked about how the Catholic Church teaches that you go to Heaven by being good. Only there’s no standard by which to measure ourselves. So you just hope you’re good enough. Maybe if you volunteer and give money to charity, you might make it or shorten your stay in purgatory. 

But that’s not what the Bible teaches. All you need to do is accept the salvation that God is offering to you right now. Just pray and invite him to come into your heart.

Weapons of our Warfare, Part 2

Jeff Miller

04/29/18

Weapons of our Warfare Part 2:

Intro: Good morning. We’re continuing with week two of “Weapons of our Warfare,” a series that I originally did a few years ago, but thought I would revisit. 

If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Ephesians 6. Our verses talk about The Full Armor of God. And as you’re turning there, I want to tell you a little story about something that my Mom and Dad used to say to me all the time. Every single day, every single time we would go anywhere, my parents would always say, “Put your shoes on, Lucy.”

I don’t know how old I was, maybe four or five years old, when I first started asking them repeatedly, “Who’s Lucy? Why do you keep calling me Lucy?”

It was either Mom or Dad or both who answered, and probably repeatedly, “I don’t know. It’s just a saying.” Well, like a lot of things your parents say, that was never a satisfying answer.

From a young age, the only Lucy I ever knew of was Lucille Ball. So I kept asking myself, ‘why do they keep calling me Lucy Ball? I mean, I’m a boy for crying out loud. Couldn’t they call me Luke Skywalker instead?’

So when I sat down to put this sermon together, I decided to look up the phrase, “put your shoes on, Lucy” and do you know what I found? Still not enough to be satisfying.

I found out it was a song written in the late 1940s by Hank Fort, who, despite the name, was actually a female whose real name was Eleanor Hankins. The song was the first hit for Petula Clark and was covered by other artists that time has since forgotten. Other than that, there’s not much else said about it. But you can hear the 78 on Youtube if you want.

The idea of the song was to put your shoes on, because you can’t be going around barefoot in the highfalutin’ big city like you can down on the farm. Oh the days when hit songs used to be so simple and fun, right? I didn’t watch The Grammys, I gave that up a long time ago, but from what I hear it’s gotten even worse.

But today, we’re going to be talking about putting on our shoes. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Ephesians 6. We’ll read verses 10-18, and like we did last time, we’ll go back and just focus on a couple of verses.

Scripture: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Central Truth: As we take a look at just verses 15 and 16 today, it will seem that the two are not necessarily related to each other. I believe that Paul’s intention was that the whole list is connected to each other in the same way that armor is fashioned as individually, separated items that have their own function, yet when put together, is a whole piece of armor. So let’s take a closer look at how the shoes and shield are separate pieces yet in order to be fully functional, you can’t have one without the other. You need to have a firm grip on the ground and a firm grasp on your shield in order to advance. In the spirit, a firm faith and a firm readiness go hand in hand.

Point 1: I mentioned this last time, and I think that it’s worth repeating, especially now that we’re talking more specifically about our footing. Before Paul begins his list of weaponry, he encourages us three times in verses 13 and 14 to ‘stand our ground.’ Standing our ground requires us to fit our feet firmly, stop and examine our thoughts and our feelings. It is a resolution. If we give in to fear, doubt and discouragement––the weapons that Satan is attacking us with––then we’ll be paralyzed or run the other way. We won’t advance, we’ll retreat.

And speaking of which, have you ever wondered why Christians go on retreats? Have you ever thought about that? That’s another phrase I always wondered when I was a boy. Why do they call it a retreat? Why do you call it a ‘running away from the enemy? Or letting the enemy win?’ Whenever a group of people go away to a weekend Christian event, they always call it a retreat. I should say they always used to call it a retreat. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common to call them an ‘Advance’ weekend. That’s because the purpose of these events is to strengthen our faith in this manner. To advance against the enemy.

One way to advance in a spiritual battle is to be conscious of the thoughts running through our minds and rethink our thinking. This is one meaning to the phrase Paul uses in 2 Corinthians to ‘take every thought captive.’ Proverbs tells us ‘as a man thinks, so is he.’ We need to pray the scriptures and tell the Devil he’s wrong about what he’s trying to throw at us, or in other words, tell us. Remember, his native language is lies.

So now that Paul is using the illustration of shoes, let’s take a look at what it means to take a strong stance by examining the Roman soldier’s footgear. Remember, we talked about this last week, they were not using the same kind of armor as a medieval knight. The Roman soldiers wore sandals in battle. The Blue Letter Bible states that: The sandal of the Roman soldier was mainly a sole with straps that went up around his ankles and calf holding the sandal tight to his foot. These sandals also had spikes on the bottom much like a golf shoe so that you might have solid footing.

It also says that the famous historian Josephus (who was alive at that time and chronicled his surroundings) “described them as ‘shoes thickly studded with sharp nails’… so as to ensure a good grip. The military successes of both Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies’ being well shod and thus able to undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.”

The battlefield was pitted with sharp sticks that stuck out from the ground like a form of landmines. Think about how the Devil puts spiritual traps in our path. Like I said, he’ll put negative thoughts in our heads; he’ll put temptation easily in our path; there will be times when it seems everything is just working against us. We need to be equipped with strong footing tied tightly around us, and fitted with the kind of sharp tread that will keep us from slipping, and will keep us from being struck and disabled from the enemy’s trap of deceit.

Point 2: To be more specific to keeping a firm, protective footing, Paul tells us what material—what kind of spiritual material—these sandals are to be made out of. Our spiritual sandals are to be made out of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. What does this mean? It sounds good, but what does it actually mean?

First: Readiness. Paul uses this illustration because when you are putting on your shoes, what are you doing? You are getting ready for something. You are gearing up to do something, to go somewhere, to accomplish something. You generally don’t put your shoes on to relax and unwind, you generally take your shoes off to relax. When we put our shoes on, we’re readying ourselves. In the spirit, we might be readying ourselves as pastors, as prayer warriors, as Sunday School teachers, as missionaries. Sometimes, we’re just readying ourselves to get up in the morning and go out in the world as Christians. In any case, we have to ready ourselves by being fitted with the firmness of the gospel.

You may have heard the phrase, “grounded in the Word?” It’s like what Paul is saying here, we are to be grounded in the gospel.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul said:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

You’ll notice how it talks about righteousness, which is what we talked about last week, but he also talks about being equipped. Just like armor. Being ready to go.

In Colossians, Paul said:

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Again, this passage is similar to ‘taking every thought captive.’ And he talks about the spiritual forces of this world like in this set of verses. It takes being footed in the Word to do so.

And lastly, Luke said in Act that the Bereans, “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

So you see, that verse is another example of the Word and readiness going hand in hand. The shoes are our reception of the Word, whereas the sword is our use of the Word. Whether we’re receiving the Word or proclaiming the Word, we need to be ready with the Word.

Which leads me to the second part of this verse: the gospel of peace. 

David Guzik said, “The gospel provides the footing for everything we do. However powerful the rest of your body is, if you are wounded in your feet you are easy prey for the enemy.”

John Brown said, The “good news” or the gospel is the only thing that can give the Christian soldier peace and comfort in his lifelong battle!

Matthew Henry said, “It is styled the gospel of peace because it brings all sorts of peace, peace with God, with ourselves, and with one another.

So going into battle, we need to be footed with sandals that are able to grip an uneven, slippery, rocky, tough spiritual terrain laden with traps. And those sandals have to be made of a spiritual material that keeps us grounded in God’s word and at peace. Peace with God, peace with others and peace of mind within ourselves.

But even if we advance forward with tightly laced, heavily cleated sandals, we can’t advance very far without also having a shield to protect us. The pitfalls on the road are not the only traps that will come against us on our path.

Point 3: So let’s move on to verse 16: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

The King James Bible begins this verse with “above all.” That should tell you the importance of having a shield in front of you.

The Roman soldier had different types of shields. Generally there was a relatively decent-sized round shield, but the other was a four-foot-long by two-foot-wide rectangular shield that was slightly curved. If the soldier bent his knees just right, it could cover the whole body. You can guess which one Paul was referring to. He wanted us to be covered and shielded as much as possible.

According to Polybius the shield gave Roman soldiers an edge over their Carthaginian enemies during the Punic Wars:[10] “Their arms also give the men both protection and confidence owing to the size of the shield.”

Note he said protection and confidence. That’s what Paul was saying. We need a shield of faith—a shield of confidence.

Satan knows when our defenses are down. He doesn’t usually come to tempt us, or turn our minds and emotions toward defeat when we’re in church, in Bible study, in worship, in prayer or among other believers. It’s usually during or after a tough day at work. It’s usually when we’re exhausted. It’s usually when we’re alone. When we’ve been away from church for a few days, when we’ve been away from our Bibles, when we’ve set aside prayer and worship. Sometimes one little thing can trigger his fiery darts. He has a strategy. You don’t go into war without a strategy. He’s always on the offensive, and it seems we’re always on the defensive.

Our shield of faith needs to be readily in hand, anticipating an attack during these times.

But Paul takes this one step further and not only wants us to be shielded, he wants our shields to actually extinguish those flames.

It is true that Roman soldiers did have to protect themselves against projectiles, there is some discussion on the internet whether extinguishing flaming arrows would have been something that Roman shields actually had the capability of doing during that time. And for those who say yes, there is some debate as to how that was done. Some say the wood for the shields were pre-scorched, so the flames wouldn’t spread while others say the soldiers would soak their shields in water or some sort of ointment so that the flames would extinguish. Regardless, the idea is that our shields need to have some sort of protective coating, and that it is something we need to do to prepare ourselves ahead of time for battle.

So what is our protective coating? Paul said it is faith. And where does our faith come from? Like our footing, it comes from the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews famously said 11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Then he goes on the rest of the chapter giving illustration after illustration of the Old Testament saints and their faith. When you read through the Bible, everyone who was a saint lived by faith. They died by faith—even Jesus lived and died by faith in His father.

They were all victorious and successful because they had faith in God’s faithfulness.

You can’t be successful in what God has called you to if you doubt, and you can’t doubt if you have faith. Remember, Satan’s greatest tool is discouragement. You can’t be discouraged if you’re full of faith. Satan uses fear. You can’t be conquered by fear if you have faith.

And like I said, you have to have faith in God’s faithfulness. And where do we learn of God’s faithfulness? Through His Word. Through His Spirit. Through times of prayer and worship. And you don’t have to be in church on a Sunday morning to do these things. They can be done every day of the week 24/7. No matter where you are.

Conclusion: So I want to ask you, how’s your footing? How are your shoes? Have you even examined your shoes? Are they tied tightly or loosely? Are you ready to face what battle may strike you at any moment? Are you ready ahead of time for Satan’s ambush? Are you ready to plant your feet into the ground hard enough to leave a spiky imprint and create enough force and momentum to advance forward even though these fiery darts are whirling at you and hitting your shield? Is your shield ready to be hit with fiery darts?

When doubt, discouragement, fear, failure, temptation… all of Satan’s lies come your way, have you trained yourself to lift a big, heavy shield of faith to cover you? Not a small shield, not a small faith, but a large faith. Have you trained yourself like a soldier to lift up your shield of faith, extinguishing his lies against you?

As we close, I want to share with you something that I came across the other day. In fact, it was the day I was reviewing this sermon. It’s a word that puts the message in first person, so it’s as if God is speaking directly to us. So listen to this as if God is saying this directly to you personally:

“My child I have sent you to accomplish many different feats. With each one, is a different land. For the mountains, I gave you hiking boots that you may climb to the top and receive a new perspective.

In the fields, I gave you work boots to break the hard ground. In the battlefield, I gave you combat boots to send the enemy to flight, and in the storms I gave you rain boots to weather your circumstances.

I’ve always prepared you for the road you are to walk and now it is time that I do a new thing. It is time to receive new shoes that will help you walk this road. So, do not be dismayed by the sudden discomfort you are feeling underneath your feet. I am equipping you with a new experience and adding onto you.

For these shoes are a perfect fit and though you feel insecure at times, I am still right here beside you. I will give you the wisdom to walk in them, and to break them in. I will give you the strength to walk in them and when you take them off, I am here to comfort you.

The road is straight, but the doors have opened up before you, so put your new shoes on and pick up your tools, for I have set you before My bride. So go my child, take what you have learned and step out in the splendor I have made you to be. My bride awaits, introductions are in order and I have much to tell her,” says the Lord.

Let’s pray:

Weapons of our Warfare, Part 1

Jeff Miller

Sermon: Weapons of our Warfare Part 2: Truth and Righteousness

3/15/21

Intro: Good morning. Last week we finished off a three-part series on Titus. And due to COVID, the three-week series took about six weeks. But we finished it. And today, I would like to start a new series called, “The Weapons of our Warfare.”

This is actually a series that I’ve done before about three years ago. And for the past three or four months I keep reading on blogs and Facebook groups and pages I follow the importance of the times in which we live to remember that life is a battle, and that God has given us weapons and armor to use in our spiritual battles. And as I have been trying to be keen on preaching on how our lives are to be grounded in our chaotic world, I think that reviewing the weapons of our warfare might be good to do for the next few weeks. 

So I’ll be preaching until the end of March, then I’ve asked Dad to preach Easter Sunday, which is the first Sunday in April. If you haven’t heard, the last Sunday in April will be my ordination service. Details are still being made, but I’ll let you know as they progress. 

If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Ephesians 6. We’ll read verses 13-18, and then we’ll go back and focus on just verses 13 and 14 for today. As you’re turning there, I’d like to begin with a story that reminds me of our trip out west a few years ago. 

We saw a lot of large wild animals, and gained a new appreciation for the majesty of buffalo and elk. We actually got to see antelope, and I remember there was a mountain goat on the backside of Mt. Rushmore. I also gained a new appreciation for Teddy Roosevelt, who was instrumental in creating the parks that we saw. In fact, we went to a park named after him in North Dakota. If you remember your history, he also began a political party called The Bull Moose Party. If the buffalo and elk are any indication, a bull moose must be quite an impressive animal to see in person.

Craig Larson said this about the Alaska Bull Moose

The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon are broken. That ensures defeat. The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk.

There is a lesson here for us. Spiritual battles await. Satan will choose a season to attack. Will we be victorious, or will we fall? Much depends on what we do now—before the wars begin. The bull-moose principle: Enduring faith, strength, and wisdom for trials are best developed before they’re needed.

That leads us into our sermon and our scripture for today: Eph. 6:13-18

Scripture: 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Kevin Miller, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, Illinois said:

Sadly, there are a lot of Christians who wish Paul had written the following words instead:

“Lay back and relax, then, with the belt of evasion buckled loosely around your waist, with the breastplate of defensiveness in place, and with your feet fitted with the pluralism that offends no one. In addition to all this, take up the shield of grudges, with which you can hold on tightly to hurts and slights. Take the helmet of entitlement and the bludgeon of the flesh, which is the word of anger. And air what’s been done to you on all occasions, with all kinds of criticisms and complaints.”

Central Truth: The weapons of our warfare are rather unusual things. Things like our attitudes, our ways of thinking, our ways of giving ourselves a different spiritual/mental posture. It’s memorizing scripture and believing and declaring God’s promises over our lives. It’s a way of living, it’s the way we act out our faith. We become stronger by being in the presence of God and God’s people, by believing God will work a miracle in us. But we may have to walk through certain things in life that actually make us battle worn and weary. The Psalmist doesn’t say we avoid the valley of the shadow of death, we still have to walk through it. There was a meme on Facebook I came across that said: “God doesn’t give the hardest battles to his toughest soldiers, He creates the toughest soldiers through the hardest battles.” We have a spiritual enemy to engage with, and just like in the natural world, engaging in battle is not easy.

The Kevin Miller illustration shows us that it’s often counterintuitive to our human nature, especially when we have to deal with sin and temptation, which is not only tolerated but encouraged in the postmodern society in which we now live. But if you’ve ever seen a medieval or fantasy movie like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, we can envision a medieval blacksmith fashioning armaments for knights. Our armaments are not forged by a blacksmith, but are forged by The Holy Spirit. And we need to remember that we cannot engage with the enemy without the mighty power of The Holy Spirit on our side.

Point 1: Before we take a look at the individual pieces of armor, we need to remind ourselves that Paul tells us to put on the full armor. This is a very intentional phrase. He doesn’t just say put on the armor of God. He says the full armor of God. Why?

Well, we wouldn’t be very effective with only a portion. This is why we’re taking our time and examining this as a series.

Think about how effective a soldier would have been without his full armor. Now, at the time Paul wrote this, a soldier did not have full body armor like they eventually did in the medieval era. As weapons developed, so did their need for more extensive armor. So think about it this way, how effective would a medieval knight have been if he only had the armor of a First Century Roman soldier? This is one of those times when I wish we had a powerpoint here so I could show you the differences between the two.

A Roman soldier only had those elements described in this passage to his uniform. Parts of his arms were exposed. The top half of his legs were exposed. His face was exposed. And his sword was rather tiny. It was about the size of a machete.

As time went on, heavier metals and heavy leather was added. Chainmail was invented––you know, the tiny pieces of metal strung together in little circles to form a coat of chains that slipped around the head and down to the waist. Eventually, they had chainmail for the legs and feet, too. The helmets had a piece that extended down over the nose. Then, later on, a medieval soldier was almost ridiculously covered in armor with just one or two little slits for the eyes. The swords and shields got heavier. I don’t know how they were able to even move. Other types of heavier weapons were used like mallets and axes. Even the horse was covered in armor.

Why all this? Because the armor matched the advancements in weapons.

What I’m trying to say is that our armor needs to be fashioned with the kind of defensive material that will shield from the Devil, and the weapons strong enough to strike the Devil. He is strong, remember. He’s been at this a lot longer than we have. He knows our weaknesses before we do. And he knows the consequences of giving into those weaknesses before we do.

That’s how addiction happens. “It’ll never happen to me.” And then Satan folds his arms and says, “Oh yeah, watch.”

And I believe that as time goes on in our spiritual lives, and as we mature in our faith, those weapons of his will only get stronger. He’ll pull out the heavy duty stuff. So we need to be training ourselves to get stronger spiritually to combat what Satan throws at us.

That’s why it is so important that we familiarize ourselves with our enemy’s tactics and know what sort of weapons he has—doubt, discouragement, fear, anger, temptation and others.

We need to learn how to combat those with the opposite. We need to seek God and His Word to fill our mind with truth, encouragement, courage, peace and righteousness. And we need to train ourselves to use those as weapons.

Paul uses the phrase “Stand” or “to stand” three times in vs. 13 and 14. He wants to emphasize that it takes effort. It’s going to be tempting to fall. And without this armor, it’s going to be easy to fall.

But Paul wouldn’t have put this set of verses in his letter, if he knew we couldn’t win. I’ve heard it said just recently, “there is no defeatism in God.” That means, there is no resignation, God does not surrender.

In the Old Testament, God said many times to his people “do not fear,” or “do not be afraid.” In the Psalms, we can read how David found his faith and bravery in the Lord. You know the quote from Jeremiah 1:9 “9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” That’s something that I constantly need reminding.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Point 2: So what does it look like to engage with a spiritual enemy? Paul begins with, standing firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.

In a spiritual attack, we need to know the truth about God. We need to know the truth about ourselves. We need to know what God has to say in the matter. Not what our fears might be telling us, or what anyone else might have said in our past from the time we were little to our present to negatively influence us. What does God have to say? God’s word is Truth and it is always encouraging.

Here is something I had personally spoken over me:

  • Fear tolerated is faith contaminated.
  • Doubt your doubts, believe your beliefs and faith fights fear

Well known Christian author and speaker Francis Chan said: Satan’s target is your mind, and his weapon is lies.

Jesus said in John 8 that there is no truth in Satan. “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Adrian Rogers said :

Satan is a clever liar because his lies sound so much like the truth. He wants to change your thought processes in order to deceive you and destroy you. He is not only the father of lies, but he lies about the biggest subject—God. 

If Satan can get you thinking wrong about God—if he can deceive you into thinking God is something He isn’t—he has you in everything else. He becomes the master of your life when you allow his deceptions to infiltrate your thoughts. 

Did you know that over the course of the past 6,000 or so years since the Garden of Eden, Satan’s lies have been pretty much been the same? When he tempted Adam and Eve—and by the way he tempted both of them, not just Eve—he used this phrase: “Did God really say…?”

Not much has changed. He still uses that phrase today. He wants us to doubt God. He wants us to question God, he wants us to question the Bible. That’s his biggest lie, twisting our sense of knowing or understanding God’s truth based on what our culture tells us or what we emotionally feel over the truth of The Bible. 

There’s a video going around social media now from a pastor named Reverend Brandon Robertson who said something quite untruthful. He said that Jesus was a racist because he called the woman at the well a ‘dog.’ And that she stood up to his oppression by saying that even dogs eat crumbs from the table. The pastor said that she had “boldness and bravery to speak truth to power” and that it changed Jesus’ mind and he repented of his racism. 

Can you believe that? The pastor said that it reminds us that Jesus was human and flawed. In other words, Jesus sinned. 

This is a perfect example of the truth of the World infiltrating the Church. This is an example of how our current culture of racism and standing up to oppression and speaking truth to power in our own culture is infiltrating how some people read and interpret the Bible and Jesus’ own deity. If Jesus was sinful, then what did the cross represent to this pastor?

See, Satan’s lies are the same. Does the Bible really say…? Does the Bible really mean what it says about Jesus being without sin?  

But Paul intentionally compares truth to a soldier’s belt. Why? That’s because the whole armor is held together by the belt. The sheath of the sword is strapped to the belt.

A website called freebiblestudyguides.org. said: The belt used in Roman armor…provided a place for the soldier’s sword. Our sword—the sword of the Spirit—likewise needs a sheath. Truth is vital because, like a Roman soldier’s belt, it allows us to carry the sword of the Spirit and use it effectively.

Truth is what holds our weapons, all of our protective covering, all of our system of belief—everything together. Without truth, we can’t fight very well in the Spirit. We don’t have protective covering. We don’t have anything to hold our sword, which is the word of God. Like that illustration of the pastor who fell for a lie, truth and God’s word go hand in hand. 

Point 3: Paul goes on next to tell us to stand, “with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” I want you to think about this for a moment: Righteousness is a promise. We can’t be righteous on our own. It is a promise from God and it is a part of our armor that we have to have secured by the belt of truth. We do not have the capability by our own works or our own nature to have God’s righteousness or accomplish God’s standard of righteousness. 

Therefore, we must put on the righteousness of God, because if we attempt to put on our own righteousness, we will fail quickly. Like I said earlier, at one time, soldiers used heavy leather for protection. Going into battle in our own righteousness is like that. Imagine going into battle with leather as your breastplate. You might last for a little while, but not long.

We might be fairly decent moral people, but we are not righteous enough to go into battle and expect to stand our ground. As a side note, we also need to be aware of legalism, which is a false sense of righteousness that we are quite often unaware that we may have. It’s as useless as the leather breastplate.

What is legalism? It’s self-righteousness. It’s thinking we are righteous by our own good deeds based on compliance to strict man-made religious rules and regulations. Ultimately, legalism is a fear of man and seeking the approval of man over the fear and approval of God. It prevents us from growing in Christ, and diverts our attention away from a true, sincere, healthy relationship with God and man.

Another thing that legalism does is it creates pride in us because instead of looking at our own sin and humbly come to Christ to help us repent, we’re looking at others’ sins and we think we’re just fine. It’s like when Jesus said “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” 

Remember Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

If we are wearing our own self-righteousness based on believing we’re good people or based on legalism, and have not put on His righteousness that He gives us through The Holy Spirit, then Satan sees that we are exposed with a leather breastplate and he will attack with temptation. And being attacked with temptation when we’re wearing a leather breastplate and think it’s fine, we’ll go down hard. 

Do you see how legalism leads to hypocrisy? Jesus combated the dynamic of the two all the time. And I’m sure you’ve heard people say something like, “I don’t go to church because of all the hypocrites.” 

It reminds me of the story in Luke 18 that Jesus told about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray,one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

And it’s not just the religious who are filled with self-righteousness. How many of you have heard someone who isn’t a Christian say something like, “I don’t need God. I don’t need to go to church. I’m a good person.” And then they compare themselves to someone like Hitler or a serial killer. How many people have you met that are like Hitler or a serial killer?

Everyone’s nature is sinful. Just like we cannot control what family we were born into, or what race or gender we were born with. We did not ask to be born with a sinful nature. We cannot control temptation or our sinful desires, but we can decide what to do with that desire.

Satan tries to go straight to the heart with sin. But if we have God’s righteousness as our breastplate, temptation might ding our armor, but it won’t strike us down.

Paul said to the Roman church: 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John Brown said, Satan’s swords, and darts, and arrows, cannot penetrate the righteousness of Christ.

Gotquestions.org said we put on God’s righteousness:

by seeking God and His righteousness above everything else (Matthew 6:33). We make Him and His ways our dwelling place (Psalm 91:1). We delight in His commands and desire for His ways to become our ways (Psalm 37:4; 119:24, 111; Isaiah 61:10). When God reveals an area of change to us, we obey and allow Him to work in us. At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through (Ephesians 6:16).

As we wear Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, we begin to develop a purity of heart that translates into actions. Wearing this breastplate creates a lifestyle of putting into practice what we believe in our hearts. As our lives become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), our choices become more righteous, and these godly choices also protect us from further temptation and deception (Proverbs 8:20; Psalm 23:3).

As we take practical defensive measures against the enemy, Satan’s strongholds become weaker and we get to see God step in and work.

freebiblestudyguides.org, said this about righteousness:

Once we have put on the breastplate of righteousness, we must be sure not to remove it. Ezekiel 33:13 shows that wearing righteousness is not a one-time event; rather, it requires a lifetime of action.

One day, the war we’re fighting will be over. And when it is, we are promised, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever” (Isaiah 32:17). By faithfully living God’s way and staying clear of Satan’s, we will find this peace, quietness and assurance—forever.

Conclusion:

I want to challenge you today, what is an area of truth where you struggle?

  • Is it belief in God’s faithfulness?
  • Is it belief in God’s love?
  • Is it belief in God’s provision?
  • Is it belief in God’s forgiveness?

Do you have an area of righteousness where you need to ask God to cover you or where you need to step in and make a decision?

  • Is there an issue of sin or temptation that you’re struggling with?
  • Have you been trying so hard on your own and need more than your breastplate of leather? 
  • Do you need help from a friend, and do you need power from The Holy Spirit?
  • Do you struggle with self-righteousness, judgmentalism or legalism?

If you are a member of God’s kingdom, then you have been knighted with this armor. These are pieces of armor in which we already have and are wearing, yet all have kinks in our armor. Our belt needs tightening. So I want to challenge you, just like an army, you can’t fight your battles alone. In the movies, you see that done but in real life, it doesn’t work that way. Find a prayer partner, an accountability partner to go with you into your battles. Someone who can be at your side to fight along with you.

Titus and Today: Part 3 (with communion)

Jeff Miller

Titus 3:3-8

3/7/21

Intro: Good morning. It’s been a while. As you know, I’ve been battling COVID. And for the most part it wasn’t too bad. Thank you for your prayers and concerns. It’s nice to be in a loving church like this. 

For the most part, it wasn’t much different than a regular sinus infection but it wiped me out more and it lasted longer. For Evelyn, she said she felt like she had strep throat. So, it seems to have acted differently between the two of us.

But I’m glad to be back here with you today. Thank you to dad for filling in for me.

We’re going to go back to our Titus series, and finish it off by looking at Chapter 3. So if you have your Bibles, you can turn there. We’ll be reading verses 3-8.

As you’re turning there, I’ll give you a little refresher since it’s been about a month since we were here last. Titus Chapter 1 starts on a hard note. Basically, what Paul instructed Titus was to not let the wicked culture around him infiltrate his church, and even correct those who are wrong, not to be mean or argumentative, but to sway them towards the truth. In fact, we looked at Chapter 3 a little bit––the portion after today’s set of verses––which says,9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”

In other words, Paul says to put a limit on how often you have to correct someone. If they don’t listen, if they’re set in their ways and they just want to argue, then you’re wasting your time and energy. You’re better off to just avoid them. Love them, but avoid them if you can.

Then, in Chapter 2, we segued from rebuking false teaching to making sure we stay grounded in sound teaching. Making sure to teach sound doctrine, and to make sure we read and listen to sound doctrine. To be able to know what’s true when we hear it, and to be able to know what’s false when we hear it.

And it isn’t just our teaching that’s important, but also how we are to live. We are to live apart from The World and as people of God––heart, soul, mind and deed.

Scripture: So let’s go to our scripture this morning and read what Paul has to say to Titus in this chapter.

Titus 3:3-8

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Central Truth: 

So, Paul is stressing to Titus again on how to live. To remember the way in which we used to live, controlled by sin. And to remember, as we will later today during communion, that we live differently now because God saved us. God saved us from our slavery to sin. And He didn’t do it because we deserved it or were good people and so he gave us a boost to become better, but he did it because of His love and grace. 

And because God suffered greatly to give us eternal life to become heirs of His kingdom and His righteousness, we must not take that for granted. We must devote ourselves to God and by doing that, there’s a cost to us. Salvation is free, Jesus paid the cost for that, but following Christ comes at a cost. As Jesus said, we must die to ourselves daily and take up our own cross and live for Him, no longer for ourselves. For we are His, not our own.

Point 1: If we go back to verse 3, you’ll notice that Paul uses the word, ‘we.’ Paul was the greatest of apostles, and the most inspired writer of the New Testament. He wrote 13 of the 27 books of what became The New Testament. Yet, Paul is not placing himself exempt. He knows full well of what kind of sinner he was and the redemption that happened because of the love and grace of God.

Paul knows and understands how he lived before Christ came into His life.

We sing the Hymn, “Since Jesus Came Into My Life.” And there are plenty of songs written just within my lifetime that speak of the testimony of how Jesus changed that songwriter’s life. And usually those songs invite others to accept Jesus into their life.

Before Christ came into his life, Paul was the most profoundly, deeply religious person there could be. He knew scripture, he knew the laws of Moses, the extended laws of the Pharisees, he practiced them, he was without fault to everyone around him. Yet, he had plenty of fault with God.

Paul called himself ‘the chief of sinners.’ He was filled with hatred, as he described here. In his letter to Timothy, Paul called himself a former blasphemer, persecutor and violent man (1 Tim. 1 12-13).

The book of Acts tells us that when “they dragged [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). This Saul himself soon regularly breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). Saul’s hostility toward the Christians was because of his commitment to protecting God’s honor (psjn.org).

So in his zealousness for being religious, Saul was actually doing the complete opposite of living a Godly lifestyle. 

Verse 4 says, “4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared…” 

That’s the entirety of verse 4. It’s not even a full sentence. But it’s the whole testimony of a sinner saved by grace. You could condense it down even further with just two words by saying, “But God.”

How many of you have a testimony that hinges on those two words, “But God.” I think we all do. Whether the testimony is our salvation, or an answer to prayer, something we were too powerless to overcome, something that we might have almost given up hope in. A particular sin or sins that we were a slave to and couldn’t rescue ourselves from. “But God.”

Paul said it was the ‘kindness and love of God’ that appeared. It wasn’t the mighty, strong, powerful God of judgement and righteousness. But the kindness and love of God. The gentle shepherd that appeared.

The word for ‘love’ here in the Greek, the actual word that Paul used is philanthropia. Sounds familiar? It’s where we get the word philanthropy from. Translated more literally, this would read, “His philanthropy for mankind shined forth.”

Paul is describing to Titus the kind of love that God has for us. Philanthropia means benevolence or a friendly disposition toward people (friendliness). It describes an affectionate concern for mankind.

Precept Austin, a sermon source I go to quite frequently, said that In the present context philanthropia describes God’s compassion, especially the eagerness to deliver someone from pain, trouble, or danger. It involves more than mere emotion and always finds a way to express itself in some form of helpfulness. It is God’s uninfluenced and unearned friendly disposition, affectionate concern for and interest in mankind.

I’m going to sidestep for a moment, just because I’ve felt led to. Sometimes God comes through for us in an instant. When we were saved, God was there right in that moment. We sensed it, we felt it. We knew that God had intervened and we didn’t leave that altar as the same person we came to it as.

Other times, God takes his sweet old time. We don’t understand why, we don’t know why God doesn’t rescue us in the same instantaneous way he did at salvation. Sometimes it may take months or years before we see God part the seas or make a way in the wilderness.

We see God’s provision and blessing along the way, but it’s not the same as being rescued. Maybe we have to take steps that we don’t want to take in order to be rescued from sin. Maybe there’s counseling that needs to be done, and God works through that. Maybe financial freedom comes through discipline and not through a sudden open door that leads to a change in career. 

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘God the master sculptor.’ Back in July, I wrote a blog post about it, and reshared it this past week. Our historical society had hired someone to restore a statue that we have in the museum, and it took a lot longer to restore than expected. The statue had been painted over with an enamel and it started chipping. So the restorer had to painstakingly chip away all of the enamel, and he used a very fine, delicate tool to do it.

The chipping was little, tiny bits at a time. And the statue was over five feet tall, so it took a long time to finish. Eventually, though, when it was completed, it was worth the wait. And God, the master sculptor, is like that with us.

Point 2: 

Okay, getting back on track, verses 5-7 say: “5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Again, Paul stresses God’s mercy. There was not anything we could have done. If we’re a slave, we can’t do anything about it. We’re a slave. We must be set free. And only someone benevolent can do that. If we’re trapped and we can’t rescue ourselves, someone else has to rescue us. And only someone benevolent can do that, too. That’s why we often admire our volunteer firefighters and EMTs. They do this voluntarily. And even those who get paid to do it, chose this career not because it pays a whole lot, but because it’s the type of person that they are. 

Police choose their careers because they have a sense of rescuing people. Foster parents often want to rescue children who have been in an abusive or neglected home. These children couldn’t rescue themselves. They had to have someone come in and rescue them.

There was a story in Our Daily Bread about a headline in The Grand Rapids Press that read, “Conversion to Hindu Faith Is Torturous.” The article went on to say that, “A West German businessman has completed his conversion to the Hindu faith by piercing himself through the cheeks with a one-quarter-inch thick, four-foot-long steel rod, and pulling a chariot for two miles by ropes attached to his back and chest by steel hooks… Others walk through twenty-foot-long pits of fire, don shoes with soles made of nails, or hang in the air spread-eagle from hooks embedded in their backs.”

What a contrast to the reality of Christianity. The teaching of salva­tion by grace, through faith, apart from human works, distinguishes Christianity from all other religions of the world. The conversion experience of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is not “completed” through acts of self-torture. We may have to suffer for the cause of Christ, and good works should always prove the genuineness of our faith, but neither suffering nor serving save us. Paul wrote, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (see note Ephesians 2:10). Self-inflicted torture is completely foreign to everything the Bible teaches about salvation.

We are not saved on the basis of what we can endure; rather, our hope is in what Christ has already endured for us on the cross. The Christian way is not conversion by torture—it’s salvation by grace.—R. W. De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

There’s another story of a military chaplain who said:

“The living Christ has given me what no court, no psychiatrist, no probation officer could give me—the consciousness of sins forgiven… The joy of a loving wife, two children, and a happy and secure home have shown me that through the living Christ even one who, like myself, was once described by a magistrate as a ‘social menace’ can be more than just tolerable. That is something of the difference that Jesus Christ has made and continues to make in me.”

When we see our need for God’s forgiveness and believe in Jesus, our sins are washed away and the Holy Spirit makes us new people (Ti. 3:5). Then, as we walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), He continues to work in us to make us more like Christ.

Here’s another little side step. Just a short one. Did you notice that all three members of the Trinity participate in our salvation? God’s forgiveness is given to us by the Holy Spirit through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross? All three members of the Trinity or the Godhead (as some describe it) are involved because the whole of God loves us. It’s not like Jesus died because He loved us and well, God the Father––our hanging judge––sees that ‘we’re with Him, so okay you can go.’ And then The Holy Spirit is kind of there off and on. But is mostly off and away.

No, the whole of God participates in our salvation. All of God or all members of the Trinity individually love us so much that they each have a part to play in rescuing us. And as we know, but cannot fully comprehend, they become as one in their love for us and our redemption.

Point 3: So now, to quote Francis Schaeffer, “How Should We Then Live?”

Paul sums it up in verse 8: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

In other words, trustworthy, steadfast or faithful is the word that Paul uses to express his complete confidence in the soundness of the doctrine that he has stated in the verses that we’ve read today (v. 3-7). And Paul says to Titus, “I want you to stress these faithful, trustworthy and (as we talked about in Chapter 1), solid doctrinal teachings.”

Why?

Going back to a few things I found on Precept Austin:

The thrust of Paul’s argument is that Titus should continually affirm and insist that believers engage in good deeds. Sometimes believers neglect to engage in good deeds, instead assuming a “who cares” attitude (since we’re saved and we think we’re good) but Paul insists this must not be so. Titus should stress these things in order to promote godly behavior in his listeners. The only evidence the unsaved world has that we belong to God is our godly lives.

 The root of their new birth should bring forth appropriate fruit. Belief is not a matter of theory or of speculation but of practice as demonstrated by good deeds.

Paul uses another phrase here I want to look at. He said that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. “May be careful.” That’s an interesting phrase. In other words, Paul really wants us to take the time and effort to be intent on, to take careful thought or concentrate on doing what is good.

In other words, even though our salvation is not by works, it should result in good works. How do you know a person is saved? Like a tree or a plant, you can tell if it’s good by the fruit it produces. Greg Laurie said, in other words, those who have spiritual longevity are those who embrace this truth and produce fruit. If you are a Christian, then people should be able to look for—and find—fruit in your life. Why? Because a disciple of Jesus Christ will produce spiritual fruit. Jesus said, ” ‘My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father'” (John 15:8 NLT). Jesus also said, “‘By their fruits you will know them'” (Matthew 7:20 NKJV).

What does this fruit look like?  Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . ” (NKJV). A Christian’s life should be characterized by these things. You’ll notice it’s the complete opposite of what Paul described at the beginning of today’s verses––the complete opposite of the type of fruit we bore in our sins: foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 

 Jesus said, “‘A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart.'” (Luke 6:45 NLT). 

And in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:18

When we are saved, we are given a new conscience. A Holy Spirit -led conscience. And as we grow in Christ, perhaps another fruit metaphor, we bear a new kind of fruit. A fruit that is excellent and profitable for everyone. But we must yield to the master gardener. We must yield to the work of The Holy Spirit. It’s a daily choice we must make. And when I spoke about God taking His time earlier, think about how long it takes a seed to sprout and produce fruit. Think about how long it takes for a gardener to prune. It’s a process, just like the statue restoration. It’s a process.

Central Truth: So I want to ask you a few questions as we close today.

Have you thought of salvation as something earned? Have you thought you had to earn your way to Heaven? There are some in the Christian tradition that believe that. Salvation is not earned or rewarded. It is a gift of God, paid for by Jesus. Gifts are given for free, that’s what makes it a gift. The giver had to pay for it. As a newer chorus says, “Jesus paid it all.”  

Here’s another question, have you been saved but content with where you’re at spiritually? Have you looked at your life and thought, “I’m good, thanks.” Or have you looked at your life and thought, “boy, there’s still so much.” Maybe you haven’t thought about it. Maybe it hasn’t even been on your radar to think about having a deeper sense of holiness in your life. As the old hymn says, “Just a closer walk with thee.”

The closer we get to Christ, the more he’ll prune. The closer we get to Christ, the more he’ll talk with us. The closer we get to Christ, the more he’ll show us the type of fruit we bear.

God wants us to be conscious of bearing good fruit. He wants us to think about it, he wants us to be intent on bearing good fruit and lots of it. Where are you today? What kind of fruit are you bearing and how much of it are you bearing?

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you for your promise of salvation. Thank you that it is a free gift. If it wasn’t, not one of us would be able to stand before you on judgement day. Heaven would be empty. But because of the work of The Trinity in salvation, Heaven is going to be filled with (as Paul said) heirs. Heirs of your kingdom. Thank you, Lord.

And I pray that you would work in us so that we would produce better fruit, and even more fruit. I pray that you would help us to be more conscious and thoughtful to live holier lives. I pray that you would help us to become people who live lives that are excellent and profitable for everyone.
In Jesus name, amen.  

Communion:

The Bread: Today, we talked about salvation. We talked about it as being a free gift. But a gift must be paid for by the giver. Today, we take a moment to reflect on the price paid for our free gift of salvation. 

Jesus paid the ultimate price to secure our freedom from sin. We were slaves to sin. We had no way out. There was nothing we could do. But Jesus paid the price for us. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. That is the gospel in a nutshell. Even though we have had that memorized since we were children, let us not forget just how profound that is.

Take and eat.

The Cup: The cup symbolizes the blood shed for us. When Jesus instituted The Lord’s Supper, he could have just chosen one item. He could have chosen either the bread or the wine. But he chose both. The body and the blood go hand in hand. His blood redeems us and it restores us. It gives us the power to break free from our chains of sin and to live Godly lives. We can overcome the sinful life that we once lived that Paul talked about in our scripture verses this morning, and become children of God, living in a new way devoted to doing good and living a Godly lifestyle which is excellent and profitable for everyone. Take and drink.

Prayer: Dear Lord thank you for rescuing us. We were born into slavery. There was no way out. There was no way that we could earn our way or pay our debt out of slavery. We were stuck. But God. You came and rescued us. Your philanthropy saved us, because there was no other way, you loved us enough to rescue and redeem us.

We thank you and we remember this in Jesus name, amen.

Constitution

By-laws

Mission Statement

First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen

213 Fifth St. Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Updated 2020

Beliefs:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired and only infallible Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
  • We believe in the triune godhead as eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 13:14) 
  • We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious death and atonement through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His present priestly ministry. (Romans 1:4; Matthew 1:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 4:23,24; Romans 3:25,26; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 7:25)
  • We believe in the privilege of each believer to have direct access to God through prayer. (Matthew 5: 9-13, Romans 8:15, Philippians 4: 4-6, Hebrews 4: 14-16)
  • We believe in evangelistic and missionary fervor and endeavor. (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15–18)
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. We further believe in the keeping power of God. (Hebrews 9:22; Jude 24,25; Titus 3:5)
  • We believe that sanctification, holiness, and the overcoming life are God’s design for the Church, which is the Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
  • We believe that sexual purity is a necessary expression for all of God’s children and requires abstinence from adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, and other sexual relationships or practices forbidden by Scripture. (Hebrews 13:4;1 Corinthians 6:18; Leviticus 18:1–30; Galatians 5:19)
  • We believe that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime, and a sacred institution established by God. (Matthew 19:4–6)
  • We believe that since mankind is created in God’s image, human life is of inestimable worth and significance in all its dimensions, from conception to the grave. (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13–14)
  • We believe that water baptism is for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and is to be administered by either immersion, sprinkling or pouring. Thus bearing witness to the gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for us, and our own new life in Him. (Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:4)
  • We believe that communion, when shared by believers, witnesses to the saving power of the gospel, to Christ’s presence in His church, and looks forward to His victorious return. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
  • We believe that divine healing is obtained on the basis of the Atonement. (1 Peter 2:24; Matthew 8:17)
  • We believe in Christ’s imminent personal return in power and great glory, and in His present and everlasting dominion. (Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7; Daniel 7:14)
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost: they that are saved unto eternal life and they that are lost unto eternal punishment. (John 5:28,29; Revelation 20:15)
  • We believe that it is the duty and privilege of every believer to, within his ability, support the local assembly with his regular presence, giving, and service. (Hebrews 10:25; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Peter 4:10)
  • We believe that tithing, accompanied by free-will offerings, is God’s ordained method to finance the spreading of the Gospel and the needs of the local assembly. (Malachi 3:8–12; 2 Corinthians 8:9)

Distinctive Baptist Beliefs

  • A church membership of those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  (John 1: 12, Romans 10:13)
  • The autonomy of the local church. (Acts 2: 42-47)
  • The solemn obligation of majority rule, guaranteeing equal rights to all and special privilege to none. (James 2: 1-12)
  • The complete separation of Church and State. (Matthew 22: 21)
  • A world-wide program of missionary fervor and evangelism in obedience with the final command of Jesus. (Matthew 28: 19-20, Acts 1:8)

Church Covenant

Acknowledging Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, and recognizing our continual need for personal re-dedication, we covenant with God and one another to endeavor with the aid of the Holy Spirit:

  • To practice Christian love in all our relationships;
  • To reflect Christ faithfully in home life and public life;
  • To commit ourselves to the disciplines advocated by our Lord; namely, daily prayer, regular worship, study of God’s Word, Christian fellowship, and dedicated giving of time, talent, and money;
  • To respect our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit; avoiding experiences which defile the body, and prevent us from witnessing to others;
  • To witness to others of Christ’s redemptive work in our lives.

We further confess our joy in Christ, praising Him for His saving grace, His constant presence with us, and His faithful provision of all our needs.

Constitution

ARTICLE I

Name

     This Church has been and will continue to be known as First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen.

ARTICLE II

Purpose

     The purpose of this Church will be the advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It will seek to attain this through the public worship of God, the preaching and teaching of the Holy Bible, consistent Christian living by its members, Christian education, evangelism, and missionary endeavor. To communicate the gospel message through various print, audio/visual and electronic media and distribution methods. 

     Our mission is: To share the love of God to Watkins Glen and beyond.

ARTICLE III

Government

     Watkins Glen First Baptist Church is an autonomous Baptist Church, voluntarily participating with the Living Waters Association, the American Baptist Churches of New York State, and the American Baptist Churches of the U. S. A.

     We recognize our independence as a Baptist Church, and also our interdependence in the work of Christ. Therefore, we can participate with other churches and denominations in addition to American Baptist Churches as we choose.

ARTICLE IV

Membership

Section 1. Admission of Members:

Persons may be received into membership in this Church by any of the following methods, subject in each to the recommendation of the Pastor and the approval of the Church Board.

  • By confession of Faith and Baptism by immersion. The requirement of immersion may be waived, if a circumstance would not permit Baptism by immersion safely, as long as baptism is performed with water and done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The waiver of immersion must be approved by the Pastor and the Church Board.
  • By letter. A person who is in accord with the views of the faith and the principles of the Holy Bible may be received by letter from any other church of like faith. Membership by transfer of letter will be accepted providing baptism has occurred.
  • By experience. A believer of worthy character who has made a profession of faith in accordance with the Holy Bible, demonstrates Christian living and baptism has occurred. 
  • By Watchcare.  Anyone temporarily residing in the area may request watchcare membership. Such members may enjoy all rights and privileges of the Church fellowship, but will not have the right to vote or hold an elected Church office.

     Persons applying for membership will be required to either attend a new member’s class or have a discussion with either the pastor or a member of the Church Board, unless this requirement is waived by the Pastor and the Church Board. The Declaration of Faith and Church Covenant will be presented to them at the completion of the class or individually, if not attending the class, and they must acknowledge these as guides for their Christian life. 

Section 2. Duties of Members: 

  Members are expected to uphold the Church by faithful practice of the Church Covenant and by:

  • Having a readiness to use God-given talents in His Service.
  • Participating in the functions of the Church.
  • Supporting one another in the fellowship with love and care.
  • Giving to the financial support of the church, as able.

Section 3. Removal of Members:

  • Letters of transfer, for the purpose of uniting with another church, will be granted by the Church clerk upon request providing the member is on the active membership role and in good standing.
  • Members who are involved in continual unchristian conduct (as stated in the church beliefs or in scripture) may be requested to meet with the Pastor and representatives of the Church Board for the purpose of correction of such conduct. The Pastor and the Church Board may remove such persons from membership should they continue such Conduct.
  • Members will be put on the inactive list after two years of not participating in church life in any manner. After multiple attempts have been made by the Church Board, with the intent to reclaim their active participation, if appropriate, the inactive member may be removed from membership by a vote of the Church Board.
  • When a member requests his or her name be removed from the Church membership, the                      Church Board will grant such a request, and so instruct the Church Clerk. 

ARTICLE V

Officers

Section 1. Officers:

     The officers of this Church will be comprised of at least the following voting members of the Church Board as follows: 

  • Church Pastor
  • Church Clerk
  • Church Treasurer
  • Christian Education director
  • House and Grounds
  • Pastoral Committee
  • Missions
  • Other committees may be formed as needed by nominations with voting privileges. 

Section 2. Pastor:

The Pastor must be a believer in, and a preacher of the Holy Bible, and of the basic doctrines of faith as held by the American Baptist denomination and this Church. The Pastor can cooperate with the local organized work of the denomination, and with the American Baptist Churches of the U.S.A. and other Christian organizations as the need arises.

Section 3. Membership:

       All officers, with the exception of an interim pastor (in Section 6), must be members of this Church in good standing, and, with the exception of the Pastor, be elected at the Annual Congregational meeting. 

     All board members will be elected for a term of one year. Any officer elected and serving six consecutive years will not be eligible for re-election to the same office for a period of one year unless there are no suitable candidates to serve, as determined by the Nominating Committee, and the current board member agrees to continue to serve. All officers will assume office after the annual meeting. 

Section 4. Removal of Officer:

     Any officer who fails to faithfully perform the duties pertaining to his or her office must vacate their office. This will become effective by the vote of the Church Board. Additionally, the Church has the power, for good and sufficient cause, to remove from office any officer or committee-person. Any officer who is unable to perform the duties pertaining to their office because of health or personal reasons, may be temporarily replaced by an appointed acting officer until such time the officer returns.

Section 5. Resignations:

     Resignations of officers must be in writing, if able, to the Church Board and be effective upon a mutually agreed date.

Section 6. Non-church Membership:

     Two non-members who are active in the church may serve on the Church Board at any given time. A non-member may never be the Church Board Chair and must meet the following qualifications:

  • Have been in attendance in the worship service for at least two years and attending on a regular basis when in town and available, and be in good standing in the Church.
  • Have actively participated in congregational life such as serving on a committee, helping with children and youth activities, or other activities,etc.
  • Contributes time, talent and treasure to the church on a regular basis
  • Fully embraces the authority of God’s Word and the American Baptist faith tradition as practiced at Memorial Park Baptist Church.

ARTICLE VI

Duties of the Church Board

Section 1. General Duties:

The Church Board will provide for spiritual needs of the congregation and the physical needs of the church.

Section 2. Duties of the Pastor:

The Pastor must preach the Holy Bible, administer the ordinances, watch over the membership, promote the spiritual interests of the Church, and organize and develop its strength for the best possible service. The Pastor will be a non-voting ex-officio member of all Boards and Committees of the Church and its auxiliary organizations.  

Section 3: Duties of the Chairperson of Church Board

     The Chairperson will be responsible to develop an agenda for each board meeting in conjunction with the Pastor and will then conduct the board meeting accordingly. The Chairperson will also be responsible for overseeing action items assigned to board members until completion.

Section 4: Duties of the Trustees

The Trustees shall oversee all maintenance and property needs. 

Section 5: Duties of the Church Treasurer:

     This person must be the controller and custodian of all finances contributed to the General Expense and any designated Funds of the Church. The Treasurer must give an update of finances at Church Board meetings. Disbursements must be authorized by the Church Board. Congregants should be informed of any disbursements more than $200. This person must deliver immediately to their successor all books and records pertaining to this office. 

Section 9. Duties of the Financial Secretary:

This person must keep an account for each contributor, showing 

pledges made, and contributions received for each fund. This person must provide each contributor with an annual statement. A receipt of all donations received from persons outside of regular contributors must be provided in writing to them including the date and amount of the contribution. This person will be a member of the Board of Trustees. The person must deliver immediately to their successor all books and records in their possession.

The church treasurer and financial secretary positions may be combined if necessary. 

Section 12. Duties of the Church Board collectively:

     This Church Board will hold in trust all property belonging to the Church and the Corporation, and it will take all necessary measures for its protection, management, and upkeep. It will be responsible to raise, manage, and handle the finances of the church.

(a) It will designate the bank where the funds of the Church will 

               be deposited.

(b) It will attend to all legal transactions of the Church.

(c) It will approve all proposed expenditures more than $200 for the Church and 

              Sunday School before such expenditures are contracted. 

         (d) It will not sell or encumber the real estate or other property 

              of the Church until authorized to do so by two-thirds of the 

              members present at a meeting of the Church called for the 

              purpose of considering such a transaction.

         (e) Members of the Church Board will supervise the 

              maintenance and repair of the church property and will   

              negotiate for any major improvement or repairs that may 

              become necessary. The Church Board will, in 

              conjunction with the Pastor, determine the use of the 

              equipment and Church property.

(f) The Church Board will set up a detailed budget for the

              Church at least one month before the Annual Meeting, and 

              will submit it to the Church for approval at the Annual 

              Meeting. The newly proposed budget must be posted two weeks 

              before the Annual Meeting.

(g) Five members will constitute a quorum at Board Meetings.

(h) The Board will handle all non-pastoral employee issues.

(I) The Chairman of the Church Board and the Treasurer, 

or if the same, a second person from the Church Board, with the approval of the Church Board, are to be authorized to act as agents to sell stocks which are 

             contributed to the Church.

(j) The Board may meet at least once a month except for July   

     and August, unless there is an urgent matter that needs to be discussed at other times. The September meeting may be designated to evaluate the previous year and set goals for the coming year. The October meeting may be designated to establish the coming year vision and budget. The Annual meeting in January may take the place of the November and/or December Church Board meeting unless an urgent matter needs to be addressed by the Church Board.

(k) The Chairperson of the Church Board, the Pastor, and any other committee designated by the Church Board must submit to the Church Clerk an annual report for inclusion in the Annual Book each year.

Article VII: Duties of the Moderator:

     This person will preside at all Business Meetings and conduct same in an orderly fashion. In their absence, an acting Moderator must be appointed by the Church Board. In the year of a new pastor, a previous pastor may be retained for meetings as a moderator with no voting privileges, and act as a mentor and advisor to the new pastor and board. 

Article VIII: Duties of the Secretary:

     The Secretary must keep accurate minutes of the business proceedings of the Church, the record of addition and deletion of members, and the roll of the members of the Church and their addresses. The Clerk will also issue letters of transfer, conduct official correspondence, properly file all letters, reports, and other documents pertaining to the office, and prepare denominational reports. This person must deliver immediately to their successor all books, files, records, and other documents in their possession. All records created by the clerk must be recorded within 90 days of creation either electronically or hard copy.

ARTICLE IX

Calling a Pastor or an Assistant Pastor

Section 1. Pastoral Transition Committee: 

When it is necessary to call a Pastor, a Pastoral Transition Committee will be formed, consisting of three members. They will be two members from the Leadership Committee and one members of the Congregation at large. The board members serving on the Pastoral Transition Committee will be appointed by the Church Board and members at large will be elected at a specially called congregational meeting.

It will be the duty of this committee to take the necessary steps to secure a Pastor, including performing a congregational assessment and any other assessment deemed appropriate prior to looking for a pastor in order to provide a clearer vision as to where church life stands at the time of the transition. The committee will investigate the merits of every pastoral person under consideration in regard to their personal character, including a background check, education and/or training, ministerial record, personal reference and preaching ability (via audio or video), in determining their fitness for said pastorate. When a suitable person is found, the committee will invite the person to conduct a service at the Church as a candidate.

The committee will serve until a pastor has been called and assumes the duties and continue to serve for up to six months following the pastors’ arrival. In addition, the committee will be in charge of the installation service for the new pastor. In the event that a member of the Committee cannot complete their term, a replacement must be appointed from 

the Church Board which made the original appointment, or a congregational meeting will be called to replace a congregational member at large, as applicable. 

Section 2. Call of a Pastor:

The Call of a Pastor must come before the Church at a special business meeting, notice of such meeting and its purpose having been read from the pulpit on two successive Sundays. A vote of three-fourths of active members present, provided there are at least forty percent present of the officially registered members present and voting, will be necessary to extend a call. Only one candidate’s name and salary must be presented to the Church at one time. The vote must be by written ballot.

Section 3. Contractual Terms:

The Pastor will be called for an indefinite period of time; the salary, which was fixed at the time of the call, may be changed by vote of the Church at any business meeting. The Pastor will be entitled to time off with the approval of the Board of Trustees. 

Section 4. Termination of Pastorate:

The term of office will be ended as determined by the Church Board. If civil or criminal charges are brought against the pastor, the Church Board may elect to temporarily suspend the pastor of their duties until a final resolution is reached.  If there is another issue including inappropriate behavior, ineffective performance, or conflict, mediation with an outside mediator must be the first step. Termination of the office by the Church must be voted on at a properly called business meeting, notice of such meeting and its purpose will be given on two successive Sundays, prior to the date of the meeting. The pastor may be terminated by a vote of three-fourths of the active members present, who are qualified to vote, provided there be a minimum of forty percent of the officially active members present and voting. The vote must be by written ballot. If the pastor resigns, this will require thirty days written notification to the Church Board. 

Section 5 Assistant Pastor:

An Assistant Pastor may be added as the church deems advisable. Prior to the calling, a job description must be developed and approved by the Church Board. The name of a candidate for such office must come before the Church at a special business meeting, duly called. A vote of three-fourths of active members present will be necessary to extend a call. The vote must be by written ballot.

This person must work in cooperation with and under the direction of the Pastor. The Assistant Pastor must be a believer in the Holy Bible and the basic doctrines of the Christian Faith, and be in agreement with the church’s relationship to the American Baptist Churches of the USA.

Termination of the Assistant Pastor will be the same as the Pastor described in Article VII, section 4.

Section 6: Interim Pastor

In the event of pastoral vacancy, the Church Board, in cooperation with American Baptist Churches, USA of New York State, will secure an interim pastor. The duties will be the same for the interim pastor as was for the pastor. The Church Board will oversee the calling and termination of the interim pastor.

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