Topical - Philosophy of Ministry (Part 3)

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Well, tonight is one of my favorite subjects to discuss and that is on the Power of the Word of God.  And what I want to focus in on is that our ministry, that is where our trust needs to be is in giving out the scriptures because that’s the power of God that is going to touch people’s lives, and from time to time, there will be the temptation to say well maybe I need to try something different, this doesn’t seem to be bringing about the effect that I want, and so people turn to maybe some means that will work, on the surface and appear to be brining growth or increase but really in the long run are not bringing the type of growth that the Lord is desiring.  And I’m convinced that as I study the Bible that the Lord would have us to focus on the scripture giving out the Word of God to people and that would be the very basis of our ministry and I want to look at that tonight and give you some foundational truths on that point.  And we are going to start in 1 Thessalonians, and I think this aspect needs to begin in your heart.  Your heart has to be convinced that the Word of God is sufficient and powerful enough to bring about the change and bring about Salvation and equipping of the saints as well as for the sanctifying work that God wants to do.  And in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1 Paul is bringing this church back to his first time that he was with them and then in vs. 2 he says we give thanks to God always for you all making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, your labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father so, good things are happening in this young church.  Speaks about Faith, Love and Hope, the primary aspects were there, knowing beloved brethren your election by God and in here Paul refers back to when he was among them.  He says for our gospel did not come to you in word only.  So, it wasn’t just a message but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.  And I don’t think he’s talking about demonstration of miracles but he’s talking about he Word of God when out in power and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And so it wasn’t just a memorized sermon or speech or a philosophy but it was the Word of God that the Holy Spirit had anointed, and that’s really the, I don’t’ like to call it a secret but just the basic bottom line philosophy of Calvary Chapel.  We believe that the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and affects the people of God with it, and that’s it, that’s the bottom line, that’s where our confidence is and we don’t want to veer from that.  And so we believe as the Word of God is taught, it goes out, in power and the Holy Spirit, the Power of God is working through the Word of God.  And Paul, here is the part I want to focus on, and he says in much assurance, and in much assurance, now Paul’s not saying how they received the Word of God, he’s going to get to that in Chapter 2, but he’s talking about how it came through his life.  He sensed the power of God at work, you know it wasn’t a memorized word or philosophy but it was the scriptures and it came out in power but it also came out or through his life through much assurance and what he’s talking about is not the impact that the word had on the believers that they were much assured that it was true but, the heart attitude that Paul the apostle had.  And that’s where our heart needs to be, that’s the bottom line.  Otherwise we will look to other means to bring in growth, to motivate the people, to get people to do things rather than just having a confidence that if you teach the Word of God let that work in the hearts and minds of individuals and that will touch people.  That will bring this Faith, Love and Hope rather than through manipulation or through gimmicks or through programs, it’s God’s power, it’s through the Word, and so as a teacher, as a leader of a ministry, that’s where you’re focus needs to be and if you are a leader than you need to be discipling people in the Word of God.  It was interesting over the summer I just began to pray, I said, Lord what is it that you would want me to do with the men that I am meeting with that are in a place of leadership.  And I didn’t really have any real strong direction through the summer and I just kept waiting on the Lord and I didn’t want to just do anything, and then it dawned on me that what I do, is I go out and listen to a study that Jeff Johnson does every Thursday morning for pastors in the area and I was sensing just a radical impact that those studies were having upon my own life, so it’s like DUH what I need to do is get into the Word of God with these men.  And so we’re going to do that, is get back into the scripture and go through the Book of Nehemiah and look at the opposition and the rebuilding and just let the Holy Spirit take the Word of God and build these men’s lives up.  Simple and it’s not that I have any great things to say out of Nehemiah but it’s the Word of God that is going to be powerful, speaking to us, equipping us, preparing our hearts for what the Lord is desiring to do and so my confidence just in the Word to pass on the Word of God as I do, as I receive from Pastor Jeff as he has been ministering to us over the last year in the Book of Nehemiah, I’ve gleaned a lot of insight and things for my own character, for my own life and then just passing that on with the word and that’s where my confidence is, it’s the scripture, I don’t have any or know if I ever had any necessary “discipleship” program, I believe you just focus on the scriptures and I have confidence in that, that that is what is going to build people up.  And that’s where the heart of the teacher needs to be.  That it’s the Word and not my clever speech and my insight into the scripture but just passing on the truth of God’s Word.  We have much assurance in that, and that’s going to help people, it’s going to build people up.  Now look at, this is where it is helpful when people have a ready heart to receive it, then when the teacher has ultimate confidence in the Word and then you have open hearts, I think that’s the match you’re looking for.  So look at 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2 vs. 13, it says for this reason, we also thank God without ceasing because when you receive the Word of God which you heard from us you welcomed it.  And so, notice that he mentions the word receiving but he also says he welcomes the word, yes you received it but you went even further than that, it’s like the simple little stretch of a welcome mat at the door, it’s like come on into my heart, come on into my life.  It was a readiness to receive the Word of God.  And I believe that this church was a strong growing healthy church even though it was a young church in the Lord, and he speaks of their faith being heard throughout the area and that’s because they had welcomed the Word of God, and so the best mix is when the individual that’s teaching has confidence in the Word, not in his own insight and the way he puts the sermon together, like that’s all the important aspect, there is a degree of importance to that, but his confidence is in the Word just to explain the scriptures and then people’s hearts are ready to receive it, they come with the willingness to receive.  And he says what happens is the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed, not as the Word of Men but as it is in truth, the Word of God which also effectively works in you who believe.  And so, as we give out the scriptures, it’s going to work in the heart of individuals and that’s what is going to bring about the transformation and the change.  And that’s where the power of God is going to work when hearts are receptive to it.  Now, I believe that is where people are going to grow, those that come with a ready heart to receive and to be built up and those who have their mind on other things, well part of it will get through and part of it won’t.  But as far as your roll as a teacher, you need to say, this is what I need to give out to people.  And that will force you in the way that you study to make sure that you’re presenting the Word of God accurately, you want to handle it and rightly divide it so that the Word of God goes out in power, it’s not your words, it’s God’s Word going out and then your prayer goes out, Lord prepare the hearts of the individuals that they would be attentive physically, emotionally, spiritually to receive the Word of God.  And then it just comes as a great match and it’s like the sewer the seed goes out and there is that hundred fold fruit.  And it effectively works.  There is power, it’s that work of power, it works in the life of the individual.  And to me, that is so simple and it’s so freeing that I don’t have to borrow anyone else’s style in the way that they teach, oh, he did this over here and that worked and that’s what a lot of individuals are doing and a lot of people are looking at well that works over here and it works over here and so I’ll try it, no.  You just need to be plugging away in the scriptures.  Jr. High, High School, Children’s Ministry, you need to give them the Word of God.   And obviously it is given out a little bit different in those age brackets but that’s where are focus needs to be, it’s getting kids as well as adults into the scriptures.  Because it’s going to effectively work.  Now, let’s take a little bit of a detour here because I want to also relate to what the counterfeit is of the power of God and these words that are described here this effectively working speak to God’s power.  Turn over to 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2, vs 9, Paul is going to talk about obviously in the future about the Anti-Christ here and he’s going to speak about something that also works through his life.   Verse 1, says the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan.  So Satan also has a working or a power that is going to be demonstrated in people’s lives.  And it says with power which is miracles, signs and lying wonders.  And these three terms, power signs and wonders are the same terms that are used to describe the ministry of Jesus Christ in Acts 2 vs. 22.  As well as the ministry of the apostles that they went about doing, power, signs and wonders in Hebrews Chapter 2 vs. 4.  Now it says a man is going to come and do those same things.  That’s what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24 saying that there are going to be false Christ and they are going to work miracles and bring about deception even from among the elect if that was possible.  So, it’s not as if there is trickery going on, there is a power that goes out but it’s a false power.  And I think that is what we need to be careful of.  Our confidence needs to be in the scriptures and there is something happening in the church and I am by no means any expert on all the phenomena that is happening and taking place within every church but I believe there is some power that is going out but if it’s not lined up with the scriptures you are in dangerous, dangerous, dangerous grounds.  Again, that’s where my confidence comes in, in 1 Thessalonians that I teach the Word of God if there is some sort of manifestation that is not found in the scriptures, I don’t claim to be wise enough to be able to determine every manifestation is it from God or not?  So, I go back to the scripture, where there is a solid foundation, and if it’s not in the Word, then I do not need it.  I believe that is what 2 Timothy says, that I am complete in every good work.  And you know I’ll deal with even some of the controversial ones that some people say, well maybe it’s acceptable.  I don’t find anywhere in the Bible slaying in the spirit.  It’s not in the scriptures so I believe that I do not need that.  I don’t need to be knocked over on my back and experience the Power of God that way because I do not find it happening in the life of Jesus, in the life of the apostles or in the life of anyone within the Word of God.  Now, can God take me and knock me down to the ground, absolutely, he can knock me from here out to the universe if He wanted to.  But if it’s not in the Word, it’s not an experience that we should seek.  And if it happens, I don’t know how to describe it.  I think that a lot of this stuff is the power of suggestion while they saw this person do this and so you line up and there are people that have admitted to that, while you know you’re kind of under pressure so you do what everyone else does.  Either that or there is a power that is at work, but it’s not the Power of God.  And where is your confidence?  My confidence is that if it’s not in the scriptures, I don’t need it.  I don’t need to follow after it, I don’t need to seek it.  I mean, not only do I not find slain in the spirit I surely don’t find people making animal noises, dog and pig noises in the church.  See but that’s the issue.  If you don’t go simply by the Word of God, where do you stop?  Where are the parameters?  The parameters are once again thrown back on you, Oh, I sense this is the spirit, oh, I sense this is God.  Hey, there are going to be lying signs and wonders that are so good that even if it was possible even the elect would be deceived, fall away into perdition that means.  And so there is something happening, I did read some accounts, Roger Oakland, someone sent me a book in the mail about these revival things that are going on, that one in Florida.  And it spoke about a Christian lady, I believe there is no reason to doubt that, spoke of her going to that meeting and she said the Power of God slammed her up against the wall and she fell and she was going through convulsions and even on the way home she was going through convulsions and even after, months after, she would still have these convulsions.  Now she associates it with the Power of God.  Now why is that?  Well because something touched her.  She experienced something.  I don’t believe all these people are lying that they felt something but how do we determine the truth?  You determine truth by “it is written” not by I experienced this by senses and you are on dangerous ground if you do not have that mentality that your confidence is only in the Bible not in yourself.  Because again, I could sit in a meeting, you could sit in a meeting and we could see something and I could say, well I sense that’s God, the next person is just as much as Christian, says I don’t sense It’s God.  Where do we find a point to discuss, where is the point of authority?  My insight or my spirituality maybe on the same level, no, we have to go back to the scriptures.  And so, the bottom line is we need to make sure that everything that happens in our ministry we could look to the scripture and that’s where our confidence needs to be.  And in that, and in that alone.  And if it’s not there, then we don’t’ need it.  It’s not going to be necessary for your spiritual growth.  Look over at 2 Timothy Chapter 3 and we’ve looked at this passage vs 16-17, and I do point out in the notes that this word for working is the same one that Paul uses in the first three chapters of Ephesians which speaks about the Power of God working in us.  You know, I surely don’t want individuals that would go through this school, be involved in ministry and unusual things are taking place in their ministry that are found outside the scripture and then you claim, well, I went to Calvary Chapel Bible Ministry School.  That will not bless my heart.  If you operate to the Word of God, then that’s where you’re confidence is, that’s what we want to see take place here.  And, I’ll kind of go out in a limb here a little bit more, If you’re in a ministry and that’s not the philosophy of your ministry, you may want to seek changes in that ministry or if you’re in a place where you want to be involved in God’s work, you need to be able to support what’s happening in the church 100%.  Especially if you want to grow in place of leadership.  Because it’s going to come to a point, it’s going to come to a head and you don’t’ want to be a source of division.  You don’t want to be a source of people leaving because now you’ve brought this issue to the front, you know you need to be settling these things now, if you’re feeling that tug of God upon your heart for the work of ministry.  You need to be supportive and that’s what assistants do, they support the leader that God’s raised up and if you can’t support them, you move on quietly without causing any disruption.  You try to bring about the change between that person in leadership and if not, then you just move on.  And you do it quietly without any disturbance, but you need to support what’s taking place in that ministry.  If you’re going to progress, in their responsibility because it  will eventually come to a head or you’ll have to compromise you’re convictions and you don’t want to have to live with yourself always stuffing things in that you can’t support.  You need to be free to be able to grow and prosper in the things that that Lord has for you.  vs. 15-17 especially in vs. 17 obviously speaking about the word there that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work and that’s where he’s speaking about the scriptures and he’s saying this is going to be the result that you will be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  And that’s why I say, you don’t need anything outside of what the scripture reveals to us as normal for our Christian life.  And I go back to the reformers and they are not the ultimate authority but they brought back into the church “Sole of Scripture” which means the scripture alone.  And what they meant by that was that the scripture alone is for doctrine as well as for practice within the church.  Now it is contrast to scripture and tradition, and/or scripture and what the church interprets in the pulps before.  And so, you know there are traditions in churches that get established in places that aren’t that traditional as well.  This is the way we do things and this is the way it is and it’s almost like that gets on a par, this practice gets on a par acceptable with the Word of God.  But we need to go back to scripture alone and that’s where the confidence needs to be.  2 Peter, Chapter 1 in vs. 16-21 speaks about Peter’s relationship with the Word of God.  vs. 16, for we did not follow cunningly device stables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but were eye witnesses of His Glory.  And so there is a reference simply with Paul it wasn’t in word only, but it was the message of the gospel of Christ and he was an eyewitness of His Majesty.  For we received from God the Father, Honor and Glory when such a voice came to him from the excellent Glory, this is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  And we heard this voice which came from Heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.  And so here Peter the apostle says, I was an eye witness of the Glory of Jesus Christ.  What an awesome experience.  I mean, I wish I had that opportunity.  I think the bottom line is no one outside the apostles are going to be able to have that experience because that was when Jesus was here, He was a man, He was Glorified, and Peter, James and John were able to experience that.  You know it’s kind of interesting, if you read through the gospel it says they fell asleep during this time.  AMAZING.  They are sleeping with the Lord being glorified.  So, I don’t know what to make of that.  So, I don’t feel bad when people fall asleep in church, you know, they fell asleep while the Lord was being glorified, it’s not so bad but here, he heard the voice, he is an eye witness and in vs. 19 I think is crucial.  Which says, we also have the prophetic word made more sure or I think a better more accurate translation is, we also have the prophetic word which is more sure than what we heard.  So what he is saying is we have these things which are great, we have these experiences, I was an eye witnesses and I’m passing that on to you.  So Peter goes on to say is that we have something greater than my eye witness experience and account which is a prophetic word.  And so what he does is he elevates I think the ultimate human religious experience that anyone ever possibly could have apart from the apostle Paul going up to Heaven and being there and he says, what’s more sure than what I saw and what I heard and what I experienced is the Word of God.  So I believe the apostle Peter, his confidence he had much assurance or full conviction in the Word of God that, that is what he was passing on.  Eye witness experience and encounter experiences are great.  But what is more sure than that because we can be deceived, with our emotions and our thoughts and our feelings is the Word of God.  Now, I often get the question, when I talk about the subject, well do you mean that we are just like a brick, just the Word of God, the Bible, and you don’t feel anything, you don’t sense anything?  No.  There are times in Worship where I have great emotional experiences or my own time with the Lord and I feel, and I sense things, and there are times when I preach where I actually feel like a Power of God go out of me.  I understand what Jesus says when He said I felt virtue go out of me.  After I preach, even if it’s once or three services on Sunday, I have nothing left in me.  It’s like everything that I had has come out, and I know it’s not just a human tiredness.  The other week, I spent 10-11 hours working on this bank, planting this red apple stuff  that is a ground cover.  I planted at least 4-450 of those little things.  I was pretty tired after that.  But you know what?  There is no comparison in what I feel at 1:00 or 1:30 on Sunday afternoon than, there is just an entirely different fatigue that goes with it.  And I know it’s like all the energy that the Word of God and the Spirit of God’s working through me, I’m fully pumped up and then I’m just down.  It’s like you’re way up and then, boom  you just give it all out.  And the Word of God is very powerful and it works in us.  I used to put my notes together on Saturday night but then I couldn’t sleep through the night, I would actually be preaching in my sleep.  So, there are things going on that are very powerful in the scriptures and experiences but what is more important and what is more sure than what I’m experiencing is the Word of God.  And so, that’s where are confidence is and that’s what Peter says I’m passing on.  Passing on to you not the insight that I’ve had about an experience, but passing you on the prophetic Word which is more sure than my insight or my experience because it goes on to say, Also in that section, you do well to heed, and I’m saying you heed the same prophetic word as a light that shines in a dark place, now look, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  And what’s that?  It’s a culmination of the age, so it says heed it now and heed it until the Lord brings everything to pass.  So, I think Peter is somewhat anticipating things that we have going on in the church today, obviously simply by the Holy Spirit that well, you have the old revelation and what we need is the new revelation or new wine or a new outpouring.  I think we just need the scriptures.  The old revelation is still good and still powerful, so he says you heed this until the Lord comes back.  And here is why.  Knowing this that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.  And that verse has given rise to several interpretations as to what does that mean, but I think he answers it in vs. 21, for prophecy never came by the will of man but Holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  I think that’s the interpretation.  It says it’s not a private origin is another way to translate that, but it came from God.  That’s why our trust and confidence needs to be in the scripture because God, He is the source.  That’s what Paul says in 2 Timothy, 3:16, all scripture is breathed out by God, inspired by God, it’s not from man.  And Peter is saying, Hey, it didn’t come from our best religious experience that we had and I gained this understanding and insight but it’s the Word of God that we need to heed and listen to.  As light in the midst of darkness and then realizing that the scripture is not, man is not the source, although man wrote it, the Holy Spirit moved him along.  And so that is why we can take ultimate confidence and trust in the Word of God.  And then when things go beyond what is written, and then we have to pull back and know that as I base my life in ministry on the scriptures, then I will be thoroughly complete and prepared for every good work.  As I shared with you before, I think some individuals mistakenly try and make the idea of here is the Holy Spirit and here is the Word of God.  And they work divergently like there is the power here and here is the Bible.  I think they need to work hand in hand.  You know if God is going to do something, it’s going to be consistent with what He has revealed in the scriptures.  He is going to do a miracle or a healing, or whatever in what manifest He gives is going to be in line with what is revealed in the scriptures.  It’s not going to go beyond that.  So, I think the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the Word of God who He is the author of.  So, you know it’s not like He is going to go on beyond what He’s written or contrary to what He’s written.  This is what He has revealed to us.  I think it is hard enough to understand all that is in the Bible and that is where are confidence needs to be because it’s the Holy Spirit that produces, it’s God that produced the scriptures.  So, God’s given you something, and if you want to say that you are wiser than God then you are acting as a fool.  And so, I can say it any stronger.  Edward Young in his book, “Thy Word is Truth” I’ve given you that quote, it says that modern man no longer is ready to listen to the one living and eternal God but prefers rather the changing sands of human opinion from the foundation for which to build his religious life.”  And that’s what it is, it’s a foundation that changes.  One generation it’s this, and the next generation it’s that.  And so, you may say, okay, my confidence is in the Word, but let’s look at reality the way God often works in our lives.  Let’s say you’re called to teach the Bible.  God is going to challenge your faith in the scriptures because often times as you start teaching the Word of God, it’s not like the multitudes flock out to hear you.  And so, you start thinking after a while, Hey, I’ve been doing this for awhile and I doesn’t seem to be bringing the fruit I’d like.  Maybe, this is what I need to do.  And you’ll have people say, you know what you need to do?  You need to be something that is a trust in your own power to bring people closer to you or into your ministry.  You need to be able to have a ready defense and you say no, I’m going to be committed to the Word and give out the Word of God and God will touch people’s hearts in His time and in His way.  But that will be challenged.  And as I’ve shared with you before, as I speak with pastors, I think there are a lot of pastors that sincerely do want their ministry to grow and there is nothing wrong with that.  And I think in anyone’s ministry we all desire growth, we see things happening in the Book of Acts, we see God working and we want to see that supernatural power of God work in our lives.  And it comes to a point where ministries don’t grow.  People get frustrated.  And they start saying, well maybe this is what I need to do.  I’ve been there and I’ve been at that place of crossroads when the Lord keeps bringing me back to, “It’s the Word.”  Keep giving out the Word of God, that’s what is going to bring lasting fruit in people’s life.  Don’t turn to the arm of the flesh, don’t turn to what may look like a quick fix.  And there are a lot of pastors looking, going to seminars that basically are program oriented.  I found one book that snuck into our bookstore, it’s like a little demon that got in there and said “Marketing the Church” it was in our used book section.  And I know who the author of that book was and the bottom line is that when I went to seminary over here at Talbot, I had a class on evangelism and it had nothing to do with evangelism, honestly, half way through some of the classes, I was sick to my stomach and I wanted to leave.  And all it was, was “here is how to grow your church”, and this guy had some of the funkiest ideas.  He showed how he got his church marketed out in the community and what he did, is he gave away these things, one was like the hot plate, another was a calendar that you could put up and this was in a seminary and all these guys were taking notes, wow, what a good idea.  And I’m like going, I’m ready to barf because he had no idea of saying teach people the Word of God.  And this is at a good solid seminary that has a confidence in the scriptures.  And I learned a lot of good things, but that class drove me crazy and everybody ate it up and I’d make objections every once in a while and I didn’t really want to make no big voice there, or be a problem there, just simply take the test and do what I had to do but every once in a while I’d raise some questions.  And it would be like I was an idiot.  Like, well, what’s wrong with this guy?  Oh, he just believes in teaching the Bible, yea right.  Let’s see if that works.  And you know it was that type of attitude and they just all absorbed all this stuff.  And so that’s the mentality that pastors are being discipled into or they are going into seminary’s where they don’t even believe in the Word of God where the Word of God is being torn down.  And so, it’s extremely unfortunate the things which are taking place.  And so I think it starts with a heart for wanting to have your ministry grow, which is good, but growth is not the focus.  You put your heart on growth, you’re going to be disappointed and discouraged.  You need to leave that in the Hands of God.  The Book of Acts continually says the Lord added to the church those that were being saved.  And if in your confidence you are just doing what God has called you to do, be faithful to it, and let God bring the increase or the decrease.  We don’t like to hear that do we?  We want to hear about increase.  You know, Americanism is like the bigger the better and everything more powerful.  God is not American, right?  So, he may want to subtract.  We call that blessed subtraction because sometimes you are glad when the Lord subtracts, like those individuals or people that didn’t need to be a part of your ministry.  And the Lord is just weeding out and you think, Oh, it’s diminishing and God is saying, well it’s my plan for growth, let’s take away some and then I’ll add some.  And so your confidence needs to be faithful to give out the scriptures and that is going to be challenged.  You know, I think of the manna in the Old Testament, remember how they would have to go out there everyday and go get it?  Well, eventually they got tiered of it and it was because the mixed multitude said, well., we want this, we remember the leeks and the onions and the garlic and they were tired of God’s provision.  And it will be that mixed multitude in the heart of people, we need more entertainment, or we need this, or we need that.  No you need to stick to giving out the Word of God to people.  And let God bring spiritual growth in the heart of the disciples and those disciples will then go out and make other disciples.  It’s amazing to watch how people bring people to church.  I love to see that.  Because they are going out effecting their community, their workplace, their loved ones and bringing people in and having the opportunity to share with them.  It’s just the Word of God going out.  And Calvary has been built on that, and I believe that is why God has chosen to continue to bless it.  Let’s look over at Romans Chapter 1, well, I want to save that one for last and I want you to jump over to Nehemiah that’s on the second page, Nehemiah, Chapter 8 vs. 1 and all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the water gate and they told Ezra the scribe, bring the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had commanded Israel.  So Ezra the Priest brought the Law before the congregation of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.  Then he read from it in the open square which was in front of the water gate from morning until mid-day.  So, talk about a long service.  He was just reading it.  Before the men and the women and those who could understand, and I love this part, and the ears of the people were attentive to the Book of the Law, so you see, Ezra comes in, and he’s going to give out the Word of God, just what we need to do and the people are attentive, ready to receive it.  So, Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose and beside him at his right hand stood all these guys names that we don’t need to go into, vs. 5 and Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people and he was standing above all the people and when he opened it, all the people stood up.  And Ezra blessed the Lord the Great God and all the people answered, Amen, Amen, while lifting up their hands and they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Then it lists some more guys, look at this fourth guys name, Jamin, he was probably the worship leader.  And so it lists these guys and it says and the Levites helped the people to understand the Law and the people stood in their place, vs. 8 so they read distinctively from the book.  In the Law of God and they gave the _______. To me this is doing what J. Vernon McGee and Chuck Smith are doing way back in the Old Testament days.  They read through the bible and they explained it.  Pretty simple, isn’t it.  This is through the bible study, through Moses, right here, through the Law of God.  Just read it and then he explained what it meant.  See how simple that is?  And it doesn’t focus in on sermon illustrations and the three point outline or five point outline, it’s okay to have those and to organize your thoughts so that people understand what you are saying, so you’re not all over the world on the passage, you call out every subject, the rapture, the second coming, marriage and family, raising children, discipline, finances, tithing all from the passage, you know you’re giving people too many things but it should be in an organized fashion but you’re simply explaining what the Bible says.  And I found the more study you do, and the more clear it is to you the easier you are to present it.  If you’re not sure and you try to present it, people are going to be going, “what’s he talking about,” so it’s foggy in the pulpit then it’s a complete incomprehendable in the pew for sure.  So as you study it, you are able to make it simple.  Now, some of these guys, you know Pastor Chuck is a very intelligent man.  He doesn’t come off like an egghead as he teaches the Bible, does he?  J. Vernon McGee, I think he’s a brilliant man and I’ve read some of his commentaries and some of the things he knows and how much he knows of the Bible, but yet doesn’t he just give you the simplest explanation but then you’re listening and then boom, the Word of God hits you.  So you just read it and explain it.  See, again your confidence has to be in the Word of God, not so much in your study or even in your preparation or in the fashion that you have it, but as you give out the accuracy of the scripture, it’s going to penetrate people’s lives.  And so, he just read it, they gave the (sounds like.. sent) and helped them to understand the reading.  And Nehemiah who was the governor so the priest and the scribe and the levities who taught the people said to all the people, this day is Holy to the Lord your God, do not mourn and weep for all the people wept when they heard the Words of the Law.  See how powerful just the reading of the Bible is?  The people began to weep and began to mourn and the reason is because they are now coming out of captivity they have not had the Word of God in Babylon and they start hearing from Moses that if you disobey me, I’m going to yank you out of the land.  But then I’ll return you back and they begin to realize we messed up, didn’t we.  And they are beginning to realize to the degree that they messed up, he is just reading the Bible, it’s not like he is a fire and brimstone preacher, it’s just like, the Word of God is penetrating their heart.  And they start to weep and to mourn.  Because they realize that they blew it.  But here is the great part of this, it says then he said to them, go your way, eat the fat, drink the sleet and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared for this day is Holy to our Lord, do not sorrow for the Joy of the Lord is your Strength.  And so now when he says it, yes, we truly blew it, we were under God’s judgment but wait a second, God is giving us another chance, God is wiping out the past and He is starting from a new generation who is going to come in and rebuild the temple, rebuild the city and restorer everything.  And everything that the enemy took, God wants to restore and to bless and he says that’s what you’re to focus on here, not on our past defeats and our past sin which we committed but on God’s grace, the God forgives, that God is merciful and that’s the joy that brings strength of knowing the completed work of God through Jesus Christ on our behalf.  And so, simply as you teach people the Word or God and you teach the completed work of Christ rather than focusing on so much on all the things that you need to do and to be a good boy or little girl before God’s eyes, that doesn’t bring any joy, it brings mourning.  It brings sorrow.  And I’m not saying that there is not a place to bring conviction and to speak on issues but as you teach through the Bible what you are going to find is a lot of the emphasis there, Don’t necessarily look at James but in Paul’s writings, he spends a lot of time on the cross and what Jesus has done and forgiveness in the completed work, the riches that we have in Jesus Christ.  The book of Ephesians that we studied last year, you’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing.  See that’s the foundation.  And by the time the heart gets to Chapter 4, they’re saying, okay, what can I do for this God that’s done so much for me?  And I think that’s what Ezra is brining the people to, not so much to hammer them and so say “we blew it and now let’s really seek God and humble our self and mourn and fast and weep by realizing the nature of God and His grace and His goodness.  And as people understand that, that’s when there heart gets excited for the things of God.  And see, if you’re confidence is in the Word and you are teaching through the entire Bible, people are going to understand that through your teaching not necessarily one Sunday to the next, but there is going to be an overall emphasis on the work of Christ.  And I believe that is what the scriptures emphasize.  See if you are a topical teacher you are going to teach on the topics of, how to be a good friend, how to be a good husband, how to be a good wife, how to be a good Christian, how to, how to, how to and then it’s all based on me trying to rise up to a certain level.  So, I think that’s the nature of man is to try to gain acceptance before God even in the ministry and that’s projected on to the people and there is no joy.  That doesn’t bring strength.  I mean we all fail and even the best of our intentions, so there needs to be that focus on the work of God.  And we are going through the Book of Romans as we are going through the Bible we are going to spend 11 Chapters on Doctrine.  Then when we get to Chapter 12, then he says now it’s logical for you to give your life to the Lord as a living sacrifice, but first people have to understand the first 11 Chapters.  For what’s probably the most famous passage of Romans is Chapter 12 vs. 1, it shouldn’t be.  That makes no sense without the first 11 Chapters.  And so as people understand the first 11 Chapters, by then they start saying, okay what can I do for this God?  You know they’ve got the doctrine down, 11 Chapters.  Then in Chapters 12, 13, 14 & 15 relate to the practical out living of that.  People have to have that, then as that is happening in people’s hearts, you know what, they start praying Lord how could I be used by you.  Then they read something in the bulletin and say, Hey, I’d like to do that.  That’s not by pushing, not by manipulating, it’s not by putting pressure and stress on people but the responding to the work of God through God’s Word in their heart.  And I think I’ve shared this with you before, I’ve shared at church that I know I could get people to do things in the church but it’s very short lived.  I could probably get a lot of people to go out street witnessing in two weeks.  Just tell people what rotten sinners they are because they have no heart for the lost and make them feel guilty and oh, my gosh, maybe I should be doing that, and you’ll get a group, but they won’t be there the next week.  And the ones who stay are going to be the ones saying, Oh, we’re the only faithful ones.  And it just is not the work of God’s spirit.  It brings immediate results but the Lord is into fruit that remains according to John 15.  I believe the only way to bring that about is by simply giving people the Word of God and as that strength comes into their life, they know of their victory that is in Christ, then there is that willing heart to serve.  You can actually get it reversed.  It’s like putting a carrot out for someone and they are trying to grab it and they will never get to it.  And as you teach people the Word of God they grow up.  And I see that here powerfully in Nehemiah so vs. 11 so the Levites cornered all the people saying, “be still for the day is holy, do not be grieved and all the people went there way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly.”  First they are weeping, mourning, but now they are rejoicing greatly because the joy of understanding God’s forgiveness.  Because they understood the Words that were declared to them, because they understood the Word, they went out rejoicing greatly.  That’s from the Law.  That’s from the Books of Moses.  They understood of God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, God’s willing to forgive and went out rejoicing and celebrated with everybody.  Let’s, I always run out of time, we don’t have enough time to look at all the scriptures I want to. Look over at 1 Peter Chapter 2.  I want to direct it more to each of our individual life, not so much now how the Word of God works in our ministry but how does it works in our ministry but how does it work in our life?  That’s the real danger of being a student of the Word, you study, study, study, and it just becomes a mental exercise.  Or you’re preparing a study and you want to give this great study to other people and yet it’s not like it comes through your life, for God brings conviction to yourself.  And there are things that can happen in the life of anyone that teaches the Bible constantly or people in the church that are involved it may be the exact thing you need to encourage you or to bring conviction or whatever it is.  And it brings about that transformation, I believe that is what Paul is talking about here.  Not only in conversion, yes, but also it brings about the transformation as the Word of God penetrates our hearts.  And so Paul says I’m not ashamed of the gospel.  Now, in the context Paul is in Corinth, as he is writing the Book of Romans.  And in Corinth it says, the gospel is a stumbling block to the Jews and to the Greeks it’s foolishness and if you read through the Book of Acts, Paul’s experience is leading up to Corinth they are kind of brutal, people rejected him, they stoned him, in Athens they said you are basically, called him a seed picker, that was the guy that went in after the market place and grabbed a little this and grabbed a little of that, it was a derogatory term.  Because he spoke about the resurrection, ah, who is this guy.  Thessalonica he was thrown out, Berea he had to be smuggled out, and Paul comes to that point and he says I’m not ashamed of the gospel, I want to go to Rome which is supposed to be the supreme place and I’m going to give you the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So his plan did not alter based on the fact people rejected him.  People’s hearts were hard.  He said, I saw a confidence that the scriptures are the Power of God, no matter how people respond to it.  And again, that’s where you are going to be tested.  Because you are going to give out the Word of God and there is going to be points of frustration where you’re going to look at some people’s lives and say, they’ve been in this ministry for so many years and there hasn’t been an ounce of change.  What do I need to do.  Maybe I need to do this, maybe what we need is this ministry or we need that.  No , you just need to stick with the Word of God and be confident in the scriptures, that that is the Power of God to bring about a change.  And in any ministry that starts getting away from the Word of God is going to be suspect of that.  Because it’s the scriptures that we need.  And so Paul, obviously churches were planted but he met with some great hostility towards the gospel but he still says I’m not ashamed of it. And in Rome it’s supposed to be one of the elite places they were to, you know there was one inscription like a little cartoon that was found of mocking Christianity and it showed a guy kneeling down before a cross and on the cross was a donkey and it was mocking Christianity and it says his name, you know worshiping his God.  So the Romans looked down on Christianity like yea, God’s going to come down here and die on the cross, yea right, their gods were separate, didn’t care about them, didn’t know, it says you can sympathize with our weakness so they mocked Christianity.  And Paul says, I’m going to march right into that territory and I’m going to give them the gospel, I’m not ashamed of it at all.  And so again, it’s not just like not being embarrassed in what he is saying, and the verse is my full confidence is in the gospel.  And again, as you are in ministry, you are going to be tempted to look to other things to bring about growth and it may be using the Bible but beating people over the head with it by getting people to do things, you don’t want to do that.  Just simply give out the Word of God and let God transform the heart and life and let God build them up, then out of their relationship with the Lord, God speaks to their heart and draws them.  And I found that if the Lord speaks to someone and tells them this is what I want you to do, has a far greater impact than me asking them and me motivating them and me pushing them.  Because now they’re accountability is to the Lord.  They are not doing it for the church, they’re not doing it for Pastor Bryan, they are doing it because Jesus Christ said, this is what I want you to do.  See the difference?  They are not looking over their shoulder is Pastor Bryan watching me, they realize God’s watching me and I better be faithful to this ministry because God has spoken to them and drew them.  And so, we don’t need to manipulate people.  I think the area of finances as well, I think the churches abuse people financially.  And there are a lot of passages that you could use.  I’ll end with this, you know just thinking of areas of finances, that the Lord showed me from the very first month as I was pasturing here not to worry about the finances.  And the Lord worked a miracle and when I started pasturing, you know I took over for a guy that passed away with cancer and the bottom line is that the church was not growing when I started pasturing, people left.  And you know, I could understand that.  I wasn’t their pastor, I was a lot different than the guy and so, although people were leaving our bills didn’t leave, we still had the same amount that we owed each month and the bottom line is that the treasurer came to me one Sunday and said you know we need this much money this week for offering just to pay our bills.  We don’t’ have it, we’re not going to be able to pay whatever these bills, probably the rent or whatever, and I believe in paying what you owe.  And so, we said, well, I’m not the fundraiser, the Lord is going to sustain us and He’s going to do that.  And He told me how much it was that we needed, then after Sunday came, and he says well, we counted the money and we don’t have enough money to pay these bills.  I said well all we can do is go to the bank, deposit what we have and we’ll see what we’ve got to do and the next day he called me and said, I don’t know what happened, because he put the money in a little zippered bag with a lock on it and brought it to the bank and said when he got there to the bank, there was more money in the bank.  Just after two or three people counted the offering, documented what it was, signed their name to the thing and of course, it was just enough what we needed to pay our bills.  And the Lord showed me from that point is God’s the provider, you focus on teaching the Bible and God will bring about the work in the life of the people’s hearts.  So, from the very beginning I’ve never had to worry about finances for the church.  My confidence is Him, teach the Word of God and if people are going to give they’ll give, if they want to spend it on themselves them they’ll spend it on themselves then God will deal with that.  Because you teach the scriptures, God brings these things about.  That’s what you want, obedience from the heart, which can only come from an understanding of the Word rather than in manipulating or pushing.  You know it makes the ministry a lot more enjoyable, a lot less pressure, you just say, well here is where my confidence is and I’m not going to alter from that.  I’m not going to be moved by results or lack of results, here is the direction I’m going, here is the path, I’m not ashamed, I have full confidence in the gospel no matter what happens, that is what I’m committed to do.  You just go with that.  And you let the Lord do what He’s going to do and He’ll have times of blessing and times of subtraction but you don’t change, you keep doing what is set before you.

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