Treasuring Christ In Sunday School (2016-2017)

Friends,

Last year we unveiled a brand new curriculum for thomas_std_tpreschool through high school, and based on feedback I’ve heard from students and teachers, our Sunday School ministry was a great success.  I’m excited to tell you we’ll be relaunching Sunday School on August 21st, at 9:30am.

The Treasuring Christ Curriculum is a comprehensive, unified curriculum from preschool through High School.  The curriculum’s vision is to spread the fame of God by equipping godly generations to treasure Christ through a Gospel-centered curriculum for the church, the home, and the nations, as children and students learn the narrative of the gospel as it unfolds from Genesis to Revelation.  A few of my favorite things about this curriculum include the following:

  • As opposed to seeing the Bible stories as disconnected tales with little moral lessons, Treasuring Christ helps us to scropped-images7.jpgee the individual parts of Scripture in light of the whole.  The smaller narratives are seen and understood through the larger narrative of God’s plan of redemption through Christ.
  • This is a unified curriculum.  That means every child and student at Harbins will be learning the exact same passage every week.  On the first day of class, we’ll pick up right where we left off last semester.  We finished Exodus in the spring, which means on August 21st our preschoolers, our high schoolers, and everyone in between will begin looking at Leviticus and seeing how this oft-neglected book is connected to Christ.  For parents with multiple children, you’ll know everyone is on the same page, learning the same thing, which makes family group discussions at home a bit easier.
  • Speaking of family discussions, the folks who produced Treasuring Christ are staunch believers that Sunday School should not replace the role that parents have to equip and disciple their own children.  I agree with that. Dads and Moms need to lead the way in teaching their kids, with your Sunday School teachers providing imagessupplementary support.  For this reason, this curriculum has produced a feature I love, called “Connecting Church and Home.” (CCH)  Every week the church will provide parents (through a hardcopy, an email, and a Facebook link) with the weekly CCH resource. This simple tool allows parents and churches to work out of the same playbook to grow Christ-treasurers. It helps parents bridge the gap between what their children will learn the following Sunday at church and how they can instruct their children to begin living out those truths at home right now. I hope the parents at Harbins will take advantage of this resource and find it helpful.  CCH will include discussion ideas, prayer points, and more.

Our class age and teacher breakdown is identical to last year. Here’s what we’re looking at for this semester:

Ages 2-4  (Marietta Pritchett)

Ages 5-8 (Helen Diaz)

Ages 9-12 (Demer Webb)

Ages 13 + (Cary Rosbury)

This is not meant to be overly rigid.  Ultimately I want parents to decide which group would be best for their children to be in.  For example, if you have a 12 year old and you feel that they should be in Cary’s class, then go for it.  The above breakdown is just a general guideline we’re shooting for but parents will know their children best.  Regardless, however, because this curriculum is unified, everyone is going to be learning the same Scriptures at the same time.

What would be a big help is if you can let us know if we should expect your child in class this fall.  If so, please email me at demerwebb@gmail.com and let me know which class your child would be in.

The Bible says that,

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)images

I want our church’s young people to grow into greater Christ-Treasurers, don’t you?  Indeed, I want that for myself and for all of us at Harbins.  My prayer is that this fall we’ll grow in this area together.

Learning to Treasure Christ together with you,

Pastor Demer

Fall 2016 Community Groups Coming Soon!

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It’s hard to believe, but summer is winding down.  But while summer winds down, activities and opportunities for further fellowship, growth, and discipleship at Harbins Church begin winding up!  We are just weeks away from relaunching our weeknight Community Groups.  Pastor Steve and I believe these groups play a vital role in our spiritual health and we urge everyone to select one and plug in.  In these groups you’ll find fellowship, encouragement, ministry for your soul, a means for you to bless others, and a means to better see and savor Jesus Christ.  As always, we have some outstanding study options.  Some we’ve offered before, and some are brand new.  Your five study choices are:

1) Battling Unbelief- Launches Tuesday, Sept 6th, at two locations:  Location #1 Demer and Dana Webb’s home, 7pm.  514 Bentley Circle, Bethlehem.  Led by Demer Webb.  Location #2 Barbara Coleman’s home, 1830 Jessica Way, Winder.  Led by Steve Doyle

images“When faith flickers, stoke the fire!  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it offers some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us-until we believe that God is more desirable than life itself (Psalm 63:3).  Only the power of God’s superior promises in the gospel can emancipate our hearts from servitude to the shallow promises and fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Battling Unbelief, one of the most powerful and popular studies ever done at Harbins Church, is being offered for a 4th time for believers who seek greater growth in godliness and greater power to kill sin in their lives.  Pastor Demer, with help from John Piper, will help you battle the destructive, joy-killing sins of anxiety, pride, impatience, covetousness, lust, and more.  Many have experienced a revolution in their spiritual lives through this study.  Will you be the next to be transformed?

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to purchase the study guide!

 

images2) What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage- Launches Wednesday, Sept 7th, at Matt and Marietta Pritchett’s home, 7pm.  2290 Marshland Court, Suwannee.  Led by Mark Pierce.

“It won’t take long for you to be disappointed in marriage. It won’t take long for your dreams to be dashed. The reality is that you can’t escape the brokenness of this world. You won’t be able to avoid the sin of your spouse.

The Bible teaches that we all bring something destructive into our relationships – sin. But as Paul David Tripp explains, we buy into the delusion that our biggest problem is outside of us. We blame our spouse. We blame our circumstances. We rarely take seriously the nature of our own sin.

‘What Did You Expect?’ challenges you to look into the mirror of God’s Word and see yourself with clarity. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you love yourself more than your spouse. Maybe you love your little kingdom more than God’s big Kingdom. When you reach that level of honesty, you’re at the edge of real good things for your marriage.

Start working on a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.”

Here is the trailer for the book:

So what are you waiting for?  The next step in strengthening your marriage can be signing up now!

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to download your FREE study guide! (required)

Click here to go deeper and order the book! (optional but recommended)

 

3) Praying with Paul- Launches Wednesday, Sept 7th, at Gabe and Aida Bruzzi’s home, 7pm. 2850 Crystal Ridge Drive, Dacula.  Led by Jeff Thomas

imagesIt’s doubtful that there is any Christian who has not sometimes found it difficult to pray. In itself this is neither surprising nor depressing: it is not surprising, because we are still pilgrims with many lessons to learn; it is not depressing, because struggling with such matters is part of the way we learn. God doesn’t demand hectic church programs and frenetic schedules; he only wants his people to know him more intimately. The apostle Paul found the kind of spiritual closeness in his own fellowship with the Father that is available to all of us.

“Praying with Paul” leads group members into the Epistles to see what Paul taught in his “school of prayer.” Group members will be exposed to the priorities of prayer, a God-centered framework for prayer, and practices for a more meaningful and dynamic prayer life. Christians today can still achieve the confidence Paul enjoyed by following his life-shaping principles and searching for a deeper devotional experience.

Here’s author and teacher DA Carson sharing a bit about this great study.

We have heard from more than one person how this study has resulted in a strengthened and more vibrant prayer life.  Who wouldn’t want that?  If you are ready to deepen your prayer life, you’ve just found your study, so……….

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to order the required study guide!

4) Behold Your God- Launches Thursday, Sept 8th, at Todd and Carol Harrison’s home, 7pm. 1480 Bradley Gin Road, Monroe.  Led by Todd Harrison.

Are we sure that the God we serve is the imagesGod described in Scripture? Is rethinking Him biblically really necessary? How do we do it? How would it affect our views of Christ, the gospel, holiness, worship, evangelism, service, and revival?

Behold Your God is a 12-week study that focuses on God’s self-revelation in the Bible, helping the believer to apply the descriptions of God to all of life. Each week features a short biographical sketch of the life of a significant figure from Christian history whose ministry illustrates the truths that you will be studying weekly.  They include A. W. TozerGeorge MullerRobert Murray M’CheyneCharles Spurgeon,  Jonathan Edwards, and more.

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In addition, each week’s lesson will reinforce what you have been studying in the Bible on your own time throughout that week.  Finally, you will be able to listen to highlights from interviews with contemporary ministers whose lives and labors reflect these same truths. These include Paul Washer, Andrew Davies, Conrad Mbewe, and more. Comments from men whose gospel labors range from Peru, Ethiopia, Virginia, and Memphis to New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, and Zambia help to show that these are eternal truths about an eternal God who is not altered by any temporal or geographical context.

Many in our day are tired and disillusioned because they have consistently hoped in the next new idea. It is just this kind of day that makes Christians stop running on their religious hamster-wheels and ask “Why are we doing these programs?” and “Why doesn’t God ever really seem to show up and effectively work in our churches?” Hard questions often lead to right answers. This study is written with the conviction that our fundamental need in Western Christianity is to repent of our low and unworthy views of God, to return to the biblical descriptions of the true God, and to risk it all in order to live upon Who He is. Nothing in this study is new truth.  Instead, everything is meant only to help you to take the biblical descriptions of God seriously and to see how they form the foundation of Christian living.

Whet your appetite with the trailer here:

Ok, I’m ready to sign up now!  But I can’t, because I’m teaching my own study.  But the good news is that YOU can be a part of this incredible group by signing up today!

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to order the required daily devotional!

To preserve strong group dynamics and intimacy, Pastor Steve and I are trying to keep the groups from becoming too large.  Therefore, our preference is to have a maximum of 12 participants per group.  (This does not of course, include babies and other children who won’t really be participating in the study!) With that said, we want to make sure everyone is in a group, so if there is only one that you are able to participate in due to day of the week, location, etc, then we will of course increase the size of any group to make sure that everyone is included.  With that said, please let us know as early as you can which group you’d like to participate in.

I’m excited as I’ve ever been about our lineup of studies available to you.  You can’t go wrong with any of the five options available, and I am excited to see and hear how God will use the Harbins Community Group ministry in your life in the months to come.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

You’re not the main character (Identity Matters)

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is takiimagesng us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Back in my younger years, I used to view life as a story and guess who the star of the show was?  Me!  That’s right.   And you would have been supporting cast. It was all about me.

I fear that sometimes I can still slip into that mindset even though I may not articulte it quite that way. We all have a tendency to become self-focused and everyone around us becomes merely supporting cast, including God.  For some, God may be a background character that occasionally makes a cameo. For others, God may be a very important character, just not the central role.  God may be the co-pilot, but we’re flying the plane and charting the course.

In our ongoing, expositional journey through the book of Ephesians, we are learning a lot about our identity and who we really are.  In my last post, we reveled in the glorious truth that as redeemed children of God we are not guilty.  That is a truth to be celebrated.  However, what we are discovering in Ephesians chapter 1 is another truth that isn’t as fervently celebrated, but should be.  Namely, that you are not the main character of the story.

imagesNow, we are right in viewing life as a story, but the apostle Paul is going to remind us of something very important. Paul is going to put us in our proper place and show us that Jesus Christ is at center stage.  What’s more, He’s not just at the center of your story.  Instead, the destiny of the entire Cosmos revolves around and is summed up in Jesus Christ.  God is,

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

In the New Testament, Paul likes to use the word “mystery” to describe a secret that was once hidden or vaguely understood, but now has been fully disclosed and revealed in light of what Christ has done through the gospel.

And what is this mystery? What is this secret that God has graciously allowed us in on? Paul says God has a purpose.  A plan for the fullness of time.  God is sovereignly moving history in a specific direction towards a specific goal.  And what is that goal?  Paul says in verse 10 that the goal is to unite all things in Jesus Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

The Greek word translated as “unite” is anakephalaiosis.   It’s basic meaning is “to bring something to a main point” or “to sum up.” The word connotes the idea of a re-unification or a re-establishing of harmony where discord and division once existed.

That describes beautifully where history is headed.

Ages ago, when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was in harmony and united under Jesus Christ. All of the angelic powers obeyed God. Man was perfect and holy and at peace with God in submission to His will, dwelling in a garden paradise where there was no pain or sorrow or death.  The earth was totally perfect.

imagesBut at some point in the distant past things went terribly wrong. One of the angelic powers launched a cosmic conspiracy against God and he led Adam, the first man, to commit treason and join the revolt. The reverberations of Adam’s sin were nothing short of cataclysmic. Man became alienated from God and banished from paradise, and all of Adam’s descendants have continued in that sinful rebellion against Him.   Man also became alienated from man. From the discord we see between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, to Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4, to all of the racism and wars and conflicts and division we see everywhere among people today, no matter where we look, we see the cataclysmic effects of the fall of man.

The Bible says that sin also ruptured the fabric of the universe. Creation itself was spoiled. The earth that yielded its produce for Adam before sin, now resists him, producing thorns and thistles.   A world that used to be at peace now produces earthquakes and tornadoes and floods.  When Adam fell, all of creation fell with him. We have a Cosmos in revolt against its original design. Man shakes his fist at God and fellow-man,  Satan is described in the Scriptures as the god of this world, and death reigns.

When we think of salvation and redemption we tend to personalize it.  We tend to make it about us, as if we’re the main character in the story.   But the mystery that God has revealed to us is showing us that the stakes are much bigger than we think.  God’s redemptive plan includes more than we realize.  It’s not ultimately about you.   It’s instead about God taking a universe that is being torn apart and fractured by sin and bringing all things back into their proper place again.  He has set in motion a plan where he is now gathering all things together in Jesus.  Though things are now out of alignment due to sin, God is realigning the universe towards a proper relationship to Jesus.

How?  Through the gospel of Christ.  Paul writes,

For in himimages all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Through the blood of Jesus man can be reconciled to God.  We’ve already seen this truth earlier in Ephesians 1.  But Paul, going into chapter 2, will remind his Jewish and Gentile readers that while their races have been marked with discord and division, the two sides have been brought near to one another “by the blood of Christ.”

Jesus is recreating the harmony between humans that once existed in the garden.

In addition, redemption includes a restructuring and recreation of the entire universe. The entire planet, which Paul describes in Romans as “groaning” under the weight of sin’s curse will groan no more when Jesus comes and restructures the Cosmos into the paradise it once was, ushering His people back into the paradise that was lost.

But what about the enemies of God? What about humans that persist in their rebellion, refusing to bend the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge His Lordship? What about Satan and his wicked angels who instigated the revolt in the first place?

There are two ways that Christ will create peace and harmony according to the Scriptures. One, is through the removal of hostility and corruption through redemption and the gracious forgiveness of sins.

The other way is through conquest.

The reconciliation that happens through the blood of His cross is expressed in salvation for those who believe, but for the Satanic powers it is expressed through their shameful defeat and disarmament as Christ triumphs over them. (Col 2:15)  What’s more, the triumph that began at the cross will be fully consumated at the end of history.

The Bible is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, and as in ancient times you would have the conquered publicly acknowledge before everyone the lordship of the conqueror and begrudgingly pay homage to Him, you have the Bible giving us this same kind of picture of what’s to come at the end of the age in Philippians 2, where Paul declares that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

There is a time of reckoning coming. Jesus Christ is Lord. All will acknowledge it sooner or later. You will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, with joy and gladness, or you will be forced to your knees when the King returns and rounds up all the traitors and rebels.  In the end, even the most powerful of the rebels, Satan himself, will drop to his knee as a conquered foe, bowing low in homage, and will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.images

When you and I live like we are the main character in the story, we’re not just being naively self-centered, we are being Satanic.  Self-centeredness is a form of idolatry as it makes life all about me.  I am putting me and my efforts and my glory at the center of all things and that is a the heart of Satanism.

The Scriptures are telling us a different story.  A better story.   Jesus Christ is the star of the movie. He’s the main character.  He’s the hero.  He’s the King.  He’s the center of all things, and from eternity past the plan of God has always been the enthronement and exaltation of His Son.

If the core of your identity is bound up in yourself.  If you are moving through life with tunnel vision as if it’s all about you, that’s going to have dramatic consequences in your life and in the lives of those around you.

But if we see ourselves rightly, and put our lives in context, then the story of our lives must always be viewed within the greater context of God’s amazing and beautiful and eternal story of Redemption, which is His plan to unite and reconcile all things to Jesus in heaven and on earth.  Knowing that changes everything.

Are you grieved over broken relationships? Are you mourning injustice? Are you weary of the heartbreak in this world? Are you broken by sickness and living in the shadow of death?  Take heart that we are moving towards a time where all things will be made right and new.

So we do not lose heart… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 )

Oh how we must have an eternal perspective and remember that the things that grieve our hearts so much are not the end of the story!  Instead, the Scriptures tell us,

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death… (1 Cor 15:21-25)

imagesAll of history is marching forward to a specific destination determined by God, and God is orchestrating everything in a way that is getting us closer and closer to that end. History has a destination, and that destination is Jesus, with the entire Cosmos submitted to His Lordship.  A Cosmos that will be remade, renewed, and restored.  Paradise lost in the garden will be regained in the New Heavens and New Earth where there will be no more pain or sorrow or sickness or death.  (Rev 21:4)

None of that can happen if God is only your co-pilot.  Thank God that He is calling the shots and not us!

Your identity, your story, your very life, is bound up in the bigger and grander and more glorious story of Jesus, our King and Savior and Hero. He has graciously chosen to let you in on this beautiful mystery that assures us that something much better is coming for all who believe.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re looking for a few good servants

Friends,

Jesus said, ” The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11) images

If that’s true, then surely the deacons of our church are among the greatest in our midst.  The very name, “deacon”, carries the idea of selfless service.  The elders of HCBC want to express our ongoing gratefulness to the men that have served as deacons past and present.

Because the role of a deacon demands constant “above and beyond” service, it is important to make sure we are regularly providing opportunities for deacons to have seasons of rest, while replenishing the ranks with more servants who are ready to give themselves to ministering to the flock.

With that said, I want to remind you that the elders of HCBC are seeking your help as we pray about expanding our deacon team.  HCBC deacons play a crucial role in strengthening and furthering the ministry of our church, and they help Pastor Steve and myself shepherd and care for you better.  As you are involved in the day-to-day life in the church, you are in a great position to help let us know who you’ve noticed as someone who may particularly be effective in such a service role.

You can write down your deacon nomination and put it in the box hanging up in the back of the sanctuary.  For your convenience, you can also email your nominations to Jeff Thomas at jt301406@gmail.com

In addition, can you please add our deacon search to your daily prayers for the next few weeks?  Pray that God would guide our church to find that right people to serve in this important role.  We can do nothing without His help.

Knowing whatimages a deacon is and does, and what the qualifications for such a role is, will be very helpful to you as you prayerfully consider whom you might nominate.  If you are unsure about the role of deacon and the necessary qualifications, or if you just need  refresher, let me commend some the following thoughts from 9Marks Ministries to you.  Below I’ve provided a very helpful link detailing the biblical qualifications and responsibilities of deacons.  I’d advise reading that first if you can.  After that, beneath the link, I’ve shared some brief excerpts from a good article from Benjamin Merkle that reminds us that beyond raw administrative ability, we need deacons who will help promote peace and unity in the church.

The Biblical Qualifications and Responsibilities of Deacons

Deacons: Shock-Absorbers and Servants

WHAT IS A DEACON?

According to the New Testament, a deacon is two things: a shock-absorber and a servant.

Deacons are shock-absorbers: the seven men chosen by the church in Jerusalem to care for widows, who seem to be precursors to deacons, were chosen to preserve unity at a time when botched administration was creating fissures in the church (see Acts 6:1-7).

And deacons are servants: their very name means servant, and their precursors in Acts 6 were chosen to handle the practical needs of the church. That way, the apostles could devote themselves to leading the church through prayer and the ministry of the Word.

DEACONS AS SHOCK-ABSORBERS

God has always intended to display his glory to the nations, in part, through the unity of Jews and Gentiles within the church (Eph 3:10), and yet it was exactly at this juncture that disunity was erupting in the early Jerusalem church.

The Greek-speaking Jews began to complain “against” the Hebrew-speaking Jews concerning the distribution of food. The church therefore chose seven men to distribute food equitably, yes, but, more than that, to restore unity where there was division. Unity-building was their primary goal; good administration was the means.

It’s notable that, when laying out qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3, Paul focuses on issues of character rather than administrative skills. Accordingly, our churches should select deacons primarily for their track record of peacemaking, and only secondarily for administrative expertise. 

DEACONS AS SERVANTS

The elders are called to “direct the affairs of the church” (1 Timothy 5:17), and deacons are called to support that direction. In our churches, then, elders should make directional decisions while deacons facilitate congregational involvement to make that vision a reality.

Elders lead ministry, deacons facilitate ministry, the congregation does ministry. That, I believe, is the New Testament model, and that biblical clarity in deacons’ role and function is invaluable for promoting peace and unity in our congregations.

I hope the above information can help you as you consider what individuals would be a great fit for the role of Deacon at HCBC.  Thank you in advance for your involvement in this process.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

You Are Not Guilty! (Identity Matters)

Probably there are few things worse than hearing the accusation, “Guilty!”  To see the imagesheads shake, to see the fingers pointed in your direction, and to come to the realization that your accusers are right.  Your sin has found you out.  Your deeds have been exposed.  You did what they said you did and there’s no question about it.

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve felt that way.  The question is, how should a Christian respond to guilt?  Denial?  Excuses?  Downplaying it?  Blame shifting?

How you respond to guilt has everything to do with understanding your identity in Christ.  Earlier this year I launched an expository blog series through Ephesians called “Identity Matters”, and I’m making the case that understanding who you really are in Christ can revolutionize your life.

In my last article, we began focusing on Ephesians 1:7-10.  In particular we considered the truth that”we have redemption through His blood.”  One of the things that flows from our redemption is that we are forgiven.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Ephesians 1:7)

What exactly does “forgiveness” mean?

It’s not denying reality. It’s not saying what was done in the past was actually not done. That would be a lie.  Forgiveness is not saying that the evil that was done was ok and not a big deal. That too would be a lie.

Instead, forgiveness is deciding not to hold someone’s sin over their head.  It’s a refusal to throw back someone’s sin in their face over and over and over again and accuse them over and over and over again and punish them for it to make them pay for what they did.

As believers, what we discover in the gospel is that God is able to not hold your sins over your head anymore because when Jesus Christ hung on the cross your sin was held over his head instead!  Your sin was imputed, or put on Him, and God punished your sin in Jesus.
When mostimages people think about the gospel they stop there, but there’s actually more to it than that.   What we experience because of our faith in Jesus is more than an elimination of our sin debt.  When we receive Christ and when we are united to Him by faith we find also that His righteousness is imputed to us.  Therefore when God looked at Jesus on the cross, He saw your sin and when God looks at you, dear believer, He sees you clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with sin anymore.  What it means, however, is that in God’s great courtroom you are declared by the judge as “Not Guilty!” because all of your guilt was transferred to Christ and fully dealt with on the cross.  John MacArthur describes it this way,

“In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty—fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.”

This does not mean that the Christian no longer sins and does things that are wrong.  On the contrary, as we move further in Ephesians we will see many exhortations that warn against sin.  In the wake of God’s legal declaration of “not guilty”, we still practically battle sin regularly.  But one of the main points of Ephesians is that we need to now practically live in accordance with our new identity.  We’ve been adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and declared “not guilty”, and therefore Paul will urge us in chapters 4-6 to “Be who we really are!”  Later on we’ll explore Ephesians’ exhortations for practical living, but for now we need to pause and consider God’s amazing, divine, “not guilty” verdict. This is stunning, and should have radical implications on our lives.

There are many Christians that carry around a truck load of guilt.  They are paralyzed by it.  They are depressed and in despair about all the bad things they’ve done in the past.  They cannot move forward and enjoy life because they are wallowing in the guilt of things they’ve done decades ago.  They live in a state of guilt and condemnation.

Perhaps you can identify?   You have received Christ.   You have repented of your sins.   You have forsaken your sins.  You have tried to make amends or restitution towards those you’ve sinned against.  You’ve done all that the Bible would expect from you but nevertheless you still hear the whispering voices of accusation.

“You did that. You are guilty. God will never accept you.  He has rejected you.  God can never use you. Your life is forever ruined. You’re not totally forgiven.  There’s something else you must do to earn God’s favor”

You may think that those kinds of voices are your attempts to be humble.  You may think those kinds of voices are just evidence that you take your sin more seriously than others.  But in actuality, those voices are Satanic and to agree with them is to be a co-conspirator with the Devil against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the main ways that the Devil attacks us is through finger-pointing accusations and guilt.   He is like a imagesprosecuting attorney.   Even the names “Satan” and “Devil” carry those courtroom connotations.

What many Christians don’t fully realize is that part of God’s redemptive plan is to silence the devil’s accusations.

Let’s consider a text that you may not have ever read in your morning devotions.  Zechariah chapter 3.  In this chapter  we see Satan doing what he does best.  Accusing. Let’s see how God deals with Satan’s accusations.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5)

Now what’s the point here?   Were Satan’s accusations false?  Was Satan lying about Joshua’s sin? Absolutely not. The scripture says that Joshua’s clothes were filthy! Satan was right. Joshua was unrighteous, Joshua was dirty because of sin.  But the wonderful meaning of this strange vision is that the accusations of Satan are powerless against the one whom God determines to make clean.  This vision, which at first shows Joshua as filthy, moves to a picture of having those disgusting, excrement covered clothes removed from him, with new, fresh clean clothes put on him.

Now Joshua is viewed by God as clean and righteous, just as if he had never sinned.   But notice that it is not a righteousness of his own.   Joshua instead is covered with a righteousness, with clothes, that did not belong to Him but belonged to God.

If you are in Christ, you need to recognize that as the Devil accuses you of all your sins, (and if you are like me there is a laundry list of sins),  God’s response to Satan’s accusations is, “The Lord rebuke you! The Lord has chosen this one!  Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

God has taken you, believer, and he has removed your filthy clothes and He has clothed you with new garments called “The righteousness of Christ”, and the clothes are yours forever.  The righteousness you possess is not your own but has been given to you, which means God gets the glory!

None of this means that God takes the sin of a believer lightly.  He took it so seriously that He crushed His own Son for it!  None of this means that God’s will for your life is not to kill the remaining sin in your life and pursue holiness.  Later on in Ephesians, Paul urges us to be “imitators of Christ.”  God isn’t pretending your sin never happened and that you won’t be tempted in the future.  Instead, what the reality of the gospel means is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

If you see your identity bound up as one who is still under the condemnation of sin, as if  the blood of Jesus isn’t good enough to cleanse you,  then you will be paralyzed with guilt and shame and you’ll be constantly running on an endless treadmill of religious works to try to pay for your own sins.

imagesBut if instead you see yourself as someone whose sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Jesus, you will experience the joy and freedom that comes with being regarded by your Lord as “Not Guilty!”

If this is true, then our response to our own sin need not be excuses, cover up, denial, blame shifting, our wallowing in depression.  All of those things are very self-centered and distract us from genuine confession and genuine repentance.

But the person who is declared “Not Guilty”, has nothing to hide and can more freely confess his sin and repent.  The person who is seen by God as clothed with Christ’s righteousness doesn’t feel the need to shift the blame for their sins.  Instead, we can more easily take responsibility for our own sin because we aren’t afraid of judgment.  That sin you committed this morning has already been judged by God in Christ on the cross 2000 years ago.  The person who has stumbled does not need to wallow in depression over how bad they are.  Instead, our sin should eagerly drive us back to the cross, knowing that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20).  Yes, we should be angry at our sin.  Indeed we should feel deep conviction and brokenness when we fall.  Most certainly we should desire growth and change and have a repentant attitude.  But in addition to all of that, our own consciousness of sin should also lead us to enjoy, thank, and magnify Jesus all the more, as Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

As redeemed and forgiven believers, our response to our sin should not be a constant self-finger pointing session where we descend into the pit of self-centered despair.  If that’s all we do, we are collaborating with the invisible Accuser.  Instead, do a little spiritual Judo on the enemy and turn his accusatory attack into an opportunity to praise God!

Remember the words of that great old hymn, “Before the Throne of God”

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

You are a child of God.  You are free.  You are forgiven.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

Help Harbins reach out to Dacula in Jesus’ name

Friends,

I’m excited to let you know about a brand new outreach effort we’re launching at Harbins Church.  The following details are from Hannah Sims, who is coordinating this effort.

I want you to think back to how you first heard about HCBC.  For our family, it started as we drove by the church to and from work everyday.  Though we were regularly attending another local church at the time, the community and fellowship that is a hallmark of Harbins Church could literally be felt as we drove past the church and saw numerous kids and teens tossing the football on the front lawn and high fiving on Sunday afternoons.  However, because trying out a new church is always a daunting task, we resolved to listen to the sermons online for over six months before ever walking through the doors of HCBC.

I share that story because I also want to share with you a new ministry that we are pursuing at Harbins.

Each month, our church receives an email from the county with a listing of new residents within a specified radius of the church.  From that list, we narrow down the homes located 2 miles or less from HCBC.  Next is where the fun part kicks in!  Because we know that church hunting can be intimidating (and moving is exhausting)- we as a church are eager to reach out to these newcomers that our literally our neighbors!

imagesThough there are other churches in our zip code, we KNOW that God is evident and at work at HCBC- therefore don’t we want everyone near us to be invited into the work the Lord continues to do at Harbins?!  Yes!- So, each month (moving forward) we are committed to delivering a Harbins Tote to the new residents within a couple of miles of our church.  Each tote will contain a personalized card from one of our Elders, a paper track, a DVD, and a loaf of breakfast bread.

We hope this gesture will bless newcomers in our community.  The bread is an expression of our love and hospitality.   The reusable tote will serve as a reminder of our church.  The track will quickly get God’s Word into people’s hands.  And though it all we are praying that God will use this outreach as a means of inviting our neighbors into a church where the gospel is being preached and that the Lord will draw these new residents to himself.

Up to this point, the preparation of totes and addresses to visit has been done- but here is where you can get involved!  Totes will be delivered every Sunday that we have a fellowship meal.  Our hope is that as people finish eating, they can grab a tote, as well as another couple of people and go spend 15 minutes together continuing fellowship in their car as they deliver a bag to a new resident.  Again, we are only visiting within a two mile or less radius of the church, so it will be a quick trip!

Each month there will be approximately 8 bags that will need to go out- please prayerfully consider how the Lord might use you in this ministry.

In Christ,

Hannah Sims

I am grateful to God that He gave Hannah this burden to reach outside the church walls and into the community.  I really believe this is something that God can use to bless our community and show the love of Christ to our neighbors.  If you’re interested in joining with Hannah in this outreach, please let her know.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Top 5 reads of the week (4/17-23)

Occasionally I’d like to use the blog to point you in the direction of some other blogs and articles that I have personally found to be helpful.  Why keep the good stuff to myself when others might be blessed as well?

This week a number of outstanding posts were published by various authors that encouraged and challenged me.  I thought I’d pass them on to you for your edification.

#5 Theological Primer: The Holy Spirit– Some churches ignore the Holy Spirit. Some that claim to be Spirit-focused are in reality obsessed with unbiblical, bizarre notions about the Spirit. The American Church needs a good, balanced theology of the Spirit. This is a good, brief primer on the Third Person of the Trinity.

#4 Isolation from the Church is Dangerous-Those who need to read this the most will want to skip over this. For your own sake…please don’t.

#3 Your Hospital Visit is Coming– “I was only seventeen years old, or maybe eighteen, but that moment defined how I would engage life in a hospital. My stay would not be a jail sentence. Come hell or high water, I determined that this hospital would be, well, a gymnasium for my soul, a proving ground for my faith, and a mission field for God.” – Joni Eareckson Tada (one of my heroes of the faith!)

#2 The Soft Prosperity Gospel – “The soft prosperity gospel teaches that if you work hard for God, then He should work hard for you. Many have bought into this lie. We go to church, keep our noses clean, and do whatever extra we can. Then we hope God will do His part and bless us with good kids, a nice house, a steady job, and plenty of money. But what happens when the company downsizes? When a kid starts taking drugs? When the 401(k) shrinks? We go into private litigation in our minds because God has not kept His end of the bargain…Do you think (even subtly) that God owes you?”

And My Favorite Post of the Week Is………

#1 Can Your Theology  Handle the book of Lamentations? – Lamentations typically isn’t a book Christians reach for when doing morning devotions. This article hits a home run in reminding us the value of absorbing the full counsel of God in the Scriptures. Don’t just stay in the “safe” parts of the Bible.

I hope one or more of these challenges, encourages, and equips you, pointing you towards Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer