EULESS?Using the biblical story of the faithful servant seeking a bride for Abraham’s son Isaac as his text, Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., exhorted those attending the Empower Evangelism Conference in Euless Feb. 6 to finish the journey God assigns.
Gaines, successor at Bellevue to Adrian Rogers, who died late last year after retiring from his legendary pulpit, said the story found in Genesis 24 is one of a man of submission, prayer, worship, focus and completion.
Gaines said that like Abraham’s servant, when believers accept Christ they get a master, Jesus.
“I’m not in Memphis because I wanted a bigger church,” said Gaines, who left a 16-year pastorate in Alabama. “I’m in Memphis because God wanted me there.”
Additionally, Christians are under government authority and pastoral authority. A wife is to submit to her husband’s lead; children are to obey parents.
Genesis 24:12-14 also shows that Abraham’s servant was a man of prayer and if churches are to thrive in reaching the lost, “Let God’s house be a house of prayer again,” Gaines said.
Moreover, Jesus’ disciples learned from the master of prayer, Gaines said. “They knew the Lord met early in the morning with the father in prayer.”
Gaines said prayer is integral in a minister’s life.
“You don’t have any business speaking for God, preacher, until you have prayed,” Gaines stated. “Pray.
Make prayer the priority of your life and preaching the priority of your ministry.”
Further, Genesis 24:15 shows the servant was a person of worship.
Gaines said authentic worship must be central to the individual and to the church. He also criticized church services geared toward the unchurched.
“I want you to never again plan a church service to attract people.” Gaines insisted, noting that worship is the central purpose of the church. He said if true worship is offered, the unchurched will find it.
“Don’t tell me location is the issue,” Gaines said. “Jesus in the house is the issue.”
“The worship service is not for us,” it’s for God, he said.
Gaines closed by noting the servant was focused on his goal of finding God’s bride for Isaac and he finished the journey by completing his task.
“Finish what God is calling you to do.”
Danny Forshee, a professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the Lord does amazing things through his people when they simply trust him.
Forshee, preaching from the Matthew 14 account of Jesus walking on the water and calming the wind, said it is imperative for the believer to live his Christian life in the same manner by which he entered it: by faith.
“We need passionate, courageous, bold men and women of God who will do anything and everything that the Spirit of God calls us to do.”
Peter, who walked on the water with Jesus until he began to fear, was prone to judgment errors but he also had passion and great faith, Forshee noted.
“When Jesus Christ walked on that water, that was Almighty God passing by,” Forshee said. In fact, the “It is I” in Matthew 14:27 is literally understood as the “I am” is passing by.
Forshee said three important lessons can be taken from Matthew 14:27, which reads, “Immediately Jesus spoke to them. ‘Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” (HCSB)
The first lesson is “Stop being afraid,” he said.
“Some of you tonight are paralyzed by fear. ? Maybe it’s attempting something great for God. Maybe it’s witnessing to your neighbor. Maybe it’s going on some mission trip. Or maybe it is something that you need to stop doing tonight.”
“What is it tonight that’s holding you back? Unless you slay this monster called fear, you will not accomplish the things God wants you to do.”
The literal rendering in Matthew 14:27, Forshee said, is a present imperative, “Stop being afraid.
“You’ve got to get out of your boat of fear, of passivity, of mediocrity.
“It takes no courage to stay where it’s comfortable. But there are times in life when God is going to give you the desires of your heart. And it’s going to be your time to shine. You’re going to say, ‘OK, Jesus, I’m tired of being afraid. Lord, out of the boat I go.'”
In an age when reality television shows abound and seemingly everyone seeks his proverbial 15 minutes of fame, Christians should stand in contrast, urged Greg Matte, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Houston.
Preaching from Colossians 1:3-5 of Paul’s praise for the faith, love and hope of the believers in Colosse, Matte said the Christian should pursue the fame that pleases God.
“It used to be materialism. It used to be power. Now it’s just fame” that people seek most. “They want to be known. They want somebody to wear their t-shirt with their name on the back. They want their name on the back. They want to be famous.”
Unfortunately, Matte lamented, one of the greatest threats to God-honoring churches is competition among churches?the antithesis of love.
“We want God’s vision as long as we get credit for it being our idea,” Matte said.
“The way to be famous for the right things is, number one, not to count your blessings but to count other people’s blessings. See, being famous is to count other people’s blessings, not yours.
“We’re so competitive, and it comes from our desire to be known.”
Paul is a great example, Matte noted, because he had not his own glory but God’s glory on his mind.
“It’s having the spiritual maturity to say, ‘I’m so excited about what’s happening down the street. I’m so glad about what God is doing down there.” A mature Christian says, “‘God, I want your fame so badly I don’t care who you use. Just use somebody.'”
Matte also encouraged the audience to be heavenly minded.
“Heaven is a hope for the believer ? not a conditional ‘I hope’ and if it happens we’ll be glad. It is a hope that is centered in the soul so deeply that it is an expectation. Not some type of hopeful crutch and preference. And this expectation and this realization and this understanding that there’s a hope of heaven thrusts us forward to deep faith, deep love, and to be famous for the right reasons.”
Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, Matte said, “As you read history you will find the Christians who made the biggest difference in this present world are the ones who spent the most time thinking about the next.”
“He took my sin, and he gave me his righteousness. Now you talk about a deal. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Bob Pitman, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., told the crowd.
“He gave me his righteousness. And I stand before God today declared not guilty, cleared of all guilt in the matter. I’ve been declared to be innocent.”
That’s the meaning of justification, which God declares for the new believer, said Pitman, who preached on the meaning and method of salvation.
Pitman said the biblical prophet Hosea and the wayward woman he married, the prostitute Gomer, are a picture of the redeeming God and the redeemed sinner. Hosea sought Gomer, finally finding her on the slave block after she fled and had grown old and haggardly.
“Before Jesus came into our lives, we were enslaved. People may not think they are enslaved, but they are.”
Believers, however, are “no longer on the slave block” because of the blood of Christ, which Pitman, citing Hebrews 9:25, compared to the blood that covered the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies of the ancient Jewish tabernacle.
Because of the sufficiency of Christ’s blood sacrifice, “As God comes through those books, he comes to my name but he doesn’t look. He just passes over ? and he withholds the judgment that should be mine because of Jesus Christ,” Pitman said.