I REALLY Want Us To Be Praying This!!

Hey Connection!!

Today I was reading in the Gospel of Mark and came across a verse that really hit home with me. It is in Mark 1:45. The part that really jumped out at me was the last sentence.

Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Jesus was no longer able to go to the people in towns but the people continued coming to Jesus. As I read that verse I was again reminded that people WILL go to where God is moving! At the core of every human being is a desire to worship God. Why? That is what we were created to do! We may not realize it. Others may not realize it. But within every one of us is a desire to know God and to worship Him as God. When He is present people WILL be drawn to Him whether it is in a traditional sanctuary, a high school auditorium, or a tobacco barn! It’s not the place, but who is in the place that matters.

I honestly do not know that I have ever had a stronger desire in my heart to be in God’s presence and to see Him move in an incredible way! My heart is longing for the presence of God in my own life as well as in the lives of others. I want to drink deeply from the living water of God! I want to see it overflow in my life to a dry and thirsty world! I WANT the same for you!

My prayer is that God would awaken us to the reality of who He is and the true riches that we have in Jesus! That those who are both near and far from God would experience a great awakening within their hearts and that new life would be born!

As I was praying this morning the prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians came to mind. You can find it in Ephesians 1:15-19. Often times we read the Bible as if it were written to someone else. Remember the Bible wasn’t just written to an audience 1000’s of years ago. It is God’s letter to us! I want us to make these scriptures personal and pray them for ourselves and for this community. I want us to specifically focus on verses 17-19. Here’s the prayer I am asking you to pray:

Lord, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know you better! Enlighten our hearts so that we can know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in us, and your incomparably great power for us who believe! Amen!

I would encourage you to copy and paste this to a word document, write it on a card to keep in your car, or better yet, memorize it! Let’s pray it like crazy and believe that God is going to draw us deeper and bring others closer!

I love you guys! Love our church! #Ephesians1:17-19

Heart and Soul!

FAQs for the 50 Shades Series

Hey Connection!!

We have gotten a few recurring questions about the upcoming series 50 Shades of Gray: The Black and White on Sexual Issues. I wanted to take a minute and answer them for you. Here they are:

1.    How graphic and in depth are you going to go into these topics?

I promise I will only use terms and language that is necessary to clearly communicate the truth concerning each of these topics. I also promise that, as always, I will NOT use any words simply for “shock value”. If there is a way to communicate something in a less graphic way I will do my best to communicate it accordingly. Honestly, I don’t foresee these messages containing language that is very different from a typical Sunday at Connection Church. However, I will not dance around the topics that need to be discussed and waste this opportunity to clearly communicate God’s Word in regards to these topics.

We will provide an alternative environment for our middle schoolers if parents feel their children aren’t ready for these messages. Middle schoolers who do not attend the services will have the opportunity to serve in the 1st – 5th grade area. They will get to help lead games and facilitate lessons.  In doing so they will get to fulfill our third core value, serve! You know your children better than we do and you know what they are ready for. With that in mind we will trust you to prayerfully make the best decisions in regards to your children. If you plan to have your middle schooler skip the services and serve in the Konnection Kids area please email us at info@connection-church.com so we can plan accordingly.

I do recommend that no one under 6th grade stay in the service during this series or any other series. We provide excellent environments for babies through 5th grade each and every week. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. It will be the best environment for your child to learn about Jesus.

2.    Will these topics put thoughts/images in my child’s mind?  Will it make he/she curious?

Well, I won’t be describing pornographic scenes if that’s what you mean! I will not paint graphic pictures of sex scenes. That would be pornography! I will define pornography both secularly and biblically.  We will also look at why it is so rampant in our culture and around the world, who it effects and how it effects them, and the Good News of how we can be set free from it.

As far as the curiosity question goes…Honestly, unless you live in a cave your middle schooler and/or high schooler is already curious. I know, we as parents like to think that they aren’t but unfortunately the truth is that the average age boys are exposed to internet pornography is 11.4! Most people recommend talking to your children about the dangers of pornography by the age of 10! Is that the way it should be? NO! It’s not right! But it is reality. I’d much rather them hear about the wake of destruction pornography leaves and what God says about it through biblical truth spoken in church rather than a half informed 12 year old in the P.E. locker room.

3.    What videos /testimonies will be shown?

We will not show graphic videos of pornography or abortion. There will be testimony videos but they are not graphic in nature.

4.    Will these topics cause separation in the church and/or separation among other people? 

I am honestly a little amazed at how quickly people who have seen our heart for the lost and hurting can so quickly turn and think that we would now look for an opportunity to hurt people and cause division. The gospel is Good News for sinners! That includes all of us! That is what we will proclaim. We WILL be true to scripture but scripture wouldn’t call the message of Jesus Good News if it weren’t.

Now. Let’s look at the reality of the situation. No matter what I say 50% of you are going to be critical one way or another. I’m not being critical of you. I’ve just been doing this long enough now to know this is true. Just thinking about the topics we will be discussing I know that approximately half of you will say, “He was too liberal!” The other half will say, “He was too conservative!” My goal is to present, as clearly as I can with God’s help, what the scriptures teach us. This actually ties into my answer to the next question…#5

5.    Are you doing these topics to get more people to come to your church?

Truthfully, when I read this question I go from laughing to wanting throw something! It makes me somewhat irritated because my heart and the heart of the church is being brought into question. I really believe the fruit of the ministry that Jesus has given us has spoken to the fact that this question does NOT reflect our heart. We didn’t set out to simply grow a large church. We set out to reach people for Jesus. We have always known, and will always seek to remember, that unless the Lord builds the house the laborers labor in vain.

It is true that we have promoted this series more than any other in the 3.5 years Connection Church has been in existence. Why? Because these topics are destroying lives as they lurk in the darkness and we need to shine light on them with the Good News of Jesus. In some instances the truth needs to shine light on our destructive decisions and bring hope to broken people. In other instances it needs to shine light on the errors we’ve made as the church and shape us more into the hope of the world Jesus died for us to be.

This question also makes me laugh a little because I can assure you that I didn’t just choose to talk about these issues. Believe it or not I don’t wake up every morning thinking of ways to tick ½ of Bulloch County off. As much as any series we have ever done I am convinced that this series came from the heart of God. We actually had the entire fall planned before God put this on my heart. We scrapped what needed to be scrapped in order to be obedient.

Also, If I were trying to draw and keep a crowd do you really think I would pick these four topics? If I were trying to draw and keep a crowd I’d just bring the circus to town. I honestly don’t know what the outcome of this series will be. What I do know is that I HAVE TO BE obedient to God and do what He says. If that means some leave so that one can be set free from the wounds in their hearts then so be it. Jesus never seemed to keep a crowd and He taught that He would leave the 99 to go after the 1. Maybe we, the church, need to come to terms with this reality and be willing to do whatever it takes to reach the lost. My heart is not to hurt anyone but to bring them face to face with the reality of the One who can heal the hurts. Whatever the outcome of this series and Connection Church may be, my prayer is simply this, “Lord, your will be done!”

I really do appreciate the questions. I am always open to those who seek understanding of what we do and why we do it.

Hey Connection…HEART AND SOUL!

3 Things You Need To Know!

Hey Connection!!

I have been getting a lot of questions from people inside and outside of our church about the upcoming series 50 Shades of Gray: The Black and White on Sexual Issues. I want to try and answer any questions you have but also equip you to answer the questions that you are going to get if you haven’t already. Hear is a few things we need to keep in mind as we approach the start of this series in 10 days.

  1.  

    I encourage you, and ask you to encourage others, to listen or watch the current series before the start of the 50 Shades of Gray series. (On a side note, we know that the character in the book spells his name “Grey” not “Gray” but we aren’t going to be talking about the book we are going to be talking about scripture.) The current series is called You Can’t Tell Me What To Do and deals with God’s authority in our lives. It looks at how God should be and deserves to be the King of our lives having ultimate authority. This past week we looked at the authority of the Word of God, the Bible. As God’s Word, it should have the final say in our lives. It teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us for our good and for His glory. This week we will be looking at the authority of the church and how God uses authority in His church to renew the face of the earth. 

    Why is this important? Because until God, His Word, and His church have the proper place of authority in our lives nothing read in the scripture or expounded upon in the message will carry weight. The Bible says that we are blessed when we hear the Word and do what it says. We won’t do what it says until it is viewed as the only option for living.

  2.  

    Why did we pick the four topics of pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and sex? Honestly, these are the ones that God put on my heart. But as I look at them it seems to make sense. I think it would be difficult to find four more hotly debated and, as far as the church is concerned, poorly handled topics in our culture. My heart is simply to provide biblical answers and shine the Good News of Jesus on each of these topics.

  3.  

    I ask you, and would like for you to do the same with others, not to judge the series before it starts. I completely understand why anyone would. For one thing, people don’t trust the church. That too is understandable. The second reason is that each of these topics typically instigate hate not love, division not unity. I would ask you to hear the heart behind the messages before making your judgment about them. We will not judge nor condemn anyone, that’s never been the purpose of the church or Connection Church. It’s not our job to judge and condemn. Our job is to present the heart of God found in scripture as clearly as we can and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

I hope those three things will help answer questions that you or others may have. My prayer is that this series will lead people to the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.  If there’s ever been a time that we need to take our core values seriously and invest, invite, serve, and encourage others it is NOW! Let’s step up and be the Church to this community.

Heart and Soul!

Don’t Take Your Eyes Off This!

Hey Connection!!

Today I was reading in the book of Colossians and was once again struck by the most elemental, and yet crucial, foundations of our faith in Jesus. Colossians 1:1-2 says:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

It’s easy for us to glance over those verses to get to the “meat” of the letter and miss the amazing message they contain. In fact, it is such an important message that Paul includes it in EVERY letter that he wrote in the NT. (For all of the theology majors – I know Hebrews doesn’t include this salutation, but Pauline authorship of Hebrews is still debated.) What is the message you ask? It’s that grace and peace has been extended to us from God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ! I want to encourage you: Please don’t take your eyes off of this fact!

Grace is God’s unmerited favor or unconditional goodwill toward mankind! It means we did nothing to deserve His love or all of the kindness He has shown us. He just chose to give it to us unwarranted and undeserved! The Bible even tells us that we were still dead in our sins when Jesus died for us. (Ephesians 2:4,5) That even while we were still sinners, the only One without sin died that we could be reconciled (here’s where the 2nd part, peace, come in) to God! (Romans 5:8) As Christians, hearing that should NEVER  get old!

The peace of God refers to our reconciliation to himself as well as to each other. It is peace that cannot be enjoyed apart from fellowship with Jesus. Jesus is our peace. He has bridged the gap that sin created between God and us. He also bridges the gap between us and others as He floods our lives with His love! God’s peace is a distinct treasure that only belongs to followers of Jesus. This does not make us an exclusive club. However, it should make us the light of the world that causes others to want to be included!

It is God’s love that we experience through the power of the Holy Spirit that draws us to Him and away from our old life with it’s destructive patterns and ways. The gospel is not preached if repentance is not preached. Following Jesus includes us turning from our old patterns of life (Colossians 3:1-17). In light of God’s grace and peace that has been extended to us, is not turning away from our old life to His new offer of life even an option? It seems to be the only reasonable thing we can do! (Romans 12:1)

I want to ask you, right now, to take a minute, two minutes, ten minutes…how ever long it takes to pause and let this reality sink in . . . God LOVES you! His love is not able to be earned! It is not able to be lost! IT JUST IS!

Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! (For some reason it sounds kinda cheesy when I write it!)

I love you guys!


Heart and Soul!!

Who’s Calling the Shots?

Hey Connection!!

I want to challenge you today to ask yourself who or what is driving your life! Sunday we talked about the importance of Jesus being the King and how we often try to insert ourselves into His seat. We looked at 3 things from 1 Kings 1 that, if kept in proper perspective, will keep us from trying to remove Jesus from the throne of our life.

  1. We can’t underestimate the King’s power. Adonijah, King David’s son, thought that his father was too weak to keep him from assuming the kingship. (See 1 Kings 1:1-8) In light of God’s patience with us it is often easy for us to assume that He is some how weak or uninterested in being King. Reality is that His patience is because of His goodness and not a sign of disinterest or inability. If we really believe Jesus has the power to do everything He promised why would we attempt to usurp His authority? If He really will set our life on a solid foundation, give us a new heart and a new Spirit, heal our brokenness, and lead us to abundant life, why would we reject that?
  2. We can’t underestimate the King’s value. Adonijah decided he would throw himself a party with his father’s stuff. He rallied a few men, got some chariots, and went off to make empty religious sacrifices that were basically to himself and his own kingdom! (See 1 Kings 1:5-10) Many times we do the same things. We underestimate the value of the real King.  Our life becomes about us and we only offer empty religious sacrifices to God! The question we need to ask is “How is my worship of Jesus?” Not just my singing on Sunday morning, but my entire life? Is every aspect of my life driven by the value I place on Jesus? Or do I just make empty religious sacrifices on Sunday that really are more about me than they are about God? When we see the true value of what Jesus has done for us we have no desire for another King or to be King and our lives become the sacrifice of our worship! (Romans 12:2)
  3. We can’t underestimate the consequences of rebellion. Rebellion is sin and sin is rebellion and both lead to death! They masquerade as paths of life but only lead us to destruction. Adonijah thought that this was something that he could get away with but in the end it caused him broken fellowship with God, broken fellowship with others, and a broken and isolated life. (See 1 Kings 1:49-53) It is true that there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

It is interesting that when it was all said and done Adonijah bowed to the real king, Solomon. The same is true for us. One day we will all bow before the real King, Jesus. You might want to check out Matthew 25:31-46.

Can’t wait for Sunday!

Heart and Soul!

Brandon

Who Is Fighting With You?

Hey Connection!!

I have ONE quick question for you today. Are you in a Connect Group? If not you REALLY need to be change that! Connect Groups are what we call our small groups that meet to grow deeper in God’s Word, fellowship together, pray for each other, and serve together. The fact is we cannot do life alone! We need people in our life to encourage us by being in the fight with us, not be shouting from the sidelines! We don’t simply need more cheerleaders we need people in the trenches with us helping to carry our burdens and spurring us on in our faith journey! That is what Connect Groups are for!

You can imagine how many excuses we hear for why people won’t join a Connect Group! Here’s a sample of those!

  1. “I don’t have time.” In reality we are all very busy. That’s one reason Connection tries not to throw dozens of additional “to-dos” at you. The truth is we do make time for things that are important to us. So the question becomes, “Is my spiritual growth really important?” If so, you should join a Connect Group.
  2. “I don’t need anyone to carry my burdens.” Wow! That sounds heroic! The only problem is that mentality doesn’t work. The same person will say, “I’ve been living like this for years and I’ve made it this far!” That may be true but you and everyone around you are miserable! We can’t live life apart from each other!
  3. “Jesus is the only burden bearer I need!”  That sounds spiritual it’s just not biblical. It is true that only Jesus can take away our burden of sin. However, part of God’s design includes us carrying each other’s burdens! It’s part of His plan and our spiritual growth! (Galatians 6:1-5)
  4. “Church people are weird!” OK…There IS some truth to that one! There ARE some weird church folks! But normal in our culture SUCKS! I don’t want to be normal! Normal today is broke, divorced, and depressed! Who wants that?!! I choose weird and I’d love for you to come be weird with me!
  5. “I can’t trust people!” No doubt that we have all been hurt in some way and some have been hurt worse than others by people we thought we could trust and were betrayed by. But here’s my question…Are we going to be a victim for the rest of our life?! Jesus died, was buried, and rose again so that we would have victory, not live as victims! Remember, we have some barely saved people in our church! If someone hurts you will just make them disappear! (Of course I’m kidding…kinda!)

These are just a few of the excuses we hear for not joining a Connect Group! I’m sure there are others out there but the one thing I can tell you is NONE of them are good ones!

If you want more information about Connect Groups or are interested in joining a Connect Group click this link. You can also email us at info@connection-church.com.

Love you guys! Heart and Soul!

A Plea and A Warning (With a Little Extra)

Hey Church!!

I know many of you saw the video A Plea and A Warning on Sunday morning. This blog has some of the same information but expands the topic somewhat. It also includes a link to the video in case you missed it and a video with Ted Bundy you will want to check out!

Love you guys!

Brandon

————————

I want to ask all the Christians out there a question. If I gave you an opportunity to invest in an industry that generated more revenue than country music, rock music, jazz music, classical music, Broadway plays, and ballet combined last year would you want in?

It would at least be an intriguing opportunity, wouldn’t it?

What if I told you that 40 million of you are already investing in it regularly? In fact about 72% of men and 28% of women consistently bank there hard earned cash into this revenue machine!

Excited? You shouldn’t be! I’m talking about the porn industry!

Here’s where my heart is breaking…a very large percentage of that comes from those who claim to be followers of Jesus! Church…what are we doing?

In the book of Revelation chapter 2 Jesus addresses the church of Ephesus by first commending them for things they’ve done well and then rebuking them for what they’ve done wrong. Verse 4 and the beginning of verse 5 say:

You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen!

I want to challenge you with those very words! Look at the heights from which the church has fallen! How have our standards sunk so low?!

This blog, and the video that is included, are both a plea and a warning. Pornography destroys lives, destroys marriages, and destroys families!

Some of you right now know you are letting your mind, through a fantasy world, go places it shouldn’t be going! The lies you tell yourselves are “I can handle it!” “It’s just a romance novel!” or “It’s just a movie for girls night out!” But the truth is you can’t handle it and it’s porn wrapped in a book cover and glossed over by Hollywood hype!

The lie you don’t realize you’re buying into is that the acceptance, validation, and intimacy you are looking for can be found in pornography and sexual immorality! IT CAN NOT!!

Let me ask you this. If I told you there was a rattlesnake in your bed would you rationalize it away by saying, “Oh, it’s just a little one!” Or if I told you I put a little arsenic in your sweet tea would you still drink it?

If those two examples seem crazy to you then why would we snuggle up with pornography when it is more poisonous than either a rattlesnake or arsenic? Why would we coddle pornography when it not only destroys your life but destroys the life of those around you as well?

You need to understand that sin always takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you there longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay! Jesus tells us that the eye is the lamp of your body. He says that when our eyes are good, our whole body is full of light. But when they are bad, our whole body is full of darkness. Why? Because what you allow to pass through your eyes enters your mind and ultimately settles in your heart! Fantasies no longer satisfy and the line you wouldn’t cross continues to move! Fantasies become realities when the fantasy no longer satisfies! If you don’t believe me check out this interview with Ted Bundy. Yes, The Ted Bundy.

We need to understand that Ted Bundy started with soft-core pornographic magazines that he encountered in the local grocery stores. It progressed to hardcore pornography and then to violent pornography. When the fantasies were not enough he acted out what he had already seen. Am I saying that everyone who views pornography will end up as another Ted Bundy? No. Am I saying that you will reap destruction from the bad seed you sow? YES!

Any movie, book, magazine, website, picture, or anything else that causes you to be aroused by and/or lust after someone other than your spouse is PORN! And PORN is SIN…PERIOD! And for the single people who would rationalize it away by saying, “I don’t have a spouse” you’re not exempt either. You are committing adultery against God.

My plea with you today is that you would turn from your sin! My warning to you is that if you don’t, you are on a path to destruction! There are some who see themselves as dabbling in a harmless exotic and exciting new world, there are others who have so conditioned themselves to porn that you no longer see it as wrong, and there are others of you who are so mired in it that you don’t think there is any escape. Wherever you find yourself today, my prayer is that your eyes are open to the truth and hope that is in Jesus! That you will know this church is here to offer you a safe place to share your struggles and to not be Ok. We want to help you escape the porn trap.

Guys, get off the website, destroy the videos, burn the magazines! Stop rationalizing it as normal! It’s NOT normal! Ladies, stop rationalizing 50 Shades of Grey as a romance novel! It’s not. It IS porn! Stop rationalizing Magic Mike as a fun girls night out! It’s not. It IS porn! Turn back to your first love, JESUS! In other words break away from this devastating sin through repentance by turning from death through porn and to life through our living God.

Last thing.  Our culture is saturated with gray area and confusion in regard to sexual issues. We feel that God has put it on our hearts to kick off a series entitled 50 Shades of Gray: The Black and White on Sexual Issues. It will not be a rant against the book, but will take an honest look at what scripture says about sex and the many issues that surround it as well as the hope we find in the GOOD NEWS of Jesus!

Remember…we don’t want anything from you…we want everything for you! That includes a heart that is whole and a life that glorifies God!

I love you guys and I want God’s best for your life!!

If pornography is destroying your life we want to help! Email us at help@connection-church.com.

What About the Other 90%?

Hey Connection!!

I didn’t really grow up in church but I have spent a lot of time in a lot of churches over the last 20 years. A large part of my time in church was in pursuit of Susan, my high school sweetheart who is now my wife (and still my sweetheart!). Looking back, I have observed that money is the most common sore spot that churches have.

This is incredibly threatening to the health of the church because Jesus teaches us that money and materialism is, and will be, the #1 competitor for our hearts! How can we ignore it? How can we allow this sore to continue to fester without admitting it and addressing it? In one word…FEAR! We are afraid of offending…afraid of having our hearts misconstrued…afraid of people leaving…afraid of getting nasty emails! The list could go on and on!

I believe because the topic has been avoided so much, the Church commonly makes a few mistakes when talking about money. See which one resonates with you.

  1. The church talks about money apologetically.  For some reason teaching what the Bible says about money is often viewed as a necessary evil rather than the truth of God’s Word that is able to bring life! Not only does scripture teach us the danger of the love of money taking His place in our hearts but our own experience even testifies to the fact that the #1 thing that pulls us away from God is a love for money and materialism.

Jesus taught on money more than Heaven, Hell, or prayer! Why? He knew it was the greatest indicator of where our heart is! How can we apologize for teaching on that?

2.    The church talks about it with a man-centered focus that is driven by what we will get, not a God-centered view of what we’ve been given! In a way this ties into the first point. Often times we are tempted to slant God’s teaching on money toward what we will receive if we give faithfully because we want to make God’s truth more palatable! It’s basically a way to get people to do what you want them to do by shading God’s Word a certain way; it wreaks of manipulation and is absolutely unbiblical!

 God does promise that if we give faithfully through our tithe (10% of our gross income) by bringing it to God’s house (The church) He will meet all of our needs (Check out Malachi 3:6-12). However, God never promises to meet all of our greeds! As the church we have to step up and preach the Word of God from a God-centered viewpoint as it is written and intended to be taught. This includes teaching about money.

 3.    It’s been taught selfishly and biblically unbalanced! Most often teaching on giving centers on what percentage the people are supposed to give the church. It seldom teaches why we should give and almost never teaches how to live your life according to scripture so that you can actually give. Why? I believe at its heart, the church is more worried about making budget than it is concerned that people get out of their financial prisons by having their hearts set free from materialism.

 Based off of the way the subject of money is typically approached, reality is that we are often guilty of only caring about the 10% we feel people owe us. Ignoring the fact that 100% belongs to God and has been entrusted to us to steward.

 With the reality of these three errors running rampant in the church is it any wonder that money is such a sore spot? We, the church, have to get back to biblical teaching on money that centers on God and His Kingdom.

One of my convictions is that we never ask you to do something you have not been equipped to do. With that goal in mind, we are offering a free Financial Seminar during the month of July. It will be a two-hour seminar to answer 4 basic questions about money.

  1. What does God say about money?
  2. How do I practically steward 100% of what God has given me?
  3. Why should I give to the church?
  4. Where do I go from here?

Please hear me on this. There is no shame in admitting you need financial help! Trust me! We can all use help when it comes to our finances and stewardship. Please don’t let this opportunity slip by without taking advantage of the biblical and life lessons that will be taught during this two-hour seminar.

The seminar will be held at 6:30 on July 9th and 16th at the White House next to the downtown Sonic. (You only need to attend one). You can sign up at a Next Steps table in the atrium on Sunday morning or click here to sign-up online.

I can’t wait to hear how God moves in the hearts and lives of those who attend!

Heart and Soul!

Brandon

Can A Christian Continue To Sin?

This week I received an email from someone in regards to Sunday’s message. I thought that the questions asked were so good I wanted to respond to them on my blog. Feel free to jump into the conversation! Here’s the questions:

“One of the scriptures you mentioned near the end of your sermon really grabbed me: ‘the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.’ I would love to hear you teach on this, because until recently, I really thought that once I was saved, that was all that was required. Yes, I wanted to do good works as a Christian, but it never sunk in that God requires us to obey him. Some scriptures even say that if we are not following his commands, he does not hear our prayers. Or if we don’t forgive someone, he will not forgive us.



Maybe there’s more to it than just asking Jesus to come into our hearts, and then he remembers our sins no more. What about the Christian who willfully sins, such as living with someone out of wedlock, or even someone who lies and cheats on his taxes; are they still going to heaven? Does a God who wants us to follow him, live by his spirit and obey his precepts, put up with a carnal Christian who is complacent because he’s ‘saved?’



Or maybe they are still going to heaven but because they are living in the flesh instead of in the spirit, they are not obeying God and therefore He is not answering their prayers. Maybe the consequence of their disobedience is not having the power of God available to them.



I really am struggling with this issue, and would love to hear your advice.”

The first thing I want to say in response to this is that the Christian life is all about taking our Next Steps of faith with Jesus.  One of the things we talk about all the time at Connection is that salvation is the beginning of a journey not the end of one! It is entering into a new life, not just letting go of an old one! Scripture actually has a lot to say about the fact that we shouldn’t come to Jesus, trust Him for salvation and then curl up in the fetal position and wait to die! There are a few points and a few scriptures I would like to point out in response to these questions. As you read this remember each point builds on the next.

  1. Jesus invited people to follow Him. One example of this is when Jesus called the first disciples, Simon and Andrew, into His service. (Matthew 4:18-20) Jesus never said come to me and I’ll give you a “get out of Hell free card”. He called us to follow Him. Salvation comes when Jesus is the Lord of our lives and that means He directs our steps, not us!
  2. Following Jesus always cost people something. We have to realize that Jesus called Simon and Andrew away from their family and the family business in the same scripture in which Jesus called them to follow Him. We cannot follow Jesus and follow our own plans at the same time. That includes sin! Think about the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-24. It is very likely that following Jesus cost Him more than He was willing to pay! How about you? People who are saved by Jesus have to count the cost to follow Him. (Luke 14:25-30)
  3. When you say yes to follow Jesus He gives you new life by making you a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17) The way this happens is through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus promised, those who trust in Him receive the Holy Spirit (God), within them to empower them for ministry, and create them more and more into the image of Jesus. This process is called regeneration. It is when we, as prophesied in Ezekiel 36:16-38, receive a new heart and a new spirit. It is a heart and a spirit that desire God and desire to honor Him with our life more than anything else! If you are saved your desires change! You desire to please God! You begin to love the things God loves and hate the things that God hates (sin)!
  4. When you have committed to follow Jesus you cannot continue in sin if you are a follower of Jesus. Jesus and sin are incompatible. It’s like oil and water, the two simply do not go together! Because of that you cannot hold onto sin and pursue Jesus. They take you in completely opposite directions. Before anyone fires back that “no one is perfect”, let me explain. I agree with you. People, even the most dedicated followers of Jesus, sin and make mistakes. Where people who are saved are different is in our response to sin. The Holy Spirit that lives inside of us and gives us new life is in direct conflict with sin! (Romans 5:17) Because of this we may sin, but it will not be comfortable! We may turn the wrong direction but we WILL know we cannot, and do not even want to continue on that path! This is what 1 John 3:9 tells us. John is not saying that we will NEVER sin again. He is saying that, because we have been born of God through the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us, we will not continue in that sin. Bottom line…if you can continue in habitual sin without being convicted by it or having a desire to change you don’t know Jesus, nor does His Spirit dwell in you!

In summary, my answer to the question, What about the Christian who willfully sins, such as living with someone out of wedlock, or even someone who lies and cheats on his taxes; are they still going to heaven?” Either people follow Jesus, which means continually turning from sin (repentance) and not walking in it, or they aren’t saved. (Please understand that I say that with a remorseful heart not with pride or arrogance.)

This is the way I understand it according to scripture. I have tried to remove my opinions and let scripture speak for itself. Thanks for the great questions. They are timely and they are questions that everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord, including myself, need to ask ourselves!

Heart and Soul!

Brandon

5 Characteristics of A Church Pursuing the Lost

Hey Connection!!

We have always said at Connection that our mission is to Connect Unbelievers to God and Believers to each other. A week or so ago I was reading through the gospel of Mark and was really convicted about some characteristics that churches who are truly reaching those far from God share. Today I want to share 5 of those from Mark chapter 2.

  1. Mark 2:1-5A church truly pursuing the lost believes that Jesus will heal what the world deems the sickest of the sick!  These men brought a paralytic to Jesus in faith that he could be healed. When I read this my first thought was, “Do I (we) have faith that Jesus can heal the sickest heart?” Do we? Do we believe that God can change anyone’s heart? Making them whole in Himself?
  2. Mark 2:3-5A church truly pursuing the lost will do whatever it takes to get the lost to Jesus! These guys actually dug a hole in someone’s roof! They were willing to do whatever they had to do to get their friend to the One who could heal him. Are we? Are we willing to go to any length to see those around us go from death to life?
  3. Mark 2:3-5A church truly pursuing the lost is more concerned about lost people coming to Jesus than they are how they got there! One of the biggest hindrances to reaching people for Jesus is “doing things the way they’ve always been done” or thinking that God is going to do everything in a way that makes sense! Tearing through a roof wasn’t exactly the way I would choose to go about getting someone inside the house! Nor was it the way everyone else was doing it! If we are going to reach people who haven’t been reached we MUST do things that others aren’t doing!
  4. Mark 2:6-12A church truly pursuing the lost is more concerned with the presence of God than the pleasing the religious! If you do things that others aren’t doing GET READY! Religious people don’t like to rock the boat! When you begin to go contrary to tradition people seem to lose their mind! It’s as if their salvation is connected to their tradition rather than Jesus! Look at it this way…it only took Jesus 2 ½ chapters in the Gospel of Mark to make the religious people want to kill Him!
  5. Mark 2:13-17A church truly pursuing the lost is more concerned with people’s future than their past! You know it had to freak the disciples out a little when Jesus called Matthew to follow Him! They had to be thinking, “Come on Jesus! A tax collector! He’s a thief!” But Jesus is much more concerned with where we are heading than where we have been! Are we? Do we judge people for their past or celebrate the potential of their future in Christ?

Just a few thoughts from Mark. I can’t wait to share what’s on my heart this week as we wrap up the Blessed Or Cursed series! Don’t miss it and bring someone who needs Jesus! Love you guys!!

Heart and Soul!!!

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