The Perfecting Work of the Gospel

I don’t ever want to stop growing! For as long as the Lord gives me breath, I can’t imagine I will ever feel like I’m where I ought to be in my spiritual progress. The great promise is that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The day of Jesus Christ is the day of His return. Paul is expressing his absolute confidence in the perfecting work of the Gospel. That no matter how long he lives, or how long before the return of Christ, one thing is sure – All God’s children will be made complete!

How to live until that day

Let me offer two corresponding truths related to our spiritual maturity in the here and now. The first, is this – The Spirit of God dwelling in you is at work sanctifying you now. Through your good choices and bad ones, through the joys and sorrows, gains and losses, The Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4) is making you holy. You were declared holy at the point of your new birth by the finished work of Jesus; and you are being made holy day after day by the sanctifying Spirit in you, until the final day where the Father completes the work He promised by forever securing your holiness with no room for sin and no need for further growth.

The second, is this – You and I get to worship God through the renewing of our minds and the obedience of our wills. In other words, the passive work of grace done by the Spirit is to be met with our active decisions to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). As God’s holy people, we can now choose holiness. We can say ‘no’ to lust and jealousy, and ‘yes’ to patience and self-control. We can say ‘no’ to laziness and unwholesome speech, and ‘yes’ to diligence and kindness. The fruit of the Spirit that is being produced in us by the Spirit will be practiced by Spirit-filled people who are focused on keeping in step with the Spirit. What a promise, what a gift!

We will be talking about this subject of Sanctification over the course of our Elder Blogs this ministry year (along with the themes of Unity, Gifts, and Discernment). Thanks for taking the time to allow us to shepherd you during the week for a few minutes. May God be glorified at LCC this ministry year!

  • Pastor Mark
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Thank You Lord For The Local Church

We come to the end of yet another ministry year here at LCC and we as Staff and Elders couldn’t be more delighted at all that God has done in your lives and the life of our church family! The only fitting response it praise to the Father, Son, and Spirit for the fruit He produces in His children. We have seen marvelous growth through suffering, sorrow, joy and change. Thank you Lord for the local church called Leroy Chapel. We see you at work and we take no credit, simply ask for your glory to be on display more and more in the coming days!

This year in our Elder Blog we focused on the Vision Statement of Leroy Chapel – “To prayerfully advance Christ’s kingdom through: evangelizing, teaching, leadership development, and building the community of Gods people for the glory of God.” Our desire has been to help “work out” that vision with additional teaching each week that gets us all thinking about our role in the mission and vision of the church. We hope we served you well. If you have time, read back through some of the entries you may have missed. They are all tagged by the categories of  “LCC Vision”. But most of all, pray for God to do above and beyond what we could ask or imagine at your local church this summer and in the upcoming ministry year. We make plans, but God directs our steps, and we wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • Mark Spansel

Discipleship is Following Jesus

Do you recall this old camp song?

I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow, though none go with me, still I will follow… No turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me…no turning back, no turning back.

 I can make a list of those who have helped me follow Jesus—can you? This is discipleship.

 John MacArthur says, “Discipleship is more than just being a learner, it’s being an intimate follower, having an intimate relationship, following to the point where you would go as far as death out of love.” God’s love for us starts a chain reaction. He loves us, then we love Him, and then we love others. I John 4:19-21 says, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

 “Being a disciple of Jesus means orienting our lives towards others, just as Jesus did. It means laboring for the sake of others…It requires an investor’s mentality, knowing that the return is eternal…God’s Word is the seed that ultimately bears fruit, even if we don’t see it in the short term.” (Mark Dever)

In other words, we labor, we sow, we rest, God grows!

 Discipling is initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model and love. And of course, it takes great humility. According to Philippians 2, it’s having the same mind, the same love, and using diverse gifts for the glory of God, not out of rivalry or competition, but counting others as more significant than self!

 As women, we shrink back from initiating relationships with other women for fear that we will somehow be found out that we are imperfect and that our flaws will be discovered and put on display. However … “That is our confidence: not that we have the perfect home and well-behaved children, but that in the muck and mire, God’s spirit is at work. Even in our weakness, God uses our words to warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, comfort the weak, and show patience to everyone, all for His great glory.” (Erin Wheeler)

We get so mixed up by believing our own glory is at stake when in fact, we exist for making His name great through our relationships!

Through our discipleship, we want people to grow in the knowledge of God in Christ, and faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ. Mark Dever explains, “they cannot obey what they haven’t been taught.” And you cannot impart what you do not possess.

 Don’t think discipleship happens without sacrifice. Just look at the disciples when Jesus called them to follow Him! They immediately left their nets and family behind and followed in obedience! Discipleship requires the sacrifice of time. It requires hearing and studying the Word of God. It requires lifting your eyes to the Wonderful Counselor in prayer. It requires love.

 “Our purpose for pursuing Titus 2 character, relationships, and ministry is not merely to be better wives, moms, and ministry leaders, to have a better reputation, or to be able to sleep better at night. Our ultimate purpose is to make much of God. We do that as we experience, enjoy, and reflect the loveliness of Christ, making Him known to a world that is starved for true beauty.” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Adorned,)

 Are you walking hand in hand with others in your church community? Can you say, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”

 “Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.” (19th century German philosopher, Heinrich Heine)

  • Michelle Spansel

Sacrificial Serving

“To see the Church strengthen every person so that they invest in the equipping others, through: serving sacrificially in every area of life.”

The sacrificial service of a Christian, pouring themselves into the life of another, for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, is highest form of discipleship. In the business world, the term to describe this activity is mentorship, where the experienced leader works directly with the novice to develop useful skills that advances the cause of the organization. Actually, mentoring is a biblical principle. Consider the example of Joseph, a Levite, from Cyprus, whom the Apostles called Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas probably did not get his nickname by slapping people on the back saying, “you can do this.” No, a nickname is affectionately awarded someone when their personality traits and actions reflect an attribution i.e., encouragement.

So, who did Barnabas mentor? The first person we see sponsored by Barnabas is none other than Saul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the Church. Acts 9 describes the story of Saul’s conversion and subsequent joining in the church. The passage indicates that the Jerusalem church was not convinced that Saul was a Christ follower, and for good reason. Yet, Barnabas brought him to the apostles (v. 27), spoke on Saul’s behalf and in time, the church was at peace with Saul. Some time later, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned as a missionary team, sharing the gospel and encouraging believers as they traveled from place to place.

A quiet event occurred during the first journey that had great impact on the duo and reset Barnabas’ next major sponsorship. John Mark, one of the younger members of the team, deserts the work and returns home.  As Paul and Barnabas plan their second missionary journey, John Mark wants to join back in but Paul wants no part of it. Barnabas had a decision to make, stay with Paul or begin a mentorship with John Mark. Barnabas choses the younger man and they sail to Cyprus (15:39) – that is not the end of the story; however. Eventually, we learn that John Mark is reunited with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24) and as Paul approaches the end of life, he requests that Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

What can we learn from this? We should look for ways to be used of God in the caring of His people. Sometimes our discipleship commitments are short-term. Yet, there are times when we are called to step into the lives of our brothers and sisters for the long-term, helping them develop their spiritual skill sets, growing together in Christ. Long-term discipleship is not an evaluation of the church talent pool; it is a calling to invest in the equipping of others for the Glory of God.

  • Selby Brannon

My Teaching Is Not Mine

A question I’ve heard quite a few times over the past few years, “JP, why do we teach about the glory of God so much?”  Today, my short answer is, “if we get that wrong our teaching will eventually miss the mark.”  Let me briefly explain from the life of the greatest Teacher.

(John 7:15-16) The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me…”

The religious specialists who took great pride in their educational bloodlines were not entirely correct.  What we should read here between the lines is, [insert snobbish tone] “this son of a carpenter has no pedigree.” He’s teaching but he didn’t even go to school!

Even though Jesus didn’t have the pedigree of say, Paul, Jesus was taught and he learned. Mary and Joseph were probably good teachers.  From a young age, Jesus spent time in the synagogue asking questions and discussing with biblical scholars.  Luke proclaims Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men. (Luke 2) Eventually, Mark 1:22 leads us to believe Jesus taught with an authority that was very different than the learned men.  Was it his education that made the difference?

When Jesus said, “my teaching is not mine” he was not being self-deprecating, he was telling them why his teaching is different.  The religious elite weren’t focused on the glory of God, but were enamored with titles, accomplishments and educational pedigree.  It didn’t matter if what they were teaching was true.

Jesus’ exchange here teaches us why the glory of God is the foundational authority of our teaching.  Ultimately the power in our teaching has little to do with education but it has much to do with our delight and submission to the glory of the One who sent us to teach it.  Jesus goes on to say in John 7:18, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true…”

Friends, we teach about and unto the glory of God because that’s what Jesus did.  It’s not about educating people in theological loftiness.  Don’t get me wrong, the time we spend learning is as important for our teaching as it was in the life of Jesus.  But if we forget that the foundation of what we teach is about the glory of God, our teaching becomes theological musings at best.

Every time we hear something taught about the glory of God, I pray we have ears to hear.

  • Jeff Pierce

A Systematized Study of God

Our Vision Statement includes: “To see the Word of God permeate the thinking of every person so that they live a thoroughly Biblical worldview, based on a systematized theological foundation.”

In December, I wrote a blog about the intentionality of teaching the whole story of God. By this I mean we teach the progressive, historical, unfolding revelation of God, which finds its zenith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Another way to study the Bible is by focusing on a systemized theological foundation. The distinction is not either the whole story of God or systematic theology but rather, studying scripture through the lens of the whole story of God and systematic theology.

Some of you may be wondering why we should study theology at all. The answer is we study theology to have an organized understanding of the essential truths or doctrines of the Christian Faith. As believer’s our hearts desire is to know God, as best we can, and to learn what He has revealed to us in His Word, the Bible.

A systematized study has very practical implications. Much can be said, but I assert at least two valuable reasons for studying Scripture systematically. First, it is a good way to keep us firmly footed in the faith, hindering us from falling prey to incomplete or false teaching, heresy. Most heresies have a measure of truth compounded with miss-truth. A right understanding of doctrine firmly grounds our thinking  so that we are not “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

Secondly, systematic theology helps us be on mission as we share our faith and shape our dialogue, with non-believers. It has been my experience that non-believers are curious for answers to pertinent issues of our time, such as: evil, injustice, pain, sin, conduct, ethics, pleasure, suffering and the like. I have even been asked, straight-away, “Who is God?” Or, “What is this Gospel you keep talking about?” In effect, these questions are distinct theological topics which systematized theology readily answers. Think about it. You can learn what the Bible has to say about issues and thoughtfully rehearse an answer. Then, when friends and family bring these questions your way, you are “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15b).

For the believer, a correct understanding of God is not be avoided; it is to be pursued and embraced. As J.I. Packer often told his students, “theology is for doxology and devotion.” It should produce praise and result in obedient living.

  • Selby Brannon

Being Different

“We always have the Word of God…Spirit of God…and People of God.”  I remember sitting in one of Pastor Spansel’s teaching times a few years back and hearing these words for the first time.  I believed him.  It’s true.  But I didn’t drink it in fully.  For those of us who have been believers for years, the “word of God” and the “Spirit of God” can fall into the trap of the “Sunday school answers” of my heart.  And, well, for a guy who likes being with people, I presume that I understand the value of the people of God thing.  But don’t be lulled to sleep friend!  This profound truth has helped me see and evaluate the community of God.

Everyone has a community.  My story includes a season of life walking from bar stool to bar stool.  This was my community.  We communed over every drink.  We worshipped the Green Bay Packers and AC/DC with shouts of praise.  We suffered through illnesses and invoked moments of silence for friends who were “in a better place.”  No romantic reminiscing though.  Reality is we fought, took sides, kept score, judged those on the outside, and we went home empty.  I’m grateful for Christ and to have the friends I have today.

What does your community look like?

Our call to community is that we would not just look different within the people of God but be different.  Why?  The people of God community is founded on something different than “good old boy” club standards.  We are people with a source and goal informed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  We are gospel people who run to, and point each other to, steadfast truths outside of our own pragmatism, emotion and opinions.  We get to have them, they just don’t get to rule our relationships.  We have a different ethic.  We are to be people controlled by the Spirit, hearing His promptings, heeding His conviction and humbly obeying His counsel.  This creates a community that doesn’t just look different, but is different at its core; we are sojourners who are learning to love the way we’ve been loved; carefully, courageously, sacrificially, willingly.

I can’t think of a better season to take stock of our relationships.  Take a moment this week to reflect on your experience of community.  Is it truly different than the world?  What is its source?  Where is it headed?  How can you reflect the gospel truth you love more clearly to the people you do life with?

  • Jeff Pierce