Author: MattMacNaughton

Marvelous Grace

On our way out of town for vacation, Julie and I took the kids on a slight detour past our first apartment in Knoxville, TN. It was the first time we had been there since we left in a Penske truck back in 2008. It looked just like we remember it. 

We then drove the winding road back towards the highway, a road I traveled quite a bit for classes, work, and church. We drove up the hill where I spun out the winter of my freshman year. I hadn’t learned how to drive in the snow yet. We drove past neighborhoods where our friends used to live, places we used to eat, and stores we used to shop at. Finally, we drove past the college and church I attended for close to four years.

With memories flooding back of the different places and people from those years in Tennessee, there is one word that explains how thankful I am for this short time in my life: grace.

Those four years were quite difficult to say the least. Everyday I fought the legalistic posture of my heart. I was working so hard to please God. I tried doing everything right and still didn’t feel like it was enough. I couldn’t keep the rules of the school the way they were intended to be kept. I was often scrutinized, questioned, and ridiculed. After an accidental rule breaking, I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to at the time: “What would Jesus think of you right now?” 

“He’d think I was a failure”, is how I wanted to answer. But I didn’t. I didn’t know at the time how much Jesus truly loved me. It was around this time I realized I was never going to be able to do enough to be good. I was never going to be good enough. I was never going to be righteous. 

Legalism is a deadly weight. It devalues the finished work of Jesus and elevates our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is an unbearable task to earn any favor with God. There is nothing we can do to earn the righteousness of Jesus. No matter how often we keep the rules, no matter how “good” we are, no matter how churchy we appear, legalism is a lie from the pit of hell. Legalism continues to yell, “Do more! Do more! Do more!” while Jesus lovingly declares, “It is finished!”

It had been close to 10 years since I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of my sins, but in the Rocky Mountains of Tennessee, I learned and came to appreciate the grace of Jesus. While I was never going to be able to do enough to be good enough, Jesus did. While I was never going to be righteous, Jesus was and now through His grace, His righteousness covers me (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are so underserving of the grace of Jesus. His grace is truly marvelous.

The good news of Jesus reminds us that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith that pleases the Father (Hebrews 11:6), faith in His Son, Jesus. While our natural tendency given to us from Adam (Genesis 3) is to cover ourselves, there is freedom in knowing that we can’t. Our sin covering, our standing before God, only comes from the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our joy comes from the victory we have through His resurrection. And none of this was deserving. When we fell short of God’s standard of righteousness, Jesus measured up (Romans 3:23). It is all because of grace. 

As the old hymn says, 

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on calvary’s mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”

If I were to be asked the question again, “What would Jesus think of you right now?” I’d respond with great joy, “He loves me as His own, not for what I have done, but for all that He has graciously done for me”. And it is this grace of Jesus that frees us to live in obedience to all his commands.

A Statement on the Historical overturning of Roe v. Wade

A statement from the Elders of Grace Life Church:

There are moments throughout history that have long been forgotten and there are moments that will be remembered in history books. On June 24th, one of those historical moments occurred when the Supreme Court overruled Roe vs. Wade with a 6-3 vote. 

Six weeks ago, a SCOTUS opinion was leaked of this incredible possibility. The document showed the Supreme Court had voted to strike down the landmark decision. And this past week, they in fact did! To God be the glory!

Justice Alito writes in the document, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Roe v. Wade is the name of the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The majority opinion found an absolute right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

For close to 50 years, abortion has been a legal option for unwanted pregnancies and has resulted in the deaths of approximately 63 million unborn babies. While Roe v. Wade stated abortion is a justifiable course of action, God’s Word deems otherwise. Abortion is a heinous and sinful act of murder; it is the taking of an innocent life created in the image of God. And thanks to this most recent ruling, abortion is no longer considered a constitutional right. In fact, to call it a right to begin with is in complete contrast to the teaching of God’s Word.

In 1973, the issue of abortion was taken out of the hands of the people. Now, it returns to our hands so we can continue to speak against abortion at the voting booth. The striking down of Roe is something we have prayed for and worked towards for many years. And frankly, it’s something many of us never thought we would see in our lifetime. We praise God that we were witnesses to this historical moment. 

The Word of God has much to say about life. 

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

These verses reveal to us that life begins at conception and that every life is intricately knitted together by creator God in the mother’s womb. This is why every Bible-believing Christ follower should stand for life. All human beings are made in God’s image, and God is not pleased with the killing of humans and the destruction of that image.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

We must be careful that we do not see this ruling primarily as a political victory, nor that we miss the opportunity to speak into the lives of those around us. We may know people expressing a feeling of hopelessness in this situation, and what an opportunity to speak the true hope of Jesus into this discourse. Because our hope is not based on a law, or a government, or an elected official, but on the person of Jesus Christ Himself and He alone.  So let us encourage you to respond in the following ways:

1. Pray. Pray for our country. Pray for our world.  Pray for our leaders, from local and state authorities all the way to our national and even international leaders. We know that God establishes all authority.

Romans 13:1-5 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

2. Take care of the widows and orphans. In our local context, we support First Coast Women’s Services and some of you are or have served there. We can get you connected with them to be involved directly, or you can give to our Special Offering Fund to support them financially.

Exodus 22:22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

3. Share the Gospel. It’s not our job to convince people to take on our entire set of beliefs nor to expect them to act like Jesus if they don’t know Jesus to begin with. Let us not get caught up in arguments and instead tell people how Jesus has changed your life and reveal everyone’s need for salvation from sin.

Our Scripture verse for the next few weeks is Isaiah 6:5, which says

“And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; 
for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; 
for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’!”

Let us not forget what it was like to be lost, and to see the weight of our own sin but also the freedom we have in Christ from being bound to it, and let that speak into our dealings with the world.


4. Show Christlike compassion. We pray that our response will be Christlike in approach, boldly standing in the face of this depraved act while also sitting with those reeling from a decision they may regret. We extend grace, patience, and love, just like the Savior has extended grace, patience, and love to us.

 

Let’s take a moment to pray today for our country and to celebrate the providence of God and the end of Roe vs. Wade. 

By His Grace,

Your Elders; Pastor Matt and Pastor Ben

Church Membership at Grace Life Church

What is church membership, and why does it matter?  For the people of Grace Life, our partnership covenant is birthed out of our love for the church body and her individual members whom we hope will experience the fullness of joy which is found in the presence of the Lord. This helps us with three things:

  • To clarify the biblical obligations and expectations for both the elders of Grace Life Church and the individual members of Grace Life Church body.
  • To establish teaching and doctrinal parameters for Grace Life Church body.
  • To serve as a tool for reflection and growth toward holiness.

Each of these functions is in accordance with our overall vision to provide an accessible explanation of the Scriptures in hopes that Grace Life Church would grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

But first, we must answer a few questions. What is the church?

The church is an embassy that represents the kingdom of God on this earth. 

An embassy is an institution that represents one nation inside another nation. It declares its home nation’s interests to the host nation. And it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. The embassy does not make us a citizen, but it officially affirms it.  In this case, the church represents the heavenly kingdom of God while we are here on earth. Like an embassy, the church must approve those who are a part of the Kingdom.

The church exists to display the glory of God because all things exist for His glory. Those of us who trust in and follow Jesus are caught up in something much bigger than ourselves. We have graciously been invited into God’s redemptive purposes in the world.

Since the beginning, God has been creating and calling forth His people for the display of His glory in a grand narrative of redemption and reconciliation. Though creation now suffers the curse of Genesis 3, the gospel is the means by which the world is being made right. The gospel also carries with it the promise of ultimate renewal, a restoration even more glorious than Eden, and thus believers eagerly anticipate the return of Christ. The Church universal (i.e., all believers, everywhere) is the means by which God is fulfilling His purposes in the world (2 Cor. 5:17-20). The Church universal is being used to write God’s beautiful and dramatic story of redemption and reconciliation. In light of this reality, the opportunity to join a local church body (i.e., a particular group of believers in a particular locale) is much more than a commitment to consistent attendance or active involvement in community. It is also a sacred call to be involved in the redemptive work of our sovereign God to push back the darkness of a fallen world through the power of the Holy Spirit with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

So then, what is a church member?

A church member is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body.

There are two qualifications for being a church member in the New Testament: salvation and baptism. There is freedom to pursue ways to determine if someone has been redeemed. At Grace Life Church, we believe that baptism is a symbol of what Jesus has done for us and that it is a baptism by water immersion after a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. 

Church membership matters because God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. 

He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service, and radical commitment to the good of the body. This happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church. In light of this reality, membership is not merely a responsibility but a blessed opportunity to covenant with a particular people to live out the gospel together.

Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control. Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than consume from it. It is a formalization of that which already implicitly exists. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people. 

Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless ways. At Grace Life, the current process for partnership involves participating in a class, reading a book, and completing a questionnaire. Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment that members make. So if you have not yet committed yourself to the local body of Grace Life Church, plan to attend The Intro on June 26th after the morning gathering to learn what the next steps are towards becoming a member.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Ben

What our kids need to know.

“Dad knows everything”. That was my dad’s response to me and my siblings almost anytime he said something impressive. We would be sitting at a red light and somehow, Dad had this incredible ability to know exactly when the light would turn green. He’d count down and say “green” right when it turned and we would, in awe, say “How did you know that?!”

“Dad knows everything”.

I don’t know how long it took for me to realize it was all a schtick and my dad was just watching the crossing sign countdown, but nevertheless, eventually I learned my dad actually didn’t know everything. And now as a dad, I find myself playing the same game at red lights with my kids and giving the same answer when they (for now) are shocked, “Dad knows everything”. Soon, they’ll realize I don’t know everything. Soon they realize that I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. 

While we as parents don’t know everything, there are certain things we do know and we should desire to teach these truths with certainty to our kids. And we should want them to know them deep within their souls. 

 

They need to know how much Jesus loves them.

There is no greater truth than the message of the gospel. The life changing power of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is what I long for my kids to know. I want them to know that they are sinners and God sent His only Son to this earth to die for them, conquer death for them, and to give them eternal life. (John 3:16)

Taking every opportunity to share the gospel message with our kids demonstrates the importance of the message. We share with them this gospel message because it is real to us. We’ve been covered by the blood of Jesus and our sins have been forgiven. This incredible reality is what we long to see in our kids. 

We tell them how much Jesus loves them. Jesus loves our kids so much He gave His life for them. Jesus loves our kids so much that He took on their sin so He could place His righteousness on them. No matter how much we love our kids, Jesus loves them more. Only Jesus can give them eternal life and I want them to know it. 

 

They need to know how much we love them.

While I teach them that Jesus loves them more than I do, I’m going to demonstrate that through loving them like no one else on this earth. Both of my kids are uniquely made by a powerful Creator (Psalm 139:14). They have different personalities and different interests. Loving them means knowing them. It means knowing their little hearts, ambitions, interests, and fears. Loving them means often doing things that are of no interest to me but I know will make their day.

Loving our kids means we take the time to teach them the truths of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Family discipleship is the responsibility of the parent. The church is to come alongside the family and help, but at the end of the day, we as parents are to be intentional in making disciples within our homes. We take time throughout the day to point our kids to Jesus. We take moments in the car, at the park, and getting ready for bed as opportunities to teach our kids the goodness of our God. What great privilege then to teach our kids about God! As one pastor said, “The greatest contribution we make may not be something we do, but someone we raise”.

Loving our kids also means there are good and necessary times to tell them no and to stick with it. Parenting is hard work and the good work means we have to do the hard work. That often means sticking with our no’s (Matthew 5:37). God has placed our children into our care and we are to steward that responsibility well. We are to love them in such a way that that brings them up to know the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) and at times it requires a stern voice that knows what is best for them.

 

They need to know that following Jesus in all things is absolutely worth it.

As we have recently learned from our sermon series in Ecclesiastes everything in this world is empty and meaningless and not worth holding on to. There is far more to this life than money and materials and entertainment and status. Yet, we must be careful that we are not raising our kids to find their joy and satisfaction in these pleasures. 

Jesus promised to us a life and life abundantly (John 10:10). It may not be filled with wealth or a nice home or even good health, but a life with Him is far better than a life without. The joy and satisfaction that they will grow up to search for can only be found in Jesus. A life in Christ is worth living, and this is a truth we must remind them everyday. Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. 

If there is one truth we must instill in our children, it is that Jesus is better. We teach them this and pray the Holy Spirit will bring them to the knowledge of Jesus for the salvation of their sin. I don’t know everything, but I do know that I love my kids and I want them to know how much Jesus loves them and that following Him with their lives is absolutely worth it. Let’s commit to making sure they know Jesus, and let’s pray that we too will know Him more each and every day (Philippians 3:10).

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Why We Have a Preaching Team at Grace Life

I can remember my first sermon clearly. I was taking a speech class my senior year of high school and since I already knew I would be going to seminary once I graduated, I decided to turn my speech into a sermon. The sermon was a short gospel presentation from Matthew 7:13-14.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I remember being extremely nervous and wanting to back out at the last minute. I remember seeing my mom and my youth pastor watching from the pews. I remember my blue shirt and red tie that was poorly tied. I remember this nervous tick my foot would do and wondering during the sermon why my foot was doing that and how I could possibly be thinking about that while I was preaching! Funny thing is, my foot still does it every once in a while.

I can’t remember the sermon points and no great revival was launched from that chapel sermon, but I do remember clearly thinking that this was something I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing: preaching the gospel to people who needed to hear it. 

This is what I’ve committed my life to doing as the Pastor of Grace Life. God has called me to deliver His Word to His people and to disciple and develop leaders for God’s glory. Part of doing this is training, equipping, and providing opportunities for other men to preach God’s Word to God’s people. This is why developing Biblical preachers within a local church is important to the doctrinal health of a local church. 

Over the summer, you will hear God’s Word preached from men within our church as they share with you the eternal truths found in Hebrews 11. These men are faithful men who love our church and support the gospel work within our church. They have studied diligently in preparation for their sermon, and I know they will be a blessing to you. They are to me. 

Here is why we have a preaching team at Grace Life Church. 

A preaching team serves as a reminder of the church’s need for God’s Word, not one communicator.

The pulpit I stand behind each Sunday to preach God’s Word is not my pulpit; it belongs to Jesus Christ, the Perfect One who died for His bride, the church. The Book I preach from is not my book; it’s the Holy Spirit Inspired Word of God that makes us wise to salvation and equipped to do every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And it is my belief that the most important component within a church is the preaching of God’s Word. Having more men capable of preaching God’s Word is a benefit to the health of the church.

Pastor Steve Lawson wrote this in the forward to his book on John Calvin.

“As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. In this hour, pastors must see their pulpits again marked by sequential exposition, doctrinal clarity, and a sense of gravity regarding eternal matters. This, in my estimation, is the need of the hour.”

The church doesn’t need a dynamic communicator, it needs the preaching of God’s Word. Charles Spurgeon says this:

​​“My brethren, if we are to see the church of God really restored to her pristine glory, we must have back this plain, simple, gospel-preaching. I do believe that the hiding of the cross beneath the veil of fine language and learned dissertation is half the cause of the spiritual destitution of our country. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. I would sooner say these few words and then cease my testimony, than utter the most splendid oration that ever streamed from the lips of Demosthenes or of Cicero, but not have declared the gospel of Christ. We must keep to this. This must be the hammer that we bring down upon the anvil of the human heart again, and again, and again. God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord! God forbid that we should know anything among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified!”

A preaching team provides an opportunity to develop Gospel-centered, Biblically-driven preachers.

The development of Gospel-centered, Biblically driven preachers keeps the focus on God’s Word and not man. But there must be a space for these men to learn, grow, and actually preach to the church. It is difficult to become a gospel preacher within the church if you have no opportunities to preach to the church.

Preaching is not easy. Writing a sermon and preparing to preach it is very similar to writing a term paper. Several hours of research, writing, reading, and studying goes into the final manuscript that will be delivered to the saints on Sunday. This is after years of working to study better and after having several years of seminary training. 

For the men who will be preaching over the summer, they have had several months to work on their text of Scripture. They are doing their prep work in their free time while learning the ins and outs of deep study of the Bible and then putting the pieces together to form a sermon. They’re thinking about illustrations, applications, and transitions, and they’re wrestling with the final outline that will be heard on Sunday, all without the years of training that most preachers have. 

This process takes practice and patience. It takes encouragement and critique. It takes grace and prayer. It takes Holy Spirit strength to stand before the church and deliver the Word of God to the church under the weight of knowing their words will be judged one day. And when they preach God’s Word to us, we respond with joy for the preaching of God’s Word and encourage them and thank them for preaching to us.

A preaching team provides necessary rest for the main preacher

I think about the sermon text from Sunday night until I deliver it the next Sunday. It is not uncommon for me to spend 10-20 hours working on a sermon every week while also keeping up with pastoral responsibilities. Early on as a preacher, I didn’t realize the mental strain writing a sermon would bring, and there are seasons I find myself needing to be preached to instead of being the one preaching.

Having a preaching team helps me rest physically, mentally, and spiritually. I hate not preaching, but I’m a better preacher when I have weeks off on the sermon calendar. The Sundays I don’t preach allow me to take a vacation with my family and be fully present with them (instead of trying to outline the sermon in my head or on my phone.) The Sundays I don’t preach allow me to prepare for future sermon series and handle other pastoral responsibilities. The Sundays I don’t preach frees me to sit and listen to the preaching of God’s Word.

Having faithful men step in now to preach to our church allows me to rest and prepare. It makes me a stronger preacher. It makes me stop and breathe. It makes me look at God’s Word not for sermon prep, but for the much needed spiritual nourishment for my soul.

A preaching team aides in the planting, replanting, and revitalization of more gospel focused churches in our community

We want to plant more churches in our community and serve churches who are on the verge of closing their doors and one of the necessary components to these causes is having faithful men who can teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). I believe that the Lord will raise up men within our churches to one day pastor church plants or serve as a guest preacher in a church with no pastor. Preaching has a Kingdom impact not just within our church, but in other churches as well. Having a preaching team opens up opportunities for us to make more disciples who make disciples. 

I am thankful for the men who will be preaching over the summer. When they preach, encourage them. Tell them how the Lord used their sermon to speak to you. Show up and listen to them, because they are heralds of God’s message. The text they will preach from is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

By Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Welcome to the weekly newsletter for Grace Life Church. Every week, we want to give you a midweek reminder on upcoming events, the sermon text for the coming Sunday, and additional content that will encourage you to continue pursuing Jesus everyday. I’m praying the additional content provided on the Grace Life Blog will strengthen your faith in Jesus. 

This is also my prayer for our upcoming summer sermon series on Hebrews 11. 

The book of Hebrews was written by an unknown author to Jewish believers who were likely slipping back into their Jewish traditions so they could avoid persecution. The author wants to instill in them that Jesus is better. He’s better than angels. He’s better than Moses. He’s better than the Jewish sacrificial system. He’s better than the Old Covenant. Jesus is better because He is the fulfillment of every promise God spoke in the Old Testament. He is our perfect sacrifice, our great High Priest, and the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And faith is what God desires for His people to live by. Right before we read through the list of names in “The Hall of Faith”, we see in Hebrews 10:37-39,

[37] For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; [38] but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” [39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)

Christian people are people who live their lives by faith. We’re not people who “shrink back and are destroyed”, but we are people who have a sincere faith that preserves our souls. That faith is in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. It’s Jesus who preserves our souls. And because of who Jesus is, we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. The Chrisitan life is marked by faith. By faith, we believe in the Triune God of the Bible. By faith, we believe that God keeps His word. By faith, we believe Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, ascended into heaven, and will return. By faith, we believe the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Faith is assurance of our hope in Christ and it is the conviction that all things of God are true. And by faith, we live.

But how are we to do this? How are we to live by faith and not shrink in cowardice? This is why Hebrews 11 was written. Faith is a somewhat difficult concept to define and oftentimes is best understood through illustrations and examples. Hebrews 11 describes people who lived out their faith when God commanded them to do something. The chapter is filled with examples of men and women from the Old Testament who have laid hold of their future reward with God. Chapter 11 is intended to deepen our confidence in Jesus, not throw it away. (Hebrews 10:35) 

We see the examples of men like Abel and Moses and women like Sarah and Rahab who lived by faith knowing that without faith, it would be impossible to please God. By faith, we also draw near to God, knowing He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him. 

God has called us to live by faith in Him and though we have not seen Him, we believe in Him, and by faith, we live our lives to please Him. As one pastor stated, “Hebrews 11 is full of men and women whose moral and spiritual failings, depravity, and sin give us great hope that only through Christ, in Christ, and because of Christ are we accepted into the kingdom of God!”

As we study Hebrews 11, may our faith be strengthened in the glory of our Savior and our hearts encouraged to walk by faith in Christ alone and not by sight. 

Here’s how you can prepare for our weekly sermons through Hebrews 11.

Read

Each week, we’ll share the verses that will be covered in Sunday’s sermon. You can find those verses on your Sunday Sermon notes or in the weekly newsletter. The sermon text will be just a verse or two, so do the work and study out the names of the men and women from Hebrews 11. For instance, when we study the faith of Noah, find out what the Bible says about Noah. You can read about Noah’s life in Genesis 6-9. We won’t tell you where to look; we want you to study on your own!

Pray 

Pray for the Lord to strengthen your faith in him as we study together Hebrews 11. Pray for the preacher, that he will honor God’s Word and encourage us to seek the Lord. Pray, knowing God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11) and His Word is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Respond

God speaks to us from His Word and when He speaks to us, we must respond. To not respond is disobedience. Throughout this sermon series, respond to the Lord’s leading in your life. Maybe it’s trusting Him more fully or maybe it’s taking a step to serve Him or others in some capacity. Like Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the water, the Lord calls us out and by faith we obey. 

I’m looking forward to studying Hebrews 11 with you and I pray that our faith will be strengthened in Jesus Christ, the One who is at the very center of our Faith.

 

By His Grace, 

Pastor Matt

Why the Reformation Matters Today

This coming Sunday is Halloween, ending the second largest retail season of the year, only behind the Christmas season. While many people will celebrate with candy and costumes, for Christians, today represents a significant moment in church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts lead to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t want to spend this entire post recounting the historical moments that both preceded and succeeded Luther’s actions on this day. If you want to read more about Reformation Day, I’ll provide a few links at the bottom.

What I want to write is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance taken by the Reformers 500 years ago is a model for us today. 

We must take a stand for the Gospel.

After Luther posted his 95 theses, he knew he would have to defend his claims. So he stood before the Emperor of Rome and, knowing he may very well lose his life, stated, “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me, God.”

What Luther was standing for was the Gospel. While the church he served under said salvation can be earned or paid for or you can pay your relatives out of purgatory,  Luther read from the Scriptures that our righteousness was like filthy rags and the only hope for salvation is through Jesus Christ. After years of hating what he was reading in the Scriptures, he fell in love with the righteousness of God. Christ died for our sins and it is his righteousness that is placed on us.

This, among other doctrinal concerns, led Luther to take a stand against the Roman Catholics idea of the Gospel. His influence then is an example for us today. In the midst of so many false gospels, we must take a stand for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The church in Luther’s day wanted to make sinners look good, but as Luther put it: “Sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

While we take a stand for the gospel, it also means we take a stand against false gospels taught by churches. Whether it’s the deceitful prosperity Gospel or a works based gospel, we must take a stand for the Gospel. Taking a stand for the Gospel has never been popular, but if we fail to take a stand, then who will?

We must take a stand for the Scriptures.

Luther’s conflict with the church began when the church’s teachings collided with his understanding of the Scripture. He was a Scholar and when he realized that the church was teaching something contrary to the Word of God, he spoke up. He saw God’s Word as authoritative and should be available to all people.

God’s Word must be the authority in our lives. It’s how we learn about God, his grace, and his forgiveness through Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us daily. To limit it’s authority is a dangerous step towards apostasy. The church must teach and disciple believers on how to read and study the scriptures.  

We also make sure that all we do within the church is founded on the teachings of the Bible. Our traditions, our theology, and our individual and corporate practice must be grounded in the Word of God. Luther stood up for the authority of the Scriptures during a time when the Catholic church claimed to hold all authority.

We must take a stand for God’s Glory.

It may sound odd, but the church today needs Jesus. While Luther’s church may have said “Jesus!”, everything else said other-wise. It was about the church, it was about the Pope, it was about money. It was about everything other than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many churches have become about other ideas other than Jesus.

If programs, methods, or anything else becomes more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “attractiveness” and set Jesus to the side, then it’s necessary to evaluate our churches. The Reformers understood that it was through Christ alone and it was for God’s glory alone. They weren’t out to make a name for themselves or for their church, they only desired to make a name for Jesus. 

Here are a few indicators that a reformation may be needed within a church:

If the worship is about how well done and entertaining the music is and not about who God is, then a reformation is needed.

If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness or focuses on relative topics and opinions and not about the teaching of God’s Word, then a reformation is needed.

If the church becomes inwardly focused and not focused on the spreading of the gospel to people outside the church, then a reformation is needed.

It’s never been about us; it must always be about God’s glory.

So much more could be said about the influence of the Reformers. Their impact 500 years ago should influence us to take a stand for Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. May we all be reformers in our churches.

Happy Reformation Day.

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ARTICLES

What is Reformation Day? – ligonier.com

3 Things Every Christian Should Know About the Reformation. – thegospelcoalition.com

Here We Stood (a brief history of Martin Luther) – desiringgod.org

The Reformation and your Church – 9marks.org (This is a Fall Journal loaded with great articles on the reformation. Save this link and read/watch/listen to everything that is included.

DOCUMENTARIES AND PODCASTS

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire?

Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

Resources for Fighting Sexual Sin

We concluded our Ten Commandments Sermon Series this past Sunday by looking at the Seventh Commandment. Typically, we would preach on the Seventh Commandment after the sixth, but Covid disrupted the sermon calendar, leading to the last sermon of the series being on the Seventh Commandment. If you haven’t had a moment to listen to the sermon, listen to it here.

Because of the depraved view of sexuality that is running rampant throughout our culture, it is important that we as Christians take every measure to fight against the sin of sexual lust. Jesus commands us to do whatever it takes to rid our hands and eyes of this disastrous sin (Matthew 5:27-30). As we all seek to pursue Christlikeness in all things, I want to provide as many resources as I can to help you in your walk with the Lord, both personally and parentally. 

 

PERSONAL RESOURCES

There are two gracious gifts the Lord has given us to fight sin that rightfully take place at the top of this list: the Scriptures and the Church.

Within the Scriptures, we see the depravity of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We see countless calls to abandon sexual immorality and to flee youthful passions (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Colossians 3:1-5). We see the importance of confessing our sins, not just to the Lord, but to each other for the purpose of help and restoration (1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Galatians 6:1-10). The Scriptures and the Church are a reminder to us that God is committed to our holiness. His will for us is our sanctification!

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8

The Scriptures remind us, and the church should as well, that we are no longer condemned because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2). To pursue holiness is to eradicate sexual sin from our lives. If you are fighting sexual sin, fight it with the truth and power of Scripture alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who deeply care for your soul (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are additional resources to help you in your fight against sexual sin.

ANTHEM a strategic acronym by John Piper

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert

Pornography: Fighting for Purity – a 31 Day Devotional by Deepak Reju

Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn by Tim Challies

Covenant Eyes – Screen Accountability

 

RESOURCES FOR PARENTS

Parenting in a sexually-hyper culture is not for the faint of heart. Boys and girls are introduced to some form of pornography between the ages of 5 and 10. From a Christian perspective, the goal is not just to prevent porn exposure, but rather to teach God’s design for sex, establish clear and open communication, and acknowledge the dangers.

There is a difference between not allowing access to YouTube, social media, or even iPhones or iPads and teaching them God’s design for sex. Instead of a mindset of preventing porn exposure, we need to have a mindset of preparing for porn exposure. This provides action steps when your child is “accidentally” exposed to pornographic material (whether explicit or inexplicit such as provocative television commercials) or their eyes begin wandering at the pool or beach. Yes, we prevent, but we also prepare.

We prepare them for porn exposure by teaching them the truths of Scripture and the importance of accountability. If you notice, we take the same first measures in our parenting as we do in our personal fight against sexual sin.

Scripture teaches our children God’s design.  – Our children need to know that sex is God’s design between a married man his wife for life. We are proclaiming God’s design for marriage, sex, and gender because it is God’s design that is actively being attacked in our culture. We fight the lies of Satan with the truth of God. Any conversation concerning sex should be grounded in Scripture and celebrated as a gift from the Lord for a husband and wife.

Open communication leads to intentional accountability – Talking to your children about sex in an age appropriate manner makes you the expert on the topic. They hear it from you first before they hear it on the playground or in a video game chat. Most importantly, they hear the truth behind sex found in God’s Word. Regardless of the topic, teaching the truth of God’s Word to our children before they hear the lies of the world will serve them well.

Take the time to open the Bible and candidly talk to your children about God’s design for sex and their bodies. Here are a few additional resources that will help you in this conversation:

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds by Kristen Jenson (Ages 3-6)

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson

Raising Teens in a Hyper-sexualized World by Eliza Huie

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker

Good God, Gay Girl by Jackie Hill Perry

Transgender by Vaughan Roberts

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

 

I pray these resources will aid you in your fight against sexual sin, but more importantly, I pray your heart will find joy and satisfaction as you behold the beauty of the Savior. Please contact me or another Elder if you need counsel in fighting sin. Let’s pursue holiness with a pure heart.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Jesus is Holding all Things in His Hands

Dear Grace Life,

I want to provide a Covid update, but let me first share with you Colossians 1:15-20, written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Colossae to encourage them to gaze and behold the supremacy of Christ.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him 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.

The Word of God is sufficient and timeless. Its solid truth is good for our souls today, even as Covid is furiously running through our community. This text is no different.

Just before this passage, Paul writes in verses 9-14 a prayer for “spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him”. He prays we will be “strengthened in the might of God” and that we will remember we are “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. 

He continues by reminding us of the greatness of our King Jesus. There is no one like Him. There is no earthly king, president, or ruler who compares to Him. He is the one who saved us and He is the one who sustains us through all things because “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”.

The Savior of the world, the Son of God is holding all things together. Your life is included in “all things”. The state of our community is included in “all things”. All of life is included in “all things”. All things are held together in His hands. This is the promise I want you to hold on to today and in the days to come. 

JESUS IS HOLDING ALL THINGS IN HIS HANDS.

Like many of you, I thought we were on the other side of Covid, but, here we are again. This time we are seeing the impacts hit much closer to home. Many of you have now had Covid, and by God’s grace, have recovered. Many of you have lost a loved one or a very close friend. A few of you are working within the overworked and understaffed healthcare system and are tired of all things Covid. To all of us, remember, Jesus is holding all things together

The life we live was never promised to be easy. We were called to abandon and crucify the desires of the world because it is Christ who lives in us. Paul says to another church in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”

And while we face the next few weeks, let us rest in Jesus Christ and not in our frail humanity. We grieve in our loss (John 11:35) and we mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) and we hope in our future home secured by Jesus Christ. As 1 Peter 1:3-9 states,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Though we do not see Him, we believe in Him and hold to the promise that He is holding all things together for our good and for His glory. What a Savior!

As we continue to deal with Covid, let me provide an update on our church plan and procedures.

  1. We will continue worshiping in person and provide a live stream of our Sunday gatherings. We plan to go online only if there is a situation within our church that prevents us from gathering (i.e. Covid exposure among leadership team).
  2. PLEASE STAY HOME IF: 
    1. You are sick in any way, even if it is minor.
    2. You have had close contact exposure to someone who has tested positive with Covid. (Close contact to COVID-19 occurs when you are within six feet of someone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19, for at least 15 minutes, or an infected person who shows no symptoms but later tests positive for the coronavirus. This is considered exposure regardless of whether one or both parties were wearing a mask.)
    3. You are feeling fine and have no symptoms but you are still within your 10 day isolation period due to testing positive or having a close contact.
  3. PRACTICE SAFE SUNDAYS:
    1. Practice Social distancing with those outside of your household.
    2. Wash and sanitize your hands.
    3. If possible, have conversation with others outside.
    4. Again, stay home if you are sick.

As a reminder, let’s practice grace and patience with one another, thinking the best of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 14:1, Ephesians 4:31-32) and let’s continue to be an encouragement to one another in word and deed (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

If you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance due to Covid, please let us know HERE.

If you would like to serve on the Grace Life Care Team by providing food and supplies or running errands for members of our church and families within our community, please sign up HERE. (We are also working with Lake Asbury Elementary School and we are prepared to serve teachers, staff, and families impacted by Covid).

If you would like to give towards our Covid Relief Fund, please give HERE. All donations go towards families in our community dealing with a Covid crisis.

If you need to schedule a call with Pastor Matt for counseling, prayer, or anything else, please go HERE

I love you all and I am thankful for you. Be encouraged. Our God is faithful and it’s all in His hands.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

How you can get Involved in the Preparation of our New Space

Dear Grace Life, 

The last month has been good for my soul. Not because we signed the lease to our own space, but because we have seen God’s faithful leading in our church made visible to us. Let me explain.

Last year, we believed the Holy Spirit was leading us to study the book of Exodus in our LifeGroups. I know this study was impactful for many of you and if you didn’t get to participate, check out the resources here

The evening before I saw our new space, we studied Exodus 33 in LifeGroup. Moses tells God, “Show me your ways. If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:14-16). I found myself praying that exact prayer as we walked through the new space and for a few more days. If God wasn’t going with us, I didn’t want to go. And now it is clear He is leading us into an exciting new chapter for our church. He was directing us to study Exodus for this exact time in the history of our church.

However, this next chapter is not the end. The Lord is leading us to continue making disciples. Our mission does not change even though our space does. We have not reached the end goal. Let’s continue going where God has called us to go.

I want to invite you to participate in this next chapter of our church and to be a part of the work of creating a space to continue making disciples. Here’s three ways you can get involved:

 

PRAY

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. Exodus 33:14–15

Like Moses, we pray for the Lord to continue going before us. Not just into a new building, but into corners of our community that need to hear the gospel. Pray that we will see a gospel awakening in Clay County.

SPECIFIC PRAYER: Pray that we will celebrate with baptisms on our Grand Opening Sunday.

 

GIVE

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; Exodus 35:4-5

Like the people of Israel, we should contribute to the new space and do so with a generous heart. No gift is too small (and no gift is too big!); and giving generously allows us to turn this space into a beautiful display of the gospel.

SPECIFIC CONTRIBUTION GOAL: We have a goal to raise $10,000 as a church. It is right for us to contribute as much as we can and trust that the Lord will faithfully provide the remainder through financial partnerships. We would like to raise these funds by the end of June. You can give to the Future Grace Fund in person, online, or through the app. We are already 30% of the way there!

 

SERVE

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. Exodus 35:30–33

Like Bezalel, God has given each of us unique gifts to serve the church. We will have opportunities to prepare for the new space in the coming weeks. If you would like to paint, clean, or help us demo/remodel, please let us know by going here and selecting “other”. Tell us how you can serve in the comment section.

SPECIFIC SERVICE PROJECT: Leading up to Grand Opening Sunday, we will be prayer walking and passing out info about our church to the two closest neighborhoods. Participate in these events and pray for Gospel conversations!

While we transition from being portable into a permanent location, I ask that you be patient with us during the weeks leading up to Grand Opening Sunday. When we have a confirmed opening date, we will let you know! Until then, let’s continue to gather together on Sunday mornings at the Shrine club, let’s continue staying in prayer and in the Scriptures, and let’s continue to fight for unity as we make disciples for God’s glory.

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

 

Making Jesus-Centered Disciples For God's Glory


Sunday 10am | 3180 County Rd 220 Suite 1 Middleburg, FL 32068

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