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Dulles Church of Christ
The Next Step - I Peter 3:8-12
Being a Christian is certainly about delayed gratification. And while we are not called to a monastic lifestyle, we are called to a life of sober and wise control of our thoughts, desires, words, and actions. This text says that such a life, lived for the Lord, is “the good life”. Is that our definition? How easy it is to equate good living with unrestrained living. The world does. Yet, if we would long to have the best life and enjoy good days, then submission of our will to God’s and restraint from foolish, sinful, and destructive things is the path to walk. How blessed we are to have the hope of a rich, eternal life in the future. How blessed we are that we can live a rich life now by pleasing the Lord. Are you walking in “the good life”? What steps do you need to take to get there?
The Next Step - I Peter 2:9-12
Who has ever heard of attacking yourself? Muggers assault, foreign invaders destroy, and personal enemies molest, but attacking self defies logic. Yet, that is what we do when we allow the passions of the flesh to go unchecked in our lives. Sinful passions eat away at the very fiber of our spiritual being. Indulging in the flesh results in a cavity in our soul. No wonder we end up empty. This passage urges us to not let this happen. We are called to abstain from that which will devour us from the inside out. A critical step in doing so is in realizing that in this flesh, in this world, and in this life we are but sojourners. It is not going to last anyway. We are exiles here but citizens elsewhere, in heaven. Let us choose what is good for the soul and filter all that harms it. We are not living for here and now. We are moving toward eternity, one step at a time.
The Next Step - I Peter 2:1-5
On what are you nourishing? Never have a people had more data and ideas to ingest and digest than do we. Some of it is helpful, much of it is benign, a lot of it of no lasting consequence, and a significant portion is harmful to our souls. If we see that the Lord is good, even to the point of experiencing that goodness, then there should be within us a deep thirst for His word. Like the insatiable appetite of a newborn for milk, we should desire the nourishment that comes from God which will lead to and complete our salvation. Yes, we should have good habits when it comes to Bible reading, but it begins with thirst. Our mood should not be right unless we have consumed God’s word for the day. The hunger pangs should be acute if we have gone very long without hearing God’s truth. Like an infant that must immediately be fed when the hunger kicks in, we should demand to be fed and not allow anything to keep us from God’s word which is life to our souls.
The Next Step - I Peter 1:22-25
“Nothing in this life lasts forever”, you have heard. Or is there something that will last? God has spoken to us in His word from the spiritual realm. That word has come through prophets, teachers, and more importantly His Son. How blessed we are that the Spirit of God preserved the revelation in scripture. It is the only possession we have here that we can carry to there. It is the only possession we have now that will can be ours even then. It can purify us, it can recreate us; it is the eternal, imperishable word of the living God. However, it does not work mystically nor while we are passive. We are called to obey the eternal truth. We are taught by it to act in love toward others. It is really then that the word of God will live and abide in us. It is then that we step closer to eternal life guided by the eternal word.
The Next Step - I Peter 1:13-21
“Don’t conform”, is a common refrain throughout the New Testament letters. Every Christian of every age in every circumstance faces this temptation. It is so easy to flow with the current of desires. We think we will miss something if we don’t crave and chase them too. Yet, this pursuit is short-sighted. The word of God enlightens us here. We are told that we only have a period of time or a sojourn in this place. This means that whatever we may grasp here, we will not hang on to it. The less we desire this life’s attractions and gratifications and the more we realize we are only here temporarily, we step closer toward eternity and true living. Are you stepping toward this world’s sparkling prizes or toward life that is eternal?
The Next Step - James 3:13-18
Our love for God and faith in Him should be enough to cause us to seek His wisdom in how we live our lives. Yet, the scriptures artfully and repeatedly make the case for the advantage of pursuing heavenly wisdom instead of the earth’s. Jealousy and ambition is the norm among human beings. It is seen from the break room to the board room, from the HOV lane to the checkout lane. What it produces is disorder and vileness. However, when we pursue meekness, gentleness, and mercy the outcome is so different. It is the state that eludes us in the mad pursuit of selfish desires as we run over anyone in our way. It is the state of peace. We will never find peace by fighting others for it. Only when we submit to heaven’s wisdom will we experience it.
The Next Step - James 1:19-25
Second only to ignoring it entirely, the worst thing we can do with the word of God is to treat it as material which is purely academic. To learn it, discuss it, and debate it without practicing it is a tragedy. It is the living word of God meant to be implanted in our hearts and unleashed in our lives. To hear it and know it but not do it is a shame. As important as our time reading the Bible is, as beneficial as our group studies can be, we must realize the work is not complete until we practice the teaching of the scriptures. Each step we take in life needs to be illuminated by it. The strength for each step needs to come from its promises and assurances. The direction in which we walk must be determined by exactly what it says.
The Next Step - Hebrews 12:12-17
Drooping hands and weak knees…what a word picture. Does that not describe our condition at times? Sin weighs us down, the race looks so long, and along the way we suffer pain. These are the things the writer in this chapter describes as draining us and he is calling us to snap out of it. If we would but look to Christ for guidance and inspiration and if we would realize that some pain along the way is meant to do us good, then we could turn it around and stand up straight. What of the alternative? We don’t want to be like Esau who made the worst trade of his life for giving up the gift of God for shallow, temporary earthly pleasure. Refuel with spiritual strength and keep going. It all starts with a brisk first step.
The Next Step - Hebrews 12:1-7
When you feel burdened, look to Jesus. When sin comes near, look to Jesus. When sin overtakes you, look to Jesus. When you don’t know whether or not you can finish the race, look to Jesus. When you feel weak and weary, look to Jesus. See the joy He pursued. See the cross He endured. See the ridicule and shame he faced. And see Him now at the right hand of the throne of God making intercession for you. See Him there pulling for you, advocating for you, and longing to have you join Him in the Father’s presence. With each step, resolve to endure.
The Next Step - Hebrews 10:19-25
What a powerful statement to a Jew in the first century that there was a better way to the presence of God than through the Levitical priesthood, the animal sacrifices, and the temple. It should be to us too. The whole history of man is laden with ignorant and vain attempts to reach God. Our day is no different. From the pursuit of wealth, to fleshly indulgence, to psychoanalytical tutoring, modern humans also have been trying to find their way to God and the peace that is found with Him. This passage says that we have a path open to the very presence of God. Yet, there is a price. First there is the blood of Jesus, and then there is a cleansing we must experience through that blood. When we comprehend that great cost and experience that cleansing, then we will be wholly dedicated to our commitment of faith. Seeking our brothers’ welfare and seeking their company whenever they assemble will not be an obligation but a passion.
The Next Step - Titus 2:11-14
Grace did not appear to give us a license to selfishly indulge ourselves against the will of God. Grace does not impart immunity, nor is grace a whitewash. The grace of God appeared, in the very person of Jesus Christ, to pay the severe price to buy our freedom from sin. Grace trains us to rise above the cesspool of worldly desires to live a life of control, dignity, uprightness, and purpose. Grace sets our hearts on the hope of the divine glory that will one day be seen by every eye. Grace teaches us to long for the day when we will be enveloped by the very glory of our God and Savior. Grace instills in us a hate for sin and a zeal for good works. Do you understand what grace is?
The Next Step - Titus 2:1-8
There is an expression in verse 10 that captures the essence of the kind of people we are called to be. Paul tells servants to, “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Preached sermons can be powerful and effective; lived sermons can be more so. These verses challenge us to look at our station in life as men and women of particular ages and adorn ourselves with the character and behavior befitting of God’s people. Godly character is hard work but it is worth it. Righteous behavior requires focus and discipline but the good we can do is immeasurable. Through us God is teaching the world. With each growth step our message becomes clearer and more convincing.
The Next Step - II Timothy 2:22-26
Being an effective worker for Christ is about influence. Though the New Testament record of Timothy starts off with him as a person of sterling reputation, Paul exhorts him to stay on guard against the things that would corrupt his character and wreck his ministry. Righteousness should be pursued not lust. The truth of God is to be taught not ignorant controversies. Treat all, even opponents, with patience and gentleness. Paul wanted Timothy to layer his effectiveness by broadening his influence by deepening his Christ-like character. We too are called to deeper and higher things in service to Christ. And we get there by taking the next step. What things might be threatening to make you ineffective as Christ’s worker? Let’s remove them and distance ourselves from them. Let’s keep pursuing the high calling. What a difference it will make in our lives and the lives of others.
The Next Step - I Timothy 6:11-16
Some statements seem to jump out at you from the scriptures. “Take hold of the eternal life”, is one such expression. It is actually possible to find, attain, and even take hold of eternal life. The article in the English translation qualifies it as “the eternal life”. Eternal life is only found in Christ and Paul writes of what is involved in taking hold of it. He emphasizes the commitment we made by our confession and the importance of keeping it. He speaks of pursuing a righteous life of faith and love. Eternal life is certainly worth any effort. Though it is a gift, it is a gift that has to be seized. No half effort will suffice. We must reach, clutch, and never let go.
The Next Step - I Thessalonians 5:12-24
How do we treat our brothers and sisters? It depends on where they are. Some are idle or disorderly, some are fainthearted, and some are weak. Love gives what is needed. While the gospel fits all, all are at different stages of growth and development in the faith. It requires interest, concern, and sensitivity to know where a brother or sister is. That understanding comes through conversation, time spent, and thought. Yet, love will lead us to make that kind of effort to give them what they need whether it be rebuke, encouragement, or teaching. When you reach that place in your brotherly relations you have taken a very important step.
The Next Step - I Thessalonians 5:1-11
Jesus is coming. And since we do not know when we should live in a state of perpetual readiness. However, this should run deeper than being prepared so we are not caught off guard by His return. We should be spiritually awake and sober because that is who we are. We are people who are attracted to the light so we walk in the day in honesty and openness before God. We seek His forgiveness and a righteous life. Thus, we are ready anytime for Christ's return. We anticipate His coming because we know our destiny. What an incredible privilege! Most people fumble through life trying to discover their destiny. We know ours…to obtain salvation at the day of Christ’s return and to go with Him to live forever. Today we can step one step closer to our destiny. How blessed we are to have this hope and calling.
The Next Step - I Thessalonians 4:9-12
It does not matter how far we have come. What matters is that we keep going. Though the Thessalonians were known for their love for their brothers in Christ, they were urged to love more and more. Let us never think that we have an area down pat and then move on thinking that no more attention should be paid to it. Living as a Christian means to constantly grow in love for others, service to others, control of our anger, discipline of our desires, prayer, learning the scriptures, and everything else. It is not about running about putting out fires when they erupt. It is about growth to the point of mastery. That only comes by a relentless pursuit of growing even more in the very areas in which we are strong. This is when we begin to step very close to Christ-likeness.
The Next Step - I Thessalonians 3:11-13
Holy and blameless before God? Is that possible? It is according to what Paul writes to these Christians. Central to making that happen is to abound in love for other believers and for all. This is not the mushy emotion of which our society speaks when it comes to love. This is an abiding, unselfish concern for others which prompts us to serve them at any cost and never relinquish seeking their good. We develop this love because God showed it to us through Christ. It is when this love rules us that all the repulsive corruption and ugly evil is driven from our heart. It is then that God looks upon us and sees a holy, blameless one. Developing this love is a process. Let’s step closer.
The Next Step - Colossians 4:2-6
While Paul speaks here of actually preaching the gospel and the need to pray for opportunities to do so, he speaks of an equally important dimension to the spread of the gospel. On a daily basis, our walk with outsiders should be characterized by wisdom. In particular our speech is so important. An absence of profanity, inappropriateness, and blasphemy is a start. Yet, we must go further. Wisdom and grace should be the rules for our speech with unbelievers. We must say those things that will help their soul the most in the long-run. We must approach them with gentleness, patience, and concern. While we should be firm in our stand for God’s standards, we should do so with God’s compassion for sinners. Selfishness loosens our tongues to the point that we say what we want to whom we want. Love for souls leads us to work hard to allow the gospel to come through in all that we say toward those outside of Christ.
The Next Step - Colossians 3:12-17
What a list. Though the world does not value these qualities, they are the very essence of what it means to be God’s chosen ones. They are the mirror image of Jesus Christ. It is when we become compassionate, kind, humble, patient and forgiving that we know true peace. It is hard to conjure up these qualities and apply them to our relationships. It is love that draws these things out in us, love for others and especially love for God. It is love that holds it all together. May this be our true aspiration. Anything less which we pursue will be inferior. It is then our hearts will be rich with gratitude. It is then that our hearts will sing. Now, that is the way to walk.
|Wednesday||19:30 - 20:30|
|Sunday||09:30 - 11:30|
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