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First Baptist Church - Palestine, TX

Are You Ready…to Make a Move?

Malachi 2:17-3:617 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied him?” When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and he is delighted with them, or else where is the God of justice?” 1 “See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will be able to stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s bleach. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by. “I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien. They do not fear me,” says the Lord of Armies. “Because I, the Lord, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.

Throughout the first two chapters of Malachi, we have seen the children of God get blinded by their own selfishness. They are bringing lame and sick sacrifices, the priests are allowing it, they are weeping and crying out to God in prayer with no response, and now they are griping and complaining that those who are not “in the church” are not receiving the consequences for their behaviors. 

God is quick to remind them, through Malachi, that it is the covenant He made with Abraham generations ago that is keeping them from being destroyed themselves. In verse 6 of this text, God reminds them that “I, the Lord, have not changed”. In other words, His promise to His children is to keep them and not destroy them.

In this text, God tells them of the Messenger that is to come. Actually he speaks of two messengers. The first one (small case m) is John the Baptist, who will come to prepare the people for the coming of Messiah (the 2ndM, upper case – referring to Christ). In that day, the messenger would come to prepare the way and remove any obstacles for the one who was to come. Just as Jonah, once he accepted his calling, went to Nineveh and gave a seven word message, “In seven days, Nineveh will be destroyed”, resulting in many repenting and turning to God, John the Baptist will come and challenge the Israelites to repent and prepare for the coming of Christ. 

With that preparation comes a refining and a cleaning. The text alludes to the refiner’s fire. The refiner’s fire burns off the unnecessary things in our lives and sharpens the good stuff. It does not come without pain though. Fire hurts, but the results are a purified vessel ready to be used.

The text also refers to the launderer’s bleach. The actual meaning refers to the “fuller” of Old Testament day. The fuller would be responsible for removing stains and beating cloth, which would cleanse it and make it thicker and more useful. The results of the launderer’s bleach and the fuller’s work cleanses us from sin and “thickens” us for more useful service. Again, this does not come without pain. 

The theme for our walk through Malachi is “It’s Time to Make a Move”. God has been stirring my heart in regard to putting into practice all of these spiritual disciplines we learn, all of these lessons we hear, and really ramping up our focus on making disciples. With that in mind, let me ask you…

Are you ready to make a move to embrace the refining fire?

  • The refining fire burns off the stuff that we don’t need and allows the good stuff to grow. It also exposes weak areas.
  • The fuller or the launderer’s bleach comes in to scrub the sin stains away and to beat the cloth and make it stronger.
  • If you are ready to grow, if you are ready to make a move, you have to be ready to embrace the refining fire
  • Let’s acknowledge that as fire exposes weak areas, as fuller beats the cloth into shape – it doesn’t come w/out pain
  • It also doesn’t come without difficult choices – without a cost – Luke 14:28 reminds us that we should “count the cost”

Are you ready to make a move from consumer to producer?

  • We are so spoiled to the world coming to us–TV in our homes and through our mobile devices.
  • We are spoiled to restaurants bringing us our food, even serving us through drive-thru windows. 
  • We are so used to paying for a service and then receiving it that we often treat the church the same way.
  • It’s like going to the movie – we walk in, we pay the ticket and concession price and we sit and enjoy the show.
  • Yet, Christ’s last instructions to the church, were to GO make disciples. We need leaders to create more leaders

Who are you intentionally building relationships with IN the church (accountability partners, connections, etc.)

Who are you intentionally building relationships with OUTSIDE the church?

Our goal should be to build a culture of discipleship. It takes time, but potentially has exponential growth. 

Are you ready to make a move?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

From Treacherously to Faithfully?

Is faithfulness an essential part of the DNA of a Christian? In what areas? If Christ affects all areas of our lives, then we should reflect Christ in all areas of our lives, whether that be personal life, in our relationships, in our work, school, and church. Colossians 3:23 tell us, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people”.

Once we allow compromise into one area of our life, it’s easier for it to come into others. In the book of Malachi, the problem with the offerings that was addressed in chapter 1 was an indicator of something more, something deeper going on. The Lord spoke through Malachi and used a word that is translated “treacherously” in many translations, which means unfaithful or referring to betrayal. Those are serious charges, but they were true.

When sin seeps in, when disobedience is allowed to enter our lives, it can spread and take root so subtly that we don’t recognize it. I suspect that is part of what is going on with the Israelites in Malachi’s day. Let’s look at the charges God levies against them. Notice the word “treacherously” in five instances.

Malachi 2:10-1210 Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherouslyagainst one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable act has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, whoever he may be, even if he presents an offering to the Lord of Armies. 13 This is another thing you do. You are covering the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because he no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands. 14 And you ask, “Why?” Because even though the Lord has been a witnessbetween you and the wife of your youth, you have acted treacherouslyagainst her. She was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t God make them one and give them a portion of spirit? What is the one seeking? Godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, so that no one acts treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Armies. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

There are wo major indictments from the Lord through Malachi

  1. They were acting treacherously toward one another, compromising relationships, living self-absorbed lives
  2. They were covering the Lord’s altar with tears but not understanding why their offerings weren’t being received

They had become so inwardly-focused that they couldn’t see that they had lost their way – it was subtle. Sin starts with a desire, that gives way to a thought, which leads to a behavior, and can become a practice if we are not careful. We like to justify our actions because of the situation we are in, but quite frankly, faithfulness is a choice. 

Sometimes we have to take hold of our circumstances and stop the bleeding. Here are 5 practices that can help us move from living treacherously to faithfully. We must choose to be…

Faithful to one another(v10). We all have one Father, we all belong to God, and there is no reason to be divisive. Kindness draws people in. Being trustworthy keeps them in. As believers, we should be loyal people of our word.

Faithful to personal purity(v11). Our priorities show our true focus and are demonstrated in our behavior. For the Israelites in Malachi’s day who were failing to honor God in worship, He told them they may as well just shut the temple down. If God has our heart, He will change our behaviors. 

Faithful to relational discipleship(v14). They didn’t recognize the gift of having a wife and its purpose. Marriage was created for the purpose of discipleship and to create Godly offspring. Happiness is a by-product of choices to have a God-honoring marriage.

Faithful to marriage covenant(v15). The Israelites were not only divorcing their spouses, but for pagan women. They were leaving behind their covenant with God to give into selfish lust. Once marriage becomes about things other than its true purpose, our lives get out of balance, and we become nothing more than pleasure-seekers.

Faithful to Kingdom focus(v16). They were making life about themselves and subjecting themselves to consequences. It is said that the Israelites were allowing hate to come in, which brings division, which weakens God’s power.

Do not let yourself be beat down by areas of your life where you are struggling. God pursues a loving relationship with you that is both real and personal. In what areas of your life have you allowed treacherous-ness to enter in? God will meet you and lead you to faith.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

What Makes a Leader?

What makes a leader? Is it about communication? Presence? Knowledge of a particular topic or job? Is it about holding a certain position? Go to your local bookstore, Christian or otherwise, and you will likely find a section of books marked “Leadership”. There are many different theories, but the best ones always are based on the same things taught in God’s Word. 

In the last book of the Old Testament, nestled in Malachi Chapter 2, we see the definition of what God says is leadership. In chapter 1, the Lord spoke through Malachi to the Israelites to tell them that their lame, blind and sick animal sacrifices were no sacrifices at all. In fact, God said if that was the way the temple sacrifices were going to be carried out, they might as well shut the doors. He did not mince words. 

As we come to chapter 2, the focus turns to the priests. The priests were allowing all of this to happen. Obviously, they had compromised the standards and had come to accept the new “normal”. It’s a gradual slide sometimes. It’s like the lady who was told by the church consultant that the church had declined 50% in attendance over the past 20 years. She insisted that it had not and took great offense to the assertion by the church consultant that it had. When the data was shown to her by the consultant, the lady continued to deny its truth. The slide had been so gradual that she hadn’t even really noticed and had come to accept each new level as the new normal, without even realizing it. 

So, what makes a leader? Here are some quotes from the world about leadership

  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Q. Adams
  • “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell
  • “A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.” John Wooden

The priests here were poor examples of Godly leaders. God was saying to them, “it’s time to make a move”. 

How does Malachi describe a leader? What is the Biblical model for a leader? Let’s refer to Malachi 2:5-7

V5 – (speaking of a Levitical covenant leader) “He revered me and stood in awe of my name” – A Godly leader is a Whole-heart-Worshipper. No matter how powerful a leader is – unless he’s God – a leader must honor authority. We honor God thru worship with our whole hearts. There is no better leader than one who is also a servant. Jesus himself was a servant-leader.We cannot be afraid to be visible, vulnerable worshippers. 

V6 – “True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips” – A Godly leader is a Truth-Teacher. A leader never stops growing. The world’s greatest leaders are also great students, with many of them being active readers. If a leader fails to grow, his influence fades. Leaders in the church have a responsibility to be students and teachers of God’s Word, which is living and active.

V6 – “He walked with me in peace and integrity” – A Godly leader is an Integrity-Influencer. The call to leadership is a call to purity and integrity. We are influencers. This is why it hits the news so quickly when educators and pastors fail morally. The call to follow Christ is a call to holiness. We must stay close to the source. 

V7 – “and turned many away from iniquity” – A Godly leader is a Relationship-Reviver. A leader values the people that he leads, and invests his life in them, sometimes sacrificially. Leadership is people. With investment in people comes accountability. With growth in the Word comes truth, which leads to sanctification.

V7 – “he is the messenger of the Lord of Armies” – A Godly leader is a Mission-minded-Messenger.Being a leader is a calling. You don’t assume that position. It comes to you and should be received as such.Malachi emphasizes that we must understand that leadership comes not in position, but in mission. We are messengers.

Ed Stetzer, formerly of LifeWay and now a professor at Moody Bible College, says Jesus demonstrated leadership this way:

  1. Jesus humbled himself and allowed God to exalt Him.
  2. Jesus followed His Father’s will rather than seeking a position. 
  3. Jesus defined greatness as being a servant.
  4. Jesus took risks to serve others because He trusted He was God’s Son.
  5. Jesus left His place at the head table to serve the needs of others.
  6. Jesus shared responsibility and authority for those he called to lead.
  7. Jesus built a team to carry out a vision worldwide.

Leaders – are you continuing to grow or are you at rest and losing influence? Is God raising you up to be a leader?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

What Can I Bring Him?

With a new year comes new challenges, new opportunities, and in this case, a new sermon series. We are going to walk through the book of Malachi. Malachi provided the last prophetic word from the Lord in the Old Testament age and it would be 400 years before we would hear from John the Baptist. However, some of the issues of the day were not so different than what we face today in our walk with the Lord. 

In Malachi, we see that the people of God are in need of revival and don’t even realize it. They’ve gotten lax. The priests have gotten lax. Their worship has become routine. They have lost focus and have accepted their new “normal”. The result of this is compromise and ultimately, disobedience to the commands of God to bring the first and best to Him.

Surely all of us would like to be on fire for the Lord and totally obedient. We would love for our churches to experience revival. Revived churches are made up of revived individuals, so the best way to help my church experience revival is for me to experience revival. 

Am I saying that the church is dead? No, far from it. I love what God is doing in the church and in the church where I serve, but I know that there is more. It’s time to make a move. It’s time to bring to the Lord what He deserves. Let’s look at what the Lord says through Malachi to the children of God and see how it may apply to us.

Malachi 1:6-10“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of me? says the Lordof Armies to you priests, who despise my name.” Yet you ask: “How have we despised your name?” “By presenting defiled food on my altar.” “How have we defiled you?” you ask. When you say: “The Lord’s table is contemptible.” “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lordof Armies. “And now plead for God’s favor. Will he be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will he show any of you favor?” asks the Lordof Armies. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would no longer kindle a useless fire on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lordof Armies, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 

In verse 1 of this chapter, God tells the children of Israel “I have loved you” (past, present, continual), yet they say “HOW?” They see that they’ve been exiled from their homeland, had to surrender to other leadership and they feel abandoned. They are blaming the Lord for their troubles, rather than seeing that it has been the hand of God that has been merciful on them to keep them to this point. 

God is quick to remind them that they have fared much better than people of Edom, who saw their land destroyed. You see, there’s a great difference between discipline & destruction. God’s people were experiencing discipline and the Edomites were experiencing destruction. God’s people felt discipline, but they were blinded by their own disobedience. They couldn’t see that God continued to pursue them and give them opportunities while destroying those who did not acknowledge Him.

How were they demonstrating their disobedience? They were not bringing their first and best offerings to the altar. They were bringing lame animals and sick sacrifices. They were bringing their leftovers. It was a prime indicator of their heart. 

God challenges them through Malachi that they would not bring less than was demanded to the governor in the way of taxes or they would fear the consequences. They have lost the fear of being disobedient to God, and that is a dangerous place to be. He says that if they are going to continue in this behavior, they might as well shut the doors to the temple. This is serious business.

Is the issue any different for the church and for me in 2019? Am I bringing the Lord my leftovers in regard to my tithes and offerings? Am I bringing Him my leftovers in regard to my time? My worship? My service? My love for others? My obedience? Oh Lord, forgive me and give me another opportunity!

In order to bring Him my best, I may have to get rid of some things in my life to have better focus. What can I bring Him? Here is my list. I can bring him my…

  1. Agendas– Rather than “God I need your blessing and I need it now!”, the only expectation I bring to God is His agenda.
  2. Brokenness– Rather than pretending that life hasn’t broken me down at times, I bring my brokenness to the Potter.
  3. Family– God can and will lead and protect my family better than I can. God can help me put others’ needs before my own.
  4. Grievances– The only one who is truly hurt by my lack of forgiveness and irritations is me. It’s time to make a move.
  5. Intentionality– Who can I invest in? Who am I intentionally building Kingdom relationships with?
  6. Moldability– I must surrender my comfort zone. Every great move of God through men in history involved men getting out of their comfort zone. 
  7. Obedience– In Stewardship, if God has my wallet, He probably has the rest of me.
  8. Relationships– I need purity, accountability, and transparency in relationships.  I need to be sure I’m not compromising my standards in getting involved in relationships.
  9. Teachability– I need to let the Bible in so I can live the Bible out.
  10. Time– How much of God’s time is wasted by me? How much of God’s time is spent on “good things” with no Kingdom purpose?

For the Israelites in Malachi’s day – it was “time to make a move”. In which of these areas is it “time to make a move”?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Conquer the Cross

Over the past 14 blog posts through Galatians, we’ve said Christ is Enough…Period, to use Your Testimony, to Keep us from Running in Vain, to change what needs changing, to answer life’s questions, to adopt us into our forever family, no turning back, to make us become like Himself, to transform the inner man, to be our true hope, to keep us from running well, to equip us with His spirit, to restore the fallen, and to build Kingdom relationships.

As Paul completes the letter, he goes back to where he started on this journey, to Christ’s work at the cross. Paul was living a life out of focus until he came to the cross – he was religious but there was no relationship. He had works but not out of love. As we close the chapter on the current year and prepare to begin a new year, let us do it with the cross as our focus.

Galatians 6:11-1811 Look at what large letters I use as I write to you in my own handwriting. 12 Those who want to make a good impression in the flesh are the ones who would compel you to be circumcised—but only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even the circumcised don’t keep the law themselves, and yet they want you to be circumcised in order to boast about your flesh. 14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. 15 For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation. 16 May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy even to the Israel of God! 17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 Brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

If you want life-change, focus on the cross. If you want to know the mind of Christ, focus on the cross. Jesus was nailed to the cross by people who did not really know Him, who failed to let the Word work in their lives. It is impossible to live a righteous life apart from the cross. The cross symbolized death, humiliation, punishment for the worst of crimes. His opposers intended for the cross to be the end – but instead, it was the beginning.

Because Christ conquered the cross…

  1. The Cross is why I give. What did Jesus give on the cross? He gave His entire life. On the cross, the Lord God gave His first and best – I give the first and best of my finances, my focus, my heart, my time, my study, my work and my family.
  2. The Cross is why I live. The Word says in Ephesians 2 that before I met the Lord, I was a dead man walking, but God..Without the cross, my life is focused on self-fulfillment, fleshly desires, my definition of happiness,  and it is aimless. The cross gives my life purpose and it gives me protection. Because of the Cross, the world has no hold on me, for I belong to Christ. I’ve been crucified with Christ.
  3. The Cross is why I forgive. My pride wants to hold on to those things and to those people who have hurt me, but Jesus forgave all. Because of the cross, I have been forgiven much, and now I must forgive much. Because of the cross, it makes no sense to hold on to my grudges and things that only weigh me down.
  4. The Cross is why I love. I love, because He first loved me. Those aren’t just words. He lived it, and He died because of it. Without the cross, I don’t really understand love, I don’t really have love, but with the cross, I have love

What does the cross do?

  1. The cross captivates– the very symbol draws the attention of the mind, the heart and the spirit. It symbolizes sacrifice, love, and completion. It represents the most selfless act in history, something very real, very personal.
  2. The cross convicts– Jesus Christ hung on the cross, not because of anything He had done. He hung there because I was born a sinner in need of redemption. I am convicted – my sin put Him there.
  3. The cross consumes– for those that oppose it, the cross brings forth great irritation and stirs up great emotion. For those that embrace it, it is our life-blood, our redemption. We are incomplete without the cross.
  4. The cross calibrates– The cross brings my life back to Christ. We are all equal at the foot of the cross. I cannot get full of myself or think that I’m better than anyone else when my gaze is on the cross.
  5. The cross calms– I need not fear for my life or my circumstances when I focus on the cross, for the cross is a permanent solution for my sinful condition. Whatever happens in this life, the cross cannot be taken from me.
  6. The cross cancels– He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away. Jesus died to cancel my debt. He was crucified to cancel my punishment. 
  7. The cross crucifies– No longer does my sin debt have a hold on me. The world cannot have me any longer. The cross crucifies the devil’s grip on me. I am free, I am unrestrained, and I am redeemed.
  8. The cross certifies– As I deny myself, take up the cross and follow Christ, I am certified as a child of God. My birth certificate has been renewed and my heavenly citizenship has been established.
  9. The cross cleanses– Nothing else in this life has the power to cleanse past, present and future. No refills are needed, no more rags, no more elbow grease and no more stains left behind. The cross cleanses completely.
  10. The cross connects– The cross connects me to my Creator in the only way possible. No amount of works can erase my sin debt, for I can never do enough to get out of my own way. The cross is my bridge to eternity.

Without the cross, my life is unsettled, empty and selfish. With the cross, I have identity, purpose and a future. Without the cross, my focus is inward, my works are diminished in value and my spirit is unsettled. With the cross, I am changed, my vision is corrected, and I am made complete. With the cross, my past is covered, my present is peaceful, and my future is out of this world. Thank God for the cross!

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

The Truth About the Nativity

If you go to “Google Images” and type in “nativity”, you will get all sorts of pictures of the night of Jesus birth. Most are less than authentic-looking, and many have people involved in them that were not even there. Sometimes people imagine the nativity scene with snow, singing angels, many worshipers and even a little drummer boy, but none of these were there. Who was really there? What was it really like? 

Luke 2:1-7In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

We all know the story – Joseph and his very pregnant wife had to make the journey to Bethlehem because it was census time. A new Governor, Quirinius, decreed that everyone must be registered. There would be no postponement, no rescheduling for Mary’s pregnancies, so they had to travel there. 

This, of course, made their tax rolls more accurate so they could adequately tax the people, and the Governor could know how many he had authority over. Joseph was from the line of David, which was essential to the birth of the Messiah. This was spoken of in Isaiah. Perhaps it took longer for them to get there, perhaps they left later in case the baby came early…we really don’t know the logistics. In any case, they got to town too late to find a room. The innkeeper may have given permission for them to lodge in the stable or they might have just seized the opportunity.

Make no mistake, the only ones who were present when Jesus was born were Mary, Joseph and then Jesus. No shepherds were there at that moment, no wise men, no host of angels, no drummer boy, and no midwife. We see MARY gave birth to her firstborn son, MARY wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and MARY laid him in a manger. It was only later that the shepherds came. They got the word “today IS born”.  They were in same region, but they did not arrive that night. 

The surroundings were certainly not the sterile environment of a hospital. It’s likely that the stable where Jesus was born reeked of animal smells, and likely the shepherds did too. Honestly, it’s likely after traveling and birthing a baby that Mary & Joseph, and their clothing, was not in great shape. After He was born, he was not placed in a bassinet, an incubator – He was laid in a feeding trough on some hay, wrapped in torn pieces of cloth from whatever garments they had or could find.

Does this diminish the wonder, the awesome-ness, of this incredible event? NO – it only makes it more wondrous.

5 Quick lessons from this story

They were by themselves but never alone

  • When Jesus was born, it was just them and the presence of God. That was enough. Wherever you are, with God, it’s enough.

They had nothing, but had everything they needed

  • God could have made this elaborate, ornate, and majestic, but it was with purpose. The purpose was so that every man could embrace the simplicity and humility of this great event. 

They understood who God was and who they were

  • We have an unwed father, a child from the Holy Spirit, who was born in a stable. Their circumstances did not beat them down, but instead they helped to fulfill their purpose.

They were met by God right where they were

  • God meets you in the reality of your own life. From disgrace to Amazing Grace, He meets you wherever you are.

They were not limited by their own expectations

  • They knew the Messiah was coming, but not how. Now here they were as part of the story. God’s plans are always  better than ours. 

Truth is, there’s always more going on than you can see before you. During this Christmas season, don’t lose yourself in your circumstances. What looks like a manger may be fit for a King. God always is using your circumstances for His greater glory and your good.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Kenosis

Sometimes we use the phrase “he gave it all they had”, or, they “left it all out there”, particularly in athletics. This means they emptied themselves into whatever it is and poured all of their effort into the task at hand. We say that because we know that if we hold something back, we may not have success, and we may leave with regret. Jesus speaks of that when he says things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “deny yourself, take up cross”. We were created deny ourselves, serve the Lord and serve others. 

Though we are approaching Christmas, today we are looking at a passage of Scripture not common to the Christmas story, but shows us exactly what Jesus did. We grow up in Sunday School reading of Jesus in Luke Chapter 2 and we think that is when Jesus was created. However, further study of Scripture reveals something else. John 1:1says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word, being Jesus, has been present from eternity past. Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, speaking of the Trinity. Jesus is part of that Trinity that has been in existence always. 

Jesus gave up a great deal to come to earth and to be humiliated, dishonored, misunderstood, beaten & crucified. Scripture says he emptied Himself, which in the Greek is known as His Kenosis, or making Himself nothing – but of what?

Philippians 2:6-11,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, had all the privileges as king of the universe – gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross.

But what did Jesus actually do to accomplish this? What does this emptying actually consist of?

  • He abandoned a sovereign position– not His deity, but His sovereign position. If He emptied Himself of those characteristics, He would no longer be God. The emptying didn’t change who He was. Here is what He gave up:
    • Gave up His glory- John 17:5,“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
    • Gave up His honor, Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 
    • Gave up His riches- 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
    • Gave up his favorable relation to His Father,Matthew 27:46, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
    • Gave up His independent exercise of authority- John 5:19, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
  • He accepted a servant’s place (V7“but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”)
    • When he divested Himself of His robes of majesty, He donned the servant’s apron.
    • John 13:8, Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
  • He approached a sinful people (V7 “being born in the likeness of men”)
    • V8, And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
    • He was born in a little Jewish village, ate like them, talked like them, transported himself the way they did. 
  • He adopted a selfless posture (V8 “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…”)
    • Serving as a carpenter’s apprentice, watching feet, places of humility, a filthy stable.
    • Mathew 26:39, And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
    • He died a cross – the most humiliating of deaths possible.
  • He ascended a supreme prince (V9-10 “at the name of Jesus”)
    • Ephesians 1:21, says He is to be “21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

Jesus gave everything up, so we could have everything. Are we really willing to put Him first? What does that look like? He emptied Himself of desire, of position, and of expectation – but His character remained intact. Let us empty ourselves in the image of Christ – of our expectations, desires, and strongholds – so that we may be filled with His Spirit and ready to serve.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Build Kingdom Relationships

At the end of each year, we tend to look back and reflect on the good and the bad from the year as a whole and we make plans for the future. What are we going to do differently in the year ahead? What are some good memories that we want to hang on to? What are some things we hope to never experience again?

As a pastor, I do the same thing in the church. I look back and I give thanks to God for all of the wonderful things He has blessed us with and revealed to us this year, as well as what we might do to better further the Kingdom in the coming year.

We have measurables in the church, such as attendance, giving, baptisms, new members, etc., and those are indicators to be sure. However, the success, as it were, of a church, and really, of our lives in general, should be measured against one command in Scripture…make disciples. How am I doing in making disciples? How am I leading others in making disciples? How is my church doing in making disciples and how can I be a better part of that?

I believe Scripture teaches us that this is best accomplished in “Building Kingdom Relationships”. In our text for today from Galatians 6, Paul gives us four areas of focus in regard to Building Kingdom Relationships.

Galatians 6:6-10,Let the one who is taught the word share all his good things with the teacher. Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

In V6, Paul gives us the first area of focus in regard to Building Kingdom Relationships. We’ll call it DISCIPLESHIP. The picture here is of a student receiving good stuff from a teacher and then sharing those things with that teacher. For teachers, there is nothing more affirming than hearing about the learning that their students are doing. In the church, this seems best reflected in a one-on-one or small group discipleship. The question we should ask ourselves is, am I plugged into one-on-one or small group discipleship and am I intentionally building Kingdom relationships through discipleship?

In V7-8, Paul gives us the 2ndarea of focus in regard to Building Kingdom Relationships. We’ll call it CONSEQUENCES. For every action, there is a reaction. For every action, there are consequences. Consequences can be good or bad. If you eat a lot of junk, the consequence will likely be health issues. If you pour bad stuff in your mind, bad stuff will come out. The text tells us if we sow to the flesh, the results will be fleshly, and the results will be destruction. If we sow to the Spirit, the results will be Spirit and life. For example – if you aren’t being obedient to the Lord in giving to the church, how can you expect God to bless your finances? If you aren’t committed to making your marriage a priority, how can you expect God to bring joy in that relationship? We may not always like to admit it, but we all need accountability in our lives. Building Kingdom Relationships builds healthy accountability in our lives.

In V9, Paul gives us the 3rdarea of focus in regard to Building Kingdom Relationships. We’ll call it INVESTMENT. Do you ever get tired of doing good? Maybe you have become tired in working, parenting, even serving in your Church or community. Sometimes we get weary because we are working, not from a position of strength, but on fumes. We are not staying plugged in to the power source, the Word of God and prayer, and working in our own strength. Whatever is invested in us, we will be able to invest in others. If we don’t allow God’s Word to be invested in us, we are running on fumes. Paul says don’t give up on the good stuff. Don’t give up on serving God. Don’t give up on taking care of your family, but do it from a position of strength by staying invested.

In V10, Paul gives us the 4thand final area of focus in regard to Building Kingdom Relationships. We’ll call it FAMILY. The text says work for the good of all, but especially those who belong to the household of faith. It is speaking of the church, the family of faith. We must reach, teach, evangelize, serve, and share – but not at the expense of our own family. In the same way we must take care of our own households before taking care of others. If I am too busy meeting the needs of other people and neglecting my wife and family, I’m out of balance and treading on thin ice. My first Kingdom Relationshiop that needs building is my family, then my church. The church is our extended family. We are related by blood, by the blood of Christ.

Will you commit, along with me, to pray about going to the ‘next level’ in discipleship, in Building Kingdom Relationships, next year?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Restore the Fallen – Blog & Podcast

In the church, we strive to provide opportunities for those who want to grow spiritually and in fellowship. We have worship services, Bible studies, mission opportunities, fellowship events, and we encourage people to build relationships. We encourage the church to reach out to those who have been absent and to share the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ. There is another segment of people that I wonder how effective we are at reaching, or even how aware we are of their needs. I’m speaking about those who, in the words of Paul, have been “overtaken in any wrongdoing”. In other words, those who have fallen into a sinful or destructive pattern.

As we continue to work through Galatians, Paul moves from a focus on living by the Spirit and not by the flesh at the end of chapter 5 to a direct application of this in chapter 6. He speaks directly to the church and specifically to those who are the maturing believers in the church and makes them aware that ignoring those people are not an option.

Many times, we do not reach out to people who are struggling because we feel we don’t know enough, aren’t sure what to say or do, or they may have even hurt us and we don’t really want to reach out. According to Scripture, that is not an option for the church. Let us look at what Paul says about this in Galatians 6:1-5.

 Galatians 6:1-5, Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load.

What does it mean to be “overtaken in any wrongdoing”? Overtaken literally means “caught”, as in caught in the act of some discretion or being caught up in some pattern of destructive behavior. As we look at Paul’s instruction to the church as to how to react, it is imperative that we act prayerfully and carefully. Many people either do not act or react wrongly in these situations, which can do more damage than good. Paul gives three action words in the text which are command words to the church to respond to those who have stumbled along the way.

The first action word Paul gives to the church in reaching out to the fallen is RESTORE (verse 1)

The goal of any reaching out, of any effort to minister to the fallen should always be toward restoration and redemption, not pruning or condemnation. We see examples in Scripture, such as the woman taken in adultery that was brought to Jesus, where he exhibited grace, not condemnation, and her life was restored. Matthew 18 gives clear directives as to the process of handling a conflict and I believe the same process can apply here, but with even a greater emphasis on grace.

A word of caution. When someone is struggling, the last thing that will help them is for me to talk about it to someone else. The Bible calls that gossip and gossip, at the least, is unhelpful, and at the most, is hurtful and divisive. Your first response should be to pray, then pray some more, and then you should pray again. Then, as God directs, move toward restoration.

The next action word Paul gives to the church in reaching out to the fallen is CARRY (verse 2)

What did Jesus do with the burdens of others? He carried them. What did He do with my burdens? He carried them. I Peter 2:24 tells us that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree”. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was wounded for our transgressions. Throughout the New Testament we see evidence of the committed Christian life is that we love God and love other people.

When we are invested in the burdens of others, it keeps us from looking down on others. When we are engaged in carrying the burdens of others, it creates community, and helps us to realize we all have struggles in this life. The fact is, burdens are a reality in this life. Whether it be physical illness, mental illness, financial crisis, addiction, family issues, or whatever it may be, Jesus told us in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.”

Choosing not to get involved in helping carry the burdens of others can be a symbol of pride. Pride creates a heart that is anti-missional, anti-brotherly love and anti-Kingdom advance.

The final action word Paul gives to the church is EXAMINE (verse 4)

Paul tells us that we must examine ourselves, not in comparison to others (as we are all in need of grace), but in relation to the Lord. The Judaizers brought a philosophy to the Galatian believers which lends itself to comparing one’s spirituality to others. This can be an indicator of insecurity. Any boasting we do should be in the Lord and the blessings of the Lord. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:36 that we will have to account for every careless word we speak. We also cannot lose sight of the fact that we are responsible for our own load – nobody else can father my kids, nobody else is to love my wife as a husband is to love his wife, nobody else can provide for my family…you get the idea.

Blaming our problems on others are just not helpful. Sometimes in dealing with someone who has stumbled you may hear some blame being thrown around, but that is where we must have understanding that we are to bear our own load.

Restoration, ultimately, is not the work of any man, but a work of the Holy Spirit. We are vessels used by the Holy Spirit, in this case, toward restoration. But remember, before you act (and we have been called to act), we must pray, then we must pray again, and next we should pray some more. God’s grace is sufficient to direct.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Equip us with His Spirit – Blog and Podcast

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? To walk by the Spirit? Does that mean that I’m waiting on some mystic power to come reveal itself to me and just go as the mystic spirit directs? Does it mean if my spirit doesn’t want to do something, I am not obligated to do it? Those may sound like ridiculous ideas, but there are likely some who would embrace those ideas, however unscriptural they are.

Paul spends the book of Galatians challenging the Galatian believers to follow the person of Christ rather than a list of rules. The idea is that in following Christ, He will equip you with the power of His Holy Spirit to live the best life. That is living by the Spirit.

In our passage for today, Paul contrasts living according to the Holy Spirit with living according to the flesh. It’s one or the other that has control. One leads to life and the other leads down a bad path.

Galatians 5:16-26,16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So how can we do this? How can we live by the Spirit? First of all, we must acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is sufficient. The Spirit is complete in all that He does and works best when He’s given full control. I believe we can see from this passage, three things the Holy Spirit is sufficient to accomplish.

The Holy Spirit is sufficient to keep us out of conflict. Flesh desires what is against the Spirit and Spirit desires what is against the flesh. They are in conflict, and to try and live in both worlds is frustrating. Reliance on the Holy Spirit means God has control. Reliance on the flesh means that I’m in control. Who do I trust more – God or myself?

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is sufficient to reveal the works of flesh. Paul gives quite a list here, covering sex, religion and relationships. In regard to sex, he says works of the flesh include sexual immorality, moral impurity, and promiscuity. In regard to religion, Paul challenges believers to avoid idolatry and sorcery. In regard to relationships, Paul says that works of the flesh include hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and carousing. These are all opposed to the flesh.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is sufficient to equip us to bear fruit. The opposite of the works of flesh includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. There is no law against any of these. Without the Spirit, we cannot remain faithful in these and with the Spirit, we naturally begin to bear these out. However, our motivation is not simply to bear fruit, because on our own we can get arrogant or begin to take credit for our faithfulness. It is the Spirit that equips us.

So, how do we walk in the Spirit?

First of all, we choose to follow the Spirit. Jesus said, “take up your cross daily and follow me”. It’s a daily choice to follow Christ, to be led by the Spirit. Consciously make that choice daily.

Secondly, we must deal with the obvious. If there are issues you struggle with that are in that list of works of flesh, take that as the Holy Spirit revealing that to you and deal with them right away. Don’t miss the full life in the Holy Spirit because of a personal conflict, habit or hang-up.

Thirdly, be honest about yourself. Don’t look at yourself as you see yourself, but through the lens of God’s Word. Don’t try to justify your behaviors and attitudes to the Lord. He knows not only your actions, but your heart. The more honest you get, the more you will be reliant on the Holy Spirit of God.

Finally, get to know Jesus. It sounds obvious, but don’t just pursue an obedience relationship to commands, pursue a true relationship with Christ. He is the Truth, He is the Light, He is the Way. Spend time with Him. Read His Word not just for knowledge but to get to know Him. Pray not only to give your list, but to get to know His heart and share yours.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX