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First Baptist Church - Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Change What Needs Changin’ – Blog and Podcast

In the last half of Galatians 2, Paul tells of Peter coming to where Paul was in Antioch. Antioch is where the believers were first called Christians. Paul felt need to confront Peter for something that Peter was doing. In Acts 10 we read of Peter receiving a vision from the Lord in a dream. In this vision, Peter was told by the Lord to kill and eat some animals that had always been forbidden for Jews to partake of, they were not kosher. The Lord was communicating to Peter that no longer were certain foods declared to be forbidden for kosher reasons. It was part of breaking down the walls between Jews and Gentiles and uniting everyone under the grace covenant – under the Lordship of Christ.

Peter began regularly eating with the Gentiles, with not only the dietary, but the spiritual dividing wall being torn down by the tearing of the temple curtain when Jesus said, “It is finished”. However, once the Judaizers came to town, Peter withdrew from that crowd and separated himself from them. Others in their crowd began to join in that, including Paul’s companion Barnabas.

You can call it what you want, but some would call it hypocrisy, others might call Peter and the others two-faced. This said to the Gentiles that you are okay for me to fellowship with until my radical Jewish friends come to town. After they go away maybe I’ll be able to fellowship with you again. If you are the Gentiles, what does that cause you to think? For centuries you’ve been told you are second-class citizens, now Jesus has come and removed the dividing wall only to have a few bullies come to town and cause Peter and the others to cave on their beliefs.

Not only is it two-faced, it says what they think about their faith. They aren’t confident enough in their trust in Christ. They feel they have to prove themselves righteous, demonstrate their holiness by refraining from certain foods and not fellowshipping with these Gentiles. That is textbook hypocrisy. Paul states it well here.

Galatians 2:19-20, “19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Changing who we are depending on the crowd we are in really just means we aren’t really who we believe we are.

It is Christ who saved us, Christ who changes us, so that we could be freed from all of those earthly expectations and put our faith and trust and hope in Him.

 

Paul says when I received Christ…

I died to the law (so that I might live for God) – He is not saying obeying law is bad. Christ came to fulfill the law, but to try and find your justification in it would be exhausting, and fruitless.  Paul acknowledges that to receive the blood of Christ on his life and then to go back to the Jewish ways is not living for God but living for the law. The law would become his god and the very first commandment is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Paul says when I received Christ…

I am crucified with Christ– not that I physically die, but the man of flesh, the former me that lived for me is dead and buried. As I pursue my walk with Christ, He continues to crucify unnecessary things in my life, but it is He that does that work. I simply follow His lead and obey.

Paul says when I received Christ…

I live by faith (in the Son of God)– No longer am I trusting in whether I’m good enough, Christ has declared me righteous. I now rely on Christ’s Spirit within me, Christ’s Word implanted in me, and Christ’s church as my allegiance. Does that mean if I’m free from the law that I can go on living in sinful ways? Romans 6:1-2, “1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? 2Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Paul says when I received Christ…

I embraced grace– Paul said if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. The Judaizers wanted to say yes you should come to Christ, but you should also be as Jewish as you can. Putting those kinds of stipulations on the Gospel compromises it and makes it not the Gospel of Christ. It reduces grace to something that is earned, which is no longer grace.

 Christ doesn’t want you to add things to your life, but He may want to take away some distractions. Once again I say…

Changing who we are depending on the crowd we are in really just means we aren’t really who we believe we are.  

Living for Christ should not put a weight upon you but should take some weight away.Why are you trying to do things yourself when the grace of Christ is available to you to live as a Child of God?

I’m reminded of the David Crowder song that says, “All my hope is in Jesus. Thank God, my yesterday’s gone. All my sins are forgiven. I’ve been washed by the blood.”

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Keep us From Running in Vain – Blog and Podcast

Many of the greatest experiences in my Christian life have happened because I was involved in the church. At an early age I was drawn to church, particularly to the music of the church. I learned about God through the songs we sang and was so encouraged by the people who gathered together, even as a child. Later on, I got involved in a youth group and God used other students in that group to show me what it looked like to have a walking, talking, living, breathing relationship with Christ. They talked about it in group discussions and talked about the need to share their faith. It was crucial to my early growth. Once I received Christ, I began to embrace those things in my own life.

Later as I surrendered to the call of God on my life to serve the church as my life’s work, it was the church, the people of the church, that taught me, encouraged me, and challenged me as I sought to follow God’s plan for my life. Today, the church is just an understood part of my life. I draw strength from the body of Christ, and it is essential for my life and growth.

Genesis 2:18,“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” Ecclesiastes 4:9a, “Two are better than one”, Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” We were never intended to live life, and especially the Christian life, in isolation. We were created to walk this journey together.

In today’s text, God shows us, through Paul, that He used the body of Christ in a number of ways to impact the work of the church and to further its work. Paul’s connection to the body of Christ kept him from running the race in vain.

Galatians 2:1-10, Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. I went up according to a revelation and presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those recognized as leaders. I wanted to be sure I was not running, and had not been running, in vain.

Paul is trying to help the Galatian Christians deal with the Judaizers, and to keep the church focused on Christ. Paul is secure in his relationship with Christ and in his position as an apostle, called by Christ. But Paul wisely went to Jerusalem to get some Godly counsel in helping the Galatian Christians deal with this persistent problem. He speaks privately with the church leaders, most likely Peter, James and John, before speaking with the Jerusalem council. He simply shares a report of what is going on and the message that he is sharing. That message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that there is no salvation except by grace through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They affirmed that he was not running, nor had he been running, in vain.

The church leaders affirmed Paul’s ministry and message, and that carried some weight in going back to the Galatian church. I want us to see today how Paul’s connection to the church, to the body of Christ affirmed Paul’s walk with Christ and brought unity to the church.

Being connected to the body of Christ, the church, helped Paul..

First of all, by fostering unity. Paul was wise not to be the lone ranger. He sought wise counsel to help deal with the disunity that was being brought by the Judaizers. There is strength in the church to help keep the health of the church, as long as the church is connected securely to Christ. The church cannot be unified if it is not connected, meeting together, and submitting to the Word together.

Seondly, the church helped Paul by ensuring accountability in his walk with Christ. All of us need people in our lives who are not only going to encourage us, but also will be there for us when we are struggling. We need people who will invest in us and walk alongside us on our journey.

Thirdly, the church helped Paul by providing affirmation in his walk. Though Paul was secure in his personal walk with Christ, the affirmation of the church was still a great encouragement of his ministry and his gifts to use in the church.

Fourthly, the church helped Paul by empowering partnerships. It’s a beautiful thing when the church gathers for genuine worship, when it works together, both inside and outside the church walls, and partners with other believers to do Kingdom work. That would be impossible outside of being active in the local church.

Finally, the church helped Paul by enhancing fellowship. There is nothing like the fellowship of the body of Christ, particularly at the local level. We do life together, we experience life together, we worship together, we pick each other up when things are challenging. Any believer who is not actively plugged into the life of a local church is short-changing themselves of incredible blessings.

Brothers and sisters, the church, if given the opportunity, will help you in your journey, and will help ensure that you are not running this race in vain. Are you taking full advantage of the fellowship of the local church?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…to Use Your Testimony (Blog and Podcast)

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When is the last time you shared your testimony with someone? When is the last time you were engaged in a conversation about someone’s faith? For a number of people, it’s almost an everyday occurrence, but for many believers, it happens all too infrequently. Why do you think that is? If you ask them, I would assume that most Christians believe that we have a responsibility to share our faith with others, with the hope that God would use it to help draw others to Himself. For those who would disagree with that, I would simply point them to the Great Commission. God’s Word is pretty clear.

 

People give all kinds of reasons for why they don’t share their faith. I want to address a few of those today. However, I want to start by giving you a little encouragement from one who had some things in his own life which could have made him hesitant to share his faith, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the world’s greatest church planters and, as a result, soul-winners.

I’m talking about Paul. As we continue our journey through Galatians, we come to the last half of chapter one, where Paul acknowledges that some see him as an unlikely evangelist, due to a couple of factors.

First of all, Paul describes himself as an apostle of Christ. That fact was doubted by many of the Jews, due to his not being a part of the original twelve, but Paul has never wavered on that and the fruit of his life backs it up. Secondly, the Jews, and Gentiles alike, remember Paul’s previous life where, as Saul, he violently persecuted Christians as, what he calls “a Pharisee of Pharisees”. Paul acknowledged his past openly to show the work that Christ did in his life, but there were some who wouldn’t receive it. Quite frankly, that wasn’t Paul’s problem. He was just being obedient. He wasn’t responsible for the response, or the result.

Galatians 1:11-12states, “11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul takes this opportunity, recorded in verses 11-24 of Galatians one, to share his testimony. He shares it in three stages. He describes his life prior to meeting Christ. He was a religious zealot, one who, in his words “intensely persecuted God’s church and tried to destroy it.” Then he speaks of his conversion experience in verses 15 and 16, giving credit to God for drawing him to Himself, and for having a plan for his life while still in his mother’s womb. That’s no different than it is for any of us, really. Then Paul spoke of his life following his conversion, his time as a missionary, if you will. He said others gave testimony that “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.”

So, what is your hesitation in sharing your faith with others? Do you have some of the same hindrances that Paul overcame? You may say, “but I’m no Paul”. I would say “before he was Paul, he was Saul, and nobody would have thought him to be an on-fire believer, but God…” It’s that but God that made the difference.

Let me deal briefly with some of the more common hesitations people give for not sharing their faith.

People say, “I don’t have a great story”.If Christ has come into your life, you are just as much saved as the most devout believer you know. If Christ has come into your life, your transition – from death to life – is just as dramatic as any. Don’t doubt your story, your testimony. God used it to bring you to Himself. God will use your successes and your failures to glorify Himself.

People say, “I don’t know what to say”.Matthew 10:19-20says, “19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because it isn’t you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.” You just tell people what Jesus did for you, and let the Lord do the rest.  Trust Him to give you the words and don’t hesitate.

People say, “I don’t know enough to share my faith”.If you’ve come to Christ, you know enough. Just tell your story. You have been chosen to share Christ with others. I Peter 2:9says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

People say, “I don’t want people to judge me”.Paul had a past, you have a past, we all have a past. Some people may never think of us other than how they remember how we used to be. That’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to let the light of Christ shine through us and others will see what He has done and be drawn to Him.” Trust God for the increase and don’t be ashamed of what God has delivered you from. Romans 1:16says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.”

My experience has taught me that whatever I’m really focused on, whatever is really important to me, I will focus time on that. Maybe, for you, it’s simply a matter of asking the Lord for a burden for souls. Ask the Lord to let you see people how He sees them and then just follow His lead. It really is that simple.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Christ is Enough…Period. (Blog & Podcast)

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For centuries the people of God, the Jews, demonstrated their love for God through their works, their sacrifices, and those things they refrained from in their lives. Jesus came and was preaching the same type of message as far as surrendering to God, but with a different approach. While we are still called to obedience, the days of multiple sacrifices would be gone. He, Himself, would be the one and only needed sacrifice. It was about a relationship, rather than a series of sacrifices. Christ was, and is, enough.

Paul writes a letter to the Galatians because he has been made aware of the fact that they have taken the Gospel of Grace and corrupted it. Some of the Jews are now saying that yes, the Gospel is open to all people, but the Gentiles must become Jews first, before they can come to Christ, and continue with the ceremonies and such. This was not the Gospel that Jesus preached.

Galatians 1:6-7, I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

What is happening here is that men and women are turning from the gospel by adding something to it. The Gospel is the Gospel and to add anything to it is to pervert it and is no Gospel at all. You don’t need to become Jewish on order to follow Christ. You don’t need to continue in the sacrifices, as some were teaching in this day, for Christ IS your sacrifice. You don’t need to live in fear that somehow you cannot measure up, for Christ IS the measuring stick. If you know Christ, your hope is secure.

With that said, let’s make some practical applications from the text from what Paul is saying

Paul is saying that Christ is enough…to rescue us
We cannot add anything to the Gospel that Christ did not put there. Salvation comes by grace, through faith, period.Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” A works-based salvation is not only impossible to achieve, but it also seems to exalt the work of man, versus the work of Christ. If I can achieve works-based salvation, then I could be tempted to say “look at what I did”. Christ is enough to rescue us.

Paul is saying that Christ is enough…to pursue us
Verse 6 says they are so quickly turning away from him who “called” them by the grace of Christ. It was by grace that we were called to salvation. We were undeserving. We were stained with sin. There was nothing in our lives which could redeem us. But Christ, in His grace, called us. Not only that, he continues to pursue us. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Christ is enough…to pursue us.

Paul is saying that Christ is enough…to break us
Often, in our lives, we take things that are broken, and we toss them aside, rid ourselves of them. If they are of no good to us, if they are unable to do anything for us anymore, or even if we are just tired of them, we throw them away.

Aren’t you glad that God does not do that with people? No matter what you are struggling with, no matter your strongholds, no matter your lack of obedience, no matter the situation, God never tosses aside those things that are broken. In fact, those things that are broken, He brings them closer to Himself. Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.

Not only that, but sometimes He allows us to go through things. He breaks us, if you will, in order to strip away the things that are unnecessary and to help us realize how much we need Him for everyday living.

Paul is saying that Christ is enough…to sustain us
If Christ can rescue you, if Christ can pursue you, if Christ can break you…then Christ can sustain you. Sometimes that sustaining is walking close beside you through the fire. Sometimes that sustaining you is simply holding you when you are broken. Sometimes that sustaining you is healing you from the scars of the past and reminding you that He is the One who brought you through. Sometimes, that sustaining you is just reminding you that He loves you, period.

Paul says God the father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If He raised His Son from the dead, then he can sustain any and all of His children through whatever they go through.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

 

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Diotrephes? Blog and Podcast

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Last week we looked at the first half of 3 John and specifically the story of Gaius, who was a wonderful example of a disciple of Christ. As we continue through the rest of 3 John we see, at the end of the chapter, the mention of another man who seems to be on the same path as Gaius in regard to being a disciple, a man named Demetrius.

Sandwiched between those is the story of a man who is not exactly a shining light of Christ, yet he seems to have prominence in the church. His name is Diotrephes. Already, with a name like Diotrephes, you know this is a man who is going to stand out. Unfortunately, Diotrephes stands out for the wrong reasons.

 3 John 9-11, I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive our authority. 10 This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome fellow believers, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Diotrephes was a man in the church who was about his own agenda, would not receive the ministry of the apostle John, or anyone outside the fellowship, for that matter. He did not receive guests into the body, and, in fact, would throw people out of the church for bringing new folks in. When people would speak of the Apostle John, Diotrephes would slander his name and talk badly of him. Diotrephes did not want anything to disrupt his agenda.

How did this church get to this point? How was Diotrephes allowed to have this much influence? The truth is, the church failed. They let their guard down and, slowly but surely, an evil influence was able to take root and potentially destroy the church. Let’s take a look at the areas where the church failed.

First of all, the church lost its identity

This was established as the church of Jesus Christ. Christ died for the church. The identity of the church is Christ. Our personal identity is to be Christ in us. Letting the light of Christ shine through us.

This church in our text had lost at least part of its identity, and had allowed someone to rise up to leadership that was not in tune with the Spirit of God.

Secondly, the church compromised the Truth

When Diotrephes refused to receive the letter that John wrote as one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, he was, in a manner of practice, refusing the Word of God. When Diotrephes was throwing people out of the church who were trying to share the Gospel and welcome people in, he was going against the Great Commission

Thirdly, the church denied its mission

By refusing to hear the counsel of the apostle John, by refusing to welcome new people into the fellowship, and by stifling the evangelistic efforts by the church, Diotrephes was denying the mission, and the commission, of the church. The Great Commission is pretty clear. Matthew 28:19, 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

The question of the day is…How Do We Solve a Problem Like Diotrephes?

Make no mistake about it, Diotrephes is a problem for the church, and it is the church’s problem. The church is a relationship, a body of believers, and when a member of the body is pulling against the rest, the entire body has a problem. If you don’t think so, remember the last time you stubbed your toe. Was that a problem for just your toe, or a problem for your entire body? For a few moments, it’s a problem for your entire body. The solution is not to cut your toe off and separate it from the rest of the body.

As the body is hurt, the body is built to heal itself. In doing so, the body must build itself up. I need to make sure that I don’t have some Diotrephes slipping into my life.

To combat that, I ask myself three questions. First of all, I ask myself, “Have I found my identity in something other than Christ?” Is my life defined by something besides Christ in me? The Word says “Seek ye first” and He will take care of everything else. God has the small stuff well under His control. He has the big stuff well under His control.

The second question I ask myself is “am I compromising the Truth in my life?” Diotrephes compromised the truth by refusing to obey the Word of God, by refusing people to have access to the Gospel, and by denying the voice of the apostles to speak the Word into the church. The Lord simply asks us to obey and He will take care of the rest.

The third question I ask myself is “is my life denying its mission?”

When we come to Christ, our agendas go by the wayside in light of Christ’s agenda for our lives. His calling on our lives is a calling through our lives. Go…ye…therefore…we can’t deny it and remain obedient to Christ.

So, how do we solve a problem like Diotrephes? By pursuing Christ every day, by keeping our eyes on the prize, by loving others as Christ loved us, not looking at difficult people in your life as problems but opportunities.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Discipleship Matters – Blog & Podcast

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What does it mean to make disciples? How did Jesus do it? He invested time, He spoke the Word of God, He showed them, He brought needed correction, and He loved them unconditionally. For 3 years He was totally invested.

Let me ask this in a more pointed way… Are there people in your life that, if you stopped investing discipleship into their lives, who would miss it? There are a number of approaches to that, and many of them are good. I’ve realized over the course of years that having a “discipleship” class is not necessarily discipleship. It’s part of it, but it is not the whole. Discipleship is personal, it’s connective, and it continues outside the 4 walls of the church.

Today we are going to look at the story of such a man that, I believe, John recognized as a discipler. The man’s name was Gaius and John writes to him to affirm what he is doing and to give him some wise counsel. As we seek to be disciplers in the manner which Christ has called us to be, let us see what we can glean from John as he addresses Gaius.

3 John 1-4 The elder: To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you are prospering in every way and are in good health, just as your whole life is going well. For I was very glad when fellow believers came and testified to your fidelity to the truth—how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in truth.

Gaius was a man who…Lived spiritually– It’s apparent John had a close relationship with Gaius, as he addresses him three times in this passage as “Dear Friend”. John had a deep, heartfelt love for Gaius. He affirmed Gaius’ walk with the Lord. He mentioned that other believers came to him and testified to Gaius’ walk in the Lord. John had been praying for Gaius’ spiritual walk as well. Notice in verse 2 that John says, “I pray that you are prospering in every way AND are in good health”. He is praying for his friend’s spiritual well-being.

Gaius was a man who…Walked Truthfully– John said he was “very glad” to hear that Gaius was continuing to walk in and live the Truth. In fact, John said he had no greater joy than to see those he had influence over, those he had discipleship over, walking in Truth. John certainly would have had joy if Gaius were blessed with a happy family. John certainly would have had joy if Gaius had been successful in whatever career he was involved in. John certainly would have been happy to see Gaius happy in his life in general, but that’s not was brought John the greater joy. John’s greater joy was in the spiritual growth of Gaius, because he knew that not only fueled every aspect of Gaius’ life, but also enabled Gaius to influence others with Kingdom emphasis.

Gaius was also a man who…Ministered Generously– John commends Gaius’ hospitality to both the brethren/sistern, as well as the strangers who would come into their midst. In this day and time, when people were traveling through town, there wasn’t local hotels available. The hospitality would be up to individual people. There would be people who would be traveling through and would come to worship. People would take them into their homes and feed them, and meet their needs. Gaius was evidently one who took that seriously.

It’s clear from the Great Commission, as well as embracing the example of Jesus, that making disciples is where it’s at. A disciple is a follower of Christ. We have a responsibility, not only to be disciples, but to make them. We have seen throughout John’s letters that being a disciple is characterized by loving God and loving His people.

Here it is, where the rubber meets the road. If we want to be disciple-makers. If we want to be a disciple-making church, we must learn what Gaius shows us.

Gaius teaches us to…Pray for Spiritual Health– So many times we gather together in classes or study groups and we say “Do we have any prayer requests?”, and that is good. Many of the requests are for physical ailments and sicknesses, diseases, and there is nothing wrong with that. We should absolutely pray for the sick. God’s Word tells us to. But when you are praying for someone, how often do you pray for their spiritual health? I want to challenge you, as you develop your prayer list, as you pray through those people that God puts on your heart, that you pray for their spiritual well-being. One of the best ways you can invest in someone’s life is to pray that God would fill them with His Holy Spirit, that He would teach them the Truth, convict them of sin, protect them from evil and equip them for the trials they face in their lives. Ask God to give you wisdom as to how to pray for them effectively.

Gaius also teaches us to…Seek Kingdom Relationships–I believe that we should be building relationships intentionally. The intent of those relationships should ultimately lead to Godly or Kingdom influence, the kind of influence that makes disciples. How are people won to Christ? One person at a time, one invitation at a time and one investment at a time. When someone walks the aisle to profess Christ as their Savior, there are typically a number of people who have had influence in that. John said of Gaius, “I was very glad when fellow believers came and testified to your fidelity to the truth – how you are walking in the truth”. John invested in Gaius for the purpose of Kingdom growth.

Finally, Gaius teaches us to…Extend Gospel Hospitality– Verses 5-8 of 3 John speak to Gaius and his hospitality to both church members and strangers.

How did Gaius show hospitality? The text shows us that whenever guests came to minister there in the local congregation, that Gaius saw to it that they were taken care of. Some of that hospitality can be taken care of on the administrative side, through budgeting and planning, through making sure the facilities are in good shape, that classes are equipped with what they need. Hospitality has a number of forms.

Not only was Gaius a great example, but John was a great example by continuing to pour into Gaius. Just because someone has walked with Christ for a long time doesn’t mean they are through becoming a disciple. They still need people to invest in them and they need to invest in other people. Church, if we want the church to grow, and I trust that you join me in that desire, we have to not just invite people but invest in them. Pray for spiritual health. Seek Kingdom Relationships. Extend Gospel Hospitality. That’s called being the church. May the church be the church.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Cruise Ship or Battleship – Podcast & Blog

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Is the church more like a cruise ship or a battleship? That may seem like an interesting comparison but think about it. Why do people go on a cruise? To get away from it all, to be waited on, to get away from responsibility, to relax and get away from work, and so on. A battleship is made for function, for work, to defend against the enemy attacks.

The main difference seems to be in focus. The cruise ship is focused on the comfort of the passengers and the battleship is focused on the mission.

So what are some criteria by which we would evaluate the church like we would a cruise ship?

Do I like the music?
Do Iike the pastor and staff and the people?
Do I think they do a good job?
Do they meet my needs?
What do they offer my family?
Is the temperature, seating, décor, service times and subjects covered to my liking?
Did I have a good enough experience that I would go back?

That all sounds great, right? But is that how we should evaluate a church?

What if we were evaluating the church like we would a battleship? I might ask these questions…

Is the church on a clear mission?
Does the leadership submit to a higher authority?
Is their mission guided by accomplishing a greater purpose?
Are the leaders equipped to succeed?
Are the members able to contribute in significant ways?
Is their focus on furthering the mission?

The Great Commission commissioned the church to “19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20. That sounds like the mission of the church is not to be self-serving, but to be about bringing Christ to others.

In John’s 2ndletter, there are only 13 verses, but he stresses several themes which will help the church be more battleship than cruise ship. I’ll only share one verse here, but I urge you to look at the entire letter.

2 John 4, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father.”

For the church to be more battleship than cruise ship, John challenges us in these 5 areas:

Truth or Consequences?
In order for us to know Christ, we must know Truth. To know Christ is to know His Word. If you want to walk in truth as John has urged, get to know His Word. The church is useless if it’s not grounded in His Word.

Love Can Build a Bridge
John says that love is shown in our walking according to His commands. Love is honoring God’s Word in all of our relationships. Love is reaching out to those who don’t look like us, act like us, think like us, or even vote like us. It’s crucial that the church live both in the church and in the world.

Command Response
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He gave a number of commands. He commanded us to repent, “follow me”, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad”, “let your light shine before men”, to be reconciled and not let bitterness or tension remain. We are to “go the second mile”, turn the other cheek, love our enemies, do unto others… That certainly sounds more like battleship than cruise ship, and it surely sounds like what the church should be about.

Walking the Talk
It’s one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk. There is such freedom that comes in walking daily with Christ. We are called to be, and get the privilege to be, the hands and feet of Jesus. People know when we are just talking a good game and not walking it. On the battleship, everyone has their job. It’s the same in the church

Tune into Teaching
Everyone who serves must also be fed. Everyone who gives must also receive. It’s just a fact of life. In order to serve well, you must also be partaking of nourishment. When you get dry, it’s not time to back away, it’s time to plug in – to Bible study, to community groups, to the daily time with the Lord in Word and prayer. There are tons of good resources – our only excuse is ourselves.

Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” ‘

We are in a battle, and the battle is not against the government, against another country or power. The battle we face is against the enemy, the devil. He is working hard and winning many battles. Families are facing it day by day. You are out there facing it every day. It’s not a matter of if you are choosing to be in the battle or not. The battle is raging. Are you striving to be prepared for it?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX