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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

It’s All About Relationships, Revisited – Blog & Podcast

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Being that this blog is entitled “It’s All About Relationships”, I believe it’s important that every few months we get back to the basics of what that represents. On a summer night in 2011 my life and ministry was transformed by the awareness God brought me through a title to a chapter of a book (Transformational Discipleship) that was entitled “Relationally Intentional”. I was struck by the concept that a big part of our purpose on earth is to intentionally begin and build Kingdom relationships. That is, relationships for the purpose of strengthening others, and our own, relationships with Christ. As I began to weep, God began to reveal to me, what I would come to embrace as the five basic relationships of every Christian life. It is paramount that we, as believers, be intentional relationship builders.

I was in a group of pastors recently assisting a brother pastor with his doctoral dissertation by answering some questions in regard to revival and church revitalization. Following our discussion, one of the brothers asked him to reveal what data he had discovered about common factors in churches that have experienced long periods of revival and revitalization. After all, many churches are either plateaued or declining.

His research revealed that churches who had experienced longer periods of revitalization or revival, say 8 to 10 years, that there were some common factors. They experienced increased attendance, giving increased and was more stable,  and those churches baptized at least 10% of their active attendance over a period of years. Then he revealed that the most telling factor in long-term revival or revitalization of a church is this…sustained intentional, personal discipleship. That is, one on one or small groups or two or three in personal discipleship. In other words, intentionally building Kingdom relationships.

Back to my original point, let me briefly outline for you the five fundamental relationships for the believer and underscore the need for “intentionality” in each.

  1. Relationship level 1 – God to man – No man initiates a relationship with God on His own. God intentionally initiates a relationship with us, we simply respond and repeat it with others. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you”. We are nothing, we have nothing, without God’s intentionality in initiating relationship with us.
  2. Relationship level 2 – Man back to God – Once God initiates that relationship, we have the opportunity to respond, and receive permanency of that relationship. I John 4:15 says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God.” We confess Jesus as the Christ, as Savior and Lord, and our relationship is secured.
  3. Relationship level 3 – Man to man – Once that relationship is secured, we are called to replicate that to others. Initiating relationships with others that share the love of Christ that we have received. It’s clear that our purpose as believers is to make disciples. The Word states it and the data backs it up. I John 4:11 says, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” After all, someone invited me, someone invited you, to come and learn about Jesus.
  4. Relationship level 4 – Man to church – Man cannot live the Christian life obediently apart from a relationship to the local church. There are too many principles, particularly in the New Testament, which only truly make sense in community, that being the local church. Romans 12:5 states, “In the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” The best way to live that out is in the community of the local church.
  5. Relationship level 5 – Man to organization – All of us are involved with entities like work, school, shopping in the marketplace, athletic teams, musical groups, clubs, political and governmental organizations, etc. We don’t have a relationship to a building or to a title, but we do have a relationship to people, therefore we have a relationship to an organization. Ephesians 5:1 states, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children”. What did God do but send His Son Jesus Christ to initiate relationships with saint and sinner alike. He did business as a carpenter, He had friends, He walked among people, initiating relationships and responding in love to needs that were presented to Him.

The path to changing the world is simple…it’s one Kingdom relationship at a time. Let us not limit our Kingdom potential by believing the lie that, as believers, we don’t have what it takes to be Kingdom relationship builders. We have the Holy Spirit, our teacher, refuge, comforter, who will be our words and will reveal truth through our words and actions. Who can YOU invite to your church this week? Who can YOU intentionally invest God’s love in this week? It’s the way we were created to live.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

5 Certainties – Blog and Podcast

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How many things are there in our lives that we truly KNOW? In an era of fake news, social media campaigns and ultra-partisan politics, facts seem to be up to interpretation and up for much debate. The old saying is that there are only two things we can be assured of in life: death and taxes. While those are realities, there are many things that we can truly know, but only if you really know the Truth, if you know the Lord.

In our text for today from I John 5, John gives us five things that we can know, that we can be sure of. We will call them five certainties.

Are certainties important? Do you want to put your faith and trust into something that you can’t be totally sure of?  When you are operating in certainty, you can operate with much more confidence, much more passion and much more surrender. That’s where we should strive to be in our Christian walk – surrendered and yielded to God’s desire and design.

I John 5:13-21,13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that doesn’t lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the one who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one. We are in the true one—that is, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Let’s look at 5 certainties that John gives us in this passage…

  1. We can be certain that we have eternal life (v13). What is eternal life? Is it just the life to come? When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gesthemane, just before His arrest, he said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent – Jesus Christ. That tells me that eternal life begins for the Christian at the time of receiving Christ. My eternal life has already begun. His Word has said it. It’s a certainty.
  2. We can be certain that God answers prayer (v14-17). John addresses 3 aspects of prayer in this passage.
    1. We can have confidence in prayer. God wants us to come confidently to the throne. This assurance is fuel for our prayer.
    2. Condition – If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So how do we pray in His will? First of all, we must be willing to surrender to His will as He reveals it to us. Secondly, we trust the Word, which tells us in Romans 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should…”
    3. Certainty –The text tells us we can be certain that He hears us and that He answers prayer. His Word promises it.
  3. We can be certain that we have victory over sin (v18). “We know that everyone has been born of God does not sin, but the one who is born of God keeps him.” “So preacher, are you saying that after I come to know Christ, that nothing I do is called sin? I can do whatever I want?” No, that’s not what John is saying at all. John is speaking of the permanence of the sinful condition. No longer can your sin keep you from an eternity with Christ. No longer is spiritual death a threat to you.
  4. We can be certain that we belong to God (v19). “We know we are of God, and the world is under the sway of the evil one”. John declares that only two types of people exist in the world: children of God and children of Satan. Children of Satan can be redeemed and become Children of God, but once we are a child of God, our status can never be changed. God’s Word affirms it. It is certain.
  5. We can be certain that we know Christ (v20-21). If the Holy Spirit has quickened your spirit, made you aware that you are a sinner, convicted you of our sin and you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can be assured that you know Christ.

Are you lacking certainty in any area of your spiritual life? Not only does Jesus want to be Lord and Savior of your life, but He wants you to be certain in your walk. He wants you to have confidence. He wants you to have security. He wants you to trust Him. Child of God, if you know Him, then you can be certain that you have eternal life, that God answers prayer, that you have victory over sin, that you belong to God and that you know Christ.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Three Witnesses – Blog Post and Podcast

I John 5:6-12 (CSB),Jesus Christ—he is the one who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that he has given about his Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself. The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Just imagine that you are in a courtroom, where you have found yourself on trial. If you are convicted, the sentence is death, but if you are acquitted, death can never be held over you, ever again. The charges are many, but they are all rolled into one, big charge, called sin. You know you are guilty. It’s clear that you’ve sinned. Yet Someone came forward and offered to represent you, Someone who said just tell the truth and trust Me, and everything will be ok.

The prosecution, led by the Chief Accuser, has called many witnesses. Each one of them has charges against you of sin in one shape, form or fashion. With the testimony of each one, you just shake your head, because you know everything they have said is true. You are a sinner and Scripture has declared that the wages of sin is death. You are completely sure that this is not going to have a happy ending.

As each witness testifies, and the prosecution mounts its case, the Judge turns to your Defense Attorney and says, “your witness”. Each and every time, your Defender says, “no questions, Your Honor. We have no argument against these.”

Unbelievable, you think! You are sweating, your blood pressure is going up, your anxiety is getting stronger and stronger – yet your Defense Attorney continues to put his hand on your shoulder and say, “trust me, believe in me, I’ve got you covered.” Yet, all of the evidence points to the fact that you are surely headed to a death sentence.

Now it’s time for the Defense to put you on the stand. You are losing hope, but you know that your only choice is to trust your Defender, and He has assured you, so you take the stand.

Your Defender asks you, “Is there anything you can offer in your defense to answer these charges?” You think to yourself “what a question? Isn’t He supposed to defend me?” But then you remember that He said for you to trust Him and be truthful, and you really have no other choice at this point, so you answer the question truthfully. “No, Your Honor, I don’t have anything to offer as my defense. The charges are true. I’ve sinned with my words, with my actions, my thoughts, my desires and my intent at times. I’m guilty.”

Then, your Defender rises up and addresses the court. “Your Honor, I would like to offer 3 witnesses to answer for the charges against my client.” The Judge says, “this is highly unusual, but I know You to be totally true and trustworthy, so I’ll allow it”.

Your defender says, in the Old Testament, a case was solidified if it was accompanied by the testimony of 2-3 witnesses. I’ll refer you to Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness cannot establish any iniquity or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Your Defender states, I have 3 witnesses to call on behalf of the Accused

  1. First is the Holy Spirit of God – it is the Holy Spirit that draws, teaches, convicts, reveals Truth.
  2. Second is the Baptism of Jesus Christ. Though Jesus never sinned, He was baptized to identify with the sinner, in the need for the sinner to die to self, have sin buried, and being resurrected to walk in newness of life in Christ
  3. The final witness is the Blood of Christ, the Crucifixion. Without blood there is no remission of sin. Only a sinless man could die for the sins of another man and that’s what He did.

This courtroom scene is fictitious, but the facts remain

  • The Accuser is Satan Himself
  • The Accused of course is you
  • The Defender is Jesus Christ
  • The Righteous Judge is Jehovah God

Because all of us come to the Father through the Son, the Righteous Judge accepts these three witnesses presented by the Defender, His Son and the charges are dropped with no hope of appeal. The text tells us that your testimony is good, but God’s testimony is greater – in fact, it’s the greatest. Child of God, you have three witnesses who will always testify for you. Walk in the victory of being a child of God today.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

 

 

God Questions – Blog and Podcast

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One of the things I love about the church is that it is somewhat of a melting pot. People come from different backgrounds, live in different environments, work in different fields, are in different age groups, have different interests, sometimes are from different countries, are of different ethnic descent, etc. We have people who grew up in church and those who didn’t, and some which are half and half. I love that! It’s a beautiful thing that we see more and more over the past few years. God unites, removes barriers, draws people unto Himself, and brings families together under His Lordship.

I’ve talked to a number of people who have come from various backgrounds over the years in serving the church and because of that, I believe it’s important to speak to some of the fundamentals of the faith from time to time and try to answer any questions people may have regarding them. Today’s text really lends itself to answering some important questions that believers have from time to time, so we are going to look at 3 of them.

Our text for today is I John 5:1-5, which says…Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him. This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

The first question I want us to deal with is…How do I know I’m saved?I had a man in my office one time, who was an active part of our church and was in his 40’s. He grew up going to church and when he got to be a teenager he drifted away. He got married and he and his wife had different church backgrounds. He didn’t like where she liked to go to church so he just didn’t go, and eventually she didn’t either. They moved from out of state to our town for a fresh start and decided they might want to try church again. Their daughters enrolled in girl scouts, which just so happened to meet at our church. They began to attend regularly, their kids got involved, and the Lord began to work on this man, convicting him about his salvation. He had walked an aisle when he was 12 years old, but he realized it hadn’t made a significant impact in his life. He came into my office wanting some assurance – was the decision he made at age 12 a real profession of faith? Was he feeling the conviction of someone who needed to get saved or was he just feeling guilt for walking away from the church for so many years? He even called his mom and asked her to give him the date off of his baptism certificate. He was so torn up. We prayed and we talked. We prayed and we talked some more. He kept saying, “If the decision I made to follow Christ at 12 was so real, how could I so easily walk away from it for so many years?”

Ultimately, he realized he had never truly repented of his sins and had never been truly saved. He asked the Lord to save him and walked the aisle the next Sunday to make his profession of faith public, which is an important step as a testimony before your church family. He was baptized a few weeks later and began a new life in Christ and I began to see some real changes in him over time.

A genuine salvation experience is marked by two evidences, according to our text today. Verse 1 says that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. Basically, loving God and loving one another.

For those of you who may be looking for some additional evidences of “How do I know I’m saved?”, let me give you a few marks to look for in your life. This is not a list that is given to condemn you if you aren’t totally following all of these, but they are good indicators of a genuine walk with Christ.

  1. Have you felt the presence of Jesus Christ in your life?
  2. Does sin bother you? When you realize you’ve sinned, does it convict you?
  3. Do you have a desire to obey God’s Word?
  4. Do you love the Lord more than you love the things of this world?
  5. Are you excited about the return of Christ?
  6. Are you seeing a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
  7. Do you love other Christians?
  8. Are you experiencing answered prayer?
  9. Are you sensing the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Is He Your comforter and teacher?
  10. Are you able to discern between spiritual truth and error? Discernment grows as you walk with Him.
  11. Have you endured any resistance because of your faith?

(Adapted from “Saved Without a Doubt” by John MacArthur)

The second question I want us to deal with is…Can I lose my salvation?I realize that there is not universal agreement within the Christian church about this question. But, I’ll cut to the chase. I’m not interested in what the church says as much as I’m interested in what the Word of God says, so in order to answer that question, we’ll just go straight to the Word of God and let God sort it out for us. Here are 3 key Scriptures which do indeed answer the question of whether someone can lose their salvation.

  1. John 10:27-28, 27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
  2. Ephesians 1:13, 13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed.
  3. Hebrews 6:4-6, For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.

The answer is, if you were ever saved, you are still saved. If you could lose it, you never had it, and if you could lose it, you couldn’t get it back again. Scripture is the first and last Word on that, period.

The 3rdquestion I want to address is, “Why is it hard to be obedient?” Anything worthwhile in your life comes at a price, it costs you something, and it shapes you in the process. Such is the Christian life. Our victories have purpose, and our trials have purpose. Our gains have purpose and our losses have purpose. All things work together for good for them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

The text tells us in verse 3, “For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden.” His commands are not a burden, but that doesn’t mean that they will be easy to keep. They are not a burden, meaning that whatever difficulty that comes from being obedient, God will equip us with whatever we need to be obedient.

These 3 questions, “How do I know I’m saved?”, “Can I lose my salvation?” and “Why is it hard to be obedient?” are questions that many people ask. But understand this…God doesn’t want you to live in fear of wondering. He wants you to have a salvation that is secure, and He wants to equip you to be obedient. All of those things are to be developed within the context of the local church. My sincere desire for each of you is that you have security in an authentic relationship with Christ, and that you press forward in knowing Christ in a deeper way.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

Declarations of Love – Blog & Podcast

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I was 5 years old when my dad bought me my first baseball glove. At that point, I had never seen a baseball game that I was aware of, or a baseball glove. My only exposure to the game was through a plastic ball and bat that I had been given previously, that I was not very good with. My dad was simply introducing me to a great game and giving us something that we could to together. It was just about playing catch in the backyard of our house on Pine Street in Rusk, Texas.

Later, he introduced me to the game as a whole. We moved to Houston in 1974 and my dad signed me up for baseball in the spring of 1975. He took me to a game that summer in the 8thwonder of the world – the Astrodome. I was smitten for life with this great game of baseball. I would have never known this love of baseball had my father not taken the time to introduce me to this game.

My father loved me, so he revealed himself to me, he taught me, and he helped mold and shape me along the way. He did it all because he loved me. In the same way, every good thing I have in this life, has come from my Heavenly Father. I love others because God has loved me and loves others through me. Before I met the Lord, I had some understanding of love. I loved my parents. I loved my family. I loved my friends. I even loved baseball. But, the Lord transformed, completely, my understanding of love – where it came from, what it means, what its purpose is, and so much more.

Our focus today is on a few verse from I John 4. In the last 15 verses of the chapter, the word love or a form of it, is stated 27 times. That’s an average of almost 2 times per verse. Evidently, love must be important.

I John 4:18-21 (CSB),18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So, the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

I think we can best have understanding of this passage by making 3 declarations of love and giving you 3 reasons for each one.

The first declaration of love is “I need love”. That may seem obvious and it may not have rocked your world, but I think there is something to saying, to admitting, to acknowledging, “I need love”. There’s something freeing up about that, it reveals a transparency, a vulnerability that is not only healthy, but it is also necessary.

Let me give you three reasons why I need love. First, I need love because love meets needs. From the time I was born, my parents fed me, clothed me, provided for me, because they loved me. Love is the best motivation, love is the best medication, and love is the best manifestation of caring in this world. Secondly, I need love because love covers sin. If I’m well fed in this life, have the nicest house, the most dependable and beautiful car and the greatest family, it’s all for naught if I leave it all behind and am separated from God for eternity because I did not trust Jesus to cover my sin. Thirdly, I need love because love overcomes fear. Just because I know the Lord, doesn’t keep me totally free from anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, etc. because there is still sin in the world and I still am made of flesh and give into the ways of the flesh from time to time. God’s love overcomes my fear.

Back to the declarations, the second declaration of love is “I have love”. Now I will say this…this declaration comes within the context of a relationship with Christ. The first way I know I have love is because love conquered death. If you know Christ, then death is only a temporary condition. If you don’t, it’s permanent. Secondly, I have love because love ransomed me. My sentence was spiritual death. I didn’t do anything to cause it – I was born into sin – but if I don’t do something to respond to the work God did to ransom me, I will remain separated. Thirdly, I have love because love transforms me. When I look at my life since I met Christ, I can see that not only have I matured because of the experiences I’ve had, but the love of Christ has transformed me. I see it reflected through my entire life, and He’s still transforming me.

The third and final declaration of love is “I give love”. Love that is held on to and not distributed is not really love, it’s selfishness. I give love firstly because love commands it. When the disciples asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and the second is like unto it – love your neighbor as yourself”. He couldn’t separate the two. Secondly, I give love because love demonstrated love. As my father showed me love by investing in me, teaching me the game of baseball, Christ has invested love in me and an investment is placed with the intention of growth. Now, to be truthful, sometimes you invest love in people that don’t love you back. That’s not your concern. That’s their problem if they don’t receive it. You are only called to be obedient. The results are up to God. Thirdly, I give love because love communicates authenticity. People know when love is real or when it’s fake. There is an authenticity in love that unifies, that brings together, that breaks down walls, that calms people’s fears, that restores, that heals.

What are your declarations of love today? Can you identify with these – I need love, I have love, I give love? Maybe you need to simply acknowledge to God that you need Him, that you need His love. That may be where you are today. Maybe life’s circumstances have made you doubt that you have love – all I can tell you is that the Word of God, which is the absolute Truth, says that if you know Christ, you absolutely have love. Are you struggling to give love? Maybe you can’t get past the hurts of past relationships. Maybe you are just angry about some circumstances of life. Maybe your trust has been broken and you struggle to give love. God’s Word says love is perfected in you when you give it away. By resisting that, by holding on to anger and resentment, by not fully trusting God with your time, your talent and your treasure, you are living with less than a perfect love relationship and you don’t have to.

Let’s pray…Lord, I’ll just say it – I need love. I need everything you have to offer. I have love only because You’ve given me love, and I’m so thankful for that. Help me to embrace the love You’ve given me and help me to give love like You have intended me to. I give love because You have loved me so much. Lord, I want to be so in love with You that I can’t help but give Your love away. I know I’ll never run out, because You always will re-fill me. Amen

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX