Excellence

Posted on 04/15/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Good morning and welcome! Let's all stand to our feet in honor of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, for Jesus Christ is risen, and he is here in our midst today!

Lord Jesus, we worship and exalt your holy name, for you are the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world!

We welcome you here today Holy Spirit. Move freely in this atmosphere. Move freely in our hearts and minds. Change us a little more today into the image of Jesus.

Lord, we bring before you Litron's request for his family. We ask that you be present in their midst, that you draw them all closer into a deep relationship with Jesus. We speak peace and joy upon that household. May their house be a house of prayer and a house of peace where the Holy Spirit dwells.

We pray for protection for Terry's daughter Jamil. We ask for widsom and guidance for both Terry and Jamil. Give Terry the right words to say and the time to say them, and guide Jamil onto the path that you have designed for her to walk.

We pray for Brent and for his ministry. May Jesus be glorified through their outreach, and may lives be eternally changed for the Kingdom.

We pray for Dani and for her newborn baby. We ask that you give her grace and strength, and that you would fill her to overflowing with your joy and peace as she takes on the incredible responsibility and priveledge of raising up a mighty warrior for the Kingdom of God. Give her wisdom, direction, and patience, and may the presence of the Holy Spirit be strong in that household, and may this baby boy be filled with the Spirit of God even from his infancy, as he is raised to seek after you and walk in the awesome path you have for him to walk.

And now Lord, bring us into your presence. Draw us into worship, as we put our attention on you. May we lay every other worry and care aside, and press into your presence with all that is within us.

And we ask these things in the name of Jesus.

Amen.


Let's enter into the presence of the Lord with singing. If you'd like a notecard, you can click-touch the pulpit. Let's worship the Lord with song, for he is great, and greatly to be praised!


AH LORD GOD

Ah Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thy great power
Ah Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thine outstretched arm

Nothing is too difficult for Thee
Nothing is too difficult for Thee
O great and mighty God
Great in counsel and mighty in deed
Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing
Nothing is too difficult for Thee


PURIFY MY HEART

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within and make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin, deep within

Refiner’s Fire
My heart’s one desire is to be holy
Set apart for You Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You my master
Ready to do Your will


I EXALT THEE

For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods

I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord


We do exalt you Lord. Be glorified and magnified here today as we seek to continue worshiping you by eating the living bread of your Word. Open our hearts and our minds to what your Spirit wants to say to us today, and may the seeds of your Word go into fertile soil, springing forth into new and radiant life.

Thank you Jesus! Amen.


You may be seated.

Today we're going to talk about a subject that applies to every one of us. And for most of us, myself included, this is an area in which we can all grow.

Scripture teaches us about loving God, staying away from sin, praying without ceasing, and guarding our hearts. It teaches us about Salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the blessed hope of the soon return of Jesus.

But Scripture also teaches us about what we're about to discuss. And today's topic of discussion is, "Excellence."


Our opening passage for today is found in Matthew chapter five, verses fourteen through sixteen which say,

14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to  all who are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Lord, bless the reading of your Word today. Open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to receive what you want to say to us today. We ask this in Jesus' name.

So Jesus is telling us here that we are the light of the world. It's interesting to note that Jesus also said that HE is the light of the world, and yet here he is saying that WE are the light of the world. But this is neither a contradiction nor a mistake.

We are told in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

And Romans 8:29 says, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."

It is God's will and plan that you be transformed, daily changed, into the image of Jesus so that instead of displaying our fallen human nature and glorifying the flesh, we can instead begin to take on the nature of Jesus, thereby glorifying God.

Scripture teaches us that all things that have been created, the majestic mountains, the rolling hills, the lush valleys, the vast oceans, the trickling brooks, the mighty expanse of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars, the galaxies, and the unfathomably endless reaches of the universe, all were created by Jesus, the Word of God.

If you want an example of excellence, take a look at God's creation of nature. The laws are written down to the very smallest detail, and for everything to continue existing, they have to be intricate and of incredibly brilliant design.

God did not cut corners when he created the universe. He did not rush over his creation of the distant planets and stars. He did not hurry his creation of the mountains, oceans, and the cycles of nature that make continued life on this planet possible.

God is a God of excellence. His Word is a work of utter perfection, and is itself the power of creation, and the proclaiming of that Word is the power of God unto Salvation.

In the Genesis account of creation, we see that God repeatedly saw that "it is good." The word "good" here in the original Hebrew can be translated as "excellent."

And while God over and over again saw that his creation was "good," not once did he say that it was "good enough."


Don't we seem to have a different standard? It's so easy to see what we can get by with. How little effort we can put into something while still coming up with something acceptable.

And yet God is calling us to a higher standard. He is not calling us to "good enough." Rather, God is calling us to "excellence."


There are five areas of excellence we're going to discuss today. And this first area of excellence to which God is calling us is found in Colossians 3, verses 22 through 24 which say,

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as  men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
23 And whatever you do, do it from your heart, as to the Lord and not to men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the  Lord Christ.

This first area of excellence to which God is calling us is the area of Service.

Do you have an employer? Then you are a servant.

Do you have a client? Then you are a servant.

Do you have a supervisor or manager? Then you are a servant.

Do you have an employee or subordinate? Then you are a servant.

Are you in the ministry? Then you are a servant.

No matter what you do, you are a servant to someone. And God has called us to serve, not in a way that is "good enough," but he has called us to serve in a way that is "excellent."

This passage in Colossians tells us to obey our earthly masters in all things. And not just when they're looking, but with a sincere heart, fearing God.

Now why did the author stick in those words, "fearing God?" Why couldn't it just end by saying, "with a sincere heart," instead of, "with a sincere heart, fearing God?"

By studying what the Bible tells us about the role of authority, we learn that any type of government or structure of authority is representative of the Kingdom of God.

For example, Scripture tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and it tells wives to respect their husbands and obey them as the Church should respect and obey Christ.

Scripture also tells us that when we rebel against authority, we are rebelling against God. We can therefore see that our authority and the structure of authority on this earth are representative of God's authority, and how we treat them, we are treating God.

So when we realize that we are respecting or disrespecting God, keeping our mouths shut or spreading negativity about God, truly obeying or just misleading God, when we do these things to our earthly authority, then our fear of God, rather than our fear of the authority, will determine our actions and attitudes.

Then verse 23 says, "Whatever you do, do it from your heart as to the Lord and not to men... for you serve the Lord Jesus."


This is a high standard indeed. It's just not natural to not speak a little bit of evil to our peers about bosses, leaders, or other symbols of authority.

It's just not normal to always do what we're told. After all, everyone does little things when the supervisor isn't looking.

It's just plain weird, and we'd even call it being the "teacher's pet," to submit fully to our authority both in front of them and also when they're far away and will never know.

And yet, this is the level of excellence to which God is calling us. He is calling us to go beyond the ordinary, beyond "good enough," beyond the works and ways of our carnal human nature; and he is calling us to walk in the Spirit, pressing for the mark of perfection, seeking to please him by serving others just as if they are him.

Now we are not called to obey anyone or anything that tells us to disobey the Word of God. But other than a clear violation of Scripture, we can obey and respect God only when we obey and respect those in authority.

Our next area of excellence is found in 1 Corinthians 10, verses 23 through 33 which say,

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but  not all things edify.
24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake;
26 for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.”

27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is  set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.
28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.”
29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?
30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,
33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.


And this area of excellence to which God is calling us is exellence in "Relational Maturity."

I'm sure none of us have ever done this, but perhaps we've seen someone else from the "church down the street" flaunt their beliefs in front of other Christians, knowing the other Christian would take offense and believes that liberty to be a sin.

Or perhaps we have.

Does God expect us to stop doing everything that another Christian may view as wrong or irreverant?

Certainly not. If we did that, we would stop doing anything at all. As the Body of Christ, we range from one side ditch of thinking we can do anything and God doesn't mind, to the other side ditch of thinking that everything we do that doesn't meet very strict and specific legalistic guidelines is evil.

Rather, the standard of excellence to which God is calling us is one of consideration of our brothers and sisters. We who believe in speaking in tongues shouldn't stop doing so. But if we visit a church who we know does not believe in raising their hands and speaking in tongues, we're out of line if we choose to start jumping over the pews and shouting in an unknown language.

Walking into a body of believers who has a different view on an issue and purposely bringing it up in a way that stirs up strife is another example of immaturity, and is the way of the flesh, not of the Spirit.

God is calling us to grow towards maturity in him regarding our interactions with the rest of the Body of Christ. God is calling us to excellence in this area as well.

The area of doctrine and understanding of Scripture brings us to our next area of excellence, and we read about this area in Second Timothy 2:15 which says,

"Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be  ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

And this area of excellence is the area of excellence in Doctrine.

It's one thing to repeat what we heard some preacher say, or just recite a belief we've always had, or to say, "The Bible says something such-and-such, and that has to mean that it's evil to eat bagels without cream cheese."

And we've all done this. But this is lazy. This is carnal. This is not excellence.

Instead, we're instructed to "Study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

You see, we're not told to study to the level that others find impressive and which merit the approval of others.

Rather, we're instructed to study to the level that God finds impressive, and which merits his approval.

We're told to study in this way so that we do not need to be ashamed, since we will be rightly dividing the word of truth.

This phrase "rightly dividing" can be translated from the original text like this:

"To make straight and smooth, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly."

Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to us. But the Holy Spirit works through obedience and dilligence.

We cannot simply recite the teachings of others or spout out our own ideas and expect to be projecting excellence.

Rather, when we hear a teaching, we should study Scripture to make sure it lines up with the Word of God. It doesn't matter if it disagrees with the things we've always thought or been taught. We must study. Not just a little, but so thoroughly and completely that we would be approved by God himself.

We bring dishonor to the name of Christ when we spout off half-baked statements as though they are fact, and when we have debates about every little thing, acting out of our pride and insisting everyone who disagrees with us is unenlightened, uneducated, or just plain wrong.

Rather, before we discuss a disagreement, we should study the Word. And I don't mean we should do a quick Google search and rattle off out-of-context Scripture passages, or even that we should spend an hour compiling proof that what we think is true.

Instead, we should approach the Word of God with humility and with an open spirit, realizing that we very well could be mistaken. After all, the people who disagree with you are not stupid. They are people just like you, and they have reasons for believing what they believe just like you do. And their conflicting beliefs may be just as sacred to them as yours are to you.

So study to be approved unto God, making sure you are accurately understanding and teaching the Word of Truth. And until you've done this, hold your tongue.

God is calling us to excellence in doctrine. An excellence in our study of the Word. And an excellence in our humble and open approach to Scripture as fallable human beings who are correctible and teachable, making certain we are rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

The next area of excellence to which God is calling us can be found in the book of Job, the 31st chapter. Let's take a moment to read this chapter together.

 1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes;
      Why then should I look upon a young woman?

 2 For what is the allotment of God from above,
      And the inheritance of the Almighty from on high?

 3 Is it not destruction for the wicked,
      And disaster for the workers of iniquity?

 4 Does He not see my ways,
      And count all my steps?

 5 “If I have walked with falsehood,
      Or if my foot has hastened to deceit,

 6 Let me be weighed on honest scales,
      That God may know my integrity.

 7 If my step has turned from the way,
      Or my heart walked after my eyes,
      Or if any spot adheres to my hands,

 8 Then let me sow, and another eat;
      Yes, let my harvest be rooted out.

 9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
      Or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door,

 10 Then let my wife grind for another,
      And let others bow down over her.

 11 For that would be wickedness;
      Yes, it would be iniquity deserving of judgment.

 12 For that would be a fire that consumes to destruction,
      And would root out all my increase.

 13 “If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant
      When they complained against me,

 14 What then shall I do when God rises up?
      When He punishes, how shall I answer Him?

 15 Did not He who made me in the womb make them?
      Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?

 16 “If I have kept the poor from their desire,
      Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail,

 17 Or eaten my morsel by myself,
      So that the fatherless could not eat of it

 18 (But from my youth I reared him as a father,
      And from my mother’s womb I guided the widow[a]);

 19 If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
      Or any poor man without covering;

 20 If his heart[b] has not blessed me,
      And if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;

 21 If I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
      When I saw I had help in the gate;

 22 Then let my arm fall from my shoulder,
      Let my arm be torn from the socket.

 23 For destruction from God is a terror to me,
      And because of His magnificence I cannot endure.

 24 “If I have made gold my hope,
      Or said to fine gold, ‘You are my confidence’;

 25 If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great,
      And because my hand had gained much;

 26 If I have observed the sun[c] when it shines,
      Or the moon moving in brightness,

 27 So that my heart has been secretly enticed,
      And my mouth has kissed my hand;

 28 This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment,
      For I would have denied God who is above.

 29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me,
      Or lifted myself up when evil found him

 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin
      By asking for a curse on his soul);

 31 If the men of my tent have not said,

      ‘Who is there that has not been satisfied with his meat?’

 32 (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street,
      For I have opened my doors to the traveler[d]);

 33 If I have covered my transgressions as Adam,
      By hiding my iniquity in my bosom,

 34 Because I feared the great multitude,
      And dreaded the contempt of families,
      So that I kept silence
      And did not go out of the door—

 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
      Here is my mark.
      Oh, that the Almighty would answer me,
      That my Prosecutor had written a book!

 36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder,
      And bind it on me like a crown;

 37 I would declare to Him the number of my steps;
      Like a prince I would approach Him.

 38 “If my land cries out against me,
      And its furrows weep together;

 39 If I have eaten its fruit[e] without money,
      Or caused its owners to lose their lives;

 40 Then let thistles grow instead of wheat,
      And weeds instead of barley.”


And this area of excellence is the area of excellence in Integrity.

Remember that God was very please with Job, so much so that satan dared to approach the throne of God to ask permission to attack Job. The blessing and protection of God was so strong on Job as a direct result of Job's righteous heart, that satan had to seek a way in.

We see example after example of satan having his way with people and with nations, because they were walking in the ways of the enemy, and God had removed his hand of protection from them.

But it was not so with Job. Satan could not penetrate God's hand of protection and blessing, because Job did not compromise.

We see that Job made a covenant with his eyes, so that he would not look at anyone inappropriately.

He did not try to deceive or present half-truths, but walked in complete honest and integrity.

He did not follow after his own ungodly desires, he did not treat those under his authority with disrespect, he did not ignore the needs of the poor, and would not even finish his meal if it meant the poor would go hungry.

If he saw a need and had the means to provide, he did not think twice about doing so. He did not put his trust in money, but placed his trust completely in the Lord.

When his enemies got what was coming to them, he didn't rejoice like most of us would.

And when he did mess up, he didn't try cover it up.

Job's mark of excellence seems incredibly high; and yet the blessings and divine protection of God was upon him and his household, it was upon his business and all he owned. And it poured through him to all those with whom he came into contact.


Are we pressing toward this mark? Or do we constantly make excuses and continue as we are?

God is calling us to excellence in Integrity. If we choose to aim for this mark, we will display and glorify God to the world around us. Otherwise, we'll be just another religious person who isn't much of a light shining, or who is not on a hill for the world to see.

So let us pray every day that God will lead us and strengthen us, as his Holy Spirit enables us to grow a little every day toward that mark of excellence in Integrity.

Our fifth and final area of excellence can be found in Psalm 19, verses 8 through 14 which say,

8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
         The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
         The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
         Yea, than much fine gold;
         Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
         And in keeping them there is great reward.
        
12 Who can understand his own errors?
         Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
         Let them not have dominion over me.
         Then I shall be blameless,
         And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
        
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
         Be acceptable in Your sight,
         O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.


And our fifth area of excellence is the area of excellence in our walk with God.

First we see the standard of excellence God has set before us, "The statutes of the Lord are right, his commandments are pure, the fear of the Lord is clean, his judgements are completely true and righteous.

The things of the Lord are more desireable than gold, sweeter than honey, and they are a warning which, if heeded, bring a great reward.

Then we are asked a very important question: "Who can understand his own errors?"

Excellence is not about always being right. The path to excellence requires that we realize our vision is skewed. Which one of us can understand our own errors? We should pray every day for God to cleanse us from our secret faults, and from our sins of presumption.

And the passage ends with this prayer, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."


This is the key to excellence -- humility, fear of the Lord, and total reliance upon him as our strength and our Redeemer.

God is not the pie in the sky as which he's so often portrayed. God is not a "good enough" type of God who, if grading a spelling test, would say, "You missed only two letters, so it's right."

Rather, God has a very clear standard of excellence, a standard which is always a step ahead of where we are right now.

If our standard of excellence is something we've already reached, we will become stagnant and will not grow.

But if our standard is based upon God's standard of excellence, then we will reach every day for a higher level than where we currently are. And we will begin to move, begin to mature, and begin to grow.


One final word, and then we will close with prayer and ministry. And that final word is one of encouragement.

We've all known perfectionists, and that may be you. We should always remember that God is not a hard-nosed, legalistic, angry storm cloud that does not make room for our humanity.

God does not look at where we are. He looks at the direction in which our hearts are moving. If you desire to grow into Godly excellence, if you are actively seeking to move toward his standard of excellence in every area of your life, then rest assured of two things:

One: You will fail.

and Two: Those failures can be used as teachers, building humility and character in us, if we simply get back up and keep on pressing forward.


The ministry team can come to the front now, as we all stand to our feet.

Perhaps you see areas in which you have been settling for a lower standard than God's, and I would dare say we are all guilty of this fault. But today you desire to replace your human standard with God's standard of excellence, and begin moving forward, growing and being transformed into the image of Jesus.

If that's you, come to this altar as a declaration to yourself and to God that you are ready for things to change in your life.

Climbing the hill is a challange. And yet it is the challenges that make us grow. Will you join together to climb toward Godly excellence, becoming that city on a hill that shines the glory of God for everyone to see? Then come to this altar as an act of surrender to the Holy Spirit of God.

Holy Spirit, breathe upon us today. We surrender to your will and to the work that you want to perform in us today.

Lord, we ask forgiveness for our complacency, for our presumptuous sins of thinking where we are is good enough. May today be a turning point in our lives, as we turn away from the mediocre, from the place we are right now, and we set our eyes upon your standards of excellence, making those standards our own.

Give us patience to realize we will fail, and that we will be on this road for the rest of our lives. And give us the courage to look past our own inabilities and weaknesses, and instead trust in and lean upon your strength, your abilities, and your power to work in us those things that we simply cannot do on our own.

And Lord, I pray a special blessing upon all those who are seeking after your standards. Give us a deep-settled peace as we surrender our will and our ways to yours, and lead us clearly after you, as we seek to walk in your footsteps and in your ways.

And it's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


This altar is open for ministry and prayer. Make sure you stay in the presence of the Lord, letting him have his way in you. When you feel a release to do so, I hope you'll meet us in the room to your left for some fellowship.

If you need prayer or ministry, please instant message someone on the ministry team.

May God bless you with strength, courage, endurance, and peace, as you set your eyes upon Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. Amen.